How I Learned to Appreciate Computer Games

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It’s been quite the process to go from the know-it-all, spiritually superior girlfriend with a nominally Catholic, theologically illiterate, failure of an immature Christian man to an embarrassed, humbled, clueless wife with the faithful, Christian, decent husband.

We haven’t changed much. I just realized my superiority was all pride and bluster, and his “failures” and “immaturity” were just me being embarrassed that he didn’t live up to the perfect complementarian divinity student I’d imagined I’d always marry. But he is incredible, and his faith is incredible, and when I allow him to be himself, instead of holding him to my fundamentalist standards of holiness and maturity, our relationship is incredible too.

One of the biggest turning points with us had to do with computer games.

My husband doesn’t play first-person shooter games (thank God). He doesn’t have an Xbox. He just really loves this online, multiplayer computer game called League of Legends. It’s his hobby. He knows the lore, the characters, and the fine points of playing. He puts in a good amount of time mastering a character or skill. He follows the international championships, and he is currently hot and bothered about his fantasy team. (Yes, there is a fantasy league for an already fantasy computer game.)

This used to bother me. One, because I thought all video games involving death and fighting were evil and would more than likely produce serial killers — even a game like League, where the characters are cartoons, there is no gore, they regenerate every thirty seconds after death, and the draw of the game is strategy rather than glorying in the graphic death of your opponent.

Two, I thought only immature people cared about such frivolous things as video games. Any time a college male tried to explain the deeper purpose of video games to me, my eyes glazed over and my eyes wanted to roll so hard.

Three, it can get addictive. Games at three in the morning. Homework abandoned in favor of a five-game streak. Not being able to pause the game at will to help in an emergency — like everyday when I had my routine existential breakdown.

So I did what every responsible, godly, mature girlfriend does — I ridiculed him for it.

I argued against his love of this game from all different angles — particularly attacking his character and his maturity and his common sense. That’s always a great way to change somebody’s mind.

Instead of changing his mind, he began begging me to play with him.

Eventually, begrudgingly, I caved, watching my morality and my maturity crumble around me as a prepared to battle on Summoner’s Rift.

It actually wasn’t the worst thing ever. It was rather fun.

Instantly, I became a girlfriend hero. “You play computer games with Erich? That’s so cute! I wish my girlfriend would do that!”

Ah, yes. Look at me, the model girlfriend.

But the fights still continued into marriage. Some of them were legitimate. Sometimes he did spend too much time on League (not that I spent too much time on Facebook…). Sometimes he did procrastinate on important things in lieu of his favorite pastime (not that I was guilty in this area…).

Perhaps the biggest strain of all, though, was that I cared nothing about computer games in general or League in particular. Lego Star Wars and Mario Cart are the only games I’ve liked. But he talked so much about it. He talked to me as if I knew what he was talking about. He talked to me as if I cared.

I didn’t.

He would go on and on about League, and I would sit and nod and pretend to listen, all the while thinking of something else — normally, about how it was possible for two people to speak English and yet completely not grasp what the other person is saying.

I didn’t have a glamorous breakthrough, except that I hated pretending to listen. I hated not caring. I hated fighting him on this. I hated wishing this part of him would go away. I hated feeling embarrassed about something that brought him joy.

And so I found myself talking about League. At first, I just tried to pay attention when he talked. Then I started asking clarifying questions, like, “What does KS mean?” Then I started asking him questions about how his game was going or how his fantasy team was doing. And then I found myself as his #1 counselor regarding all things League. I was giving my opinion on things, ribbing him for not following my advice, expressing sympathy when he got frustrated with the stupid people in the bronze league, and kissing him happily when things went his way.

This makes so much of a difference in our marriage. 

Not only not judging, but actively participating in something he cares about, even when it’s decidedly not my cup of tea. Surprise, surprise, I find us liking each other more, understanding each other more, and connecting better. He seems far more interested in my hobbies and thoughts too.

GO US!

(Why does it always take me so long to realize these things?)

Of course, I feel a bit self-conscious about his love of League. My friends who aren’t into video games think it’s a bit strange. He had the League world championship up on the big screen when the movers dropped off our couch, and for a second, I wanted to apologize and poke fun at him to show that am a mature, well-adjusted adult who cares nothing about frivolous games.

(Erich has just informed me that the movers exclaimed, “Oh, you have the LCS up! How’s it going? Who are you watching?” Good thing I kept my mouth shut.)

But pooh pooh to the haters.

You know what? Go ahead and judge. Go ahead and laugh. Go ahead and leave links to articles about the sad state of youth these days. We live in an odd world where people pay millions to watch people kick a ball around. We connect with each other via social media and get addicted in the process. We all have weird passions for series on Netflix and awkward hobbies like writing bad fantasy novels and too many opinions on things that don’t matter much to the fate of the world.

And so I say, embrace those crazy, allegedly immature hobbies — especially for the sake of those you love.

Child-Like Faith and the Danger of Accepting Jesus into Your Heart

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It matters to me what a theological belief produces — fear or hope or peace or striving.

