“in Christian Love” #not

So yesterday I did something unusual – I listened to a sermon, specifically a sermon from my old church in Savannah. It popped up in one of my social media feeds, and being the curious grrrl that I am, I had to listen for myself.

The topic was on homosexuality and gay marriage – an issue that’s admittedly close to my heart. I suppose there was a part of me (a small part) who was hoping my past church had moved on past its discriminatory views that I remembered.

Of course I was disappointed.

I chose to listen to the sermon on my evening walk, so last night if you saw me muttering aloud to myself as I walked, now you know why.

The sermon is the last part of the “You Asked for It” series, where congregants wrote in topic suggestions for sermons. The minister delivering the talk is the same one who has been the pastor there ever since I was little.

If you check out the church’s Facebook page where the video is posted, you’ll see nothing but glowing comments about how “compassionate” and “balanced” this sermon is. Part of me is hoping that negative comments about it have been scrubbed, because I have a hard time believing that we watched the same sermon.

Here’s what I saw:

I saw a minister who abused his position of power. I saw someone who knows he is influential in the lives of so many who look up to him and consider him as a spiritual leader in their lives. And yet this leader can in one breath say that he “loves” you, but then quickly turn around to dismiss/discredit/destroy you. That kind of faux compassion is nauseating to witness (both in person and on tape).

[For example, in the midst of his homosexual shaming, there was also some slut-shaming also thrown in for good measure -- In reference to his point on “addictive homosexual behaviour", here's an actual quote: “girls in every high school in our community are addicted to the attention that sex can bring, and they discover that lesbian behaviour will turn on guys, and they push that button. Like a drug user.”]

Also throughout the sermon I saw this minister cite shoddy research, more than once, to bolster his argument. In the beginning of his talk, there were huge generalizations made about vague scientific studies and psychological findings. The dismissive label of “urban legend” was tossed about when referring to any recent findings of genetic dispositions to homosexuality (though no sources cited to back this supposed legend).

Later in the sermon, as he started to cite specific research to back more of his more odious points, he cited research that was anywhere from 21 to 36 years old.

For example, one of his key pieces of evidence was that “only 1% of the American population is homosexual.”  What wasn’t mentioned is that this stat is at least 21 years old, as it comes from this 1993 NYTimes article.  And this decades-old statistic is the most recent research that’s cited in the sermon!

Other claims and sources used as evidence:

Of course when the pastor cites this research, it was never stated how old these findings were. Just how relevant are these results, decades later? A precursory google search reveals that several of these studies have questionable issues with them, but for someone who’s listening in the congregation, are they going to take the time to follow up on the information that is being presented? It is completely disingenuous on his part to present these findings as relevant facts for people to consider.

But beyond the large amounts of faux piety and substandard research in the sermon, what bothers me the most is the damage it will cause to people sitting in the pews who are in fact members of the LGBT community. Do you know what was the “solution” that was given to these individuals? Choosing to live a life of being single and celibate. Because according to this minister, sex isn’t a physical need, it’s just a desire – so, in order to be an accepted member of this religious community (and by extension, loved by the God of this community), you will need to reject and suppress intrinsic parts of yourself and your identity.

While I’m pretty good these days about leaving religious people alone with their beliefs, this is one place where I have to call BULLSHIT. Why would anyone want live under the weight of this kind of hurtful dogma, especially when there are real-life people who are being crushed in the process?

If there’s a bright side to be found in this situation, it’s this: I am so glad that views like these are being recorded and broadcast. These desperate pleas to maintain religious dogma at the expense of human beings are being more and more drowned out in our society. Having a sermon like this recorded for posterity is important — so when (not if, but when!) it’s a foregone conclusion in our society that LOVE IS LOVE and no government should stand in the way of same-sex commitments, we will be able to pull up these videos and remind ourselves of how hurtful some religious beliefs can be.

I don’t regret rejecting this belief system at all.

Love in The One I Love

Last night I was able to catch a couple movies at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, including the strangely compelling film The One I Love:

It’s a film that’s billed as being one to AVOID reading reviews of, if only to save yourself from the surprising twist the film takes about halfway through.

I’ve been mulling over that twist for the last 12 hours, so if you want to remain SPOILER FREE, you had better quit reading now.




Still here? Okay, good. Be forewarned that this post will probably make no sense, even if you’ve seen the film.



So the plot centres around the troubled relationship of Ethan and Sophie, who decide to go away to a retreat centre for the weekend as a last-ditch effort to save their failing marriage. The big “twist” of the film is that the troubled couple ends up meeting and interacting with an idealized version of themselves. In a weird, meta-way, it all makes sense — while being both an endearing and really creepy experience.

Since last night I’ve been mulling the different messages about love and relationships that are alluded to in all interactions between ideal-Ethan, real-Ethan, ideal-Sophie, and real-Sophie.

First of all, it’s interesting how the “real” people found themselves becoming jealous over how much more their partner enjoyed the “ideal” version of themselves.  For example, real-Sophie was so drawn to the ideal-Ethan that it led to many funny scenes of the real-Ethan spying in on real-Sophie “cheating” with ideal-Ethan. And, at one point, real-Sophie feels betrayed when real-Ethan pretends to be ideal-Ethan in a romantic encounter.

Maybe there’s a deeper meaning there – how many times do we feel like the “real” me isn’t living up to what someone else loves as the “ideal” me? Can you be jealous of yourself, and your own (failed) potential?

By the end of the film, it’s revealed that only one couple can leave the retreat centre — and it looks like it will be the “ideal” Ethan leaving with the “real” Sophie.  Though of course it’s not that simple.

Ideal-Sophie ends up confessing that she loves the ideal-Ethan so much that she would rather remain captive with him than see him happily leave with real-Sophie.  Is that love? Is it love to hold someone (and yourself) back?  It’s hard to say whether ideal-Sophie feels this way out of a sincere love for ideal-Ethan, or whether it’s because she’s jealous he has found something she hasn’t.

By the end, real-Ethan makes a desperate appeal to real-Sophie to leave with him, and continue their messy, but REAL, lives.  The ideal-Ethan tries to outrun the others out of the retreat centre, but is held back.  We then see Ethan and Sophie leave.

The final scene is the real clincher.  It’s real-Ethan lovingly cuddling up to real-Sophie in bed, and she goes off to make him breakfast — and that’s when the audience (and Ethan!) realize that this Sophie is the ideal-Sophie.

What does the ending mean? Real-Sophie chose to stay back with the ideal-Ethan (and be knowingly deceived), even though it meant her imprisonment.  And ideal-Sophie chose to abandon the ideal in order to deceive what was real.

So much to think about – and it’s been a long time since such a film stayed with me.


I extrapolate my feelings

and I’m pretty sure this song is my anthem:

Of elevensies and almost-elevensies

Today is a different kind of melancholy anniversary for me, as it is for many. 9/11 was a day that changed the world, and in many more negative ways than one.

As cliché as it sounds, it was a day that will always stay with me. On 9/11/01 I was attending classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University (in Savannah, GA).  I remember my English grammar prof suddenly cancelling our 9:30am class and telling us to go home to be with our families. I was 23, and in that exact moment, my American bravado was forever shaken (in turn revealing an ethnocentric attitude I wasn’t even aware I had).

But not only that, due being so shaken up to what happened in New York on this particular September 11th, I finally came to the realization that I was in an unhealthy relationship, and I needed to get out.  So, one month later, on October 11, 2001, I left my husband (of two+ years). To say that this decision changed my life would be an understatement. Not only was a relationship ending (which was painful enough to go through), but then I also became a version of Hester Prynne in my community. Suddenly, due to leaving my husband, I was morally unfit to volunteer to work with children in the church. My family relationships became strained (and in some ways forever changed), and I lost many friends who couldn’t grasp the reasons why I would act so “selfishly.”

Fast-forward a few months later, and on May 11, 2002, I graduated with a degree in English from AASU, and on that very evening I found myself on a plane to start a new life in Saskatoon, SK.

A few years from that point, on December 11, 2004 I started dating a certain Mennonite boy, and two months later, on February 11, 2005 we got married.

Two years later, on January 10, 2007, I nearly had a baby! That was the day of the infamous Saskatchewan Blizzard, when Emmalee nearly made her appearance into the world. (thankfully she gave her mama another week off and came along on January 18, 2007)

On December 10, 2008, I finally defended my millstone of a Master’s thesis. And on January 9, 2014 (close to January 11th!), I was enrolled in the College of Education for my MEd.

I’m not one to be superstitious, but there’s quite a pile of coincidences surrounding me and the 11th day of the month.

Which leads to me where I am on this particular September 11th. Traditionally this is a day I usually mark with melancholy, for many of the reasons I listed above — it’s a day where I give myself some space to think and reflect and remember. This year’s 9/11 shouldn’t be any different, but it is.

I’ve dusted off my copy of Kate Chopin, and I’m rereading her book The Awakening. At one point in the book Chopin writes: “Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

September 11, 2001 woke me up.  In some ways it feels like another personal awakening is stirring within me on this September 11th too.

And just like that, it’s September.

1902776_10154480331965134_4445634984309224578_nAt this rate, my blog will only be used for NaBloPoMo.

So… it’s been a long summer, and here I am, on the verge of another semester of classes (as both a teacher and a student). This term looks to be a bit terrifying: 4 undergrad courses + 1 grad course to teach, and 1 grad course to take as an MEd student.  In between all these, there’s meetings to attend, giving guest lectures, and probably more meetings. And replying to student emails. And marking, marking, marking. A few hours of sleep. And then driving Emma around to ringette and Brownies.

