After my CNN article was published, I received an inquiry from a reader, Leisa, who practices Astrology. As I have no experience with Astrology, I was naturally curious about her conclusions. She identified my story as a perfect example of a “Saturn Return”, which according to this article by Maritha Pottenger means: “Certain astrological patterns occur universally — that is, everyone gets them at approximately the same age. One of those astrological patterns is the “Saturn Return” which occurs when transiting Saturn (where it is in the sky now) returns to the same position in the zodiac which Saturn occupied when you were born. Everyone experiences a first Saturn Return around age 28-30.”
Click HERE to go to Leisa’s site to see her interpretation of my Saturn Return story in her post, “Finding Faith by Age 30.”
This is the super-cool birth chart she made for me:
You can find Leisa’s article and more Saturn return stories here. Thanks Leisa!
In my year+ of spiritual seeking, I’ve found one inalienable Rebecca-Truth. If I have a severe reaction to something, it’s either A) Spiritual shrapnel that needs to be removed or B) Progress yet to be made. Either way, it needs digging out.
And, in the case of this blog article on Christian modesty “I Was Confronted For Being Immodest” ? It’s shrapnel.
When said post recently went viral, I allowed myself to be sucked into its downward spiral.
(Progression: Read Post. Read comment thread. Get ANGRY. Slam doors. Slam more doors. Read more. Get angrier. Say aloud: My whole damn project wasn’t worth anything! Why? Because I have trouble just saying Live and let live—when a nice young mother–with an innocent heart– if an ill-fitting wardrobe– is being bullied in the name of the Lord for her church-dress choice. And submitting to said bullying without a fight!)
Upon expressing my frustration with the article and with myself, I had this conversation with a friend. Me: Is it judgmental if this post makes me go Uggggggghhhh! ? Friend: Why can’t you just say that’s one way to do it and move on? Me: That’s totally easy if it isn’t personal. Friend: You’re making it personal. Me:UGGGGHHHHH!
I considered his point—albeit huffing and puffing with disdain. I recognized that this post had nothing to do with me. I do not know this woman, nor am I involved in a religious environment that would pass this type of judgment. ( And I highly doubt the all-loving Divine wastes time being incensed over an allegedly improper skirt choice. Isn’t He kinda busy, like, running the Universe-at-large?)
So why did reading this feel like an MRI machine, pulling up bullet fragments from long-forgotten wounds? Why did it feel so personal?Because this post magnetized my every memory of being shamed in the name of God, every time I was bullied for the Cause of Christ. Every time I had submitted to spiritual abuse because I needed to have a teachable heart, and God clearly wasn’t happy with my learnin’.
This article called up a militia of bad memories, ready for action and lined in a neat row stretching back as far as kindergarten. It made my heart do an involuntary quick-draw, pointing my weapon at a viewpoint that had decimated my faith. It inspired me to raise my gun of rationale, wave it in the face of all that hurt, and demand it step aside because You are SO not allowed in my space anymore.
It also caused my newfound faith to briefly falter because due to my past pains, I briefly forgot my belief that there is Truth in all genuine viewpoints. And instead of gently untangling my feelings and simply moving on,—Live and let live–I got stuck in a mental battle, the kind that never has a winner.
This is how it is between me and this viral blog post on modesty. I would much rather have a pentagram drawn on my forehead than have a deacon’s wife bully me about the choiceness of my dress… or let anyone else be thusly shamed. (Hell, I’d rather eat rat meat sacrificed to an idol!) This post and its comment thread? It’s my ex-est of ex-boyfriends, armed with a firearm that’s pointed straight at my temple.
After a few days of mulling over my reaction though, I realized ANY judgmental beliefs, even (and especially!) mine, are like raising a gun to the head of someone else’s worldview. Just take one menacing step towards me, and I blow your brains out, sir.
But for every gun you have pointed at someone else, there’s an infinite number pointed at you. It’s like a gangster movie stand-off, if said gangsters were clad in self-righteousness instead of leather jackets.