I used to dis paedobaptism because I thought it encouraged spiritual laziness. Kids would ride on the coattails of their parents’ faith, I thought; infant baptism would trick kids into thinking they had a relationship with God when instead they had only a relationship with the church. I thought the stereotypes of Catholics and Lutherans were true, that they based their salvation solely on the fact that a priest sprinkled water on them a week after birth.

I get the concern that paedobaptism produces apathy. For a while, that convinced me that paedobaptism was patently harmful — because I, as a kid, took my faith personally and seriously. I chalked that up to making my own profession of faith at the age of 7 and being baptized soon after.

But I’ve been thinking, recently, that there are fruits of paedobaptism that I find beautiful and relieving and holy, and aspects of credobaptism that are or can be harmful.

It boils down to this: how seriously do we understand Jesus’s command to believe as little children? 

Presbyterians always argued that the children of Christians were a unique case. Of course, they need to come into their faith as their own, and Presbyterians still require an intellectual assent via confirmation. But Christian kids grow up within the church, within the redeemed community. They are surrounded by the visible, particular graces of God. They are raised as Christians, regardless of their personal confession.

I’ve always felt that Christian kids were a unique group too — exposed to all the blessings and curses of Christianity. I remember telling my mom as a young teenager that I felt God calling me to preach the gospel to Christian kids, to church kids — kids like me, who grew up with Christianity all their life, but never understood the unconditional, accepting, gracious love of God.

We were — we are — a messed up bunch of kids, more or less. Many of us struggled with depression. Many of us were frantic and fearful — fearful of God, fearful of hell, fearful of not being enough. We were weary, psychologically strained, but we were passionate, and we cared, and we took our faith seriously.

We would find each other when someone was brave enough to say, “Hey, I doubt my salvation all the time” or “Hey, I’m not sure what I believe anymore,” and we would nod along, YES, EXACTLY, in all caps.

Our doubt didn’t come from lack of trying or rebellion. It came from bone-dry exhaustion.

And when you think of it, think of the psychological damage concepts like sin nature and damnation and hell can do when handled poorly. Think of what happens when you hear, Sunday after Sunday, that you need to make a personal decision for Jesus, that, in effect, you don’t actually believe in Jesus, even though you can’t remember a time you didn’t believe in Jesus.

Think of how horrible and twisted that would make you feel: You, little child, even though you believe Jesus, are damned to an eternity of conscious torture because you haven’t “accepted him into your heart.” You, little child, need to repent and believe, because the belief you already have as a trusting little one who sings “A little talk with Jesus makes it right” and prays every night and asks mommy deep, thoughtful questions about God, isn’t enough.

That, to me, is worthy of being drowned in a proverbial sea with a proverbial millstone around one’s neck.

***

I am eternally grateful to my mom who always encouraged us to make our faith personal while respecting our childlike faith.

She told me, once, of a child who asked her mother whether God hears her prayers. And the technical response, if you really believe that your child is damned until they have a personal relationship with Jesus, if you truly accept that God does not hear or honor the prayers of unredeemed sinners, that no, God does not hear or accept that child’s prayer.

My mom could not bring herself to believe that, much less tell her child that.

That stuck with me.

My adopted mom, my college mentor, also shaped my beliefs on this issue. Once, she was explaining to her girls that only people who believe in Jesus can receive communion.

“I believe in Jesus,” one of her little girls said.

This was not a come-to-Jesus moment. This was not a “profession of faith” culminating in the sinner’s prayer. This was not a walk down the aisle. This was what she had always believed, ever since she could remember.

And so my mentor allows her daughters to take communion in a Baptist church that requires that only people who believe in Jesus can partake. She honors their child-like faith.

I think those two mothers grasp the idea of faith more than the idea of pressuring a child who already believes to believe in a particular way, to express their belief in a particular way.

In the Orthodox church, infants are baptized, and infants receive communion. There isn’t even a “coming-of-age” confirmation class, or a concept that one must intellectually comprehend faith before becoming full members of the church or “Christians.” This is how it was in the beginning of the church, too.

Child-like faith was honored, because it is faith.

***

I’ve tucked in quite a few children who believe in Jesus without having accepted Jesus into their hearts yet. My little sister has a better prayer life than I ever maintained after I accepted Jesus as my savior. My mom made her a child’s book of prayers, a folder she has tucked between the slats of the bunkbed above her. She memorizes those prayers and prays them every night, adding her own requests. She has no fear of hell, no concept of damnation, no baggage of fear or striving. God is only love to her, and she doesn’t psychoanalyze her faith.

It brought me to tears, once, tucking in three little Presbyterian girls after babysitting them. “Dear Jesus,” they all began, screwing up their eyes. And then they rambled, as if he was there and he loved them and he heard them, but without expecting him to answer or wondering why they didn’t feel anything or doubting their worthiness.

I want a faith like that.

And then just the other day, when I finally reached the point in our Bible curriculum where I had to talk about God’s view of sin, and I said to the kindergartners, “We’re now afraid of God, now that we’re sinners, just like Adam and Eve were afraid of God. Do you ever feel afraid of God?”

“No,” they all chorused.

That’s Christian kids, for you — before they make a personal decision for Jesus.

***

And what of the personal decision for Jesus, accepting him in your heart?

I think there’s a huge difference between taking one’s faith seriously and personally and teaching a child to “make a personal decision for Jesus.”

