Monday, March 31, 2014

Timberlake Christian, Hypocrisy, and Sucking

I attended public school for 2 years. When it was time for second grade, my mom taught me at home--actually work because she was a single mom and her employers cared about the both of us and allowed her to teach me and work full time. I had my own office downtown at her job and it was really a unique situation.

Then it was time for High School. Public school was out of the question for me so Mom shopped around for a private school. After prayer and pamphlets, mom decided the best place for me would be New Covenant Schools. It was probably one of the best decisions ever made for me on her behalf and my own.

Listen, I never had any sexual orientation confusion, but I was the daughter of a single, divorced, female pastor. I know what it's like to be different in the world of Fundamentalists. I have seen their sexism, their racism, their judgment, fear, and ignorance face to face for over 25 years. I attended camp with them, school with them, and of course, church with them. I visited a local, popular Baptist church at age 14 and although I had never dated, I overheard a PARENT call me a slut because I wore makeup--and I'm guessing because I had breasts which were hidden under a T-Shirt but present all the same.

I was a shy and quiet child like my mom had been. But puberty, like that fabled fairy stealing incisors in the night, whisked away my timid nature and by the time I was 13, I found myself in the head master's office of a private school wearing urban garments and asking if they had enrolled any black students that year.

I wish I still had the picture of me showing off how I planned to wear my uniform. It was 1993 that The SCrew started to manifest in the womb of a young, defiant mind.

I welcomed the opposition. I spoke up and I defended damn near everything. It was the way I looked--my makeup, long hair, clothing. It was my denomination. It was my mother. My music. My movies. But I chose to be different. I chose to change a few beliefs. New Covenant taught me to do that. The staff were present through my issues. They didn't let me slide. Some were adverse to my mother being a pastor and I knew that. But it didn't matter--they loved me and I knew it and they taught me how to think for myself.

If you want more stories about being different in High School you can ask my best friend Danielle. She has way better stories than I do because she was a horrible bitch and no one liked her.

Just kidding, Danielle. Kind of.

Now, if you don't want to read any of the above, here are my three main points:

1. Private Fundamentalist Schools are not created to cater to your personal preferences.

They are available at your own cost to instruct a very specific set of boundaries and guidelines. You can sign the admission slip without reading the fine print. But the print is not really all that fine. If you want your child to have a Fundamentalist Christian education you are willfully accepting a few standards that are not reflective of what is generally accepted as fair or agreeable to our culture. Beliefs atypical to Fundamentalist Christianity are that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, homosexuality is a sin, traditional sex roles are preferable and desirable (wife submit to husband, have children, stay at home) although not mandatory (except that women submit to their husbands and cannot be pastors), and, although the unofficial doctrine has eased up in the last few decades, you will still commonly find that tattoos, piercings, rock music, dancing, anything related to liberalism, Hollywood, and generally looking or being different from what appears as "godly" is frowned upon. Many of these rockabilly, hippy churches are all about looking like what the church used to call a sinner and being super non-confrontational about sin, but if you cornered them, they might actually have to admit they believe some of these things as well. If you think your super-awesome hipster church is politically correct, ask the pastor what he believes about any of these things out right.

2. You are as much a hypocrite as Fundamentalists.

Speaking of asking people stuff outright, if you asked me outright what I thought about Timberlake Christian I would offer that I would never, ever send my child there. I would never, ever send them to any other Baptist affiliated school either. I would send my child to the private school that I attended or public school before I would send them to Timberlake. My reasoning for this is that people don't generally change all that much and the majority of people who send their kids to Timberlake, in the scenario that I've created in which I have a child, I go by SCrew Lucy, wear costumes, and lived with a man who's an atheist for six years before I got married, would not be the most friendly place for my child to receive an education. Fundamentalist women typically don't like me all that much for exactly the same reason I was called a slut in church at 14--I wear makeup, my boobs are too big, my mouth is too big, my personality is too big, and I'm generally just scary and intimidating. It is for this reason I have generally never dated Christian men and never had Christian girlfriends unless they're Methodist or Episcopal or black (because they're big and scary too). But I'm getting off point.

As you may glean from the above paragraph, I am judging Fundamentalists. I know a few families that send their kids to this school. Their kids love it. Their kids are awesome and I love them. But it obviously hasn't changed my perception of Fundamentalists in general because Fundamentalists have been jerks to me and to people I love for a very long time. I have read the comments on the websites and news sites. Timberlake Christian was condemned before they even had their say. There are two sides to every story. If you're already on one side then forget about being impartial. And that is what is way scary to me. We are a polarized nation full of finger pointers and blind eyes. I don't like the school but by god, they have the right to suspend or kick-out students for whatever reasons they see fit and the only reason this story is getting publicity is because it involves gender confusion. Kids get kicked out of private and public schools all the time for many different reasons that I would consider absurd and there is no story about it.

The child is undoubtedly being judged because of her appearance AND because of her family life--by both staff and children. But she also obviously has friends and support there since she is "crying to go back" every day. Does that sound like the story is one sided? Is it even possible that she finds some comfort and stability at the school because the same standards that cause unpleasant feelings by someone less leave-it-to-beaver also impose qualities that are desirable to a child--or an adult--whose life has been unfortunate?

