|Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism,|
Feminism, and the American Girl
"By the age of twelve, Susan Campbell had been flirting with Jesus for some time, and in her mind, Jesus had been flirting back. Why wouldn't he? She went to his house three times a week, listened to his stories, loudly and lustily sang songs to him. She even professed her love for him through being baptized.
In this lovingly told tale, Susan Campbell takes us into the world of Christian fundamentalism—a world where details really, really matter. And she shows us what happened when she finally came to admit that in her faith, women would never be allowed a seat near the throne."
Book Description on the inside book flaps
Honestly, I am uncertain how I originally heard of this book, but it was likely in one of the many books I have been reading since August or September about women in the church. At first, I wasn't truly sure what I was getting into. With a title like "Dating Jesus", the first thing I think of is "True Love Waits" or some other purity program, or maybe even becoming a nun - or something along those lines.
Instead, I found a very candid memoir of Ms. Campbell's life, and how her beliefs changed (and some stayed the same) after growing up in a very restrictive church of Christ background. She explains how her early life was, and what happened when her mother remarried. You hear about childhood (and teen) physical abuse, indoctrination into the cult she was raised in, and how the Über-Fundamentalism "broke off" in her, and how she is attempting to find healing now in her current life.
I read with interest and I put down the book only when I truly had to. I read every chance I got, including in the dark and by the light of parking lot lamps, the indoor car map light, in my house, at a doctor appointment and while waiting to pick up my husband from work. I did not care how, but I was damned to finish this book since I undertook it, come hell or high water - it was going to happen!!
A lot of what Ms. Campbell mentioned in her book about her childhood, reminded me of my own in very Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches. She even mentioned a documentary that I had just finished watching the week I got to that part of the book. (Jesus Camp) I was just flabbergasted at how G-d really does bring things together, and how even if I could not discuss the film with someone else at the time, she echoed EVERYTHING that had stood out to me and made me cry for the poor kids being followed.
From the fervor of the preacher lady down to the dogmatism, and the culmination of the children being asked what they'd do with their life and what they thought of the outside world. I literally cried for these kids. I was one of these kids. Not in the same denomination, but I was one of them in many, many ways.
Here's a great sum up of the film:
Ms. Campbell mentions of her own childhood:
"... so I throw myself into biblical scholarship. Because I have been so greatly rewarded in school for my ability to memorize, I am sure the same will hold true in Sunday school. So begins my memorization of vast swatches of the Bible---Old and New Testament. I can recite the books and the apostles and the Beatitudes... I puff up one day when I overhear... 'That girl knows her Bible.'...!She mentions teaching 4th graders and thinking she would advance with both her male and female students in the next year's class, as she loved teaching so much. She was shot down almost immediately and informed that the males in her class had reached the "age of accountability" and were therefore men, and superior to her, as she was a woman. She would, on no uncertain terms, be advancing to the 4th grade class, unless she was solely to teach the girls - who could use her expertise. - I'd laugh at the absurdity if I were not already alternatively shaking my head, shaking my fist, face-palming and wanting to cry. I've lived that, except I wasn't the teacher. I was the student, and we were informed that our classes were going to split by gender. There were only sometimes 3 girls. It did not work out. . . gee, I wonder why.
...I can't wait for Bible Camp every year...
...But while I learn vast portions of the Bible by heart, I remember not a single lesson on the context of those verses -- who wrote them and for whom and why. And it never occurs to me to ask any of those questions..."
"(gleaned from pages 24, 25, 27 and 28)
She mentions on pages 105-107 the very black and white views of fundamentalist church of Christ beliefs (IFBC is not much different, lemme tell ya!) and how there is a sense of uncertainty about your place when you do reach the afterlife. That certainly, you do know that whatever bad you have done, as well as the good will be played for you on a giant movie screen for all to see and hear when it comes to your turn in the great judgement.
She mentions that after all this dogmatism, the likes of Jay Bakker (Son of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker - if any of you remember them at all), have it right - and we should just love EVERYONE, not just christians as much as we love ourselves and move on to the real social issues at hand and heal this world we live in, while we are waiting for the imminent return of Christ. #
She also mentions in the end of the book how she wakes one evening after a horrible nightmare (Ms. Campbell's had them since childhood), and realizing that she's been dating the "wrong Jesus" all this time.
"..Or rather, the entity I dated through high school and college and into my early adult years was emphatically not Jesus. It was someone's idea of Jesus, but not the real one."
What she said reminded me of not only my own experience, but this video which is something I have not made, but have had floating around in the back of my mind about how many church doctrines just totally fly in the face of what was actually said in the gospels. What makes me sad though, this is made by an atheist, and he's really got a good bead on many believers.
Don't laugh, but it also reminds me of the film "Saved!". If you've never seen it, it is a satire of fundamentalist christian beliefs. I remember being told I would not be allowed to watch it at home, due to the bad reviews it had on christian review sites.
Reviews such as:
"Christians are portrayed as violent and devious."
"As a follower of Jesus, I regret having seen “Saved!” in the same way one might regret visiting a classroom of ninth graders who’ve been programmed to mock you. I know that the movie was not made with a Christ-centered audience in mind; rather, it appeals to Americans who, according to most polls, believe a God exists but can’t agree on whether He has called them to live according to any standard."
"...while spoofing Christians for not being tolerant enough, the movie's alternative is simply this: If God let it happen or if you are happy, then how can it be wrong? This doesn't translate well to a world that, as Saved! even tries to argue, isn't black and white. It's also dangerously confusing for believers in the Bible, a book that does specifically draw lines regarding moral behavior. All this messiness is caused not only by poor filmmaking but also a general resentment. Several easy jokes and absurd stereotypes seem to stem purely from bitterness. . ."
"...“Saved!” (with a cross over the exclamation point) is a relentless assault that maligns anyone and everyone associated with the Christian faith – especially those who disagree with the gay lifestyle. . . "
And this review. It is SO BAD, that I just... I can't put that on here.
This one though, gets to the heart of the matter:
"...“Saved!” mocks hypocrisy, Christian merchandising, Christian naivety, Christian assimilation of pop culture, as well as peer pressure and popularity, but contrary to what some may think it does not mock God. It just happens to mock some of God’s most delusional followers, like those who think everything is a sign from Jesus..."
Well, I eventually saw the movie a couple years ago when it ran on a movie channel we get here that shows movies in English. To tell you how desperate I get for English films sometimes, I watch just about every genre of film that comes on them. Seriously.
When I first watched the film, I felt rather "upset" at the premise. They're making fun of all of us, no one really knows what we're up to --- then it hit. No. They have our number. And unfortunately, we're a pretty screwed up bunch when we want to be.
This has to change. And little by little, since seeing that film, I have been changing for the better. Just like Ms. Campbell mentions in her book -- Fundamentalism "broke off inside" her. And she wonders if that part will ever heal. I will tell you this, after working through (for months, one week or so at a time) the book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" - it is possible. But it is a slow process and it takes time.
I have to remind myself that it was the "wrong Jesus" that people are looking at when they see the likes of "Hillary" In the film "Saved!" and in the likes of Westboro Baptist Church.
If ever you've been beaten with a Bible, I'm sorry. I might have been someone a long time ago to have done that. I've changed, I really have. And Susan Campbell is right. I was dating the wrong Jesus for a long time, but no more.
If ever there was a book to recommend for people that are healing from the damage of fundamentalism, this one is it.