Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Meet Mr Smith: The Imposter

As I mentioned in the introduction post, the first part of the book is exclusively Eric’s tale. After Leslie’s short preface, he starts his section with a chapter called “Imposter Sex”. Now, I wasn’t sure if I should dedicate an entire post to this chapter because it is both very short and very rambly, but I couldn’t think of a way to incorporate it with the following chapter, so I finally decided on an individual post.

The major reason for this is because this first chapter sets the stage for the entire tale, yet is somewhat unconnected to it.

In this first chapter, Eric described the ‘process’ and ‘reason’ for writing this book:

“Just yesterday I sat down at a Starbucks in downtown Manhatten and had a very uncomfortable three-and-a-half minute conversation with Sex.” (p. 3)

As you can see, this is very much a narrative – as the entire construction of Eric’s tale is. What strikes me in this first sentence of the book is the way he manages to incorporate and enforce common stereotypes about sex with his choice of words: “very uncomfortable” and “three-and-a-half minute”. Why is this relevant to him you ask? Well, because he doesn’t express this as a stereotype about sex in general, but about imposter sex. What follows is a several pages long (fictional) story of how Eric wrote a letter to “Sex” (an actual, living person in this narrative), asking for an interview and some rambly thoughts about the word itself. I’ll spare you the details, because he really doesn’t say much. Let’s jump to the day Eric is sitting in that Starbucks, the day of the meeting:

“Although the environment wasn’t much to sex’s liking, seeing as how I had threatened to expose his impostership, he arrived, nevertheless, with two bodyguards and a haughty smirk splattered all over his face, as if he had left the lid off the blender that morning when mixing up his daily dose of self-importance.” (p. 6)

Sex doesn’t seem so nice now, does it? Note how Eric connects Sex to self-importance here: This is a very frequent image (or connection) in the purity culture. Sex, or better, having sex, is not an expression of love, emotion, physical connection – it is merely an act of glorifying the self above anything else. This focus on self-importance vs denial of the self is a central theme in all of the Ludy’s writings, and we didn’t have to read more than 10 pages to arrive at the point where Eric points out just that – the very first thing that strikes him about “imposter-sex” is self-importance.

“I was quite surprised at his appearance. Seeing as how this guy is all about glitz and glam, I’d expect a handsome, well-formed leading man sort of fellow – you know, Tom Cruise meets Russell Crowe. However, this guy was more like a smarmy Elvis impersonator. He was almost cartoonish in his form – tall and lean, but with a blubbery beer bulge up front. Although he had a rather attractive face, his hair was greasy black and he even had a set of long sideburns a la “the King”.” (p. 6)

Bet you didn’t see that one coming! So, what I get from this description is that Sex really can’t be as hot as you would think it is. I find it fascinating that a book targeting young women for the most part would work with such descriptions. I don’t know about you, but after reading this, I can’t help but imagine a guy like this in my bedroom – and it’s not a very nice image. Clearly, the major idea is building negative associations. So, how would you react if you saw a guy like that? Stay away from him? Let’s see what the people sitting at Starbucks do:

“As Sex entered, it seemed the entire room stopped and looked. You would have thought a Greek god was humbling himself and dining among mere mortals. “He’s gorgeous!” I heard a woman whisper from somewhere behind my right shoulder. “That dude is a dude!” said a male voice near the coffee pickup counter. I thought it odd that someone so unimpressive to me was receiving such accolades from these coffee trinkers.” (p.8)

Ok, so it seems Eric is the only one in there who can see Sex for what it really is – that greasy, disgusting figure. The rest of the world – or at least a large portion of it – sees this Sex guy as someone impressive, sexy, desirable. This small section has something very patronizing about it. Eric implying that he can see the Truth (something he states a few lines later), but most others don’t. Eric has the authority to speak because he can see the world for what it really is. In what follows he has a conversation with Sex, telling him that he met his “nemesis” and experienced “his work firsthand”. This makes Sex very angry, and he leaves, telling Eric that he will never go away.

“Sex. Strangely, these three letters weren’t always smarmy, conniving, and falsely debonair. I know this may be difficult to believe, but Sex wasn’t originally coupled with strip clubs, nudie magazines, adulterous antics, and sipping rum punch in a penthouse apartment near Hollywood and Vine. In fact, there was a time when Sex was a clean-shaven gentleman, mature, dignified, bearing roses, and speaking in poetic rhymes with a hint of a British accent. There was a time when Sex worked humbly and selflessly to bring about something good, pleasurable, fun, noble, and pleasing to God.” (p. 11)

Alright, where do I start? I hate to say this, but I have a feeling that Eric hasn’t really read the bible. When was that supposed age where Sex still was the way Eric describes here? In genesis, with Noah? With Tamar? With Sodom and Gomorrah? Or maybe after Jesus died, and Christianity started to form? We have plenty historical proof that this is not true. Prostitution is one of the eldest businesses on earth. “Strip clubs” have always existed in some form.

