Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things I read this week. Inclusion does not mean I fully endorse everything in each article or the sites they are linked to. You can read each post in its entirety by clicking on the title beneath each excerpt. 

“We tend to think that we would have seen what was happening and stopped it…When would we have stopped? When would you have punched a Nazi? When Hitler was making nationalistic speeches? When the government demonized Jews like the far right demonizes Muslims? When the movies and the media put on a propaganda campaign that would have put Milo to shame? When the “lying press” was getting shut down? Would you really have spoken up by the time Auschwitz was set up, 7 years in, after being primed to hate that much? Really? Or would you be like the millions who didn’t even put the pieces together to know their were gas chambers and stop what was going on?

Here’s the deal: We KNOW that the Nazi message is effective. We know it can spread a cancer through our society, that people will latch onto it, that if you start from certain premises it is a logically sound position that is virtually unassailable from the standpoint of pure reason. We know that science cannot defeat it, and can instead enhance it to come up with more effective, crueler methods for the realization of its darkest capaibilities. We know that the humanities cannot defeat it, but that the artists and the writers and the moviemakers and even the philosophers became part of one of the greatest propaganda campaigns of all time.

The only time we stamped out the virus of Nazism wholly and thoroughly, to the point where most today think it an abomination, was through choking the life out of it.
This reality shows me that there may be some places in society where free speech is not an option, where it is intolerable, where the debate ends — where, indeed, if you allow the debate to continue, you will lose, and humanity will lose, to a crueller, harsher view of who we are.”

When to Start Punching: Notes on Defending Social Justice by Martin Hughes

“Johnson, the former 11-year-old unwitting bride who is now fighting for Florida to set a minimum marriage age (there is none now), says that her family attended a conservative Pentecostal church and that other girls of a similar age periodically also married. Often, she says, this was to hide rapes by church elders…

“It was a terrible life,” Johnson recalls, recounting her years as a child raising children. She missed school and remembers spending her days changing diapers, arguing with her husband and struggling to pay expenses. She ended up with pregnancy after pregnancy — nine children in all — while her husband periodically abandoned her.

“They took the handcuffs from handcuffing him,” she says, referring to the risk he faced of arrest for rape, “to handcuffing me, by marrying me without me knowing what I was doing.”

“You can’t get a job, you can’t get a car, you can’t get a license, you can’t sign a lease,” she adds, “so why allow someone to marry when they’re still so young?”

11 Years Old, a Mom, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida by Nicholas Kristof

“The worst part of what happened to this young woman is that she learned about a false Christ – a Jesus who shames sinners, who turns an angry and harsh face on those who confess and repent, who demands his pound of flesh before he offers peace. She was taught that Jesus first ridicules and gleefully watches us weep before he grudgingly offers forgiveness. She was taught that even after she goes through all of that, Jesus is still ashamed to be seen in public with her. She was taught that Jesus was ashamed to be her God, ashamed of her and her baby!”

How Shame Drives Us From Christ by Sam Powell

“You should try reading the Bible and asking God to reveal the truth to you.”—as if these are things I’d never considered…

My reply is always the same: “Reading the Bible and praying over it—is precisely how I became Progressive.”

None of us has the market cornered on the Truth, and we all bring the same things to our study and prayer and to our religion—we bring ourselves. We bring the sum total of the families we’ve lived in and the place we were born and the faith tradition we were raised in. We carry the teachers and pastors and writers who inspired us, the experiences we’ve had, and even our specific personalities. In other words: we all find our way—in the way we find our way.

When another Christian instructs someone else to “read the Bible,” or “take it to prayer,” or to “ask God to reveal the truth to you,” they usually mean, “Do all of these things until you get it right—until you agree with me.” They are assuming their version of study and reflection are more valid than another’s…

Christian, the next time your tempted to flippantly tell someone who doesn’t share your religious convictions or mirror your theology, that they should “try reading the Bible and going to God,” it might be helpful to seek a humility about your own beliefs and a respect of theirs; to entertain the idea that maybe their reading of the Bible and their prayerful life surrounding it—are the very reason they now hold those beliefs…”

“The Bible and Prayer” Won’t Fix My Progressive Theology—They Created it. by John Pavlovitz

