Monday, February 27, 2006

Adult Children of Alcoh Fundamentalism

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to clarify something from yesterday's post on Religious Freedom. So this is for those who have an interest in my Spiritual Journey.

I'm an Adult Child of Fundamentalism.

My dad was a baptist preacher all my life until he passed away 11 years ago. I lived and breathed the church, attending services twice on Sunday and Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evenings. Every week. Add to that our Youth Group meeting before Sunday evening's service, visiting the shut-ins on Sunday afternoons, being part of metro-Lansing's Youth for Christ, including their Bible Quiz program, and our Bible club at school.

While in high school, I heard about Wycliffe Bible Translators ("Why should anyone hear the gospel of Jesus Christ twice before everyone has heard it once!") and made the decision to major in linguistics at the University of Michigan. That began a widening of my world-view because WBT is an interdenominational organization. And while a college student, I was also involved in InterVarsity, another interdenominational group. But both were still Christian in faith and mostly protestant.

After I left a WBT stint in Peru in 1969 in order to marry Bill (whom I had met in InterVarsity at the UofM), and while we were on IV staff for 16 years, I attended several triennial Urbana Missionary Conventions where 18,000 students from all over the world listened to lectures and workshops. Again, my world-view was widening because even though still Christian in faith, I was rubbing shoulders with students and Bible scholars from around the world.

But here's where the kicker comes. I had been gay as long as I could remember (maybe back to a Kindergarten memory) but didn't always know that's what was "wrong" with me. I knew I was different. I knew it was "odd" that I fantasized over the girls in my classes or my female teachers and not the boys. I also knew that it was not something I could talk about, even though I have no clue where that came from. I don't remember hearing my dad ever talk about homosexuality. I do remember that when Mom gave me a medical encyclopedia set back in 1963, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Assoc. did not take it off the disorder list until 1972, the year my daughter was born.

This was a kicker for me because it started my long journey of "recovering" from fundamentalism. If something so basic to who I am at my core has no place--or worse, an unforgiveable place--in my Christian faith, something's gotta give. Either me or my faith.

Interestingly, God was my bedrock during all of it...my questioning, the 4 times of therapy in our 21-year marriage (it's an oxymoron to be gay and Christian, you know, so 3 of the Christian therapists swept it under the rug and figured something else was wrong), being suicidal for 9 months, our divorce in 1990 (when I was 45), the loss of 95% of all my so-called Christian friends and family, the adjustment of my kids to a gay partner, etc.

I knew this was not about God. I knew this was not about ME. It was about a system of belief that, sadly, closes in on itself.

So I guess it would be accurate to say that being gay set me on a journey of wholeness! I owe a lot to Supreme Being who made me exactly who I am, knowing I would be able to eventually run with it. I am not who I was; I am not who I will be. Still very much in process but feeling honored and expectant about this particular "calling" from the Universe. So much more to learn and BE. While Jesus is the Great Teacher of my heritage, I respond soulfully to the Great Teachers of other faiths. I see myself right now as a Christian Native-American Jewish "believer." In time I may add Buddhist and Hindu and Muslim and who knows what else. A world citizen; a world believer.

Cultural and Religious Freedom? Until we can all be who we are, where we are, when we are on our separate journeys, in whatever faith tradition or not, we will never be free of hatred or war or division. The question is, are we up to the task? Each one of us individually needs to make the choice, wherever we're coming from. It's really as simple as that!

17 comments:

  1. Very powerful post, Ginnie. I want to, no, I HAVE to comment on this, but I need to think for a while first because there are so many things spinning around in my head. I'll be back! :-)

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  2. Nice post, Mom. Not really sure where I am in all of this, but I at least wanted to say that I'm glad that YOU are in a better place of comfort! :-)

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  3. Hi Ginnie, Is there an e-mail address where I could contact you? I looked on your sidebar and didn't find one, but I usually miss them so that doesn't mean anything but chalk up another one for my usual scatterbrained-ness. If you don't mind, of course.