Also note that “real sex” speaks “poetic rhymes”. I find this interesting in the light of the warrior-poet-construct. There’s another similar line, right after Eric explaining that he knows true sex because he has experienced his work:

“He doesn’t have an Elvis-like flop of hair and long side-burns, he doesn’t have a jiggling bulge around his middle, and he doesn’t swivel his hips – I’d say he’s more William Wallace meet Lord Alfred Tennyson, with a dash of Jimmy Stewart and a dripping dollop of Sidney Poitier.” (p. 12)

What’d I tell you? This is an even clearer rendition of the warrior-poet image, clearly linked to good sex (also note the twisted Braveheart-reference!). As I mentioned in the introduction post, Eric has a very specific image of what this warrior-poet is and uses the term consistently. I will go into details in another post, but I just want to point out very clearly how important he feels this image is in connection to good sex.

After some more rambling about the word sex, Eric concludes this little chapter:

“Imposter Sex thrives off ignorance. But he shrivels up and fades away when we expose him for what he really is – a shameless wannabe.” (p. 14)

So, what can I say to conclude this chapter? Honestly, I find it very difficult to sum up anything other than Eric obviously believing he knows the truth, and that “imposter sex” is gross while “real sex” is super-awesome, warrior-poet style. As I mentioned earlier, this chapter is more an introduction than anything else, but since it stands quite isolated and really doesn’t contain anything, I had to post this separately. What I can promise you is that in what follows, we will finally find out more about that warrior-poet-sex guy, and it’s going to be good. Next up: Selfishness! That’s always a good one.


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Meet Mr Smith: Introduction/Preface

Ludy, Leslie & Eric (2007). Meet Mr Smith. Revolutionize the way you think about sex, purity, and romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Available e.g. via amazon, around $13. I purchased my book with my own money some years ago. I am not being payed to review. I have no affiliations with the authors, editors or companies. All opinions and views are my own.

For the sake of completeness, here the text on the back:

Meet Mr. Smith offers a radical alternative to the over-romanced, casual-sex lifestyle popular in today’s world.  Reawakening the ancient ideas of sacred sex, purity, and holy love, relationship experts Eric and Leslie Ludy introduce a new language and framework for our sex-in-the-city culture. Meet Mr. Smith exposes and tackles hot topics like:

  • What does God think about pre-marital sex?
  • What about oral sex and self sex?
  • Why would God give me a sex drive if He didn’t plan on me using it?
  • How far is too far?

Meet Mr. Smith is a funny, fresh, romantic conversation about the true nature of love and sex. So go ahead. Open the pages of this book and prepare to meet the companion of your dreams. You’re about to enjoy an encounter that could transform your relationships – and life.

The book is written by both Eric and Leslie, however it is structured into two major sections: The first is Eric’s tale – this is simply called “Eric” in the book, but since it is a very particular writing style (it is more a narrative than anything else), and because referring to it as “Eric” is confusing, I chose to call this first section Eric’s tale from here on out. Eric’s tale makes up a large portion of the book. Leslie’s section follows Eric’s tale, and consist largely of a question and answer section. About half of Leslie’s section consist of appendices without authorial reference to either Eric or Leslie. I chose to include them in Leslie’s section for two reasons: The structure of the contents page indicates somewhat that this section was written by Leslie, and the topics of the appendices are very clearly aimed at a female readership – this is characteristic of Leslie, not Eric.

The book starts out with a short preface written by Leslie. She shortly describes her hesitation about writing (and co-authoring) this book in the first place. Luckily, Eric convinced her to write this book in the end. Finally, she reassures us that the following section (Eric’s tale) is a true story – with minor tweaks for dramatic effect. I know you can’t see right now why she would say that, and why it’s supposed to be funny, but once we are through the first chapter of Eric’s tale, you will understand this reference. So, after this short technical instruction on the book, let’s get started!

 


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The Ludys: An introduction

Can I get a B-U-S-Y to describe my summer? Phew. I’ve been feeling inspired for a long time but I simply could not find enough time to actually write a full post. Today’s the day! So let’s get started.

