The Power of Support

A post is circulating on social media about a famous composer’s funding. I wanted to share it here and talk about the implications for myself and other writers and artists. Here is a screenshot of the tumblr post, with the text of the post below it.

Text of post:
TILThat:

TIL Tchaikovsky had a patron who gave him enough money to quit his job and become a full-time composer, on the condition that they never meet in person.

mjalti:

this is the sexiest thing I’ve ever read in my life ever

screenshot:

Tchaikovsky’s fortunes changed in 1877 when he gained the emotional and financial support of wealthy patron Nadezhda Von Meck. The generous annual stipend of 6000 roubles she gave him about 20x what he would have made as a civil servant – enabled him to quit his job with the Conservatory and become Russia’s first full-time, professional composer.

While the composer and his patron exchanged more than 1,200 deeply personal letters in the course of 13 years (that’s nearly two a week), they met only once accidentally and awkwardly-and they never spoke a word to each other. Von Meck stipulated that she never wanted to meet as a condition of her patronage, and the socially awkward Tchaikovsky was more than happy to comply.

Punk Rorschach:

this woman really went “you’re a neurotic twink with no social skills but your music slaps so here’s a shit ton of money never look at me goodbye”


The most common response I saw to this post was “wow, I wish I could get someone to pay me to create,” and I felt extremely lucky to realize that I have 90 people collaborating to provide me with the opportunity to spend my time creating. Creating a Patreon six years ago was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it has slowly grown. Now it pays the rent and some bills, meaning I have to improvise to cover my needs far less than I used to.

Since my last post, many of you have sent encouraging notes with gifts, and I am so grateful for all of your thoughtful kindness.

I’m so glad that I have this opportunity, and that supporting an artist is so accessible now. I am not supported singlehandedly by one person with a great deal of funds to spare, but by a whole crowd of people who contribute whatever they can. If that’s a dollar a month, I still want to work to earn that dollar with content. So for those who are supporting me on Patreon, I’m sharing paintings, snippets from the book draft, and updates. I’ve been dividing up my writing time between platforms, and trying to focus on the book as much as I possibly can.

I find it incredible that Tchaikovsky had a sponsor, too, and that I’m in the position to have help and support from a whole collection of people. After years of trying to make it work with housing, it’s astounding to be in an apartment and to know where the rent is coming from.

Thank you all for your support. It means I am free to create, and I am creating earnestly.

Work Update

I feel incredibly grateful for the position I’m in right now. I am working from home, with my own hours, able to work when I can instead of trying to force myself to work through pain. It’s enough to cover my half of rent, my cell phone, and internet. That’s fantastic and I’m so thankful to have almost 90 Patreon supporters pledging together enough to make that possible.

Because I’m covering those expenses right away, by this time every month, I have about $5 to my name. I need to bring in more funds to cover everything else for the rest of the month. This includes my energy bill, grocery deliveries (we have EBT for food), transportation for medical appointments, and all other needs. This is without anything extra for convenience or leisure.

My book is slowly taking shape, and after struggling to make it a priority for years, I have the opportunity to focus on writing at last. It will only be possible for me to keep at it if my Patreon keeps growing to an amount I can rely on fully, instead of having to improvise on my remaining expenses.

If you can join my Patreon or make a one-time donation, it would help significantly toward helping me create more with less worry about how I’m going to cover each expense. Thank you all so much for reading, and as always, please only give if you can!

How to support my writing:

For monthly or annual support, the best option is to make a pledge on Patreon.

The Amazon wish list has been shut down due to shipping problems. If you’d like to help us attain necessities through Amazon, please send a gift card to cynthiajeub@gmail.com

I can also accept one-time gifts through Zelle, PayPal, Venmo, and Cashapp.

Zelle email: cynthiajeub@gmail.com

PayPal email: cynthia.jeub@gmail.com

Venmo: @cynthia-jeub

Cashapp: $CJeub

The Moral Bankruptcy of Evangelical Ethics, Part 4: Where Predators Hide

CW: discussion of predatory behavior including pedophilia, violence, and rape

The work of understanding the motives and intentions of predators is not as simple as merely “playing devil’s advocate” or “debating both sides.” It takes both the ability to recognize that a person’s behavior is reprehensible and the refusal to look away long enough to take action. Preventative, retributive, and protective intervention can make all the difference for victims of abuse. It is important to think about where predators hide so they can be found out and brought to justice before they hurt others.

Predators do not hide exclusively in evangelical Christian institutions, but they make for an excellent place to hide. The evangelical ethics system is a sham. I use the word “sham” because it is literally a mask, a cover, for the reality, which is that Christianity makes no real ethical claims at all, but pretends to do so. The foundations of good ethics, like empathy, consent, minimizing suffering, and fairly allocating resources, are in the gray areas of evangelical ethics. Rather, this “ethical system” manages to sidestep the responsibility for wrongdoing altogether.

