Some individuals, it seems, have been granted a God-ordained license to criticize.
When I moved after college, I began work for a certain restaurant known for its chicken appendages and orange shorts. Now before your start clutching your chest, I’m not here to debate the morality of such “breastaurants” or whether or not they are exploitive. It’s just a part of my story.
Contrary to the reputation I’d always heard as being synonymous with a “gentlemen’s club”, it turned out to be pretty innocent fun. Our store was unique in that we were located in a college town and had many families with children as regulars. Many of my coworkers were college students, and I was having a lot of fun making friends and enjoying my managers, who looked after us and included us in their own families as well.
Like anyone excited about a new job, I hopped online to share my good fortune, complete with pictures in the infamous uniform. In them, I’m fresh-faced and grinning from ear to ear with my hands on my hips while I expertly pointed my toe in those big white shoes. The picture of “All-American” wholesomeness. Little did I know those photos would spark holy judgment raining down like fire.
It started with a few text messages from former classmates and some cousins. “Is it true? What’s it like?” I laughed them off, reassuring them it’s ‘just a restaurant’. Then, as momentum built, the messages started online and got ugly fast. In about a 2 day span, I received 5-8 inbox messages on Facebook admonishing me for my “worldliness”. The senders were not family members, but mostly friends of family who I may have met one or two times each in my life. They told me I was a disappointment, making a huge mistake, was not being God-honoring. That working in such an establishment would make me “shallow and brittle” and would not encourage me to “grow deeper and stronger [in Him]”. Only two of the parties were on my actual friends list, so one of them must have copied the pictures and sent them around the ol’ Prayer List.
I noticed a pattern of the messages falling into one of three writing styles. The first was the blatantly angry, fire-and-brimstone kind, warning me of God’s judgment. The terms “harlot” and “shameful” got tossed around. The second were sugary sweet yet condescending ones, complete with scripture citations about being a “Proverbs 31 woman” and mentioning they were here for me and that they’d pray I returned to God and the right path. The third was, and still is, my personal favorite. They’d start off like style #2, sweetly judgmental and almost well-intentioned, quoting the right scripture, but usually ended in something to the effect of “P.S. your tan lines look trashy. Just a friendly tip. God bless you, girl!”
…I’d like to remind the reader that these all were spawned by the same 2 photos of me simply standing with my hands on my hips, smiling like a doof in some orange shorts and 80’s scrunched socks.
After a couple of weeks and a couple of additional comments on the photos themselves (“Have you not shame?? COVER UP!!”), the messages dropped off and I assumed everyone had come to their senses and decided to go back to worrying about their own walk with the Lord. Then I posted some photos of me in a Halloween costume and all hell broke loose.
The costume in question was a ringmaster, and my friend had dressed as a clown. It consisted of a top hat, tutu, black vest, goofy wig, some knee socks, and of course those clunky white shoes. Yes, my belly was exposed. Yes, there was some cleavage visibility…but nothing, honestly, ANY worse than I’ve seen some of these women’s’ own daughters wear out for Halloween (if they only knew), and CERTAINLY not as scandalous as costumes of my more laid back peers.
The messages took a very venomous turn, intensifying both in frequency and brutality of content. First there was a message from a family “friend” telling me how, basically, disappointed my dead father would be in me followed by one from a family member telling me she was removing me from her Facebook, as the pictures were “particularly vile” and she found them “violating to [her].” She ended the message with a “my heart aches for you” and promptly removed me. I believe this had less to do with offended sensibilities and more to do with being embarrassed to share a last name with the latest scandal.
So, in case you haven’t been following: I’ve now been admonished, chastened and, finally, shunned for what essentially boils down to a few people not liking some costumes. The recurrent theme in the messages was: “You’re sinning. You’re shameful. God is pissed, and it’s by his authority I’m calling you out.”
I went on to be promoted to that company’s corporate office in Human Resources, but what continues to be 3+ year quest by above-mentioned parties to dishearten, discredit and ultimately shame me in the name of God and being a “good Christian” had already begun. No matter what I do, who I’m with, or what I post, they seem to always be right there to cast stones, either online or through the grapevine. I often wonder if they truly are trying to lead me “back to Christ.” But deep down I know that, more realistically, it’s meanness masquerading as piety.
What makes this so droll is how some of these women have personal lives in total upheaval, questionable reputations, privately unscrupulous moral character and (gasp!) “worldly” daughters of their own. Flaws that they know many people are intimately aware of. How fascinating an experiment it might be if others (hell, even their own church peers!) were to start chastising their behavior in such a public forum, all in the name of Christian love.
“Iron sharpens iron”, right?
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After being baptized Roman Catholic and growing up with a Spiritualist mother, Betty Crux spent 10 years in the world of “evangelical/born-again” Christianity. Several years removed, Betty uses writing as tool, both therapeutic and informational, to sort through the experiences as well as call into question the potential long-term effects of such a belief system.
Currently without religious affiliation, Betty is working on compiling her experiences and observations into a book and blog. She also enjoys baking, painting, photography, tattoos and other “worldly” endeavors.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce