Eclectica: Pre-Vacation Double-Edition (July 15-29, 2014)

You missed out on my favorites from last week, so here’s a double helping of the good stuff to tide you over while I disappear back to the Old Country for the next couple of weeks.

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has been on my mind lately, and many good words have been written about it. But words are not enough to help the dead, and it seems they do precious little to help the living.

I happened to read this short piece from Zach Hoag the day after I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, and I found it quite apropos:

The Grand Budapest Hotel and Gaza: A Barbaric Slaughterhouse

The Grand Budapest Hotel is basically a nostalgic film about nostalgia.

I realize it’s quite a gear-switch but the current Israeli invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza is a reality check that ought to end any illusory nostalgia. But illusory nostalgia is precisely what drives so much of the conservative evangelical fervor and militant advocacy for Israel. As the civilian Palestinian death toll rises, we should all be seeing a barbaric slaugherhouse. Instead, many Christians are seeing something quite different: the fight to defend their eschatalogical Grand Budapest Hotel.

“We oppose the privileging of Jewish lives over other lives” – Eran Efrati, via Carmen Ibrahim and Our Way to Fight

My name is Eran Efrati, I am Jewish, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite.

What I’ve seen in Israel over the last few weeks is beyond anything I have witnessed in my life:

  • Like you, I’ve seen the climbing death toll in Gaza, over 192 dead and some 1,485 injured–all by Israeli missiles, with no end in sight. At least 75% of those killed have been civilians and as many as 36 have been children.
  • I’ve seen soldiers lined up at the Gaza border, ready at a moment’s notice to invade.
  • I’ve seen terrified Palestinian children in Hebron and Halhul, sitting on the ruins of their homes.
  • I’ve heard from friends in Tel Aviv who were violently attacked by right-wing Israeli Jews at a rally to protest the ongoing assault on Gaza.

The climate here in Jerusalem reveals a level of hatred and racism in Israeli society that goes beyond calls from isolated extremists for revenge and violence against Palestinians.

Obsessing About Gaza, Ignoring Syria (and Most Everything Else)Jeffrey Goldberg

The Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, Joyce Karam, was one of the few people to notice the weekend death toll in Syria. She tweeted, in reference to anti-Israel protests in Pakistan, “Syria is essentially Gaza x320 death toll, x30 number of refugees, but no protest in Pakistan…”

I asked her why she thought this is so. Her answer: “Only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.”

Gaza is not just about them, it’s about us, tooJon Snow

I feel guilty in leaving [Gaza], and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

Shifting gears to some interesting theological pieces:

Independence: The False Gospel Destroying American ChristianityJoy Bennett

This American-Christian halfbreed teaches that we can do anything if God is on our side–we can go it pseudo-solo (because we’re not really alone if God is with us, right?). It idolizes independence. And it culminates in the false gospel, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

When Debating the Bible Isn’t Fair for AnyoneEd Cyzewski

You would think that a clear, easily applied blueprint would lead all honest inquirers to the truth. It’s no surprise that followers of Jesus are fragmented and divided over how to read and interpret the Bible, but if we want understand why we are fragmented so much, we need to look at our starting assumptions about the Bible.

We all believe that the Bible is telling us how to do something, but we aren’t agreed on what that something is. If we view the Bible as more of a painting than a blueprint, then we have a place to begin:

The first and really only “how to” the Bible offers is this: “How to meet with God.” Scripture is a series of paintings that show how people have met with God and points us toward ways we can interact with God—through the mediation of the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, we aren’t necessarily supposed to duplicate the details of these paintings precisely.

Unacceptable: What it’s like to be a Liberal Christian in a sea of ConservativismDavid M Schell

I mention that I’m in favor of marriage equality and people think I’m not a Christian.

I mention that I attend a Presbyterian church and everyone wonders how I can go to a church whose denomination allows (not supports) same-sex marriage.

Friends and family members who once respected me and had high hopes for my future are now praying for my eternal salvation.

I have space for my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, but far too often for my happiness, they don’t have space for me.

I seriously can’t wait until the subject book of this next one gets published so I can get it for my boys!

On reading my book to my daughter for the first time …Ben Irwin

I think one of the reasons we reduce the gospel to a handful precepts or sound bites is because we’re not sure our kids are up for something bigger. Or because we don’t think of the gospel as being primarily a story. Or maybe we worry our kids won’t have the attention span for something more than a few quick bullet points about sin and salvation.

I want to prove these assumptions wrong—because, frankly, this kind of gospel doesn’t work. It doesn’t stick. Stories stay with us for life. Bullet points, not so much. Our kids need a better story.

Last night, my daughter stayed with The Story of King Jesus all the way through, even though it’s longer than most of her bedtime books.

And let’s wrap this up with two powerful, personal stories.

Hope and friendship on the slippery slopeCarly Gelsinger

“Remember the revivals?” my friend Dee asks me.

We are drinking iced coffee on a Sunday morning in the small town we met, the town of our fiery Pentecostal days. The last time I was at this coffee shop, I was a teenager, sipping a strawberry smoothie and listening to my youth pastor talk about how I need to Press In to God more consistently to see the release of miracles in my life.

Everything has changed since then. Today, I have come to this coffee shop to unpack the damage of those Pressing In days.

Leaving Home: Escaping the Stay-at-Home Daughters MovementSamantha Field

My freshman year in high school, I mentioned my dream to become a marine botanist to my best friend, our pastor’s daughter, and she laughed.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You can’t be a scientist. You have to be a keeper at home.”

Keeper at home.

It’s a phrase from the King James translation of Titus 2, and we interpreted it to mean that it was against God’s laws for women to be employed. Our church, however, took it one step further: if all a woman was allowed to be was a “keeper at home,” then it was utterly pointless for her to try to be anything else. Pursuing an education, or longing for a career could do nothing but harm her with shattered dreams. For that reason, young women in our church were asked to be “stay-at-home daughters.”

If you like the mix of what you just read, follow me on Twitter to get more. Peace be with you until we meet again.

That Dreadful Courtesy

I am upset.

Lately there is so much to be upset about. Thousands dead, and thousands more fleeing from Syria’s civil war. The Islamic State crucifying and decapitating any and all dissenters in its annexed corners of Syria and Iraq. The worst outbreak of Ebola ever in West Africa with hundreds dead and a 50% fatality rate, only gaining traction with the U.S. news machine now that two Americans have been infected. Tens of thousands of children at the U.S. border, fleeing violence in their Central American home countries, and being met with stern faces and angry voices.

All of these things are heartbreaking in their own way, but right now my heart keeps getting drawn back to be broken in Gaza.

So much rubble. So much destruction. So many dead children.

I’m not entirely ignorant of the troubled recent history of the Middle East. Today’s pictures of black smoke rising above ruined streets are not new, and don’t have much to distinguish them from pictures taken in the same region two years ago, five years ago, fourteen years ago; but this time around I find them much more disturbing.

In years past, I felt that Israel was generally doing the right thing in seeking to protect itself. No nation can tolerate a situation where its citizens are blown up at cafés or buses on a regular basis. The walls and military actions may have been distasteful, but they were necessary for the security of Israel’s citizens. The effect that they had on everyday Palestinians was lost on me at the time.

Things are different now.

Israel is still under siege from Hamas’ rocket attacks and tunnel incursions, and I acknowledge that I, sitting comfortably half the world away in Texas, can never appreciate the psychological burden of living under those conditions. However, in a real sense, the Iron Dome anti-missile system seems to have almost completely neutralized the threat of significant damage from these rockets. The most recent suicide bombing in Israel was in 2008. Being able to effectively keep Hamas at arm’s length should give Israel the luxury of pursuing peace, however slow the process may be.

Instead, the Israeli government cynically used the violent death of three teenagers as a pretext to resume bombing Gaza and crush Hamas once and for all. Never mind that we have now learned (and Israeli intelligence knew along) that Hamas was not responsible for killing those boys. Never mind that Gaza is the most densely populated area on the planet. Never mind that the millions of Palestinian civilians, when warned to evacuate their homes mere seconds before they get summarily demolished from above, literally have no safe place to go.

Justified actions. Proportionate response. Regrettable collateral damage.

These words do such violence to their dictionary meaning that we should call them what they are: lies.

What’s the body count since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8, 2014? As I write this on July 29, more than 1000 Palestinians have lost their lives. At least 70% of these casualties were civilians.

There is no moral justification for these numbers.

What is a proportionate response when an inbound rocket is intercepted by Iron Dome, or raiders attack Israeli soldiers from a hidden tunnel? Israel believes that leveling an entire neighborhood is acceptable. Too bad, so sad if the residents disagree.

There is nothing proportionate about the recent action in Shejaiya.

And about that collateral damage. Israel’s response to the butcher bill it has inflicted on Gaza’s civilians does not even rise to the level of regret. Israeli shells killed four young boys as they played football on an empty beach in front of a hotel full of international journalists. Multiple reports from these journalist witnesses state that they were killed as they were running away from the first shot. When your demonstrated strategy includes deliberately targeting children, you have thrown away any possible claim of occupying the moral high ground.

So many dead children.

Here’s what is different for me this time around: as I see picture after picture of distraught men holding the lifeless husks that used to be their daughters and sons, I picture myself in their shoes, holding one or both of my boys.

I can’t deal with that line of thinking for very long. Palestinians are forced to live with it, day after bloody day, waiting for that dreadful courtesy knock on the roof, wondering if today it will be their turn to gather the pieces of their children from the rubble.

Hamas has plenty of blood on its hands, no doubt about it.

But Israel, acting from a vastly superior position of strength, is exacting its vengeance on the people who have the least culpability while being the most vulnerable. This is immoral, unjust, and will do nothing to improve the long-term prospects for peace.

So I offer my small voice on behalf of the besieged Palestinian civilians. Israel must end its campaign of unrestricted violence and terror. The innocent blood in what’s left of Gaza’s streets cries out for justice. Without justice, there will never be peace.

Eclectica: Late Edition (Week of July 7, 2014)

I got tied up writing an actual article over the weekend and didn’t get a chance to gather my favorite links from last week. No worries though – we run a flexible publishing schedule here at duncalfe.com!

The mainstream news hasn’t been devoting much space to it, but bloggers have been picking up the slack on the subject of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge air strikes in the Gaza Strip.

Here are two from Ben Irwin:

If you think “standing with Israel” means never criticizing them, you’re going to have to get a new Bible

The prophets routinely condemned Israel and its leaders for wishing destruction rather than mercy on their enemies (Jonah); for wrongly assuming that their military advances and territorial expansion were signs of God’s favor (Amos); for murder, theft, and adultery (Hosea); for coveting and seizing other people’s fields and houses (Micah); and for relying on military power instead of trusting God to protect them (Isaiah).

Why evangelicals should think twice about equating modern Israel with Israel of the Bible

If you’ve been told that unconditional support for Israel is the only “biblical” position, that the modern-day state enjoys the same kind of “most favored nation” status with God as ancient Israel did, then here’s another question. If Israel today is entitled to the covenant blessings spoken by the Old Testament, what about their covenant obligations?

The Bible never spoke of Israel’s covenant blessings apart from their obligations. It’s no use trying to have one without the other. And at least one of these obligations poses a bit of a problem for the modern state of Israel, if it is indeed the same nation as the one in the Bible.

Ancient Israel was not supposed to have a standing army.

In Light of the Current Events in GazaAaron Niequist

I’m learning that this conflict cannot be reduced to “good guys vs bad guys”.

One of my heroes (Christian peace activist Sami Awad) explained to us that this conflict is NOT simply Israeli vs Palestinian or Jew vs Muslim…but it’s ultimately a conflict between those who want peace and those who don’t.  There are wonderful, peaceful men and women on both sides (I’ve met many of them), and dangerous saboteurs on both sides (which we see on the news all the time).