The former encourages the child to grow in the faith she already has. The latter dismisses the faith the child already has.

And that has lifelong consequences.

When I accepted Jesus as my savior, I was seven years old. I was wandering around the front yard, between the fire hydrant and the crab apple tree, thinking about Jesus dying for me. It occurred to me that put Jesus there on that cross. My sins did that. My sins caused his flogging, and the blood streaming down his broken body, and the nails in his hands, and his dead weight sagging against them.

And I realized at the same time (this according to my mom, as I didn’t recall this myself) that even if I was the only sinner in the world, Jesus would have still died for me. He loved me that much.

I burst into tears, guilty and loved and broken and euphoric.

I ran into the house, told my mom, and we prayed something like the sinner’s prayer together. I was now a Christian. I was something different than I was before. I was saved.

And ironically, that’s when the fear started — the sleepless nights, the angst, the terror of God and hell and reprobation that still grips me to this day.

As I’m writing this, I can see my Orthodox priest shaking his head and repeating, “No, no, no” over and over again. “We don’t do that in Orthodoxy,” he would say. “We don’t have bloody statues of Jesus. We’re not supposed to work up our emotions or our pity or our guilt. That’s pietism, not faith. Faith is simply acknowledging the ineffable God who is.”

That makes so much sense, doesn’t it? My Christian community taught me to label a moment of pietism, of heightened emotion, as saving faith — the moment I became a Christian, when I passed from death to life. My eternal destiny, my relationship with God, all hung on that moment of faith.

But that sort of faith isn’t sustainable. My spiritual highs only resulted in existential crashes. I was chasing after a kind of faith that was untenable, and it produced nothing but guilt and striving and disappointment. It was exhausting to work up enough emotion and certainty, day in, day out.

That kind of faith has damned me, it has damned my friends, over and over again.

That is not of God. Can I just say that again? That is not of God.

The faith of the little child saying her bedtime prayers each night — that is of God.

***

I want to baptize my babies, for these reasons. I want to honor their faith. And I will never, ever teach them that they need to have a particular experience or a certain profession of faith to know God.

There are, certainly, people skating by on their infant baptism with zero cares about their spiritual life because “they were baptized” and that’s that. But I think I misunderstood the people who valued their infant baptism as essential to their salvation and spirituality.

I think placing so much emphasis on their infant baptism might be an acknowledgment of the faith they’ve always had, the grace they’ve always experienced, without any striving or accepting required.

That, to me, is beautiful.

When Protecting Rights Is Immoral

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Trump’s travel ban.

It’s the next thing, in a long line of things, that’s getting me to think about the difference between rights and love.

As a feminist, I obviously advocate for equal rights. I think I thought that “rights” were the highest form of justice: nobody ought to cross anybody’s rights, and once rights are “equal,” the fight’s pretty much over. Taking a stand for “rights” is always the ethical position, I assumed.

But I kept bumping up against issues and situations where ensuring “rights” not only seemed inadequate but inhumane.

The first thing was listening to pro-choice arguments. I keep a wider circle now, and the entry level pro-choice argument, the aha moment for many, is this: in no other situation is a person obligated to donate their organs, bodily tissue, or the like. It’s a noble thing to donate blood for a good cause, or give up a kidney for a dying sister, but nobody can force you to do it. You have the right to refuse. In the same way, a woman has the right to refuse “donating” her body to the fetus residing in it. It’s a noble thing to carry a fetus to term, but a woman is not obligated to do so.

Since it’s convinced so many pro-lifers to go pro-choice, I try hard to understand this argument, but frankly, I don’t. There seems to be another level of ethics beyond merely ensuring “rights” — a moral obligation that obliges you even when your “rights” excuse you. For me, that is why the pro-choice rallying cry of “my body, my choice” moves me so little.

There’s a similar attitude of “rights” when it comes to the refugee debate.

One of my friends made the connection that being pro-life involves protecting both the unborn and the refugee. Someone countered with this: “The unborn have the right not only to life, but to citizenship. Refugees do not.”

I’ve seen this sentiment in various other arguments. It boils down to “we don’t have to care, because refugees don’t have any right to be here. This is a government, after all.”

I hate this attitude that as long as it isn’t people’s “right” to our care and protection, we can turn them away, we can let them suffer, we can ignore their problems, and we can feel morally justifiable in doing so.

It’s a heartless sort of morality, a cold, technical, calculating sort of morality.

It breaks my heart, these sorts of arguments. “You don’t have to carry your child to term, so murder is totally okay.” “You don’t have to welcome refugees to your country, so sending them back to the horrors of a war-torn country after potentially robbing them of their only chance of a better future is perfectly justifiable.” “You don’t have to help that person bleeding out on the side of the road, so just walk right on by.”

Obviously, things get more complicated when it’s a government acting under moral obligation rather than individual citizens, and we can debate to what extent governments as governments fall under moral obligation to welcome refugees, especially if and when it threatens the safety of its citizens.

Obviously, things are more complicated when conflicting obligations cross paths, period — like choosing between the life of the mother and the child, or stopping to pick up a hitchhiker when you’re a petite female with no self-defense skills, or any number of situations where it’s not clear what’s heroic, what’s stupid, and what’s unhelpful.