“And on top of it all, the ultimate kick in the gut: We wouldn’t even see her alive. I struggled with the idea of Eva’s existence and her humanity all along, whether a terminal diagnosis made her dead already. I clung to knowing her humanity would be validated to me when I saw her as a living, breathing human being. I would hold my daughter and be her daddy. I wanted to watch her die, because that would mean that I got to watch her live. Think about that one for a second. Now it was all gone. I longed for just five minutes with her, heck, five seconds with her. All of that practical stuff about organ donation was irrelevant to me now. I just wanted to hold my baby girl and see her chest move up and down. I just wanted to be her daddy, if only for a few seconds…”

We spent months bracing and preparing for the death of our daughter. But guess what? We weren’t ready. by Royce Young

“But if you think Medicaid is evil government bureaucracy and your church could do better, then I’ve got a few questions for you. Have you already met with your pastor to talk about chairing your church’s capital campaign to build a free health clinic? How many doctors, nurses, social workers, and counselors will need to be hired for this health clinic and which church staff do you think can be let go to make this substitution? How many thousands of dollars are you willing to take away from your retirement and/or your kids’ college tuition to pay for this health clinic? How many weekly hours are you planning to volunteer at this health clinic? Have you talked to your boss about the time you would need to take off work in order to take this on?

Ideology is so much easier when you don’t have to deal with the details.”

Is your church going to replace Medicaid? by Morgan Guyton

When God’s got a gun to your head

When this phrase popped into my head I realized this often a reason behind Christians (as well as believers in other religions) doing some pretty terrible things to people. Take this woman who is treating her son as if he is dead (for getting married to another man). But she must behave like this because Jesus says you must love Him more than your family (according to her interpretation of certain verses).

I used to be able to understand where this woman is coming from. We must sometimes make sacrifices for God because we love Him and He loves us. At least that is how the reasoning goes.

But here is the problem. The unspoken threat hovering over all this love is that God will hurt us (if we don’t obey/love Him) and He will certainly hurt those we love if they don’t get their act together in time. Essentially…God’s got a gun to your head.

Don’t waste my time arguing about God’s justice, how offensive our sins are to Him and how anyone who ends up in hell made that choice. Justice isn’t torturing people (not even in this world). No one had a choice about being offensive to God besides the first two people He made. And God was the one who made the choice to make a universe/realms that would include hell knowing He would be sending most of the people He created there. And to top it all off He could only be appeased by the slaughtering of animals culminating in the slaughter of a human being. (I no longer understand why we think other religions/cultures who engaged in human sacrifice were so barbaric). Even the one true God (of Christianity) demands someone’s blood had to be shed in order to be pleased with people again. Even though it was His own Son laying down His life there is no getting around the fact that God still “needed” a human sacrifice in order to give Himself permission to love us. Many Christians basically present God like an abusive spouse rather than a loving parent. (This is a summary of some things I heard and learned growing up in Christian communities. I don’t necessarily hold to all these ideas anymore).

Anyway back on topic…

I also (used to) get the fear part of all this. Though at the time I didn’t realize I was admitting God’s love was too weak and ineffective to fully redeem and restore most if not all the people He made. And unfortunately as history often bears out fear keeps people in line as much if not more so than love.

Another sad aspect to this is the fact that some people would like to believe that God is better than the one we’ve been told exists (This is elaborated on quiet well over at Fred Clark’s blog). We wish we could believe that God loves more than just a select few. We wish someplace like hell didn’t ‘have to’ exist. We wish we had the freedom to just love others without judging and shunning them when necessary. But God does not give us that permission. If we start diverging from the abusive narrative we’ve been given of Him we risk Him pulling the trigger on us. Better safe (with an abuser) than to be one of His victims.

One of the things that got me thinking along these lines comes from a passage from a book I read recently. The book is entitled ‘Scared Selfless’ and is the true story of a woman who was horribly abused by a sadistic pedophile throughout her childhood. She developed multiple personality disorder ( aka dissociative identity disorder). Eventually as an adult she sought therapy, started remembering the terrible things she suffered and went on to get a Ph.D in psychology and to help others who have suffered trauma. Here is one of the parts that stood out to me the most.

“ Any victim who wants to stay alive knows it’s in her best interest to make nice with the sociopath in charge. Ironically, though, the victims decision to placate the perpetrator actually binds her to him more effectively than chains ever could. This is because in order to form a bond that can ensure her safety, the victim must seek out whatever is relatable and human in the abuser while ignoring all that is bad and monstrous. This herculean feat of pretense requires that the victim ignore her true judgements, intuitions, thoughts, and feelings.
This is the essence of brainwashing. Once a victim has made the mental leap to pretend that the monster abusing her is really a decent guy, she is primed to believe just about anything that monster says…
Ultimately, this is the goal of every brainwashing campaign, whether explicitly waged or not: to convince victims that they are powerless and that their only hope for salvation is the guy abusing them. In the victim’s mind, the abuser becomes an all-powerful being, capable of controlling anyone and anything. The victim has no choice but to submit.”