3. Everyone Sucks.

Gays suck. Women suck. White men suck. Republicans suck. Children suck. You can be aghast at any of these statements but they are totally true and you say things every day to back them up you just don't say them in public or to the wrong person and that's because you my friend suck as much as they do. I have met someone in any and every one of those categories who sucks and I continue to meet people who suck weekly. Sucking includes but is not limited to: being mean, being irritating, stealing from me, committing crimes that involve my property, driving too slow in traffic, talking loudly at movies, stomping around on your hardwood floors at 3 AM, using your SNAP card in line with coupons and 3 screaming children, not tipping a really awesome waitress because you're cheap, leaving her a Christian tract instead, leaving your pee on the toilet seat (or any other fluid) and not flushing, chewing your food while talking on the phone, and assuming.

All of you have sucked and I suck too.

I know you hate to hear it but you likely jumped on a side in this story and said hateful things to others about facts and circumstances you really don't know anything about. Liberals do it to Conservatives. Blacks do it to whites. Women do it to men. Christians do it to atheists.

Two more things.

My best friend who went to private school with me was the only person I saw comment that she simply wanted to hear both sides at the very beginning. And she often wants to hear more to the story and investigate. I have seen her do this on issues that she very much wants to agree with but feels driven to receive all the information. I'm proud of her for that and I believe it shows her good upbringing and her superior education--at a gracious, loving private school.

This little girl has been made a political paradigm which will probably add to the issues she already has and will have, that have nothing to do with her gender. It is pointless of me to share what I've heard about what was possibly really going on with her issues at school because you've either made up your mind that Timberlake was totally unfair and bigoted or this little girl should be penalized for having problems that stem from a multitude of problems that are not her fault. And both of those accusations, in my opinion, are unwarranted and silly.

I have often observed that the powerful and desirable qualities I possess are the very features that make me undesirable to some demographics--including religious people. I have considered that the people we hate or avoid are the people who would benefit from the differences that cause separation. Liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians, they all preach love and acceptance and rarely practice it to par. We are ungracious, bitter, fearful, proud, envious, and accusing. But it's far simpler to identify the problem in others while denying any ownership of the above for ourselves.

It is interesting that this news piece centers around alleged identity crisis.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Road Home

This is a random, short conversation between a friend and I a few days ago, after she came in to help take care of GrandScrew, who is currently in rehab at The Carrington:

One day I want you to tell me what it is like to stay in the same city all your life

I can tell you what it's like now
for me
it's secure
and it's like a relationship
I get homesick no matter where I go
it's comforting and a little sad

It's just like that. 

The question made me feel sorry for her. It's the way you feel sorry for someone who, even if they were disadvantaged, would roll their eyes if you knew they felt sorry for them. 

I've been traveling up and down 29N since I was a child and I'm the youngest in my family so I may as well have been five years old yesterday, squished up behind my mom in her black and silver Baja, reminiscing about how bad my motion sickness was when I was a kid. I remember driving back from visiting family in Waynesboro, in my red and white Disney World baseball jacket, short dark hair, miserable and wanting to make it home to vomit. I didn't make it home. Poor Mom.

I've seen the same cows and curves and the skeleton face in the mountain by Lovingston and ice cream cone stand in Colleen since I was a little girl. We've changed and stayed the same and so has 29N. The road home is there for me monogamously, the foundation unwavering--the new signs and detours unavoidable with progress and time. 

My grandmother reminds me of that as she asks if her sister is still alive. Mom reminds her that Aunt Monk has passed away and Grandma asks when did it happen and I offer without hesitation that it was 2001 and I recall that we stopped at the Colleen Drive-In on the way back from the funeral in Waynesboro. And now we are traveling to see my Aunt Virginia who will soon pass away and I decide that perhaps I have not traveled 29N as often as I should've. 

Grandma comments that the countryside is so beautiful. Mom agrees that the state of Virginia is beautiful. I correct Mom to advise her that Virginia is a Commonwealth and then I silently decided it might be a good idea if, upon correcting someone else in the future, I knew what makes a Commonwealth different than a state.

 My great grandma died when I was six. The last thing she ever said to me was,"What church do you go to?" and that's what my own grandma asks strangers whenever she goes to the Goodwill or Belk to bargain hunt and if they engage her long enough, she might tell them how she got saved. 

"Can we go by great grandma's old house in Fishersville?" I never knew great grandma's old house but I've seen black and white pictures. It's not there any more, but the alley is still there and a new house sits by the dying tree that volunteered as a backdrop for my Uncle Leroy and Aunt Martha as they grew up in Augusta County. 

Sometimes grief and loss and the expectation of all things related to both gets stirred up with sensations convertible with romance and the reward of gratitude for being connected with permanence is humbling. It's in the road and the earth, in the fir tree that watches children, sheds needles, and draws it's own last breath as the last of the Shenandoah rain travels through it's veins.

We turn by the sign that used to advertise Walton Mountain Store. It's blank and the store is abandoned. Grandma asks who we're going to see.

I remind her we're going to see Virginia. 

I think of my aunt and I consider my Commonwealth and most of all, I internalize the road home. And it's all so comforting and a little sad.

Tell me, where is the road
I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost
So long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh when will I know
There’s a way, there’s a road
That will lead me home?


After wind, after rain,
When the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream
In the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling
From far away,

 There’s a voice I can hear
That will lead me home.


Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.