Do you know you’re a bitch?

During the summer of 1992, when my boyfriend (the one I later married, had two children with, and then divorced) and I had our annual I-hate-you-we’re-breaking-up-forever fight, I started going to a Bible study. I had a very rough relationship with faith in my late teens and early twenties. I grew up in an Evangelical Protestant church and while I believed in God, I struggled with the dogma in that religion, but I couldn’t walk away from it. I wanted faith, but I didn’t know where to find people who wouldn’t hit me in the head with a Bible.

So I dabbled here and there, and I went to a Bible study for young adults that was hosted by a large, non-denominational church, and it seemed OK and I got a little bit comfortable, and as so often happens in these circumstances, someone brought up the topic of abortion, and someone said that women should practice self-control, and someone said it’s baby murder, and you know how it goes. Even if you were never at a Bible study with a group of people between the ages of 18 and 25 who think they know everything and believe they have an ancient, divinely-inspired text that backs them up, you know how it goes, and everyone was oh-so-right and oh-so-indignantly-angry at the loose women with their unwanted fetuses and I didn’t get up and go to my little silver Toyota and drive home like I should have done.

When there was a pause in the self-righteousness, I said, “It’s not so simple.”

Every head swiveled on its stalk of neck, every pair of eyes stared at me, slow up, slow down (Is she a slut? How did we not notice?), and then a female voice rose, a voice trained for a lifetime for exactly this moment, “It is simple. It’s a baby. You can’t kill a baby.”

“I don’t agree,” I said, wading in a little further, still not turning the key on the door of the Toyota, still not entering that safe womb of stale cigarette smoke and discarded diet Coke cans. “Women have abortions for complex reasons, and you can’t just let them die from unsafe abortions. It’s not like…”

The female voice again, this time louder, shouting me down, and joined by others, “Legal abortion just makes murder easy for women!”

More voices, a confusion of anger, and I found my way to my legs, my left hand wrapped around the handle of my purse, and I worked toward the door. Amid the choruses of, “We’ll pray for you!” and “Read Jeremiah 1:5!” and “You’re no Christian!” I heard that female voice above the others.

She asked, “Do you know you’re a bitch?”

I didn’t answer her, not even a raised middle-finger as I finally managed to slip through the door, partly because I couldn’t wait to enter the warm dark of my car, and partly because I was stunned to hear the word bitch in that context. If ever there were people who wouldn’t say shit if they had a mouthful, it was the Evangelical Protestants of my youth. Maybe these were a different breed, or maybe I was a spectacularly terrible specimen of sin: the abortion apologist in the Bible study. Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting question.

On every topic, someone, somewhere, is bound to believe that I have taken the bitch stance. I have taken the part of the bitches. I am a bitch.

Misogynist implications of the word bitch aside, I can live with it because worse would be if someone could describe me as milquetoast, boring, or (shudder) sweet. I care about things. I stand for something. I hope I am open to learning, to hearing new perspectives, and to engaging in civil debate.

I don’t ever want to be a person who knows what’s right. I want to be a person who wrestles with the truth. I hold rightness loosely, prepared for new information and new experiences that might shift my understanding.

The Bible is the ancient holy book of my tradition. It’s not a simple book of history and rules. It isn’t dead words on a page. It is a living book, an ongoing story, and as a believer, who am I to limit such a book? As God said to Job, “Who do you think you are, puny human? I set the universe spinning, and you want to tell me what’s what? Pfffffft.”

Rightness is tempting. A good/bad, either/or universe is easier to live in than one that requires careful thought, big mistakes, and the uneasy state of I don’t know. I’m sure it feels great, being in with the in-crowd, knowing all the right answers, and being so very very right about all the things. Imagine the scene in that Bible study after I left: they probably joined hands and spoke prayers out for awhile, in the Christian key of just, as in, “Lord, just protect Adrienne, and Lord, we just ask that you guide her and show her the error of her ways. Father, we just ask that you help us to love her in spite of her sin.” Then, perhaps a few praise hymns to get the world back into its straight lines: bad is bad, right is right, the ground below and heavens above.

What didn’t happen is, none of us listened. None of us learned. We didn’t struggle or connect. How sad, to lose such an opportunity. How much sadder, that we are missing those opportunities everyday.

Sadder still, many Christians seem to have missed the central message of our holy book: Love. Love God, love people, be loved. When love gets hard, love more. When love feels impossible, keep loving. When love is tiring, God will give you more energy for love. Love until someone hates you for it, and then keep loving.

Love on, bitches.

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Do you know you’re a bitch?

14 thoughts on “Do you know you’re a bitch?

  1. I grew up in my “evangelical” churches. I prefer to call them holy roller churches and OH the stories I could tell. As a result, I stay far away from organized religion, have traveled my own spiritual path, and finally feel enlightened all on my own.

    The thing that strikes me about bible thumpers is their ability to pick and choose verses from the bible and interpret them to suit themselves. Kind of like Joseph Smith deciding all of the sudden that God wanted him to have more than one wife.

    To most of these people, I fight scripture with scripture, “Judge not lest ye be judged” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    1. Yeah, exactly. We feel deeply blessed to have found a faith community that is open and that never insists it knows the truth. We work out our faith together. If we had not found a group like that, we’d be home-churching. It’s kind of like being single is better than a bad marriage. No church is infinitely better than a cruel one!

  2. As a non-religious woman who survived Catholic Ireland and still loves the place, I can relate, oh yes. The number of times I have been told by some of the dearest and sweetest aunties that unfortunately I am going to burn in hell! Always with that smug little smile of superior condescension. We (women) don’t need that kind of hate from other women.

  3. We talked about this the other night. After Catholic school, where I was routinely kicked out of theology class for daring to question, and the heinous way my local Catholic church treated my special needs kids, I turned away from organized religion. I don’t feel the need to have to stand in a particular room and chant a particular chant in order to have a relationship with my God.

  4. It saddens me to see someone who calls herself “pro-life” acting in such an… anti-life way. I’m a guy (obviously), but I am an intern at Feminists for Life and a practising Christian — a clergy kid, in fact. You’re right: Abortion is complex, and to dismiss why women undergo the procedure is to avoid the problem and surround oneself in a cocoon of ignorance and self-righteousness. Anyone truly against abortion should be willing to confront the reasons why women have them. It’s the pro-life — and pro-woman — thing to do.

    Pax tecum, Adrienne.

    1. Thank you, Damian! Et cum spiritu tuo. (Did I use that right? I’m Mennonite, not Catholic, so I’m not always certain. In any case, I mean it.)

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