Now interestingly the author rarely mentions God or her relationship to him in her book. What she is describing above is in terms of what her abuser did to her as a child and how she related to him in order to survive. But frankly I can’t see any difference in this description between this child abuser and the way many Christians present and understand God to be.

While I don’t actually believe God has a gun to anybody’s head I am still working on deconstructing some unhealthy ideas and doctrines that have simply become standard orthodoxy in many if not most corners of Christianity. Sometimes I wonder if it should really be this hard to believe in someone/something good. So far all I can say is I believe the truth about Him is far more beautiful and is therefore still worth seeking after.

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things I read this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement. To read the post in its entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt. Anything is bold is something I chose to emphasize.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”
Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people…

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.”

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know by Lesley Stahl

“What I’m struggling to address here is a weird belief that seems to be the source of a lot of pain for a lot of people — both for the Christians trapped in this form of belief and for the millions of others (many of whom are also Christians) who have to live in a world shaped by the consequences of this weird belief.

It’s the idea that God is not as good as we’d like God to be. The idea that God isn’t as fair, or as kind, or as loving, as we ourselves would be if it were up to us.

This blasphemous accusation arises whenever we find our fallible conscience in conflict with our fallible perception of a divine commandment. It arises because we’ve had it drilled into our heads that our conscience is fallible and not always trustworthy, while at the same time we’ve desperately pretended that our perception of “God’s will” or “God’s commands” is not just as fallible and untrustworthy. So we wind up deferring to the latter, subordinating conscience to a dreadful obedience of a dreadful command.
That’s a terribly uncomfortable place to be, but it’s where millions of white evangelical Christians in America find themselves because it’s where they’ve been taught to believe they are required to be. They wish they could have a faith that better aligned with what their nagging conscience is telling them would be more good, more beautiful, more true, more just, and more loving, but they’ve been taught to believe that such faith is not permitted

What we quite often see these days, instead, is a form of Christianity that no one wishes to be true — not even many of its believers

It’s very hard to invite anyone to believe anything that they have no reason to want to believe in. It’s very hard to convince anyone to believe in a God who seems distasteful — even to you.

Here’s the really, really weird part of this: Conservative evangelicals reading this are now convinced that what I’m saying here is that we need to reinvent God according to our own preferences. They think I’m saying we need to change what God is really like and who God really is in order to make the idea of God more popular — more palatable and more acceptable.

Let that sink in for a second. Consider the assumptions that shape that criticism — what one would have to presume in order for that criticism to make any sense at all.
What they’re really saying — what they’re really confessing — is that they believe that the actual truth about God is, in fact, unpalatable and unacceptable. They believe that God’s actual character is, in fact, distasteful — that God is exclusive, condemning and oppressive. And that any attempt to portray God as otherwise is a liberal lie.

In this view, God could decide to cherish us, but simply decides not to.

Maybe God isn’t as awful as you think you have to think God is by Fred Clark

“In particular, complementarianism can act to peripheralise women within churches, and in those contexts it’s easy to see how abuse can flourish undetected. In complementarian contexts, women have as much room to speak as the male leaders allow. That’s a profoundly vulnerable position to be in, and one which I suspect some male ministers are not always able to empathise with. If a woman suffering abuse wasn’t completely confident that she would be believed, that the particular nature of the abuse would be understood, and that she would be supported by her church’s leader, she would most likely continue to suffer alone. This is true for any church, whether complementarian or egalitarian, but within complementarian churches the capacity for women to shape teaching and policies is almost entirely dependent on the senior minister’s amenity. That makes it crucial that the senior minister seek out and really listen to the women of the church. They must also be clear-eyed about how they are received by the women of the church – are they regarded as trustworthy, knowledgeable about the issues which affect women, do they demonstrate a humble willingness to learn? If not, women will not disclose abuse to them…

After several years in ministry, I have come to expect that the women I meet with have had significant experiences of abuse, whether direct or indirect. The women who have not been abused (or have not yet disclosed abuse to me) are a minority. Most of the time, these women have told few people. They have learned to accommodate quietly. They swallow their pain…

Male leaders of both complementarian and egalitarian churches – are you confident that you are doing what is necessary to care for the women in your churches who are experiencing such things?

