This Just In: I’m A Harlot, Not An Adulteress! (Aren’t We All) Thoughts On HJR-3 and Me and Not Being a Stinky Christian

the-scarlet-letter

In other news, upon further examination it has been determined that “adulteress” was not entirely accurate. Turns out I was only a harlot and that, after more research into Biblical definitions and semantics, I apparently had it all wrong about adultery.

According to the author of a somewhat prominent Christian marriage site I’d rather not link here (hey, it’s a blog, not a newspaper), “modern Christians” completely misunderstand the word “adultery,” and I quote:

Here’s a simple test:

If a married man has sexual intercourse with his single secretary, has he committed adultery?

If you answered yes then you don’t know the definition of adultery.

He goes on to clarify the matter thusly: “The fact is that anyone who has sexual intercourse outside of marriage has indeed committed a sin (harlotry*) but if the woman involved is not a married woman then it is not called adultery.” He also says, citing Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as his source (“the concordance favored by theologians”), that adultery refers to a specific kind of sexual sin: sexual intercourse with another man’s wife or woman who is engaged to another man. “That’s it,” the pastor-author says. “Nothing else.”

“It is impossible for a single woman to commit adultery.” Hallelujah. Thank goodness I’m a harlot. (Or was a harlot.) Harlot has such a nice ring, doesn’t it?, compared to “adulteress.” Harlot. I like the literary flavor. But wait, no. I was an adulteress and a harlot? Wait, what? Oh, man.

I do subscribe to the following idea asserted on another site representative of Christian thinking on the matter of “sexual sin,” namely that: “God created you with a purpose: To bring glory to Himself in an eternal love relationship with Him.” I love that about God. He’s such a lover. I also buy into the notion that “God invented marriage as a living metaphor for how He desires our relationship with Him to be.” My non-believing husband demonstrates this Ephesians 5 standard of marriage, driving me deeper into understanding of Christ’s complete and sacrificial love for His bride, men and women who follow Him.

25 Husbands, love your wives. Love them just as Christ loved the church. He gave himself up for her. 26 He did it to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her with water and the word. 27 He did it to bring her to himself as a brightly shining church. He wants a church that has no stain or wrinkle or any other flaw. He wants a church that is holy and without blame.

28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives. They should love them as they love their own bodies. Any man who loves his wife loves himself.

That’s the extreme to which my agnostic husband loves his Jesus-freak wife. Lucky me, eh? (And I also realize that the passage goes on to speak in terms of marriage applying to a “man and a woman,” but dude: I know gay and atheist couples loving their spouses in this Christ-like way better than many, many so-called Christian [male] husbands and their [female] wives. Don’t even get me started on the stats of violence and other forms of domestic abuse within Christian marriages.) But, in an article examining the question of why homosexuality, fornication, harlotry and adultery are sin I see clearly now that I really have no business being married. Specifically, this line:

“Homosexuality, fornication, harlotry, and adultery pervert God’s purpose for creating us and destroy the metaphor that represents the Holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctified intent of marriage.”

So therefore, dear reader, anyone who has ever had sex outside of marriage—including before marriage, which, according to the Waiting Till Marriage website’s article 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USA, takes 97% of American citizens out of the running as marriage material—really has no business tying the knot.

Anyone who has ever had sex before marriage—probably most of my high school class and yours—shouldn’t have the right to be married, legally or otherwise. We, all of us, are—or were—harlots, fornicators. We have all, whether in thought or action, perverted the metaphor.

And right now, in Indiana, the handling of a particular piece of legislation singling out same sex couples grieves and infuriates me! When I think of my gay friends who are monogamous and have been in a committed relationship years for more years than my (latest!) marriage, gay friends who are single and more chaste before/outside “marriage” than I was, and more faithful within their unions than I and other Christians who have made poor relationship choices have been, I think this: maybe I am the one who shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

We Christians STINK! Sheesh. We’re such puritans and hypocrites! According to the article “Why Affairs Happen”, in Today’s Christian Woman, “As many as 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are forty, according to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.” And ministry folk? Not great PR/witness there either. “A Christianity Today survey found that 23 percent of the 300 pastors who responded admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry.” 

And that’s not even accounting for the different “types of adultery” (emotional, mental). Jesus said, after all, that “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Por ejemplo: guys from 12 to 102 drooling over barely-dressed young women in just about any television commercial and the February issue of SI, to say nothing of actual porn; women, too, oo-lah-lahing over Don Draper (guilty!) and Adam Levine (again, guilty!). But for some reason, straight-up hetero- gray area impropriety/meta-adultery isn’t as appalling to us church types as homosexual monogamy. Blame the ick factor (<<<compelling NUVO piece from Indy photographer Mark Lee).

It’s not same sex couples being allowed to marry that unravels the fabric of our society, it’s people. Assuming a sex-focused root-of-evil perspective, society has been unraveling for a long time. Remember Thomas Jefferson? Bill Clinton? JFK? If it’s sexual sin we’re fingering as the agent responsible for poisoning our otherwise pure society, then consider the legions of “lustful” senators, presidents, ministers, priests, etc. and other skeezy culprits keeping CNN, FOX News and SNL on the air.

If it’s true that “Homosexuality, fornication, harlotry, and adultery pervert God’s purpose for creating us and destroy the metaphor that represents the Holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctified intent of marriage,” then maybe the Speaker of the House should reword the amendment to include language excluding from legal marriage in Indiana anyone who has ever had sex before marriage or outside of marriage. That would be the ideal. What say you, Brian Bosma?

And as long as I have my Bible open to Ephesians 5, I’m going to spend the day lingering on the first portion of the chapter: “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children and WALK IN LOVE, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to god for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

in defense of this marriage
the Smythe-Moores:
an ideal marriage
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The “Smore” Family

Those Christians. And These Strip Clubs.

From Beth Bates: Here’s the deal. Indy-based social justice magazine World Next Door deploys micro-cadres of talented photographers and writers each year to report on injustice throughout the world in order to raise awareness among us entitled folks tucked all cozy and tight in our top 1% bubbles. I’m proud to call the writer of this post my buddy not just because of her skillful, effortlessly winsome way with a pen (which really, at times, can tend to infuriate self-conscious MFA-writer-me) but also the clarity and power with which her content challenges readers. Brooke has a gift for throwing down the gauntlet while making readers laugh, cry and fist-pump the air. (Check out her fist pumping in Nepal post when you’re done with this one. And if you have an iPad, why not download a World Next Door while you’re at it?) Strippers, cupcakes, and no-strings love: Vegas, baby.

Hello

*This post was written while on assignment with World Next Door: a digital social justice travel magazine. Check out our website (www.worldnextdoor.org) for more information and download our most recent issue! This blog became an excerpt of this feature story our Las Vegas magazine issue about The Cupcake Girls, published in February 2014.

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Well. We’re going on a cupcake-delivering-strip-club-run tomorrow. Jeff and I will stay in the car, of course. The point of all of this cupcaking is to build relationships, and bringing a couple of eager new photojournalists into the clubs just to see what happens, outside the context of relationship, sort of turns it into a side-show.  Plus, you have to serve on another Cupcake Girls committee for 90 days first, which we haven’t done. I guess “Eating Cupcakes” is not one of their other service areas, anyway. Blast!

That said, our second week has been…

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It’s Not Flashy, It’s Not the Himalayas Or Vegas; BUT Giving Back (and not) Can Happen Here and Small

I started writing these thoughts as an entry for a Thanksgiving season “giving back” essay contest my MFA program was hosting, but when I missed the deadline (over dread of rejection) I decided to make it mine.

Cupcake Girls
More on Cupcake Girls
Below

Last month my girlfriend Brooke passed a few nights holed up in a Katmandu apartment, praying and fist pumping against injustice, ticking down the niggling hours her husband spent in Nepal brothels with prostitutes the age of my 9th grade daughter. He and two men from an organization called Tiny Hands* were there to gather evidence via interviews—and used condoms, when they could got their hands on them, yes-you-read-that-right—for local authorities to use in the prosecution of sex trafficking perpetrators. Brooke and Jeff are taking a year away  from their real jobs as social worker and physical therapist to travel the world writing and photographing for a social justice travel magazine—first to Rwanda, then Cambodia, Nepal, Vegas and Cuba.

Kind of kicks the shit out of the cans of creamed corn and kidney beans I plunked into a grocery bag and placed on my front porch for a local church to pick up for their food drive a few Sundays ago.

And then some little girl featured on Christian radio, Gracie, just five years old, knocks me down. She got it in her mind after watching Cinderella or some such shoe-related fairytale that she wanted to collect 67 pairs of shoes for children whose parents can’t afford them. She handily exceeded her goal to the tune of 80 pairs to donate to this organization that exists to shod “orphan souls” around the world.

Kind of makes my one shoebox a year stuffed with underwear and crayons for Samaritans Purse to send as Christmas gifts to kids across the ocean look anemic, flaccid, half-hearted.

DIY bookshelf makeover
The Boy’s DIY Book Shelf

The same week I heard the shoe story on the radio, I stopped by Menards for supplies for a thesis-avoiding DIY project restoring a couple dated bookshelves, one for my son’s extensive book-and-stuff collection and one for my office. On my way out carrying a bag stuffed with multiple, unnecessary cans of paint and primers in various colors, I passed a cashier dragging a Volkswagen-sized box labeled “Wrapped New Toys.” Customers invited to donate new toys to kids in need took me back ten years: When my kids were little, the week before Christmas I’d have scan the toy room for toys they no longer played with, intending to teach them the value of sharing (and, conveniently, to make room in the clutter for their new booty due the 25th). We’d wipe down discarded cars, Barbies, dinosaurs, books and building blocks, wrap them in festive paper and bows, and haul them down Christmas Eve night and leave them outside the front door of the Hispanic church. That was fun.     It now strikes me as presumptuous, and maybe even a little condescending. Our hearts were in the right place, but I’m sure it was more fun for us to play Santa than for the church secretary to be burdened with schlepping the heavy box inside (or to the dumpster, because how on earth would the gifts be disbursed or trusted to be safe?).

