Can We Please Stop with the Technology Shaming/Scolding?

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What is this guy looking at, the world?

Okay, we’ve probably all seen it by now, the latest viral video making the rounds telling us how we are missing our lives, becoming hermits, incapable of “real” relationships and becoming less socially adept because of smart phones, Facebook and twitter. If you have yet to see the latest one (in a long line of them), you can watch it here. My favorite part about these memes and videos is the sheer irony of them being made specifically for people to post and share…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. WITH THEIR SMARTPHONES!

But first, a disclaimer: This post is not a rebuttal of Mr. Turk’s video. Nor is my intent to say we do not need to put down our technology and spend time with people face to face. It is important NOT to prioritize online activity over your partner, children, friends or other relationships. This post is  however a plea for us to stop picking at the speck in our neighbor’s eye while we have a plank in our own; for us to keep the baby and pitch the bath water; to eat the fish and discard the bones. As with so many things in life it all comes down to how you relate to something more than the thing itself.

Throughout human history people have loved scolding each other and themselves about the use of the latest technology.  Consider the following about the automobile:

The regime of mass car use is an offshoot of our historical aversion to civility itself. The car allows Americans to persist in the delusion that civic life is unnecessary. As a practical matter, this regime is putting us out of business as a civilization.  -James Howard Kunstler

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles…With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls… I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can’t have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones…I shouldn’t be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles ‘had no business to be invented.’”  -Booth Tarkington

Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it…It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation.  -R.A. Lafferty

Cars, air travel, the telephone, the newspaper, the radio, electric lighting: They all were said to be the end of civilization as we know it. And you know what? They were. Everything ever invented and everyone ever born changes the world as we know it. Change is continually happening and continually feared. All these inventions plus computers, iPads, smartphones, televisions, texting and social media have the potential to be used for positive or negative ends. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE. What is important is how we relate to these things individually and collectively. Listen, our phones are no different when it comes to the commuters in the picture at the top of this post than newspapers were to an earlier generation. Look at this picture…BOOM. Historied.

newspapers

What is this women looking at, the world?

We humans enjoy beating ourselves up for things. It makes us feel better somehow to practice self-flagellation (extreme punishment or criticism of oneself) even when we have done nothing wrong. We watch a video or read a meme about how [fill in the blank] is ruining society and we think, yeah that’s bad often without actually examining ourselves or the facts. My friend Michelle A. posted a great reaction to the Gary Turk video a couple days ago in which she said,

Facebook has changed my life for the better. I have used it to encourage others, stay in touch with people I would have otherwise lost, tell funny stories and share pictures with family and friends. I have prayed with people over the phone I have met up with people I hadn’t seen in 15 years and we don’t miss a beat because we know each other’s Facebooks. I have logged my sons special moments I have had spirited debates and long phone calls and loved the downtrodden. It is growing my business so I can change my family tree. I put down the phone and my kids play outside, play with play dough, take walks, see friends and have fun. It’s not the app that’s the problem. It’s user error. To those with a dramatic goodbye letter to Facebook I shrug my shoulders.

Another friend, Matt eloquently pointed out (also on Facebook btw),

With all due respect to Gary Turk and his “Look Up” video, the reality may not be as simple as he puts it. Take, for instance, these Pew Survey results: “The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.”

Let’s have a look-see at those Pew Survey results, shall we?

Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.

We looked at how much total support, emotional support, companionship, and instrumental aid adults receive. On a scale of 100, the average American scored 75/100 on a scale of total support, 75/100 on emotional support (such as receiving advice), 76/100 in companionship (such as having people to spend time with), and 75/100 in instrumental aid (such as having someone to help if they are sick in bed).

Internet users in general score 3 points higher in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support. A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional 5 points higher in total support, 5 points higher in emotional support, and 5 points higher in companionship, than internet users of similar demographic characteristics. For Facebook users, the additional boost is equivalent to about half the total support that the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner.

