Archive for June, 2009

Charm school found in hell

June 2, 2009
Thank heaven for my fireproof GPS

Thank heaven for my fireproof GPS.

Pinpointing Christian Charm School‘s exact location in hell was a long and arduous journey. I’m not one to bury the lead: Turns out it’s in the eighth circle with those who practice fraudulent rhetoric and divisiveness. I know, right? You’d think it would have been in the fifth circle with wrath and sullenness or somewhere up in the first circle of limbo. Nice try hiding it, Satan. We’re onto you now.

What’s hard to explain about Christian Charm School is how serious the religious programming seems when you’re in the midst of it, how unavoidable its conclusions are when you believe your survival depends on being an imminently good girl, and how long the subconscious patterns linger unless you uproot them.

Indoctrination was part of the charm school package. Brimstone was not sold separately. Step right up, sweet girlies … get your hairbrushes and your paralyzing fear, all in one package. Two for the price of misery.

I remember shrinking during one sermon in particular when I was 11 or so, as the preacher snarled, “If you haven’t saved any souls yet, what are doing wasting space on this planet?” Puritan minister Cotton Mather would have been proud. Of course, that happened outside of charm class, but these threads were woven together to form one hell of a tapestry. The ideas are taught to be fiendishly inextricable for the most earnest of souls, so just like that, every hairdo and every prayer were equally necessary keys for our salvation. And if we didn’t save souls and look pretty doing it, it seemed we barely deserved to be alive.

So with that, I give you three keys that will unlock you from any circle of fundamentalist hell. There are more keys, of course – so many more glorious keys – but these are the ones I’m using to Undo the Charm Marm today.

1. The scripture is much more powerful if you don’t impose a literal interpretation on it. I was trained to fear any dogma that treated the Bible metaphorically instead of literally, from the creation story to the apocalypse. But so much information is at our fingertips now that blows this approach out of the water (and doesn’t require you to leave your spirituality behind).

  • For more, one good place to start is reading Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman.

2. The church as an institution needs to evolve. Not because it’s politically correct, not because society is changing, not for any reason except to go toward what’s true. Why is the church afraid to change? Because it functions for its own rules to reinforce its own authority. It’s caught in a painfully limiting way of seeing the world.

3. Finding the divine within yourself isn’t heresy and it isn’t “new age-y.” It’s the path of ancient mystics and saints. For that matter, it’s the path Jesus taught, too; the church puts a very different spin on that, of course. The basic idea here is that Jesus revealed the divine so completely that others came to see him as the only revelation of God, instead of as one manifestation of God. (Believe me, I was trained well – I know the fundamentalists will start quoting John 14:6 at this point.)

We’ll have some more liberating keys later. This is charm class, after all, so we wouldn’t want to go much longer without taking a break to brush our hair. Before we go, though, here are two other books with  sweeping views of the universe that are guaranteed to free you from any circle of hell.

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