Purity Culture and Toxic Theology

Sancta Colloquia episode 103 ft. Anastasia Satterfield

In this episode I get the opportunity to have my first in depth, voice-to-voice conversation with my new friend Anastasia Satterfield (Twitter: @the_stasia_bug). Anastasia and I have bonded over the Twitters via tweets about American Evangelicalism obsession with purity culture and the toxic application of theology that supports and surrounds it. We both agree that the impact of purity culture on the mind and body of any person (especially women) is not only devastating but also deeply damaging. Anastasia does an excellent job in this episode of detailing out and driving home just how bad the toxic application of theology can be by using her own story about her journey in American Evangelicalism and purity culture and her exit from–what she’d call her deconstruction. But her story doesn’t stop there; she doesn’t just walk (which has its place in the healing journey). She joins a *good* one and begins to experience what good theology is and embraces the healing that comes with being ministered to in such a way (both the comfort and the pain of relearning). She is clearly in the process of reconstruction and boy do we benefit from this: she’s an articulate teacher, wise beyond her years, passionate about people and good theology, and cares deeply about your journey and assisting you in your flourishing. Well, at least that was how I felt when I was finished talking with her.

Intrigued? You should be. Listen here via Screaming Pods (https://www.screamingpods.com/)

A huge THANK YOU to my friend and producer Sean Duregger (Twitter: @seanCduregger) and Screaming Pods (Twitter: @ScreamingPods) for hosting Sancta Colloquia (Twitter: @SanctaColloquia).

Anastasia Satterfield is from sunny and flat Central Valley in Northern California. She loves her church in San Francisco, traveling, working her three jobs, reading books about theology, and playing the piano whenever and wherever possible. She’s a college dropout, a deconstructing/reconstructing exvangelical, and is trying to figure out how to do this whole life thing without being crushed by the financial and mental/emotional weight of Capitalism. She lives on Twitter and love active, encouraging, and positive engagement from her followers who are also trying to work through their trauma and live life well.

Here are some resources from Anastasia for further reading and studying–she also includes a list of Twitter accounts that I would consider to be “must-follows”:

Books mentioned on the podcast:
Sinners In the Hands of a Loving God, Brian Zahnd
Sermon series relating to the book:
Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, Dr. Tina Sellers
Brain Zahnd’s sermon series on deconstruction:
City Church San Francisco recommended sermons (by Fred Harrell):
“A Church Rooted In Blessing”:
Rooted Series:
Follow list for twitter:
@lllogansays
@BrianZahnd
@fredharrell
@dwcongdon
@orthoheterodox1
@hannahpaasch
@GarrettEaglin
@pneumajustice
@CityChurchSF
@danandstephinsf
@existentialtheo
@danremps
@jrdkirk
@theboyonthebike
@zechareyah

“Why I Love Preaching”

Luke 1:1-4 (Homily)

When I was little girl, I wrote stories. Learning to read fueled my pint sized writing desire; I didn’t want to be merely a passenger on the story train, I wanted to call those places and beings into existence, I wanted to be the engineer. With a pencil, eraser, and a wide-ruled piece of paper, I summoned into being characters made of glue, talking dogs and cats, story-book ending reversals and what-ifs, magical places, deep woods, vast fields, and majestic horses.

That pencil and wide-ruled paper would give way to multicolored pens and spiral-bound notebooks of college-ruled sheets. I didn’t pass notes in high school; I passed stories with my best friend. Together we spun chapters upon chapters of tales of love and romance, bringing our secret crushes on cute soccer players to life.

As an English major with a creative writing focus in college, I wrote and wrote. Plays. Essays. Poetry. Fiction. Satire. In my spare time, I filled personal journals with angsty poetry and meandering nonsensical musings about life and existence, God and the divine, scripture, human pain and human suffering.

Even as I left college and joined the masses moving to and fro on Wall Street, my poetry and prose came with me. A few weeks before the events of 9/11 traumatized my city in devastating ways, I started writing stories again. A clay pot by the name of Eli, his buddy Marc, and the Potter would not only keep me company on the dark nights where I couldn’t process the horror I had just witnessed from the distance of 1.5 miles, but they would be the midwives through whom my processing of terror and suffering of fragile humanity and an apparently silent God were born.

In seminary, I’d find ways for my inner iconoclast to come out. A thesis and three supporting points was boring. I’d submit epic poems to answer the question of predestination, or spin a tale about why confirmation was an important step in the Episcopal church. And at night, I’d curl up with my boys, sometimes reading to them and sometimes allowing my spoken words to pull them into imaginary worlds before they drifted off into to their own.

