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Christian Girls

by Tuckster


A/N: Working title

I think of the girls with long hair braided down their backs,
studying their Bibles and highlighting holy promises,
who understand of God only the oft-quoted Bible lessons,
and nit-picked verses used to form stifling rules
by people who purport to be doing the "will of God".

Leaders quote the Psalms and promise girls God loves them
unconditionally; in a pure, special way, just as they are,
before turning around and passing out pamphlets reducing their bodies
to objects of desire, to temptation that must be covered up,
all in the name of "serving God" and "loving their Christian brothers."

I see the girls walking with heads downcast,
wearing shorts that convince them that their God-crafted thighs
are sin that must be covered,
who have been convinced that God loves them for what they do
and not who they are, that his love is contingent
on obedience to legalistic rules

Church of Christ, we must do better.


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Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:55 am
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Vil wrote a review...



Speaking from a religious rather than a poetic/writing standpoint, it's Vilnius with a review. As such, think of this as a written agreement of what you've said rather than a review.

You have described a major problem I see in many church denominations and some individual churches:

The treatment of women.

Some churches, especially Churches of Christ I've gone to, treat women as little more than objects or playthings destined to bow to the "man of the house" and worship the ground their husbands, fathers, grandfathers, etc walk on. I see this as a disgrace, not only as a Christian, but also as an American that was raised to treat everyone equally.

I currently am a member of the Church of the Nazarene, a denomination I have been a member of for six-ish years now. My first pastor in this denomination-- which seemed almost foreign compared to the churches of my youth-- was very laid back and more like the Acts 2 kind of church I had been raised to support. Everyone had power and influence in church decisions-- men, women, children, gays, lesbians, blacks, whites, etc. Every voice was heard, something that the New Testament Churches supported. Really, it was a culture shock. I'd been raised mostly by my mother, but taught to act a little differently by old white men. (Never have I seen a non-white person enter a typical Church of Christ, excluding a mega church in Arkansas).

I've been back to Churches of Christ since that culture shock and have been utterly disgusted by what I've seen. While of Nazarene pastor thought it was more welcoming to dress as he would on any other day (good blue jeans and a polo/button up), the Deacons and the Ministers would scold or mock you for not wearing a lovely dress or suit and tie.

What have these churches become? I realize I've mainly been comparing Churches of Christ to Nazarenes, but this is an inter-denominational issue. Baptsists, Methodists, and even some Nazarenes still treat women as inferior, or (at the very least) think them unable to make these major decisions dealing with the church. Why is it like this? How have we come to these times?

What happened?

...rereading all of that, I think I've accidentally vented parts of my life as a religious person. If it's too rant-y, let me know! XD

Have a nice [*insert time of day*]!!!




Tuckster says...


It's definitely a pervasive problem in the church, so I'm glad that it resonated with you! Thanks for your thoughts!



Vil says...


Of course!



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Sat Aug 01, 2020 6:20 am
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ShadowVyper wrote a review...



Heya Tuck,

It almost feels weird reviewing for you, but I have Opinions, so here we go.

I'mma start with the critiques...

who understand of God only


This flow was kinda clunky, tbh. I had to read this a few times to understand what "understand of God" was supposed to mean. The rephrase that came to my mind was something like "whose understanding of God rests only" or something would be clearer, but of course that's just one option, do with it what you will -- I just think the current wording breaks up the flow a bit by having to read this section a couple of times to understand.

wearing shorts that convince them that their God-crafted thighs
are sin that must be covered,
who have been convinced that God loves them for what they do


Not loving the repetition of the word convince here. Maybe the first instance could be changed to something like "that remind them"? I mean it's not really the shorts that are doing the convincing, it's just the product of having been convinced, you know?

and not who they are, that his love is contingent
on obedience to legalistic rules


Two things -- 1) I think "His" should be capitalized here? Ordinarily I wouldn't comment on capitalization in a poem, but you've been capitalizing "God" and other traditionally capitalized words, so seems a bit inconsistent to not have the His capitalized too. 2) The "obedience to legalistic rules" felt... idk, a bit stiff? And maybe that's what you were going for, considering it's talking about something that's stiff and impersonal. And this is fully just my own personal opinion here, but I think you could get a lot more feels out of this bit of the poem if you rephrased it a bit to make it more impactful to the reader.

Like, I can't think of exactly what words my brain is trying to come up with, but something like:

and not who they are; that His love is contingent
on following rules made by those who
will depart from Him on the judgment day.