The punishment for sin is hell, but Jesus died to cleanse sin, so whether you’re in the clear or not depends on what you believe. There are hundreds of denominations and thousands of churches with slightly different interpretations on this. Some people believe that all your actions are predetermined by god anyway, so any sin you commit is in his will from the beginning of time. Others believe that a sin can make you fall out of the grace of god. There’s a lot of disagreement about the small detail of whether justice will be faced in this life or the next one.

The bible isn’t clear about what to do when someone does something truly wrong. Every possible tactic is used to ensure obedience, but beyond obedience, evangelical ethics offer no comment. Sin is essentially disobedience to god, and so the definition equates all sins. A passing intrusive thought can be interpreted as a sin or a temptation from evil spirits, depending on what interpretation you take. Because there is such an emphasis on obedience, however, a child refusing to obey a parent is committing a sin, while a parent demanding obedience with the use of physical violence is not sinning. A woman refusing to obey her husband is worse than her husband demanding sexual gratification. This warps every level of decision-making, judging against rules instead of against conscience. It also leaves a wide, welcoming message to predators: easy prey with no accountability thrives here.

Trying to be a good Christian all the time makes you an arrogant asshole that everyone outside your little world sees right through. I was one of these Christians when I started attending college. It wouldn’t be long before I started learning that the world was bigger and more complex than I had been brought up to believe it was. I was terrified of committing sin in any way, constantly trying to control my thoughts and actions. I wasn’t trying to make sure I wasn’t hurting anyone, because that was not something I was taught to value. I was just dodging the wrath of god. I was trained to obey immediately and cheerfully whenever told to do something, and even now I struggle with making decisions about how to spend my time.

Christians who’ve given up altogether on being good at all are far worse. The weight of their sin gives them such guilt that they keep right on abusing innocent and vulnerable people out of despair at their depravity. In this way, the ethical system fails epically. Even if the rules were good (they’re not), following them is enforced for the vulnerable only. You can be cut off from community needs for being a “sinner” in the usual sense – that is, if you’re gay or trans – but shunning a leader is difficult to do. The powerful have no accountability. Instead, they are offered followings wherever they go. Evangelical Christians love charisma more than character.  

So it is that scandals have been breaking consistently for years, and Christian institutions have no ethical standard by which to hold their leaders accountable. Instead, they express bewilderment and confusion, and throw up their hands. Evangelical Christians have a bigger problem with gay and trans people than they do with pedophiles. Pedophiles are just family members who’ve been unfairly accused of crossing a fuzzy line anyway. Gay people, well. That’s a clear line to them. They’re not even considered family after coming out.

Start asking about why some lines are so clear and others are so fuzzy, and you won’t get concrete answers. The answers have long winding trails that mix actual lines from the bible and political propaganda. The church hasn’t kept a consistent stance on human rights issues like abortion, though I wouldn’t have known that from my limited sources of information, being born in the 90s to evangelical parents.

In the first three parts of this series, I explored how evangelical ethics emphasize obedience primarily, with the main demands being sexual purity and proselytization. However, “sexual purity” doesn’t have anything to say about safety surrounding sexual activities or teaching consent and understanding. It only refers to isolating the monogamous cishet institution of marriage as the only place where sex is acceptable. The first obvious problem here is that there is no argument against marital rape. The marriage contract is viewed as a ticket to a lifetime of consent, which is not how consent works – it can be withdrawn at any time.

At its root, obedience cannot coexist with consent. You cannot prioritize both. If you wanted to do something, you don’t need to be commanded. If you have a choice to say no, obedience is not being demanded. Purity culture creates obedient people, willing to ignore their own needs for what they are being told to do. Dangerously, it creates people who are vulnerable, naïve, immature, and ignorant about sex. Victims of sexual abuse in this culture often cannot even clearly identify what is happening, because the ethical system either blames them for participating in a sexual activity (regardless of consent), or, in the case of marital rape, demands they put up with it. I’ve been specifying evangelical ethics up until this point, but this definitely applies to Catholicism, too. That institution has been thoroughly proven to cover for the exact same abuses of power.

The most vulnerable among us are suffering the worst kinds of abuse at the hands of the powerful. Churches and all other institutions that follow evangelical Christian “ethics” are welcoming places for predators. I have explained at length how completely the so-called ethics it champions fail to address real issues. Instead, its many rules and demands to obey them are a mere sham. It hides a world where predators thrive.