I don’t want to make an easy proscription of what to do or not do in all the complicated, conflicting ethical situations we face as a nation, as a pregnant woman, or as individuals in our day-to-day lives. I don’t want to simplify any of this.

But I do want us to think about the possibility of being morally obligated to do something even if it transgress our rights.

Our morality should be empathetic, human, and, yes, sacrificial. Our morality should protect not only people’s “rights,” but also people themselves.

We are morally obligated to protect and care for others even at the potential cost of our rights, even if they have no right to ask.

New Coping Mechanisms

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I have never been good with prayer.

I feel uncomfortable with it; I always felt like I wasn’t doing it right. I never found a place between expecting God to intervene (which is trust) and expecting God to intervene (which is presumption).

I knew I shouldn’t expect a sense of calm or peace from my prayerful encounters with the Divine (our relationship with God isn’t based on emotions, after all), but I was broken, and I came to him because I was broken, and lonely, and scared, and I wanted his calming presence and his peace. I loved him, I really, truly loved him, and I wanted him there for me, like he promised. He never seemed to be.

I never knew what to make of that.

In any case, prayer became a place of wrestling, not of rest.

I needed a new coping mechanism, not only for dealing with life but for dealing with faith.

When I was a teenager, I struggled with insomnia and depression. There were nights when, I knew, sleep would not happen. There were emotions that, I knew, could not be fixed — just endured.

I turned to music as a way to calm me down and reconfigure my inner dialogue. I would be up at 3 in the morning listening to the same songs on repeat — normally Britt Nicole’s “All This Time” and Kari Jobe’s “Breathe” or “Find You On My Knees.” Some nights they helped me finally fall asleep in the morning’s wee hours, some nights they just kept me company until my mom joined me in the living room for her morning devotions.

They were the manifestation of God’s presence for me. They were my prayer life, in some ways: the words were my words, the music my heartache, but they were also God’s response, too.

All this time, from the first tear cried,
‘Til today’s sunrise,
And every single moment between,
You were there, You were always there.
It was You and I.
You’ve been walking with me all this time.

Those songs that I listened to at 3 in the morning, they still get me.

I’m not sure if I believe them anymore, but I do. Something in me does. At least, as much as I cringe at K-LOVE, I will cry if “All This Time” comes on the radio.

Well, the insomnia and the overwhelming brokenness have been coming back with a vengeance. I’ve been turning to music as a coping mechanism, an alternative to throwing things and screaming into a pillow, both of which, I learned, are not apartment-friendly or effective.

I created a sad song playlist. It’s a bit of a misnomer, because not all the songs on there are sad. In fact, I’m not even sure what unifies them. They run the gamut of anthems like Vienna Tang’s “Level up and love again” to Lawless’s “Dear God, I don’t believe in you” to Audrey Assad’s “Even unto death, I will love You.”

No, I’m not contradictory. I’m conflicted.

But whatever they say about me, these songs help.

Over Christmas, I crawled into the back seat of my car (the best place to cry), turned up the music, and sat there until I sobbed myself to peace and my bum started freezing. I felt much, much better afterward.

I need to do this more often.

What things calm you down when you’re at the end of your rope?

Psst. My favorite music: love songs, prayers, and the sad song playlist itself.

Women’s March

qc6vnbe4jqs-jerry-kiesewetterI thought about entitling this “Why I Didn’t March” to practice my clickbaiting skills.

I didn’t march because I forgot it was happening. And I didn’t say anything about it because when it did happen, it was by turns so embarrassing and empowering and confusing and controversial and awesome that I didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

I have three thoughts:

(1) Some of the signs, attire, attitudes, and rhetoric made me think of an Onion article called “Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years”:

“I’d always thought gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth,” said mother of four Hannah Jarrett, 41, mortified at the sight of 17 tanned and oiled boys cavorting in jock straps to a throbbing techno beat on a float shaped like an enormous phallus. “Boy, oh, boy, was I wrong.”

I feel the same way with the feminist movement, sometimes. I try so hard to convince my friends, family, and acquaintances that feminists are just normal people with normal concerns about legitimate issues, and then women wear vaginas around their heads, march naked, and scream about nasty women.*

Of course those are the only incidents of the march that the anti-feminists will see.

Sometimes feminists complain about how anti-feminists view them as angry, loud, obnoxious women with no moral compass, and I just glare at vagina-head.

* I get that the nasty women and pussy power rhetoric was ironic. Anti-feminists don’t.

(2) That said, it’s freaking awesome to me that something called the “Women’s March” spawned the largest U.S. protest, with zero arrests reported; it occurred on every continent; and it brought together a ton of different people. That massive accomplishment is associated primarily with women, the “weaker sex,” the ones “Biblically unfit for leadership.”

That’s a satisfying historical moment.

(3) Speaking of which, one of the most grating things about all the Christian anti-feminist responses is the ignorance about female oppression and sexism within Christianity itself. Someone wrote a many-times-shared “list” of all the freedoms women in America have compared to women elsewhere, implying that it’s ridiculous for American women to claim any sort of systemic oppression from patriarchy. (We’ve all seen similar posts.)

