hobart logo

December 31, 2018 Nonfiction

In the Kingdom of Heaven and Mom Blogs

Hanna Brooks Olsen

In the Kingdom of Heaven and Mom Blogs photo

At night when I walk the dog, I check to see if they’ve posted anything new. First I open Instagram. I don’t follow any of them because that would be a public admission, but the search function meets me way more than halfway. Click to see if the link is in the comments. 

Then on to the real deal, the web browser. Fingers crossed for a video, but a blog post will do. I search through all of my favorites to get my fix. Click click click, so many of my favorites. 

Pushing aside a sea of pop-ups -- a Godly woman has to make a living, after all -- and scrolling past the Sponsored Posts, I get to the good stuff. A blog post about how feminism ruined a marriage. One about how to encourage your husband (like a good little helpmate!). One about how leggings and denim shorts are tempting men into sin. 

I devour them. They are the antithesis of my entire life, my entire self. I snort and shrug and shake my head while I scroll. I marvel that these women are out in the world, breathing the same air I breathe, buying the same products that I buy. Who are these women? Where did they come from?

And why can’t I look away?

I don’t remember when I first become consumed by the digital lives of Evangelical bloggers. I can’t remember which blog I first found or why. There is a profound curiosity inside of me that compels me to find out everything about everything, so I’m sure if was because there was a viral post about something offensive. Every now and then, one of these blogs goes mainstream, thanks to a particularly problematic hot take -- something about how the gays should never marry or how modesty is about self-respect and girls who are date-raped shouldn’t be alone with boys anyway -- so that’s probably how I found it. 

But I didn’t just click, cluck my tongue, and move on to the next tasty Facebook tidbit. I kept scrolling. And then I went on a hunt. 

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how I found my new nighttime reading list. The breadcrumbs led me through WordPress sites about families with too many children and, somehow, plenty of cash for sensible J.Crew outfits. Lucky me, I discovered a treasure trove miles deep. There are hundreds of these sites, each with a different whimsical title and a different bend (fashion! Cooking! Homemaking! Chastity!). There are so many that I was even able to find a favorite genre. 

You can tell when you’ve found one of these blogs because there are lots of hazy stock photos with text over them in a typeface like Brusher or another hand-lettered-ish font. Everything is bright, bright, bright and approachable, even when the content is, at times, alarmingly dark.

The ones I check most often seem to share the same general aesthetic. They are mom blogs with a religious twist—and a surprising proclivity for preppy fashion. Every mom has an effortless fishtail braid and impossibly slim hips. The writing is tepid and wrought with cliches but every photo is somehow perfectly framed and with just the right aspect ratio.

Here is mom holding a coffee and drowning in a massive scarf (affiliate link in the comments). God is good. 

Here is mom getting ready for another day of homeschooling with a green smoothie. The house is so clean and sunlight streams in through the bay windows. Praise the lord. 

Here is mom dressed for church in Anthropologie. He is risen. 

This is not a life I want at all. I decided years ago that I was choosing not to have children. I don’t want seven boys in matching Gap Kids sweaters, eating string cheese and bickering about LEGOs. I don’t want to be this mom, living in a red state where it seems to always be fall and the husband is some faceless white man with a crew cut and an ill-fitting Polo shirt. 

But maybe part of what keeps me coming back is the fantasy of it all. Maybe I just want a life that seems that breezy. These moms are, in the world they have crafted for public consumption, never stuck in traffic, never sweating over bills. They never wake up so depressed they can hardly move. They never find themselves hunched at the refrigerator eating almond butter straight from the jar in a binge that feels like a Category Three tropical storm. 

I mean, maybe they do. They probably do. But they never blog about it, so I like to imagine their lives are all autumn leaves and chalkboard paint on everything and “date nights” with The Hubby. 