In addition to all that Facebook users have revived more dormant relationships. As is often the case, there is so much more to things than meets the eye. So perhaps we should do ourselves and our friends a favor the next time we feel the need to pass along a “convicting”, tisk-tisk, fear-mongering or guilt inducing meme/video and examine our motives. Evaluate our relationships to the people in our lives. Ask for their input. Make adjustments if necessary. But perhaps we should not assume that everyone has a problem just because we do. Maybe we shouldn’t pass something on just because it makes us seem more evolved (Sometimes that backfires and just makes one look like one of those people who dislikes something because it is popular. Not unlike the Michael Jackson backlash after Thriller when I was in junior high or the way some of the hipsters of today reject something popular just to seem cooler than thou). Or maybe we should cut each other a little slack. Stop hating on each other. Stop shaming each other (or our kids) every time we look at our phones. Instead what if we could teach our kids how to have a healthy relationship to their tech by modeling a healthy relationship to our tech. And lastly I hope we can all agree to stop saying, “Those aren’t ‘real’ relationships.” Because, they are. Social media are certainly not the only way nor should they be the only way we connect to, relate or are there for each other. They are also not always the best way (although when I needed a bed for a teenager who was staying with us for six months I had offers for about 10 within 30 minutes of putting it online). In the end however, social networks, smart phones and iPads are a valid and often effective way to meet, connect, reconnect, reach out, ask for help and/or offer help. Let’s make sure we are using them for good rather than abandoning them or demonizing them out of fear.

 

Below you will find some excellent articles on the positive effects social media are having on teens specifically.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/05/teens-social-networking-good-for-them

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-j-siegel-md/why-our-teenagers-feel-connect-on-social-media_b_4480817.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/

http://www.parentfurther.com/technology-media/social-networking/benefits

And yes, I wrote about something similar a while back…https://wordofawoman.com/2013/10/10/the-e-villes-of-smartphones-and-social-media/

My Privilege

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You may have seen a Buzzfeed quiz going around lately titled “How Privileged Are You?” Well, I took it and above you can see my results.  ^^^

Funny thing about privilege, growing up I didn’t know I had it. Now, however, I understand that by virtue of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation and my family history, I have benefitted tremendously from the simple circumstances of my birth.

Don’t believe in privilege or simply don’t believe it has that much of an effect on life? I humbly submit that you may be more privileged than you think. That is the thing about privilege, it is a filter through which one sees every facet of life, and it is a filter that is inborn. It is only through education and relationships with others who do not experience the benefits our privileges provide that we are able to begin to see the need for change.

A quick note: I am by no means an expert in this area and it is really only in the last few years that I have begun to be educated on this topic, even having been raised by parents who taught me that men and women, rich and poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc., were all equal in the eyes of God.

Another quick note: you can be privileged in one area and completely not privileged in another. I think of it kind of like a continuum. That is why I kind of appreciated the BuzzFeed quiz, as non-scientific as it is. Yes I am white but I am also female. Yes I have money now, but I didn’t always. Here’s the thing though, the statement above is pretty right on. I have had a few struggles in my life, but I have also had many, many advantages that had ZERO to do with me and everything to do with who, where, when, and to whom I was born.

I would now like to share with you an excerpt from The President’s Devotional by Joshua DuBois,

NOVEMBER 5 – KEEPING WATCH

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we must be most aware of the change in the air –however slight– lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.  –Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglass, letter to the Young Lawyers Section of the Washington State Bar Association

Let’s keep watch. Let’s perceive the slow creep of oppression, wherever it might move. Let’s be aware of the darkness in our world–or even in our own soul–that seeks, like fungus to grow.

When we see it, or feel it, we pray that Christ would come into it and strike it out, making us new. We will not be victims. Nor will we be oppressors. No–today, we will keep watch.

Dear God, open my eyes not just to blessings but also to the potential of evil in the world. And when I perceive it, help me move against it. Amen.

We read this installment with our kids a few weeks ago and I was reminded of a Facebook post by my friend Markeetia McKinnis, which I shared with my children and husband on the spot at the breakfast table. As I read it aloud again, I couldn’t make it through without choking back tears. You see, this post helped me be more aware of my own inborn privilege and that of my children. Sharing it with them and with you is a small way in which I can strike out the slow creep of oppression:

As I wind down on this last day in Black History month, I reflect on how far the world has changed from when I was little black girl growing up in Mississippi to now a black mother of three residing in Texas. Some changes for the better….progress. Some changes for the worse. BUT, It is true, we are a different world. We have become a better people. We can now all drink from the same fountains. Attend the same schools. Aim for the same goals. Play the same sports….Through the worlds view, we are better. Even through this black mothers view, I feel on the majority of days, we are better. AND then there are those days when you’re driving with your husband and you’re stopped and the white officer calls him a boy in front of your kids. Or the day when the black President is re-elected and your kid comes home from school with tears in his eyes because he’s heard the N word for the first time. [her children attend school with my children at a private Christian school].Or the day you have date night with the hubby and you walk into Neiman’s and you’re followed around the store. OR the day when you’re out with your husband and people keep stopping you, because they think he’s a ball player. OR the day when you’re sitting during your kids American program feeling proud and then you realize that NOT ONE single black person was characterized during Black History Month. OR you realize that schools don’t even celebrate black history month anymore AND…..these are the days when you realize that despite how hard you’ve tried…this is your reality and you MUST educate your children…your black children. Because the reality is they are not only Americans….They are BLACK Americans. And unfortunately, they have a past that will follow them to heaven. So, you brace yourself for the why’s and the tears and the pain in their eyes….knowing that you can’t change their past. It is very much who they are. And unless we do them an injustice, we as their parents have to educate them on a world we as black people did not choose, but found ourselves being thrust in. A world that says it sees no color, but for the Black American that is so NOT our reality. I have had many tasks thrust upon me, but being a black mom is by far the most challenging. How much do you share? What EXACTLY do you say? I still have not quite figured that one out yet, SO I take it day by day and lesson by lesson. Allowing God to guide my heart and speech….Lately, I have taught them that they are who God says they are, not man. They are more than a color. That’s offensive, not cute. They are not brown, they are black. There history is more than just Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. They are walking on the backs of some of the greatest inventors and scientists in the world. They are more than just basketball players and runners, they are leaders and world changers. They are not projects, they are humans with hearts and desires. In the same breathe….as age appropriate as possible, I have taught them that they are the kid in the store with the hoodie on. They can’t do what everyone else does and get away with it. They cannot go everywhere, with everyone…even if all of there friends go. The same rules just don’t always apply. They are not rap music and slang talk -don’t allow people to disrespect you by assuming as much. They are not a statistic or JUST an athlete. They are the HEAD and not the TAIL. They are kings and queens. They are worthy….. I am slowly teaching them to “respect the struggle”….day by day…. #momminute #blackhistory #raisingblackkids#myworld

So, here is the thing, if you are a man you are privileged in some ways that women are not, no matter what race you are. If you are white you are privileged in some ways that minorities are not, even if you grew up poor. If you were born in the United States you are privileged in ways most of the world is not, no matter what other disadvantages you have had. There are so many more ways in which to be born privileged. I have been trying lately to examine my own filters. I think the quiz above can help you get started. Another thing you can try is if you are a man, ask some of the women in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a woman. If you are white, ask some of your friends who are not white to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a person of color. If you are straight, ask some of the LGBT people in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being LGBT. Then listen, and believe what they tell you. You might be surprised at what they have to say. It isn’t a lot, but it is a start.

For some other good educational reading on this topic…

A 20/20 view of the Manosphere

puerarchy

So, the Manosphere: It’s a thing and they would like you to swallow the “Red Pill”. Yes, like in The Matrix except not like in The Matrix. The bros of the manosphere have appropriated this phrase from the popular film franchise and use it to refer to waking up to the “truth” that it is men who have gotten the short end of the stick throughout history. The manosphere is an online community of loosely affiliated blogs and websites that guide you through life after swallowing the “Red Pill”. Most of these sites encourage men to become dominant “Alpha” males and develop “game” by which men will be able to have the most sex possible and/or that through dominating, shaming and gaming women you can get what you want, the world will be saved, women will actually be happier and families will stay together.

To hear them tell it the “Red Pill” is the new cure all wonder drug for men.

Until recently I didn’t realize that this corner of the internet existed and because of it I am experiencing a new appreciation for the phrase “ignorance is bliss”. However, remaining ignorant will never bring change. If we do not know we have walls full of vermin we will not call an exterminator. (No I am not advocating exterminating anyone. I am advocating extinguishing a damaging dogma and replacing it with love and respect.)