And more importantly, would the women of your church agree with you?

Reflecting on complementarianism and domestic violence by Erica Hamence

“A few years after I came out I had lunch with my father in Toronto. He’s always been a bit more awkward than unaccepting when it came to my sexuality. As I sat across from him he relayed a perplexing story. At the garage he worked in, during lunch hour in a predominately male lunchroom in aforementioned small town Ontario, one of his colleagues made a homophobic remark and he froze. There was no defending his gay son, no calling out the bigotry. At first I was angry at his response. Why wouldn’t he stand up for me? Why would he even tell me this story with no happy ending? A potential moment of redemption seemed so glaringly obvious. Then something became suddenly clear to me. He too was saddled with shame. The culture he still lived in, the culture I moved away from, filled him too with fear of rejection and mockery. It was like this bizarre conversation was an apology and an acknowledgement. It was as if this was his way of saying he was starting to understand my struggle, and that he was ashamed for his part in it now that he too had felt the sting of homophobia, however vicarious…

The lesson here: take care with your choice to be homophobic because it lasts forever for both the victim and the victimizer. It doesn’t just affect gay people or people with gay kids either…”

The everlasting effects of homophobia and why it’s not just gay people that suffer by Ryan E. Thompson



Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things that made me think this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post. To read each post in its entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt.

“I found myself in a debate about this the other day, and the gentleman I was talking to fell back on the argument that it was the Church’s job to take care of the poor, not the government. But is that really true?

My first thought whenever I hear this argument is, “Who gave the Church this job?” Obviously the implied answer is God. After all, Jesus does talk a lot about His followers’ responsibility for taking care of the downtrodden, poor and oppressed. If you read His parable about the sheep and the goats, it’s easy to walk away with the impression that eternal life rests entirely upon whether or not a person cares for the poor…

But does that mean that He’s delegated that responsibility away from non-faith communities and governments? That seems a little silly. To tell His followers to be mindful of a particular group doesn’t necessarily preclude the rest of humanity’s responsibility to each other. If I tell my kids to pick up their trash, I’m not sending a message to every other parent on my block that their kids can litter because my kids will pick it up.

Christ’s major point is that He cares about what happens to the those on society’s bottom rung. It would be irresponsible for Christians to not encourage everyone to do all that they can to protect them…”

Whose Job Is It to Take Care of the Poor? By Jayson Bradley

“…We knew to say, ‘don’t do drugs, they are dangerous, people get addicted’. We didn’t know to say, and I wish with all my heart we had, ‘but if you get addicted, please come to us and we will help you. We will be here for you because we love you.’ Of course this OxyContin thing wasn’t on our radar. Who could ever imagine their kid would go so far as to stick a needle in their vein? I’ll tell you, my son didn’t think he’d ever do something so stupid either, even when he was addicted to OxyContin, until he did…

My son would tell you he had a nice childhood. He played baseball and soccer and took karate. We had a good relationship. He knew his parents loved him, and – he did know better. What made him make bad choices in spite of knowing better? What changed from the age of 14 to the age of 16, when the drinking began? Murky gray. Minefield.

Recognize addiction can happen to your child. The epidemic is real. Be afraid. Be prepared to fight for your child’s life.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Arm yourselves.”

I Raised a Heroin Addict–And I Learned Something Every Mom Should Know by Patricia Byrne By Patricia Byrne

“…You just want to engage in sin, the person who disagrees with Evangelical Christianity is told.

But for the things that Evangelical Christianity wants, it’s somehow not a desire to sin to justify why they are allowed to do things that the Bible plainly states are not okay.

And what’s funny is if these things are so small, if it doesn’t matter, then it also is the easiest thing to follow. It doesn’t cost anything to not braid your hair, to not get a tattoo, to forego jewelry or flashy materialism. If you are storing up your treasures in heaven, then there is no reason to defend material wealth, because to let go of it shouldn’t matter.

But if the argument is that sometimes the Bible is cultural, or certain scriptures need to be seen through a broader context, or certain things don’t apply anymore because they don’t matter as much as other things, it’s hard explain how that makes sense for some versus and not for others without it all looking like justifications. You want to do a thing, so that scripture doesn’t apply. You don’t care about something, so that scripture was clearly cultural and doesn’t matter, solely because it doesn’t matter to you…”

The Acceptable Cultural Relativism: Christianity and the Sins that Don’t Matter 
by somaticstrength

“You weren’t there.