How was my summer, you ask? Rather than recounting it all with words, I’ll sum up with pictures:

A new hope

(and for those of you who recognize the geek reference in the title, you win)

Earlier this week I ended up in a long online discussion with an extended family member about religion. Now if you know me at all, you know that I don’t stray away from tricky topics.

At one point, this person said:

You will never find true peace, confidence and joy until you see who God really is. It’s a matter of your eyes being opened….right now they are seeing what you want them to see. I will never quit praying for you.

Now while I know that this was said with (mostly) good intentions, it’s still a sentiment that I really push back against.  I push back not because it’s something I’ve never heard before (I’ve heard it countless times) — and it’s not like I’m an extra-fragile person who can’t handle being patronized to.  I push back against statements like these because I think people need to recognize when they’ve crossed a relational line.

I wonder if any nonbeliever would feel confident enough to say such a thing to someone who believes in God: “You will never find true peace, confidence, and joy until you stop believing in a magic man in the sky.”  While I know there’s always some assholes out there, I doubt you would find many atheists willing to make such a pronouncement — and yet, for many Christians, this sentiment is easily said aloud (or thought to themselves).

While my conversation with this family member ended up with me feeling frustrated and the family member entrenching herself deeper in her belief system, a happy coincidence brought up an old email I wrote to a friend, 4 years ago. I would have posted it in my online conversation, but it was definitely time to walk away.

Here’s what I wrote:

The question you ask [Where do atheists find hope?] is such an important one! If there’s one misunderstanding between believers and nonbelievers, it’s found here. A couple years ago at the funeral of Jerry’s grandma, I can remember how bad I felt when his minster brother made the statement that “those without God have no real hope.” I don’t think that statement is true, at all.

1613902_10154081761120134_7782833434266106439_nI guess the best place to start would be to define what you mean by “hope.” So much of my past Christian hope revolved around an all-knowing, all-loving God who was actively involved in my life — or at least, so I thought. I also had hope in an afterlife, which is hope for the process of death. Now that I’ve rejected my faith, and am agnostic as to whether or not there is a God, my hope has changed to more of what *this current world* has to offer, rather than invisible hopes.

So I have hope all around me. I see the world changing, in terms of new opportunities for my little girl, and that gives me hope. There are moments when someone unexpected gives me help or says to me words of support, and I have hope there. I get hopeful when I think of how science is advancing, of the technology that makes our world better, of how borders are getting smaller and the world isn’t as segmented as it once was.

What’s different now for me as an atheist, versus when I was a Christian, is that I have to look around me for hope. It requires more of an effort, and not just wishful thinking on my part. And, there are days that can be dark and sad — but another part of having hope in this current world is that I know these bad days pass, and they aren’t due to something I’ve done wrong (necessarily).


So much hope to be had! And without any dogma baggage.

6 month hiatus

That’s the longest I’ve gone between updates. Hmmm.

Let me ‘splain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up: I’ve been busy.

10348225_10154070056030134_606639514420389183_nI’ve started my second graduate degree — a MEd in educational technology and design. To ease me into my return to studies, I’m taking a 6 credit course (usually spread over 8 months) and am doing it in 6 weeks. I AM CRAZY.

Thankfully, the prof for my summer course is one of my very favourite people in the whole world, so that’s helping me get over the PTSD of my last graduate school experience (thanks, narcissistic supervisor who scarred me for life).

More busyness of life:

  • Year 4 of community gardening is at hand! I’m currently the registrar of the Varsity View Bishop Murray Community Garden, and we also have a space at a local CHEP garden in town. New items this year: strawberries, kale, purple potatoes, and a new kind of squash.
  • Emma is finishing grade 1, and will be starting at a new Montessori school in the fall.  This new school looks to provide her with more opportunities than where she has been at — and as an added bonus, it goes all the way up to grade 8.
  • Later this summer we’ve got a 2 week holiday in Virginia and Tennessee — I’m looking forward to introducing my Mennonite boy to the heat and humidity of the South.
  • 10302168_10154054663720134_650421499259010348_nI’m still running around. I did the SK Marathon 10k in May, and I’m looking to fit in a couple more this summer. Goal: with each race, I hope to feel a little less awful by the end of it.
  • Jerry has started the process of getting his BSN degree. This means all three of us will be at school AT THE SAME TIME. Cray cray.
  • Speaking of the cray, work has been there over the last few weeks. First the firing of a prof with tenure, then the resignation of the provost and firing of the Usask prez.  Hopefully things have calmed down now, but I’m not looking forward to running into the fired prez in the hallways as my College colleague.

If you’re a longtime reader of the blog and want to have updates that are fresher than 6 months old, you can always check out my Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook accounts. I tend to post there lots more frequently than dusting off this blog of mine. (though between you and me, I’d like to get into a regular blogging habit again)