You’re Damn Right I Believe in Another Gospel.

Since beginning this blog, I have had several Evangelical friends accuse me of believing “another gospel”. At first, I bristled at their accusations. But here today, I would like to say to them all, “You’re damn right. I believe in another gospel.”

If your gospel is that God is some sort of abusive parent who loves you “unconditionally” unless you die without accepting his love and then he sentences you to eternal conscious torment in hell, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says some people aren’t good enough to help feed, clothe and educate children simply because they are married to someone of the same gender; if your gospel says you can cut off these kids like a subscription to Good Housekeeping because “Ewww, the gays.”; if your gospel closes the doors of heaven in people’s faces because of who they love, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says women are eternally subjected to men because Jesus is eternally subjected to the Father; if your gospel says women are equal, but men are more equal; if your gospel excludes women from any area of ministry, leadership, service or vocation, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel allows you to feel oppressed when other people gain rights you have always enjoyed, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel encourages you to pass laws that discriminate against others, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL

If your gospel encourages you to identify and exclude people who disagree with you, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel permits you expelling a little girl from school for not being girly enough then, YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that women are responsible for the sexual sins of men, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that God is some sort of genocidal terrorist who condones the killing of entire races, including children, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features a God wrapped in the American flag, who always votes Republican, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features an AR-15 toting, cage fighting, ass-kicking Jesus, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel is one of “us versus them” or “in versus out”, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel puts anything above loving God and your neighbor as yourself, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

The Gospel I embrace is one of love; one where we are all equal in the eyes of God. One where neither how much you’ve blown it or how perfect you’ve been is what matters; one where everyone gets to play. One where the Father loves without an unless; one where grace and generosity trump fairness; one where we do not get what we have earned or what we deserve but one where we all get to belong. The Gospel I embrace is truly good news, and if THAT is “another gospel” I am guilty as charged.

 

 

 

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Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

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As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

Absolute Convergence?

her·e·tic (her-i-tik; adj. her-i-tik, huh-ret-ik) n.
1. a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.
2. Roman Catholic Church . a baptized Roman Catholic who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith.
3. anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.

or·tho·dox  (ôrth-dks)adj.

1. Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.
2. Adhering to the Christian faith as expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds.

Continuing my theme of dialogue from yesterday…

I read a blog post this morning from Gladys Ganiel called Kester Brewin, Peter Rollins & the ‘Year of Opposition’ in the Emerging Church which contained a quote from her post the day before, International Museum of the reformation, Geneva: Dinner with John Calvin.

The quote has stuck with me all morning and I just felt like I wanted to share my thoughts with you my lovelies. Here it the quote…

…the room where you can share dinner conversation with Calvin and Co. conveyed a sense of historical and even contemporary disagreement. This reminded me that the Christian story has rarely been one of absolute convergence around all Christian practices and beliefs.

I am often asked when someone disagrees with me how I can so easily question thousands of years of Christian doctrine and practice. My friends it is not that simple. In the history of our Christian faith there have been many disagreements over the finer points of what it means to follow Christ. There are many areas where most Christians agree and there are many, many where they do not. As I said in yesterday’s post,

Do we disagree on this issue? Yes. Does that mean either of us are heretics? I don’t think so. Do I stand in the corner of the rejected and shunned? You better believe it. I am not perfect at it but I would rather answer to God for trying to reconcile my LGBT friends with the God who is the lover of their soul (practicing or not) than to try to explain to Him why I pushed them further away. Once again, could I be wrong? Of course. But you know what we are all going to have things we are surprised by on that day and I would rather err on the side of love.

Consider if you will the following areas where we have and continue to debate and disagree on how best to follow Jesus…

Calvinism/Arminianism
Evolution/Creationism
The heliocentric universe
Women in leadership
Complementarianism/Egalitarianism
Gifts of the Spirit
Drinking
Once saved always saved
Martin Luther and his Theses
Literal Heaven/Hell, when do we go there? Purgatory?
Soul sleep
The priesthood of all believers
Demon possession and what to do about it
Is Christianity masculine? Is God masculine?
The nature of God… Trinitarianism/Dualism/Unitarianism/Deism/Monotheism
At one time even translating the bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such a bible was considered heresy according to the Roman Church.

