Nighttime Worry: I’m Not Uncomfortable, and That’s a Problem.

It’s 2:30 AM and I’m up worrying. I worry about everything lately. Rarely do I worry about things that actually affect me directly. Exams are in two weeks and I haven’t studied. But am I nervous? Nope.

Instead, I worry about the big things. The things that are overwhelming because I can’t fix them.

Racial inequality. I just read the story of the two African-American men being arrested in the Starbucks in Philidelphia. They asked to use the restroom while they waited for a friend and were arrested for trespassing. As a white woman who wears suits every morning, I’d bet my bottom dollar that will never happen to me. I’m overwhelmed because how do I fix this? How do I help restore this? How do I bring justice into this?

Socioeconomic Divides. Our country is clearly divided between the haves and the have-nots. I recently spoke with a person in town who is worried her child may never go to college, because Vermont has some of the most expensive in-state tuition in the country and federal loans won’t cover it all. The family doesn’t have good enough credit to co-sign for student loans. Why did I get to have an education and this child may not? How do I fix this? How do I break down systemic greed and capitalistic lies that have penetrated the American psyche so that politicians justify college as a privilege so that generational poverty due to lack of access to education and social resources persists?

Humanitarian Issues Around the Globe. Why do I get to sleep safe in a warm bed tonight while millions of people sleep on the cold ground in tents in makeshift refugee camps? Moving place to place because of corrupt politicians and hard-hearted have stripped them of their God-given dignity and worth. How do I fix this? How do I help break down systemic greed and corrupt? How do I get Christians to care?

Prisoners Rights. How many innocent individuals are on death row? How many innocent people are in prison because they couldn’t afford a competent attorney?

Abuse within the Church. How many churches have forgotten Jesus? How many people are only social Christians and attend church once a week but aren’t living a transformed life? A life of service? How many churches are covering abuse, whether it be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or all three? How many people, today, were treated poorly by Christians and vowed never to return?

I guess I’m frustrated because I feel like the church isn’t acting. If there were really 1 billion transformed Christians on this planet, each living a radical life of sacrificial love and truly believing that all humans are equal, the world would be different. Our families would be different. Our friendships would be different. Our politics would be different. The whole world. Would. Be. Different.

And then I look at myself. Am I radical enough? Am I living shamelessly enough? Am I defending my neighbors enough, because y’all I have been given so much privilege: I have the internet. I’m literate. I’m educated. I’m not a minority in any way, shape, or form. I’m wealthy (by the global standard, at least). I have access to health and dental care. I have a care. I have a stable home. I’m loved. I’m not being abused. Literally, I have the life that people could only dream of, and I can’t help but feel that I’m not doing enough. I’m not loving every person I meet well. I still have biases that creep in. I don’t donate all of my extra money, I still love seamless and netflix.

I guess it comes down to this: I’m not uncomfortable with anything in my life and that’s a problem. As a Christian, I am called to be uncomfortable. I need to give more of my time and money so that I depend on Christ to provide. I need to hang out with “the least of these more” and not care about what my “friends” may think. I need to use my career to advocate for change. I need to post on social media things that stir convictions, not just get likes. I. Am. Not. Doing. Enough.

This isn’t a conventional blog post. I don’t have some wisdom to offer. This post was real and raw, and literally me admitting to the world that I’m a broken, selfish person. Much has been given to me and I have not been using all of my privileges as best I can. Pray for me, please.





Ladies, It is NOT Your Life Purpose To Marry And Have Children

Early this week I saw a blog post that deeply upset me. It stated that “God’s will for young women is to marry, bear children, and guide the home” and then it referenced 1 Timothy 5:14. I cringed. I am sick and tired of Christians pulling verses out of context and using them to promote their own agenda. Conservative and progressive Christians do this. But I tend to see it more in Conservative circles, only because those are the circles that I’m part of.

God’s Will For You and Me

So, let’s get one thing straight: we get too caught up in trying to figure out “God’s will for us.” I get it. I’m a planner. And I think too many Christians (myself, too, at times) wrongly believe that there is some big, magical plan that we’re supposed to know (but don’t), and that we need to walk on eggshells or else we’ll mess up this big magical plan. We’ll marry the wrong person. We’ll go to the wrong school. We’ll take the wrong job.

Stop. Stop right there. Because I don’t think any of those things are possible to do.

Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he was asked: “What is the greatest commandment?” Meaning, in all of the universe, what is the greatest rule. His answer was quite simple, yet profound: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Go check out the full account in Matthew 22). So guys, this means that GOD HIMSELF said that the basis for all laws is to 1) love God and 2) love others. 

The more “detailed” rules, if you will, relate back to these and show us what actions are or are not loving. For example, taking the Lord’s name in vain (Commandment #2) is not loving God; lying to your neighbor (Commandment #8) is not loving your neighbor. Literally, every rule can be traced back to loving God and loving our neighbor.

So, God’s will for us is quite simple: we must love him and love others. His will for us is to love Him and love others. Y’all, literally, that simple.

Now, I fully believe God can call people clearly to certain fields (hello, Jonah and Paul!) and in those situations, it’s loving to follow his lead. Take my life, for example: did I experience an audible voice of God telling me to be a lawyer? No. But, God has given me the gifts and talents necessary to do the job, he has provided opportunities for me to do this job, and I have great peace when doing this job. I feel that practicing law is my calling. But, I could also fully serve God has a kindergarten teacher, a doctor, a chef, a stay at home mom, or anything else. So, do I believe that God’s will for women is to only get married or only have kids or only stay home? Absolutely not! The only verse in the New Testament that lends itself to this is severely taken out of context.

The Danger of Taking Scripture Out of Context

We first need to recognize what the Bible is, beyond the Sunday school version of “God’s word.” The Bible is a book. It’s composed of 66 books written by dozens of authors over thousands of years and across continents. The majority of these books are letters written from people to certain people to address certain issues at that time. These letters were then chosen by councils (that’s right, by men) to comprise our Holy Book. There were over 100 other letters and books that at one time or another were considered for the Bible but didn’t make the cut. In fact, different Christian denominations (such as the Catholic Church, the Christian Church in Ethiopia, and the Protestant Church) have a different variation of books in their Bible. Even though the books were organized by men, I (and the majority of Christians) believed that the words were “divinely inspired.” That is, God ensured that the books that were supposed to be in the Bible were in it.

But, here’s another problem: the Bible wasn’t written in English (shocker!) The New Testament was written in ancient Greek. That’s a problem, because as anyone who speaks 2 languages knows, certain norms, words, and customs are very difficult to translate to other languages (the easiest example is that in Greek there are 4 different words for love, meaning 4 different kinds of relationships, but in English we only have 1 word for love but the meaning changes based on context).

So let’s talk about this Timothy verse. First, you need to read verses in the context of the whole book and chapter. What’s the title of the Chapter? “Widows, Elders, and Slaves.” I have chapter 5 of the NIV (modern English) and KJV pasted below:


Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame.Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor,especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.”[b] 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprovebefore everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.Keep yourself pure.

23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.


Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

Honour widows that are widows indeed.

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;

12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

1I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.

16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.

25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.


Paul is writing this letter to Timothy. The letter starts out “I am writing to Timothy,” specifically about how Timothy should handle a church in Greece. “When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus.” (1 Tim 5:3). The church in Ephesus was having a lot of problems, and this is Paul giving Timothy practical advice on how to run the church.
A problem that came up (and still comes up) is: how do we take care of widows? In Greece 2000 years ago women could not work, they were legally property of men. This is Paul explaining how the Church should help widowed women. Look at the verses before 14, Paul is saying how the church should determine who to help. Verse 14 is specifically talking about younger widows in the context of determining aid! Paul is telling women to get married (notice the burning with desire part, so it’s consensual) instead of forcing them to become burdens on the church. This has absolutely nothing, zip, zilch, zero to say about college. Or about how a young, single, never married Christian woman in 2018 should make her life decisions.
What’s the ultimate purpose of this chapter and verse? To explain to the leader of a struggling congregation how to conserve the limited resources of the church, and make sure that the resources are used to help those who are actually in need.
In 2018 women could work. So, if the purpose behind these verses is to reserve church resources, couldn’t it also be argued that young, unmarried women should get jobs or do things to provide more resources to the church? To not be a burden on the church? I’m not arguing that, but I’m trying to show how that verse does not mean what the author tried to make it mean.
So my message to young women is this:
1) Know your Bible. Read verses in context.
2) Determine what gifts and talents God has given you. If you want to go to college (or need to go to college to pursue your calling) AWESOME! I support you. If you have zero desire to go to college and would rather pursue ministries or other talents, AWESOME! I support you.
3) Ultimately, as a Christian, your job is to love God first, love others well, and lead others to a relationship with Him. You can do that just about anywhere, doing just about anything.
If your calling is to be a wife and mom, awesome. I hope to be a Stay-At-Home mom one day, too. But that’s not my ultimate goal in life. My ultimate goal is to serve God wherever I am. And right now, that’s in law school. If you feel called to be a wife and mom one day, don’t just sit home. Passionately pursue your talents in every opportunity God gives you.


When Christians Made Me Stop Being a Christian

“You’re all going to Hell!” I heard as soon as I stepped off the subway. I sighed and looked around, trying to figure out which subway exit I should use to avoid, what I thought, was a drunk person fighting with police. Already. At twelve noon. On a Sunday. As I looked around I quickly discovered that there was no drunk person, but a loud, passionate woman on the other side of the station fervidly waving around what appeared to be a Bible. I sighed. She was one of those.

I should have kept walking but I stopped, starred, and listened. I watched as dozens of passengers on her side of the platform put in their earbuds, lifted the hoods of their jackets, and avoided eye contact with her as she spewed hateful words about “who God hates.” Her words burned my ears as she called people slurs, said they were “disgusting” and stated that God hated them. As I stood there, I was reminded exactly why I left “Christianity.” It was because of people like her.

When I Stopped Being A Christian

Six years ago I “walked away” from my faith. I was so fed up with “Christians” and people like that woman on the platform; people who were the antithesis of why I became a Christian in the first place.

