It has all just been too much.

I have not posted for awhile. Here is why.

It has all just been too much.

Brock Turner

The Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting

Alton Sterling

Philando Castile

The 5 Police Officers gunned down in Dallas

The Killing of a US Citizen by Robot Bomb

The Nice, France Bastille Day Massacre

The hatred in my newsfeed – for blacks, for cops, for Muslims

The craziness of the Presidential Election. Seriously, we are going from President Obama to Trump Inc. or Hillary?!? What the hell?

Y’all…the developing Republican Platform.

This is by no means a comprehensive list.

It is exhausting. And heartbreaking. And even though there is no time in history when it was better to be alive – There is still…

SO. MUCH. PAIN.

There is too much hate and not enough love.

There is too much division and not enough community.

There is too much suspicion and not enough trust.

There is too much blame and not enough understanding.

Here is where I stand. 

Black Lives Matter.

I support law abiding Police Officers and thank them for their service.

Rape is wrong.

Killing unarmed people is wrong.

I am pro common sense gun control laws.

As a white ally, I must stand up and confront racism whenever and wherever I encounter it. I also must examine my own motives and assumptions every day.

As a white feminist, I must listen to my sisters of color and their experience and recognize that even as women, we are frequently not treated equally.

Truly loving our neighbors (all our neighbors – including people of color AND good cops), which means sacrificing for their wellbeing, standing up for them when they are being mistreated, and providing and protecting their children is the only remedy.

We must look for the image of God in one another. For we are all Imago Dei and none of us is better or more human than another.

I will leave you with this prayer.

IMG_2517

 

 

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Words in Red (that Jesus said) – a poem

red letterDid you really say what they say you said?
All those words I read in red?

How much of them are propaganda,
Meant to fit some neat agenda?
Should I believe everything I read?
Every jot and tittle–
Every deed?
How do I know what you said,
When though you’re alive–
It can feel like you’re dead?
There’s so much left out, so little left it seems,
To fill up my heart and inspire my dreams.
I want to know what you thought at night,
When the stars were out and the moon burned bright.
Were you afraid? Did you question your parents?
Did you think, “How the hell did I make the planets?
I’m just a boy, from a small dusty town.
How am I to be a king with a crown?”
Have you read what they wrote?
Their descriptions of you?
Please tell me Jesus
Do they ring true?
Did they say what you meant?
Did they bring their own slant?
Did they twist or omit or embellish away–
The true meaning of love or the way that you prayed?
When I read I often wonder what you were about–
Did you like to tell jokes? Where did you hang out?
I want to believe that your love is so true,
That you came to be with us–
That you make all things new.
But I have to be honest.
Sometimes I do doubt.
But I think you did too, so I can’t worry about
If they think that I’m crazy, they thought you were too.
I often sit and I puzzle until my puzzler is blue
And I wonder if you were too good to be true
Someday let’s hang out–
Just me
And
Just you.

Rape Culture, High School Boosters, Church Fathers, and You

martinshirtDid you hear the one about the high school booster club (a group made up of parents mind you) that printed up a bunch of rapey t-shirts to amp up school spirit (and the football team)? No? Well, it happened right here in the Bible belt where I live – or is that the porn belt? – oh, I forgot, those are one and the same.

Why is that do you think?

The shirt in question, pictured above, was approved by both Bob Wager, head football coach at Martin High School and booster club president Kevin White who said that “they never considered the message on the shirt to be potentially inappropriate, with each adding that if they had they would have never allowed it to be made or worn.” This should come as no surprise to anyone. This is the problem with rape culture; the first rule of rape culture is don’t talk about rape culture. “Rape culture is a concept that examines a culture in which rape is normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.”  Normalized. That just means you don’t notice it anymore. It has become normal, like the sky being blue. You see, the attitudes and systems we were born into have people programmed to be desensitized. It has gotten so we are able to read the text on that shirt and NOT EVEN SEE that it could be read in a way that glorifies rape.

