Roe v. Wade…

Over two decades ago on May 4th, I was in labor for the first time. At that time, I still held to the programs indoctrinating me from the age of 4. Such indoctrination included what was then, and is today, known as “pro-life” or anti-abortion. With Roe v. Wade awaiting what appears to be its demise, I feel the significance of May 4th deeply.

It would be an understatement to say that I have changed on many levels. Having left the moral incoherence that was my evangelical childhood, I look back on the woman in labor. She did not realize it, but the birth of her first child would usher in a revolution, a Psalm 23 manifestation via the divine feminine, a restoration of her soul. As she pushed, and waited, pushed, and waited, the birth of her own true self became inevitable. A truth and beauty bundle, looking at the world through one eye while squinting the other in the harsh hospital light, my firstborn would begin the process of innocently and easily shattering everything I had constructed as “me”.

I look at what fundamentalism requires of a person and the toll it exacts and I can sum it up in one word: madness. But it’s a madness that creeps. Its insidious effects multiply silently over the years until the capacity to discern disintegrates. It begins with a sense of being right and of seemingly knowing what is right and righteous, but is warped as it passes through the lens of human dysfunction, misogyny and bias. You’re so right about how important life is that you have no qualms with jailing life, or condemning a pregnant woman to die for her fetus. The likelihood you’ll ever see this sick distortion is slim since challenging it would result in a domino effect of many other challenges to a whole system of identity you’ve erected a life around. And you’ve probably been accused of having a demon, directly or indirectly, if you’re habitually assertive as a woman or vocal about situations you think need to change.

My good fortune, the work of dismantling toxic programs created by fundamentalism, was made possible by the presence of my daughter, and then the relentlessness of that work continued with each of my children’s emergence. Humanity unfolded itself in front of me in ways I had never been allowed to fathom before. I couldn’t understand the attitude of suspicion and mistrust towards children for simply being children. From there, I could see myself as a child in the past, made to feel literally demonic for being human. Alongside these revelations ran the personal story of abuse one of my sisters was living in her marriage. So, I became the wicked witch advocating with/for her in our tribe. The collision of these factors broke me open. The friction with leadership in my life, the hypocrisy revealed how a woman was seen as controlling for asserting herself or not being agreeable and how this might translate to her guilt instead of the actual guilt of her abusive spouse. These layers simultaneously transported me to the epicenter of my own humanity, my early childhood and the question of authentic choice.

And eventually, though early on in my daughter’s life, I realized everything that had been communicated about God (by actions of parents presuming to embody divine right and by the group of Christians with whom they shared community), about the love of God, revealed a God who loved less than I did. But even in that, I recognized the possibility that the God I “knew” was not the God that is. So, instead of demolishing my idea of my creator, the revelation revolutionized my relationship with the divine. The only way out was through.

Fundamentalism at its core divorces the human from her humanity. And with that divorce, all types of devastation and loss become possible. She can wish to jail everyone who has an abortion, everyone who performs and assists in abortions. She can do this because she has no idea how precious her own life is and it is only when that preciousness gestates and is born within her that she can recognize the lie in the pro-life movement. Ironically, that recognition stands more in agreement with seemingly divine patterns and the value of life itself than any notion of pro-life could do.

One of the aspects of fundamentalism that keeps it perpetuating is the annihilation of choice. Choice and agency are often sacrificed when a believer gradually and consistently immerses herself in fundamentalism. Or even just in the sort of blind faith so many fundamentalists require of each other. And yet choice is what God has presumably given us. New believers are confronted with the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were presented with a choice. It is that story that, obviously or otherwise, ushers in the work of Christ, the one who repairs the damage wrought by…Eve. It is that moment pivotal when God says “do not”, but Eve goes ahead and does. Her “disobedience” is the main focus. And yet, what was it with this God who knows all and is in control and yet still presents a risk and a choice? We could call such a God sadistic or we could call such a God cautiously optimistic. Except he presumably knew everything. But I digress. The very act of commanding away from one thing is the presentation of choice. And ideally, choice, among other factors, is what leads us to seek a walk with the divine. Agency enables our faith that it might have muscle and movement. Acts, not merely words.

But in fundamentalism one of the strongest forces at work asks that we not think too much, that we offer up our will to God, that we trust blindly. As mentioned earlier, blind trust is so prevalent it is often the definition given of faith in God. You do not question. So, God commanded thou shall not kill. And all of this is Eve’s fault. Her guilt is the background drumbeat of everything that happened that required Jesus die for all of us. That drumbeat defines a Christian however much she may or may not realize. That drumbeat becomes the rhythm of war, war against women, war against being human. Misogyny reigns supreme in fundamentalism. It eats away at the heart of every woman inhabiting such a program. And every woman ensnared thus seeks desperately to find her value.