I became a Christian when I was 9 years old at a Christian summer camp in New Hampshire. I still remember that moment so well. It was the middle of July and I was sitting on the wooden steps of my cabin. The camp was located in the middle of the woods and even though I was terrified of the dark, I stepped out onto the steps with my counselors because I just had to talk to them. That night at chapel, the pastor had shared how much God loves all of us. How much God loved me and wanted me. I often felt overwhelmed with loneliness and rejection growing up. I had been born to teen parents who, simply, were not ready for the responsibility of caring for the emotional needs of a child. Although my grandparents tried their best to give me a loving home I always did (and at times, still do)  feel abandoned and rejected. So, to hear that the Creator of the Universe loved me and wanted me blew my mind. On those steps, I was so eager to have a relationship with God. I wanted him. And as I sat on those wooden steps, I don’t remember the words I said, but at that moment I began a relationship with God.

My faith over the next decade was rocky. I became caught up in the man-made rules of the faith and lost sight of the relationship. Although the relationship was always there, like the relationship with your first best friend, I didn’t nurture it and the relationship faded. My faith became a long list of rules. Specifically, a list of “do nots.” Don’t dress this way. Don’t listen to this kind of music. Don’t watch this kind of movie. Don’t date. Don’t kiss. Don’t have sex. If you do all of these things, I was explicitly and implicitly told then God would give me a good life…okay, that’s a very watered down version, but you get the point.

But, then the man-made rules failed me. And I was forced to reconsider my faith altogether.  The unwinding of my faith began in August 2012, when I followed the young man I just “knew “I was going to marry, because we’d followed all the rules, 2000 miles away from home to college. The school was a Christian college so it was supposed to be safe for my religion of man-made rules. Or so I thought. But in actuality, it was anything but.

When I moved to college, I had no idea how much my life would be turned upside down.

As soon as I arrived at the college I knew it was different, because there were far less rules there than at the other Christian colleges I visited, or many of the Christian organizations I participated in growing up.

At my new college, there was no dress code. So I saw girls from my Bible classes, who clearly knew Jesus, walking around in outfits I had been taught Christians didn’t wear. Wait, what?

There was no kissing ban. Couples, who loved Jesus and stayed virgins until they were married, openly kissed each other on campus. Ummm, that’s a thing? 

The university was inter-denomination. I met people who shared my faith but attended liturgical churches. No way.

And, to top it all off, my Biology professor, with whom I had shared many deep faith discussions and who clearly loved Jesus, taught theistic evolution as one of the possible ways God had created everything. Shut. The. Front. Door. 

In the middle of all of my questioning, my boyfriend broke up with me. Although looking back, that really was the best decision for both of us, I felt betrayed by God. I did everything right. I was supposed to be rewarded, but instead of getting a pretty ring on my finger, I got a smashed heart. This wasn’t supposed to happen. If I followed the rules, which I did, this wasn’t supposed to happen. And I began to realize that not only were the “rules” I had followed frivolous, I had been lied to. Lied to by Christians I respected, the authors of the dozen or so Christian books I had read, and what felt like God himself.

As my faith of man-made rules crumbled, I began to see things I hadn’t noticed before. I noticed how “Christians,” treated people. With my rose covered glasses taken off, I watched as my faith was used to hurt people. To justify bullying people. To justify excluding people. And yes, even to justify killing people. The hypocrisy became overwhelming. So I left. I was done.

My Journey Back


Arkansas church

Some of the families that played a large role in bringing me back to my faith at my college going away party. The hardest part of leaving Arkansas was leaving these people.


(updated for clarification) I spent the next two years trying desperately to disprove God to myself. It would be so much easier if we were just and blobs of matter and groups of chemicals, created by an accident, existing for no purpose. But I was unsuccessful. Ironically, the theistic evolution-based biology class that I feared so much during my first year of college was the foundation for my lack of success. Because even if the universe did begin with a big bang and all life forms were brought about by complex, micro genetic changes over billions of years, that still would not disprove the existence of God. I think I was the most frustrated want-to-Atheist in the state of Arkansas throughout 2013. Realizing science could not prove or disprove God, I turned to psychological reasoning. I devoured the books I had simply been told were wrong growing up written by the man who hated God: Richard Dawkins. I combed through his books, intently watched his videos. I wanted everything he said to be true and dove into the parts of the Bible “untouched” by most Sunday school curricula: the “dirty” stories of genocide and murder in the Old Testament. I was not the first person to do this, however, and there were multiple arguments and word studies to counter Dawkins’ claims. In mid-2013 I finally settled on being a Deist: God may have put the world in motion but he was no longer present, and, if he or she was still alive, he certainly did not care.

Therefore,  I don’t think I ever stopped believing in God. I think the relationship was always there. But I didn’t know what to do. My religion of man-made rules had crumbled and my emotional health was spiraling out of control without my faith to bring me comfort. I started to hate religion, churches, and all “preachy people.” And if you asked me if I was a Christian from 2012-2014, I would have told you “no.”

Ironically, I ended up back in church due to my failure to prove a point. One night, I vented to one of my friends about my dislike of “preachy Christians.” He sat there, patiently listening, and then asked me to go to Church with him on Sunday morning. I laughed. “Just try it,” he urged. “It’s different. It’s a home church.” I think I eventually agreed to go, to prove to him that the church was no different, on the condition that once I “proved” him right he wouldn’t ask me again.

Well, I was wrong. When we showed up 20 minutes late (ironically, I did that on purpose so that no one would talk to me). When we walked in the singing had already started and this young woman, about my age, got out of her seat and introduced herself to me. I was hesitant. Who gets up out of their seat during the service to welcome someone they’d never met? The whole service was…different. People shared what they were going through and “prayer request” time was really “prayer conversation time.” Not only did the church take prayer requests, people then, right then and there, strategically planned what they could do to help that person. So and so’s husband is in the hospital, so let’s get a group together to go do the yard work at their house. So and so just had a baby, great, let’s start a meal train. What the heck was going on?

When we got back in his truck my friend smiled and said, “see, I told you they were different.” I was still too nervous to believe it. But as I got to know the people in that church over the following months and years I realized something. Something so obvious that it was painful: as a Christian, my goal is to help people realize how much God loves them.

I became a Christian because I wanted to be receptive of God’s love. I wanted to know the Creator of the universe and the lover of my soul. Only once this relationship was in place did the rules even begin to become important. And then, they weren’t really “do not’s,” as I had been taught and believed for most of my life, but instead, the rules were really a list of things to which God had said, “hey, there’s something better than that.” And, as I watched my fellow church members consciously seek out the forgotten and oppressed in society, with the desire not to change them, but to show them God’s love and to have those people be changed by that love, my hard heart began to soften.

Love is the Center of the Gospel
jesus huging

The Gospel, the message of God’s love for us, is not that complicated. It’s basic relationships. There is a Creator of the universe, we call Him God. God created people to be in a relationship with Him. We are relational beings. But, every person knows that a relationship is not a relationship if it’s forced. So, God gave us this thing called free will: we can either chose to be in a relationship or not. We can choose to follow him or not. When we think to say or do things that are not a reflection of love towards God or our neighbor this is called sin. Our sin separates us from God, both in this life and in the life to come. But, God loves us so much that Jesus took the punishment that we deserve for sin. This forgiveness and reconciliation is a free gift that God offers, and all we have to do to accept this gift is “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” because “for with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10). That’s it. That’s faith. And when we do this, we have a restored relationship with God, and this restored relationship should compel us to want to honor God, love our neighbors, and tell others about the reconciliation that they, too, can have with God. Sure, there are much deeper theological points we can dig into, but the Gospel, in it’s most basic form, is that.

I often wonder if the preachy subway woman or the “hypocritical” Christians that pushed me away from the church know the same Jesus I know. I can’t help but think that the woman screaming on the subway doesn’t know the loving God I know. If someone is screaming at me that their God hates me, I surely wouldn’t want to listen. And somehow, that woman screaming, felt like she was doing a good thing. Perhaps a great thing. And if that’s true, I don’t want her God.

“Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” ~Romans 2:3-4

Yes, I do believe that there is life after death. And yes, I believe that those who do not have a relationship with God go to a place where God is not. Since God is all things good, the absence of God in a place would be all things bad. And yes, that is hell. But, I also believe that each person knows, honestly, how “bad” they are. How they’ve broken the unspoken rule of the universe to love God and our neighbor. We all know we’ve lied, lusted, cheated, been dishonest, been racist, lied on our taxes, and the list goes on. I don’t think most people need to have their sins pointed out, because I know at least for me, I know how bad I am when I see how good God is. And it’s this patience, this mercy, that made me want to have a relationship with God.

Jesus Loved Sinful People Before He Rebuked Their Sin


woman at well

One of the most famous stories of Jesus seeking out an “outcast” is the account of Jesus and “the woman at the well”


“The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Matthew 11:19

There have always been “groups” of people that the “religious” liked to point at and say they were better than. But when Jesus was here on Earth, he specifically sought those people out and loved them first. In fact, Jesus was called the friend of sinners! Jesus intentionally sought out and loved the “discpicable people” that the religous leaders claimed they were better than: women who committed adultery (John 4; Luke 7:36-50); tax collectors for the foreign government that oppressed the Jews (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32); children (Matthew 19:14); the physically diseased (Matthew 8:1–4, Mark 1:40–45 and Luke 5:12–16); the impoverished (Luke 18:35); and the physically disabled (Luke 18:35).

He intentionally sought them out and loved them. Then these individuals were amazed by his loving kindness, had faith, and then he told them to go and sin no more.

The majority of Christians today are like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time. Instead of seeking out the “groups” or people, the groups that we, and not God, created, we find reasons to shun these people. Now, do not confuse what I’m saying: if an individual makes a profession of faith, then by all means, we are to encourage that person and discipline him/her in the love and laws of God. But we cannot expect non-Christians to follow God’s law. We need to be more concerned about helping people develop an authentic relationship with Christ, which will lead to faith and repentance, than telling them God hates them. Becuase God doesn’t hate anyone. Not one. But yet, “Christians” are pretty good at telling people God hates them:


god hates

“Christians” claiming God hates people


But, when I think about Jesus, I can’t help that he wouldn’t spend time in many of our churches. He would be going out of his way to engage people that Christians demand be “kept out” and refuse to go to. And if Jesus would do this, and Jesus did do this, then we should be the same.