Back to the Bible belt/porn belt thing for a minute. What do you think that has to do with this entire ruckus? In a recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior titled, Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google? by Canadian psychologists Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson, it states:

[W]e observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state-level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity.

In both the 2011 and 2012 Google data sets MacInnis and Hodson studied, they also found that:

increased state religiosity was significantly associated with increased searches for sex, gay sex, porn, free porn, and gay porn.

It would seem that the Bible belt has been unbuckled and the fly is now open. Heck, the pants may even be down around the ankles.

These facts, like the normalization of rape culture are also not a surprise given that the dominant religious (predominantly evangelical) male dominated culture of the Bible belt buys in 100% to either Complementarianism (fancy Jesus speak for “Everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Men are just more equal.”) or even worse, flat out patriarchy. Let me share with you a few of my favorite quotes from modern day evangelical prophets.

Now that’s one kind of situation.  Just a word on the other kind.  If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.  – John Piper

Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. —Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill

“I don’t think a pastor can give a woman “permission” to do Bible teaching before the church, because the Bible says not to do that. Would we say a pastor, or a board of elders, could give a woman “permission” to violate the command, “You should not steal”, or to violate any other command of Scripture? No pastor or elder board has authority to give permission to anyone to disobey the Bible. It’s God’s Word and we need to obey it. – Wayne Grudem

But I still think that a woman who serves as a pastor, preaching to both men and women, is disobeying the word of God. There are always negative consequences to that. First, there will be an erosion of trust in the Bible and obedience to the Bible, generally in the congregation, because the methods of interpretation used to justify what she is doing often involve misinterpretation of scripture or eroding of the authority of scripture. – Wayne Grudem

Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. – Pat Robertson

I knew that if you married a woman when she was fifteen, she would pluck your ducks. If you waited until she was twenty, she would only pick your pockets. Now, that’s a joke, and a lot of people seem to laugh at it, but there is a certain amount of truth in it. If you can find a nice, pretty country girl who can cook and carries her Bible, now, there’s a woman. She might even be ugly, but if she cooks squirrels and dumplings, then that’s the woman you go after.”  ― Phil Robertson

The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands. —James Fowler, Women in the Church, 1999

I can see your wheels turning. And you are thinking okay, but what do these guys have to do with the early “Church Fathers” ?

Well, let me tell you.

They are where all of this craziness in Christianity–and by extension the Bible belt–got it’s start. They sure as shootin’ didn’t get it from Jesus. It seems that most Christians have no idea where they get their theology about male/female relationships.

First lets hear from the Protestant reformers:

The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. —Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

If [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth–that is why they are there. — Martin Luther

Women are ashamed to admit this, but Scripture and life reveal that only one woman in thousands has been endowed with the God given aptitude to live in chastity and virginity. A woman is not fully the master of herself. –Martin Luther

No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. —Martin Luther

Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband….For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior. —John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten CommandementsPuritan guidebook first published in 1603

Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me….of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now. Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God. —John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791), letter to his wife, July 15, 1774

Yet consider now, whether women are not quite past sense and reason, when they want to rule over men. –John Calvin

Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man. –John Knox (1505-1572)

Now lets move further back to the really early “Church Fathers”:

[For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame. —Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian  

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. —Tertullian, the “father of Latin Christianity” 

Woman is a temple built over a sewer. —Tertullian

Men should not sit and listen to a woman…even if she says admirable things, this is of little consequence, since they came from the mouth of a woman. –Origen

Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God. —Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius 

What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Church Father, Bishop of Hippo Regius

Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one. —Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. —Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. —Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

In a world where our church fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers passed down a view of women that is so vile, so condescending and so hateful is it any wonder we don’t recognize the mistreatment of women, the use of them as a punch line, the view of them as subordinate or their position as one that men are glad they do not have to occupy as normal? Almost any man in any church in the Bible belt will tell you that he believes women are equal to men in the eyes of God. However, the proof is in the pudding and when you have a culture where porn is ubiquitous, women are seen as having the greater role in causing sexual sin, and we have become so blind that we cannot notice a statement so obviously rapey as “We take what we want…Shhh just let it happen,” it is time for us to start breaking the first rule of rape culture and start talking about it.