For the pro-life fundamentalist Christian woman, there is no cause like pro-life since it immediately condemns the other woman, ignores the ambivalent if not malignant apathy of the man, and worships conception above the actual value of one human being. How else can we explain the ease with which these same fervent believers ignore child welfare? The pro-life movement makes for the perfect vehicle by which a woman can arrive at her own perceived superiority, her own seeming redemption, her own heroic grandiose notion of herself. People who need grandiose notions of self feel deeply inadequate. I would know, unfortunately. So, in one fell swoop, a woman can decide another woman or a group of women is to blame and simultaneously become an “agent” of needful salvation through condemning any who might thwart the prolonged gestation and resulting birth of a child. She can see herself as superior to “those women”. And even better if she, too, births her own. Women, within fundamentalist Christianity, are at once the damnation and salvation of the world by sheer “virtue” of the presence of a womb. On the one hand, the womb-bearing Eve damned us all, and on the other, the womb-bearing Mary saved us. That fundamentalists mostly take the Bible literally, the moral confusion required to live within such a construct is breathtaking in its devastation.

Eating away at the heart of the fundamentalist Christian woman is this determination not to think or even question the inner tyrant/God. And when you’re encouraged not to think, you’re catapulted on a path of insanity, particularly moral insanity. Intellectualism is scorned, and by that fact, critical thinking is also lost. Besides, it is the thinking that got Eve in trouble. She entertained questions about God’s command. Hath God said? There’s no blind faith (hence no “authentic” faith) in asking questions of the great commander.

The program underpinning fundamentalism is the ancient equivalent of what any domestic violence shelter would identify on the power and control wheel. You will submit. You won’t question. You dare not even think there might be a question and you only do what the masculine deity deems doable. Also, have babies. Also, you owe God who delivered you from hell and damnation. But hey, freely you have received, freely give. Gaslighting 101.

While it’s not the cure for all fundies, having a daughter wrested me from the power and control wheel that had run me over all of my life. She was, and is, sheer delight dancing, asking, insisting, disrupting, being human. Certainly, for a season, she reinforced my pro-life vigor. But not for long. There is nothing like motherhood to strip you of any fantasy that you are superior, or immune to failing and there’s nothing like feeling compassion for your children to awaken you to your own need to show compassion to yourself, and from there, to the world. I became obsessed with choice in general, with what makes a choice and resulting life paths and circumstances authentic versus choices made under a situation of duress. It struck me that inhabiting a situation free of a measure of duress was nearly impossible, but it also struck me that authentic choice might be the holy grail for healing my wounds. Having watched my daughter dance around freely in the love of her parents, I recognized I’d never known such freedom and so my choices had rarely been authentic. From there, it became obvious I had work to do to birth myself.

Where philosophies of choice and freedom are concerned, I’m a work in progress. But I’m clear on one thing: the right to choose is what births authentic living and makes love possible. If my daughter wanted or needed, and I make the distinction intentionally, an abortion, I would volunteer to drive her, be there, whatever is needed. I am changed. There’s no part of me torn on that. Do I have preferences? Do I wish we lived in a world where abortion wasn’t even necessary? Hell, yes. But we don’t live in such a world. Abortion is an honorable, legitimate human need. But Roe v. Wade stands today threatened by forces political and religious, forces feeding off the inadequacy and erosive moral insanity spreading like poison in the hearts of confused, lost people. People who call themselves found by Christ and saved. The irony reeks. That I rage within myself at once condemns me, since I know the enemy well, and reminds me of how complicated we all are.

What makes a pro-lifer tick? The ones that vote for the political contortionists pretending faith who would sooner keep women in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant and people of color in chains, what makes them tick? A million little pivotal happenings and woundings and poisonous winnings make them. I can look back on many such goings on in my upbringing.

I’m reminded of moments when I mentioned psychology to my parents. They would invariably dismiss me in disgust, using some retort that included the smear “it’s so humanistic.” As far as I could tell, to be humanistic equated to evil, to all that is not Godly. It baffled me every time. The only conclusion I could draw was the only one provided me and that was that just being human was wicked and that is what we were perpetually being saved from every single second of every day we believed in Christ. If within that atmosphere you are parented by even just one parent who feels it their duty to smash you in the name of Godly parenting, you are going to end up a hot mess raging at the one issue that somehow dovetails with your desperate need to be seen and known as legitimate.