So, to the woman on the subway: you’re the kind of Christian that made me leave the church, and ultimately, I don’t think we know the same Jesus.




Upcoming Blog Posts: Share Your Thoughts

Hey y’all!

Happy Girl Scout Cookie Month! Happy tax return month! Happy still-not-yo-birthday month to all you Feb 29th birthday peeps (it’ll happen in two years, I promise)! And just Happy everything!

I’m doing 2 exciting (well…I think they’re exciting!) blog posts centered on Christian women being their authentic selves and processing through their beliefs, and I’d love your help!

And I’d love for you to share your story!

The first will be about “The Purity Movement.”

The second will be about your perceptions and convictions of women working (which I’m over the moon excited about, because this was on of my thesis in college!)

So, if you’re an adult woman (18+) and would like to share your story anonymously about your experience in either of these areas, please reach out to me for details!

It’s so important that we, as Christian women, share our story about how we came to believe what we believe! What were you taught? What do you believe now? What was your processing like in between? And what are you still struggling to understand?

Here’s a quick video with me talking about this project.



Remember that you are so lovable. You’re known, loved, and desired by the Creator of the universe. And your worth is not dependent on anything you’ve done or haven’t done.



PS) if you need someone to help you share the carbs from your impulsive Girl Scout cookie order, I volunteer as tribute 🙋🏼

Submit Your Questions / Comments Regarding the “Growing Up Conservative” Blog Post

Hi friends,

I’ve been receiving messages on various platforms regarding the “Growing Up Conservative” blog post.

An important part of learning and respecting each other is being able to have open and honest conversations. A conversation can’t happen if we don’t share our own experiences and opinions.

My friends and I tried to make it clear in the blog post that the opinions we expressed were our own based off of our experiences. But, you have your opinions from your experiences, too. Those are valid. We can’t grow unless we’re willing to honestly listen and learn from one another. Perhaps we have misconceptions that you noticed. Perhaps we weren’t clear in an explanation. Perhaps one of our answers left you asking “why?” rather than “Oh, I can understand that.”


All of that being said, I’ve opened a Google poll for anyone to submit anonymous follow-up questions or points you would like us to consider and respond to. Yes, this is an open poll. If you disagree with us about something and simply tell us that we’re “stupid” or “wrong,” the internet trolls won’t come after you. But, what learning or growth will occur? None. So please. Ask us questions. Make us think. Let’s grow together. Especially to all of my woman readers: the world is already against us and putting us against each other; let’s actually try to learn from one another. Ladies, y’all are so fierce, so brave, so smart, so talented. We have so much to learn from you and your experiences. And we’re willing to listen and consider*.

The Authors

PS) Due to Krista’s job, questions of a political nature won’t be able to be responded to on the blog.

*We actually mean this. We won’t write you off because we have “different” views than you. So if you have any articles/blog posts that relate to anything you’d like to say, please also send that along.

Growing Up Conservative: Part I


Earlier this year, I asked my social media followers to submit questions about what it was like to “grow up” conservative and also what it was like to choose to remain in the conservative Christian community as an adult. This series will be in two parts. Part I will address growing up conservative. Part II will address what it’s like to be an adult woman/mother/wife in a conservative Christian community.

First, I have to make an important disclaimer. Due to a new job that will begin later this month, I have to abstain from political activity. I will be deactivating and locking down my social media accounts in the upcoming months. I will keep my blog up. Therefore, I avoided, as much as possible, any questions with a political undertone.

Before answering the questions, I think it’s important to lay basic foundations.

Who are we?
            We are a group of adult women who identify as “conservative Christians.” Our Christian backgrounds are different: some of us grew up in non-denominational churches, others as independent Baptists. Our educational and career backgrounds are different. Some of us attended public school, private school, Christian church-based school, home-school, or a mix of all four.

Similarly, the “secondary” teachings we received varied. Growing up, some of us wore skirts, others wore pants; some were taught courtships were the only way to find a husband, while others were allowed to “date”  (although it was still “dating with a purpose” and wasn’t “casual” by any means). Despite these difference, we all still identify as conservative Christians.

Why do this blog post? 
There’s a lot of misconceptions about what “we” believe as women who identify as Conservative Christians. We’ve seen ourselves portrayed incorrectly in the media and a lot of falsity about what we believe and why. So we wanted to speak out and share our experiences and opinions.

These are OUR opinions. They are not meant to represent anyone other than us. They are not to represent any other person and we do not claim to speak for any other person or experience. 

So, what does it mean to be a Conservative Christian?
            We all agree that being a “conservative” Christian means:

  1. Recognizing the Bible as the actual, authoritative, inspired word of God. What it says goes. We recognize that parts of the Bible have been (and potentially continues to be, there is debate about this among us) misunderstood by humans. This misunderstanding does not mean that the Bible is wrong, but that we have misunderstood it. For example, at times the Bible was used to justify that the Earth was flat. (See Isaiah 11: 12 KJV: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” emphasis added). This doesn’t mean that the Bible is wrong, it just means we misunderstood this.
  2. Humans were created in the image of God. This makes human different and unique from the rest of living beings in the universe.
  3. God, as the Creator and Ruler of the universe, has created laws. These laws all relate to the underlying concept that we must love God and love our neighbor. Actions and thoughts that break these laws are known as sin. This sin separates us from God, who is perfect. However, we can be reconciled to God. When Jesus died on the cross he was temporarily separated from God and took the punishment we deserve. Because our punishment has been paid, we can be reconciled to God by asking God to forgive our sins, and accepting that Christ has paid our punishment. This reconciliation is known as “getting saved.”  This reconciliation allows us to have a personal relationship with God. Only a relationship with Christ can allow us to be with God after we die
  4. A belief that family is the bedrock of society and must be a priority in an individual’s life.
  5. A desire to live a life that honors God and to flee from activities that displease God (called sin). This desire causes us to do things like abstain from getting drunk, not engage in sexual behavior until marriage, and dress modestly.

Now that we have established that foundation and you know the perspective we are coming from, I’ve included your questions and our answers below.

How The Questions and Answers Work
My friends and I worked hard to create a “collective voice” in our answers to preserve anonymity. However, if one of us disagreed strongly with the others or had a different experience, then that answer is separate. Friend “A” is not the same “Friend A” in every question. The A and B designation is just to distinguish between different answers.

I. Upbringing / Childhood

Q: What benefits were the to growing up in a Conservative culture?

A: Many followers who submitted questions seemed to believe that we were “disadvantaged” by having a Conservative upbringing. For the most part, we disagree. We believe some of the advantages to the way we were raised include:

  1. Conservative convictions require lifestyle choices, not simply going to Church.

An important focus of Conservative churches is that our actions, both public and private, matter. What we are like on Saturday night is just important as the kind of person we are on Sunday morning. This requires commitment and is not for the faint of heart. This level of commitment weeds out people who only attend for the theatrics of the service or because their parents attended.

As an adult, it’s valuable to know that actions matter. The sermons we listened to growing up talked about the importance of character qualities, like honesty, integrity, and chastity. Developing these qualities takes time and effort. But, we know that actions turn into habits, and habits turn into character (The famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, teaches that, too). So although lying one time may not seem like a big deal, we know that if we lie once it can quickly turn into a lifestyle. We were warned again and again growing up to not “hide secret sin.” That is, if we lied about something, we needed to tell. Because although it was just one lie, we could quickly become habitual liars.

Additionally, a commitment to remain pure (not engage in sexual activities until marriage), be sober, and “flee evil” (not watch or listen to evil things) often requires sacrifice. It means not dating certain people or hanging out with certain friends to avoid these activities. It’s nice to be with other people who take their convictions as seriously as we do. To actually live out these “character principles” requires commitment, they mean making entire lifestyle choices. It’s encouraging to be part of a community who are mostly authentic people, making sacrifices and choices to follow similar beliefs and convictions as you.

  1. There are clear, set expectations on behavior.

It was also nice to have clear, set expectations on behavior. We knew what words we could or could not say, how we had to interact with grown-ups, and how we were to dress. As a child, and even as a grown-up, having clear expectations is good and feels safe.

  1. We were taught the importance of having a solid and involved father.

America has a dad problem, really. This year, there were news stories in Dallas and Atlanta about hundreds of men stepping up to be mentors for young men that had absent fathers. These men, 600 men just in Atlanta, had to step up to the plate and mentor young men because their fathers were absent. Or, even if you watch NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us,” you’ll see that families begin to hurt when the father or male role model is absent. An absence of strong, loving, kind, male role models and father figures is hurting our country.

In our communities, men are taught from the time they are young adults that, if they choose to get married and have a family, they will have an invaluable role in their child’s life. A father is to encourage his wife and children, play with his children, and literally be the representation of Jesus in the home. This is a big responsibility.  We have all seen absent fathers in the families of our non-Conservative friends, and emotionally absent fathers in our circles, too. Although there can be absent dads in conservative circles, at least being a leader, protector, and provider is stressed and encouraged.

Many of us did not realize how important the role of our father was until we were older. For many of us, our dad was the epitome of a kind, strong, and loving man. Therefore, when we were old enough to get married, we knew what to look for in a guy.

Person A: I didn’t have this growing up but I envied this kind of father figure. Thankfully, several families have taken me under their wing and, through these families, I have seen what a Godly man looks like. There have been boys that have come along throughout the years that I could have dated and maybe even married. However, because I had such great role models, I didn’t settle.

  1. Children are taught respect.

There is a strong emphasis on children respecting adults. We were all disciplined differently. Some of us were spanked, others only had timeouts, and others had other “privileges” taken away. Regardless, from a young age, kids are taught discipline. Discipline does not mean getting punished. It means teaching a child that they, and they alone, are responsible for their actions. This includes how they act and how they react. Although one doesn’t need to be a conservative Christian to be taught this, we all feel we benefited from this.

  1. Children are taught that the world does not revolve around them.

Similarly, to the above point, children are taught from a young age that the world does not revolve around them. Although their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valid and should be respected, they are not the center of the universe. They are part of a team. Having this kind of mindset has all helped us tremendously in adulthood.

