Well THAT was interesting.
Last week I finally said something here that I should have said years ago. It’s the simplest thing, really– I stated that if you’re going to use religion as an excuse to hate on people, then we’re not kindred spirits and we should part ways.
That particular butt waggle isn’t something that’s welcome in my sandbox.
Because every single human gets their own sandbox. And it’s our job to declare dominion over our own. Last week I said that maybe we get the God we believe in, which is another way of saying that maybe all of reality is basically a sandbox and we’re just here to make the most beautiful bucket sculptures we can with our flimsy little shovels and scrap paper flags. We get to make it all as beautiful and as interesting as we want.
If you want to catch up, last week’s post is here. (If you’re new here, side note: we don’t usually talk about religion here, but I grew up among conservative Christians and am now a heathen mystic, so sometimes it comes up. Next week we’ll talk about lipstick and Justin Timberlake’s butt, I swear.)
I haven’t brought up this touchy topic before now because I dearly love my parents, who are faithful and loving Christians and some of my favorite people on the planet, and I didn’t want to embroil them in controversy.
But sometimes a truth sits on your tongue and asks to be spoken. I’ve written three separate versions of this post over the years and always tabled them.
And then last week I got a raw text from someone sitting in a room thick with religion-coated hate. Again. And it was time. So I decided that the harm I might do my beloved parents was lesser than the harm I did my people by not talking about this….since we talk about pretty much everything else here.
You will not be surprised to learn that everyone did not agree.
I was braced for unsubscribes– and I got some. I was ready for anger– but it came from unexpected quarters. I was ready for chastising– and people merrily obliged, with Bible verses and everything!
That wasn’t what I was worried about, the public ruckus.
Because mostly? I was afraid of hurting people I cared about.
And unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
And ohhhhhh, it was so awful. I wanted to throw up. My heart hurt. I put my forehead down to the floor and just knelt there for a long time, feeling sick.
Was I sorry that I had mouthed off? No, not at all. But I got feedback that in my piece I had lumped together the amaaaaazing people of faith, the ones who march for justice and feed the poor and champion the downtrodden, into the same camp as bigoted jerks who use their religious dogma as an excuse to be assholes.
Which was absolutely not my intent.
I read my piece again. I didn’t see it. No way.
I read it again. Maybe?
I read it again, and then I realized that it didn’t matter what I thought I’d said– it mattered what other people were hearing it say.
So I updated the piece. I edited it until it said explicitly what I had meant all along.
I made it more clear that I have enormous respect for people of faith when their faith makes them more kind and loving, just like I have enormous respect for people of Birkenstock when their Birkenstocks make them more kind and loving. Even if I don’t want to wear Birkenstocks myself.
You could say it was too late and it didn’t matter. But I think it mattered to my parents. And it mattered to me.
It didn’t matter to the angry people, but that’s okay. They get to go be as angry as they want to be…over in their own sandbox.
I had tried to do the right thing, and I didn’t do it perfectly, and then I did my best to make it right. Which is kind of all I know to do.
Because sometimes we do something brave, and we fuck it up just a little bit.
We take a leap, and our foot fumbles on the landing.
We aim high, and we go askew.
There is an enormous amount of tribal shame around this. (Please, I beg you, you really MUST read Liz Gilbert’s piece on tribal shame. It is so, so good.) We get a million silent messages that you should not take a risk unless you can do it perfectly. Unless you know you can land it graciously. Unless you can do it in a way that makes EVERYONE happy, from Simon Cowell to your great-aunt Marge’s pastor.
This is such insane bullshit and it will keep you in a life that is cramped and small and painful.
Did I make my point with perfect grace and diplomacy? No.
(Truthfully, diplomacy is not my strong suit.)
Did I alienate some wonderful, loving people? Yes. And that makes me sad.
But you guys.
This is my sandbox. And it’s not just our right but our responsibility to be clear about what we do and don’t want in our sandboxes. Are you all about the yellow Tonka trucks? Or are you more of a pink shovel kind of gal? You get to declare it. Because it’s your dominion.
We do this in The Queen Sweep, of course, starting with our homes and physical lives. And in Secret Mystics, we do a very similar thing with our emotional worlds– we set very clear boundaries around our energy, releasing what’s toxic and welcoming in love and strength. It’s similar work, really– clearing out what doesn’t work to make room for what nourishes us.
And that means that sometimes we part ways from people. I wish those people well, but if they don’t want to hang around with a bisexual foul-mouthed heathen mystic, then they’re really not going to have a very good time around here anyway and it’s better to be up front about that.
So I’d do it again.
Hurt and all.
And here’s the best part– next time I will do it better.
Here’s to fucking up, making messes, and doing your best anyway.
Because here’s the other side of the story.
I had emails pouring in from readers saying that they felt seen. Safe. Heard. Loved. Defended. Christians wrote in saying “I LOVE Jesus, and I hate bigotry!” A bunch of people told me that although they didn’t know why, that email gave them much-needed strength in totally unrelated challenges they were facing. That’s some good stuff. That’s exactly what I am trying to build in my sandbox.
So that thing you’re scared to do? Try it. It might go kind of terribly. But it’s not fatal. And that, darling, is how you build epic fucking badass muscles.
(But either way, next week I think we should maybe talk about something nice and light and fun like pink leg warmers and global warming and the dying polar bears, kay?)