Fundamentalists, those in the trenches living their lives in delusion and hate all while believing quite the opposite, are also capable of love, even of critical thinking. However, at any point where their thinking might collide with their faith, all cognitive capacity is subsumed in the perceived superiority of *the truth*. And *the truth* is the sum total of a hatred of being human, a hatred so insidious it would convince a woman to wish imprisonment on women who’ve had abortions. The men in these issues are so easily understood, it’s not worth dedicating a whole post to their motives. Thus far we have not managed to market or sell birth control pills for men though they have been created and ditched due to the side effects they would cause. All the while, women pop birth control pills whose side effects are the equivalent and even worse. All the while, many men, I realize not all, loathe condoms. All the while, many men distinguish themselves in their obviousness.

One phrase in particular became one of the many crowbars wresting me from the confines of my oppressed upbringing and all the programs that upbringing asked that I carry into adulthood. That phrase: “God saw that it was good.” Saw that it was good and the evening and the morning were the 6th day. Over and over, the creator saw that it was good, that what was created was good. My brain then said, oh, so, my brain is good. My having critical thoughts, seeking to discern when choice is authentic is good. My questioning who translated and chose the texts that would comprise the New Testament is good. My weighing what motives influenced the compilation of scripture was good. And not only that, but if love bears all things, then God can bear my questions. And if God knows all and I hide my questions in fear of being seen, then I have less integrity than if I presented them with a bellowing, angry cry.

I nearly lost myself in the years and years of bellowing angry cries, parenting three complicated humans. And while this post might be construed as propaganda for women having children so they, too, might be born and wrested from their fundamentalist confusion, it is not. I am one person, former fundie. By no means do I make the argument for anything except this: fundamentalists are a terribly wounded, confused slice of the population who should not influence the outcome of Roe v. Wade, and if we’re to avoid this in the future, we may need to consider our attitudes towards them as human beings. Demonizing them will only feed their delusions of grandeur.

The problem with fighting for Roe v. Wade and choice is wrapped up in the fact that those who most oppose it do not even value choice in their own lives and most especially in their faith. Certainly, any state or federally declared mandate is something that will get their hackles up about their freedoms and choices because they can see it as an attack, ultimately, on their faith as it is an attack on their person and the two are one and the same. An example … mask mandates. That they can say, “my body, my choice” in that instance is proof of their insanity while simultaneously proof that they have been taught that their only allowed use of the right to choose is in protest of anything that might threaten their religion. For diehard fundamentalist Christians, agency and choice are only valid so long as they are utilized in defense of or perpetuation of their faith. The basic human need for autonomy is consigned to any possible crusade in defense of their beliefs. The amassed frustration crouches, awaiting any opportunity for expression.

So, when we scream in contempt, when we mock, when we hate their hatred, we feed their sense of righteous persecution. We throw fuel on the fire. There’s not one single word of contempt that drew me out of fundamentalism. Kindness birthed my true self and continues to this day. Critical thinking, as a gift from my creator, liberated my mind.

I’m not proposing that we not scream and fight against the lies bombarding our liberties in this time. We just need to look on our work to protect basic freedom as a work that includes a slice of humanity enchained in lies. It’s important to recognize that generational fundamentalist nonsense requires epic soul-level disruptions and awakenings to be ousted. Most of these disruptions ideally come through love’s work. I find myself at a loss as to how I might voice my valid rage over the onslaught against women’s rights without fueling the enemy who is my fellow human.

I don’t know the answer for how to avoid fueling the insanity fire except that I might avoid contemptuous, hateful, insulting expression hurled in their direction. I confess there are times it is impossible to be anything but those three destructive things. In fact, today I retweeted something about this very issue and referred to the lawmakers in Louisiana as demonic, life-hating, murderous jackals. There are times when the truth, when hurled in the direction of those who are fundie who have wounded you, will be brutal. That truth is made brutal by the fact of the offenses against you, not by your calling it out for the brutality it is. The line between truth that is brutal by default and truth that is contemptuously destructive is a fine one. I would know. I have crossed it repeatedly in my rage and in my experimenting with what advocacy does and does not look like. The good news? Love has found me on either side of that line and I’ve been able to grow.