You tell me you are going to help us learn “to understand one another.” Please LISTEN. Please hear me! I DO understand him. I have stared into those eyes during the good times, the moments of kindness and laughter that kept us staying. I have also stared into those eyes as he has threatened us, ruined us, shredded us, humiliated us. I have spent __ years studying this man – studying his moods, his looks, his face, the set of his jaw, the squint of his eye, the shift of his weight, the movement of his hands, the movement of his arms (just in case), his words, the meaning behind his words, the movement of the corner of his mouth, his need for admiration, his derisive laughter, his sniggering when he “got” me – I have studied him meticulously all these years to avoid the next rage or joke at my expense or humiliation or cruel trick. YOU need to understand, from someone who DOES know him inside and out – he will not go down without a fight. I am scared, hurting, confused, shaken, broken, financially ruined, sexually damaged, and nearly destroyed by all that he’s done to us. And you want to put me into a room with this person? I KNOW him. He will lie, shift blame, label me as crazy, act humble, draw you aside into his “confidence”. If that doesn’t work, he will lash out in anger, cry, tell you he’s a victim, blame his parents and environment, yell, intimidate, storm out and then “apologize” so that you will be obliged to reciprocate an apology for “words that were said,” or use any other variety of tactics in order to get you to back down and admire him again.

I cried out to you for help. You sent me this letter. You completely discounted my pain, my family’s pain. You made yourself to be an expert in a situation you have never looked into, have never visited, have never seen.”

You Weren’t There — a letter to pastors from a survivor of domestic abuse A guest post at  A Cry for Justice

“Two and a half years ago, a pensioner walked into a police station and handed in a piece of paper. It revealed a horrific secret he’d kept hidden for most of his life – a litany of sexual abuse he’d suffered at a private school in Devon in the 1950s and 60s. His abuser went on to have a successful career as a children’s TV presenter and author. But now – the truth has finally emerged.”

Victim of John Earle’s abuse speaks out by Andy Davies (links to video of victim sharing his story)

“The truth is that words have consequences. Putin’s hardline against homosexuality—which Graham praised—gave the Chechen president space to crack down harder on gay and lesbian residents in his own corner of Russia. Words have consequences in the U.S., too—gay teens kicked out of their homes and high teen suicide rates due to anti-gay bullying…

Within the U.S., evangelicals are used to being able to inveigh against gays and lesbians without having their literal blood on their hands. Yes, this rhetoric still has consequences—and people do still die (see teen suicides as referenced above). But the causality feels less direct. American evangelicals do not have to watch as gay and lesbian individuals are murdered.”

Words Have Consequences: Evangelical Rhetoric and Gay Rights  by Libby Anne

“Childbirth is changing in Kenya. Increasingly, mothers are giving birth in hospitals, rather than in the village. But not so long ago the use of traditional birth attendants was the norm, and there was a tacit assumption about how to deal with intersex babies.
“They used to kill them,” explains Seline Okiki, chairperson of the Ten Beloved Sisters, a group of traditional birth attendants, also from western Kenya.

“If an intersex baby was born, automatically it was seen as a curse and that baby was not allowed to live. It was expected that the traditional birth attendant would kill the child and tell the mother her baby was stillborn…”

“The parents did not get any say in the matter,” says the group secretary Anjeline Naloh. “The expectation was that the baby should not even live long enough to cry.”

The midwife who saved intersex babies By Helen Grady and Anne Soy

“What happened to this family is shocking,” Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell said. “Almost immediately after losing his husband and partner of more than 50 years, Jack Zawadski’s grief was compounded by injustice and callous treatment from the very place that should have helped ease his suffering. Following Bob’s death, the funeral home, the only one in the area with a crematorium, refused to honor agreed-upon funeral arrangements after learning that Bob and Jack were married…”

“John made all necessary arrangements before Bob’s passing in order to shield his 82-year-old uncle from additional suffering and to allow friends to gather to support Jack in his grief,” Littrell explained. “Instead, Bob’s peaceful passing was marred by turmoil, distress and indignity, adding immeasurable anguish to Jack and John’s loss. This should not have happened to them, and should not be allowed to happen again.”

We’re Suing a Mississippi Funeral Home for Refusing to Transport and Cremate the Body of Gay Man by Lambda Legal


Weekly Ponderings

Here are some blogs/articles that made me think this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post or at each site. To read each post in it entirety click on the link under each excerpt. (Anything in bold is an emphasis made by me).