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I know most of my readers follow a large number of similar blogs (I follow the same ones!). Now, a ‘trend’ on these other blogs is (and has been for months and months) a focus on certain teachers from the P/QF movements, often closely linked to book reviews and the likes. One blog may be very strongly involved in the Godhard-side of things, another may be more focused on Vision forum. I really really enjoy reading these condensed views, reviews and collections. I personally never felt compelled to focus on any specific leader in my writings, simply because I don’t know that much about them (e.g. their personal histories, affiliations etc.). Another factor is that I never got deep into reading their materials, so I can’t really speak in such a knowledgable way about Godhard & co. What I’m trying to say is that I always thought that I never followed a specific leader religiously in my past life, and that means to me that I should not be spreading pseudo-knowledge when there are so many good (and knowledgable) resources.

Recently, however, I have noticed that I did follow a specific group religiously. I did soak up materials like a sponge. I did listen to sermons and talks and all that, took notes, marked their books, etc. And that group is – Eric and Leslie Ludy. Funny I never noticed how obsessed I used to be (and still am, avid reader of Leslie’s magazine here!). Additionally, I find that the Ludys take very much a backseat in the discussion of hurtful theologies and ideologies. Seriously, it’s very hard to find a critique of the Ludys on the webs. Why is that? Here are some thoughts:

As opposed to many other leaders in the evangelical community, the Ludys are a couple. Now, obviously Mr Phillips is also married, but his wife never played a major role in his projects. When she did appear, she very much seemed in the role of a supporter. Godhard was never married, so there’s that.

Finally, we got the Pearls. Now, the Pearls are also a couple, but the constellation is very different from the Eric-Leslie Ludy constellation. The Pearls enforce the exact same values and ideas, the only difference being that Debbie’s books are labelled “For women” whereas Michael’s books are labelled “For men”. At the end of the day, they talk about the exact same stuff, the exact same ideas. Michael and Debbie Pearl are not so much a couple as they are the same person (at least concerning the books they produced) in male and female respectively. This is a huge difference to the Ludys, and I think it is this difference that sets the Ludys apart from the majority of ideological leaders in the evangelical world.

Eric and Leslie Ludy populate vastly different spheres. Their books are very different: Their styles of writing differ greatly, so it’s actually possible to guess very easily who of the two wrote a text (as opposed to Debbie and Michael, you would probably not be able to tell who wrote a piece of text in a blind test). Most importantly, however, their topics differ greatly. Leslie Ludy has a strong focus on clothing, style, make up, family life, children, housekeeping and all things “feminine” (eg. gossip, texting, Internet, etc). Eric Ludy, on the other hand, has not published as many books as his wife to begin with (possibly due to the fact that Leslie’s books have a different target audience which happens to simply consume more books of this sort), and those that he did publish are on topics such as missioning, theology, religion in daily life, etc.

I think this short list gives you a pretty good idea that there is very little chance of the two getting in each other’s way, meaning, they will never repeat what the other one has stated before because they do not intrude each other’s spheres. This also means that the Ludys come across not only as very complementarian (“perfect match” anyone?), it also gives them a quality of respecting each other and each other’s roles in life without reflecting a pattern of “submission” of the wife. In fact, Eric never talks about submission at all – that is entirely Leslie’s job (though she does not like to use the term “submission” at all; Leslie has developed a whole array of terms to cover for it). That may make Eric look like the perfect husband, but whether this reflects his actually state of mind or if this is simply a relatively smart way to solve the problem of a man telling a woman about her place in life is a completely different story.

The very few hints Eric’s writings and sermons give us is his usage of terms like the anecdotal “warrior-poet” (I’m serious, direct quote). This is something I will go into in more detail in a follow-up post, for short a warrior-poet is a man like King David: A brave warrior as well as the shepard who write poems and plays on the flute. Now, warrior-poets are leaders by definition, and, because they are not just brave but also incredibly romantic (the poet part), women are to trust the warrior poets to lead the relationship. I think this very short description gives a good glimpse into the idea of “letting a man lead”. The whole point of this is, though, that the idea represented by the Ludyesque warrior-poet differs in no way from the man in the good old purity/courtship culture. Not one bit.

Eric Ludy hardly ever talks about relationships outside of this warrior-poet-symbolism, and that is, in my opinion, what distinguishes the Ludys from everybody else and ultimately makes them seem extremely liberal while extremely complementarian – this sounds like a contradiction in itself, but it is not, as I hope to show a bit clearer in the next few posts.