And so, personally, I’m not trying to decide which nation is 100% right so I can 100% support them AGAINST the other nation.  It’s just not that simple.  But in the name of Jesus, I want to find and support the peace-makers on every side. These are really dark days, but we can’t give up.

I’ve Had Enough of the Spilling of BloodCarmen Ibrahim

I’ve had enough of the spilling of blood.

Especially that of children.

On June 12th, three Israeli teenagers (Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach) went missing near Hebron. Their bodies were later found in a pit in a town north of Hebron.

And I held my breath, waiting and knowing hell would break loose.

I’ve been watching and reading the news, wanting to talk about it, but not knowing how.

One of the overarching themes across Micah J. Murray‘s Redemption Pictures is recovering from growing up in an abusive fundamentalist Christian cult. Last week, he published a guest post from Heather Corcoran, and it’s one of the hardest-hitting stories I’ve ever read.

Dear Mr. Gothard

A few months ago, Heather shared this story with me. I sat motionless reading the words you’re about to read, my heart breaking at the horror of it all. My mind didn’t want to believe it, but I knew in my gut that it was true. I recognized the places she speaks of, the phrases she recounts, the life she describes. It’s a story that’s all too familiar by now. I’ve carried Heather’s story in my heart these few months, hearing it again and again whenever Bill Gothard and his teachings are mentioned. I invite you to carry her story in your heart too.

The Complexity of Loving Your NeighborNate Pyle

Here’s what I believe. I do not believe that loving God with our whole being ever has to be in conflict with loving our neighbor. If, in our love of God, we fail to love and serve our neighbor, then maybe we are misunderstanding what it means to love God.

John Piper, Two Mommies and LGBT HamburgersTim Fall

Jesus spent a lot of time with people others rejected. He loved them, knowing that there was no way these people could ever act in a way that would please God but that he, God incarnate, could do that for them. He’s done that for me too.

It looks like Mr. Piper has forgotten that this is the gospel we are called to preach.

That makes me weep.

Will American Christians Fail the Good Samaritan Test?Ed Cyzewski

Loving our neighbors isn’t a matter of picking and choosing which people get to be our neighbors. Isn’t that the whole point of the Good Samaritan parable? Vulnerable people cross our paths unexpectedly without announcing themselves, and sometimes they simply need our help. Loving our neighbors involves stepping in to help when the chance to show love presents itself, not when neighbors meet a government-specified checklist.

Jesus doesn’t give legal loopholes for “illegal immigrants” when loving our neighbors.

The Forgotten Lesson of Bonhoeffer, and the American ChurchGeoff Holsclaw

We often think of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the church, but I think of him more as a cautionary tale.

The forgotten lesson of Bonhoeffer is not that we should all strive to be more like him, but that we should strive to be a church that wouldn’t need him!

Emily Timbol tweeted this thought-provoking screenshot of a Facebook post that re-interpreted what it means to be a “sodomite”.

Today she published Religious Exceptions Have No Scriptural Basis on Red Letter Christians. Since I’m late with this week’s linkage, you get to read the full article instead of just the idea behind it.

It is true that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality. He spoke about marriage and divorce, but those are completely separate issues than that of employment discrimination. Again – same-sex marriage has nothing to do with the discussion on employment discrimination. What does have a lot to do with this discussion though is Jesus’ warnings to His disciples about Sodom. Stay with me.

And here’s a funny I’d never seen before, and it made me laugh. (As does Misty P. on a regular basis.)

Throw-Away Freedom, Disposable People

I

If you’ve spent any time traveling through the rural United States, you will likely have seen a pickup truck belching thick clouds of smoke every time the driver guns the accelerator. While unpleasant, I have always written this off as one of the ills of a poorly maintained vehicle. I can relate; keeping cars in tip-top shape is expensive, and as long as your wheels are rolling, it’s easy to find more important things to spend money on than routine maintenance.

My charitable attitude went out the window this week when I found out that there is a sub-culture of diesel pickup drivers who purposefully modify their trucks to blow as much black smoke as possible. They call it “rolling coal.”

