Fat Girl,

Let me hide myself.

March 30, 2015

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?

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For the well-​meaning Christian: humility in listening.

March 18, 2015

You’ll approach me with why you think I really stopped being a Christian, as if it’s a huge secret that, if you can just crack the code, you could make sure no one would leave the team ever again. And usually, much like this person said, you assume I just didn’t pick the right flavor of Christianity. Or I just didn’t really know Jesus. Or as a recent reader suggested, I just left the bad Christians behind but not Jesus.

You’re taking ownership of my story, mangling it beyond recognition, then insisting I accept your version rather than my own. You’re saying you’re a better judge of my experiences and life than I am. And when you suppose these things about my life and my beliefs, you are being incredibly disrespectful and unloving. Like Cassidy said. it’s like you grew up in a home where smacking someone upside the head was considered loving, and you’re now indignant that you can’t smack me, too.

I get it. I do. I did the same thing. I believed rather strongly that anyone who left the faith was never a Christian to begin with but had been deceived into thinking they were. And I wasn’t shy about this belief, nor did I falter in said belief.

Until it happened to me. 

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For the well-​meaning Christian: credit to whom credit is due.

March 11, 2015

I think we really do a disservice to ourselves and the people around us when we attribute the good or bad things actually done by people to the supernatural, or even to some sort of intrinsic goodness like hard work. I don’t begrudge people the comfort they take in believing a divine creator has orchestrated their life to their benefit, or even wanting to believe that bad things have happened due to an invisible malevolent force. I just can’t help but notice how this tendency to credit the supernatural with what man or chance has wrought often serves to create a disconnect between us and our communities. 

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For the well-​meaning Christian: on showing basic empathy and respect.

March 2, 2015

I really hope you can hear me out about what I am saying and what I’m not saying here, because I absolutely don’t expect any of you to stop talking about your faith in general. It’s such a huge part of your lives, and it’d be really unfair of me to expect you to keep such an important part of your life to yourself and never speak of it. That’s cruel and disrespectful, and would mean that I don’t really care about you in the first place. To borrow the spirit of the words of a friend, “It’s part of your life — and I like your life.”

This is where it could do you some good to learn a little empathy, learn to put yourself in my shoes for a little bit, so maybe you can learn what treating me with respect actually looks like. 

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

December 31, 2014

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. 

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Introspection: the impact of religion on personality.

December 11, 2014

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. 

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Lessons Learned at the Fortress of Faith: Part 3

August 25, 2014

As I’ve stated before, Bob Jones University habitually created spiritual mountains out of circumstantial molehills. We were to strive for perfection in every aspect of life, and anything less than that was an offense to God and the administration.

There’s a saying from the founder of the school…well, I mean, there’s honestly a bajillion sayings from the founder of the school. They’re so revered that they are literally engraved in plaques in every classroom across campus, and you can even buy a book filled with his quips of wisdom. But one saying in particular was quoted quite a bit when I was there: “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” On the surface, and especially when I very first arrived on campus, I agreed with this 100%.

Again, I’m faced with the difficulty of explaining a subculture when some of my audience has never experienced it, and some of it may think there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s difficult to know where to begin or how to explain things that I intuitively learned through various circumstances, other than to talk about the various circumstances that taught me that sometimes, it’s good and right to do “wrong.”

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Sherlock Holmes, Vulcans, and how logic isn’t everything.

August 22, 2014

I mention it because one of the defenses of his insensitivity (to put it mildly) was that his argument was logically sound. And that’s a point that gets brought up an awful lot in discussions of social justice and in general when someone is called out for doing something harmful. It’s especially a point brought up from men against women, usually as a way of gas-​lighting us and saying, “You’re too emotional to get this, let me logic at you in a manly fashion.” It’s sexist, it’s dismissive, and it focuses on one aspect of a situation to the exclusion of all else.

As I said on Twitter in my original thoughts about Dawkins’ asshattery:

This is the kind of argument I see quite a lot from those who tend to hold a lot of privilege & experiential ignorance of the topic at hand. Honestly…it makes me think of that scene in the RDJ/​Jude Law Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is holding something in his hand, the end of which is mere inches from Watson’s face. Watson: “Get that thing out of my face.” Holmes replies, “It’s not in your face, it’s in my hand.” That’s what these logical men are like. That’s their argument. TECHNICALLY, they’re right. But the practical application & observation of the situation shows that one can be correct but still wrong. In this situation, the argument can (& has been, repeatedly) made that Dawkins wasn’t minimizing when he was making the comparison. TECHNICALLY, he wasn’t. But functionally, he was. Just like the thing TECHNICALLY was in Holmes’ hand but FUNCTIONALLY was in Watson’s face.

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To make it abundantly clear: why this atheist is invested in Christianity.

August 20, 2014

Part of me says, “You’re not a Christian anymore, so just ignore it. It’s not like it affects you anymore anyway.” But that’s not really true. There are lots of things about Christianity that deeply affected me for over 20 years, and when Christianity also tends to play a role in U.S. politics, it sure as hell affects me.

And the thing is, when I stopped believing in God, I didn’t stop caring about people.

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The stories we tell: using narrative to make sense of our lives and surroundings.

August 19, 2014

Examining and critiquing cultural narratives as they appear in “real life” and entertainment is important work. It’s life-​changing and empowering work.

It’s important for women to know that they aren’t crazy when a man is stalking them and demanding attention and affection.

It’s important for women to know that if a man — even a man they love — attacks them, it’s not okay.

It’s important for black girls to know that they can grow up and go into space.

It’s important for trans people to see themselves accepted in society.

It’s important for people to know that they are more than a caricature, that the stories of their lives matter.

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Just hear me out.

January 23, 2020

Remember the days where I wrote on here somewhat regularly? I mean, they were the early-​​to-​​mid 2010’s, and blogging has certainly gone by the wayside as of the past…like…what is it, 3 – 4 years now? I didn’t stop writing because the trend began dying down, though. I stopped writing because of TRAUMA *throws glitter bomb* While I do still post on my…

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Haikus With Dani: Existential Edition

May 16, 2016

I’ve been rather existential lately. I mean, I usually am anyway. But back to the “it’s hard to explain in anything except shards of thought” kind of existential. So. The contents of these haikus will likely turn into blog posts at some point. But for now, I serve them to you as the fragments they are. 

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The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture and Shame.

April 1, 2016

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..

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Haikus With Dani: Breakup Edition

March 3, 2016

In so many ways, the dissolving of my marriage has been unspeakably hard. I literally don’t have truly appropriate words for this experience, only deep chasms within my being that alternately flow with rage and sorrow, then ebb with hollow misery. So I decided to put the fragmented shards of grief into haikus. 

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The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

February 18, 2016

Purity culture prepared me for a world that doesn’t exist. The world that does exist is both so much better and so much worse than I was led to believe. 

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Of masculinity & abusive breeding grounds.

June 8, 2015

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The journey in and out.

May 15, 2015

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. 

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Observations about relationships in Christianity.

May 8, 2015

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. 

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

May 1, 2015

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.
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Always. Choose love.

April 21, 2015

You are so young. I am so young. We have much to learn, you and I, twelve years apart and still growing.

But in the face of all of the unknowable, unsearchable future, let’s you and I promise to always choose love — for ourselves, for others. We’ll find our way from there. 

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