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Sunday, September 19, 2010

SPEAK Loudly

Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to go. to. bed. Long weekend, little sleep, and a cold-that-isn't-a-cold-that-wants-to-be-a-cold-but-I'll-be-DAMNED-if-it-is-a-cold are slowly wearing on me. So I had every intention of holding off on this post until tomorrow, when I was slightly more coherent or at least had a few more hours of sleep under my belt. But I checked Blogger one last time before I called it a night and saw this post. And I couldn't not put mine up tonight.

You can read the actual attack on SPEAK here. Many, many other fabulous bloggers have explanations of it too, so you can shoot on over to this post, this post, or Laurie's post. These women are amazing for speaking out and being so brave as to voice their opinions against the heinous accusations about SPEAK. People like this make me inordinately proud to be part of the writing blogosphere.

Now, on to my stance.

Unlike many of the other bloggers who have been speaking up, I am not a Christian. I used to be. I used to be the strongest, most devoted, most intense Christian possible. I used to be, as I call it now, a "psycho-Christian." The in-your-face, life-or-death, every-day-is-a-battlefield Christian. The kind of Christian that gives other Christians a bad name. At the time, though, it was EVERYTHING to me. They taught me how to eat, how to pray, how to talk, how to function. They told me what to believe about sex, relationships, the law, the world. There wasn't a single thing I did that didn't have a solid foundation in my Christian leaders' teachings, and every time they opened their mouths they sounded exactly like Scroggins.

One of the biggest issues they had was when Harry Potter exploded onto the scene in the early 2000's. An entire book about witchcraft. An entire SERIES that promoted Wiccan. This book was evil, pure evil, a handbook for people who wanted to unleash sinful things onto the world. Every pulpit, classroom, and lecture hall resounded with the voices of my Christian leaders condemning Harry Potter.

But when asked if they ever read it: "Of course not!"

This response, and their many subsequent and equally infuriating responses to other questions, eventually led me to escape their downright terrifying cult. But that's another thing about it -- it isn't a cult to them. THEY are the good guys and people like the KKK and extremist Muslims are the bad guys. "Obvious" bad guys. But not MY church. Not us. They just sit around, telling people what to believe without ever actually letting them figure out whether or not it's right for them. They just destroy people's minds with barriers of "Don't question God!" instead of destroying people's bodies with bombs or fire or guns. They just tell you exactly how to live, then when you fail to live up to their laws because humans have never-accounted-for-flaws, they ostracize you and berate you for not being "in line with God" no matter how hard you break yourself for their cause.

Yeah, THEY'RE the good guys.

(I'll probably tick some people off with this (lord knows I have already in the years since I denounced my Christianity), but that's not my intent at all. I'm not saying ALL Christians are like this. Absolutely, 100% NOT. Hell, scroll back up to the top of my post; I linked to 4 different women who profess to being Christians. I am a huge supporter of faith. I'm just telling you my story, MY STORY, so you will know why Scroggins' accusation was personally disgusting to ME. The sect of Christianity that I was a part of is a very, very extremist sect, and should not be seen as a general view on all Christianity.)

Scroggins' opinion was not at all surprising to me. I've heard such an opinion so many times before on a myriad of different areas of life. Books, movies, music, magazines, websites, social networking sites, even "too liberal" Bibles and Bible studies. If anything strayed at all into the realm of uncomfortable, real, or painful, my Christian leaders would deem it unholy and sinful. All we needed to fill our little heads with were stories of God's power and might and how we can all grow up to be holy, shining beacons of Heaven. And those stories are great -- but not when they're the only thing you read. Not when you grow up for 18 years in a bubble of "OUR world is perfect. That world is scary. We're not going to tell you why it's scary, because you'll never need to leave our world to go there, but it's scary. Trust us."

So when I left "their world" and discovered that the "real world" wasn't scary -- it was just unknown -- I was more than a little shocked. I'm still shocked. The shock of going from a world where everything is controllable and perfect and shining and purposeful to a world of chaos and disorder and madness and beautiful, glittering uncertainty is something that has taken 3 years to sink in. I still find myself gawking at how little I knew the world around me for the first 18 years of my life. All because my Christian leaders saw books like SPEAK, books that showed the reality of the world without any mention of God or heaven or redemption through Jesus Christ, and banned them. People saving THEMSELVES? People overcoming obstacles WITHOUT God's grace? Blasphemous. Wicked, corrupt blasphemy.

And it's disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting that when something shows a different side of this wondrous, multifaceted world we live in, Christian leaders such as Scroggins block it from the view of those children under their tutelage. Like if they keep barring enough things, their children will continue to grow up in the perfect bubble they shaped for them and nothing bad will ever penetrate their thick layer of God-skin.

