We’re not friends.
There. I said it.
You and I are not friends anymore, and in the deepest parts of me, I wonder if we ever were.
Seriously. I question the things between us — the energy, history, past.
I thought I could tell you everything. All my sins and all my hopes. But there was always a piece of me that was out of reach for you — because you would not reach for it. You would not stand up, extend your hand, and try to grab this part of me that was always so heavy to hold.
“You must stop your Satanic idol-worship.”
“You devil worshipper.”
“You will go to Hell.”
These are all common comments said to me as a third-generation practitioner of Vodu, an ancient West African spiritual and herbal practice. Mostly these things are said by Christians preaching their faith on me.
I used to react harshly, which normally ended in an argument or insults. As I grew older, I realized that most people have little knowledge of African history or spiritual traditions. …
We live and die by narrative. Our lives are constructed largely not by what happens to us, but by the stories we tell about what happens to us. This is why language matters, why words matter, and why there’s never “only rhetoric.” Whoever tells the narrative — by what means and in what form — shapes reality. In America, reality itself is constantly unstable. It seems to quiver, spasm, crack, fizzle, contract, expand, threatening to explode; reality feels combustible. Reality is made up largely of our words, and we have no collective language, no consensus on what words mean.
In Exodus 34:7, we hear about the God of the Bible “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” From this passage has derived the notion of generational curses; the concept of pathological dysfunction as spiritual punishment. Modern adaptations of this idea speak to the cyclical nature of unhealthy family pathologies, citing things like poor health, illiteracy, sexual violence, and poverty as examples of these transmissible misfortunes.
But how much of our personal dysfunction is compounded by our decisions, as opposed to shaped by our ancestry…
When I first renounced Christianity, I resented everything that reminded me of religion. I felt betrayed and lied to. My entire understanding of the world had been turned on its head.
I looked back and regretted things I had done when I was younger — putting anti-gay and anti-abortion bumper stickers on my truck; pushing away perfectly good friends because they weren’t Christians.
It wasn’t my nature to be judgmental. I was simply practicing what I had been taught in church.
When I realized purity culture had set me up for a dysfunctional sex life and pushed me to get…
The other day, a friend asked me what she could do for her friend who had just lost their baby. I’ve been asked this before, so I said what I normally do: “Just be there for her” and “maybe make her a meal.”
Here’s what I really wanted to say:
Always use her baby’s name, if it was given, when you talk about them. We love to hear our children’s names being spoken out loud. With confidence. Like you believe they were really alive.
Send her a text. Every day for a little while and then every so often after…
The Bible was handed down to me as a life manual, a moral handbook, and an arbiter of true science and history that would protect me from the dastardly evils of evolution and atheism. “If you got doubts,” they would say, “you ain’t reading your Bible enough.”
And when my pastors and Sunday school teachers said to look to the Bible for answers, they meant that quite literally: If the Bible said God created the Earth in six days, then that’s what it meant. If the Bible said a man survived in the belly of a big fish for three…
“Wait a sec, babe,” I said, catching his hand as he made to carry on walking past the pale, glowing altar. “I want to light a candle for my grandpa.”
Notre Dame towered above the two of us—two small, dark figures among a sea of worshippers, tourists, and believers of every stripe. Paris had been kind enough to share a few of its hidden treasures with us already, but it’s hard to resist the pull of that imposing, graceful monolith looming over the riverbanks. …
I’ve always struggled with the idea of an interventionist God. The idea of treating an omnipotent power like a vending machine: If you put in faith, good works, and requests, you’ll get the world to go your way.
This assumes God operates within a meritocracy. It assumes that the better you are, the better you’ll be treated by the almighty. It assumes you can get everything you want if you just pray hard enough, if you’re holy enough, if you never stray. …
If I could trace the years of my childhood in the warm, Sacramento sun back to a single name, it would be R.J. Rushdoony — the father of Christian Reconstructionism, and, by many people’s definition, the strongest inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement.
In 1963, Rushdoony launched his ideas about the American educational system with a book titled, The Messianic Character of American Education. In 1965, he started the Chalcedon Foundation, an organization that would, eventually, go as far as to say that home education is the only model for education given in the Bible. In 1973, he wrote…