So much thanks to Chuck and Brady of The Life After podcast for the opportunity to do this interview. We talked about sex from every angle, laughed a lot, and discussed elements of my memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid, that I don’t often have the chance to delve into. Click the link below to listen.
Amethyst Joy is one of my favorite Instagram follows. She has a way of revealing how wound sources show up in parenting. Her words are deep and soft and true; a reminder that we can do better. And she does it without twisting the knife.
Even though my kids are grown, her poetry resonates. I think she writes poetry, anyway. Sounds like poetry to me.
This is my current favorite:
Ohio State Representative Candice Keller (Republican anti-abortion zealot) has included language in House Bill 413 that must be deleted. I understand she wants to get rid of abortion completely. She is entitled to her opinion about abortion, but she is not free to make shit up and call it science.
Because I have personal experience with the life-threatening reality of an ectopic pregnancy (its in the book), I feel compelled to address this situation, if by compelled you mean LIVID AND RAGING. I wrote the following letter to Gov. DeWine and to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of this dangerous, ludicrous bill. (You can, too, by following the handy links in the last sentence.) You can use my letter, too.
Nov. 29, 2019
Dear Gov. DeWine,
I am writing to you with grave concerns regarding HB 413. While I am opposed to much of this bill, the following stands out me as especially dangerous and ignorant:
(C) Takes all possible steps to preserve the life of the unborn child, while preserving the life of the woman. Such steps include, if applicable, attempting to re-implant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.
.As an ectopic pregnancy survivor, I can share from firsthand experience what an incredibly frightening and painful experience it is. My ectopic pregnancy happened many years ago. At the time I had no health insurance, no access to, or knowledge, of birth control, and, compounding these issues, no comprehensive sex education. I had never even heard of fallopian tubes. Several days after a negative pregnancy test, the pain began. A bad sexual experience turned into a life threatening situation. My fallopian tube ruptured and I hemorrhaged. I ended up in emergency surgery, very, very lucky to be alive. Needless to say no blastocyst remained to “re-implant.”
I believe HB 413 spreads dangerous misinformation and exists only to harass, demean, and threaten doctors and women. No medical procedure exists to re-implant the remains of an ectopic pregnancy, whether the fallopian tube ruptures or not, because it is an impossibility. This mandate is pure science fiction; an reprehensible, outlandish, indefensible grasp at a non-existent correlation between abortion and ectopic pregnancy. Because outspoken members of the medical community have not hesitated to educate you, I know that you already know this.
So the question remains, why?
Will you remain unsatisfied until every woman in Ohio is married, celibate, or dead?
See the explosion on the picture there, the rupturing fallopian tube on the right? THAT SHIT HURTS.
My current favorite thing in the world to read is The Weekly Zephyr. Tina Rowley puts together poetry and art (and sometimes music and other stuff) in ways that blow my mind and make me stop, want to stop, to soak it in and read it at least twice. I don’t know how she does it, but she is deep and thoughtful and easy at the same time. I tried to pick out a single quote to share here but I couldn’t choose. Give The Zephyr a try…
Cami Ostman is my hero, plain and simple. I signed up for Cami’s writing program, The Narrative Project, when I realized I was never going to finish my memoir without some help. A lot of help. She was my writing coach (English teacher, professional nudger, unofficial therapist, friend) for a year and a half and I am still realizing how much I learned from her and the process TNP offers.
We got together the other day on a Zoom call with some of her current clients to chat about my book, publishing process, and what’s next. My audio gave out toward the end but we got most of the call.
Here it is: Interview
Everything I have been thinking about lately is contained int his dynamic mind-blowing conversation: the institution of church as a tool of patriarchy, how white women and women of color can create sisterhood and work together against institutionalized sexism. How feminism can embrace faith. How to recognize privilege without debasing yourself. How do we feel love when we are all just so mad. How to talk to each other about this stuff.
Fortunately, we have Brené Brown to articulate and lead. If you have an hour to spare, this conversation can only make your day better. If you don’t, jump to 18:45 and listen for a few minutes.
*picture taken from TNQ.com. Used without permission-hopefully they won’t mind.