As they grew, bedtime stories became story installments on 5×7 index cards taped to the inside of lunch-boxes. No longer was I escaping into fantasy worlds I created for myself, I was creating escapes for my boys from the structure of elementary school. An anxious day, a stressful day, a bad day could be paused for a few minutes; just enough time to rest and dive back in after lunch. Time and space were held back, barricaded against by words gathered as a fortress creating and holding a place for my boys to breathe.

Now I stand here. And I get to use not only my training and authority to educate you in things of theology and religion, but I get to put my hand once again to the pencil and the sheet to create for you worlds vastly different from the one you are all too familiar with, where for a few minutes you can suspend disbelief. This story telling is part of our Episcopal identity that is as deep as it is wide. We put great emphasis on every part of the service being a moment of potential encounter between you and God in the event of faith. From the first song to the last and everything in between is structured to make that encounter possible. Not least of which is the event of preaching.

In preaching I get to use my words to create for you a moment in time and space for you to get caught up and caught in. I get to use my words to pull you into the rich and verdant possibility of encounter with God in the event of faith. I get to bring eye-to-eye and hand-to-hand with a God who loves deeply and fully. I get to call into being a moment so filled with conflict and comfort, where you are encountered and altered so radically that if you are listening even just a little bit, you can’t help but leave a little bit different.

I get to tell you stories about words so imbued with fertility that they spontaneously generate worlds of life (from the smallest plant to the largest mountain and every living thing between). I get to bring you face to face with a mighty, divine power who is deeply impassioned over people and the world that bushes burn, waters part, rains cause floods, food falls from the sky, and the earth quakes. I get to place you among the crowd of people enslaved, freed, and on the run; who cross a sea between walls of water, roam painfully through miles and miles of dessert, are fed from the sky, look to snakes for healing, and struggle with faith and belief that the promise uttered way back when is still valid, will still be fulfilled.

I get to point to the prophets of Israel who were so filled with the spirit and divine presence, that they couldn’t be silent anymore and spoke up, calling their people around them to wake up, hear, and return to the truth. I get to seat you at the stage of the greatest and most romantical story of love and desire between two people that Romeo and Juliet blush. I get to recite for you the poetry and songs of a people overcome with love and gratitude, hope and confidence, and sometimes fear and despair. I get to expose you to wisdom so ancient and so true, that there isn’t a fortune cookie or a horoscope in the world that could ever hold a match to it.

I get to ask you to be quiet as we all silently shuffle into a cave where a sleeping baby lies in a manger; “ancient wisdom born a wriggly infant to save the world,” I whisper to you. “Long awaited hope fulfilled.” I push you into the rushing and pressing crowds who are eager to see and hear and touch “This man who told me everything about me” (cf. Jn 4). I then prod you in front of a horrific instrument of death, and ask you to look up and see the painful death of Christ, this man who is God. Over the jeering, mocking, and taunting crowd, I holler, “This is what love looks like: sacrifice!” And three days later I get to bring you to another cave, an empty tomb, and let you feel and get caught up in the energy and fear of the women fleeing to go tell the disciples: Jesus is risen! And unlike before, now is a time for loud and ruckus noise! “Rejoice! Lift your voice! Love won! Life triumphed over death; light obliterated the darkness! Hallelujah!”

As a faithful tour guide of this great story, I then walk you through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the fits and starts of the early church comprised of people trying to figure out what just happened exactly, people like you and me. And I get to show you—each of you—where you’ve been grafted into this story since the beginning of time, where you along with all people of all history, are the intended recipient of this great work and act of love of God. I’m not here to give you another syllabus decorated with lists of expectations and to-dos; I’m here to call you out of all of that for a handful of minutes in order to tell you about what I think is the greatest story ever told, to write and speak you into it. I’m here to recreate that story for you in this time and space; to make that story come alive in this place at this moment.

I’m here to hand the story on to you …just as [it was] handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about [the great story of God’s deep abiding love for God’s world and God’s people, for you, God’s beloved child]” (adapted from Luke 1:1-4).

Sancta Colloquia: Sacred Conversations

Ezeruncaged is laid to rest, but I’m not. Welcome to my newest podcast project: Sancta Colloquia.

“Sancta Colloquia” is latin for: Sacred Conversations.

Some of my favorite episodes of Ezeruncaged were the times friends were invited to participate. The different voices added to our familiar tones, the varying view points highlighted where co-hosts had become too similar. So, when Ezeruncaged dissolved, I thought to myself: why not create a podcast that was comprised of just conversations with other people? I know a bunch of really interesting people; access to potentially great dialogues and conversations is no further than a few key strokes away. In reality, it’s just making public some of the cool conversations I’m already having day to day in various venues. Simple enough.