Beauty, Ugliness & the Meaning of Life

I began writing this post once already and the Internet ate it. For a few minutes I was quite upset as I really liked the direction the post was taking. But now that the mourning period has ended, I have decided that perhaps those words were for me and me alone, and that because of their death, the evolution of my thoughts will have new life and I will be able to communicate with greater clarity.

Just a quick note: This is not a post about Frank’s book. This is a post about Frank and Genie (This ain’t no book cult after all – see what I did there Frank?). The book is all well and good and taught me a lot, however why would you sit with your nose in a book when its author is in the room and you can speak to them face to face?


 

frankeddiedeens This weekend Kent and I had the rare privilege of mingling lives with Frank and Genie Schaeffer as they stayed with us in our home. They were in town to promote Frank’s most recent book,
Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God.
Frank Schaeffer (son of evangelical royalty,
New York Times best seller and erstwhile architect an purveyor of the Christian Coalition and the Moral majority) and his lovely wife are among the most gracious, generous, unassuming and fun house guests we have ever had the pleasure of hosting.

 

This post is my attempt to allow you a glimpselilacs into the joy of this weekend in the same way that Frank’s painting of lilacs can transport me to my childhood backyard and the smell of spring. While it is a mere attempt to mimic the beauty, no painting can be spring and nothing I write can take the place of having been here.

 

 

f&gFrank almost always travels without Genie, as most groups do not choose to spend the money required to purchase the extra plane ticket or they somehow do not find value in having the spouse of the speaker at their event, I do not pretend to know their reasons. However, I can tell you that Genie Schaeffer is an endlessly interesting person and if you have read any of Frank’s memoirs like Crazy for God, you already know that. Genie is a pure delight and I feel very confident that Frank would agree that she is his “secret sauce”. By that I mean that without knowing Genie, you will never truly know Frank. Without her, he is an incomplete picture, as am I, without Kent. She is his muse, his greatest love and his anchor in a stormy sea. She is, as he says, the only person who truly understands him and knows with a knowing that only comes with experience what complexities of life have made him the man I now know.

 

As I mentioned before, Frank was in town to promote his book, and though we only brought together a whopping 30 people at most, Frank spoke to us with all the passion of a person who was in town (as Frank was in a former life) via a flight on Jerry Falwell’s private jet to be introduced as the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention by Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. And although Frank Schaeffer has held court with many, many famous and “important” people, he was most at home on the floor of the bar where we meet, building a castle of blocks with a 6 year old little girl. Why? Because, as he says, that is what is real and important. And believe me, Anika knew she was important to Frank. You could feel it.

 

IMG_8752My children who are 12 and 13 also knew that they were important to Frank and Genie. Do you know why? They took the time to see them­–to focus on them. They were never an afterthought to be ignored or talked down to. That is why my daughter’s lock screen now glows with the inspiration of the picture she took with Frank. When he heard she wanted to be an actress, they spent time one on one discussing Shakespeare. Frank challenged her and connected with her over her dreams. He recommended readings and movies and agreed to Skype with her to talk more about it after she read or watched. Frequently during the weekend when I would be looking for my son, I would finally find him sitting and talking with Frank and Genie in the backyard or showing Frank funny YouTube videos and Frank calling Genie over to watch too. “You have to come and see” he would IMG_8751say. One morning I even found Frank in the driveway feeding Caedmon the basketball so he could practice his shooting. When Frank or Genie were with them, they were the only thing that mattered. It was pure magic.