This is what freedom looks and sounds like. I’ll leave the smell to your imagination.

This is throw-away freedom: the opportunity to literally burn the excess of my abundant resources for nothing more than self-gratification and let others pick up the tab. Freedom ain’t free, but I came by mine cheaply and to hell with you. What right have you to tell me anything different? Anyone who dares to disagree is a filthy commie, am I right? Global warming is a liberal conspiracy, cancer is something that happens to other people, and I don’t know how to spell “myopic”.

II

This selfish, short-term view of freedom manifests itself in more than a bunch of rednecks attempting to help their rural communities achieve air quality parity with Los Angeles. It is also evident in the attitudes of many people towards the tens of thousands of children who are attempting to escape gang violence in Central America and find refuge in the United States. There is no denying that 53,000 unaccompanied minors arriving at the border presents logistical difficulties for U.S. government officials at the local level, but there is no good reason why they should present political difficulties at the federal level. The response of the good citizens of this country who took it upon themselves to travel to the border and scream at busloads of frightened children is shameful.

It also reveals a cynical, fearful view of human nature.

America used to be known for its optimism. Millions of would-be immigrants who come to these shores each year still believe it, and share that optimism to the extent they think their lives would be better within the United States than without. Then they arrive at the border and encounter the xenophobic locals who greet them with fences, armed patrols, shouted slogans and a deep-seated certainty that if these people – these Others – are allowed in, these great United States will somehow decline and fall. Give me your huddled masses, indeed.

People with a healthy attitude towards freedom do not regard it as a limited commodity or a zero-sum proposition. It need not run short as demand increases. True freedom does not suggest that I ask what’s in it for me, but rather what can we accomplish together?

When a communal desire for freedom for everyone is fractured into an individual desire to take as much as I can and hoard it for myself, I view other people not as fellow members of the human race but as members of competing tribes. Aliens. Others. Those who are not as important as me. Worth less than me. Less human than me.

When I lose sight of other people’s humanity, their welfare is no longer my concern. I care about them only to the extent that I expect my pet politicians to keep them far away from me and my hard-earned and well-deserved luxuries. Why should I worry about their hardships, or pay for their food or healthcare? They have nothing of value to offer in return, so to me they are worthless. Disposable. Let them die.

III

Once we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s kosher to be indifferent to the suffering of Others, we find ourselves on a diabolical highway to a destination where we actively cause the suffering and death of Others. Humanity has been doing this for a long time. Anyone who ever started a war is guilty of this line of thinking. These Others represent a threat to our god, to our race, to our resources, to our very existence. Let us do unto them before they do unto us!

The Middle East has an especially rich history of people doing unto each Other. In the narrative favored by the evangelical Christian West, Israel is the scrappy underdog: a beacon of democracy, surrounded on all sides by neighbors who are hostile to its very existence. Militarily, however, any nation that has enjoyed the support of the United States for the entirety of its history is never the underdog. Whatever the proximate reasons (or excuses) for its current actions in the Gaza Strip, Israel cannot credibly claim to be acting proportionally or morally when the body count after six days of Operation Protective Edge is 167 dead Palestinians, of whom 70% are civilians.

But to the Israelis, and by proxy to their American supporters, the Palestinians are Others. Worthless. Disposable. Let them die.

I have a modification I need to make to my truck.

Lions’ Den

What of the desperate house wife?

Makeup concealing the bruise on her face

He tells her it’s all her fault

But her pastor says that she has to forgive

Where can she go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?

 

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Struggling for life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know she’s being beaten in a lions’ den?

 

What of the boy in his closet?

Full of questions and doubts and wonders and fears

Clobbered by their thunderous sermons

Dismissed by their judgmental fingers

Where can he go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?

 

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Struggling for life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know he’s being broken in a lions’ den?

 

And what of the youth-group Lolita?

The light of his life, the fire in his loins

Tarnished by his quicksilver tongue

Her innocence stolen, and she is so young

Oh God, where can she go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?