Or something, you see what I'm getting at? Finding a way to craft this so instead of just having "obedience to legalistic rules" we have a bit more of driving home the point that not only do you not have to follow these absurd rules for God to love you, but also that God isn't the one who came up with the rules that so many fundamentalist churches try to force upon young women. Idk if I'm being clear, feel free to hit me up for a chat if this doesn't make sense.

Church of Christ, we must do better.


I'm... not loving this last line. I like the sentiment, but it is a completely different tone from the rest of the poem, and I don't think it super works here. But again, that's just my opinion, so feel free to do with it what you will.

Like, stanza one, we have a narrator observing Christian girls and vulnerability in ignorance, stanza two we have Spiritual leaders abusing their leadership, stanza three we have Christian girls shamed and discouraged. I really like that progression, and I think it works really well for the theme of this poem, but then that last line is like... idk, you go from being a removed narrator, to suddenly addressing the reader directly, and it's jarring and I feel like kind of removes the impact of your ending, rather than enhancing it.

I don't have a ton of suggestions for how to improve it. I guess my main suggestion would be that if you go to revise this poem, maybe you could add a final stanza, instead of having this exhortation? Like, instead of a "we must do better" maybe add in like a

"how my heart breaks for the girls who will never
feel the true love of the Father, or know Him for
who He truly is -- their perceptions forever warped
by the leaders,
who act more like the blind
that lead others down the path of destruction"

I'm not suggesting you copy that word for word (although feel free to take whatever might be helpful from that). But you get my meaning? Instead of having that call to arms of needing to do better, SHOW that in your poetry instead of telling us ;)

Positives!

I did really like this poem overall! I think it is a really important topic that often gets overlooked in Christian culture, and I think this is an empowering view to take with this. It's overall really well done. Obviously I have some minor complaints about some aspects of it, but as a whole I really enjoyed it!

As I mentioned above, I do really like how you shifted the focus between the stanzas and the progressions. The "I think of the girls" changing to "I see the girls" was particularly impactful, and was a really great stylistic choice here. Like, you kind of lay out a stereotypical Christian Girl when you talk about the "I think of" but then move on to the abuse by leaders of the church and "see" the girls with heads downcast, kind of drives home that dissonance between what you'd imagine and what is the sad reality in a lot of chuches.

I also liked the imagery of "are sin that must be covered" as well. It was a bit jarring to realize that a lot of well-meaning Bible lessons on modesty do often get conflated to girls thinking that their own bodies are sinful, and this was just a really great way to encapsulate that and hits right in the feels.

Overall, great job! Excellent poem!

Shady
AKA Sad Fishie




Tuckster says...


Thanks so much for your review! The clunkiness of the lines was my biggest worry , so I appreciate the time you took pointing that out and offering solutions!



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Sat Aug 01, 2020 5:43 am
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ToxicAnglerFish wrote a review...



I really love this poem! It has such a strong punch with great symbolism that's easy to understand yet is deep and poetic in its commentary about Christianity and its culture of shaming woman depsite being made in "Gods" image. How a women's image in this religion is often being being projected onto them by others with different beliefs from the same Bible they all read. This poem is very good and has some excellent commentary! I love how you tackled how things like "temptation" often reduces woman down to being object over actual humans who deserve respect and basic human rights just like men and everyone else gets. You did a excellent job on this topic!!!




Tuckster says...


Thanks so much for your review!



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Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:53 am
VioletFantasy wrote a review...



Hey @Tuckster!
VioletFantasy here to review your poetry. I enjoyed this piece quite a lot! It really shows how women are suppressed by men through religion.

“ I see the girls walking with heads downcast,
wearing shorts that convince them that their God-crafted thighs
are sin that must be covered,
who have been convinced that God loves them for what they do
and not who they are, that his love is contingent
on obedience to legalistic rules

This was my favorite part of your poem. Everyone should be allowed to choose how they dress and be who they want to be. “ God loves them for what they do and not who they are” is an especially powerful part of it. They are expected to behave and do only the things they are “supposed” to do. It’s absolutely absurd.

Anyway, sorry about the small rant. Back to your poem. One critique that I have has to do with punctuation. Throughout the poem, you have some punctuation, but in other places you don’t. I would suggest that you should pick either no punctuation or add it to the places that need it. That will help it flow a little bit better.

Overall, this was a very moving piece that sends out a good message. Thank you for writing it!!





Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
— Henry David Thoreau