6. Marriage is valued, respected and taken seriously.

From a young age, we were all taught that marriage is serious, holy, and sacred. At every wedding, the Pastor charges the couple before the vows about the seriousness of marriage. It is for life. Although at most weddings, even at weddings of non-Christians, couples make a “for life” commitment, many marriages fall apart. Although there are divorces in the Christian community, too, it’s far fewer.

Dating/courtship becomes more serious when you know you’re choosing a partner for life. When you get married, you’re saying to that person, “I am choosing you to be my partner at the absolute worst moments of my life, and I’m willingly choosing to be with you at your worst moments. We’re a team. No matter what, we’re a team.” There’s a lot of freedom in this and a lot of sacrifices. Therefore, it’s critical to choose this partner carefully. This is why dating is taken so seriously and families are often involved. When a person is infatuated or in puppy love with another person, it’s important to have a family to point out that person’s flaws or how you may not make a great team.

On that note, as we’ve already mentioned, character qualities matter. Abusive patterns don’t develop overnight (usually, absent severe trauma or other extenuating circumstance); beliefs about how to spend money, don’t change (again, absent extenuating circumstance); and your character qualities don’t change. Although you can’t foresee every problem, we believe that if you put in a lot of time getting to know someone’s character and taking the time to see them in other circumstances, you can feel confident in your marriage choice.

Disclaimer: On that note, none of us have been taught that a spouse must allow themselves to be abused. For example, if there was abuse, a spouse should absolutely be removed from that situation to be safe, although the church should encourage the abusing spouse to get professional help, and the marriage should be restored if possible.

Q: How would you define conservative or growing up conservative?

Person A: Basically, the only way I’d describe it is doctrinal. Like, I was told that “X” was the right belief, and pretty much if other “Christians” didn’t go to our church or believe X then they aren’t Christians. I didn’t understand that, though, because I’ve always thought you can go to a church that’s not IBLP or IFB and still be Christian.

Person B: I was not part of IBLP/IFB growing up. However, I agree with my friend that it’s more of a “doctrinal” belief. The fundamental aspect being taught and believing that the Bible is the absolute word of God, or as it says in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Q: Did you feel your childhood was different than your non-conservative friends?

Person A: Not really, I could watch movies. My parents had some restrictions like technically I couldn’t watch Disney channel. But my parents would often let me, so I wasn’t that sheltered. My parents watched some movies that could be questionable sometimes and I could listen to secular music. One of my parent’s family isn’t Christian, so I saw stuff with them, too, that I really probably shouldn’t have seen.

Person B: No. However, most of my friends growing up attended the same church as me so we were all similar. I would say my parents were stricter when I was little. For example, they would watch movies before I could. However, once I was a teenager they pretty much let me do what I wanted, but I never had a desire to watch dirty movies (just to be clear, by dirty I mean like dirty R-rated, not Beauty and the Beast because there was supposedly a “homosexual” scene…I watched BATB it was great).

Person C: My immediate family wasn’t very conservative so I could watch and listen to just about whatever I wanted. In high school, I started to notice a difference, like I couldn’t go to boy-girl sleepovers. When certain movies came out, people at church would tell us not to watch movies. I remember when the Cat and the Hat movie came out, for example, we (my Sunday school class) made a promise not to watch it because it was “inappropriate.” Something I noticed is that for those of us who grew up with a “more sensitive conscience” we kept this as we grew up. Now, I can technically watch whatever I want, but I still have no desire to watch movies with dirty humor or overly sexualized scenes.

Q: Did you feel forced to believe in God? Was it more of a habit than a choice? Were you shunned if you didn’t believe? 

A: Were we forced to believe? No, how could you force someone to believe something? But all of us, at some point, felt our faith was a habit. But all people of any faith go through that.
Despite what the questions asked, we do not know of “shunning” and we were not taught to practice “shunning.” If someone leaves the church and engages in harmful and destructive behavior we probably wouldn’t hang around them as much because we don’t want to be around that behavior. However, we wouldn’t pretend they never existed. Therefore, the threat of shunning was never used to force us to go through the motions of our faith.
We think this idea of “shunning” comes from Matthew 18: ““If another believer sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” However, we don’t know that this was practiced against anyone.

Person A: I know a guy in my church, growing up, who slept around a lot. Like had sex with several different girls. And the man was a professing Christian, so the church tried to talk to him about this sin. I think the key difference is if you identify as Christian or not. If you don’t profess to be a Christian, then I think the church would try help you become a Christian first. Becuase that’s the main concern. However, it’s different if you claim to be a Christian, but are choosing to do stuff that is explicitly wrong. Then I would say it’s the churches role to step in and try to help you stop harmful behavior. If you’re going to blatantly do sin, and things that the church is wrong, why would you choose to be part of that church? 

Person B: I’ve found that adults who fundamentally disagree with the teaching of a church don’t stay there. We were part of a church growing up that had a “doctrine shift” I guess you could call it. We were taught growing up that women had to wear skirts to be modest. Some families came out and said they didn’t believe that anymore, so those families just left the church. My parents are still friendly with the parents who left, they’re not shunned. The just don’t attend our church because they disagree about that. I wouldn’t call that shunning.

Person C: Sometimes I think the things I have been taught can cause a person to slip into habits. For example, say you have to go to church every time the door is open, or you have to read your Bible this many times a day at this time of day. That’s a habit that I got into.

Q: Have you taken into account that what you may have been taught is a trend?

Person A:  Yes. I like history and research it a lot, and see that the church and society have moved in trends. I’m a big believer in having your own relationship with God, so you need to personally know what you believe and why.

Person B: Most people live off of their parents’ faith and beliefs. There should be no fear in going out and finding out for yourself. I’ve noticed that the circles I grew up in, IFB, think there’s one way to live your life. Like you have to make these exact choices. When it comes time to choose your career there’s only one way you can choose: ministry. But I think God leads us all individually.

Person C: Doesn’t everyone? No matter your faith or lack of faith, at some point every person questions what they taught. So, the short answer, for all of us, is yes. Some of us have had questions about certain beliefs and others have walked away and then come back. Krista, for example, is open about walking away from the church during her first 2 years of college and has written blog posts about that time in her life. For the most part, though, we feel all of our families did a good job of pressing the importance of us developing our faith and our relationship with God. We’re all thankful that, again, for the most part, we weren’t told “accept this belief” but were instead told the reasons behind certain customs (like dressing modestly). This made it seem like less of a trend.

Q: As a child, how were people with different beliefs presented to you? Did you have any contact with them?
A: This was different for all of us.

Person A: I actually had a really good experience. During my 5th grade Sunday School class, and again at a discipleship program as a teenager, we learned about all of the world religions. We were given a sheet that listed that religion’s belief in comparison to Christian beliefs on key issues (creation, soul, relationship with God, salvation, afterlife, ect). It was really beneficial, I think, to see how Christianity compared to other beliefs.

Person B: Yes. My parent’s family was from a different faith background. I was also allowed to attend different denominations of churches, but when I got home my parents would say why that denomination was wrong compared to ours.

Q: How was abortion explained to you, and at what age were you exposed to that theme for the first time? 
*Person A: My experience is different than that of my friends. I, too, knew about abortion for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that I knew what abortion actually was, but I always knew to some extent that an abortion involved women choosing to no longer be pregnant. To kill her baby. And as I look back on this now I think about how weird that part was. And I wonder why more people didn’t question that, or at the very least ask why. If all children, regardless of how they were conceived or what their perceived abilities are are a gift, then why wouldn’t a woman want a baby? As I’ve gotten older and talked to women that have had abortions, I realized it’s because something really awful had happened. No woman grows up wanting to have an abortion. They have it because they feel like they have no other choice, or that it somehow is the best choice under a horrible set of circumstances. I can only speak for myself and my experiences, but at least in my church, I don’t think even the most staunch pro-lifer would call a woman who had an abortion evil. I think they honestly (from my experience) feel bad for the woman. However, what I wish my church would do that I haven’t experienced, is focus on the reason why the woman is getting an abortion in the first place. Obviously, she had sex and got pregnant (maybe it was consensual, maybe she was married. 1/3 of women get abortions in the US so it’s tough to paint a stereotype). Many women get abortions because they feel like it’s the best choice under a horrible set of circumstances. The church needs to focus more on what these circumstances are. Poverty? Lack of access to education? I wish the church would equally address these problems, the root problems. Sure, if the women hadn’t gotten pregnant she wouldn’t be seeking an abortion, but if she wasn’t stuck in poverty she probably wouldn’t be seeking an abortion, either. So, although I didn’t have this kind of teaching growing up I wish this is a teaching the church would adopt. That you can say abortion is evil and oppose it, but this isn’t enough. They must also seek to get rid of the root causes of women seeking an abortion. I think some are afraid this is too liberal. But I know there’s at least more and more people my age who are open to this approach. There just has to be a conversation about it first.

Person B: The first time I really remember realizing what abortion was I was about 14. However, the term or the general concept wasn’t foreign to me because “Pro-Life” people spoke a lot at my church and groups from my church participated in pro-life events.

Person C: I vividly remember the first time I realized what abortion was. I was in elementary school, maybe 10, and somehow my Sunday School teacher brought up the fact that some women don’t want their babies and they go to the doctor and the doctor rips the baby’s brains out. I think that’s when I became pro-life.

Q: Are you encouraged to learn other languages? 
Becuase missions is stressed, learning languages is important. You can’t be a missionary if you can’t communicate with people or speak their language.

Q: Are there disadvantages to growing up in a Conservative community? 
There are advantages and disadvantages to growing up in any environment, period. However, collectively we came up with two “disadvantages” if we have to call them that.
1. A general skepticism about the information presented from non-Christians and non-Christian sources. Because we’re taught to be very careful about what information we put into our brains there is a general skepticism about information from non-Christians, and perhaps too much trust on information from Christians. This causes Christians sometime to miss out on certain information or be misled in others. It’s important to have a healthy skepticism about all information and to dig deeper.
2. It can be difficult to step away from potentially unhealthy relationships, especially if that person is an authority figure. Because the importance of family and community is stressed it can be difficult to step away from relationships that are unhealthy. Not necessarily abusive, but just not good. It would be easier, for example, not avoid Aunt Suzy who always criticizes her if you only had to see her once a year, than if you have to see her every week.