For crying out loud we have even fought over whether women were equal to men, whether the races were equal, whether interracial couples should marry, whether slavery should be illegal, and if wives were property or autonomous persons.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Do the answers to these things matter? You better believe it and without the brave men and women who dared to question the status quo and risk being called heretics; Women and slaves would still be property and be denied the right to vote and own property, and millions would not be able to read the Bible in their native language. Can perceived heresies be dangerous? Of course. Is the Holy Spirit able to sort things out and do His work? You know it.

I ran across some other quotes while reading up on this topic. Here are some you may find interesting:

Gerald Brenan: “Religions are kept alive by heresies, which are really sudden explosions of faith. Dead religions do not produce them.” (Thoughts in a Dry Season, 1978)

I love this one. “Dead religions do not produce heresies”.  Many (added by me) “heresies are really sudden explosions of faith.” Again, think of Martin Luther or William Tyndale.
The questions and discussion “heretics” raise (proved right or wrong) help to keep faith alive. They are often a catalyst by which the Holy Spirit leads us. The fact that we are still discussing and questioning and trying to discern the best ways to follow Jesus’ commands to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves shows us that the Holy Spirit is still alive and well and working in and through humanity to help us become all that we are meant to be.

Helen Keller: “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” (Optimism, 1903)

While this isn’t always true, it is certainly has been true in many cases.

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever has overthrown an existing law of custom has hitherto always first been accounted a bad man: but when, as did happen, the law could not afterwards be reinstated and this fact was accepted, the predicate gradually changed; – history treats almost exclusively of these bad men who subsequently became good men!” (Daybreak, § 20)[23]

One generation’s heretics sometimes become the next generation’s heroes of the faith and culture: Galileo, Martin Luther, Copernicus, William Tyndale, Sir William Wilberforce, Anne Askew, Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc and JESUS – Just to name a few. Did she just say Jesus? Yes I did. Many of the religious leaders of the day accused Jesus of blasphemy, came after him for not keeping parts of the law, and even being possessed by the devil himself.

Heresy is often a word that is hurled at a person in order to end conversation. It is a word we use when we are afraid of what the other person is saying or we are unsure of our ability to defend our position over theirs. I humbly submit that we STOP IT.   More discussion is what is needed, not less. When we brand someone a heretic and end the discussion we silence the Holy Spirit’s ability to use us to help the other or to use the other to change us. It is my experience that one can be called a heretic by some while completely embracing orthodoxy. As I said to my friend Justin, we both agree fully with the Nicene Creed even if I disagree with my him on other points not covered there. We need to STOP branding people with that word errantly and thus blowing up a bridge the Holy Spirit wants to use.

Am I saying there are not dangerous doctrines out there? Of course not. Am I saying we should not fight against them? Of course not. Am I saying we should accept every new thing that comes along? Of course not. The irony is that the people on both sides of the above debates often think the people on the other side are espousing the dangerous doctrine. And lest you think that simply going with the majority is the way to be safe, the majority has often been found to be on the wrong side of history when the Holy Spirit finally gets its way.

In conclusion, I believe we need to read, a lot; not be afraid to be in the minority when we feel like the Holy Spirit is moving; and also, let’s not be so quick to expel a fellow member of Christ’s body, discount their doctrinal differences out of hand and brand them a heretic. Let’s keep the bridges open and allow the Holy Spirit to work.  And mostly, let’s heed the words of the Apostle John, “little children, let us love one another for love comes from God.”

Who knows? We just might learn something.

Grab your Loop and Run like Hell -or- Hang Ten

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Dr. King

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker

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As I reexamined that memory on light of justice I was beginning to realize that I wasn’t being neutral at all. My lack of conviction had been an accomplice to the unequal treatment of women. My diplomacy was misguided. In my quest to maintain peace and unity, I had become a woman with a divided mind and heart.  – Pam Hogeweide, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church.

—————–

over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.

so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. – Kathy Escobar

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Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be.  Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.  – Sarah Bessey

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At first I thought this would be a good letter to the 16 year old me and then I realized that in spite of the struggle and the difficulty and the muting, I am who I am right now for a purpose. Lovelies we were born for such a time as this. Do you get how exciting this is? Do you get how your struggle has brought you to the point where you are standing atop the surf board, salt air in your face, hanging ten as you ride toward the shore with the wave of equality and freedom at your back propelling you into a future where there is ROOM FOR US ALL?

