I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Christianity

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture and Shame.

I had a very eye-opening conversation with my mom recently.

We were talking about my marriage to my ex, and she asked me if her hunch was correct that I’d have married him anyway if my parents hadn’t given us permission. (You see, in our iteration of purity culture, even as a 22-year-old adult, I needed my parents’ permission to marry.)

I thought a moment and answered honestly: yes, I would have still married him. Then I clarified, “I honestly thought I had to.”

“You didn’t get that from us!” Mom responded in astonished confusion. “You don’t have to marry someone just because you slept with them.

Let me state up front: that’s an entirely true statement. I agree with it 100%.

And yet it was my turn to be shocked.

Because that statement flew in the face the entire narrative of my first 20+ years of life..

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

Purity culture: a definition.

As defined by the excellent No Shame Movement,

Within the conservative Christian context, purity culture is simply the view of any discussion of things of a sexual nature outside of the context of heterosexual marriage as taboo.

Those with in purity culture must adhere to a strict heteronormative lifestyle that forbids most physical contact with significant others, as well as engaging in self pleasure, or holding lustful thoughts about another person that is not a spouse. This view is generally enforced and policed by the family and church community. Purity culture includes an insistence on female modesty and responsibility to shield boys and men from sexual temptation.

To be blunt, purity culture is distinctly religious and sexist at heart. As Dianna Anderson states, “Purity culture is, in brief, the linking of religious piety with virginal status, particularly in young people, and the association of sin and shame with sex.”

As such, it operates with an awful lot of assumptions about the world and how people do and/or should belief and/or behave:

Great expectations: basic human decency.

In short: the lowest common denominator in all relationships ought to be basic human decency.

When Christians tell me that it’s not fair for me to expect them not to trample on my boundaries or treat me with disrespect for my autonomy as a human being, all I can hear is, “You can’t expect basic human decency from me or my people.” More than that, I hear, “You don’t even qualify as human enough for us to consider treating you differently.”

Christians? This is a problem.

How will the world know you as loving if you refuse to act lovingly? How can you say you possess the love of Jesus Christ when this is how you treat unbelievers? You claim that you’re no better than us, yet treat us like you’re the Designated Adult and we’re the naughty children you must put back in our places. You insist that for me and other unbelievers (or even liberal believers!) to write and live and share our authentic selves is a direct attack on you, and so you try to control us through silencing tactics and what you must think are counter-attacks. You can’t see the difference between someone being honest about who they are and someone exerting control over a person? How can you not see the disrespect of that? How can you not see the condescension? How can you pretend to be sharing Christ’s love when you refuse to see the image of God in anyone but those who look and think and act like you?

Despite being an atheist, I do think the Bible has a few nuggets of wisdom here and there. And one of those nuggets is this: “Let us not love in word…but in deed and in truth.” In other words, don’t tell me that you love me while showing me that you don’t.

White Supremacy in America and me.

It’s easy for us, the white children of the Colorblind Generation, to continue to focus on individual prejudice while denying systemic oppression. It’s how we were raised. It’s how we were taught. Surely, we are innocent. Surely, we don’t benefit from white supremacy. Surely, we don’t perpetuate it.

And yet, white supremacy is alive and thriving in America today. It exists as a system, perhaps even more than as a skin color. It rewards not only those who work to support the system, but also those who do nothing to impede it. Those who sit silently in the face of oppression. Those who step up and affirm the system that oppresses them. Those who don’t even think to question the stories we’re told about whiteness, blackness, and our place in the world.

White supremacy creates an environment where generation after generation are uninformed about the violence it takes to maintain their safety, then rewards them for never questioning what they’re told.

White supremacy created the environment that allowed me to reach the age of 21 without ever questioning it. For decades, I did nothing to try to stop it.

I benefit from white supremacy.

And if you’re a white American — so do you.

Of masculinity & abusive breeding grounds.

Of Masculinity & Abusive Breeding Grounds

This post originally appeared on Plymouth Brethren Dropout on May 26, 2014. An updated version appears below. It’s been just over a year since the tragedy at Isla Vista that prompted the original penning of this post. So many things have happened since then that illustrate the points made herein, including but not limited to: the largely “secular” ongoing hissy-fit that is GamerGate…

The journey in and out.

There had always been a disconnect between what I was taught and what I observed and experienced, between blind faith in invisible things and repeatably testable evidence. But as a child, as a teen, even into early adulthood, I wasn’t given the words to recognize the disconnect, or even the tools to inspect or deconstruct my beliefs to see if there was any merit to them outside of wanting them to be true.

Observations about relationships in Christianity.

What kind of foundation forms a lasting friendship, then? I mean, friendships are a pretty personal thing. There’s lots of aspects that are difficult to pin down, usually including compatible personalities, shared experiences, outlooks on life, mutually enjoyable activities, etc. I think those things are a given, no matter whether you’re a conservative Christian or not. But in my experience, the ingredients that point to longevity seem to be a pretty equal mixture of mutual admiration, respect, and trust. The Christian friends I have now who have been friends of mine for years weren’t my friends just because of our once-shared faith. We became friends through discovering and indulging in shared interests, sure, but we did it while demonstrating respect for each other’s individuality and personhood. Our personalities do click, but we also work hard to be empathetic, trustworthy, respectful people. We care about each other, what demonstrably makes each other’s lives more meaningful and fulfilling, no ulterior motives.