There is something about these blogs that feels like an exhibit in a zoo—so foreign to me and so far from anything I’ve ever known. My mother is a witch, a real one, and the opposite of everything in this realm. I remember her when I was little, all wild hair and patchouli oil and no makeup to speak of. I remember her on the phone with my aunt, talking for what felt like hours, smoking cigarette after cigarette and drinking Mountain Dew out of a large purple cup from Tupperware. She wore Levis and old sweatshirts turned inside-out. She never took a photograph that I can remember and the ones we do have were buried away for years; they made her too sad to look at. 

Maybe these blogs give me a look at that life that I dreamt about when I was a kid, longing for something less... odd. They’re like the modern, digital version of the time my aunt and uncle babysat my siblings and I on a summer day and around noon they came out and asked all the kids what they wanted for lunch and I didn’t know how to answer because my mom never made us lunch. Usually we helped ourselves to snacks all day. Sometimes she made ramen. 

But at my aunt and uncle’s house we had sandwiches on white bread with turkey and iceberg lettuce and a handful of Lay’s and it was just like at school! 

Maybe I’m fascinated because some people had moms like these moms. Maybe I wish I had a mom like this but then I don’t think I would. My mom wasn’t trendy but she was cool and effortless and taught me not to give a shit. I’m glad there aren’t a lot of photos of me on the internet. I wonder what all of these kids will think when they get older. 

I wonder if they get sandwiches every day since they’re homeschooled or if sometimes they eat a spoonful of peanut butter like I did as a kid. And like I did the other day. 

Though the “About” pages are almost all the same—Mama, Christ-follower, wife to an amazing hubby!—the content is a little more singularly-focused. Dad is never in the photos, though he is sometimes the subject of the post, particularly if the post includes a recipe. Kids are only sometimes in the photos, and infrequently the subject of the post. God makes only a passing appearance, unless His Word is being used to prove a point. 

The star of the show is mom. She is in most of the photos. She is the point. 

She is also full of opinions—opinions which could not be further from my own. 

They talk about “same-sex attraction” like it’s a condition that needs treatment and the treatment is, of course, Jesus. I’m attracted to women sometimes and I know they think that makes me a bad and sinful person. I wonder about little girls who sit in church and hear how wrong they are. Little girls who are actually little boys. Little girls who are no gender at all. There is no place for that in God’s house and my bloggers make that very clear.  

Amid homeschooling tips and ideas for Easter baking and pictures mom holding a bouquet of seasonal blooms from the farmer’s market are posts about bigger stuff. These are the Very Special Episode of the  Christian mom blog and they always begin with an apology. 

Sorry, y’all, I don’t usually post political stuff, because I’m just so busy! But I just can’t keep quiet about this, guys. 

Sorry if this offends anyone, but I just feel like God’s word is really getting lost! 

Sorry, this is probably going to get a little heavy but I have to speak my truth!

These posts are the ones that remind me that this is not harmless. There are, amid watercolor logos and buttons proclaiming that they belong to a network of Godly Women Bloggers, the kinds of things that hurt people I know and love. In clear, unabashed, pointed language, Mom will take a break from talking about her love for coffee and talk about how trans people are an abomination, how she doesn’t want her children to see that. How a Black Santa Claus is clearly just plain wrong. How she won’t shop at Target anymore because they support same-sex marriage. How feminism is toxic and women like me—who live with our boyfriends in sin and choose careers over children—are going to hell. How they voted for Trump and they’d do it again. And I can’t look away. 

Maybe that’s why. 

Because this is the sweet, well-contoured face of the thing I often think is monstrous. These are the manicured hands that vote for people who want to whittle away my human rights—the ones that I didn’t think had much clout before a couple of years ago, but who I now know are more dangerous than just about anything else. These are the women leaving Facebook reviews about Nike and Disney and any other corporation who “gets political.” These are the smiling women who say they support strong women like Esther and Mary but like, not if they’re seeking asylum, tenderly holding their children, trying to find a safe place to sleep. You know, like Mary. 

Maybe this is what I’m looking for. Maybe this is why I can’t stop looking. 

image: Aaron Burch


SHARE