Saturday, March 15, 2014

Finding My Voice

For those of you who don't know, I grew up IFB. The Independent part of the name means there are some variations. For instance, I grew up believing the King James Version of the Bible was the best translation, but other translations of Scripture were tolerated. At my church, some kids went to Christian school, and some attended public school. Unfortunately, we Christian school kids thought we were "better" than the public school kids, but that attitude didn't come from the church leadership. We were in a rural community, so women wearing pants was a non-issue, although dresses and skirts were expected at church services.

The promotion of patriarchy and subsequent views on the silence and submission of women and the breaking of the will of the child seems to be pretty universal in the IFB, though.

As you can imagine, being a female child in a Christian Fundamentalist Cult is pretty devastating.

I am naturally gregarious and intellectual. I want to know the reasons why we do things. "Tradition," "the Bible says so," "because I said so," and "It's the right thing to do," are not satisfactory answers for me. I'm naturally transparent and open.

These attributes were shamed and squashed by the unreasonable gender roles and developmental expectations in the IFB cult.

I talked too much. (Women are to be silent in church & children are to blindly obey their parents.)

I asked too many questions. (Questions meant I was "questioning authority.")

I shared too much. (Truth is a liability in a cult!)

I was too smart for my own good. (I picked up on inconsistencies between what was preached and what was practiced.)

I expected to be treated like an equal. (Clearly, I was inferior and didn't know my place.)

I am learning to find my voice again, after being beaten into silence in word and deed. And it's hard. It's terrifying.

But after the shouts of patriarchy drowning my voice, insisting on my silence, I am hearing men telling me that not only can I speak, I must speak.

My husband, reaffirming countless times, "I want to know what you're thinking. You have good insights, and your opinion is important to me."

A brilliant author of prose and poetry who responded via social media to my throwaway comment that speaking out was a mix of terror and elation, "Then you know you're doing it right."

A pastor who not only asked my opinion regarding a particular church ministry, but also took me seriously and asked me to please work on speaking my mind more often instead of trying to placate me.

So, I am speaking, despite my terror, despite the possibility I will again be told to be quiet. Here is my voice.


I don't know how
to express myself
without sounding
whiny
demanding
ungrateful
bitter.
Or something else I'm not
supposed to be.

Because I'm a woman,
I'm supposed to be
quiet
submissive (subservient)
meek
pleasant (always)
undemanding
receptive.

But when I express myself, I'm
Loud
Brash
Determined
Real
Opinionated
Fun(ny)
Crass
or (heaven forbid) ANGRY.

God is not embarrassed
by my expressions of emotion
or my questions.

God shares my RAGE
against victimization
injustice
abuse.

So listen.
Just listen
to my words.

Don't police my tone.
You haven't felt
the whip of injustice
or
the helpless
voiceless
emptiness
of abuse.

Listen.
Just
listen.