We stand once again at the terminator of history. The terminator or twilight zone or gray line is the moving line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a planetary body. We are coming out of the darkness and sit expectantly in the gray zone, but instead of merely waiting for the light to arrive I picture us like the people who unfurl those huge flags at the Olympics opening day ceremonies. When the music starts they grab their loop on the flag and they run like hell for the other end of the field until the full beauty of the banner is visible to all.  I picture each of us, Rachel and Sarah and me and you and Pam and every woman God has made, grabbing the loops to our collective banner, yelling into the air, “FREEDOM!!! (like Mel Gibson in Braveheart)” as we run like hell for the goal line. I picture the stands full of people watching and waiting to see what kind of banner it will be. And let me tell you when it is finally displayed for all to see, when the full picture comes into view, WOW, my lovelies is it something to behold! The colors of the lives of the men and women made in Gods image bleeding together and showing a picture, the image (if you will) of God! Holy crap. Can you just picture it?

Now, imagine all of us, men and women, young and old with Jesus in the middle, our hands on the loops of the terminator of history running like hell for the horizon pulling the light of the new dawn across the whole surface of the earth. Do you hear us? Shouting and singing and proclaiming justice for the oppressed and freedom for the captives? C’mon. Grab a loop and run with us. And look! He is making all things new.

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This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

Sometimes I Grow Weary of the Fight

This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

I hate to admit it but sometimes…

I grow weary of the fight.

I want to retreat into my own marriage and life and let everyone else fend for themselves.

I feel like it is an uphill battle in which the hill is coated in grease and I am wearing skis.

I am just done asking for a seat at the table and just want to smash the table to bits.

I want to give up when I hear the things people say to me and other women I know about why they should be quiet and ask their husbands at home.

I mourn for the girls who are told that education is wasted on them and the only reason they should go to college is to find a husband.

I am discouraged when women I know choose to mute their own voices to keep the peace.

I get angry when pastors and leaders teach that because of my gender I am just a smidge less equal than my son or my husband or my father or any other man simply because he is a man.

I want to throw in the towel when rather than lifting up their sisters our brothers choose to stand on our backs to elevate themselves.

My heart breaks when I hear single women or women without children told that the highest calling of a woman is bearing children rather than loving God and loving her neighbor as herself.

My soul hurts when women who are abused are told that God will reward them for enduring the abuse of their husband.

The fight just goes right out of me when young women are taught that their voice should be muted so their husband’s can be heard.

I get so upset I can’t speak when women are blamed for the sexual sins of men because they look too good and then chastised for not “keeping themselves up” for their husbands.

The road seems too long when I listen to the voices of young men when they explain that they are looking for a Proverbs 31 woman and they think that means she should be ALL the things on that list in order to measure up. Rather than seeing it as a way to look for things she is doing well and praising her for them.

I die a little inside when I realize I still have to explain honor killings and acid attacks to my daughter.

I want to scream, “Stop comparing yourself to a woman you were never meant to be! Let your voice be heard! You are a fierce, beautiful, lovely creation of God meant to bear his image as much as any man!”

I want to whisper, “You are enough. You are loved just as you are. If you never DO another thing. You do not have to be anything except who God already made you.”

And then, sometimes…

I am reminded there are others out there throwing off the cone of silence and shouting to the heavens, “I have something to say! Jesus gave me this voice and these gifts. I was born a woman to reflect the image of God!”

I watch in amazement as others fumble with their keys to unlock the shackles of others in bondage to a set of rules God never put on them; rules that are kept in place by leaders who would never consider bearing the same burden themselves.

I gain strength from husbands and brothers and fathers who support and defend and practice mutual submission, and in the face of being accused of weakness and passivity they show a strength that shakes the earth and frees the captives.

My heart sings as I watch a young woman who would never consider muting herself as the way to attract a man of character but rather looks for a man who is strong enough to want to hear what she has to say.

I burst with joy when I see the tide turning as post after post, and book after book, and woman after woman, and marriage after marriage are spoken and written and unleashed and transformed from something that resembles at best a benevolent dictatorship into a beautiful dance of mutual respect, mutual submission and self-sacrificing love that reflects the relationship of the trinity.

I want to shout from the rooftops, “The tide is turning! It cannot be stopped! Jesus has come! Freedom has come! The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

I want to whisper, “Come quickly, Lord. Bring freedom to as many as possible. Let their voices, women and men, come together to lift each other up by outdoing each other in love and honor. Don’t let me lose heart. Give me strength to never give up because every person you made bears your image and their voices must be heard just as you made them for them to fully love you and others as you intended.”

So She Did. A Word of Encouragement to Women…and Men.