But, in order to have really good conversations, the space in which those conversations occur has to be safe, it needs to be valued as sacred. And making and maintaining safe spaces is something I know I’m good at. I’m hardwired to create safe spaces for those around me, be it pastorally (in the classroom with my high-school students who are learning to express themselves theologically and philosophically), maternally (making sure my children feel at ease in their environments as they grow in various ways), or relationally (I’m that friend who is not afraid to sit with you in whatever condition you may be in). Human beings are remarkable and amazing creatures. Every time we come into contact with each other, it is an opportunity for that interaction to become an event-encounter, where the divine is present and experienced, and an opportunity for that space to become sacred. With presence and orientation toward the other, that space and that event-encounter are protected and safe. And there’s no better place than from there to have a really good conversation.

I want to be clear, though, about what I mean by “safe place” because, certainly, “safe place” has also become code for: I get to say and do whatever I want no matter how cruel and mean it is. I’ve seen “safe place” and “gospel freedom” used to justify therapeutic hedonism, the type of activity that only ever eventually becomes another law unto itself. In this type of “freedom” and “safe space” the only activity that is allowed is that which lacks virtue and is merely a means to do all the things you’d never do and say all the things you’d never say  irl or in relation to another living, breathing, flesh and bone human beings. Here, in this type of false free and safe place, the territorial flags of “Vitriol” and “Condemnation” wave at full mast.

In the past, I’ve been face to face with such therapeutic hedonism and abuse of freedom and safety and even though it bothered me to no end, I remained silent. In the past I’ve also participated in this type of “freedom” and “safety” and, well, the only thing I have from participation is regret. Immense regret. Bearing the name of Christ, being a disciple there in and labeled a Christian, I have no right to partake in any such behavior or do I have any right to be silent in the midst of such behavior. To love Christ is to love others both when I’m face to face with them and when I’m not. (Full Stop)

Thus, this safe place is for conversation that brings life not only to those participating directly in the conversation, but also to those who choose to listen in. This freedom is for sharing pain and healing, discouragement and encouragement, anger and joy, bondage and freedom, the good and the bad, all with the goal that maybe, just maybe, someone else out there needs to hear these very words. This podcast is and these conversations are a safe place for building up and encouraging and empowering other people.

The only tearing down that will occur will be the tearing down of oppressive and abusive systems that we’ve grown all too accustomed to tolerating in our society and in our churches. Using story and experience, dialogue and conversation, vulnerability and authenticity, community and individuality, questions and answers or silence, my hope is that this podcast will expose (unto life) where we are lacking and exhort us to better activity in the world, activity based in and founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news, the proclamation of the Cross.

So, with that said: Welcome to Sancta Colloquia; I’m glad you’re here.

Twitter: @SanctaColloquia

A Video Interview with John-Marc Ormechea

I don’t like being in front of a camera; I avoid it in fact. (Yes, I know the irony of saying that and being the woman who sent half-naked photos of herself through the Twitterverse earlier this year.) So, when my friend John-Marc Ormechea (otherwise known as @EpicTillich on Twitter), asked me to talk with him via Zoom my response was: hell no! Nah-ah. No way. Hard pass. But what I said was: “uh, sure.” And I mustered up all the courage in my 140 pound frame and sat with John-Marc and talked about my journey in Christ, Martin Luther (#swoon), and Liturgy as a beautiful feature of The Episcopal Communion. It was fun. I talk with my hands *a lot*. I choked up at one point (now you’ll know what I look like when I’m about to cry).  I’m *VERY* animated; everything is right there on my face to see (good news: I’m a bad liar because of this animation).

 

Anyway, here is that video. And, all my gratitude to John-Marc Ormechea for asking me to talk to him about things that I’m passionate about. I’m beyond honored.

 

 

You can find John-Marc Ormechea here: https://epictillich.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter: @EpicTillich. You’ll blessed as I have been.

It’s Her Fault

She was born to be at fault.

She wasn’t in their plan; she happened.

She was to be the boy that would replace the older;

Delivery. “It’s a girl. I’m sorry,” her mom said.

She was the reason they never had that *real* boy.

 

While the older wrecked havoc; she absorbed.

The family fought; ready to tear apart at the seams.

She tried to soothe, tried to hold them all together.

Yet, she bore the fault of the older who deserved the wrath.

Early life taught her: “receive; you are at fault.”

 

A guy stood in a doorway a few feet away from naked-her,

Her body shivered; she tried to dress herself; she was crying.

He called her names: “whore,” “you’re nothing but a prostitute,” “hag,” “filth.”

It was her fault that his roommate took her when he wanted to;

It was she who was the whore who deserved it.

 

She gazes upon the “ring-of-vows-now-broken” still wrapping her finger.

Her heart—broken more—questions, “how did this happen?”

“I’m strong; I’m smart; I’m educated…How?” she whispers.

The silences threatens her; it has the condemning answer:

“Oh silly girl, don’t you know this by now? It’s your fault.”