II. Education 


Q: Do you feel you missed out on any opportunities being homeschooled?

Person A: I was not homeschooled my entire education. But as far as homeschool, yes and no. That’s a hard question, though. Because it not only has to do with being homeschool because it also had to do with how I was raised. I didn’t know if I could leave for college right after high school so that changed how I viewed my education.
However, homeschool really helped me figure out what I liked and what academic interests I had. I could pursue topics I was interested in. However, I live in a more rural area and there weren’t opportunities to pursue the arts, which I’m interested in, in a way I would want to. I think if I lived in a more populated area I could have pursued these better. So the lack of opportunity was based more on my location than my being homeschooled.

Person B: I think it depends on the parents. Both of my parents really valued education and chose to homeschool me because they thought I could learn better at home than in a public school setting. I began taking community college classes in high school, which many of my friends and the public school couldn’t do. But my great experience was based on my parents being involved.

Person C: Like my friends said, it depends. My parents homeschooled me because they believed it was their job, as parents, to raise me and teach me. That includes my education. I think they did a great job and I find that I know just much as my public school friends. The only difference would be that my family used a faith-based curriculum, like Sonlight and Abeka. I also liked that everything was tailored to me. Like I was further ahead in math so I would do like fifth-grade math, but I was only at a fourth-grade reading level. I moved at my pace not the pace of my peers, which I feel really helped.

Q: Have you felt unsupported in your desire to pursue higher education?

Person A: No, not really. My parents want me to do something useful, and I do, too. When I was 16 I started taking dual enrollment courses at my local community college. That was actually encouraged by my parents. College is expensive, and I didn’t want to burden my family with the costs. Going to community college allowed me to explore different options. I ended up choosing not to go to a 4-year college but that was because I didn’t want to, and I ended up working. Not because I wasn’t allowed to or because my parents didn’t want me too.

Person B: I wouldn’t say they discouraged me but it was never pushed. I chose to pursue other opportunities, paid opportunities so yes I had a real job instead of going to college. However, my younger sister is at a real accredited college now and it’s a good fit for her.

Person C: Yes. I feel women in my circles, IFB kids, are typically encouraged to go to an IFB college and pursue ministry type things like pastoral studies, missionary training, and then be a church secretary or pianist. So, my experience has been that the focus is on the church and ministry only.
I don’t think God calls everyone to be a pastor. Or a foreign missionary. There’s the great commission that we’re all supposed to be missionaries but that shouldn’t limit our college options.
When I talk to my parents about college they seem turned off by it unless it involves an IFB college. They won’t let me talk about anything else, not even Missionary Baptist. I think my parents think you go to college to find a spouse, and they fear that if I go to a non-IFB college I may marry outside of the faith.

*Person D: I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It’s not that I was told not to go to college, it’s that my parents left it completely up to me. I took some classes at the public school and did some classes through a homeschool curriculum. In high school, my parents gave me the choice to go to public school. Honestly after homeschooled several kids I think they were just ready to be done and they knew I was responsible and wouldn’t fall to peer pressure. They also realized I probably wouldn’t be influenced too much during a 90-minute lecture class. So I took a class there but I didn’t like it. I’m an independent learner and I really didn’t like being in a class with 20 other kids and moving at their pace. It felt silly to be in a 90-minute class 5 days a week when I could get the same material done on my own at home for the week in 3 hours. But that’s beside the point. When I was at school during the last 2 years, many of my classmates were facing a lot of pressure to not only go to college but to go to certain colleges or do certain things. One classmate imparticular was considering one university, but his dad got all upset because that university was the rival of his alma mater. So then I’d go home and my parents left it completely up to me. They didn’t care either way, as long I was productive after I graduated. Other than a few professionals in our church like doctors and lawyers, everyone owned businesses. Since family is the most important thing, people don’t want to have a career that would cause them to miss out on family time and opportunities. So, this lack of pressure actually made things tough for me.
I ended up going to an in-state college and lived at home and commuted. I really didn’t like it. I mean I guess I liked what I was learning but it felt like it was a waste of time. I know there’s an intellectual value but I’ve never been an intellectual that liked to talk about things. I’m practical. While I was paying to sit in class, my friends were starting businesses or getting married. Ironically my parents did care when I told them I wanted to quit and my dad got mad because he told me before I started college that if I started it I had to finish. So I ended up switching to an online platform and did some hybrid classes and am in the process of finishing. Doing it online also allows me to work and spend time with my family.

*Person E: Liberty offers a program where you can combine your high school and associates degree so I just did this. That way I had an associate if I wanted to continue on with my education. My parents always wanted to leave doors open, so no, I don’t think I was unsupported.

Q: Are kids taught sex education? If so at what age and in what context? 
A: Like any family, it all depends on the family and the child. Some of us grew up in farm environments so we knew about the “birds and the bees” from a younger age. Others of us were generally taught that boys and girls are different, but that was it until adolescence. It just depended on the family.

Person A: I think I was like technically 16 or 17 when we had “the talk.” But I didn’t feel I had much to learn. I had non-Christian family members that were open about everything, so I knew as much as my non-Christian friends did.

Q: Why do most women in the conservative community choose not to work or further their education?
Women don’t have to go to college because they don’t have to have careers. In a way, we have more choices than most women. We can stay and live at home as long as we want. We don’t have to leave. So we can choose between staying at home or going to college, where in non-Christian families you get kicked out so you have to go to college or go live on your own and have to fend for yourself. While in Conservative communities we really get the choice.

Person A: My family has offered to pay for me to go take college courses. However, it’s not something I’m interested in right now because if I have a question, I can watch Youtube video series or buy used textbooks used at the local colleges. I’m just not paying to take a course.

Person B: I actually really like to learn. To learn everything I want I’d have to major in literally everything. So I just buy used college textbooks and self-study about things that I’m interested in. I don’t desire a career in something that requires a degree, like a doctor or a lawyer, so I don’t need to go to college. I’m still reading the same textbooks as kids taking those classes.

*Person C: I think it’s because the most important thing to us is our families. If you have a career, no matter how you try to frame it, there will come a time where you have to choose between your family and someway in your career. Like you either after go to your child’s event or the meeting. I think you have to be really passionate and called to a career to do this. And I just don’t know many people that are so passionate about something that they’d be willing to do that. I’m single so I don’t have this dilemma. I’m taking business courses and running my own business. I’d like to continue to do this because if I ever do get married I can be my own boss.

III. Health and Mental Well-Being

mental health

Q: Do you feel health issues are dealt with in an appropriate way?

A: We all had different experiences with this. Ultimately, it depends on the family and the church. But that’s like literally every other community.

Person A: I actually came from what many people would describe as a very conservative family. At one point the women even wore head coverings. But, my family always saw mental illness as an illness. When I began to struggle with depression as a teenager, they took me to the doctors and I was put on anti-depressants that really helped. But they also prayed with me, too. Just like they would pray with me if I was sick. My family thinks there are physical and spiritual sides to all illnesses.

Person B: I was taught, through ILBP, that mental health issues stem from unconfessed sin. In some ways, I think that it can. Like, I think if you really wronged someone and tried to keep it a secret, you could enter a depression. But, I don’t think this is the predominant teaching anymore. As knowledge has grown, and families in my church had children who suffered from anxiety and depression disorders, it became quite clear that not all mental health is a result of sin. In fact, my pastor compared it to lung cancer. Sometimes, you can do sin (like smoking) and it will lead to lung cancer. Other times, you do everything right eat healthily, and don’t smoke, and you can still get lung cancer. But at the end of the day, you still have a serious illness. Depression and mental illness is the same. Sometimes you can do sins that lead to mental illness, and other times you don’t do anything wrong. But at the end of the day, you still have an illness that needs to be treated. It took my pastor a long time to come to this point, but it’s a big deal that he recognizes this now, and I think there’s a big shift happening in my church. Which is good.

Person C: No, because many people in my church don’t believe that it [mental health problems] exists. Like, my church believes it’s more of a sin problem than a health issue. They try to over-spiritualize it, for lack of better words.

Person D*: As far as talking about feelings and problems I think it’s getting better.  I think generally people are nervous about getting non-Christian advice at the most vulnerable point of their life. If you’re depressed or your marriage is struggling you’re in a vulnerable place. I was always taught that when we’re in these vulnerable places we need to be extra careful and not let our guard down. So I think this is why some people might be a skeptic of outside help. But I think there has been an increased awareness lately of licensed professional Christian counselors. Many Christian colleges are now offering masters programs. I think it can be tougher to establish trust in conservative communities. I think recommendations are incredibly important. There’s a counseling practice near me run by a Christian married couple. One family in my church saw them and now other people in my church, including my family on occasion, have seen them. I think there’s a belief that these kinds of family matters should be handled within the church. But after one family goes to a counselor and it helps more are willing to go.

Q: If a child has a disability such as autism or mental health issues how in your experience is it treated in the conservative Christian community?
We’re taught that all children are gifts, and therefore, all children are wanted. We don’t believe a child having a disability is a “punishment” or anything like that, they’re still a gift. Like any family, a family would seek help how they feel is best appropriate.

Marriage / Romantic Relationships



Q: Would you ever date a non-Christian person?
No. Why would we? Our faith is very important to us and governs everything we do. It would be nearly impossible to be married to someone who didn’t share the same convictions. It wouldn’t be fun for him and it wouldn’t be fun for us.

Q: Why is being married young toted as a great thing? 
A: We didn’t see it that way. We think it just happens because most kids don’t go to college or go off to join careers. So they don’t have obstacles that would make it difficult for them to get married. If you find the right person, and you can afford it, why wait? Getting married is the point of life sometimes if you’re running in those circles.

Q: How much do you have to put up with before you divorce?
As talked about earlier, marriage is serious and sacred. You shouldn’t get married unless you’re ready for the seriousness of a lifelong commitment that’s for better or for worse. The Bible is pretty clear about when you can get a divorced, however, if you get a divorced you can’t get remarried while that spouse is still alive. None of us were ever taught that we need to physically remain in the home of an unsafe marriage. However, all help would be encouraged restore the marriage. There are licensed, professional Christian counselors, for example. And the nice thing about being in a close community is that a lot of people are willing to help. Unfortunately, people still get divorced, and what that point is for everyone is different, and may not be Biblical.