 

Lions’ den, lions’ den

She’s hanging on for dear life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know she’s being eaten in a lions’ den?

 

Does anybody care they’re dying slowly in a lions’ den?


This song was inspired by the stories that came from #TakeDownThatPost and also by Connor Brassington’s story of almost dying at the hands of conservative religion. The recording is a very rough demo, and I consider the song to be a work in progress. Your comments are welcome!

 

Eclectica: my favorites from the week of June 30, 2014

I think I’ve settled on a title for this weekly link curation, and this was an eclectic week indeed, ranging from a homily about how God is a bad farmer, to touching personal stories, to investigative commentary about the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, and more besides!

Dirt is Resurrection and God is a Bad Farmer (Homily for the Parable of the Sower)David Henson

Somehow, though, we’ve managed to warp this parable from this good news about God’s love of dirt into a parable of judgement on the soils that simply aren’t good enough. But if you notice, there is no judgement and no condemnation in the story. The soil exists as it is. The sower doesn’t spend any time wondering whether the rocky, or the hardened, or the thorny soil measures up or is worthy of the sower’s seeds — the very source of his life and livelihood.

The sower simply sows without judgement and without expectation.

On Our Tenth Anniversary, One Year After the FactBethany Bassett

We didn’t so much celebrate our tenth anniversary as we did survive it.

This was crushing to me. I had always thought of tenth anniversaries as milestones, gold-plated “You Are Here” signs along the paths of successful marriages. After ten years, we couldn’t fail to have our relationship figured out. After ten years, our exotic Hawaiian vow-renewal ceremony would practically write itself. After ten years… well, we definitely wouldn’t be staring down into our anniversary sangrias to avoid meeting each other’s eyes.

Expectations are the cruelest pranksters.

The GuestMicah J. Murray

I told him we didn’t have any orders waiting to be picked up, and asked what phone number he had called to place the order. As I suspected, it was for one of our other locations, twenty minutes away. That restaurant was closed by now too, the to-go order long gone.

With disappointment and hunger in his voice, the guest looked toward the kitchen and said, “I guess it’s too late to get a cheeseburger, isn’t it.”

And another one from Micah, with an altogether less pleasant flavor:

Hobby Lobby, the Duggars, and Bill Gothard

I often hear Christians dismiss Bill Gothard and his teachings as legalistic, fundamentalist, bizarre, and dangerous. Rightly so, especially in the wake of his alleged sexual misconduct. But many of these same Christians support Hobby Lobby or the Duggars for their “Christian values”, perhaps not realizing how closely they are connected to Bill Gothard.

This week, I’ve heard Christians hailing Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court win as a victory for religious freedom. It’s a narrative of good Christian business people going up against the bullying of a tyrannical government — and winning.

Throughout this all, I’ve heard one phrase over and over again: “sincerely held religious beliefs”

I’m not going to wade into the issues of constitutional law or religious liberty involved in this case; others have addressed those points better than I ever could. But I do want to talk about those “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

And Micah is far from the only person who is uneasy about the Hobby Lobby decision:

The Hobby Lobby Is A Disaster For The Truly “Pro-Life”Benjamin L. Corey

I’ve always considered myself “pro-life” though I have distanced myself from the modern pro-life movement as I disagree with the goals (abolition instead of actual reduction) and because it’s not actually “pro-life” in any holistic sense; it’s simply pro-gun, pro-war, and pro-birth.

Most of those still culturally entrenched in the modern pro-birth movement have hailed the recent Hobby Lobby decision as a huge victory for the pro-life movement, but I think it’s a total disaster for anyone who is more than pro-birth. For the pro-birth folks however, this is a clear victory, because the only practical outcome is that we’ll see more births– at least in the short term.

The primary failure is this: this case attacked the very cure the pro-life movement should be seeking: access to contraception.

There are a lot of people raising eloquent voices in search of social justice, both within the church and at large. The following pieces have given me a lot to think about this week.