“On any given week our fellowship will have between 200 and 300 attendees. In that group is the full range of Christian denominations. From high church liturgical to aisle dancing charismatic, we all come together as foreigners and believers. Like any church, ours has taken on its own personality (somewhere in between those two) but the full spectrum of potential theological debate is always present…

Disagreeing actually forces our focus towards what matters instead of an unchecked sense of rightness

Our worship team routinely consists of some mix of a couple of a couple Brits, a German, a Canadian, two Filipinos, an Indian and an American or two. Once a month a team of African students come from the other side of the city to lead. It’s not uncommon for 30-40 nationalities to be present and yet we join in a common voice.

It’s like a little taste of heaven.”

Three Things I Love About An International Church by Jerry Jones

I see a lot of places where I made mistakes or I “should have known better.” But none of that changes the fact that I was a victim and they took advantage of me. Nobody should be talking about sub-optimal choices a victim made, when another person consciously made a choice to hurt and manipulate someone.

When people talk about abuse, they ask questions like “but why didn’t the victim leave?” or “but why didn’t you report the rape immediately?” Really? I can think of SO MANY reasons why. My situation was just about money, not anything as serious as rape or abuse- but you could ask why I kept choosing to go back there. So many reasons. My own optimism. I didn’t want to believe I had made a bad decision. I didn’t want to believe that they were the kind of people who would claim to be my friends but really just want money. I thought maybe someday I would win an argument with them and they’d have to treat me better. I thought I could get them to respect my right to receive the service I had already paid for, without constant harassment. I didn’t even realize how badly it was affecting me because I didn’t know my feelings mattered- I didn’t know that it could be so hurtful and unhealthy to just have a “friendly and polite conversation.”

An essential part of manipulation/ coercion/ abuse is making the victim believe that they actually like it, that they chose it, that it’s not manipulation/ coercion/ abuse. So OF COURSE you’re going to have victims that don’t realize they’re victims until much later. I totally believe you if you say that’s what happened.

A victim who’s made mistakes is still a victim by perfect number 628

“We talk about how suicide is ‘selfish,’” a friend said to me a few weeks ago. “But that means that people who are suicidal but struggling to live are doing something incredibly selfless, every day. Why don’t we talk about that?”

On a societal level, we rarely, if ever, acknowledge all of the thankless work that people who wrestle with suicidal ideation pour into staying alive — labor that they engage in not for themselves, for the most part, but because they know how much their deaths would devastate family and friends. There’s not much in the way of resources or aid available to those doing their ultimate best to avoid suicide. Instead, we mostly treat those who are suicidal — as I am, sometimes — as morally deficient for even thinking about killing themselves in the first place…

The other day a friend and I were dreaming up a place where people might learn how to live. We called it the not-hospital, because it should be everything the hospital isn’t: warm, comfortable, loving, tolerant. A place with corners full of blankets and pillows where you can go cry if you need to. A place with huge heated tubs full of salt water where you can soak and read and sip fancy drinks. Common rooms where people can be together if they want to; individual rooms where people can go if they need to be alone. A proper convalescent home, where people can recuperate and rest and feel cared for — that’s maybe what the not-hospital would be.

But until we invent the not-hospital and start training people in how to live, the least we can do is acknowledge the massive amount of effort it takes not to die

If You’re Suicidal, Staying Alive Is The Most Selfless Thing You Can Do by Anne Thériault

But the thing that struck me the most this past Sunday morning was how much everyone talked about God’s amazing grace, the amazing love he showed us in sending his son to be beaten to death on our behalf. The message was primarily a positive one, I’ll grant that. But there was something else lurking beneath the surface, something far more negative…about us.

This preacher got up in front of an auditorium full of people to tell them they are lucky to have God in their lives, lucky to have him condescend to show grace and mercy to them because they deserve so much less. His love for us and his grace toward us is amazing, the man told us.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? We are being told over and over again that what they have to offer us is good news. But implicit in this good news is the very bad news that we are so bad, God had to kill himself in order to get over it.

Does that not strike you as…I dunno…excessively demeaning? For every time we are told that God’s love surpasses all other loves, we are being told that it takes an extraordinary kind of love in order to love the likes of us…

See, I know this narrative very, very well. I’ve inhaled deeply of this message and I can recognize its aroma almost anywhere. Each mention of the surpassing love of God reminds the listener of his or her own innate unworthiness. Without that unworthiness, without the implicit notion of our own horribleness, this love wouldn’t even be anything special.