The challenge is to not confuse contempt and hate for advocacy, the real sort of advocacy that facilitates liberty and hopefully captures eternal truth, truth like the fact that we are all of us, each one, immeasurably precious, complicated humans. No one, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, Wiccan, or otherwise is immune from fundamentalism’s poison. And my hope is that we will become more and more creative in our efforts to further champion a truly humanistic work. As far as I can tell, humanistic work best defines itself when that work encompasses a love whose natural by-product is the gradual dissolution of the ever-encroaching threat that is fundamentalism.

Prayer #5 (for the self-proclaimed reformed womanizers)

May you know the value you trivialize by believing any form of womanizing is worthwhile.

May you know your worth without first shooting up intellectualism,
riding the high so high and icy cold.

May you come home to the earth of acceptance, not the mind palace constructed
against itself and in that coming home awaken the warmth of uncloaked knowing.

May you take a massive nose-dive into the divine feminine grace eschewed
by your grandiosity, and as your face hits the dirt there,
may you experience an actual fullness,
the presence of true welcome unadorned by any methodology or presentation.

Let all that you claim to be break open,
the husk falling away to reveal what you’ve refused.

May you recognize your need, your deep, deep need for love,
especially the love you disdain and declare fiction,
and when you find it, may you finally know what you’re gonna do with it.

May you take a great rolling leap into the truth beyond your carefully constructed dogma
as your face melts away, shining your visage,
a sun of authenticity feasts and open-hearted screams.

May your dance of control, your Georgie Porgie role reverse itself and succumb
to the surrender you chase, as the skirts all fall down around your face naked.

May you find there the map drawn by the lines of your perpetual retreat
posing pursuit and finally begin the treasure seek as one not master,
not switch, not submissive, but one, just one you.

May your knowing strip you of the sign you hide behind
and dart back and forth from as you desperately evade true connection.

May you turn to grasp that bowl of Peanuts at the bar of life
and find you were the one both setting up the kickoff and aborting it in turn,
over and over again, so sure the spurn was not within you.

And finally, may you learn that in spite of posing, gaming, playing and hopscotch skipping
‘round the block another umpteenth time, your true essence managed to shine,
making revolution alongside the confusion, the obviousness of the game,
breaking at least one heart in ways never broken before,
and leaving a wake of pieces to gather on the floor of a soul
trying now not to hope you know the breadth of the misstep your reformation made.

Prayer #4 (in the aftermath of rape)

Let me not do more than slam, hammer, pound
and send all the contents smashing against the ground,
the wall, glasses, books, whatever in the vicinity of this holy rage.

Let me not grind my teeth endlessly or linger too long
in the fantasy of obliterating the one who trampled innocence.

Call the gatekeepers, please.

Call the standard bearers, too.

Rouse the warriors against the wave of scurrying human cowardice
that reaches rapidly to blank out, redact accountability
and stroke, stroke, stroke the enablers.

Let me not be so done with children posing adulthood
so fury-blind that I alienate them every last one
in the fallout of the brutalization of one actual child.

Open our eyes to the beasts we pursue in the hopes to subdue,
subsume and subjugate, feeding our own inner monsters
while we weep under the light of the moon
wondering why our children have been devoured.

Stop the generational wreckage smash and crash
rolling through the fast lane in the here and now.
For once, end the long game, the one where the children pay
and pay, and pay for the violations of the fathers.

Keep us all sane, keep us all open to being better people
so the ones who’ve paid a price not their own,
can know safety in our presence.
Make our lives, our days, our minds, our hearts
and our actions a refuge from delusion and insanity.

Waken the dead, the walking dead
who thrive more in pretending love
than the doing of care, of forethought, of protection.

Wash over the blistering wounds made,
the whispering haunt and the innocence fade.
Conjure from the cracks a tree more resilient,
refusing that perpetual derision as it rolls downhill,
mocking how precious the sighs and pulse
of our children, our heritage, our hope.

Conjure creation’s cure, a resounding war cry,
calling from the heart of mother and father divine a raging justice,
insisting growth, smashing lies and building newness in the after.

photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved

 

Power Over

“What posturing and performance share in common is a deep disconnect between the inspired heart and our gut instincts, between rising up and sensing ground where all life dissolves into the rich humus of earth. Make no mistake white bodies are capable of sensing deeply and can become conscious of the insidious ways that colonization is held within our flesh and blood. We may squirm and distract ourselves, but we have what it takes to dissolve these century-old impulses to cage, control and power over body. With awareness, we can begin to recognize our conditioning and through attention we can allow our primal impulses to grow a capacity to dissolve the distortions and claim life-supportive gestures and expressions.” Liz Koch, excerpted from the post on her website, Core Awareness, titled “White Bodies, Psoas, & Gesturing Power Over”

