the New Testament: context and story

bible

Growing up, there were a few things I understood about the Old Testament, although the ideas were inconsistently applied and various preachers and sermons could throw all of these principles out of the window on any whim.

First, I knew that there was a difference between “Ceremonial Law” and the “Moral Law,” and that Jesus had re-established the “Moral Law” in places like the Sermon on the Mount, so that’s why we still think the Ten Commandments are valid, but we like eating shrimp and bacon. Because of teachings like this, I knew that a significant portion of the Old Testament did not apply to my life, and had to be understood as a part of Israel’s history. The “Law,” the word we used for everything that wasn’t the Ten Commandments or a story or a prophecy, applied only to Jewish people and only up until the moment Jesus died.

Second, we were taught that the reason we admitted the Jewish scriptures into our Christian cannon was that the Old Testament clearly pointed to the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. It would be impossible to truly understand the mission and purpose of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry without the context of the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament were also almost entirely Jewish, and referenced the Old Testament frequently in their work. In order to understand what they were talking about, we’d have to be able to follow their allusions and references.

Third, the Old Testament is largely devoted to stories. There’s a few books scattered throughout that have very little narrative, but most of the books are interested in conveying history and parable. We believed that God had given us these stories to illuminate his character and to show us what we are are to do– and not to do. We were to draw larger lessons and morals out of these stories, and what the lesson could be was flexible and contextually based; a single story could have multiple meanings, and that was part of the beauty of Scripture (that this is inherently a post-modern understanding of literature and story . . . yeah, no one mentioned that).

Lastly, the most important thing we had to keep in mind about the Old Testament was that it was very old and you had to be careful with how you went about trying to interpret it. Knowledge about ancient history was important, because you had to be familiar with the cultures and religious practices that the stories talked about. I was given a lot of tools to help us read the Old Testament– maps and glossaries and reference manuals and concordances and chronological histories and lexicons– and told that we had to use them in order to be “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

But it occurred to me the other day that hardly any of those things were true when it came to the New Testament. I was halfway through college before I ever used a Greek lexicon in order to look up the meaning of a word (“touch” from I Corinthians 7:1. It’s ἅπτομαι, in case you were wondering, and its root meaning has something to do with “to set on fire.” That was a crucial part of a discussion I was having).

When we read the New Testament, we were reading for things like “the plain meaning of the text,” and doing our best to take the King James English translation at face-value. We didn’t really throw around statements like “the Bible says it, that settles it,” unless we were using a passage from the New Testament– and probably just the Pauline epistles, since the Gospels got left out of a lot of conversations. In retrospect, I think that Jesus was just a little to commie/free-love for my conservative community.

It’s taken me a long time to really wrap my brain around the fact that I am just as removed from the culture, tradition, and ideologies that the writers of the New Testament were operating with as I am from the writers of the Old Testament. Heavens, the New Testament is almost two thousand years old. If we were reading anything else from the Middle East and the Roman Empire written around the same time, there would be all the glossaries and maps and lexicons all of the time. Instead, we would sit down with our translated-from-a-language-we-don’t-speak-by-people-thousands-of-years-removed-from-its-history and it didn’t phase us.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that the New Testament is largely propositional statements and arguments. We get some of the richest, most meaningful stories in the entire Bible in the shape of the Gospels, but we rarely ever study them the way we go through Galatians or Revelation. Instead, those stories and parables are ignored in favor of what appear to be “plain English” statements about women being silent and forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to view the Bible principally as story, and not in the sense that I think it’s fiction. In graduate school, I was in a lot of discussions about the meaning and power and beauty of “story,” and how we use narratives to shape our lives and help us understand our world. I don’t think the Bible is any exception. And, just like I would study any piece of literature, I try to understand time and place and culture and the possible experiences of the author (if we know who that is, which, shockingly (at least to me), we don’t for most of the NT books).

And, just like I would approach any other ancient text, I have to approach the New Testament with the respect that something so old deserves. I have to admit my almost complete and total ignorance regarding the environment it was written in, and admit that just because something is a propositional statement it doesn’t mean I have any clue whatsoever what it means– because I don’t really understand the motives he or she might have had for writing it that way, and who they were writing to, and what questions they were answering and what their relationship might have been like for their audience. I don’t even understand the language.