For example, if you say a skirt touching the knee is godly, there are a hundred ladies who would declare you immodest. For those who think mid-calf length is appropriate, plenty of sects would tell you that God only approves of ankle-length skirts. And don’t forget the Amish, who believe a woman may only worship in a head covering. There are even religious guns pointed at their bonnets because many think them too religious (bound up by codes that presumably jumped off the deep end when they declared electricity to be evil). This struggle is not unique to Christianity–no– it is pervasive in most faiths, the veritable What Not to Wear of religion.
Today, I’ve decided that if crying about your clothing choices and tossing an offending dress in the garbage makes you feel like a better person and makes you feel closer to honoring your God in spirit and in truth, who am I to say it doesn’t?
So I’m laying down my weapon, kicking it aside, and waving my (possibly immodest!) clothing –depending on who’s judging my sweatpants & t-shirt— in a gesture of surrender. Granted, I’ll still be at the mercy of everyone else.
But at least I won’t be the one with the gun.
Friday night is date night, which usually means Trent and I can be found at Studio 35 (only the best historic, independent food-and alcohol-serving cinema!). After taking in a show and a few drinks, we call a taxi because A.) We are committed to obeying the law! Buzzed driving is Drunk Driving! (At least, according to the billboards). and B.) We prefer to avoid jail.
This means most Fridays around 11 pm, I can be found enjoying a fifteen-minute chat with a cab driver. I always make a point to nicely chat up cab drivers because A.) They have great stories hidden under those thick accents B.) I love great stories C.) They hold our lives in their driving little hands. (Ever wear a seat belt in a taxi? Didn’t think so. I, for one, prefer our lives to be held in happy hands!)
Being that I am, well, me, I can never resist inquiring about our driver’s religion after we’ve covered family and interesting stories. (I’m curious, OK? Especially after a few drinks. No buzzed driving remember?) Recently I’ve been fishing for the best Somalian mosque to attend, because Columbus has the second largest Somalian population in the US, and Islam is the religion of the vast majority.
So far, I’ve had one driver tell me, “You are going to hell…” because I’m not Muslim (In his defense, I did ask his opinion. And, he informed me nicely.) Another driver who had a Catholic mother and Muslim father said: “What I am you ask? Maybe…confused?”
Last Friday’s operator is my hands-down favorite though. Not only was he wearing a suit (I always wear suit for driving!), and supporting SEVEN children (Boys give me most trouble; girls, they easy!), but he was very forthcoming about his religious practices. This is the conversation, as close as I can recall.
So…if I may ask, are you Muslim? Yes. What is the best Somalian mosque to attend? It all same. Somali, Pakistani, any race… we not discriminate. Any mosque best place. I pray five times day. In Mosque if possible. What if you’re driving the cab when it’s time to pray? If I drive you to airport, I drop you off then go to close mosque to pray. What if you aren’t near a mosque? I pull over, pray in the cab. I can do this right here, in cab.See? What if you’re sleeping? I pray as soon I get up!
This is where it gets interesting.
The important thing not where pray, but pray in heart. That most important. Yes, I definitely agree with you. You pray, yes? You Christian? Yes.(I took the easy way out here and didn’t explain the whole Thirty by Thirty thing.) See you pray too, you pray in heart? Yes. It same. Very important to pray to God. I am Muslim which mean I honor all prophet and sacred book. Mohammad, Jesus, Qu’ran, Bible…I believe in all prophet and book. So you and me, we not so different. You pray, I pray. This all same. This important thing. So…you are Muslim, you pray to Allah, but it’s OK if I pray to Jesus? Yes, OK, all OK.
The gentleman is highly devout, very devoted to his faith. He prays five times a day! But yet…he holds his beliefs with his mind open to other faiths. I like him, I like him A LOT.
Post-payment and tip, we thanked him and I left the cab spiritually shell-shocked. Here I am: spending a year of my life in 30 thirty places of worship, looking for theology that fits…and I find it. On date night.IN A CAB.
Not from the pulpit: from the front seat. Not from a minister: from a foreign taxi driver. Not while sensitively journaling about my faith: while buzzed after a good film.
I doubt our driver will ever realize the impact he had on me in our short minutes together, but I’ll always remember he added a few sentences to my personal theology. And that was well-worth the cab fare.
Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (PTCS) is the term I coined to describe the myriad of symptoms: mental, emotional and even physical, and aftershocks following a departure from a stringent religious culture. PTCS presents as follows: 1) Sufferer is exposed to a trigger, such as a televised minister, extreme talk show host, religious song or discussion 2) Sufferer experiences one or more of the following: disgust, mental anguish, flashbacks, anger, rage, sadness, depression, crying, headache, nausea, vomiting, and, in rare cases, hives. If the sufferer is somehow immersed in a religious situation, whether by accident or coercion (such as attending a church service or being blind sighted by a fundamentalist at a dinner party) all symptoms may occur simultaneously, causing the victim to run (possibly screaming) out of the sanctuary/cocktail party/dinner table and seek refuge in the nearest bathroom/car/basement/dark hole. The sufferer may or may not later experience a spiritual hangover for several hours or days, wherein the symptoms continue unabated.
Though the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the primary text used by doctors to diagnose psychological conditions) has yet to pick up on my idea, I am hopeful for the next edition. [And, while they're at it? I'd really appreciate a diagnosis for the neuroses I deal with when faced with large numbers of numbers, such as spreadsheets. Preferably one that would give me a doctor's note to avoid creating and/or interpreting said digits. Perhaps something along g the lines of Severe Numberlexia and Excelphobia? Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the psychiatric world, for your serious consideration!]
If you think I am being facetious, I assure you, IAM NOT. [Well, except about the numbers.] An occupational hazard of conducting a project like Thirty by Thirty is being verbally vomited on by fellow PTCS victims who are so glad to find someone who understands! (It is, quite frankly, exhausting. Especially since I am still dealing/healing from my own case. Still, I welcome my fellow sufferers because solidarity and support are important components of recovery.) My personal experience is that there are PLENTY of folks suffering from PTCS out there (of people I talk to, about 20%), placed along the spectrum from mild cases: my parents dragged me to church and I hated every minute of it!, to stubborn cases such as my own which require extreme measures such as Spiritual Shock Therapy (enter: Thirty by Thirty) for there to be any chance of recovering faith.
Many people assume the origin of PTCS is spiritual abuse: that is, being wounded by fellow believers/religious folks all in the name of God, and the spirit of brotherly love! This is not the case. Or, perhaps I should revise my statement: spiritual abuse is not the exclusive cause of PTCS. Typically, limiting theological beliefs and their attachment to the identity of the individual play a large role in the onset of symptoms. Not that spiritual abuse should be dismissed; it is a very serious issue running rampant in the church today, usually employed to cause members to conform or be punished. However, the core belief system, and the breaking away from it, comprise a large percentage of severe cases.
In my own life, the below beliefs (and my decision to cast them off) has caused the majority of my PTCS, perhaps as much as 70%. The balance was inflicted by fellow believers, but those are stories for another day. So, here goes:
1.) Everyone (except us!) is going to Hell. And if you don’t share the gospel with them, their blood is on your hands. Do you want to get to heaven only to see all those you could have saved from eternal damnation? Really? Everyone from the beginning to the end of time, regardless of race, family origin or life circumstances is damned to hell for all eternity? Even a democratic people who believe in their laws have judges and juries to make sure justice is carried out. And sometimes “justice” means setting a person free who did commit a crime, because of extenuating circumstances. Do we really think an all-powerful, all-loving God would not have some sort of sliding scale? That we have the exclusive corner on truth?
2.) Your identity is found in God and your family. These are the things you can always rely on! Everything else is temporal and will fade! So what happens when your family falls apart, or someone passes away, or you fail to believe in the God you were raised with? A shattered person. Very dangerous.
3.) It is better to be hot or cold in your faith, lest God SPIT YOU OUT OF HIS MOUTH!!! (Referencing Rev. 3:16) This is further extrapolated to mean God will quite literally vomit you up if you fail to be (their version of) a “hot” believer. [The common interpretation of this passage is that ‘hot’ means enthusiastic, wholehearted or zealous. ‘Lukewarm’ means half-hearted, uncommitted, wavering, indifferent. Someone who is ‘cold’ would then be antagonistic and hostile, rejecting the Gospel. Referencehttp://makestraightpaths.com/hot_cold_lukewarm.htm] Talk about social control!