Tonight at 10 EST on ABC’s 20/20 they will be running a piece on the manosphere. My DVR is set. Perhaps after that I will do a follow up post. We shall see. In the mean time, if you would like to educate yourself on the inner workings of the manosphere you can check out the links below. I will try to divide them into their different focuses. You may want to have a puke bucket for when you feel nauseous, a stress ball for when you feel frustrated, a tissue box for when your heart breaks.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

PUA (pick up artist)
claim that by responding to natural cues women give off signaling what they as women actually do want, men can gain great power to seduce women

Return of Kings

Matt Forney (His tag line is ironically, “The man who shouted love at the heart of the world”). I don’t think he knows what the word love means.

Alpha Game

The Red Pill Room

Men’s Rights Activists
emphasize the injustice against men in areas like: anti-male bias in family law, and draconian domestic violence legislation that women demonstrably use as a strategic tool to attack innocent men, and how the misguided assumption that males are privileged contributes to men’s significant legal disadvantage

The Spearhead

A Voice for Men

Red Pill Traditionalist Christian
focus on using Red Pill concepts to empower women to protect themselves from feminist propaganda that will lead to unhappiness

Dalrock

A Voice for Men

Patriactionary

Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW)
claim that the anti-male injustice is endemic to society and can only be addressed by its collapse, or simply that the emasculation of relationships with women in a feminist society, and the risks of marrying, having children, or even in some cases engaging relationships with women in a society with feminist laws are not worth the rewards

fedrz blog

MGTOWS forums

No Ma’am

Manosphere Economics and Political Philosophy
point to the inherent economic instability of feminism and the eventual social and economic collapse it will engender.[2]

Captain Capitalism

Vitas Brennus

The Rational Male

Female Manosphere Bloggers (yes, this is a thing too)

Sunshine Mary and the Dragon

On the Rock

Unmasking Feminism

Red Pill Wifery

Red Pill Marriage
run by men who provide instruction on using the techniques of Game/Seduction to build and maintain attraction within a marriage

Married Man Sex Life

Average Married Dad

Other

Viva la Manosphere

The Puerarchy

Boycott American Women

There is a blog called The False Rape Society. The Southern Poverty Law Center offers this description, “The False Rape Society is an Internet news aggregator, subtitled “Community of the Falsely Accused,” that features stories about allegedly false rape accusations and “feminist”-crafted “anti-male” legislation. While the site focuses heavily on news stories about false rape allegations, it frequently veers into such posts as the New Year’s Day item attacking a female supporter of then-presidential aspirant Michelle Bachmann for telling a reporter, “It takes a woman to get things done.”

Alcuin in Wonderland is a site that has gone private but you can read about them here.

RooshV

The Red Pill Society Pinterest page

The Red Pill Reddit

Marky Mark’s Thoughts which is also private but here is a screen shot from the google search:

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What Others Are saying

Business Insider: Inside Red Pill, The Weird New Cult For Men Who Don’t Understand Women

Southern Poverty Law Center

Manboobz

*credit to Wikipedia for my category descriptions

Private Messages

The following is an actual Facebook private message exchange from the past week. I asked my friend’s permission to share it here and he agreed. I have changed his name here to protect his privacy. In the past this type of communication would have really rattled me especially coming from a fellow pastor (as my friend is).  Through these types of exchanges I feel like I learn a lot about who I am and who Jesus is. I hope it will do the same for you. I would like to say a special thanks to my friend who had enough respect for me to talk to me directly and not go to my husband or gossip about the situation to mutual friends.

Justin
I’m really confused. Any time there’s some sort of controversy, you seem to be quick to take the side of the non-traditional, non-orthodox. Whether it’s Rob Bell saying everybody goes to Heaven, there is no eternal hell, support of Mormons as Christians because they’re nice people, or the homosexual lifestyle. Every time, it appears that you stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join with those who (in my interpretation) twist, distort & pervert Biblical theology.
I know this sounds like I’m attacking you. I wish I could be honest and not make this personal. I’m hoping you don’t take this personal (I must say, you do seem to be pretty thick-skinned) because I have enjoyed many of our discussions (and debates).
At the same time, if you hung out with me for a week or two you’d know that there are theological, stereological, and ecclesiological issues that put me on the evangelical fringe.
But, in my opinion, when we’re talking about issues like hell, false religions, perversion of scripture & the Biblical family … frankly, I’m concerned.
And that’s why I didn’t post this publicly.
BTW… I’m not looking for a debate. Just felt like I needed to share this. Not sure if for your sake, or mine.
One more thing…. I’m sure… no, I know!… that I post stuff that drives you crazy as well. lol

Michelle Morr KrabillJust saw this. Will have to take some time this weekend to respond. It is too late tonight. M

Justin
…. I was afraid you’d unfriended me by now! lol

Michelle Morr Krabill

Justin,
Here is the thing, I am thick skinned when it comes to these discussions however when you make the kind of statements you made about me I am not sure there is any other way to take it but personally. After all you have made some strong accusations about me (my person) here.