I think it would be a huge shift in American evangelical culture if they collectively admitted to this– that our understanding of the New Testament is crippled by the fact that we are so utterly removed from it.

“Captivating” Review: 221-225, “Epilogue”

miranda the tempest

So, this is it: the very last post on John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating. One of my favorite things about writing this sort of extended-review-critique-thing is that I get to interact with all of you– especially since I grew up in an environment where books like Captivating were far too liberal for me to read. I didn’t have the same sort of experiences that many of you have had; this wasn’t a book I was given by a well-meaning Sunday school teacher, I never had to sit through a “Bible study” dedicated to it. In the end, I absorbed many of the same messages, but the way I was given them was much more toxic, and I believe that level of toxicity makes it easier for me to reject some of those ideas.

I was honestly surprised by Captivating. When I was wrapping up my review series on Fascinating Womanhood, I went looking for the most popular books I could find that covered similar ground, and at the time I believed that what I’d find would be . . . I dunno, maybe not so clearly awful. So when I dug into Captivating and really just found the same exact beliefs as what Helen Andelin promoted, only with a more palatable verbiage coating, it made me angry. I wanted to believe that evangelicalism had moved past the obvious nonsense that Helen wrote about in the 60s… but apparently we haven’t at all.

Anyway, on to the chapter: a lot of it is “buy more of our stuff!” They have CDs and conferences and retreats and study guides and journals and Wild at Heart to push, after all. But, before the sales pitch, Stasi gives us a reason to buy all of their stuff:

So stay with this! This way of life John and I have laid out here has utterly transformed the lives of thousands of women … But you must choose it. You must be intentional, or the world, your flesh, and the devil will have you for lunch.

I just had to laugh and shake my head when I got to that threat, especially when it was followed by a page-long commercial.

This also made me smirk:

Women need men. We will always need them. We need them as a godly covering over us to protect us from other men, from the world, and especially from the enemy. Mary had Joseph. Esther had Mordecai. Ruth had Boaz. We will not become the women God intends us to be without the guidance, counsel, wisdom, strength, and love of good men in our lives.

Esther had Mordecai. Ruth had Boaz.

Right. Because the fact that Esther was kidnapped and forced into a harem was totally Mordecai “protecting her from other men, the world, and especially the enemy.” Granted, her book shows Mordecai offering her advice, but he wasn’t exactly a covering. And Ruth had Boaz? Because Boaz was totally there when Ruth thew off the shackles of her patriarchal culture and decided to follow a woman to a country she’d never been in before and set up house in a town completely hostile to Moabite women (not the least because God commanded them to be that way).

I also couldn’t help but think about all of the women in the Bible who did awesome stuff all on their own. Huldah. Deborah. Dorcas. Men don’t picture in their stories. Deborah, who was married, was the Judge of all Israel, and she ended up being the “covering” for her general. Dorcas was a widow, but was so vital to the ministry of the early church that she was raised from the dead. The king went to Huldah to authenticate the Torah before he went to Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. Not much “covering” happening there.