Personally, I have not experienced workplace discrimination. I have not experienced sexual harassment or assault. I am underpaid because I am a teacher, not a woman. I have, for the most part, encountered respectful men. I am not a person of color or an immigrant or a Muslim.

But I have experienced sexism and discrimination, and I experienced it all within Christianity.

Whenever I see this argument, that don’t see any real female oppression happening, I want to say this:

Open your eyes. Now look at your church. Now look at your beliefs. Now look at mainstream Christian culture. Now tell me, with a straight face, that there isn’t any real female oppression happening.

You won’t.

The worst part is that most won’t, because sexism within Christianity is so bad that it’s not even recognized as sexism. It’s Biblically sanctioned sexism.

Christians have told me and many other women, “You can’t do that because you’re a woman.”

That is straight-up sexism.

Our voices, our personalities, our gifts, our perspectives, and, in extreme but all-too-frequent cases, our lives have been repressed. That’s not even getting into the mess certain complementarian and patriarchal beliefs have made of people’s identities, marriages, and families.

Sure, women can pretty much “do as they please” in the secular world, give or take the challenges, but in mainstream Christianity, the majority still think that women are subordinate to men in some way, shape, or form. A vocal part of Christianity is even willing to risk Trinitarian heresy rather than revoke their views on women’s eternal subordination to man.

Even women support these things.

You know you’ve got a problem with patriarchy when it’s the women who argue most vehemently for the subordination of their fellow women.

I know, I really do know, that respectful, thoughtful men and women believe the Bible does not support women in leadership, whether in the home or in the church or in the secular world. I see how and why they came to those conclusions, and I see how and why they still hold to those conclusions (see first point, for example).

But it’s still sexism, no matter how you hermeneutically slice it.

Last Saturday, I hope there were feminists marching to protest Christian sexism, because that patriarchal beast is still alive and well.

Hi. Terrified to Meet You.

For those of you who missed what happened this week, “When Belief Becomes a Work” ricocheted around a small section of Twitter for a while, resulting in a gloss that I found more insightful than my own post.

Then WordPress editors picked “Truth Isn’t Relative, but You Are” to promote on their blog. As of writing this, I gained around 400 followers, received over 240 likes on that post alone, and am still publishing and responding to comments.

Notoriety isn’t what I expected it to be. It’s like having a private conversation with a few close friends and then suddenly realizing that everyone around you is listening in too — and then they start saying things to you.

The last time this happened, a bunch of fundie-haters came to crap on my blog, and I cried and wanted to quit writing. This time, the response is mostly positive, and I almost cried, and want to quit writing.

I am such a wimp. There. I said it.

Now that this blog feels like a totally different writing platform (as in, the floodgates have opened to the best and the worst of the internet), a totally different community (as in, not the handful of people who have been following my journey since I was a fundamentalist, stay-at-home daughter teenager), I want to introduce myself.

Hi, I’m Bailey. I am probably not who you think I am, and I probably don’t believe what you think I do, and I probably am not as passionate or as open-minded as you are on certain subjects, so please don’t hate me. I am transitioning between labels, so if you’re in-between and lost, or if you ever were in-between and lost, we might learn to like each other.

This blog is for conversation. It’s for people, whether they agree with me or not, sharing their views with the hopes of understanding where I am coming from, where others are coming from, and where they themselves are coming from. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, welcome.

If you’re not, you will cause me headaches and anxiety by forcing me to kick you off and spend my weekend wondering if I’m a narrow-minded jerk. Don’t do that to a people-pleaser. Go back to the creepy parts of the internet. Please.

Now I will go back to almost crying. Nice to meet you.

P.S. Here are my community guidelines.

When Belief Becomes a Work

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For a while, I’ve felt that fundamentalism is works-based.

I don’t mean that as the typical accusation thrown against fundamentalism — the legalistic rules about not drinking or dancing.

I mean that, to me, there’s something in their view of Scripture and belief that makes that sort of Christianity burdensome, wearying, and, well, a striving of one’s own — works-based salvation.

Essentially, they turn belief into a work.

Fundamentalist salvation is knowledge-based. It’s dependent upon knowing and believing the Bible. We didn’t learn spiritual discipline in fundamentalist Baptist Sunday school; we learned apologetics. We learned how to defend Scripture against a secular world which would undermine our faith in the Bible.

Initial salvation came, in part, from hearing the Word rightfully preached and acknowledging it in your heart as true. The rest of your Christian life was dedicated to knowing why you believe what you believe in order to convince — sorry, convert — people to the truth of God’s Word.

And everything, everything hinged on you interpreting the Bible correctly — our country’s future, the survival of the church, the salvation of your friends, and, of course, your own salvation.

The more liberal-minded fundamentalists divided Biblical truths into two categories: salvation issues and non-salvation issues. This comforted us when faced with friends and family who, oddly, refused to acknowledge that the truth as we saw it was truth. If we only disagreed on non-salvation issues, we didn’t have to worry about their salvation. And if we ourselves were confused about a minute issue of theology, no worries — there was room for error with those sorts of non-salvation issues.

Of course, not everybody was as liberal-minded as my friends and family. Not everybody agreed on what counted as a salvation issue.

When I was a teenager, obsessed with the pursuit of truth, willing to believe and fight for anything, no matter how crazy or unjust, as long as I was convinced it was true — back in those days, we debated about whether creationism was a salvation issue or not.

