Every time I think that I never have to step foot in a church again, except as a favor to my poor father, it makes me smile. I feel such great relief, such relief I can’t even begin to express. Maybe it’s not that interesting to you why a minister’s daughter would leave the church and be so happy about it. But it’s something I really would like you to understand about me.
And I worry that you might think that I spend Sunday mornings as far away from the church because my dad was particularly assholish.
So, as much as reading the posts I’m about to share with you made me feel shaky and weepy and grossed-out, I’m actually glad to be able to share them with you. So that you can see for yourself, better than I could ever express.
Here’s the background you need. Marie Claire interviewed a female Methodist minister about her sex life. I haven’t read the story yet, but if she speaks as frankly and honestly as the quotes make it sound, I’ll be searching out the article. Here’s a blog post that deals compassionately with the pseudo-controversy. I call it a pseudo-controversy because it’s really only a controversy not because of anything the minister did wrong, but because of the terrible and cruel judgmental busybody nature of church-folks, especially other pastors.
Over at Beauty Tips for Ministers, the blogger and ensuing commenters stress, continually, the youth of the pastor and decide that her speaking frankly and honestly about her own experiences is or should be so shameful–and people I am not even kidding, look for yourselves–that they remove her name from the post. They strip her of her identity, because they have sat in judgment of her and decided that she is either foolish or perhaps drunk or definitely for sure not able to make her own decisions about her life, but needs to be protected from herself, after being sufficiently badmouth, of course, by people who would never, ever be so dumb.
A grown woman, stripped of her name, in order to “protect” her. They take away her identity in order to “protect” her. It literally makes me want to throw up. They convince themselves in the comments that this is the compassionate thing to do, because she couldn’t possibly know what she’s doing.
Look how many commenters say she should have a mentor or media training. As if the problem is that she went out without a chaperon.
But this, to me, is the richest part. I mean, this is exactly the stuff I saw repeatedly and had hoped that the Church would have grown out of. This poor pastor can’t even fuck up, if that is indeed what she’s doing, without being turned into an object lesson for other young women:
This is not how young women empower themselves. Do you hear me, young ‘uns? Learn this fast and learn it well: over-sharing to this extent is not the way to achieve our shared goal of humanizing the clergy. What you are doing by providing salacious details on your sex life to the media is not empowering yourself or making clergy or Christian life more hip and relevant. More on this later.
Seriously, in the Church, every time you think “Well, for better or for worse, at least now they have to see me as a person,” they take that from you and turn you instead into a lesson for others.
The shaming continues over at Reverend Chris Roberts’ blog, where he is “not comfortable with my colleague writing about her masturbation or speaking about her orgasms.” I laughed out loud about that, that Roberts feels that some person he doesn’t even know three states away from him is open for criticism because she made him uncomfortable. I mean, shoot, at least he’s honest, right? He admits, “Now I don’t want to seem a prude. I’m not afraid to talk about sex. Yet I cannot deny my traditional and orthodox views on matters around the family and marriage and sex.”
But he doesn’t seem to understand that this isn’t about him. He spends one paragraph expressing some little bit of compassion for her and three paragraphs talking about how it affects him–“I am not comfortable,” “I would be as opposed,” “I disagree,” “The article is embarrassing for me,” “I am filled with disappointment,” etc. And he has the gall to call Miller “self-absorbed,” “self-serving,” and “narcissistic.”
Well, for better or worse, there’s nothing new here. They are who they’ve always been and I am who I am. And every once in a while it’s good to be reminded of how it goes.
Reverend Miller is obviously going to be getting a lot of advice. I’d advise her to consider how nice it is to be free of folks who would strip you of your name, say you need counseling, and publicly shame you. It takes a long time to get over it, but leaving can be a great relief.