Eclectica: Week of August 11, 2014

Oy, what a heavy week. The deaths of Michael Brown and Robin Williams figured heavily in what I read this week, but there are some rays of light in there too.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Tragically, Robin Williams lost his long struggle with depression on August 11. This prompted an outpouring of memorials, but also many important discussions about depression and mental illness.

Depression, Robin, and You – my friend Bethany Bassett (who recently joined the crew at A Deeper Story, congratulations!)

Can prayer cure depression? Yes, I believe so. But it doesn’t always. This is an important distinction, because until we stop viewing depression as a spiritual deficiency, we can’t help those in our communities take those first steps out.

And make no mistake—we are needed. You are needed. If someone you know is drowning inside his or her own head, you are needed to function as lifeguard. You are needed to call her up and tell her you’re taking her kids to the park for the day and cooking dinner besides. You are needed to tell him you found a doctor who can help and will be picking him up at 10. You are needed to do the Googling, to pick up the prescription, to find the health food store with the particular supplement, to refuse to give up until a solution is found. You are needed for your perspective and energy and insistence on your loved one’s worthiness. Your presence can be vital, sometimes in the most literal sense of the word.

Thoughts on depression, suicide and being a ChristianNish Weiseth

Those who don’t struggle with depression, who don’t feel the ongoing darkness, or even those who struggle with depression yet still get the occasional bursts of joy or light, they try to understand and make sense of it. Label it as selfish and the easy way out. Call the suicidal “cowards.” But that’s not the mind of a person in the grips of unrelenting darkness. When depression corners you like that, it makes you believe that suicide is joy. Suicide is relief. And in some instances, it makes you think that suicide is a blessing or a gift to others. It can feel like the brave and noble thing to do.

Like I said, depression is evil.

But there’s another kind of evil lurking around the halls of the depressed, and it’s the belief that those who are stricken with depression (or any mental illness) are suffering because of their lack of faith in Jesus.

Suffering-WithElizabeth Stoker Bruenig

Pain like this, pain that abuts futility, it’s exhausting. I have thought for sometime this must be one of the many meanings tied up in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ’s disciples can’t manage to stay awake with him while he prays. I can stay up all night for television marathons; I’m sure the majority of us could manage it at the request of Jesus, but agony is exhausting, it’s draining, it’s especially tiring when it all points toward the great black void of futility, when there’s nothing you can do.

It is tempting, as Christ suggests, to drop off into torpor and give up on matters that seem beyond one’s control. I don’t doubt people in the position of considering suicide feel this exact same way, but I do believe there’s value in recognizing that people considering suicide and people who don’t want them to can suffer that together.

And in Gethsemane Jesus’ example reminds us that suffering together matters, that it means something.


The Church Won’t Rein in Misogyny, But Bloggers WillSamantha Field

Not long ago, Leadership Journal published a piece written by a convicted sex offender that painted his assaults of a teenage girl as a consensual “affair.” It took hundreds of people pleading with the editors for five days before they removed the article from the Internet. When it was still live, I contacted all the writers that Leadership Journal has published, which includes some of evangelicalism’s biggest names (Francis Chan, Max Lucado, Rick Warren), and asked them to join their voices with those of us asking Leadership Journal to #TakeDownThatPost. None of them responded.

It is extraordinarily rare for a big-name evangelical pastor to even address misogyny and sexism in the church. Instead, the issue is ignored. It is treated as if the lives, voices, and squandered spiritual gifts of women present a problem so insignificant that it is not worthy of their attention.

This has opened the door to an odd development.

Rest in Peace Michael Brown

Sudden death as a result of sickness is one thing; unjust death at the hands of a police officer is quite another. 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO was killed by Officer Darren Wilson on Saturday, August 9. It’s a sickeningly familiar situation: a white police officer initiates contact with an unarmed black man, and the black man does not survive the encounter.

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By PoliceMia McKenzie (via Dani Kelley)

A Black person is murdered by cops, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes every 28 hours in the U.S. The killing of an unarmed Black teenager named Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, which has resulted in protests in that town and harsh police push-back and brutality against even more of its citizens, and which, via social media, has gotten the attention of people around the world, probably isn’t even the latest occurrence, at just three days old.

Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.

So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.

In which I have a few things to tell you about #FergusonSarah Bessey

Ferguson reminds me of the Arab Spring uprising. The people of Ferguson are rising up against their oppressors and hallelujah for that. I pray for their endurance in the face of state sanctioned violence against their children.

I have hesitated to write about Ferguson because I have preferred to amplify local voices or the voices of those who have been engaged in the real and difficult work of race relations in the United States. After all, Canada has our own issues, particularly with our treatment of First Nations.