On the one hand, believing evolution was obviously an egregious refusal to recognize the literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2, and, frankly, how can someone with a brain and the Spirit of God not see that? But, theoretically (not that we knew anybody like this, but theoretically), some real Christians might be duped by evolutionist lies. God can save anybody. You never know.

So we decided that there might be a handful of Christians out there who believed in evolution, but yeah, for the most part, it’d be impossible to be a Christian and an evolutionist at the same time.

I discussed this with my college-aged youth group leader, no doubt trying to impress him with my discernment and compassion.

“It’s obviously a huge issue,” I was rattling on, “because there’s really no way you can understand Genesis 1 and 2 as anything but a literal six day creation, but I don’t think it’s a salvation issue.”

“No,” he said flatly. “It’s impossible to be a Christian and believe in evolution.”

And then he questioned my salvation for even considering the possibility that someone could possibly be Christian and an evolutionist at the same time.

I fled, out of the church, behind the brick walls, and sobbed my heart out.

That is the time, in my memory, when the fundamentalist burden first perched on my shoulders.

This wasn’t theology, of course. Nobody said that your salvation depended upon your knowledge, upon a certain set of salvation issues, but it did. We all knew it.

Which is why, I think, I got into theology in the first place. I wanted to know the truth. That was the only way I would know God, and the only way I could escape the torment of wondering each night if I would wake up in hell the next morning.

***

There are several factors for why fundamentalists link correct knowledge (i.e., Biblical truth) to salvation. Basically, their syllogism is this: the Bible is clear and easy to understand to those who are of God. If you don’t find it clear or easy, you’re not of God.

Your relationship to the Bible determines your relationship with God

The problem with this sort of salvation is that somebody always has a more conservative, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face interpretation of the Bible — a literalism to rival mainstream fundamentalism.

My husband was the first to point this out to me.

A chemist who learned biology from the faculty who sat next to us at College Baptist or St. Anthony’s every Sunday, he never understood my insistence on a literal six day creation. To him, it was both bad science and bad theology: the means of how God created couldn’t take away from the fact that God created.

The other day, he found a PDF of all the reasons why the earth is flat, according to the Bible. It was an even more radical Answers in Genesis, with the same basic argument: the Bible guides our view of reality, period, and the Bible says x. Therefore, x is the truth, no matter what evidence contradicts it. And, by the way, science supports this too — isn’t it funny how God works? Just look at the evidence with an open mind and ask God to help you see.

P.S. Anyone who believes the earth is round isn’t saved. Good luck!

The old anxiety came. My husband found me in the bedroom, scrolling through variation after variation of “Ten Proofs the Earth Is Round.”

“What are you doing?” he asked me. “Stop. Come shopping with me.”

“I have to know if it’s true.”

“Bailey!” he laughed, nervously. “Stop. Why are you doing this? Let’s go.”

I have to know if it’s true.”

He didn’t realize that what was to him an instance of stupidity on the internet was to me the trigger to my sleeping fundamentalism.

And there I was again, as if under brainwashed compulsion, considering a conspiracy-riddled, catastrophized, ridiculous belief…because what if it’s actually true? 

It clicked for me: the fundamentalist link between knowledge of certain Biblical truths and your salvation will never bring comfort. You always have to be studying, always have to be discerning, always have to keep rehashing the same arguments over and over again, because if you get in a car crash today and die and you believe the wrong thing, it’s too late.

You can’t afford to be wrong.

***

Recently, a woman asked a group of egalitarians how to deal with this fear. She liked the idea of egalitarianism, it seemed Biblical, but she couldn’t get over this: what if she was wrong? She was terrified of that possibility.

Because, in fundamentalism, your love for others, your love for God, your good intentions, your desire to know the truth at all costs — none of that matters (because good works don’t get you saved, see) if you don’t actually know the truth.

God doesn’t factor in your frailness, your journey, your intellectual or social or even spiritual roadblocks to understanding the truth.

But by the way, don’t rely on your knowledge either, because even if you know all the right things and do all the right things, Jesus can still say to you, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”

But don’t worry! The peace of God brings certainty! Stop striving! Why do you feel the need to question your salvation?

That is the most wearying, oppressive part of this whole mindset: even though it demands the unconditional understanding, accepting, and promoting of the truth in order to be saved, it will never be enough.

They’ll get you for something — for doubting, for asking questions, for disagreeing with them, for not agreeing with them as quickly as you should, for just “seeming” to be someone who isn’t saved.

You’re never safe to stop your search. Just when you’ve accepted creationism, you get slammed for believing in a round earth, you heathen.

I heard it from my youth group leader, personally.

My family, one of three families attending the church, heard it from the pulpit: “I just get the feeling that some of you aren’t really saved.”

I heard it last summer, when someone kindly informed me that my intellectualism had blinded me from actually knowing God.

When I got that email, I screamed. I screamed for a lifetime of never knowing enough, not knowing enough, or believing enough.

“Why can’t I just love you?” I screamed at Jesus. “Why is that never enough?”