“For a woman to not become all that she was meant to be is sin. She’s missing the mark. When she dumbs herself down to not threaten the insecure male, she is forfeiting all that God created her for.”

Tony Campolo

Today I read a blog post by Amy Young, who is asked over and over why she is still single. Her response when she is feeling up to it?

I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am a leader. Remove any one of those statements and I believe I would be married.

Wow. That three sentence answer is a powerful indictment on how we in the church raise woman to stunt themselves and men to look for stunted women. Think about her answer she would have a better chance to get married if she was:

  1. a Christian woman who is not a leader
  2. a woman leader who is not Christian
  3. a male Christian leader

Think about it. She is probably right. She goes on to assert two other points in the post:

1. If you marry before 30 your skills seems less threatening to Christian men.

2. There is a difference between having leadership skills and an actual leadership position.

Like many choices life offers, I didn’t fully realize what I was saying yes to when I stepped into public leadership at age 29. I now know that I was most likely trading leadership for partnership and that, though still beloved by many, I became threatening to potential “pursuers” because of the heavy and mixed messages sent about gifting, submission, headship, and gender. As my leadership blossomed into spiritual realms I became even more like kryptonite to some (both men and women): scary and powerful. It’s also confusing because it’s clear I’m good at what I do and people are drawn to me.

So, returning to the question as to why I am single, there is no simple, easy answer; but I do believe that, in part, it is because I am a woman and a leader and didn’t marry before it became apparent that I was not a behind-the-scenes leader but an up-front, out-loud, follow-me one.

I am thankful every single day to be married to Kent and that we got married as young as we did (18 for me and 20 for Kent). I have frequently thought when confronted with a story like this that I would have had a much more difficult time finding someone if I had waited until I was older to get married.

I had intended to write today about becoming all you were meant to be; about chasing and discovering the beauty of the undiscovered joy that is your gift to the world. I honestly wasn’t sure about how I was going to say it. I thought about a numbered list of witty and inspiring tidbits meant to inspire, I thought about a poem, I thought about just writing about my own experiences. But, as the Holy Spirit would have it, and as it happens to me so often, synchronicity and serendipity stepped in and I was given a gift by Melody Harrison Hansen who blogs at logicandimagination.com on facebook. She posted as her status the quote that you see at the top of this post and pointed me to a blog by Connie Jakab called Culture Rebel which was the source for her quote. She also had linked to the blog I quoted above from In A Mirror Dimly by Amy Young.

These two gifts (thanks Melody!) along with this snippet from Kathy Escobar’s post, ex-good-christian women, are my catalyst for today’s encouragement. Kathy wrote,

over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.  we have been taught codependence and given the company kool-aid to drink.

but it’s changing.  slowly, surely.

thankfully more and more women are joining the ranks of  what i call “ex-good-christian-women.”  it’s lonely at first but in the end, so freeing.

You know what?

The more I think about Amy Young’s post, the more I think about Tony’s quote, the more I reflect on the writings of the closest friends I’ve never met the more encouraged I get. Yes, you heard me correctly. Why exactly do I find encouragement in these things?
Because…

  • I know more and more women who are choosing to be “ex-good-christian women”.
  • I know more and more men, who like my husband are encouraging the women in their life to stop missing the mark by believing the lie that they cant be/do ________ because God doesn’t want them to. These same men are also helping to provide avenues and encouragement for these women to use and develop the gifts that they were afraid to even admit that they thought God gave them.
  • More and more young women are being raised to believe that God wants them to use every gift and every skill that he has given them to serve and lead in any way possible.
  • More and more young men are being raised not to fear strong women but to embrace them and appreciate them as the better and stronger companions that they are.
  • More and more people, men and women are finding their voices and speaking up and out on behalf of the oppressed.