As for me, this weekend was transformative. We drank wine, we broke bread and though we did not call it communion, that is what it was. We talked about beauty. We talked about art. We shared music. We spoke honest words and we shared empathy. This weekend helped me along in my evolution. After all, life is about becoming not simply having the “right ideas”.

One thing Frank did say while he was here is that he tries to look at every situation and ask “Is it beautiful or is it ugly?” Does believing it help me behave in ways that are beautiful or ugly? Does saying it, or doing it make the world a more beautiful or a more ugly place? I will tell you this, Frank and Genie Schaeffer came to visit and they made our world more beautiful.

 

 

What’s love got to do (got to do) with it?

1_corinthians_13_4_8_by_yods-d4r0d51There is lots of talk about loving your neighbor going around. There are a lot of thoughts about loving your enemy. There are questions about how we can love members of ISIS, megachurch pastors and even that relative you secretly dread spending time with.

So I got to thinking, is there anything to be learned in scripture about loving well or what loving someone actually, practically looks like? One famous passage immediately springs to mind, 1 Corinthians 13. You may have heard it before. It goes something like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If we assume this to be true and an accurate depiction of love, what does that say about who God is seeing as the scriptures tell us that God is love? Let’s sub in God for the word love in the 1 Cor. passage and see what we get:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God’s love never fails.

That phrase “is not self-seeking” is also translated “does not insist on its own way”.  Can you imagine? God does not insist on his own way. BOOM. WOW. INSANITY.  I don’t know about you but that was a revelation to me this week.

What about us? How does that help us? Does this have direct application that helps us love the specific people mentioned earlier? Let’s see. I’ll try it with myself. (I don’t know about you but this is actually one I have done before).

Michelle is patient, Michelle is kind. Michelle does not envy, Michelle does not boast, Michelle is not proud. Michelle does not dishonor others, Michelle is not self-seeking, Michelle is not easily angered, Michelle keeps no record of wrongs. Michelle does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Michelle always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Michelle’s love never fails.

If you want you can take it a step further by inserting the person(s) you aren’t sure if you’re loving. Can I confidently say:

Michelle is patient, Michelle is kind toward her enemies. Michelle does not envy her neighbor, Michelle does not boast to her frustrating family member, Michelle is not proud when someone offers advice. Michelle does not dishonor he enemies, Michelle is not self-seeking, Michelle is not easily angered with her children or spouse, Michelle keeps no record of wrongs. Michelle does not delight in the megachurch pastor’s wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth that allows healing to begin. Michelle always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Michelle’s love never fails?

Honestly, sometimes I can say those things and sometimes I can’t.

However, I can confidently say, this is the kind of love I aspire to. This is the kind of person I want to be. And for real, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all these kind of people?

In the end, what’s love got to do with it? Absolutely everything.

 

 

Doing it all for others (at least some of the time) & the #genuinequotient [*props to James Michael Devitt*]

0genuine-stamp-1Yesterday a friend of mine posted a video of Victoria Osteen on Facebook. In it she said, “When you worship (and obey) God, we’re not doing it for God, we’re doing it for ourself, because that’s what makes God happy!” The comment section was predictable and contained the usual comments saying things like:

Yeah, there’s just really not much that comes from that man that’s biblical… if we’re to take God’s word literally, that guy’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do when he leaves this earth.

It’s all about positive thinking with them and happiness and bunny rabbits and lollipops when people need to hear good old fashion hell, fire and brimstone again!

That’s all America needs is an ‘excuse’ to be selfish bc we don’t have enough of that already… And I think they have the largest congregation in America.
How about do it bc u want to – please God. Surely that’s what she ‘meant to say’ – sigh…

Today in the car all of this came back to mind and I started examining what I believe about this and what my motivation is when I do the things I do. Here is what I came up with…

The good that I do, the love that I share, I don’t do that “for God”. God and I are already cool. Because he loves me no matter what (and before I did anything good or bad) he sent his son, not to condemn me but to save me and everyone else. I also don’t do it “for myself”. Sorry Victoria, for me loving people often isn’t easy and/or doesn’t make me happy. The good that I do (when my motives are right) I do for others. Jesus gave us two commandments; love God and love each other. Paul later distills these two down to one, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When we do this one thing we fulfil all the law including loving God. After all, how does God say people will know that we are his followers? By all the stuff we do “for him”? Nope. By how happy we are? Nope. He says followers of Jesus will be known by one thing. L-O-V-E. So how is that going?