It’s just hilarious to me how much of the Bible you have to pretend doesn’t exist in order to think the things about women that a lot of evangelicals do.

~~~~~~~~~

At this point, I wanted to take the time to share some of the comments that I’ve gotten on these posts about the experiences some of you have had with Captivating. I think it’s important to highlight the damage that books like these can cause, especially when there’s not very many ways for us to share our pain with the churches trying to pawn these ideologies off on us.

From Marie:

This book was super damaging to me when I read it as a young adult/college student. The idea that women need to be rescued is SUPER damaging, and it creates this idea that we need to depend on men/others to take care of us. Which can land and trap you in some very abusive situations.

I don’t remember if those things were explicitly stated, but they were things I learned from this book.

I grew up believing in gender essentialism, and I was always trying to be “the woman God wanted me to be.” But I’m nothing like the women Staci describes in this book. I don’t value external appearance. Like, at all. I keep my hair short because it is a pain in the butt to take care of otherwise. I am not nurturing. I value my career. I like working. I’m not naturally good with people/relationships, and I don’t want to have kids.

And these are things I was always made to feel ashamed of in the Christian church. I felt like a failure to God because I didn’t have long flowing hair and magical social skills. Books like Staci’s only served to confirm what I had already been taught: that I was “wrong” somehow.

From PJB:

I felt the same way reading through Captivating: it’s entirely circular, and apparently, I don’t exist. “Being a woman is good. Women are womanly, so it’s OK to be who you are. Who you are is valuable. Unless you’re not womanly the way I am womanly. In which case, you can forget about ever being acceptable. Are you sure you aren’t repressing who you REALLY are? Maybe you should change into a more stereotypical woman: because there is something wrong with women like you. Women who are womanly like me get to ‘be ourselves’ because we are God’s design. You get to fake it until you make it.”

Way to go Stacy: You can make (what? guessing the stats here…) maybe 85% of women feel warm and fuzzy about themselves and how they fit God’s design for our gender. Too bad all those warm feelings come at the cost of the 15% that you don’t think are entitled to be members of the same gender as you and your cool womanly friends. That’s OK, Stacy. We’ve met you before. “Mean girls” have been excluding others from their version of femininity since we all turned 10 years old. I don’t think you get to recruit God into your clique just because you married a minister though.

From Aibird:

When I came out to my best friend (she’s an evangelical Christian), she used that same language of that I was damaged, hurt, broken, and needed God to set me right again. To heal me. To restore me. It didn’t matter that I’d never, ever been sexually attracted to guys. My memories of my own life didn’t matter. How I identify is just a disagreement she and I have.

That language Stasi is using is used so incredibly often against anyone who dares to act outside the conscripted norms, who aren’t exactly the way Christians like Stasi believe people should act. This language is so incredibly damaging. To this day, I still struggle with trying to view myself as whole. I still wonder if they’re right. If I am a damaged, broken, wreck of a human being because my sexuality isn’t straight, because I struggle with my gender identity, because I hate wearing dresses.

And it makes it all the worse when they act all sympathetic and want to help. Even though what they’re doing is just making it worse.

From Zoe:

It’s pretty horrifying. I grew up in a conservative religious home and as time passed we had all the proper books; and I got married and we got more of the proper books. I’ve read about everything proper out there about how to properly be a woman, until I stopped reading them. It’s horrifying. They spend half their time telling you this is natural and how you were created, and the other half telling you how and why you should do what you’d presumably be doing anyway IF IT WERE NATURAL. It’s not, and that’s why we have such a cottage industry of books for women policing them back into their “place.”

This wouldn’t require such effort if it were in fact natural, and if women were in fact all the same deep down as the authors would like us to believe. It’s false, false, false, and there’s just enough truth and just enough spiritual language to get all the bull past people’s radar.

From Rachel:

Wait, so being a “strong” woman is bad, as women are supposed to be vulnerable etc. The opposite of strong is weak.

But a “weak” woman married to an abusive husband is an accomplice to her own abuse and the abuse of others.

No way out for women in abusive situations, then. Thanks, Stasi. You are such an encouragement to battered, confused, and forcibly submissive women everywhere.

From MageRaven:

I read the book as soon as it came out years ago when I was still searching through the popular evangelical self-help doctrines for the reason why I hated myself. This book only served to increase my shame over not acting feminine enough (not to mention deepening my humiliation over being a ”weak” female in the first place), and sent me into a pretty deep depression. Which, of course, I was supposed to pray myself out of to be a happy, demure, peace-filled Christian beauty. *gags*