But these past four days in Ferguson have broken through my usual resolve: this is absolutely a justice issue. I have waited patiently for more white Christian bloggers to speak up, particularly the Americans, trying to give them precedent to respond, but I have been disheartened by minimal response there. I want to come alongside the African American voices already writing and advocating, even in this small way.

An Open Letter From God to the U.S. on the Event of FergusonMark Sandlin

Dear Loved Ones,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. As you might imagine, I’ve had a few things on my plate. Thanks for understanding.

I’m also sorry that this letter is going to have to be so direct, but I’m afraid recent events have pushed us far past pleasantries.

Please, throughout the things I have to say in this letter, remember I love you. I do.

I just wish you loved me back.

Oh, I know. I hear you say you love me and that really does mean a lot.

It’s just that…

Well, your actions make me wonder.

Why We’re Still Unwilling to Admit to Systemic Racism in AmericaBenjamin L. Corey

We’re still not ready (at least on a large scale) to admit to the existence of systemic racism in America. Just bringing the issue up got me called a “race baiter”, “ignorant”, and all sorts of other stuff– but whatever.

The realization that we’re completely unwilling to admit to the existence of systemic racism saddens me, but something I believe to be true nonetheless. The piece that completely tipped the scale for me was this piece which illustrates the response to protestors in Ferguson compared to protesters at the Bundy Ranch. At the Bundy Ranch, armed whites confronted the government to stand along side a rancher who’s been stealing from the government. They went as far as having weapons drawn on the police– and the response? The government backed down.

Compare that to Ferguson, where protesters have been met with police who were more armed up than the folks I served next to in Operation Allied Force (and I’m not even kidding).

It’s all just so… insane.

The question becomes, why? Why is it so difficult for us to just stop, look around at our country, and humbly admit, “yes, American culture still exhibits systemic racism”?

Black Bodies White SoulsAustin Channing Brown

I am quite used to there not being enough room in the soul of the white church to care about black bodies. There is not enough room in the service, not enough room in the prayers, not enough room in the leadership, not enough room in the values, not enough room in the mission statement, not enough room in political stances, not enough room for lived experiences of African Americans.

I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. If it is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what’s always done.


Ten Years of Everything and Nothing (a reflection)Bronwyn Lea

Today marks 10 years of our being here, and even though NOTHING has gone the way I planned it, I am filled with gratitude. I look around, and my life is unrecognizable from the way I pictured it would be when I was dreaming 20, 15 and even 10 years ago. This life I now live in suburban America is not at all what i imagined, and yet – if I dig a little deeper, while the form may be unrecognizable, the content has been the same all along:

for we love and are loved,

we have work to do wherever we are, 

and no matter what – we are kept by a good and gracious God.

These things remain the same. And I am so very, very grateful.

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.

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.)

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.

The best of last week, today

A bit of an artsy theme for this week. Enjoy!

New Christ icon: “Neither”… neither male nor femaleDavid Hayward

This is the third Christ icon I’ve done so far.

My first one was “Includer”.

My second one was “Higher”.

This third one’s called “Neither”, because “in Christ there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28).

The Fiddler of AbileneBoze Herrington

There are tales they tell in Texas that’d make your blood run cold…

A spooky tale in a poem reminiscent of The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

I Know Satan When I See HimCaryn Rivadeneira (via @onfaith)

I suppose after all this, this is what my love of the dark, of ghost-stories and creepiness has taught me: Evil exists. Satan and his (or her) demons do not rest. They aim to destroy, to torment, to spread hate and doubt. But they are overcome-able. As Jesus promised.

Why Do Christian Artists Need To Lie?Mark Chappelle

Billboard reports that Timothy Lambesis, lead singer of Grammy-nominated Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, now admits his band faked Christianity to sell records. Lambesis, who became agnostic while in college, says the ruse is not uncommon. “In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.”

How did no one notice?

On Dinah and the Nameless ConcubineCarmen Ibrahim

But then I read Genesis 34, titled The Defiling of Dinah, and that chapter wrecked me. It was painful to read.

I have to talk about it though. Because if I don’t, then that would be me taking the easy way out. Not questioning, not struggling in my faith, but rather coasting along, accepting the narratives that others feed me instead of thinking for myself.

Atonement, Christus Victor & AslanGreg Boyd (via @ReKnewOrg)

Lewis’ marvelous tale brilliantly illustrates how and why Jesus’ life, death and resurrection vanquished Satan and the other fallen gods who had seized God’s “Narnia.” It is based on the understanding that, while both self-sacrificial love and the law are good, they are not equally deep forms of magic. Self-sacrificial love is much older and much deeper. It is therefore the one thing that is able to set a treacherous covenant breaker free from the just condemnation of the law.

I just saw that Greg has posted a follow-up article that is well worth reading too: Who Demands a Sacrifice?