And today, I would like to encourage you my lovelies, male or female…

  • You are amazing and have gifts buried inside you that are waiting to be discovered
  • Those gifts will change you and others in ways you never dreamed possible
  • Don’t give up just because you try something you have always wanted to do and it feels like the hand-me-downs of your childhood that you needed to “grow into”. Sometimes when a gift has been ignored on a shelf it needs more TLC to cultivate it than it would have taken to maintain it.
  • Try things even if you aren’t sure they are for you. You just might surprise yourself. And if you don’t? So what. You will be richer for the experience.
  • Husbands look for ways to encourage your spouse to be all they were created to be. Don’t be afraid of the strength she will find. Help her discover who she has always been and you will be rewarded with a richer life and a happier wife. I love my husband so much for encouraging me in my new found talents.
  • Wives don’t be afraid of your gifts. It will not subtract from who you are as a wife or a mother. On the contrary, if you become who God designed you to be you will be a better partner and a better mom to both your sons and you daughters.
  • Single women, you are enough. Don’t ever trade who God made you for a lie in order to have something less than all he has for you. Any man worth having will embrace YOU.
  • Single men, you are glorious, walk in all God made you and never ask a woman to be less than God made her in order to be with you. A strong and gifted woman makes an amazing partner.
  • Teach your children these things.
  • And most of all, love one another. Truly love one another. Which means freeing the other to be who they were always meant to be. It is a beautiful thing.

A Change of Focus

That moment when someone says something to you that changes your focus. Ever have one of those?

I bet you have. I know I have.

Recently I have had a couple conversations that have shifted my focus on the way I am going to be handling the crazy ass, hateful, ridiculous things being said by people who think they are serving Jesus by cheering for kids who are taught to parrot hateful songs, or calling for the extermination or legal prosecution of our homosexual brothers and sisters. Rather than focusing on these negative and hateful messages that do not bring life or hope, from here on I am choosing to focus on the people who are living in the light and bringing a message of hope and love to the world.This does not mean that I will stop standing up for people and standing up against injustice. On the contrary, I intend to fight it with the only weapons that work.

My focus was becoming increasingly negative and I was allowing the hate they have been spewing to become my focus which only brings hopelessness.  I had become increasingly frustrated, especially since the passage of Prop 1 in North Carolina, because these things are going on in churches. In a recent poll 91% of people 16-29 choose “anti-gay” to describe Christians. Heck, even 80% of church going people in that age group described the church as “anti-gay”.  I am hurt and distressed that people are taught that God can’t possibly love gay people. For crying out loud people even if you believe it is a sin, Jesus died for sinful people and the cheering for such a horrible song this week made me want to do something. Say something. Maybe because I didn’t know better when I was young and listening to people like like the leader of my former community saying homosexuals should be lined up and shot and producing songs like Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Homos”.

Well, this is where hope breaks in. While I do think it is important that people realize just how pervasive this kind of thinking is and while I do feel that people need to be informed, I also think that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr . had the right idea. Whenever he spoke about injustice he always cast it in the light of the truth. That side loses. Love wins. Dr. King called us to be our best selves, he called us to overcome, he called us to love. He set a vision for the dreamers. He invited us to hope that things could change; that God’s will could truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Romans 12:14-21 it says,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not that this is easy. It isn’t. Individually we must love, even when someone is hateful towards us. This week on Primetime: What Would You Do? the scenario was that a young white woman was introducing her black boyfriend to her dad for the first time. He was not happy, to say the least, about their interracial relationship. There was an elderly woman who (after the young couple left) expressed support for the father and her extreme distaste for interracial relationships. At the end of the segment after it had all been revealed for the social experiment it was, this beautiful young black man hugged that ignorant old woman and do you know what he said when asked why? He said I have been taught all my life that people like her exist, I wanted her to know what kind of person I am.
Dr. King said,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
That is my plan. Let us drive out the darkness with the light. Let us drive out the hate with love. Let us overcome evil with good. Starting today, whenever I am feeling hopeless about the state of this or like the darkness might be winning. Instead of focusing on that I am going to feature a person or organization who are bringing light, hope and love. I am going to start today with Minnesota Pastor Oliver White.  According to the Independent, Southeastern Minnesota‘s daily newspaper, Pastor White is

A black leader at the helm of a predominantly black church, White — who marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights era — faced pushback from his own community after he stood up for gay rights in 2005.

During a national synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, he joined a majority of delegates from across the country in voting to adopt a resolution supporting gay marriage.

He returned to his congregation the following Sunday and explained his decision. Almost immediately he saw church membership plummet. Within weeks he lost two-thirds of his followers, and now a Sunday sermon draws at most about 20 people.

He now stands to lose his church for good as their balloon payment of 200k came due yesterday. Even though Pastor White, 69, stands to lose everything he stated in a recent interview,

“If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” White said. “I’ve often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”

Here’s to you Pastor White. You are my hero of the day and the champion of those who Christ loves. Your reward sir is in heaven.

Grace Community United Church of Christ
You can email your word of encouragement here: mystory42@hotmail.com