From Shikonmaris:

I wanted to focus on this part of the quote, “alluring those in our lives to the heart of God.” An interesting choice of verb. Women can’t teach, can’t explain, can’t demonstrate, reenact, show, etc. No, women must allure – tempt, entice, seduce, manipulate. Anything straightforward, logical, action orientated etc is not in the realm of women. I hate that Staci writes women as so seeped in deceit that our service to God cannot be separated from trickery and manipulation.

From David:

I used to lead a Sunday school class for the high school age kids at our church. My practice was to let the kids decide which book we would read each semester. Interestingly, one semester one of the girls requested Wild at Heart and the rest of the group agreed to give it a shot. Each week we would read one chapter and then discuss it during our class. Reading the book was agony — every two or three pages I would have to stop and rant to my poor wife about how awful it was before I could press on — but on Sunday mornings I kept my distress bottled up because I liked to let my class discuss their own views and reactions without injecting my own opinions (apart from giving them passages of scripture to compare/contrast) unless they asked for them. After the third chapter, one of the boys in the class said that he dreaded reading it every week and asked if we could consider switching to something else. There was a chorus of agreement from the others. Even the girl who had requested it said that she was deeply disappointed.

 
 

singleness in evangelicalism

happy woman

There was one day in graduate school when I got home from work, went on a very long walk, then I hid in my room, cried, and ate Sam’s Choice vanilla ice cream while I watched Sense and Sensibility. I’m not exactly sure why I felt the need to do that on that day, but the feeling of just being done with singlehood got a little overwhelming. I was lonely, and I just wanted it to be over with. I wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to be happy.

I was only twenty-four years old.

Up until that point, I’d had marriage pushed on me pretty heavily– if you’ve been a Christian in America for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced that, too. GET MARRIED is most likely the dominating message any teenager and young adult hears in evangelicalism.

A few days ago, I read an article that included quotes from two prominent Southern Baptist leaders arguing that Christian adults need to be getting married sooner, and to hell with completing your college education or being financially stable. As always, the biggest concern was oh noes if they wait too long they might have The Sex!

Reading that came after several conversations I’ve had with my small group recently. We’ve got a good mix of single, married, dating, 20s-30s adults in my small group– something that I’m very thankful for. But those conversations have reminded me how very lucky I am. I’m married. When I walk into your typical American church, as a young married woman there’s a place for me. I’m welcome at the wives’ Bible studies, there’s activities and seminars and dinners and classes and picnics and breakfasts and retreats. I fit into the structure many churches are built on– I fit very neatly, very comfortably, into the churchy social life.

Granted, I’m a liberal progressive pro-choice pro-freedom-from-religion Pelagian liturgical universalist thinks-sin-mostly-includes-stuff-like-passive-participation-in-systemic-racism, but hey. I’m white and married. The people who greet visitors when I walk into a church know exactly where to put me.

The same isn’t true for a lot of my friends who are in their late 20s, 30s, 40s. They walk into a church, and the reaction they’re likely to get is umm, well, we have a college and career class! It’s as though you turn 26 in evangelicalism and you grow two heads. No one is quite sure what to do around you. And if you’re over 30 and you’re happy and you love your life and you don’t really care about whether or not you get married?

Yeah. No one knows what to do with that.

Anyway, I don’t really have any thoughts or solutions for this. I’m about to turn 27, and I’ve been married for a year and a half. I was only single for a couple of years before I met Handsome, and while it was not fun and dating was an in-general bore, I lucked out. I don’t have to deal with any of this, although I know it’s a problem.

But, I figured that I probably have plenty of readers who are in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s . . . and are single. It’s something that I think should be celebrated, and I really do think that articles like the one I read a few days ago are completely wrong– devastatingly wrong, in some aspects.

So, my adult single readers– if you’ve been in a church that has been a good fit for you as a single adult, what has that experience been like? What did you like about it? What are they doing well? Or, have you been to a church that felt like you were ignored unless you were married? What ideas do you have to help churches who struggle with their “singles ministry” (gag me with a spork)? What would you really like to hear from a pulpit? What would you want to know as a visitor? Etc, etc.

Hopefully you all know that this is a place for candor and gut-level honesty. :)

 

Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video has some problems

If you haven’t seen Taylor Swift’s new music video “Shake it Off,” I’ve embedded it above. I don’t think you need to watch it for my commentary to make sense, and there’s no reason to listen to the song since I won’t be critiquing the lyrics extensively– so, if you really don’t like Taylor Swift as an artist, feel free to skip it.

Before we get started, I need to admit to some bias: I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid her ever since she released “You Belong to Me,” which practically screamed I’m not one of those girls. She also believe[s/d] that the definition of feminism is “women who are against men and also want everything without working for it.

Because of all that, I was happy to hear this:

I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright

Taylor Swift, unfortunately, has faced a lot of slut-shaming for her supposedly “high number” of relationships– I googled, and apparently that number is six. In my personal life, I’ve been in serious long-term committed relationships twice, have had short-term relationships twice, and have been out on a few dates with one other person, bringing my “number” to five. I’m pretty sure six relationships is pretty normal, which makes me a little baffled why she’s drawn so much criticism. Anyway, I’m delighted that she’s confronted this perception of her head-on.

There’s a few other things going on in the video that I think are positive– I appreciate that she’s not taking herself too seriously, and my overall impression is that it’s supposed to be fun and lighthearted.

However, I want y’all to notice something:

taylor swift ballerinataylor swift contemporarytaylor swift cheerleader

Now, this:

taylor swift stereotaylor swift hip hop

I just want to ask you some questions: which set of costuming decisions could be taken seriously, and which ones are a joke? Which set of clothing, makeup, and other styling decisions are overblown and ridiculous exaggerations of a particular culture? And of these two sets, which are typically associated with black culture in America?

Mm-hmm.

But, we have to move on.

taylor swift ballerinas white

taylor swift hip hop black

Question round #2!

In which picture can you see the women’s faces? Which picture is Taylor Swift not in? In the course of the music video, we only get to see one woman’s face in the booty-shaking-leapard-print-blinged-out segment, and she’s possibly white, maybe Hispanic. I couldn’t tell, and I think that was probably intentional, since the woman they chose was “racially ambiguous.”

Ok, next:

Here’s photoset A:

taylor swift ballerina leapingtaylor swift contemporary leaping

taylor swift gymnast leapingtaylor swift pop lock

And photoset B:

taylor swift booty shaking

Which set demonstrates stunning beauty, grace, athleticism, and breathtaking physical abilities? And which one doesn’t? Which one is, again, associated with black culture, and which ones are considered serious art forms or have entire Olympic events organized around its existence?

And then there’s this:

taylor swift white guy hip hop

That last one is the one that frustrates me the most. There’s whole sections of the video dedicated to breakdancing, which is a style of dance that was created in New York by black people and Puerto Ricans in the 70s. Since I became utterly obsessed with dancing when I was in college, I’ve thought of traditionally black styles as . . . well, they’re beyond description, and I love all of them. Krumping, in particular, is my favorite, but I also think that hip-hop is pretty spectacular, as well. But here, in this video, the person shown doing the most breakdancing is a white guy. They show a black man breakdancing for a few half-seconds, but this white dude gets maybe 10 seconds total through the whole video, doing a bunch of really impressive moves, while I think the black man is only shown doing not even a full rotation of a headspin.

But here’s the icing on the cake:

taylor swift staring

This shot comes at the end of a segment when Taylor has been crawling under and through the legs of twerking black women, and she’s turning and staring at their rear ends the entire time, then comes out on the other side and laughs.

Okie.

If it’s not obvious by now, I think this music video is incredibly racist. What I noticed were the following:

  • the video erases the existence and individuality of black women
  • When black women are shown in the racist and stereotypical identifiers of “black culture,” they are nothing more than sex objects. The other black women in the video who are depicted as gymnasts, cheerleaders, and contemporary dancers escape this. That is horrifically racist, and is part of the larger culture that makes black women’s bodies inherently and overtly sexual. The promise of this video is that black women, you can escape being sexually objectified as long as you conform to white/suburban/European standards. It is respectability politics in a music video.
  • it portrays traditionally white/European art forms as serious, beautiful, athletic, stunning, and difficult; but traditionally black art forms are shown as laughable, overtly sexual, and reduces the style to a single movement: “booty shaking.”
  • The one form of black dance shown in the video is almost completely taken over (appropriated) by white people.