#1 You say “ANYTIME there is a controversy” I seem to be “quick to take the side of the nontraditional or nonorthodox” and also “EVERY TIME, it appears” that I “stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join with those who twist, distort & pervert Biblical theology.”
ANYTIME and EVERY TIME? Really Justin?
#2 I stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join (become one of) those who twist, distort & pervert BIBLICAL theology? This is the definition of a heretic. Do you think I am a heretic? This is a very strong accusation.
I stand squarely with the writers of the Apostles creed. I do not understand how anything I have ever said goes against this creed which I am sure you agree with.
#3 Rob Bell never says nor do I that everyone get’s into heaven. Rob Bell is okay with asking what if, and so am I. I am sorry, I will go to my grave hoping (like God btw) that all will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Yes, even the people who do completely evil things. Because how great would it be for them to repent and become the people they always should have been instead of the monsters that they were?
#4 I never said Mormons were Christians because they were “nice people”. I seriously think you know better than that. I just think evangelicals in particular are quick to say being Mormon and being Christian are mutually exclusive. God is the only one who sees hearts. I do not. To say there will be no Mormons in heaven is arrogant and preposterous. Do I believe they get some pretty important things wrong? Yes. Do I have everything about God and salvation and life right? No. Is what Jesus did enough to cover it. You know it.
#5 The homosexual life style. You may find this blog apropos…http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/27909731175/no-im-not-in-the-gay-lifestyle-neither-is-anyone

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 LGBT 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.
#6 I have no plans to defriend you any time soon.

m

Michelle Morr KrabillI would also like to say thank you for coming to me directly instead of going to kent or my parents.

Michelle Morr Krabill
last thing, Rachel Held Evans does a great job of explaining my issue with the term “Biblical theology”…

A veryrachelheldevans.com
“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white”- William Blake In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into some excellent books about how to read the Bible—N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God, Peter Enns’
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Justin
I appreciate your candid response. First of all, I sincerely apologize for my “Any” and “Every” statements. I HATE when people do that. And I did it. (I could blame it on the late hour, but that’s a pretty lame excuse for my insensitivity.) … I understand how you could take some of my comments personally. I just didn’t know any other way to communicate them. Again, I’m sorry. I believe I stated that I don’t want to get in to a debate, so I’ll refrain from justifying my positions or attacking yours. I will read the article you referenced (any time I see the name N.T. Wright, I’m interested.) N.T. does not agree w/ the traditional, evangelical idea of eternity (Heaven vs. New Earth). I agree with Wright. I’m also not a believer in traditional, evangelical soteriology (walk an aisle, pray the sinner’s prayer, now you’re in.) Oh, and I drink beer & occasionally play music in bars. So I’m really not your textbook pastor.

I do appreciate that you communicate your beliefs in an intelligent, calm manner (usually, lol). I’m also not a fan of hyperbolic, over-zealous, uninformed, unintelligent, hyper-emotional Christians trying to force agreement on their issues.
So, I’m glad we’re still friends. Still disagree. But I do not ignore your posts. And if I have issue, I will always come directly to you. In private. Seems like the Jesus thing to do.

Michelle Morr Krabill

Forgiven. Glad we can disagree and still be friends. I love NT esp on the new heavens and earth stuff.

In the end Justin and I did what we must do in order to truly love one another as Jesus asked us to. There was forgiveness and humility. Was there agreement? No. But this type of disagreement allows us to continue to learn from each other and still have a means to allow the Holy Spirit to do his job of convicting of sin and righteousness instead of trying to do it for him. It is our job to love and God’s job to change hearts.

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.
(Romans 12:14-21 ESV)

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
(John 16:8-11 ESV)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 ESV)

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