For grace to be amazing, it has to overcome something terrible. According to the Christian message, that terrible thing is us

The sugar coating on that pile of anti-human excrement satiated me for many, many years, but time has made clear to me what lies beneath that saccharine exterior: The good news of the Christian message is built upon an inescapably dehumanizing narrative which says that you’re so very bad that only God can love you the way you really need to be loved. If you look for that love in any other source, you’ll be disappointed because the likes of you requires something especially gracious and forgiving…”

The Dark Side of Grace by Neil Carter

“The Christian agenda to “get” people is so weird to me. Having these strategizing meetings to best figure out how they can convert whomever and convince them of the “truth” they hold. I imagine Christians having a conversation with whomever non-Christian they want to convert, sitting there not listening but waiting for any chance to strategically insert their beliefs. It’s uncomfortable, that’s not how normal people have a conversation.

And before everyone gets all mad, I’m not saying to never talk about your faith or whatever. I really like Jesus and I talk about him all the time, but not with the agenda to convert anyone – that’s where it gets weird. Awkwardly inserting your religious ideals or straight up arguing why people need Jesus so they don’t go to hell is kind of creepy.

What if instead of focusing so much on how we can convert, we focused all that energy on how we can love bolder like Jesus? Seriously, sit and have meetings to try to figure out how to love our neighbors better. There are people out there doing this and they are changing the world and people actually like hanging out with them…”

It’s Okay to Love Your Religion Without Forcing People to Convert by Sheri Faye Rosendahl

Christians speak about “Judgement Day.” For many, this is a terrifying concept where everyone’s secrets are laid bare so that God can “smite” people for what they’ve done. But I believe that the very opposite is true. God’s justice is actually about everything being in right relationship, in its right place—“the way things should be.” God’s judgement is not a heavenly courtroom where we are all tried “for our sins,” instead, judgement is the means by which God’s justice is achieved, the process of righting all wrongs so that His justice comes into full fruition.

God’s justice and His judgement are therefore restorational concepts, not punitive ones. Like most Kingdom concepts, this is happening in the here and now wherever Christ’s followers bring Him into a situation. It is also what will happen at the “Last Judgement” when it will be brought to its completion. I look forward to everything being restored to its proper order and place, with everyone in right relationship with God and with others. I look forward to everything that was ever wrong being made right, and every injustice set straight. I look forward to everything being “the way that it should be.” When viewed in that manner, Judgement and Justice take on entirely different meanings from that of the angry god taking out his “wrath” on people, they become the means by which a loving God establishes peace and wholeness for everything He has made.

Why is this relevant to whether or not animals will be in Heaven?

Well, death is one of those things that is wrong and that needs to be put right. It’s so hurtful, so damaging, and so painful—and permanent too…

But I really don’t know—we’ll just have to wait and see. What I do believe is that intelligent, conscious animals, with which we formed a good relationship, will be raised up with us as part of our inheritance as saints.

Finally, there’s this vitally important point: God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes (Rev. 21:4). This means that everything that ever upset you, everything that ever hurt you, everything will be made right and things will be just as if the bad stuff never happened! This is part of God’s restorative justice. It’s part of what will happen. The Bible is full of God’s promises to restore. The heart of God is always to restore. Restoring: putting things back where they belong; giving them back; restoring relationship—including those with our beloved pets.

So, animals in Heaven. Why not? Given the unimaginably generous and, moreover, restoring nature of God, that He loves to surprise us and bless us with every good thing, and that Heaven will be better than anything and everything we could ever have dreamed, why not?”

Do Our Pets Go to Heaven? by Tony Cutty


“I realized that I was tired of being comfortable with sickness and death and inequality; so, too, was I tired of being overwhelmed with all of the places where it seemed that God was absent. I was tired of trying to fix all the problems on my own, of placing the burdens of the world on my own shoulders. I had reached a breaking point, where I no longer believed I could save anybody and I didn’t know if God could either. I, unlike the majority of people at the service, was afraid to give up my false sense of control. I was afraid of looking foolish, of deciding to truly believe that a very good God was at work in the world.

I was nervous to live in a world that seemed inhabited by so few, to refuse to assimilate into a life either of despair or of religious platitudes.

But really, when it comes down to it, I was scared that God might ask me to wave my own freakish, shimmering flag around – to declare that he loved all of us, when everything around me seemed to contradict this statement.”