2016: What Did (and Didn’t) Work for Me

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Addie Zierman, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote this post on what did and didn’t work for her in the past year. Since I don’t make (read: keep) New Years’ resolutions, I was inspired to do the same.

What didn’t work

1. No dishwasher

The power of dishes over our lives is just ridiculous. Never again. Nobody feels like scrubbing at dishes after every meal, and then remembering to put them up once they’re dry, only to refill the dish drainer with newly washed dishes. I’d say around a third of our marital spats involve who didn’t wash the dishes — and that’s a conservative estimate. Plus, do handwashed dishes actually get clean? It feels so unsanitary to scrub your plate with the grime from the other plate still on it. Needless to say, a dishwasher is the number one priority for our next living space.

2. Being a stay-at-home wife

Because we moved around a lot over the summer, I wasn’t able to secure a temporary summer job before starting my teaching job. I spent the summer home alone, in a new place, with nobody to see and nothing to do. I was miserable. I am split evenly down the middle of introvert and extrovert, so being away from people and a routine left me unmotivated to start any creative projects or even keep up with those dratted dishes.

This summer, I’m getting a job — hopefully a part-time job that allows me people time in the morning, creative introvert time in the afternoon, and Netflix-and-chill in the evening.

3. Avoiding counseling

I kept putting it off. Things didn’t get better. I need it.

What did work

1. Staying hydrated

This little hack made a huge difference in my life. A while ago, I discovered that I am more prone to anxiety, depression, and mood swings when dehydrated. This year, I made it a priority to drink the daily recommended water intake. I fill up a Cool Gear cup and keep it with me at all times. It’s hard to refill during a busy school day, and I rarely drink the recommended amount every day, but its impact on my energy and mood is noticeable. Plus, it’s the only “resolution” I actually stuck with this year, so, yay!

2. Creative outlets

I participated in two plays this fall, got cast in a third this winter, tried National Novel Writing Month, and visit the library once or twice a week. I didn’t realize how much I missed — and needed — storytelling in my life. Drama, reading and writing fiction, and music has made up a huge part of my life ever since I was young, so dabbling in those things again brings back the purpose and imagination of my carefree days. I’ve found that writing fiction, in particular, helps me pry off the perfectionist tendencies that keep me down. It’s also been more helpful, truthful, and healing to work out my existential angst in stories rather than essays. (By the way, I recently got into Goodreads and challenged myself to read 50 books this year. Join me?)

3. Teaching

I love teaching. I really do. I hate when the kids don’t listen and the Play Dough goes everywhere for the third time that day and the internet goes out right when you need it to teach this next lesson and you have to drag that one kid to the principal’s office because he choked somebody again and then threw himself on the floor and refused to move, but I love it. The hard days are really hard, but the good days are phenomenal. I’ve fallen in love with all of my kids (okay, except two — working on that) and am amazed at the progress they’ve made.

It’s the only job I’ve had that gives me purpose, uses and stretches my natural gifts, and makes me into a better person. Whatever jobs I end up doing will have to involve teaching kids in some capacity.

4. Giving myself spiritual space

As you probably guessed, I am completely burnt out with spirituality right now. I got to the point where nothing made sense anymore, and instead of fighting through it, I found peace in saying “I don’t know” and taking a break. Church, prayer, Bible reading…I stopped forcing myself to do them, because the only motivating factor I can muster is guilt and fear.

I still read and listen to primarily Christian voices — Addie Zierman, Phil Vischer, Sarah Bessey, Peter Enns, my local priest, my husband, the Orthodox liturgy, my conversations with thoughtful Christian friends, my dear commenters here. I like this place, as an observer, as someone taking things in, seeing how they play out, falling in love with the mystery and the story of redemption as an outsider, rather than frantically hammering out theology in order to protect myself from hellfire.

5. Boundaries

This year, I discovered that abuse of all kinds is more rampant in my little world than I thought. And so, this year, I had to set boundaries…cutting out manipulative voices, calling out abuse, taking stands, letting certain people go.

And oh, goodness, is it hard to do that, to be open to critique while closed to attack, all while being kind and humble. No doubt you’ve seen me get snippy with a few frustrating readers here and morph into the “tone police,” and I apologize for every time I’ve been ungracious. But as bad as I am at it and as hard as it is, I’ve found it far healthier to set boundaries and know my limits, both online and offline.

Here’s to a new year! I’m hoping for rest, healing, and creativity in this upcoming year. (A baby and a book deal wouldn’t be too shabby, either.)

What things did or didn’t work for you this past year?

Stay-at-Home Daughters

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Ashley Easter and I both wrote for the patriarchal, stay-at-home daughter site called “Raising Homemakers.” Unbeknownst to each other, we both left patriarchalism (and subsequently the stay-at-home daughter life) and became egalitarians. Just last year, we reconnected and shared our whys and hows of leaving.

She recently invited me to write a guest post on why I left the stay-at-home daughter ideology behind, and added a helpful addendum on the three waves of the stay-at-home daughter movement. Pop on over!

Don’t Pick Up After Your Husband

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Have you bumped into the “butthole wife” controversy? “Stop Being a Butthole Wife” laid down the law with Christian wives: stop your bickering and finger pointing and just pick up the dirty socks already. It got lots of likes and hearts and “SO TRUE!!!!!” from complementarians on my social media feed.

