Tag Archive: bible


Live in the lower case

Everyone has something that defines them. Whether it is something heroic, or a challenge they’ve overcome, or a spectacular failure they vow never to repeat, we all have something. It’s the yard stick we measure all else against, but sometimes it’s a pain we fiercely hold onto lest we forget its lessons and find ourself knee deep in the very thing we’ve spent our whole lives running from.

I call mine, My Story.

It was a long time ago now, but My Story begins when I was ten years old. I was sexually abused by someone with authority over me. He raped me once, and I remember staring at the corner of the doorframe as the world crushed against my chest and my legs, while I willed my mind to imagine what it would feel like to be a tiny bug crawling up the doorframe. There was no option to scream or cry for I’d been manipulated into making a deal – one that I carried the weight of for years to come – where I would do whatever was asked of me if it meant my siblings would remain unharmed and oblivious. Despite the breaking of my character, and the theft of my innocence, I learned a long time later that he’d actually kept his word.

My parents suspected. The abuse went on for many months until one day I said that I didn’t want this person’s authority over me any more. They respected my wishes, but they never asked for details and, for years after, I never told them. When I finally broke my silence, at an age where I was old enough not to be removed from my home, things in my life began to fall apart.

There was a lot of guilt and shame when people suddenly learned My Story. There was the close friendship of our families to deal with. There was the deafening silence from those who knew the truth but didn’t want to get involved. Then there was the chipping away at my story and my soul with words like “if that’s what really happened”, or being expected to get over it without structure or support. Amidst it all, it was hard to consider myself a victim of his abuse for I’d helped write the rules: trading me for them. Unprotected and alone, I struggled through My Story now loose inside our community, but with my trauma being a private anguish nobody wanted to help me through.

I look back on My Story, and I’m desperately sad for the child-me that went through all of that with nobody there to defend nor protect them. I’m angry at the family who let the perpetrator do these things, and at those who revealed I wasn’t the only person whose childhood was stolen by this terrible person. I’m angry for the friendship between our families that went on through the years until long after I was married and living in America, in spite of My Story. But mostly I grieve for thinking that God, Himself had left me in the midst of it to fend for myself.

Last week was a powerful one for me. I learned that I don’t have to carry the weight of My Story with me everywhere, all the time, by myself. My beloved church family and I were at our regular bible study, and testimony was being shared of how God had brought different people through the horror of Their Story, and transformed them into people of grace and forgiveness, and hope.

It was hard for me to process though, for hearing other people’s pain from being abused hurts those parts of me that want to take their pain away, but knows it isn’t possible while my own is out of control. The tsunami of guilt and grief overwhelmed me and I had to leave the room lest I unravel completely and let the ugly stain that is My Story wash into the room and ruin everything.

Unbeknown to me, my beautiful church family heard a little of My Story, and were – at that moment – praying for me. I found a peace and a courage growing inside me to be able to walk back into the room and sit among them, puffy eyes and all.

God filled me with such warmth and gentleness that I didn’t feel the pain of My Story weighing me down. I even got to share my gratitude for this beautiful family He has given me, and acknowledge that I’m not alone.

I know it’s going to be a long journey before I can unpack it all and leave My Story at the feet of Jesus. But that’s okay. This week I got to take the straps off my shoulder and see that I’m closer than I think. It’s also dawning on me that I’m not alone at all, but the enemy wants me to think I am. An army of God’s warriors surround me, in flesh and in spirit.

Now here is why I’m sharing this with you. I know what it’s like to allow yourself to be defined by your story. My Story is a part of me but it’s not the whole sum of who I am. It’s a small piece of an intricate puzzle that is me, and it’s not the only – or even the first – thing people see when they look at me. When I smother it into silence, it grows in power until the darkness of My Story is like a deafening roar determined to destroy everything it touches. But here’s the funny thing. My Story is a liar. It’s a little part of me that those who love me can already see, yet they love me anyway. The only one who was truly afraid of My Story was me.

But no more.

When I shared this on Facebook, a friend said to me, “Live in the lower case.” What a great motto to adopt, don’t you think?

My name is Annie Bergin, and I survived rape and sexual abuse. It’s my story (lower case), but it’s only a small part of who I am. I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. And I have an army.

The headline to this blog post might not make much of a statement to you, but to me it’s been something that has nagged at me for a while now. So what better way to process it than to pour it all into a blog and throw it into cyber space to see what the internet thinks.

IMG_7616A while ago I was given a beautiful cross pendant, one that sparkles when the sun hits it and looks far nicer and more feminine than my usual jewelry choices. I wore it for months with pride, not just because it was beautiful, and not just because it was a gift from a dear friend, but because it was also a symbol of a part of myself I didn’t tend to share very much. My faith. Of course I live my faith every day, and try to be a good person, and of course I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And yes, I go to bible study, and all that. But for a while now I’ve really grimaced at the thought of admitting out loud that I am a Christian. Not because I’m ashamed of my faith, goodness no. Rather I’m reluctant to call myself a Christian because I see what some people who profess to be of the same faith as me do to those who disagree with them.IMG_7613

So a while ago I switched out this beautiful cross pendant for a different one, a heart with the American Flag engraved across it. It’s a symbol of something else I believe strongly in – this country – and it’s something I wear proudly every day, whether people know what it means or not.

And I’m not alone in my thinking. I’ve read many blog posts and opinion pieces from other Christians who go to great pains to point out they’re not like ‘those’ people, the angry Christians. The ones who want to pass legislation to say that being gay is a sin and that marriage equality is an abomination. The ones who think that discrimination isn’t discrimination if it’s wrapped up in some belief system that is protected by the constitution. Well, I hate to say it, but hate is hate. And from the Messiah himself who said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34, New American Standard Bible)

it makes me wonder what these angry Christians are thinking. Because the love and grace and kindness Jesus spoke of was not conditional to whether you are gay or not. His message was one of hope and salvation, not tearing down another person whether they are good or not just because you personally don’t believe in their ‘lifestyle choices’. Which, for the record, is no more a choice than me ‘choosing’ to have green eyes. But we can argue that until we are blue in the face and the angry Christians will still choose to tell me I’m wrong. Whatever. To them I say this: I would rather be wrong, and live my life treating other people with love and respect, seeing them as the beautiful people God made them to be, and be wrong, than seeing them the way you do and spending my life hating them, condemning them, judging them, or whatever else I am expected to do as a follower of Christ. My judgement will come, and you will not be there with me to hold my hand, or vouch for me. Only I will be standing before the Lord being accountable for my actions and my words.

A long time ago I was a part of a church that believed the only way to heaven was with hard work. And boy did I work hard. I bent over backwards to share my faith and its message, and I took part in every aspect of the church environment it was possible to, until my whole social calendar was chock full of everything church, and nothing of anything else. It was exhausting because I never felt as though I was accomplishing anything. The harder I struggled and worked towards all these goals, the more I fell short, and the more I believed my salvation was at stake. I asked questions, and wrestled with the answers because they were all based on this false doctrine that said the only way to get the rewards in heaven were through hard work and many layers of atonement to gain worthiness.

I left, but not before their twisted doctrine had chewed up my insides and distorted everything I thought I knew about God and Jesus and salvation. They also believed the cross pendants I owned were representative of the death, not the resurrection, so confiscated them. In essence, they took everything they could of the faith I brought in with me, and flipped it on its head till what I had left was barely recognizable. They would say “the bible is accurate only as far as it’s translated” but I chose to hang onto this one verse in spite of all that, the one about faith as small as a mustard seed being enough to move mountains. And truly I clung to it. When I left the church I had no friends (because I was now a ‘corruptive influence’), and no social calendar because my whole time with them was living and breathing everything to do with their church. I was adrift, so to speak, in an ocean that was as dark as it was foreign, with nothing on the horizon but more darkness. It was the hardest part of my faith walk because I was truly alone. There were no church friends to lean on because I was now isolated from them, and their doctrine was flawed anyway so what would it have gained me to reach out? Only this mustard seed faith, this tiny grain of hope that Jesus loved me, and that I was worth loving, pushed me on.

IMG_7615When I was in an antique shop in England one day, I saw a beautiful gold pendant. It was a cross, not very big, nor very expensive. But it was beautiful. And I could afford it. In spite of the confused state of my faith, this tiny morsel of a mustard seed gave me the confidence to buy it, and I had it inscribed with “no matter what”, to remind myself every day that, no matter what, Jesus loved me. I wore it for quite a few years, and every time I touched it, my mustard seed of faith was reminded that Jesus did indeed love me. It was a symbol of hope to me, something to draw courage from, and something that symbolized the promise Jesus made to me that – in spite of their best efforts – this church had failed to destroy. It is perhaps the only time as an adult I’ve worn something so symbolic because I’ve needed to, because my brokenness wasn’t brave enough on it’s own, and the gold shaped cross around my neck somehow made everything all right.