SushiCara Strickland

I allowed myself to slow down and enjoy the experience I had been craving. I let the fish linger for a moment on my tongue, savoring the flavors and the quenching of a hunger I had carried for so long.

As I feasted, I noticed a new flavor. It tasted a little like redemption.

The best of last week’s Twitter today

I read many words last week. Some were disturbing, some were infuriating, some were heartbreaking and some were uplifting. Check out this good stuff, in case you missed it.

Holy TableBethany Paget

This poem came out of my experience with leaving the evangelical church.

If Your Kid Comes Out To YouBen Moberg

First, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention who is not a family therapist, who has (to my knowledge) no gay kids of his own, wrote a blog post about how parents should react to a gay son or daughter coming out to them. It was, as expected, unhelpful. But his post is nothing compared to John MacArthur’s video, in which he said that the Christ-like response to a child coming out is too shun them. To disown them. To, in John’s words, “turn them over to Satan.”

So, I thought I’d pen my own advice, from experience. This is for all the parents with closeted gay kids. These are words you need to hear.

What If My Son is Gay?Aaron J. Smith

I will never treat LGBTQ and the church as a gospel issue. It’s not. The gospel is that God has reconciled all things to himself in Jesus who died for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised to life for our justification. This is the gospel: reconciliation. Sexual orientation is not the gospel. I don’t want to be flippant about it or dismissive, but it’s not an issue of life and death of my child comes out as gay. It’s serious and weighty, but it is something we can figure out.

The Ugly Way Evangelicals Love Gay PeopleMatthew Paul Turner

Because the only evangelicals challenging the messages of these voices are the progressive ones, a handful of liberal evangelical bloggers who have little influence on the likes of Franklin Graham, John MacArthur, and the SBC. If these people don’t speak for evangelicals, where are the non-progressive evangelicals who might challenge these messages? We need them to speak up, on behalf of the gospel, Jesus, and the evangelicals who really do love gay people.

When We Worship the God of Fear (the idolatry of gun culture)Benjamin L. Corey

Instead of trusting in God for our safety, we trust in guns. Why? Because we’re scared. Because the way of Jesus seems too illogical to actually be true, and that’s frightening. Because we’re afraid of giving up our rights, afraid of being vulnerable, and afraid that putting our faith and trust in God might actually cost us something.

It’s Really Hard to be a Good Guy With a GunAdam Weinstein via Brett Thatcher

My wife and I got into an argument last night over a dead man. His name was Joseph Robert Wilcox. He was 31 on Sunday, the day he tried to stop cop-killer Jerad Miller in a Las Vegas Walmart and was shot by Miller’s wife Amanda. Wilcox was a good guy with a gun. It cost him his life.

The Way of the GunNish Weiseth

Let us be meek. Let us be peacemakers. Let us be followers of the way of Jesus, rather than the way of the gun.

If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, it’s time for us to hold the third and seventh Beatitudes as more precious than the Second Amendment.

The Gospel of the Freedom to be WrongMorgan Guyton

God wants us to be family. That is how I understand the purpose of Jesus’ cross and resurrection and the Holy Spirit’s mission to make us holy. I don’t believe that God is allergic to sin. I don’t believe that God has a “glory” he is obligated to worry about which is somehow at odds with his desire to bring every human being as deeply into his arms as we will allow. God’s glory is his family. I don’t believe that we need to be saved from God’s perfectionism or God’s wrath. What we need to be saved from is our sin, and most specifically our tendency to justify sin, which imprisons us and warps our ability to perceive reality correctly. It is this self-justification which makes us hate God and experience his intimate love as the wrathful torture of hell. The great gift that forms the foundation of Christian life is the freedom to be wrong, which we gain through accepting the mercy of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Without that freedom, no matter what prayer we’ve prayed or how perfectly our actions conform to the teachings of scripture, we remain unsaved.

Finally, there was a huge backlash to an article posted at Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal by a former youth pastor who is currently serving his sentence for the statutory rape of one of the girls in his youth group. The ill-conceived article was updated with an addendum from the author and an editorial note, but eventually the editors could not ignore the uproar and finally removed it and apologized. Read these powerful voices:

An Open Letter to Christianity Today and @Leadership_Jnl: TAKE DOWN THE RAPE POST. It’s not an “extramarital relationship.” It’s statutory rape.Elizabeth Esther

Can you imagine the OUTRAGE if a Catholic Priest was allowed to publish an article describing his “relationship” with an “adoring” altar server? And that outrage would be absolutely JUSTIFIED.

Why?

Because a predator loses the right to tell his side of the story right about the time he decides to PREY on a CHILD.