In an interview I read a few years back, Tom Hanks (or, I don’t know, maybe it was Billy Crystal) said the key to a strong marriage is to out-give each other, to out-generous your spouse. If every person in town would apply this principle to his or her sphere of influence—the gas station attendant beleaguered by lottery customers, the downsized mid-level management guy slinging fries since the banks ruined the economy, or even the neighbor across the street who never wants to wave back at you—what kind of sweetness would it lend to our lives? What kind of heaven on earth would we create if we out-gave the people who get under our skin and those we love, or those we love who get under our skin?

GET OFF MY ---!
GET OFF MY —!

Which makes me think about the idea of applying the Out-Give-Your-Spouse thing to the greater world, but in reverse. As in, not giving back the garbage dumped into the laps of our experience. A Twitter acquaintance  recently posted, “I wonder if Saab comes in a doesn’t-tailgate-me model,” to which I replied, “BMWs too.” What is it with import drivers, like the BMW that always seems to tailgate me down my own street on its way to its more affluent cul de sac?? I suppose they feel they’re entitled because, well, they have created a world in which they are. They’ve worked for it. It chaps my hide, hard, to be tailgated in my Toyota minivan by a shiny, spendy import (Mercedes drivers seem to show more consideration, however), but then I find myself doing the same thing to the timid Ford Focus driver creeping through the roundabouts that clog my city’s avenues. I growl from behind the tan vinyl wheel of my middle class vehicle, and snark, “C’mooon, man, drive!” I try not to cuss. I don’t even notice that I’m trailing closely, and for me it has nothing to do with entitlement but everything to do with impatience and bad manners. My own. And then I notice the silver headed driver and feel guilt pelt my stomach. And I think, B, how bout not giving back once in awhile?

So this week, three weeks from Thanksgiving, my Nepal sex traffic fighting friend and her husband are headed to Vegas for their next mission: helping and reporting on Cupcake Girls, an organization that shows God’s love by offering cupcakes (and other services, including medical, financial, dental assistance) to women who work in strip clubs and leaving tracts and judgment for other so-called Christians. Her blog post about the Cupcake Girls pricks me with a question: What will I be doing to show God’s love during the three weeks they’re in and out of seedy joints? In between dipping in and out of O’Malias for dinner stuffs, buying presents, painting furniture, obsessing over dust and décor in my home, and baking pumpkin pies, maybe I can look for small ways to give back and NOT to give back.

I’m just not in a position in the current stage of my life to afford, in time or money, the grand gestures. But that doesn’t take me off the hook to invoke a little heaven on earth, to give back blessings—of friendship, kindness, hospitality, generosity—with which my family and I have been embarrassingly showered. Even without the freedom to donate weeks and months of time or loads of money, it is possible to open my eyes to ways in which I can out-give my family and people in my community. Brainstorm:

GIVING BACK IDEAS

  • Bake a loaf of spice bread and walk over to the widow across the street.
  • Make a little extra soup and take it to the nutty neighbors in ill health, the ones with the frequent visits from cop cars and fire trucks.
  • Place a smile in my voice with an incompetent customer service person on the other end of my phone call.
  • Offer a kind word to a bag boy.
  • And how easy is it to throw into the shopping cart cans of veggies or bags of beans when you see “10 for $10” and drop it all off at a food bank or the Methodist church on the corner? (All Methodist churches have food banks, don’t you know.)

NOT GIVING BACK IDEAS

  • Choose to rag a little less on my kids for their messy bathroom and comment a little more often on all they do to make me proud, appreciating a little more the ways in which they lighten our home with youthful abandon.
  • Instead of, “Your room is out of control,” say to my creative daughter, “The fact that you’ve spent so many hours practicing guitar really shows in the quality of your playing, Grace. You sound amazing.”
  • Or instead of saying to Mr. Bates, “Would you please squeeze out the wet sponge instead of leaving it in the bottom of the sink to rot?” try, “Honey, I feel really grateful to have a partner who is so helpful in the kitchen. I’m aware not many husbands pick up a dish sponge let alone use one on dirty pans.”
  • Pray for the guy in the BMW riding my back bumper.
  • You know. That sort of thing.

All in all, a long, meandering way of saying: Give back good stuff to the extras and main characters in your life story; harness and trash the bad stuff and negativity doled out or spoken into your life, which you might be leaching out without realizing it.

*Click for more information on Tiny Hands International.

To read the social justice travel magazine for which friend Brooke reports and photographs, click World Next Door.