Thomas Fudge’s book, Heretics and Politics: Theology, Power, and Perception in the Last Days of CBC, was the inspiration for The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid. I doubt I ever would have had the impetus to publish if he had not gone first. They are very different books, of course, but Dr. Fudge’s review brought me to tears of gratitude. Read it on Goodreads or…
The most uncomfortable aspects of Ronna Russell’s book are threefold: It hits so close to home for so many who have experienced near-fatal suffocation by religious power brokers; it involves men and women of considerable reputation and their dirty laundry (usually kept secret); and it reveals truths too seldom named. This is a memoir of fear but also of faith and the development of a life that began as most do in innocence followed by a terrible journey from hell to hope. I am reminded of something Viktor Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Put simply, we often cannot help what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond to it. Ronna’s response has been astonishingly brave and she encapsulates the best virtues of Frankl’s core philosophy that saved his life. The United Pentecostal Church is no better or worse than any number of other religious groups ranging from the Catholic Church to the Latter Day Saints. Claims about absolute truth, divine power in one’s life, and assertions about eternal guarantees are generally weighed in the balances and found wanting. Ronna Russell found most of her religious upbringing pious hogwash. So many of the values abortively inculcated in her were not even remotely Christian. Borrowing from Frankl again, Ronna has chosen her own attitude and her own way and in so doing has saved her own life from terminal misery.
The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid pulls no punches, takes no hostages, is intentionally iconoclastic, but speaks from the heart. It is a brutally honest narrative that will shock, provoke, anger, and inspire. The half dozen pages about explicit sex and the occasional F-bomb throughout the narrative will offend some. Get over it. That’s life. Don’t miss the core of the story. Using frail excuses to avoid reading suggests other serious issues including refusal to hear the truth about our idols. The book talks about sex in the back seat of a car and uses four-letter words… So?! UPC ministers have engaged in both before and after bellowing pulpit-pounding sermons about truth revealing that behind every legalist there is lawlessness. Touch not mine anointed, they thunder! Get serious!! This is not gloating about fallen human nature but exposing egregious hypocrisy. Ronna is a woman who spent years enduring terrible experiences as a girl lost in a spiraling search for meaning amid isolation, numbing loneliness and appalling neglect, to say nothing of insipid theology and spiritual abuse, both of which deny Christ. It is a wonder she did not become an alcoholic, drug addict, suicide, or wind up in a mental hospital. Initially I thought she deserved a medal for survival but upon reflection (reading the book a second time aloud to a friend who identified in so many ways) I reconsidered and decided that Ronna deserved all the love and acceptance she could handle for the next 40 years and that she, at long last, be recognized in her full humanity, finally free to be with the hope of becoming everything she can be. Happily for her, she did not need any holy-rolling, One-God, apostolic, tongue-talking, Holy Ghost-sanctified, water-baptized-in-Jesus-name-Pentecostals, or infantile rules about her hair and sartorial tastes to find wholeness. Thank God for travelling mercies. As St. Teresa of Avila noted almost 500 years ago: “from silly prayers and sour-faced Christians, deliver us, O Lord.” Those who knew Ronna in her early religious life need to read this book. I was among her father’s last students. He was a man I learned much good from. I still think of him as a significant and positive influence. That said, he failed his daughter (and others besides) and was, unhappily, another hero with feet of clay who, having preached to others, suffered shipwreck. These Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid suggests Ronna is a better woman than her Dad was as a man.
The book caused me to reflect on how many others have walked similar pathways within the shadows of the UPC, how many have escaped terminal spiritual bondage (some by the skin of their teeth), how many have been saved (so as by fire), and (sadly) how many have been lost? Writing this book required great courage in overcoming massive adversity in order to put pen to paper, finding the strength to write the story of her life, recounting her journey from tragedy to triumph, and finding love, the strongest force in the universe. The whispers of hope from Sacré-Coeur remind us all there is a place called home. I imagine this book will help others find strength, courage and determination they never knew possible. Uncomfortable? Yes! But so what? It’s how we learn, it’s how we grow, it’s how we move from falsehood to authenticity. Ronna Russell is a wonderful example of that.
Thomas A. Fudge