– D.L. Mayfield (from her book Assimilate Or Go Home: Notes From A Failed Missionary On Rediscovering Faith)


“We interviewed 600 believers in 72 countries, and their persecution was not over homosexuality or abortion. Believers are suffering because of evil’s response to their positive witness. Most Western Christians have divorced their witness from the marketplace. So we won’t know if there is real persecution in the US until we Christians stop whining about our rights as ‘temporary’ citizens, and return to a loving witness. Including the US among nations that actively oppose the presence of Jesus demeans those truly suffering for their faith.”

~Nik Ripken, global strategist, International Mission Board (found on Christianity Today’s website)

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things I read this past week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything written in each post. To read the whole post click on the title beneath each excerpt. Anything in bold is an emphasis made by me.

Society has pitted the life of a child against the well-being and future of its mother, and asked us to choose one or the other. But not both.

For Christians, this is an impossible position because of our understanding of the Imago Dei—the image of God, which has been uniquely gifted to human life. This means that all human life is equally valuable, both the unborn child and the expectant mother carry equal weight. Both have inherent dignity, and both are worth fighting for.”

The Uncomfortable Truth at the Heart of Louis C.K.’s Abortion Comments by Natalie Walker

“Only about one in 10 of these mass-injury shootings involved domestic violence, the Times found. But the domestic violence shootings were more deadly than the other attacks. Domestic violence shootings represented only 11% of the incidents, but 31% of the victims who died.

Even when domestic violence does not play a direct role in high-profile mass shootings, the perpetrators of these attacks are often found to have records of domestic violence and abuse of women.”

“This is an issue that red and blue lawmakers can agree on: domestic abusers shouldn’t have guns,” she said. “All countries have domestic violence. The difference is that we arm our abusers.”

Domestic violence and guns: the hidden American crisis ending women’s lives by Lois Beckett

“I see the culture of Trump as undermining any net positive legislation from Trump. Who he is, how he leads through his leadership, undermines any net positive laws he might make possible. If he passes a law that makes abortion illegal, while promoting a culture that encourages creating more abortions, the net effect will be negative for the unborn children of this world.

Likewise, if we seek peace and reconciliation as the redemptive work of Jesus in the world, if we seek racial reconciliation in the world, and we support a president who promotes a culture of antagonism, conflict, war, any pro-Christian legislation in the world is undermined. May we discern carefully both how to pray for this president and in what ways we are called to either support the president or oppose him.”

What Gorsuch’s Nomination Means for our Witness by David Fitch

“I think most people reject universalism before hearing the full case because they are aware that the Bible does in fact, quite clearly describe some sort of consequences in the afterlife for refusing to be reconciled to God in this life. They mistakenly believe that being a Christian universalist means that one rejects the concept of hell or some sort of divine punishment. This in fact, is totally untrue.

One of the advantages of universalism is that it can affirm passages that seem to speak about punishment in the afterlife, and it can affirm them in a way that better reflects the love and character of God. In universalism one can argue compellingly that the intent and outcome of God’s discipline is restoration of relationship, instead of endless punishment or permanent separation. It’s a difference of restorative justice instead of simply punitive justice– and that difference better reflects the character of God which is loving and always inviting reconciliation

Christian universalism is not the same thing as an “anything goes” religion where we can all believe what we want, do what we want, and all end up in the same place at the same time.

Instead, it is a belief in the power of Jesus to atone for the sins of the entire world. It is a belief that Jesus truly has reconciled all things and all people to himself. It’s a belief that God’s loving nature is so endless, that even those who stubbornly refuse to be reconciled in this life will still find themselves pursued by God’s love and invited to have a change of heart, until every last one of them turns back to God– and hell is empty.

The case for universalism is not weak or some liberal nonsense, but actually fits God’s character and the biblical narrative quite convincingly.”

A Case For Christian Universalism (From A Non-Universalist) by Dr. Benjamin L. Corey

‘There is no such thing as a “self-made man”. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.’

George Matthew Adams, writer.

The Simplest and Most Perfect Explanation of Privilege I’ve Ever Seen by Toby Morris

“Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.

The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

… the schools are seeing a tangible benefit from this program, too.

Philips said that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, there have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Meanwhile, nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, said suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.

Is that wholly from the mindfulness practices? It’s impossible to say, but those are pretty remarkable numbers, all the same.”

This school replaced detention with meditation. The results are stunning. by James Gaines