Then Christian Feminist Daddy fired back with, “Nope. Don’t you dare call my wife a butthole.” And that got lots of likes and hearts and “THANK YOU!!!!!” from the egalitarians.

At first, I didn’t read either. I kept coming across them in public spaces, and assumed “butthole wife” was something too embarrasingly kinky to risk a stranger looking over my shoulder. Then I learned that “butthole” is now (apparently?) a hip and holy version of “a**hole,” and (who knew?) it’s an adjective?

(Side rant: Christians, stop with the sanctified vulgarities. A**hole has a known meaning. Butthole conjures up the grossest of images. Please — swear, or don’t swear. Pick one.)

Well, now that I understood this was about jerk wives (and I certainly feel like a jerk more often than I admit), I read the piece. And I am still reporting that I am very much confused.

I get the part where blaming, shaming, and complaining day in and day out is a toxic thing for a marriage. But then there was the running theme of dirty laundry, to the point where many people easily made the takeaway that her worst offense as a “butthole wife” was complaining about picking up his socks every day.

If I was going to call myself a modified swear word, this wouldn’t be the offense that triggered it.

I support the article’s general idea of not nagging, nagging, nagging about everything your husband is and does, because such nitpicking shows a lack of perspective. But this is what I find most interesting and troubling: her confusion of being a butthole and feeling ticked off that she has to clean up after her grown husband like he’s one of her four kids.

Honestly, many women are juggling the roles of wife, mother, and homemaker — sometimes as their primary or sole identities — and those roles lack distinct boundaries from the other. Wives, as wives, hate feeling like they are their husband’s mother, but they’re so used to picking up after kids and tending the home that they feel guilty about not picking up their husband’s dirty socks. If you’re staying at home all day anyway while he works his butt off at a job, isn’t it your responsibility to pick up the slack?

(Side note: Is it just me, or is there a subtle implication, even by those who swear to the power and importance of homemaking, that a man’s career outside the home is more consequential than her unending labor in the home?)

Maybe I am a butthole wife, but I don’t consider picking up after my husband to be within the scope of marriage or homemaking.

In my marriage, we each retain a level of individual responsibility in many areas of life: I clean up the clothes I dump on the floor, he cleans up the clothes he dumps on the floor. If I make a mess, I pick it up. I keep track of my own stuff, he keeps track of his. If my car breaks down, I take it to the garage, if his car breaks down, he takes it to the garage. I keep track of my phone bill, he keeps track of his. We are responsible for putting our dirty dishes in the sink, our trash in the trash can, our books and toys and electronics away.

And if one person fails to act responsibly with their stuff, that is definitely grounds for husband or wife to confront the other person and say, “Look, you’ve been slacking to the point where it’s creating extra work for me. Can you not?”

This is kindergarten-level responsibility. I teach my own kids this: it is not my job to clean up after them. They wipe down their tables after lunch; they throw away their trash; they pick up their own mat; they fold their blankets; they clean up their toys when they’re done playing. It is not the teacher’s responsibility to clean up after them. It’s theirs.

And that is a sanity-saver — to hold my kids responsible for their own messes. It means I’m not the frazzled teacher running around with the sole purpose of picking up after nineteen six-year-olds.

I should think it’s the same for grown ups on the equal footing of marriage.

This isn’t to say I never pick up my husband’s socks or refuse to clean up after my kids. I just don’t consider it my responsibility, and don’t factor it into my evaluation of whether I’m a good wife or teacher. When I don’t pick up after them , it’s not abandoning my duty, and when I do pick up after them (and I do), it’s an act of solidarity: we are united in the common goal of educating your little brains or marriage, and I am happy to further that goal.

If the kids have to rush off to Spanish right after finishing worksheets, I’ll pick up their pencils and papers for them. If my husband and I are cleaning the house, I’ll toss his stuff in the correct place. If I’m doing laundry or straightening our dorm-level disaster of a room, I’ll fold and sort his clothes.

But it’s key, for me, to realize that I am doing no favors to my husband or my kinders by enabling them to think that somebody will be and should be there to clean up their own messes. That’s perfect ground for frustration and burn-out for the party always picking up the slack, and for ingratitude and entitlement for the party always let off the hook.

Neither bodes well for a healthy marriage or individual growth.

Now, I will say I have this easy for two reasons: one, both of us work full-time, so we share an equal amount of homemaking and breadwinning. (Read: no guilt.) If I were a stay-at-home mom, I would probably feel guilty if I didn’t clean up my husband’s messes (because that is a cherished virtue among women — household, motherhood, and wifely guilt).

And two, I am not a neat freak. I don’t require my husband or myself to keep an immaculate house. Some women seem compelled to pick up messes every five seconds, so walking past a husband’s pile of dirty laundry on the floor would be a Herculean test. It’s not for me, so we minimize our spats on clutter and reserve our energy for blowing up at each other if someone was supposed to do the dishes and didn’t.

(I kid you not, the dishes are the bane of our marriage.)

In a sense, then, I do treat my husband like a child: I expect the same responsibility and thoughtfulness from both my husband and my class, as they have a right to expect from me.

If that makes me a butthole, then so be it.

P.S. Letting little things slide and wifely submission