What I’m Reading

For some reason I am reading 3 books at once, but they are 3 very different books, I’m having a hard time deciding which one to finish first!

Jim Wallis was on The Daily Show the other night promoting his new book: Rediscovering Values. I have enjoyed his 2 previous books and his take on the state of American politics and how we are best to respond as people of faith.  I’ve just started on this book so don’t have much to say about it yet but I’ll post a full review when I’m done.

This book has been on my to-read list forever, and I finally hunted it down at the library today.   All of my friends have raved about Anne Lammott, and now I’ve finally started reading (and loving!) Travelling Mercies.

and last but not least, Mandy my new favorite garden blogger (granted hers is the only garden blog I read 😉 ) recommended All New Square Foot Gardening to me.  I picked up a copy at the library but will very soon be ordering my own to keep so I can highlight things and dog-ear the pages and put it to very good use as we improve our backyard garden this year.  I may even run out to Home Depot tomorrow to buy the supplies to make a raised garden…I’m so excited!

DV and the Church

Recently I was sent a link to a video of the much loved Christian writer John Piper, addressing the issue of domestic violence, submission, and the church.  I was very unhappy with his response, first, the fact that he laughed when the question was asked (although perhaps he was just uncomfortable), and also his answer, which seems completely out of touch with what domestic violence actually is and looks like.  You can read the transcript for yourself here.  The parts I found most disturbing:

So if this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly (group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin), then the way she submits—I really think this is possible, though it’s kind of paradoxical—is that she’s not going to go there. I’m saying, “No, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it.”

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t go there.”

If it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

I decided to click around online and see what else I could find on the subject, and was happy when I found this short blurb from Chuck Colson, another beloved Christian writer.  He seems to understand the seriousness of this issue, and the way the church has failed to help these women.  One statistic in the article was especially shocking to me:

George sites a survey in which nearly 6,000 pastors were asked how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them the same way Marleen’s pastor did: to continue to “submit” to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50 percent said women should be willing to “tolerate some level of violence” because it is better than divorce.

Holy cow…the last line is particularly upsetting to me, however, I do not ascribe to the “divorce is one of the seven deadly sins” camp.  It reinforces to me that the church is not a safe place for many women suffering abuse from their husbands.  

Challenging the Toxic Beliefs

21 Toxic Beliefs of a Toxic Faith

1.  God’s love and favor depend on my behavior.
2.  When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it.
3.  If you have real faith, God will heal you or someone you are praying for.
4.  All ministers are men and women of God and can be trusted.
5.  Material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength.
6.  The more money you give to God, the more money He will give to you.
7.  I can work my way to heaven.
8.  Problems in your life result from some particular sin.
9.  I must not stop meeting others’ needs.
10.  I must always submit to authority.
11.  God uses only spiritual giants.
12.  Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until he does.
13.  If it’s not in the Bible, it isn’t relevant.
14.  God will find me a perfect mate.
15.  Everything that happens to me is good.
16.  A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain.
17.  God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me.
18.  Christ was merely a great teacher.
19.  God is too big to care about me.
20.  More than anything else, God wants me to be happy.
21.  You can become God.

This list was in my packet of info on religious addiction and I found it extremely interesting.  Some of the things on this list are beliefs I KNOW I’ve held at one time and/or have internalized, even if I knew on a rational level that it WASN’T TRUE.  I think a lot of these beliefs are taught in modern churches (moreso in evangelical and fundamentalist churches), even if it’s not an overt teaching, the underlying belief or assumption is still there.  I know I’ve heard #6, 13, 14, and 20 taught before.  I think that explains a lot of my own confusion about what I believe and how I feel about God.  So I’ve looked at this list a few times and asked myself “do I believe that?  Is that a healthy belief?  Is this belief supported by the Bible?  How might I still be clinging to this false belief and what is that doing to me emotionally and spiritually?”  All good things to ponder.

I’ve struggled a lot with #3 especially when it comes to my anxiety issues.  I have heard it said many times before that “if you put God first, everything else will fall into place.”  Which I think is along the same lines as #3.  If I just had more faith, I would no longer struggle with anxiety or depression or temptation, etc.  My sister knocked me over the head and reminded me that that’s “Christian bullsh*t” as she so nicely put it 🙂  It made me laugh though and I think I do have to have a sense of humor as I weed out some of the really toxic beliefs I have clung to and shamed myself with over and over again.

When you become an adult, your beliefs on so many things are challenged and changed.  I feel I am at a place now where I feel confident saying “Hey, I registered as a democrat because my beliefs align more closely with their party and I am still a person of faith and not some crazy liberal baby killer.”  Well I don’t usually say it just like THAT but I am not as insecure as I was a year ago about my changing political views.  Unfortunately my spiritual beliefs have not developed quite so quickly or clearly, and I struggle with guilt over that.  I wish I knew what I believed 100% and that I was comfortable going to church and being surrounded by other Christians.  I wish I felt comfortable talking to God and that I was not so afraid of being vulnerable with Him.  Sometimes I wish I had not grown up in the church and that I was working from a clean slate, but instead I have to deal with what’s on my plate and in my past.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on this list and what things you have heard or internalized, or maybe which ones you think SHOULDN’T be on this list.  You can leave a comment or email me (julianests at gmail dot com).

On Religious Addiction…

So last week my counselor told me about something called religious addiction, which honestly I had never even heard of before.  She wasn’t saying that I am a religious addict, it just came up in conversation and she handed me a packet of info about it since I was curious, apparently she’s done a lot of research on it.  I think it’s quite interesting, so I’ll share some of the info with you.  This may be a 2-parter, because I want to write separately about one part of it that I do believe applies to some of my faith struggles.

By definition: “Religious addiction is the unhealthy use of a religious system, often by a dysfunctional family, to avoid emotional pain or to avoid intimacy with others.  It often takes the form of strict obedience to rigid rules.”

Some symptoms of religious addiction:

-inability to think, doubt, or question information or authority

-black and white, simplistic thinking

-shame-based beliefs

-obsessive adherance to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines

-uncompromising, judgmental attitudes

-compulsive praying, going to church or crusades

-believing that sex is dirty

-excessive fasting

-conflict with science, medicine, and education

-detachment from the real world, isolation

-manipulating scripture or texts, feeling chosen, claming to receive special messages from God

-trancelike state or religious high

On this site you can see another checklist for signs you might be an RA, I think it is taken from the book Toxic Faith.

And I didn’t know this but there’s a group out there called Fundamentalists Anonymous (not sure what their official website is) for people that want to break free from religious addiction. Crazy, huh?  I guess I initially assumed that religious addictions go hand to hand with cults, but I don’t think that’s always the case.  I think anyone in any denomination or faith could become a religious addict, and that it’s not necessarily a biproduct of the church they attend.

So hopefully that was interesting to you too, I’ll follow up soon with a post about the “21 Toxic Beliefs of a Toxic Faith” many of which I have carried as my own for far too long!  Also I think some of them are debateable and really made me sit back and think, you’ll have to chime in and tell me what you think after I post it!