Abuse matters, not because it offends a deity, but because it is the cause of great human suffering. In spending a 4-part series discussing the ethics I was taught, I hope I’ve illuminated the basic structure and problems with this set of values. I am writing about how evangelical ethics are morally bankrupt because I believe it is damaging to regard them as morally valid. Religion has long held a seat at the table of discussion over law and justice because it claims to weigh in on ethics. It’s important to stop giving religion the benefit of assumed ethical superiority. It only empowers those who would hide in its heavily shaded gray areas.

The Moral Bankruptcy of Evangelical Ethics, part 3: Proselytization

Note: I’ve been avoiding social media for the past few days because of what it seems like everyone’s talking about. I don’t think I will mention it by name. My own feelings are complicated. I see victims who are terribly isolated in their spotlight. I had enough opportunity to escape the cult I was in, and even though I had tremendous support, I fell hard many times. There are thousands who are still trapped, and it raises the question: is it possible that someone from one of these fundamentalist families could escape and survive to live a full life? In my experience, and according to the stories of many other people with similar backgrounds to mine, the answer is a resounding no, or at the very maximum a slim chance. So I am grieving the total audacity of people who are blaming the victims in this situation, and I haven’t the energy to say more, and I will now continue with my regularly planned series on evangelical ethics, because if anything, it’s relevant without getting into the specifics of how it applies.

With that, back to the discussion: why evangelical Christianity is morally bankrupt and a terrible foundation for ethics. In this part, I want to discuss proselytization. This word means to recruit or convert someone to join a belief system, party, institution, or cause. Throughout its history, Christianity has employed violence of every kind to spread its reach. This is a feature, not a flaw. It is inherently dehumanizing to declare that another way of existing is wrong, and your view of reality is the correct one, and everyone else should adhere to it.

If I were to go through my own introduction to these so-called ethics, I think the first and foremost principle I learned was that proselytizing is the ultimate good thing someone can do. I had been born into a Christian family, so I got to “accept Jesus into my heart” early, or so I was adamantly told by everyone in my world. The goal was for me to be fully prepared to go out into the world and preach the “good news” to anyone and everyone. It didn’t matter whether they wanted to listen, I embraced the idea that any behavior or conversation could impact someone’s relationship with god, and my life was demonstrative of Christian goodness. Which meant I was an insufferable asshole, honestly.

The ”good news” is what I was told the literal translation of the word “gospel” was. I just looked it up, and that is the root etymology, but I can’t be sure what is and isn’t true of what I’ve been told. In short, the good news is that Jesus died so you can go to heaven. That’s it. Also, you killed him. By existing as a human. Humans are also bad. So bad, like disgusting filth and trash to god. But we’re made in the image of god, who is perfect. Anyway, Jesus came back from the dead, which somehow means none of us really have to die permanently. It gets weird when you question how it all works. Some people are content with believing that they will spend an eternity singing praises to god, but this never satisfied me, and my parents encouraged us to believe whatever we wanted about heaven. Some denominations heavily emphasize the specifics of heaven, even mapping it out, but I was not in one of those.

Proselytization has many times been used as a justification for colonization, or just another word for it. To be clear, proselytization has no real value because Christians themselves are not better off for their moral superiority, so it’s not much of a justification. The belief persists that other people would be better off if they lived in a specific way, that is, if they adhered to evangelical Christian values. Christian proselytization is perhaps the most well-funded and widespread experiment on humanity. This experiment is ongoing, though the results are never published, because they all indicate that testing must be halted at once.

All “mission work” falls under the category of this pretense that proselytization is good. While some efforts include benefits for those targeted, like digging wells for people without access to clean water, the ultimate goal is still proselytization. It should be obvious that giving people access to a life-saving resource should come without stipulations. Instead, the goal is the message and the water is a byproduct, a means to an end. It is merely the positive reinforcement to counter the negative reinforcement of violence. A lot of the time, though, what evangelical Christians think of as a positive is not positive at all. It robs indigenous groups of their ways of life, and masquerades as “aid.”

Proselytization by procreation is another approach. My parents, along with many other evangelical Christian parents, believed that having children and teaching them Christian ways was one of the most effective forms of “growing the kingdom of god.” This violates the consent of the children, but again, there is no basis in the ethical system for giving any regard to whether children consent to anything. If given the chance, they wouldn’t consent to being trained to obey with physical violence, but this is considered necessary.

There is no objective reason to believe proselytization is worth valuing. It is only validated from the inside of the evangelical Christian belief system, it’s even in the name, “evangelical.” Evangelism, another word for proselytization, is seen as important because Jesus commanded it. In essence, both proselytization and sexual purity go back to the main virtue of evangelical ethics: obedience. These things sum up evangelical Christian ethics, or what masquerades as an ethical system. In my next post, we’ll explore what is behind this mask.