My Innocence Was Stolen – hosted by Micah J. Murray

A few days ago an essay was published titled “My Easy Trip from Youth Pastor to Felon.” The narrator relates his story of a “spiral into sin”, detailing how his sin destroyed his life and ministry. It wasn’t until the very end of the story that he noted that his “friend” with which he was having an “extramarital relationship” was in fact a student and that he was writing his cautionary tale from behind bars. Pointing out how the story is abuse apology and re-victimization, many readers are now asking the Leadership Journal / Christianity today to #TakeDownThatPost

Tonight a friend messaged me and asked me if she could share her story here. This is what was left out of the youth pastor’s story. Are you listening? This is why it matters.

Dear Man in PrisonMary DeMuth

Your words reflected little remorse other than getting caught and being prosecuted for a crime. Where is your anguish for the victim? For your wife? For your children? For the youth group you pastored? You have not only marred their souls, but warped their view of a loving God. They will struggle with your violation the rest of their lives. They may view God as capricious, unprotective, or non-existent. You cannot undo that kind of soul damage, no matter how many words you write, even if they are cloaked in biblical language.

No Really, #TakeDownThatPostBethany Suckrow

The concept of consent is Healthy Sexual Ethics 101. And if even our leaders in our churches, leading our kids, do not understand this, then no wonder sexual abuse is a rampant problem and no wonder people are leaving the pews. No one feels safe.

They Took It DownSamantha Field

It took the Leadership Journal five days to remove the post, and there were some significant bumps along the way, but they did, ultimately do the right thing and removed it. And not only did they take it down—the absolute best I was hoping for—they apologized. And it wasn’t a non-apology of “we’re sorry you all were stupid enough to be offended.” It was a real, legitimate apology.

And finally++ a bonus World Cup Jesus Juke from Micah J. Murray:

Last week’s Twitter favorites

For your edification, the pick of my favorites from my Twitter feed last week.

Four Modern Versions of the Bible that are Ruining the BibleBen Irwin

…the commercialization of scripture has also given us four iterations of the modern Bible — which I believe are causing us to value the Bible less and read it less.

What Both Sides Completely Miss In The Abortion DiscussionBenjamin L. Corey

The abortion discussion is one of the most polarizing discussions one can have. In fact, I usually avoid it for that reason– the conversations are often so filled with strife that they don’t accomplish anything or remotely move the conversation forward.

…In the end, I think this disconnect is because both sides are failing to realize or acknowledge some critical information.

How To Watch The World Cup Like A True Soccer Nerd – via Benjamin Howard

Because here’s the thing: The idea that the ineffable foreignness of soccer is best left to continents like Europe and South America — because all us Yanks will do is take away its beauty, what with our “stats” and “analysis” — is no more than a steaming pile of merde.

Too bad the World Cup is run by the corrupt clown show that is FIFA.

Teenagers, it’s OK not to have sex – via Bronwyn Lea

Phin Lyman made headlines with an article about being a virgin at 18. He tells Joanna Moorhead why he wanted to encourage younger people not to rush into a sex life and his plans to stay celibate when he goes to university

Pentecost: When God Rebels Against Her HandlersMorgon Guyton

Yes, I said her. But on Pentecost you can do that. Jesus calls the one who sent him Father. Obviously, Jesus was a dude himself. But the Holy Spirit is at most gender-neutral and at best gender-bending, because the Holy Spirit makes both men and women prophesy, as Peter controversially declares on Pentecost. – See more at: http://morganguyton.us/2014/06/07/pentecost-when-god-rebels-against-her-handlers/#sthash.PhjdR4bR.dpuf
Yes, I said her. But on Pentecost you can do that. Jesus calls the one who sent him Father. Obviously, Jesus was a dude himself. But the Holy Spirit is at most gender-neutral and at best gender-bending, because the Holy Spirit makes both men and women prophesy, as Peter controversially declares on Pentecost. – See more at: http://morganguyton.us/2014/06/07/pentecost-when-god-rebels-against-her-handlers/#sthash.PhjdR4bR.dpuf

Yes, I said her. But on Pentecost you can do that. Jesus calls the one who sent him Father. Obviously, Jesus was a dude himself. But the Holy Spirit is at most gender-neutral and at best gender-bending, because the Holy Spirit makes both men and women prophesy, as Peter controversially declares on Pentecost.

Yes, I said her. But on Pentecost you can do that. Jesus calls the one who sent him Father. Obviously, Jesus was a dude himself. But the Holy Spirit is at most gender-neutral and at best gender-bending, because the Holy Spirit makes both men and women prophesy, as Peter controversially declares on Pentecost. – See more at: http://morganguyton.us/2014/06/07/pentecost-when-god-rebels-against-her-handlers/#sthash.PhjdR4bR.dpuf