This week I was party to a Facebook conversation in which the term “genuine quotient” was thrown out as a compliment. Kent and I thought it was an excellent and very descriptive term so I am totally advocating that we, lovelies, make it a thing. Here is my attempt at defining “genuine quotient.” “Genuine” means authentic or sincere, what something or someone truly is. “Quotient” is the degree or the magnitude of a specified characteristic or quality. If we put these together we have:

Genuine Quotient – The degree or magnitude to which someone is genuine or sincere.

It is my contention that people have a pretty good bullshit meter when it comes to the #GQ (catchy, huh?). People know when my motivation is love and care for others vs. doing something to make myself happy or look good to someone else vs. doing something “for God” (as if God needed me to “do something” for him) either to earn his approval or stay out of hell. When we do things out of obligation or selfishness we will never be known by our love even if our actions seem good on the surface. Like I said, b.s. meters yada yada. However, it is my contention that when my motivation is love for my neighbor, I raise my genuine quotient. And isn’t that a good thing?

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Really Joel?

JoelO

 

I saw this in my news feed on the Facebook this morning. It was posted by a lovely and well meaning friend. I am confident it was meant as encouragement for her friends who were experiencing tough times. Most days I would scroll right by but not today, I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because of our recent scare with our son’s ruptured appendix and emergency surgery. Maybe it is the war raging in the Middle East. Or maybe it is the Ebola outbreak in Africa. But today, I just could not allow it to pass by unchallenged and uncommented upon.

Here is the comment I posted to my friend:

What about child abuse? What about people who starve to death? What about rape? What about when your child dies? I could go on and on. I apologize for being so negative but when I read something like this it just seems so glib and dismissive. Seriously, what is God’s purpose for genocide? Or the holocaust? I personally don’t think a God like that is worth serving.

Seriously, how in the world do we lay such horrendous things at the feet of God? What kind of fucked up God is that who would for some “purpose” allow terror, destruction and death? Jesus says those things come from one place and it isn’t God. (John 10) Jesus says that he is light and in him is no darkness. (1John 1) Jesus says that he is love. (1John 4) Genocide isn’t love. Jesus says he is the author of life. (Acts 3) I would rather worship a God who is there with me in my suffering than the cause of it. That is the God I see in the scriptures. This is the good news, that God did not leave us alone to experience evil he came down and experienced it himself. (Philippians 2) The good news is that love can win in the end. That someday all will be made right. (Revelation 21) And that until then he is here with us in it. Suffering with us. Just like the creation we are all “groaning” together waiting for that day. (Romans 8)

To borrow a thought from Rob Bell, often I find that when somebody says they don’t believe in God, and I ask them to tell me about the God they don’t believe in it turns out I don’t believe in that God, either. Here is what I think. I think a lot of people who want to believe are turned off by a God and a people who say that their God is a bloody, vengeful, narcissistic, genocidal maniac. Well, if that is my choice, to either worship that God or no God at all, I pick no God at all. Fortunately that is not my choice. I worship the God who is all love, who is unselfish, who is for humanity and not against it, who is light devoid of any darkness, who recoils at violence done in his name, who never forces himself on anyone, who loves all, who wants all to be saved, who is making all things new.

 

Links:

Rob Bell: What is the Bible Series

You’re Damn Right I Believe Another Gospel

#anothergospel immigration, contraception and patriotism edition

What If? Would We?

Anne Lamott