4. Believe it all, or believe it none. This is intrinsically related to #3, but (for me) BY FAR the MOST DAMAGING. It was this ingrained belief in fact, that forced me to walk away from my faith completely and totally because I didn’t think I was allowed to consider options outside the (very clear) boundaries of what I should and should not believe. Special note on #4: Once I got past this belief, with the aid of Thirty by Thirty, my faith found a place to root and started to bloom.
So there it is folks: an explanation of PTCS and the origin of my Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. Or, part of it at least. (And my confession that I hate numbers, spreadsheets, and most especially spreadsheets with lots of numbers. DSM-IV–here I come!)
Sister #1: I got a remote start in my car for Christmas!
Sister #2: I got an IPAD!
Me: I got a pair of socks from the emergency room…
Brother-in-law: At least your present was the most expensive.
Henceforth this holiday shall be known as: The Christmas Rebecca Landed in the ER. (For a case of hives that migrated to her throat, which started swelling shut.)
It shall also be known as: The Year a Doctor Scares Trent. (When, upon our arrival at the urgent care clinic, we were immediately sent away by the attending physician to the “Real ER, where they can do something for your wife.”)
And this is why I do not have a post about attending a Christmas service.
On the bright side, I did pray fervently between the urgent care and the “Real ER”.
Lesson Learned: Only go to the urgent care clinic with urgency…not an emergency.
Bonus Lesson: If, in the excitement of a swelling throat, you fail to wear socks, the ER nurse will gladly provide you with a pair for the
nominal astronomical price of your stay. But only AFTER you have bared your bottom* to your mother-in-law, your mother-in-law’s neighbor’s son [he is a doctor! I do not expose myself to visiting neighbor's sons for fun!], three urgent care nurses, one incompetent urgent care doctor, three ER nurses,two ER physician’s assistants,and a partridge in a pear tree.
(*My bottom would like to note that it prefers to remain covered. However, if it is called to duty, in such cases as it being eclipsed by welted, migrating hives and thus becoming a threat to the life of its owner, my bottom is very patriotic and willing to be bared, even if said baring causes much shame!)
I realize this post has nothing to do with going to places of worship, except that I skipped going to church on the biggest church day of the year. So….sorry about that.
In my defense, I am certain more people find God in the Emergency Room in one day than find Him in some mega-churches on Christmas.
1. Do you know what caused the hives? No.
2. Have you eaten anything new or changed anything recently (add long list of things you think I may not have considered as a cause but, believe me, if you think your throat is swelling shut you ponder possibilities. Very.Very.Thoroughly.) No.
3. Can the doctor tell you what caused them? No.
4. Are you OK now? I am drugged up on Benedryl, steroids and various antihistamines. Everything is OK.
A big shout-out to Jen Lancaster, NYT best-selling author of multiple books (including my fav Bitter is the New Black),whose hilarious, sharp-witted voice I heard in my head while considering the absurdity of my Christmas Situation in the ER. Though I have not the faintest idea of Ms. Lancaster’s religious views outside of her former attendance at the Magnificent Mile Mecca,I believe we share an affinity for mild, mind-altering meds (Her: Ambien. Me: Benadryl). Thanks for your great sense of humor…it ( and the drugs) helped get me through My Very Bare-y Christmas.
Please like Thirty by Thirty on Facebook if you enjoyed this post! www.facebook.com/thirtybythirty
And don’t forget to visit Jen Lancaster on FB if you need a laugh! www.facebook.com/AuthorJenLancaster
Faith, Faith blog, theology,Reba Riley,thirty by thirty, 30 by 30, thirty x thirty, 30×30, faith, faith blog, God, blog faith, on faith blog, faith blogs, faith & theology, faith theology, unreasonable faith,on faith washington post,washington post on faith,church, christian,Jesus,hope, Bible,what is faith,faith in God, faith book,world religion,religions world,the major religions, lost faith, lose faith,losing faith in faith,confidence in God, losing my faith,faith God, find faith,find your faith, jen lancaster,big lights,goodkind,jennifer lancaster,lancaster book, recovering christian, recovering catholic