There is a video meme of the actress Jamie Lee Curtis describing what theHalloweenThe film franchise talks about: ‘trauma’, ‘rage and trauma’, ‘female trauma’, ‘family trauma’, ‘generational trauma’, it says over and over again in a series of mixed clips. Despite its severity, “trauma” has become a buzzword.
Jeanna Kadlec’s first book, “Hereticis a memoir about leaving the evangelical church and coming out queer. For Kadlec and many Americans, shaking off the bonds of this institution — especially the born-again variety — is undoubtedly traumatic. But I had never read the term “religious trauma” before opening this book. Kadlec describes it as “something a lot of people in this country walk around with, not having a label for it.”
How many families, lives, relationships have been destroyed by clinging to or stepping into gospel faith? “Heretic” intends to capture not only Kadlec’s experience, but also the insidious ways in which our country is entangled in a fundamentalist belief system. Therefore, inevitably, its history is intertwined with the history of the church. This puts “Heretic” in league with another mixed memoir, Carmen Maria Machado“In the Dream House,” which chronicles an emotionally abusive relationship through literary tropes.
Kadlec has a PhD and it shows, with plenty of footnotes and quotes, but she’s also a friendly storyteller, sharing revelations in a close friend’s tone, so the points of her argument seem to emerge. organically alongside research. Anecdotes do not make data, but the two happily coexist here. Kadlec’s story is so relevant that we begin to see the ties that unite us to evangelical philosophy even if we are not members of this church.
Take the basic idea of the American dream: work hard, pray and God will provide. “But my parents didn’t teach us about financial literacy, how to do our taxes, how to save or invest,” Kadlec writes, quoting the writer Lauren Berlantthe concept of “cruel optimism”. “There was a lot of talk at the dinner table about how America was the greatest country in the world.” And yet, “we were still living paycheck to paycheck.”
This disjunction with reality can border on contempt for it. For example, thinking of abortion in case of rape, she writes that for evangelicals “there is no such thing as rape. If the obedient faithful perfectly respect the law of abstinence until marriage, there is no adultery, no rape, no sexual abuse of adults or minors.
Kadlec is forced to marry her college boyfriend so they can have sex. When he makes his marriage proposal in a bookstore, his first instinct is to step back. The wedding night is horrifying for reasons that surprise her: “It was clear that something was wrong with me. It wasn’t that it hurt; it’s that I didn’t feel much. It is clear to Kadlec that her husband awaits her submission through sex. Although she offers to help him apply for graduate school (she had been accepted into a doctoral program and he hadn’t), he tells her that he would rather have the help of his “male friends “, who know nothing about graduate school admissions.
Kadlec realizes that she must leave the marriage if she is to survive. She falls in love with a woman. “Strangely, I don’t feel any guilt for kissing a woman; maybe it’s because my guilt for cheating on my husband is too overwhelming. Or more likely, as she first writes, “maybe it’s because it feels good.”
Kadlec Departure Location Machado is that its cultural sidebars – including on She-Ra and Dungeons & Dragons – are less engaging for the reader. She is strongest as an academic, writing from not just personal but academic experience; she knows the Christian texts well. In a Bible study class, she asks her classmates to turn to Ephesians 5. “We don’t have to submit,” she tells them. “Marriage can be a partnership of equals. It looked like a bomb had gone off. … Male leadership is the will of God, they repeated. Smart women.
She notes that when Jesus rises from the tomb, he chooses to appear first to three women, not to his male disciples; that Paul encouraged women, children, and slaves to join the family of their choice, overturning “the Roman household order affirmed by law”. Regarding sex outside marriage, “there are verses that condemn ‘sexual immorality,’ which is rarely defined but is seen by theologians and biblical scholars as a warning against ritual sex with prostitutes. sacred”.
These scriptural deep cuts are fascinating. Although Kadlec writes that she has no interest in returning to the Christian faith, one wonders if there are perhaps other more extensive readings still available for her.
Heretics were burned at the stake for such blasphemy. But Kadlec reminds us that the evangelical faith gave him a passion for reading and analysis. The idea that Jesus preached against the patriarchal order of the day is usually presented as a feminist revision of history. Following in the footsteps of scholars such as Elaine Pagel, what Kadlec suggests is something more exciting – not a revision but a restoration of the Christian faith. Is Kadlec a heretic? Or is she the true believer?
Ferri’s most recent book is “Silent Cities: New York.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.