Blowing up Evangelical Baggage – The Series (Suzanne)


Please welcome Suzanne Terry to my blog today!  She is the second guest blogger in my “Blowing Up Evangelical Baggage” Series.  If you are new to the series, start here. I met Suzanne through Story Sessions  and have a special affinity for this post due to my love of 80’s music. Please welcome her here!

I love it in your room at night 
You’re the only one who gets through to me. 

My sister and I grew up with a family friend (we’ll call her G).  She was a few years older than I, and we both looked up to her.  She taught us how to put on makeup the cool way (glitter shadow, shiny lip gloss – basically everything sparkly).  She kept us informed on who the hottest heartthrobs were.

She introduced us to The Bangles.

We loved The Bangles. We dressed our dolls up to look like them.  We videotaped ourselves lip synching the songs and played it for our parents. And our parents didn’t seem to mind when we sang their songs. Their lyrics were a lot tamer than some of the other stuff we listened to.  I mean, compared to overhearing their twelve-year-old daughter belt out, “I’m hot, sticky sweet from my head to my feet, yeah!” over Def Leppard and having to have THAT conversation, Mom and Dad probably considered “Feels so good when we kiss,” to be pretty acceptable.

In the warm glow of the candlelight
Oh, I wonder what you’re gonna do to me.

My youth group leaders didn’t know what to do with me.  I grew up in church, so I could spout all the Sunday School answers, and I was a goody-goody church girl most of the time.  But then they would hear me singing songs that they knew I did not learn in choir.  They never said anything directly to me, probably because my dad was a deacon and my mom was in choir and was part of every Bible study the church offered. Within a couple of weeks, however, the group lesson would be over the evils of premarital sex, and it would be followed by an invitation (read: strong suggestion)  to come to the front of the room and pledge ourselves to remain pure until our wedding night.

Southern Baptists do love their altar calls.

So I dutifully went forward and said, “I promise.” Then the next day, I went to G’s house, ratted my hair, put on blue eyeshadow and way too much eyeliner, and sang into my hairbrush for the camera.

You won’t regret it if you let me stay
I’ll teach you everything that a boy should know.

The church is great at telling people what not to do. The church gets so busy reducing holy living to a bulleted checklist of thou-shalt-nots that it often forgets to mention that God created sex to be a good thing. The few times I can remember what happens after marriage being addressed at church, it was creepy and weird.  It was a red-faced preacher pointing and spitting as he proclaimed, “It is a sin to withhold sex within the marriage relationship!”  It was a blushing, stammering young adult leader calling sex the husband’s right and the wife’s duty.

Wow.  Sexy.  Nothing gets women hotter than being shamed into doing it because it’s our job.

My friend Michelle once ranted that so many married women she knew didn’t like sex, and their church taught them that they didn’t have to like it – they just had to do it.  That is, they had to do it once they had found the man who loved them as Christ loved the Church (no pressure, guys) and once they had married him (and not a moment before). I can’t recall any church I’ve ever attended announcing a class for husbands on how to make your wife happy in bed.  And really, with the patriarchy demanding that being a man means knowing the answers already, who would have taken it if they had?  If these are the only messages people hear, no wonder there’s so much awkwardness and fear involved with sex, even when it’s church-approved.

I come alive when I’m with you
I’ll do anything you want me to.

Fortunately, while the church was wading through all the disclaimers and conditions, I had Susanna Hoffs singing things like, “I come alive,” and “I feel good.”  And she wasn’t the only one  She had help from Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and many others. Every time the church tried to put another brick in the wall between the sacred and the secular, 80’s pop music knocked it down.  I know I was lucky.  If my youth group leaders had been more adamant or less terrified of my parents, their voices might have drown out the music.  I might have grown up being afraid of sex, or – a more likely scenario – I might have rebelled against the negativity and hurled myself in the opposite direction.

I want to tear down the wall for everyone.

As a species gifted with the ability to reason, we need to hear different – even conflicting  – messages in order to come to a healthy, balanced view. The first thing I teach in my class on persuasion is to know the opposing arguments, because until we know enough to understand why people disagree on a topic, we don’t know enough to make an informed decision, and our arguments will be weak.  We might think the wall between sacred and secular protects us, but really all it does is keep us from seeing all that we could see if it weren’t in the way.

Let’s tear it down.


hairSuzanne Terry is a lover of coffee and a writer of fiction. When she isn’t teaching people to face their fear of public speaking, she can be found reading, dancing, and trying to resist joining an argument on Facebook. She blogs sporadically here.