Gender Roles

gender roles

Q: How would men react if a woman wanted to be independent and work outside of the home?

Like everything in life, it would depend on the guy. We know non-Christians who don’t want their wives to work. But all of us were encouraged in some way work outside of the home, like running our own business. You can also make way more money running your own business and it’s more comfortable. In most of our families, you don’t have to get a job. Working isn’t looked down upon it’s just that you don’t have to. Your parents pay for things, you contribute in other ways. So it’s not that we can’t it’s that we don’t need to or want to.

Q: Have you ever felt frustrated with the gender-based limitations you face in a conservative Christian community? Has there been something you were interested in but unable to due because of enforced gender roles and the expected place for women in your community?

Person A: Despite what the media may say, I honestly don’t feel like I was treated that much different than boys. Really, I don’t. I guess you could say that there were “traditional” gender roles by the fact that the women in my family wore skirts, but in non-Chrisitan families little gifts often wear pink. I was never told I couldn’t go to college or I couldn’t work. I was encouraged to start my own business just like my brothers were. My brothers were interested in cars and I had other interests. We were both allowed to pursue our interests. How is that a burden just because I like things traditionally associated with “women”?

Person B: Not really. I guess the only “burden” would be that I didn’t know many adult women who had jobs outside. I guess the burden would be that if I chose to get married then there would be this unsaid expectation that I’d be a stay at home mom. But people always have expectations about everything and that’s why it’s important to find someone that has the same goals as you. I think ultimately my parents just want me to be happy. And they found a lot of happiness being married so they think I’d be happily married, too.

Q: Are tampons frowned upon? 
A: This made us all laugh. We were never told we can’t use them. None of us had the desire to.

Q: Do you think a woman in a conservative community can be more than just a woman who dresses in skirts and dresses only and her only job is to have babies? Do you think a woman can find a way to be an individual with her own set of beliefs in a conservative community without having to break rules or ultimate having to leave the community?
Obviously. We’re all different and we all have different beliefs, talents, and interests. Some of us are artists (like actual artists, not just paint by number from a Wal-Mart kit kind of artists), some of us are business owners, Krista is in law school, and others are pursuing degrees through different college options. We’re all different.

Q: How much individuality and independence do you genuinely have in making decisions, lifestyle choices, fashion choices, employment decisions, etc.? Or are they really actually made by your male “leader” (dad, husband)?
A: We all feel we were given freedom to make our own choices. It would be really creepy if our dads bought our clothes for us, and we’d look awful. Most of us still live at home, and it makes sense to respect the wishes of our parents. If they’re letting us live in their house rent-free, the least we can do is respect certain wishes they have. But once we’re out of the house, either because we went to college (yes, we go to college) or get married, we are no longer under our parent’s roofs, and we don’t need to give the same deference to our parent’s wishes.
We think something unique to conservative communities is that, as a whole, children, even adult children, really seek out the wisdom from our parents. Therefore, it’s not that we can’t do something, it’s that we choose not to. Some of us have done things our parents disagreed with while we lived at home. None of us were kicked out or shunned. There may have been a social pressure or we may have felt like we disappointed our parents, but our parents didn’t lock us in our room and not let us out for wearing pants, or a certain brand of clothing, or cutting our hair, or deciding we want to do something.

Also, we know young adult women who moved out because they didn’t want to live by the standards their parents had, and their relationship with their parents improved as a result. They weren’t shunned or anything. But it’s fair that if you’re going to live rent-free in your parent’s home that you respect their wishes.

Q: Do you feel like women are treated as second-class citizens in conservative Christian communities in your experience?

A: No, we actually feel more respected. Women are described as a treasure. Men are taught to be “old-fashioned” and to offer their coats and chairs, to say “yes ma’am.” We’ve never been catcalled at a conservative event, nor have we had disgusting sexual things said about us. Since women are seen as treasures, we feel, at least through mannerisms, that women are treated better.

Older women in our churches are especially seen as wise, and it’s not uncommom for men to seek them out for their wisdom and advice.




Q: Talk about Modesty. What does it mean and why?
A: Modesty, in general, is about not drawing negative attention to yourself. Negative attention is having people notice you for the way that you look, and not because of your character. You are a mind, and a heart, and a soul. People should see this, and not see you as a piece of meat. Although you can’t control what other people think, and other people are responsible for their thoughts, you should never get dressed with the purpose of having people think sexual thoughts towards you. You don’t have to wear a tent or have no self-expression. Instead, you should have so much respect for yourself that you want people to know you. And you only want to share intimate things with someone you trust and respect and want to share your life with.

Person A: I was watching a movie about Kylie Jenner about how she is causing women to be more objectified because she only posts pictures of her body and not even her face. So this isn’t even showing that she’s a whole person. She’s just looking like a sex object. You’re not your butt or your chest or your hair. You’re a full person. I want to dress in a way that presents me as a full person.

Q: What are conservative modesty standards?
A: It varies by family but we came up with this general outline of “levels,” I guess you could call it.

Basic Modesty standards:

The purpose is to not draw negative attention to yourself. Therefore, a woman could technically wear a skirt and have really long hair, and still be immodest if she was dressing in a very flashy way for the purpose of drawing attention to her body. Or, she could also dress very modesty, but be overly flirtatious. (one girl said: there’s a lot of “fundie girls” who are very flirtatious. I know too many and they drive me crazy! And every time I’m like: you preach modesty and saving your heart and then I see you flirt with every guy who walks by you. Even at Big Sandy. It’s gross. Please stop).

Levels of modesty:

Level 1: Basic. Don’t do things to draw attention to your body. This means not wearing  overly flashy make-up, tight clothing, low cut shirts, ect. If you can see every “curve and roll” it’s a problem.

Level 2: More stereotypical “modest” dress. Make sure you wear flowy clothing, everything below knee, under shirts, ect.

Level 3: Don’t draw attention to your butt area. Either wear skirts or wear pants with a long shirt that covers your bottom.

Level 4: Head coverings.

Q: Do you think the notion that women need to dress modestly in order to not cause their brothers in Christ to stumble perpetuates rape culture and places blame on the victim? Or do you think men are taught as much to be accountable for their gaze as women are taught to dress modestly?
Everyone needs to dress in a way that says, “I respect myself.” To us, that means not dressing in a way that you know will cause you to be seen as an object, and also not choosing outfits for the purpose of making guys sexually attracted to you. Obviously, this is a double sided question. Just as much as women (and men) need to dress in a respectful manner, men are responsible for their own actions. No matter how a woman dresses, a man is responsible for how he acts, including how he thinks. No matter what women wear, a man could still be sinfully attracted to her. So, women shouldn’t wear a cardboard box. But, they shouldn’t desire to dress in a way that will make men sexually attracted to them. We think that’s the conclusion: women shouldn’t wear clothes to make men sexually attracted to them, and men are equally responsible for their own thoughts and actions.

Q: Why are there some women who choose not to wear pants? What’s wrong with pants?
First, we want to say that none of us, not one, were taught that wearing pants is a sin. Some of us were taught that it’s wiser for a woman to wear a skirt, but we were never taught it was a sin. It’s a big misconception in the media that all conservative women refuse to wear pants. This isn’t true. Even in the most conservative churches, some women wear pants. Even in IBLP and ATI circles, women wear pants. Maybe not at big events because they know most women will be wearing skirts and they don’t want to stand out.

So why may a family believe it’s wiser to wear skirts? Simple, they don’t want to draw attention to that part of their body. Pants often have designs on the back pockets, or just by the way that they’re shaped draw attention to that part of the body. You don’t know who will be looking at you, and what they’ll be thinking, and they want to prevent people from thinking about that part of their body. There are loose fitting pants but, let’s be honest, these pants often aren’t the most fashionable. And it’s easier to put together a cute outfit with a tunic top or dress/skirt than a loose fitting pair of sweatpants.


*indicates answer was added after initial publication.

Keeping Your Child Safe From Abuse During the Holidays And Throughout the Year

Keeping Your Child Safe From Abuse During the Holidays And Throughout the Year

kid holiday


Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.
 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9

This will probably be one of the most important, and sensitive, blog posts I will ever write.  I understand that talking about childhood abuse, especially sexual abuse, is difficult. It’s uncomfortable. But, it’s incredibly important. Because Abuse happens, whether we want to talk about it or not, it happens.

1/4 girls and 1/6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. That’s a hard fact to comprehend. (“Child Sex Abuse Fact Sheet”).

Keeping Children Safe

Thankfully, parents, adults, and children can take steps to keep children safe. Equally important, adults can give children the tools they need to get help if abuse occurs. Children can be especially vulnerable to abuse during the holiday season when families visit extended relatives and children are often left alone with adults and other children in unfamiliar situations.

car safety

I often think of abuse prevention policies like car safety: no matter how many safety precautions you take, you cannot guarantee that you will never be in an accident. However, practicing safe driving by using your blinker, stopping at stop signs, and driving the speed limit will significantly reduce the likelihood of being in an accident. And, if an accident does occur, additional safety measures like wearing your seatbelt and using a booster seat, will help ensure that, although you did get hurt, the injuries are not life threatening. Is this an aboslute garauntee? No. But it gives you your best shot.

Abuse prevention practices are similar.

Like safe driving practices that reduce your chance of being in an accident, taking some of the preventative steps outlined below can significantly reduce the chances of your child being in an unsafe situation.

The steps to “give your child a voice” is like the seatbelt. We wear a seatbelt because we know that although we take steps to drive safely, an accident may still occur from circumstances outside of our control. Similarly, even though you take steps to decrease opportunities for abuse, it may still occur. Therefore, it’s imperative that your children know what abuse is and how to report it so that the abuse stops. Although your child may be hurt, early reporting gives your child the best shot at healing.

In this blog post, I will first share my qualifications, talk about specific steps you can take to keep your children safe, how you can give children a voice to report abuse, and what you should do if abuse occurs.

Am I Qualified to Talk About This?