Of course, the journey to undoing indoctrination is a long and complicated one, and it is a journey that is still ongoing even today, oh so many years later. But I guess that’s what happens when you invest three years of yourself inside a lie. You’re vulnerable and at risk of falling far more times than you care to count as you work your way back to being strong. I joined another church eventually and enjoyed it for a while. But I’m an opinionated soul, for those who didn’t get the memo, and I never seemed to feel truly comfortable in this new Christian gathering. Perhaps because it’s hard to find people who believe 100% what you do (unless you’re all in a cult – not recommended). Perhaps it’s because hypocrisy drives me crazy and I have this compulsion to call it out when I see it. Or perhaps it’s simply that I don’t trust people who don’t seem to want to trust me.

I’ve grown a lot since those days. I’ve also moved countries and built a life here surrounded by people who want to build me up instead of tear me down. It took a lot to get there, but I made it. And my faith is stronger than it has been in a long time. It’s not where it should be, I know that. But it is bigger than a mustard seed, and for that I’m happy. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can quote bible verses at the drop of a hat because it requires me to know them, but I have no patience or inclination in putting in the effort to do so. Call it a residual of indoctrination. Call it laziness. I just consider it a flaw that google can fix at the drop of a phrase into a search engine. There is also the horror of praying out loud, something I have never liked doing but am more phobic of now because there are so many rules and I don’t remember which ones are the good rules and which ones are the ‘earn your way into heaven’ rules. I also get tongue tied when I’m put on the spot. And I tend to swear. Who am I kidding, I swear even when I’m not put on the spot. But if I’m saying something special to God and a room full of people are listening, it’s most definitely not acceptable to drop an f-bomb or a cuss word into the mix.

Which brings me right back around to my pendant debate.

I look at the entertainment industry I’ve chosen to build my career in, and I see a lot of roles that are not suitable for a Christian to accept. And not just the ones that post ‘contains nudity’ in the breakdown. Now I’m not a prude. Well, yes, I am. But other people are not prudish, and when things are tastefully done, it’s all good. I’m also more than happy if it’s not my character that has to be the nude one, because it’s not something I’m comfortable with. And not just because I don’t look like a Victoria Secret swimwear model. But if it’s important to the story – and I’ve gone on auditions where it is, and have been very excited by the projects – I am supportive. But if I wear a cross, am I already giving more information than I need to the casting directors? I know that you don’t have to be a bully to play one on tv, and I certainly believe that you don’t have to be gay to take on the role of a gay character. But if I wear a cross to an audition, or in my profile pictures online am I revealing more than is true of myself to each of the people making decisions about my career? It does come down to being ‘not like them’, in a sense (thinking of the angry Christians I spoke of earlier), but more than that it’s because I don’t really consider myself a regular Christian either. I support marriage equality. I am pro choice because I can never advocate for something that removes a woman’s autonomy over her own body, no matter how it makes me feel. I don’t quote the bible (I’m prone to paraphrasing with hilarious results), and while I do go to bible study, I don’t go to church. I loathe the church environment, and I am not a fan of the mentality that you are a better Christian than someone else because you DO go to church, especially when it’s only to tick the box marked ‘church’ off on your 101 Ways To Look Like A Good Christian list.

When it comes down to it, I’m the bare bones Christian. I’m the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Christian, the one who might well still have just a mustard seed of faith when it comes down to it. I read the scripture about being a light unto the world, and loving your neighbor as yourself, but when it comes to most of the other stuff, it’s all about the interpretation. And the person doing the interpreting makes the rules. This is what I mean when I say the residuals of indoctrination linger long after the church has been purged from your system.

But then I look at the world we live in, and I start to question this choice. It may only be a symbol, and it was my anchor for a while when I needed it most, but is wearing a cross not something more important today? Now more than ever?

You don’t need to go too far into the news to read about Christians being kidnapped in the middle east, or the terrible things done to them. You don’t even need to leave the USA to see stories of religious persecution, be it a Jewish student being judged for her faith right here in Los Angeles, or the Anti-Israel sentiment sweeping our universities here and here for example. And that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s happening in Europe and the rest of the world.

So is wearing a cross pendant the way to go? Is it more fitting for me to declare my faith and stand up for what I believe in, in the face of opposition or persecution? I’m very lucky to live in a country where we have the freedom to practice (or to not practice) religion, and thus the judgements I am likely to face will be from other Christians. Being ‘not like them’ has served me well because it has opened me up to friendships and conversations I would have been too narrow to consider it I was made any other way. But will it burn more bridges to say I am a follower of Jesus, but not a ‘Christian’ like you read about in the news? Or is this all just a symbolic gesture that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and rather it is the character of the person we should judge, not the piece of jewelry around their throat?

I await the comments with interest, for I genuinely want to know what people think.

Take care and much love,

AnnieB

There’s a very popular internet post currently doing the rounds on Facebook, one that Snopes itself say has been circulating since 2000. While the original author remains a mystery, the post itself is one that made me laugh out loud. You will see why when you read it yourself.

After I posted my blog about The gay marriage and religion debate I received a response to the blog that was a very long opinion piece detailing why I was wrong. I chose to delete the response because its tone was hostile and the arguments were largely incoherent though seemed to take exception to my comments regarding the change of attitude toward slavery and how that same shift in thinking cannot also be applied to homosexuality. (Editor’s note: the person posted it on their Facebook page instead).

The Letter to Dr Laura that is being shared on Facebook seems an appropriate and timely inclusion into the debate. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as quite informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian)

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while about my opinion on gay marriage (I’m for it), about prop 8 (I’m against it), and how I just can’t get my head around why there are so many religious types trying to say that the world will end if gay people are allowed to get married. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I consider myself quite a smart person. Today I had opportunity to post a picture to my Facebook profile which made me smirk, and it turned into a very involved and passionate debate on homosexuality and the bible. At one point I was asked to weigh in and, dutifully, added my 2 cents worth.

[My friend] ‎has the best argument when he said: The bible notes slavery as an accepted part of society from which it’s referenced. If we agree now that slavery is barbaric and out of sync with societies norm today — then perhaps we need to reconsider homosexual relationships in a similar light.

There are many who would use the bible to judge others, to hold others to a standard they would not like to be held to themselves. There are many great Christians who don’t do that, but there are many who do. Just as there are many great Muslims who do not fall under the stereotype of being a religious extremist. There are many religions and many beliefs, which ultimately seem to culminate in the same, unifying belief system: Love others as you want to be loved; Treat people with the same respect you would ask of them in return; Show fellowship and grace; and Lead by example.

I posted the picture because I got a kick out of it. Call me a heathen if you want (I’ve heard it before, lol) but it bugs me like crazy when people use the bible as a weapon against someone else. I’ve heard many times people say “God told me to tell you – (insert inappropriate judgment here)”. Or “the bible says – (insert scathing argument here)”. But, quite frankly, if you’re going to bible-quote me, I’m going to dig up all the obscure bible references, take *them* out of context in the same way, and say “well, guess what, the bible *also* says – (insert sarcastic answer here)”.

Using [my friend]’s point, I believe that the current views on homosexuality are evolving, just as the views on slavery evolved and changed till we ended up with the wonderful Emancipation Proclamation. It grinds me to hear religious leaders and people professing to be Christian say that gay marriage will ruin the sanctity of marriage. All they’re trying to do, in my opinion, is deny gay people the right to describe their union (which is the same as mine) as “marriage”. It’s a word recognized all across the world and brings about an understanding that the union being spoken of is between two people who love each other, who promise to be together, monogamous, till death do they part. It may or may not involve having kids but one of the oft used arguments against it is that gay people can’t have kids therefore it isn’t really marriage. Well guess what, a heck of a lot of people can’t have kids, but you don’t see their marriages being annulled. Marriage is a union, a covenant before God, or in front of a judge or other official person, where a person promises to be loyal and loving to another, no matter what.

I have no problem with people being gay. I work in an industry where some of the most creative, influential, inspiring, wonderful people are gay. I have no problem with it, and I have no problem with them. They don’t ask me to be gay, and they don’t expect me to be gay for being their friend. All they ask is to be respected. And I do. The bible says a lot of things, and many of the ‘popular’ bible quotes used in the arguments I read online a lot are snippets taken out of context and re-explained. And I’m not okay with that.

Be gay if you want, I don’t mind, nor do I care. As long as you are a decent human being, you can do pretty much whatever you want and believe pretty much whatever you want. If you think homosexuality is a sin, fine by me. But remember this – its the sin, not the sinner. People are people. Telling them they are sinners will not endear them to you. It will not open their ears and their hearts to the wonderful word of God who asks that we love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s very hard to be a light unto the world when we’re so busy snuffing out the flames we don’t agree with.

And if you don’t dialogue, and bridge an understanding, how can you then fully shape the arguments of your opinions and find peace (not anger) with views that differ from yours.

I’m quite sure the Emancipation Proclamation was quite controversial in its day. And I’m quite sure that affording homosexuals the same, equal rights as heterosexuals will be just as ground-breaking.

The world didn’t end when slavery ended. I’m pretty sure the world won’t end the day gays are allowed to get married, and have it recognized equally across the whole USA.

That is all 🙂

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