The Line Between a Heretic and a Prophet is ThinSuey Park

As I said earlier, faith in action is more of a beginning than an end. I’m still in the very beginning stages of figuring out what transformative justice looks like within the church, or if it’s even possible to organize in the margins within an institution that is married to the state, but what an amazing force we would have if the church began to do what it was meant to do and centered the voices and needs of the most marginalized. Imagine how much change could happen if the church stopped interpreting God’s will to mean unchecked institutional power and instead as a rejection of it?

Op-Ed: How My Conservative Religion Almost Killed MeConnor Brassington

Having grown up in the SDA community, I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality. I knew the verses, and I knew the arguments. For years I used them to convince myself that what I was feeling was wrong, and to act on my attractions was the fast track to hell. I spent years trying to “pray away” my attractions, often crying myself to sleep at night, my head whirling with hopelessness and self-loathing.

AcceptanceBen Moberg

I was born into this faith. I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer at five years old and I believed those words of prayer would encircle like a charm. As if this promise held the power to protect me from anything bad in the world, from anyone that would want to hurt me. I believed in the Church, I felt safe in the Church, and I felt all the more held to be officially part of her people.

Then I found out I was gay.

In those preteen days, the whole realization felt impossible. I couldn’t be both a Christian and gay, I had to be one or the other. And yet the feelings stayed… but I said the prayer first. Questions blew through my mind as I tried to make sense of it all until I came upon a terrible, terrible thought: What if… God didn’t choose me back?

My “Affair” With a Youth PastorMarie Jensen (via Samantha Field)

I have told my story directly to the churches he bounces to. They never believe me, despite the fact that I bring backup, references from therapists I’ve seen, contact information for my peers in the youth group, people still in leadership at that original church. He tells a story when he’s hired of this poor, deluded girl who tells lies about him. And so they choose not to believe me.

Or perhaps they do. Perhaps they believe me but choose to value his redemption over the safety of the girls in their church. I’m guessing they also minimize the gravity of what he did. A fifteen-year old is old enough to say no, isn’t she? Perhaps they see me as complicit, as he must when he is honest with himself, and they extend him the grace that seems so freely given in these situations. But grace comes after repentance. And this man has never admitted a single thing, much less repented.

The previous two pieces are inspiration for a dark, angry song that I wrote about abuse in the Church. I’m going to share it this week with my local songwriters’ group, and hopefully after their critique I’ll be able to polish it up to something that is worth sharing here.

Thy Kingdom ComeTony Woodlief

I don’t think they love their children any less than I love my own, which tells me something about what their lives must be like, to send their babies away. Their children stream northward in droves—as many as 60,000 this year—and we don’t want them. We don’t want their skin lesions and their hungry bellies, we don’t want their parents and aunts and uncles likely to follow, we don’t want them taking our jobs and clogging our classrooms and driving without insurance on our roads. We have no place for them in our country and certainly not in our hearts.

Let’s Worship Money Together!April Fiet

We’ve known for a long time that creating a shrine to our money would be frowned upon. After all, Jesus said some things about doing that. But, after chipping away at our deeply held religious convictions for a long time now, we’ve finally found a way to couch our money worship in thinly veiled Christian language. We’ve found a way to worship the almighty dollar in the name of the Bible’s Almighty God.

It’s a win-win, really. We can profess a faith that opens the door to being elected to political office. We can honor Jesus with our words on Sunday morning – or at least in our Facebook rants – and then do whatever we want for the rest of the week. We can claim to serve a servant Savior, all while buying our way into the positions of power and status and prestige that insure we’ll never need to serve anyone other than ourselves again.

Varieties of Heritage InterpretationJonathan Wilson

Together, these two exhibitions turned Independence Mall into a weird paradox: a holy site that was also shot through with evil. The effect on visitors seemed … misleading. Someone there with me commented that the Founding Fathers “never should have done it”—they never should have compromised their principles to allow slavery. As much as I would like to agree, I think that’s wrong. It’s thinking of slavery as if it were a strange sediment in the elixir of American liberty and not part of the recipe.