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  4. Sorry, I just thought of something else... if you'd rather not post an e-mail address here, there's a link to one on my blog sidebar.

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  5. I think the key is the Choice, of which is not open to everyone yet. Whatever choice it might be, still it doesn't exist everywhere...

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  6. this entry definitely went in a different direction than i thought it was going! so, i'll respond by focusing on the conclusion (being a "world believer").

    i'm going to speak about my experience with this topic, as a way of furthering the dialogue.

    i personally espouse only one faith system. ...i discovered something when i was working as a hospital chaplain in central New Jersey. that part of the country is one of the most religiously diverse areas in the world. as a result, on making rounds, i would go literally from one room to the next, patient after patient, and switch between universes, so it seemed. Buddhists, Atheists, Jews, Muslims, all manor of Christians, on each floor, every day. at first, my supervisor advised me to pray and act accordingly to the faith of the patient whose room i was visiting. i would say, "Hi my name is Nathan. I'm an inter-faith chaplain with the hospital..." as she had instructed me to do. and i did this for a couple weeks; i prayed to "Allah" with the Muslim patients, said "shabbat" with the Jews, listened to the fundamentalist rants of the fundie Christians, etc.

    but after a couple weeks i realized this was not working.

    i did not have a respect from or rapport with my patients, and i was not being true to myself.

    i tried an alternative. i began entering patient rooms and saying "Hi, my name is Nathan, and I'm a Protestant Christian minister, how are you today?..." when i was true to myself it opened up respect and honesty in the chaplain-patient relationship. people would immediately respond with "oh hi. I'm Jewish. pleasure to meet you. could you pray for me chaplain? i've got this pain in my side..." it was great. (of course, sometimes people would say, "oh you're a christian? well, my imam is coming tomorrow and i'll say my prayers with him." and i would leave).

    why have i told you this story? because when i hear you saying that you have found some degree of enlightenment in your multi-tradition faith, i want to add my story to yours saying that i have found some enlightenment in my single-tradition faith.

    i am a Protestant Christian, who believes that Jesus is the center of human history and divine love; and i am a Protestant Christian, wholly respectful of all faiths, and often even informed by those faiths.

    you wrote, "Until we can all be who we are, where we are, when we are on our separate journeys, in whatever faith tradition or not, we will never be free of hatred or war or division." and i would add that co-existence and peace and harmony can happen even when people stick to a single faith, but have respect and understanding of other faiths.

    are you familiar with the coexist campain?

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  7. Thank you, Ginnie, for posting your story. I love it, and you. I feel that knowing ourselves in the realm of Life is the most important, basic thing we can do, and try to keep out the ego layers that keep us from seeing Reality. I appreciate Nathan's spirit expressed here too, and that there are even Christians/Jews/Muslims out there who want to coexist is fantastic!

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  8. Wow! Thank you to everyone who has commented.

    MP: Thanks

    Christina: I look forward to what you're thinking :)

    Amy: I'm not sure where I am in this either, which is part of the Joy of Living. Something new every day. Guess I'm just not as opinionated as I used to be.

    Lisa: my G-mail address is in my Profile and I have sent you an e-mail from there.

    ET: I agree that everyone does not have choice in the sense of ALL choices out there. But I do believe everyone has an inner sense of "knowing" a movement/direction that is toward or away from God/Goddess/Supreme Being. And in THAT sense everyone has choice. You think?

    Nate: I love your story. I love how you have made it work for you where you are in your ministries. Being true to oneself is so important because in the end we are responsible only for ourself and no one else. I wonder if our different vantage points on these intangible thoughts is how the Universe works to include all peoples. "Different strokes for different folks" idea. And in being true to ourselves, we attract the ones who fit our "ministry." I especially like the coexist link. How very cool!