Now, Leslie, as opposed to Eric, is very much into the strong representation of female qualities in her writings. Leslie has published a number of books on beauty, style, love, relationships and the like. In her writings, Leslie often takes a very critical approach towards women who fall out of the line of what she deems “godly behavior”. In fact, without ever stating this specifically, she often implies that a woman truly saved will look just the way she expects you to. Everyone who does not meet this ideal of the perfectly made up and styled woman fails to do so because they lack faith. In a sense, Leslie differs very little from other leaders in this field, except for the lack of involvement of her husband in these issues. This lack gives her an authority on these issues that is unmet in the evangelical circles: She speaks truth without her husband being involved in this at all. She speaks truth because she herself does not need her husband’s input on it. This makes her believable and uniquely authentic. She undermines this seemingly god-given perfection of the feminine sphere of Christianity with her magazine “Set Apart Girl” (available for free online, just google set apart girl), in which she uses beautiful layout, beautiful photos and beautifully arranged texts. You may say I’m overinterpreting here, but as a matter of fact, Leslie manages to publish and honestly beautiful magazine, while looking beautiful herself, sitting in her beautiful house, with her perfectly clean kids (rosy cheeks and all) – this is what attracts the young female reader. Leslie turns into the perfect role model because she has it together (or so it seems), because her husband is so immensely proud to have a perfect wife (and he didn’t even have to publish a book on how to be a perfect wife because his wife already is perfect).

These things are exactly what drew me towards the Ludys (and still does), so bear with me while I go into more detail on a number of the things I mentioned (and some others). I think it’s going to be interesting, and I also think it’s going to be a nice addition to the rest of the “evangelical leader” publishing field.

By the way, since book reviews are so popular, I went through the small stack of christian living books I still own (They are all Ludy books). I came across “Meet Mr Smith”, which is a book on sexual and emotional purity in relationships, written by Eric and Leslie together. I thought I’d offer this up for a review because it’s one of the least-known Ludy books and it’s actually a very interesting read. Thoughts?


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Men are visual, women are not – A Confession

Dear men who think that they are ‘more visual’ than women, dear women who believe that,

I am a mid-twenties woman. I am a physically healthy and normally developed adult. Apart from the occasional quirk, I am also mentally healthy. Though I grew up somewhat exotic, I have adapted to ‘normal’ life in most ways. I dress the way you do, I watch the same stuff on TV, I eat the same things, I go the same places, and so on. There is no reason to believe that I am in any way abnormal. So, let me assure you that the confession you are about to read is not the result of a mental issue or any other developmental problem.

The belief that men are more visual than women is annoying to me. This belief is often attributed to purity culture, but really, it’s no different in the secular culture – it is the ultimate excuse why men watch (supposedly) more porn than women do.

My problem with this is: It’s not true. The actual problem is this: Women can’t admit that they are visual because that makes them sluts. So let me rename this “confession of a slut”.

When I see a man, dressed and all, I do not look at his impressive jaw or deep grey eyes or strong hands.

I look at your muscles, and your hips, and your nose (guess why). And if I can’t see them cause you’re wearing some fancy t-shirt, let me assure you: I can perfectly well imagine you naked. And even worse: I do it. all. the. time.

When I look at a man, I don’t stare at his eyes because they reflect some promise of love and tenderness. I look at your chest and imagine what it would look like in dim light. I wonder if you have a “V” and then I wonder if it would look good on you (it doesn’t on everyone).

When I look at your hands, I don’t see protection and strength. I wonder what they would look like with my hair between your fingers, and what they would feel like on my legs.

And when I look at your lower section… well, let’s say that I’m not dreaming of being the woman who will do your laundry some day. Believe me, I don’t.

I have all the imagination I need to picture you naked, even when you’re fully dressed. You cannot escape it, no matter how you behave or what you wear or say or do. I do not care about your positive character qualities. Not one – tiny – little – bit.

And it’s also irrelevant if I like you, or if I want something more. If you’re attractive, I’m going to be imagining you. Even if you didn’t even say hi. Even if I’ll never see you again. And yes, also if I do like you and want to see you again more than anything else.

If you want to know why I do that, I have to admit: Because it’s fun. Because I like thinking ‘dirty’ things. Because I enjoy the fantasy. Because it’s part of human nature to desire something new, exciting, beautiful.

And when you people say that men are more visual and women simply don’t act that way, I’m insulted. I am hurt. I hate hearing it because it robs me of my very own normal, natural and healthy sexuality. You take this away from me because I’m a woman and I’m not ‘wired that way’. You make me a freak and an abnormal beast that must have gotten too much testosterone at some point.

And then there are those who will say I act this way to attract men, because I subconsciously know that all men will consider me a ‘kinky freak‘ and a nympho. Believe me, I don’t. And it also doesn’t mean that my ‘No’ means less of a ‘No’.

I am perfectly able to say No and Yes and mean it. I am perfectly able to deal with my sexuality. I don’t have to put on a show because it makes me sexy, and I’m also not crazy or gross or a freak.

