I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Tag Archive for Plymouth Brethren

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.

For the well-meaning Christian: the rightly divided word.

Conservative Christian men approach what I say in the exact same way they approach what the Bible says.

I know that’s quite a claim to make, but the more I reflect on how I was taught to approach the Bible and observe how these men approach my words, the more pronounced the parallel becomes. What do I mean, exactly?

  1. They isolate our words from the context in which they were written.
  2. Then they insist that neither context nor authorial intent can meaningfully affect a “plain reading.”
  3. Finally, they assert that any other interpretation is intellectually dishonest.

Let me hide myself.

I was 15 years old, sitting in the front row of the church, staring skeptically at the woman who was preaching to us. This wasn’t my youth group, of course—the assemblies would never allow a woman to speak like this. I determined that perhaps she was like Balaam’s donkey, and did my utmost to pay attention to whatever word of the Lord she might ironically speak despite her unfitness for leadership.

She walked over to her projector and held up a transparency sheet. “This represents you,” she said simply. “Your lives.” She picked up a few different markers and started doodling on the sheet, explaining that our sins and decisions and actions were like the marks on the page. “Everything is here—from the clothes you wear, to the words you say, to what you do in your every day life. They all show up here.”

The speaker placed the sheet back on the projector and turned on the light. “This light is Jesus,” she continued. “Notice how you can’t see him through the ink, only through the clear parts?” I stirred in my seat, aware of how it seemed the Spirit was moving within me.

She took an eraser and slowly began moving it across the marker drawings. I watched, mesmerized, as the marks disappeared. “This is what the blood of Christ does”—she pointed to the now-clean sheet—”so that all that can be seen through you is Jesus.” She spent the rest of her time with us explaining how important it was to make sure that our transparencies remained clean, that our decisions and words and lives were so clean that we would only reflect Christ to those around us.

As I got in the van with the carpool that brought me to church that night, I was deeply convicted to start changing my life so that I would better reflect Christ. It occurred to me that this meant becoming a different person. But wasn’t that what Christianity was all about to begin with, becoming a new creation in Christ?

No more faith: the whys and why nots of my deconversion.

It’s really rather rare for people to ask me why I deconverted from Christianity. Like, really rare. It’s far more common for them to assume they already know, whether they’re talking to me while they’re expressing this assumption or not. However, in a single week, I’ve had two separate unaffiliated people ask me a variation of the same question about the role fundamentalism had in my deconversion. Of course, I’ve been trying to figure this out for myself on a less-specific scale for the better part of two years, though much of it has been in my own head. Perhaps it’s time for me to work out of my thoughts here with you.

Introspection: the impact of religion on personality.

When I first took the Myers-Briggs personality test, still thoroughly embedded in the fundamentalist Christian tradition of my youth, I scored as an INTJ, rather than an INFJ. In retrospect, it’s no wonder I skewed more heavily to Thinking rather than Feeling, since I was taught to fear and distrust feelings. Feelings were often considered sinful, bringing guilt and shame, whereas Logic (According to the Word of God) was holy and true, bringing stability (supposedly). I didn’t understand that divorcing feelings from thinking the way I had been taught to do was utterly damaging both to myself and others, not to mention ripping conversational rhetoric out of its context and reality.

The thing is, I could never totally eradicate my Feelings.

I belong to me: learning agency & consent outside Christianity.

By and large, Christianity as a system in the Western world teaches people to run rip-shod over the boundaries of those within and without their camps under the guise of love.25 The consent of its members and non-members alike isn’t required, as clearly demonstrated by the past almost 28 years of my existence. And that’s a massive problem, enabling (and at times commanding) the manipulation, mistreatment, and abuse of countless people.

In fact, I’d say one of the defining characteristics of Christianity today is that it has a consent problem.

Sad pandas, boundaries, and relationships.

I’m a really big believer in boundaries and respecting the choices, experiences, and desires of individuals. I think people get to decide how others are allowed to interact with them, and that the onus is on others to really hear what that person is saying (yes, even when that person is silent. Silence is an answer, after all, and that answer is “I don’t want to talk to you.” Respect it!). I’m just afraid that my post didn’t reflect these beliefs as clearly as I’d like it to have.

No one is obligated to remain friends with me. Having been in similar circumstances, but on the other side of the situation, I really understand how uncomfortable and even painful it can be to remain in contact with someone who has abandoned a core component of your relationship. I have no wish to cause others pain, and I honestly have no real animosity towards those who have decided that I’m a toxic influence in their life and they’ll be happier and healthier without my presence. I think they they’re the best expert on what will make their lives happy and healthy (even if I disagreed), and I try to save my animosity for those who are openly disrespectful and/or bigoted. But, I mean, I 100% support the decision of people who don’t want me in their lives. Truly.

In fact, it’d be pretty shitty of me to insist that they must remain my friend, to continually insert myself into their lives, to constantly try to manipulate them into a relationship they want no part of. That’s not an okay thing for me to do, and I do my best to be respectful of their wishes.

But it still hurts.