  • White expressions of fashion and style are credible and treated as aesthetically pleasing; black styles are painted in caricature, are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness, and the intended result seems to be amusement, not appreciation.

If you are a person of color and noticed something else, or you’d like to add (or correct!) something here, please feel free. I very much would appreciation your voices and thoughts in the comments.

I think we also need to have a conversation about cultural appropriation. I’m still educating myself on what that is and how to identify it when I see it happen, so I’d appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts on that aspect of what’s happening in the video. For example, I know that the fact that Taylor Swift has dressed up in these “costumes” is problematic because of the appropriation element, but I’m not informed enough to fully articulate why that is.

Anyway, I didn’t want this to go without comment: too often white feminists are completely silent when a white female artist does something like this (Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, anyone?), and I didn’t want that to happen again. If I see any good articles written by women of color about this, I’ll link them at the bottom here.

the facts are these

I am a man

I haven’t said anything about what happened and is still happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the primary reason that if I did say something, someone else has already said it better, and I’ll be linking to what I think are some important articles at the end of this post. I also haven’t blogged about it because I incorrectly assumed that if I knew about it, then everyone I know and have the opportunity to reach would also already know, would already have seen the same posts and articles and tweets and pictures that I have.

But over this weekend I found out how untrue that was. So, I’m taking a break from my review series to hopefully contribute something helpful.

So, if you have no idea what anyone is talking about when you see “#Ferguson” or hear someone mention Michael Brown, this is what you absolutely need to know.

On Saturday, August 9th, Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and some of these shots appeared to have created multiple entrance and exit wounds. It is possible that the first four or five shots were not fatal, that it was only the sixth shot– which seems, to some experts, to have been delivered “execution style” to the back of the head. He was killed by a man named Darren Wilson.

Wilson was a white police officer. Michael Brown was a black teenager.

The Ferguson police department has a history of civil rights violations and also were so inept in their duties that their records were rejected for “major errors in data” by the Missouri Department of Public Safety; they also criminally charged a man for bleeding on an officer’s uniform after they beat him. The officers involved in that situation also appear to have committed perjury in open court.

Because of what Wilson did to Michael, and because of this history, the Ferguson community, which is almost 70% black, began protesting– a right protected by the Bill of Rights, and a right which is under literal, physical, brutal attack. American citizens are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble, to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The people of Ferguson are embracing their duty as citizens to make it known that they will no longer tolerate such reckless disregard for human life and a completely out-of-control police department.

Since Saturday, many citizens have been tear-gassed, including senators, children, and news crews. After tear-gassing the Al Jazeera news crew, the police took down the video equipment and then approached the KSDK news crew with guns drawn. Multiple journalists have been arrested. Wesley Lowery, who was assaulted during his arrest, said that he was not given any names of arresting officers, would not be given badge numbers, was not told what he was being arrested for, and was released without knowing anything and without having any paperwork whatsoever. Multiple reporters have been threatened, detained and imprisoned under similar circumstances, and many have beguan wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests because the area is so dangerous.

The police have been firing rubber bullets and tear-gassing peaceful protestors all week. These methods are technically considered non-lethal, but they are capable of doing horrific damage, like what they did to pastor Renita Lamkin and Mya Aaten-White:

rubber bullet 1mya aaton white

And the situation is continuing to deteriorate. After two nights of trying to enforce a curfew, the governor has opted to summon the National Guard to Ferguson. President Obama has sent the Attorney General to co-operate with the Department of Justice and the FBI, who are conducting investigations into Michael’s murder and civil rights violations.

At this point, it would be easy to get caught up into all of the rights being openly attacked by our own police force– violation of the right to free speech, unlawful seizure, to peaceably assemble . . . but that would not just be a mistake, it would be wrong.

We cannot forget what the community of Ferguson is protesting, and why all of this is happening. They are protesting because their police officer, a man sworn to protect and defend their community, murdered one of their children. We also must not be distracted by the smoke-and-mirrors show that the police and much of mass media has to offer.