Each year, the organization I founded, Students Against Sexual Slavery, hosted a “Sexual Assault Awareness Week” at my university.  To kick off the week, we placed candles on the school’s quad to represent the 1/3 women and 1/6 men who survive a sexual assault during their lifetime, as applied to my university’s student population. This was from the event in 2015.


Some of you may wonder if I’m even qualified to talk about such a sensitive and important topic, so I think it’s important that I share my experience (if you’re not interested in these, please skip to “Safety Precautions” below).

I have a B.S. in Child & Family Studies and a B.S. in Family & Human Services from John Brown University. During my studies, I focused my research and studies extensively on child abuse and sexual assault, including a year-long research study on sexual assault within Christian Church settings. For this project, I visited 103 churches in 3 states, representing nearly two dozen different Christian denominations. With the approval of an ethics committee and faculty supervision, I surveyed church leaders on their congregation’s child protection policies and sexual abuse reporting practices/how the church responds when someone informs church leaders that they have been sexually abused (children) or assaulted (adults). I also interviewed adults from these churches who identified as survivors of sexual abuse, including now adults survivors of childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual assault. Specifically, I interviewed the survivors regarding how their church responded when it found out they had been abused, and how they wished their church had responded differently. This experience, coupled with extensive research of peer-reviewed articles, gave me incredible insight on why individuals do not report abuse.

In addition to this project, and completing multiple classes related to child abuse and trauma, I also worked as an intern and volunteer advocate for three years at three different child advocacy centers and a rape crisis center, in three states. I assisted with forensic medical examinations of both adults and children and worked with families and survivors immediately after an assault occurred. I also assisted with the organization of multiple community awareness events and training programs for community organizations such as schools and police departments.

I also founded the organization, Students Against Sex Slavery, which was dedicated to raising awareness about campus sexual assault and human sex trafficking in Arkansas.

With all of that said, let’s get to the point of my post: keeping children safe.


Safety Precautions

In addition to the steps outlined in the next section, there are specific steps you can take (especially during the holiday season) to minimize situations where your child is at risk for abuse.

  1. Abuse Occurs By Relatives and Friends You Trust. 

90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). They are not abused by some creepy guy driving around in an old minivan offering free candy, but by family members and friends they trust and are often trusted by their parents. This is uncomfortable to think about, but is important when taking the following steps to protect your children:

  • Do not leave your child alone with a grown-up or in an isolated place. Especially at holiday parties, make it clear that your child is to stay in open areas with people around. If your child goes into a playroom, for example, make sure that the door stays open at all times and that you frequently peek in.
  • Never, under any circumstances, force your child to hug or kiss someone they don’t want to, or emotionally manipulate them to do so. I get it. We all have an Aunt Dorothy that gives tight hugs and kisses that smell bad, but nevertheless gets upset if your child does not hug her. But, never force your child to touch someone (especially a relative) that they don’t want to. Not only should you never physically force a child to hug someone, but do not say things like, “Come on, Aunt Dorothy would really appreciate it if you hugged her” or “You can play with your friends only if you hug Aunt Dorothy.” To be frank, you do not know if anything has occurred between your child and that relative. Not only that, but children need to learn from a young age that they do not need to touch adults they feel uncomfortable with (it is not uncommon for abusers to tell children that they would engage in sexual acts “if you really loved me.”…the difference between a hug and sexual act may seem quite different to as adults, but children must learn that they do not need to do something physical that they don’t want to do to show an adult that they love them).
  • Adults spend time with other adults, not children.

An adult should not seek to spend excessive time with your child, especially alone. Yes, it is perfectly okay for Grandpa to take your child fishing every week. But, if you notice an adult seeks to spend all of their time with children, is buying your child a lot of gifts (grooming) or seeks to spend time alone with your child, this must be a red flag. 80% of child abuse occurs in situations where one adult is alone with one child (“Child Sex Abuse Statistics”). Make sure to ask your child how they feel about the adult in question and make sure that these visits occur in public places or with other people present.

2. Children Abuse Children 

As many as 40% of children are abused by older children (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”).

  • At holiday parties (and in general) make sure that your child does not play alone in an isolated area with other children. Always make sure that there is a group of children, or that the children are in an open area with other people. If the children are playing in a room, check in often. If your child tells you that they don’t like playing with a certain child, or that a child makes them feel unsafe, respect that.

3. Be alert

Be sure to notice any changes in your child. Bedwetting (when the child did not wet the bed before), reverting to younger child behavior, overall changes in behavior, an embarrassment about their body, physical marks that can’t be explained, or knowledge of sex beyond their age level, may be signs that your child is being abused.

4. Create a safety word for your child.

Create a safety word for your child that, whenever they feel unsafe, they can come to you, say that word, and you leave with them right away. No questions asked.

Family and Acquaintance Sex Abusers Look for Specific Characteristics in Potential Victims


Researchers have identified common characteristics in children who were abused by a relative or a family friend. These characteristics include children who are: timid, quiet, lonely and trustworthy (“Child Sex Abuse Statistics”).

Abusers don’t want to get caught, so they seek victims that won’t tell. Abusers may believe that children who are naturally quiet or timid will not stand up for themselves and will not tell. Therefore, giving your child a voice, as outlined below, is incredibly important.

Similarly, children who are lonely may not have an adult that will notice changes in their behavior.

Lastly, abusers also seek loyal children. In these situations, an abuser will spend a lot of time “grooming” their victim, and even the child’s family. They will buy the child gifts or do special treats. They may also practice telling the child secrets to see if the child will keep the secret, and then after they know the child will not tell, ease into the abuse. It will often start small, with a slight touch to see if the child will say anything. If not, the abuse will increase, and the abuser will say things like, “If you really loved me you’ll do this.” Additionally, the abuser will build a trusting relationship with the family, so that if the child does say anything to the parents, the parents will not believe the child.

Research Institutions Where Your Child Will Be Alone with Adults


I have worked for many years with the children’s ministry organization, Child Evangelism Fellowship, both in their after-school clubs and overnight camps. I was incredibly impressed, and thankful, for their strict child safety standards, some mentioned below. If your child will be participating in after-school activities, children’s religious programs, or overnight camp, research that organization’s policies and make sure they’re similar.

  1. First, make sure that the organization recognizes that abusers seek organizations where they will have easy access to children, such as religious organizations (where people are often trusting) and overnight camp settings (where children will be spending a lot of time with a few adults). Make sure the organization first recognizes that all organizations, but especially those that work with children, are attractive to abusers and must take extra steps to be safe.
  2. Second, make sure all staff, including volunteers, undergo extensive background checks. Not only criminal but also personal. Are references required? Are references actually called? Does the organization look for “subtle” abuse red flags such as moving frequently (abusers move to keep the abuse secret) or working with many children’s organizations over a short period of time?
  3. Third, ask about the organization’s has child abuse prevention procedures. What steps does the organization take to make sure that situations that put children at risk (like being alone with an adult or another child) are avoided? For example, at CEF, a child must always be in a group of three. Two children can never be alone together and an adult may never be alone with a child under any circumstance. Even when a child wakes a counselor in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, that counselor must wait outside of the bathroom building while the child goes inside (bathrooms are not in cabins). Also, if a child forgets something in the cabin, the counselor must take another child back to the cabin with them. CEF also recognizes that abuse occurs among children, and children are never allowed to be alone together.
  4. Furthermore, Make sure that the staff are trained in these procedures, and ask how the organization ensures staff is following these protocols. Again, with CEF, the leadership staff is constantly walking around the camp. For example, when I was Dean of Women (the leadership member in charge of all female counseling staff) I would visit activities and walk into cabins unannounced. This ensured that (for the most part) if any counselor was struggling to follow the above-mentioned safety procedures it would be quickly spotted.
  5. Lastly, ask how the organization reports abuse and what they do after abuse is reported. Do they know they must report externally as well as internally? What happens when a report is made against a staff member (is the staff member immediately removed from all child-related activities until accusations are verified or dismissed?) It is not enough to have safety procedures in place, but that there must also be clear guidelines on how to report any potential sexual abuse.

Give Your Child A Voice

boy with microphone

It’s equally important for you to give your child a voice, so that, if abuse does occur, they can report.

  1. A Child’s Body is Their Body. 

Make it very clear to your child that their body is theirs, and theirs alone. No one can touch them without their permission, including parents.* Children need to know that it is okay to say no to being touched and that loving adults will respect that decision.

2. Safe Touches v. Unsafe Touches / “Off Limit” Zones

From a young age, children need to know that some touches are “safe” and other touches are “unsafe.” This is the easiest way to talk to your child at an age-appropriate level about touches. Give your child examples. A safe touch includes things like a high five, mommy brushing your hair, or a hug that does not hurt and you don’t fee weird giving. In contrast, an unsafe touch is a touch that hurts*, or a touch someone tells you not to tell anyone about. A good rule of thumb for a child is that a safe touch would be any touch you could tell a non-family member about.

In my family, and when I am in settings where I will be working with children for a long period of time (especially in an overnight setting), the conversation often goes like this, and I will tell the child:

 Your body is your body. No one can touch you without permission. When someone touches you it should not hurt. No one should ever touch you in the area covered by your bathing suit. If mommy, daddy, or a doctor (or another safe adult that you trust) needs to help you change or go to the bathroom or bathtime, they should never kiss you in an area covered by your bathing suit or play games with that area of your body. Never, ever, under any circumstance should someone ask you to touch them on an area covered by their bathing suit or show you the parts of their body covered by their bathing suit. An adult should also never ask you to keep a secret. If someone does this, tell a safe adult, right away, and you will never be in trouble.*

*Spanking is legal in every state. Although the definition of “spanking” and what is allowed does vary based on state law. This post is not about whether spanking is good or bad. I am not endorsing or condemning any discipline method in this post. However, if your family does choose to spank, implementing these safety rules may be confusing and difficult for children.