I am a normal, healthy mid-twenties woman and when I see a man, I imagine what he would look like naked. Because if nothing else, that is how I am ‘wired’.

 


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Do we need feminism?

Libby Anne recently posted a short story on her blog. Long story short, she describes the way she felt when she met a man who was wearing a T-shirt with a pretty stupid and insulting anti-women message on it. When I scrolled down to the comment section, I was shocked. To echo a general idea of some of the comments “feminism has reached the goal of equality long ago – now feminism is all about pushing men into submission”. Yeah. Right.

The #aufschrei (=’crying out’) hashtag on twitter has addressed the very same issue in Germany about a year ago. Thousands on women have shared experiences with this hashtag, and many of these messages were met with disbelief by the public. “Is this really, really, true?”

Let me share some messages from the #aufschrei campaign (translated by me, taken from http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2014-01/sexismus-debatte-folgen and http://www.onlinejournalismus.de/2013/01/25/aufschrei-sexismus-debatte-bei-twitter/).

“That stranger who kissed me on the shoulder for no reason”

“The coworkers who I overheard whispering to each other ‘They are going to hire two women, what do you think about that?'”

“The math teacher who told me I didn’t need to understand something, I’d be a mom anyway”

“Sitting on the subway, hearing two guys discuss my body and what they’d like to do with me”

“The guy on the bus/train/XY public space who grabbed my butt” (multiple tweets)

“When coworkers play an explicitly sexual song and ask me if I like the music”

“The man who hired bigger women because they are less likely to get pregnant”

This is just a small selection. This is normal. This is daily life for women. This is not “freedom of speech”. When your coworkers play a song that describes sexual scenes in detail and ask you if you like that ‘song’, that is not normal behavior, or acceptable, and has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It targets women and pushes them into a position were they cannot be anything else but victims of further harassment. (IE. if you answer “yes”, you are a slut and you’re “up for grabs”, if your answer is “no” you’re an uptight, prudish feminist).

Feminism is also about equal pay, equal chances, and yes, improvements have been huge. But at the end of the day, we still have to deal with comments like this every single day. If you think feminists are trying to push men to the margins of society, read the tweets above again and seriously ask yourself if that is ‘normal’ behavior. Ask yourself how you would feel if your daughter was in that place if you have to. And if your answer is “my daughter wouldn’t dress/act/go places/hang out with people/etc like that, so she would never be in that situation”, well then… think again and pray that you will never have a daughter.

I also want to share this very recent (and very short) German commercial (it is brazilian-themed due to the football world cup in brazil coming up in a few weeks). The company advertising here sells HiFi, Tvs, cameras, computers, etc and is, to my knowledge, the biggest company of this sort in Germany. Here’s a word for word translation:

“Guys! Didn’t you want to marinate the chick(en)s?” (small note: in German, the same word can be used for ‘chick’ and ‘chicken’)

Now, knowing that, take a look at this commercial:

Now tell me, don’t you feel appreciated in your femininity? No? Weird. Me either.

Finally, I don’t know if this has been shared before, but I want to share it. This video pretty much sums up a bunch of very important reason why feminism is still important:

 


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Good (enough?)

I’m having one of those days. I’m supposed to study (catch up on some readings) and I just.can’t.get.myself to do it. I’m constantly staring at the wall, the air, check something in my room (did I put the pants away?), walk to the kitchen, open the fridge, stare at the fridge, close the fridge. I just can’t work today, but I really should. Readings are due tomorrow.

These are the times I can’t help but wonder what on earth made me believe that I’m good enough for this. My own behavior frustrates me so much. I can’t concentrate, I can’t read. I wish I knew a way out but I don’t.

Often times I believe that my obsession with “being good enough” has a lot to do with my religious past. Growing up, being a certain way was a central element. They always say christianity isn’t about being ‘good enough’ or ‘doing good things’ to get to go to heaven, but at the end of the day it is. It’s about behaving a certain way, wearing certain things, saying and thinking them. The constant pressure to be good enough, even if only for your parents, if not for God, is something that never quite leaves you.

I wish I could be better. I wish I could study harder, memorize more, know more. When I don’t, I blame myself. It’s because I didn’t try hard enough, it’s because I wasn’t good enough. But God – or teachers – don’t tell us to do things that can’t be done, right? If I fail, it must be something about me that isn’t ok.

And what does failing mean, anyway? What standard do you have to meet to ‘succeed’? Perfection? In our world, perfection is the only valuable standard. Everything but perfection is failure. No matter the reasons – you should’ve thought ahead and avoided the things out of your control, somehow.

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