“We are FREE in Christ Jesus!” Is a sentence I have heard more times than I have had sex and I’m almost 8 years into my marriage soooooo. A lot. I’ve heard it a lot. And frankly, even if you weren’t raised evangelical – I bet you have too.
Freedom is thrown around by the church like a tie die hacky sack at a shoegaze concert in Colorado. Or, like how my son used to shout “Frog!” loudly at the top of his lungs while not being able to pronounce an r and his g’s definitely sounded like k’s every single time he saw another person for almost 4 months. That’s right. It was my favorite. However, when the church uses it, it is neither entertaining nor does it brighten my spirits. Almost entirely because they are saying it wrong.
Again, this is not a thing I have against Jesus. I like Jesus. It’s the church who claims him that I have a problem with. Because things freedom does not look like:
Heavily policing what women wear in order to enforce a strict code of modesty and begin the indoctrination that their bodies are dirty, dangerous, made exclusively for the enjoyment of men and of bearing children for those men, and that male happiness and indeed thoughts and actions are dependent on our ability to cover up skin.
Being taught that any hobbies that would not have a place in a new Little Women reboot are useless, and indeed sinful because they waste time and women’s time is never to be wasted – by her – on something she enjoys that does not have an element of productivity for others in it.
Being taught that women are obedient first, and everything else that is good and quiet second. The only way she will be blessed is to be submissive to a man, indeed many men, including her pastor, father, future husband, and sometimes brothers and sons depending on denomination.
Being taught to ignore your own experiences and suppress your own intuitive connection with the divine. Granted, this is more like a part b to the point above, but distinct enough it needs its own paragraph. If you have so much as a conversation with the divine that one of the men over you would find questionable, you are to immediately dismiss that conversation and assume you are being tricked by the devil. IF what you believe/realized/received/connected to was REALLY the good one, then He will reveal Himself to the man in authority over you and thusly give you blessing. Otherwise, trust any man in authority over you more than yourself. Always. Else you will most likely burn in hell.
Rejecting any personal aesthetic that involves attention or an affinity for any color not prominent in the rainbow or an Easter palate. Self care is a small list that begins and ends with prayer and might have ‘eat a salad’ or ‘drink some water’ or ‘exercise’ in between. Any sort of indulgence is a waste and selfish.
Peace is more valuable than truth. Especially when that truth is personal and the peace involves anyone else. There is only one truth that should be proclaimed whenever possible, “Jesus is Lord” and I swear there is a secret but well known rule that you get brownie points if it’s written in cursive on a T shirt bought from a grocery store. But seriously, racist grandpa? Shush yourself, he is Jesus’ problem. Petty aunt who passive aggressively compares the grandchildren in a ranking system? Smile and nod. Gropy uncle who aggressively hugs every kid and strips them of their personal autonomy? Children don’t have any say over themselves since they were born sinful, manipulative little turd nuggets so you should blatantly encourage them to not listen to that voice that tells them to stay away from dangerous people and hug their uncle.
Importantly all of these truths can be boiled down into one: do not be yourself. Be a quiet, giving blob of selflessness that constantly allows yourself to silenced while forcing yourself into a cookie cutter mold of a fictional woman from the 1800’s with an endlessly sunny disposition and a penchant for getting walked on.
*side note* Men do not have it easy either. They are discouraged from having emotions, showing emotions, wearing color, being unique in any way, showing weakness, displaying anything other than americanized masculinity, or having close friends that do not attend the same church, or are on a team together, or are women they do not intend to marry, or are not appearing masculine enough. Also the happiness, financial stability, and eternal souls of their nuclear family rests solely on their shoulders. Like they get to enjoy sex but have to keep themselves locked away too.
And locking ourselves away is the opposite of freedom. It is why we are depressed, lonely, and secretive. We have to be secretive because otherwise we die and we don’t actually want to. We want to live. We want to be free. We want to be everything we are. We want to be everything we are made to be. Because deep down we know we were made this way. We’re just told it’s wrong. That we’re wrong. And we’re not.
We’re not. We’re not. We were not born sinful turd nuggets. We were born impressionable, adorable whole people with likes and dislikes and intuition and curiosity chock full of wonder and questions. We internalized so much because we wanted so badly to be good and loved by the man in the sky who said he loved us so long as we were nothing like he made us to be. Or for parental approval. Maybe both. Kids are complicated.
The point is: it’s hard to realize all of this and live out the unlearning because our very vocabulary was fucked with. We were taught freedom and loyalty and unconditional love (agape, you’re welcome) and wholeness and clean and safe and all of those things were somehow twisted into meaning other things.
I am still working on it. Daily. To untangle all this garbage in my mind. Sometimes, doing so feels absolutely absurd. Because it’s often just pointless rebellion, like laying on the floor of my living room that desperately needs to be cleaned and vacuumed and instead shouting “I am more important than this!” at the top of my lungs while spread eagle in over-sized sweatpants. (Truly, I am a *joy* to live with.) But doing that kind of absurd rebellion always reminds me how absurd it is that what I am doing is rebellion. And that helps me breathe a little easier. And get my shoulders down from my ear lobes. And see that the divine truly does not care if I wear black on national holidays.
And that goddess is not in a building. But goddess also isn’t in the people in that building either. That goddess is everywhere and absent all at once and no one can tell us about ourselves (unless they are well trained therapists, in which case my advice is to listen) and life is half of what we make of it and then literally half advertizing (thanks capitalism) and half all of the shit that happens to us and the people that happen to us and how we definitely happen to them. And it’s messy. It is all so fucking messy and THAT is so much more pure than the people shaped cages we are told to be.
Be free. Really free. And really messy.