But even while I was in the throws of "psycho-Christianity", imperfection worked its way in. People got hurt, attacked, destroyed. Usually, mostly, by other "Christians." My boyfriend during the last years of my Christianity was a horrific, abusive person, but he was God's chosen one for me. So no one stepped in. I didn't step in. When bad things penetrated the God-bubble, no one did anything to stop them. God's will. It was always God's will.

This was the biggest reason I left Christianity. I couldn't stand everyone doing NOTHING. Throwing up barriers against books like SPEAK yet doing nothing at all to prevent a young mother from being beaten by her husband, or refusing to step in to stop a dysfunctional family, or neglecting to get real medical treatment for a disease, all because it was "God's will." It was God's will that people died young. It was God's will that families fell apart. It was God's will that perfect, innocent young girls were attacked.

I couldn't take it anymore. When I left, all I could think, all I can STILL think about them is "FUCK YOUR GOD'S WILL."

MY will is that girls, boys, anyone who needs fantastic, soul-nourishing books like SPEAK have access to them without being berated by supposed leaders. MY will is that beautiful little girls who are told God has a reason for their pain will realize one day that there is NO reason good enough for that to have happened, and NO God would purposefully cause any of it to happen. It's not their fault, and God did NOT put that situation in their life for some almighty plan. It's THEIR life. Theirs. Not God's. THEIRS. And whatever good comes from it came because those little girls were strong enough, brave enough, and amazing enough to make a rose blossom in a pile of garbage.

That is the lesson I live my life by now. A lesson that SPEAK helped instill in me. No matter what bad comes, it isn't because some psycho-Christian's God dropped it into my life for a "higher purpose" that I'm not worthy enough to know. It's because shit happens. SHIT HAPPENS. And if I become a stronger, bolder, braver woman because of a bad situation, it isn't because a psycho-Christian's God instilled the strength in me. It's because I was strong all along. It's because I CHOSE to be strong, and to rise above it, and to not let a bad situation have victory over me.

"A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melinda-girl I haven't seen in months. That is the seed I will care for." -- SPEAK

That line is my single favorite line from a book. It captures the essence of this life I'm trying to now lead. Throughout our lives, when bad things arise, there is always a tiny seed of ourselves behind it all, whispering quietly in the dark. It's there, even when we're broken beyond repair and can't possibly move beyond the horrible, ominous dark. It's there. The quiet seed of ourselves that's waiting, just waiting for us to turn to it and say "I will be okay." And when we finally find the small sliver of strength to say that, the small part of ourselves that's been waiting all this time to hear it will smile. "I know," it'll say. "Now let's go back toward the light."

And if that displeases Scroggins' God, he isn't much of a god then, is he?


Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Yay, Sara! This was an amazing post!


Beautiful post. I do believe in God, but everyone has the right to believe what they please. I wrote a post on SPEAK.

Glad I read yours.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I felt sick all day that someone would equate rape with porn. That's really twisted. I'm awed by how many people, like yourself, have written impassioned posts. I had posted about banned books with a mention of this today, too.

Jade said...

It's times like this that I'm so proud to be part of the YA community. Thanks for your amazing post, Sara

Samantha Vérant said...

Really awesome! Thank God- no pun intended - you wrote this post. Yeah, you make me proud. SPEAK

Hayley Lovell said...

Have I ever told you just how much I admire you? Because I do, I admire you so damn much. You amaze me every day Sara. I'm sorry if that is supper fan girly of me, whatever, it's the truth. I admire you for finding the strength to leave, and become a better person for it, and for talking so openly about all of this.

I cannot believe that in today's society people like Scroggins still have an influence over books, and book censorship. It makes me sad. I read about this, ignorant man (because I can think of no other way to describe him), earlier and have done nothing but talk about it all day. In fact I'm going off to buy a bunch of copies of SPEAK after work this week. Thanks for posting Sara, you rock, also I love the new design of the blog it caught me a little off guard but in the best way!

Nick said...

While obviously the world would be better off without things like rape and party stripping or whatever (use your imagination), people who want to just pretend that it doesn't exist aren't really helping. When kids go to school and the harsh reality is that a lot of these things do happen, the best thing an adult or anyone in a leadership position can do is be the voice of sanity who can give explanations and answer questions about the real issues.

Thanks for your insightful post!

Dayana Stockdale said...

I grew up Christian, I know the 'psycho' type you mean. I was raised by one. When I was a teen, I called Daddy a Jezoid!

Dara said...

I have too much to say in just this little comment box. :P I'll leave you with this, and email some of my other thoughts.

I have to admit that this post made me cry. It breaks my heart when I read devout Christians being turned away because of the extreme ones who are intolerant and narrow-minded. I'm also discouraged that many Christians are doing nothing, as you've said. This hits close to home because I know I've been guilty of just sitting back. I'm not perfect and won't act it--I'm human and sin like everyone else--and to act "perfect" isn't right, especially when I have no right to be that way.

So if anything, you've just convicted me to get to knowing God again, as I believe I've lost focus lately. This post really made that clear for me. So thank you :)