5 fingers

3. Have Five Safe Adults

Parents are responsible for producing 75% of child pornography (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). That means children forced to participate in porn films were forced to do so by their own parents. Therefore, as uncomfortable as it may be, we need to recognize that people we trust, including our spouse, could harm a child. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that children know that mommy and daddy have rules. Your children must know that if mommy or daddy makes them feel unsafe they need to tell someone.* Therefore, it’s important that your children have safe adults. I help the children I work with identify five adults (one for each finger) that they can talk to whenever they feel unsafe. These adults must be people that you know and trust. Before your child identifies this person as one of “their five” talk to this adult, and tell them that is their responsibility to (please note that this person must be someone the child trusts and would want to talk to, not just someone you trust):
             1) believe your child, no matter what;
             2) keep what your child tells them confidential (this is the person your child goes to because they feel unsafe talking to you…and that’s okay)….if this safe adult must tell you something, make sure that they tell the child they are going to tell you;
3) report any abuse that your child tells them, even if the child names you or your spouse as the abuser.

This is a big responsibility, and not everyone is up for it.


4. No Secrets

An adult should never ask a child to keep a secret, ever. Especially loyal children may feel guilty for breaking a secret. I have worked with multiple children and adults who were abused as children. Many of these individuals did not report their abuse immediately because they didn’t want to break a secret they promised to keep. Therefore, make sure your child knows:

1) An adult should never, under any circumstance, ask your child to keep a secret. Tell your child that if an adult (or any person) asks them to keep a secret, to tell you right away;
2) There is a difference between a secret and a surprise: in a surprise, everyone (except the person being surprised) knows about the surprise. This is unlike a secret, where the person keeping the secret is the only one who knows about it. Also, in a surprise, there is a set and identified time when that surprise will be made known, unlike a secret which is kept indefinitely. Tell your child that if someone tells them something is a surprise, that they can verify this with one of their 5 safe adults. Surprises are happy and are about future events, not events that already occurred.

child words

5. Give Your Child the Words They Need

Talking about sex with kids can be uncomfortable, especially in more conservative environments. All too often, I speak with adults who wrongly believe “talking about sex” with your child means telling your three-year-old everything about sex. No! Absolutely not.

First, I am a firm believer that it is not only appropriate, but best for children, that they do not know everything about sex, but only things things that are presented at an age and developmentally appropriate level (in fact, a child having an advanced knowledge of sexual intercourse and sexual functions is a potential sign of sexual abuse and one of the many ways trained advocates can help confirm that an abuse has occurred….for example, when a trained interviewer speaks with a young child that reported being sexually abused by an adult male, one of the things the interviewer will ask is “did anything change about his body?” An abused child will know that a man’s private parts “change” when touched, while a child who has not been abused will have no idea what the interviewer means…of course, as children have unsupervised access to the internet at younger and younger ages, it is not absolute that children who know these things were in fact abused, but it is something that is looked for).

Giving your child a voice also means giving your child the right words. For example, a child should be able to say “what a doctor would call” their “private parts.” If you want your child to call their vagina or penis a “private part” (that’s a topic for another post)  make sure they know that a doctor would call it a vagina or a penis. I have worked on cases where children tried to report abuse, but were unsuccessful because adults had no idea why Johnny was so upset that Uncle Timmy took him fishing and “played with his fishing pole” (what the abuser called his penis). Abusers will often create games and will call these body parts innocent things so that I child will not be understood when he tries to report.

6. No Shame in Sex

As a Christian, I believe that sex is good, and it was created by God as a good thing. Now for me, there are rules about sex, about who should engage in it and when, but the act of sex itself, is not bad. Regardless of your religious beliefs, I am also confident that you have a moral code regarding sex. Talking to your child about sex in a developmentally appropriate way is not disregarding those morals. 

Unfortunately, sex is silenced in many homes. It is off limits to talk about. All of the survivors I spoke with during my year-long research study (and many I talk to today) said one of the reasons they didn’t report is because they felt shameful, or “weren’t allowed to talk about that stuff.” Yes, your child should not have a potty mouth. But, at an age-appropriate level, your child must know that there is no shame in talking to you about their bodies or what someone did to them.


7. Foster a Relationship Where Your Child Can Talk to You

This is probably the most important step: your child must know that they can trust you, talk to you about anything and that they will be believed.

1. Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about their body and about sex.
This can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be. How you react speaks more loudly than what you say. If your child sees you become embarrassed when they ask a question about their body, or you tell them not to ask you questions, or you lie (like you say baby’s come from a stork, and your child later comes out how babies are really born) your child will not be able to trust you if they are ever scared and ashamed about sexual abuse. If your child’s question catches you off guard, or you need a moment, it’s totally okay to tell your child that you will talk to them later about it. Tell them a specific time and then keep your promise! Your child will not forget.

2. Your child needs to be able to trust you.
This means not sharing information they tell you with others, speaking with your child in private if they ask to do so, and telling them that you will tell when you will what they told you with others (including your spouse).

3. Believe Your Child.
Yes, all children can tell creative stories or lie to get out of trouble. However, children cannot lie about something they do not know about. Children do not know about sex unless they are taught, and cannot create situations they have never seen. There is a natural shame around sex that they must overcome to tell you anyways. So, if a child tells you that Uncle Tim forced them to do a sexual act, believe him.

If your child tells you that Cousin Michael touched them, believe them.

4. Do Not Get Mad at Your Child / Make Sure Your Child Knows He Will Not Be In Trouble
Abusers often tell their children, “mommy and daddy will be mad at you if you tell them what we did” or “If you tell mommy or daddy you’ll be in big trouble.” Abusers make the child feel guilty and responsible for the act. And the last thing a child wants is to disappoint his parents! It’s easy for a child to believe they will be in trouble for telling if sex and bodies are “off limits” in your house. For example, if your child has asked you a question about their body or “where babies come from” in the past, and you responded by saying “we don’t talk about that!” your child can reasonably believe that you will be upset/they will be in trouble if they tell you about abuse.
Again, children should not be gross or have a potty mouth. But there is a balance. Make sure you to tell your child, “I will never be mad at you for telling me the truth.” Another good idea is to practice giving your child grace. When you child confesses something they have done wrong, do not yell at them, but love them and tell them, “I’m so happy you told me!” Obviously, like everything in parenting, there has to be a balance in this. But, if children have seen you extend grace, they are more likely to believe you won’t be mad if they tell you they’ve been abused.

Reporting Sexual Abuse


This is probably the most uncomfortable part of this whole blog post so I will start by saying this:

Sexual abuse is a crime, and any investigation and help must be handled by trained, licensed professionals.

  1. It is not your job, nor are you qualified, to investigate abuse allegations. It is your job to believe the child and keep him safe. 

First, I want to clear up a big myth that I encounter a lot, especially in more conservative circles: Social Workers and investigators do not want an abuse report to be true, they want to uncover the truth. This is a big difference. Too many people, especially in conservative circles, think “the liberal government is out to ruin my family.” This is not true. One of the primary goals of social work programs is to keep genetic families together. Social Works and “the government” are not trying to prove that abuse situations occurred when they did not! In fact, organizations are happy to discover that there was a misunderstanding and that no abuse occurred! Everyone working in child advocacy recognizes that abuse is an incredibly serious allegation. Therefore, one of the best things that can happen is to discover there was a miscommunication and that the child is fine and nothing happened!
Social workers, overall, are caring individuals. They are not on a witch hunt to make parents or adults out to be child abusers when they are not. Are there bad social workers? Yes. And these social workers make the news and make people afraid to report. But, as someone who has worked at 3 child advocacy centers, I can say with complete confidence that it is our not our goal to “prove” abuse happened when it didn’t or frame adults as abusers who did not abuse. 

Second, you are ill-equipped to investigate abuse. Child abuse investigators have extensive training in how to identify signs of abuse and ask non-leading questions. If a child tells you an abuse occurred, first make sure they are safe. Then call the police or the reporting hotline below. DO NOT ask your child a lot of details (see point below) and DO NOT contact the abuser. This gives the abuser potential time to flee or craft a story.

Children’s memories are sensitive!!! I cannot stress this enough! If you ask them questions like “Did Uncle Tim touch your private spot?” they could eventually believe this event occurred when it did not. I have seen this multiple times, usually during custody battles, where Part A convinces the child that Part B abused them.

Also, children want to please their parents! If they see that you want them to say something happened, or want them to say did not happen, they could change their memories or stories. Thankfully, due to the interview techniques of child investigators, they can ask non-leading questions that help uncover what really happened. Therefore, leave the questioning up to trained child interviewers.
On that note: if your child is going to be interviewed, make sure they are being interviewed by a trained and licensed Child Forensic Examiner, or whatever your state calls this individual. These individuals are trained specifically to ask non-leading, developmentally appropriate questions to children. Adult investigators, or even worse, police, are not qualified to ask these questions! Tell whomever you are working with that your child must talk to a Child Forensic Examiner or similar professional.

2. “I won’t do it again” is not an acceptable answer. 
It’s scary to admit that someone you love and trust could harm your child. Sexual abusers need help. There is no “stereotypical” sex abuser. Situational abusers abuse during highly stressful situations, while some people abuse to show dominance and power, while others abuse because they are attracted to children (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). Regardless of the reason, these individuals need professional help. Although an apology may be an important part of the healing process, it alone does not correct the situations nor will it make your child safe.

70% of abusers have between 1 and 9 victims, while 30% of abusers have more than 10 (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics). If someone abuses a child once, they will abuse again. Reach out, get help. Not only for your child’s sake but also to help the abuser. If you love the abuser, the best thing you can do is report and get them help.

3. You Need to Report Suspected Abuse
Again, this can be scary. But Child Advocacy Centers are full of caring, trained individuals who want to help your child. Failing to report even suspected abuse in some states is a crime. Not only that, but your child needs professional help to heal.

4. Reporting Internally is Not Enough

Many institutions have their own “reporting policies.” However, in addition to reporting internally, abuse must also be reported externally:

If you suspect a child is or has been sexually abused, you can anonymously report by calling: 1-800-422-4453.

If you are an adult surivor of childhood sexual abuse or rape, proffessional help is availible 24/7 by calling RAINN 1-800-656-4673 

Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility. My responsibility and your responsibility. There is nothing we can do, as professionals and parents, to 100% prevent abuse. However, we can take steps to minimize opportunities for abuse to occur and give children a voice to report abuse if it does happen.

Let’s keep children safe!


“Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet”

“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”