    Ruth: Knowing ourselves is a lifelong journey, I'm discovering! No one else can do it for us. It would certainly make sense for Christians, Jews and Muslims to "coexist" since we all owe our religious heritage to the same core, Old Testament books! DUH!!!

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  9. Well...first of I'll say how glad I am that you are still with us after all your soul-searching back then - the world is a better place with you in it (I think I've said that before, but I mean it!)..

    You've told me your story in person and I think it's so wonderful that you were able to "recover" and free yourself from something that caused you so much pain and confusion. It's precisely because of all these "rules and regulations", people presuming to know that their way is the 'Right Way' or the 'One Truth', that I have always (even as a young child) wanted nothing at all to do with organized religion. I've never understood how something that makes one feel ashamed of being oneself can be right. That just can't be.

    I doubt that we will see cultural and religious freedom any time soon, but I think more and more of us are choosing to open our eyes and undertake the individual journey you speak of.

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  10. Your words have deeply touched me, Christina, precisely because you listened to most of this story in person. Organized religion already knows that things need to change in order to keep up with where people are today. I believe many (like my nephew, Nate) are seriously striving to break out of the old systems. You can't put new wine into old wineskins!

    I agree that there is much we will not see any time soon, and maybe not in my lifetime. I know many Christians in the gay community who wonder if they'll see "acceptance" in our lifetime, especially in the church. But if I can see more are undertaking the journey, as you have said, I do believe I can die with a smile on my face. Some day we'll all be free!

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  11. As I tried to say yesterday before the great blog machine went temporarily blooey:
    This discussion reminded me of Marcus J. Borg's book, *The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, How We Can Be Passionate Believers Today.* I was looking for a quotation that would be pertinent, but I don't think the whole book will fit in this blog.
    One of the points he makes somewhere that I couldn't find goes something like this in my translation:
    Religious background in large measure depends on where you are born. Eg. If a person is born in France, they speak French as their first language, they make dinner using French understandings of cuisine, they learn French history, they have at least a nominal connection to Catholic or Protestant Christianity, etc. If I had been born in Indonesia, I might worship God through an Islamic understanding of God. I worship God from a Christian standpoint because, while this is changing in a pluralistic society, Christianity has been the language and culture of the United States.
    Sortof along these lines, I think that I would have more in common with progressive/moderate people who are Muslim or Jewish or Hindi than I have in common with Fundamentalist Christians. (I am an ACoF myself.) And I think the Fundies might have more in common emotionally with the fundamentalists who are Muslim or Jewis or Hindi or whatever.

    While we grow up in different cultures and different faiths, the real issue is whether our hearts find their way to God. Even better, how do we understand that God has found our hearts and loves us, and how do we respond to that grace and love with wholehearted integrity? Sometimes our religious background will help our intimacy with God, sometimes it will stand in the way.

    One more example,this from C.S. Lewis. (Why don't we just put him in the canon and be done with it?) In *The Last Battle* when the end of the Narnia we have known is giving way to the Real Narnia, there is a character named Emeth who is a Calormen soldier whom Aslan accepts into "heaven." This soldier has worshiped the Calormen god Tash faithfully and sincerely throughout his life. Tash is the only god he has known. Aslan says something about receiving Emeth's worship of Tash as worship of Aslan himself. I think the point is that God is worshiped in spirit and in truth in the heart, and that a person's actions reveal who it is they really worship.
    A question for those of us who grew up in the Christian culture: Who did Jesus NOT die for?

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  12. Unbelievable, Jan! I love the thought and effort you put into this discussion. Don't think I could ever have said it as well as that. Thank you!

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  13. AWWWW, Shucks, Ginnie.
    J

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  14. Again, a very soulfull post Ginnie!
    I totally agree with you, but the good thing is that those systems of belief can be changed, and will probably be, if we continue to fight against stupidity. I hope so.

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  15. Unfortunately, ya can't fix stupid.

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  16. Clo: I like your word "stupidity"....

    Anonymous: ...even if it can't be fixed!

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