My spouse is not a hot head. He doesn’t get angry or yell or rage or raise his voice. He’s a kind, gentle soul, normally.
These are not normal times.
We were both raised evangelical. In high school, he had seriously considered being a minister. By the time we met, however, at a religious college, we were both well on our way out of the church.
My path took me to a “gap year” type situation where I was working retail and customer service type jobs before starting grad school, which meant that for the first time in 17 years, I had a whole year when I could read anything at all I wanted. I proceeded to work my way through the local library’s entire catalogue of second-wave feminist classics. While reading Robin Morgan, I got introduced to the concept of W.I.T.C.H., and then through the local UU church, to Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and Rise Up and Call Her Name.
I knew almost immediately that I’d found my place and my people. I also knew that I had a lot of psychic baggage hanging on from 22+ years in a misogynist world founded on a patriarchal religion and run by woman-hating men. And I knew I needed to deal with it, or it would eat me alive.
The very first ritual I ever created was for myself only, making peace with and releasing my religious past. I created an elaborate trail of my entire religious journey, from memorizing my first bible verses at age two through getting “saved” (or “born again” if you prefer) at age five. I wrote about Sunday school and church camps and revivals and altar calls and Awana and youth group and Vacation Bible School and singing in the choir and 13 years of fundamentalist christian grade school and many years of Marches for Life and summer missions projects. I remembered my awakening to the fact that there was a better than average chance this was all bullshit around the age of 12 and the fact that my mother tried to support me, as much as the constraints of her world view would allow. I honored the resulting years of questioning and then hitting college and learning to think critically and acquiring better intellectual tools. I went all the way up to the present, having found the Goddess, where She was waiting for me all the time. I named names. I laughed and cried and raged and screamed and argued. I felt nostalgia and sadness and loss and love and regret and relief that I made it through relatively unscathed. And I forgave. I forgave my deeply misguided but well-meaning parents. I forgave my teachers and coaches and youth ministers and pastors, despite the fact that they had not asked for it, did not want it, and would never understand why they needed it. I forgave my equally deluded childhood friends. And I burned it all, and dumped the ashes in the creek that ran along the edge of the property, and set my face, my heart, my mind, and my spirit towards the future.
Which brings us back to my spouse.
I’ve been saddened and disappointed by evangelicals since the election. My relationship with my evangelical family is on life support, and the prognosis is not great. But I’m neither angry nor surprised.
As Maya Angelou (may her memory be a blessing) wrote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
My spouse made an intellectual break with evangelicals due to their rampant hypocrisy long before I met him (although you’ll never convince my mother-in-law that his leaving the path to the ministry is not directly and solely my Jezebel ass’s fault). But I don’t know that he’d ever made the emotional break. And now, after more than 25 years, he’s grieving it like the loss of a lover. And he’s been stuck on the anger stage since about November 10.
All that was to say this: so many of us are grieving painful breaks with people and organizations and situations and institutions we thought we knew right now. But we can’t move forward if we can’t let go of the past. You have to be sad about it, and live through that sadness, and release it, to move towards the future. I don’t know what that future will be, and neither do you. We’re all afraid, but I have hope, and I have to hold to that vision of hope, of a better future. There is much work to be done to help us get into and stay in the “Good Reality.” And we can’t get there with pain and anger and regret dragging us down. So do what you need to do to get closure with whatever is holding you back, because we need you, unreservedly, in the fight for hope and the future and our lovely, fragile blue-green planet and our children’s children’s children.
And I guess I need to help my non-religious spouse find his way towards his own ritual of closure before his anger burns him up.
Image found here.