I recently got in this letter:
Hi, John. I became acquainted with your writing a couple of months ago and love it. I so wish I could travel back in time and hear your voice in my head while I was growing up, instead of the hard-core fundy "you're going to hell" soundtrack of my early life.
I've read with great interest the letter from the young woman who felt that God degraded Mary -- and your earlier post about why some folks consider it so important that Mary remain a virgin for life. I just had to share a bit of my story around exactly that issue.
When I was 16 years old, I was raped at knife-point by a stranger. Not having a clue how to handle it, I decided to confide first of all in my pastor. While I was literally still bleeding from the attack, he told me (and I quote) "It's too bad that you didn't force him to kill you instead. That way you could have at least died a virgin." That was the sum total of his "advice" to me -- not, "Oh, you should go to the police," or "Oh, I'm so sorry that happened to you," or anything that might have been even remotely helpful anywhere on this planet.
After that reaction, I decided not to tell anyone else -- including my parents or the police -- ever. It wasn't until six years later, after I had attempted suicide and was hospitalized for severe depression, that the truth came out. And then, only because I saw my rapist's wedding photo and announcement in our local paper and freaked out a bit. (Well, okay, a lot.) It took me a long time, a ton of therapy, and no small measure of the grace of God to get past this exhibit of what a pastor-friend calls the "cult of virginity."
God calls us to be sooooo much more than what happens with (or to) our genitals. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a voice of reason and compassion in that regard!! To this day, almost 30 years later, I harbor more anger toward that "pastor" than I do toward the man who raped me. At least the rapist wasn't pretending to represent God. The damage the rapist did to my body and my psyche was not insignificant -- but the soul-damage done by this "man of God" nearly killed my faith.
Dear pastor, priest or ministry leader:
As I'm guessing (and certainly hoping) that you're aware, a great many men go into the profession of spiritual leader because -- and to whatever degree they're aware of it -- they are at war with their sexuality. They enroll in seminary at least partly because they are convinced that the closer they get to God, the further they'll get from their genitals.
God will save them from their evil thoughts. God will vanquish their craven desires. Once and for all will God, by the healing power of His merciful glory, deliver them from their dicks.
Which, of course, never, ever, ever works, since a) what we try to repress invariably eats us alive, and b) a person can no sooner stop being a sexual being than a kitten playing with a ball of yarn can stop being cute.
Kittens: cute. Planets: round-looking. Stars: bright. Fish: enjoy water. Dogs: rude at the dinner table.
Human beings: sexually charged.
Those are the rules; they change for no one: seminary degree, or "calling from God," or not.
I would like to ask a favor of you, pastor or priest. It will only take a second. Thank you very much for obliging me on this.
If you would, please, for just a moment, think of women.
Now, did anything negative -- anything, no matter how vague or fleeting -- flash across your consciousness?
If so, then please get up from your desk, or turn to your computer, or do whatever it is that you must, in order to, at this very moment, quit your job. You are no more suited to lead a flock of believers than Stephen Hawking is to be a professional boxer.
At best you are a profound and grievous embarrassment to God; at worst Satan himself got you your current position, and revels every day in the work you do.
You wouldn't know good counsel from bad breath, OK?
You are a hairball clogging up the sink of life.
That quick twitch of negativity that shot across your consciousness when you thought of women is like a pregnant cockroach shooting under your pantry door. It can mean only one thing: You, friend, have a very real problem.
Please stop making your problem the problem of others. Quit your job. You can get another job. You can get any other job. You just can't have one in which any person turns to you in your capacity as a representative of God. You are not a representative of God. You are a representative of everything that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to eradicate.
You are bringing into the world, and empowering, injustice. You are contributing to the creation of victims. You are fostering the subjugation of women.
Stop doing that! Quit your job! Speak for yourself, if you must. But please cease speaking for God.
If you are a pastor or priest who, to any degree whatsoever, believes that women are intrinsically inferior to men -- that women should "submit" to their husbands, or to men generally; that they're less intelligent than men; that they're less emotionally sophisticated than men; that they're less ambitious, driven, or as proud as men; that their highest calling is to be mothers; that their moral status is inextricably tied to their virginity; that they cause men to sin -- then I and every other sane person in the world is begging you to find another profession.
We're more than begging you. We're warning you. We're trying to help you.
You can change your life, alter your course, undo some or all of the wrong you've done, seek the help you need. You can embrace, and come to terms with, your sexuality. There is still time in this life for you to do those good and healthy things.
But you die as the same pastor, with the same attitude about women, that you have right now?
Then, brother, you better hope that God has mercy on your sorry, stupid, arrogant soul.
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