We colonized the land and the people of the land we now call the United States of America and we colonized our own bodies. Power over is the rabid beast created when we divorce ourselves from being soft, hairy animal human. We infused our religious beliefs with power over. We insisted on obedience like we insisted on this land, raping and violating the bodies of children in the name of discipline and good behavior and, for some, godliness. I can say that my daughter and two sons have birthed me because they broke my heart open and opened me up to my own tenderness and the validity of the wild human. I could not fathom how the sort of discipline inflicted on me, and on my sisters, in the name of Jesus was anything remotely connected to love and that realization occurred when a baby girl came out of my body. Everything changed. Who was this sacred creature? How could you thump her on the forehead for speaking her mind or challenging you at the dinner table? How? You must be divorced from your own body, colonized from head to toe to soul if you do this and you must be addicted to power over. Dethroning the inner tyrant anchored on the seat of the heart and placed there by fear, that is a work on which to commit a life. Enshrining love as a fully-muscled set of doings and thinkings and makings of solid evidence of love and value decolonizes the body, rids the mind of toxins long dormant. And the work never ends. There is no arrival. I don’t know what I’d do without people like James Baldwin who lives though he’s gone and Liz Koch who is here and now shining light on needful truths.

Here’s to freedom from power over and losing all the baggage that goes with it.

Salvation

Semi-cultic subcultures wanna love you, baby.
They wanna show you the way and draw you to their great God, Jesus,
showcasing his masterpiece affliction, the covid19 pestilence,
an example of his latest work to call people to him.

Ain’t nuthin’ better than a viral attraction to the best God. Ever.
He must love us, see, ‘cause if we don’t do right,
he gonna kill us all.

See, now you know it’s love, when it’s open wide or die.
Yeah, man, they got the viral meme for sure.

See they hug rapists and invite them to dinner.
Say one thing won’t happen and do it anyway.
Invite you to forgive them for violating you for decades.
And they just don’t understand how they got to where they are today
where you won’t hug them or come out to play.

They don’t know when you push that gas pedal,
and steer in that direction you will most definitely arrive
at that exact location,

‘Cause they got it all upside down and inside out
with shame for the one who made an appearance after being invited by a court to do so
and nothing but cutesy terms of endearment for the man who raped their daughter.
Over and over again.

Wear the badge of honor, Ruth.
Wear it proudly and loudly.
They are ashamed of you.
These who see love thus.
These who can do no wrong.
These who lie, claim Christ falsely and have mutilated their own souls.
They find you an embarrassment.

Glory to Goddess, you are finally saved.

 

A Mere Formality

We say one thing and do the other, standing back as they roll out a defense against our own depravity.

Their fury.

But the recriminations we face if we validate it…

Oh hell to the no, we’re heavenly folk, not guilty broke.

See, now that we’ve had a history of bullying the four of them for decades,
their fury is real, is wholly healthy, so we’ll declare them intimidating
(we’re cornering the market on “isn’t that rich” since our parenting creed
for decades was “you must break their spirit”. so, how fitting
that we are intimidated by their full-grown adulthood,
and if you fall for our excuses, then you’re one of us, the morally insane.)
and the fact that our betrayals commenced
well before their valid fury unfurled, that fact will be an irrelevant fact.

The women. Got angry. They ranted. They threw down ultimatums.
Nothing more to know here, for there is no greater sin than women angry and demanding.
Rant after we betray, and legitimize our treachery by that rant because, well, female.
We’ll send letters declaring our total loss to understand the situation, as well.

See, we’re the slickest shit.

We can vote for Trump and call ourselves the “called out ones.”

He gropes and violates and gets elected so, our time has come, too.
We’re real cozy with violators. They earn nicknames, not shame, and a place at our table.
Most especially if they violated our own.

We can malign those who trusted us after we rebuked them for not trusting us previously
to not do the thing we did, after all, do, so hey ho, we’re noble souls.

The joke is on them, the four we slander, hammer and malign.

We have cornered.

The market on.

Duplicity Divine.
Moral Insanity.

All that the Good Book refers to when dragging up Leviathan, we are it.
And we would invite you to have tea with our murky pet.

Just don’t get mad at us if we violate truth or devour you without regret.

We’ll use it against you, judge you unforgiving, call you uncouth,

Invite you to court and play on your ignorance of just how dark our hearts can be.
(the witnesses we invite from your childhood will be part of a “mere formality”)