Those are the facts.

I would highly recommend you read the following articles. I think they would be valuable to read, as they offer an important perspective on the reality of systemic racial oppression in America. For what are hopefully obvious reasons, I’ve decided to include only articles written by black people.

Things to Stop Being Distracted by when a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police,” by Mia McKenzie.

Black Bodies, White Souls,” by Austin Channing Brown.

Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder,” by Janee Woods

10 Ways Racism Killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner” by Chauncey DeVega

For accurate, up-to-date information, I recommend you follow this list on Twitter.

 

the church won’t rein in misogyny, but bloggers will

misogyny

I’m guest posting at Convergent Books today about the Acts 29 Network’s decision to remove Mars Hill from its membership.

My friend, like the evangelical community at large, was captured by Driscoll’s apparently genuine and forthright style. The outspoken pastor rocketed to an extremely influential position among evangelicals, at least partly because he comes across as ballsy. It is said that he is willing to say out loud what the rest of us are thinking.

And that is exactly the problem.

Recently, the board of the Acts 29 Network—an organization founded by Driscoll—removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the group’s membership. Acts 29 said Driscoll had become a “distraction.” A message from the board members, made public by Acts 29, went even further in asking Driscoll to “please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.” Such an action, when taken by an established evangelical church-planting network, attracts attention.

Further, LifeWay Christian Resources has—at least temporarily—removed Driscoll’s books from its stores’ shelves in order to “assess the situation regarding his ministry.” But, like others, I am left to wonder about the timing of this move. Was it merely the only PR move left to a major Christian retailer that had been selling Driscoll’s books for years—apparently without reservation?

You can read the rest here.

when life is really, really hard

shark week
[content note: depression]

I found that picture about a year ago. I’m not sure why, but searching for period-related humor when blood is coursing like a river out of my vagina makes me feel better. I try not to laugh too hard, because laughing hurts– instead I keep it to “dour chuckle” level. But, it’s coming again next week, and like always I’m running around simultaneously trying to ignore it while doing everything I can to prepare for it. It takes a lot of preparation– I have to write three posts and schedule them (I usually post things the day I write them), cook a few things that will keep me and my partner fed, and make sure that I have food I can eat while laying down. The house has to be spick-and-span because it turns into a nightmare that makes me feel even worse because I’m wandering around making messes that I don’t have the ability to clean up, and the night before it starts I put ginger ale, painkillers, poptarts, heating pads, books, headphones, and laptop next to the bed.

Every month, it feels like such a stupid thing to get stressed out over, but I do. I have to plan to be a bed-ridden invalid every month, and it drives me nuts. When the notification pops up on my phone that it’s time to take my NuvaRing out, the first thought that crosses my mind every time is shit that’s NOW how did it happen this fast?!

And then there’s also the itsy-bitsy part of it all that I’m going to be in literally mind-blowing amounts of pain. I am in so much pain there are moments when I cannot see, when I cannot hear, when I cannot breathe. And every month, everything inside of my brain starts screaming at me how in the world can you stand this every month, this hurts so goddamn fucking much. And I’m laying in bed, screaming, and all I can think is dear ever-loving fuck this is never going to end, is it.

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This winter I was diagnosed with costochondritis. I’d been experiencing low-level chest pain for about a year, but it finally got to the point where I couldn’t walk or sit up for extended periods of time without it getting more than just annoying. My doctor handed me the diagnosis and the only treatment: take ungodly amounts of Advil and lie still until the pain goes away. It’s gotten back down to manageable levels, but the past few weeks have really done a number on it– I’ve been traveling pretty constantly, and my chest is letting me know that it is done. I spent all day on the couch yesterday, alternating between heat and ice and playing Hearthstone, and when my husband came home I had to ask him to do every single little thing for me. Honey can you get me some water honey can you move this laptop honey can you . . .

And everything inside of my brain starts screaming you are a burden you are weak you don’t contribute anything you just take and take and take and take.

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My mother, my maternal and paternal grandmothers, and my great-grandmother all have fibromyalgia. My mother was first diagnosed with it when she was about the age I am now, and I’m starting to notice things. Little things, like waking up in the morning feeling like I haven’t slept and I’ve been run over by a truck. Feeling like random spots on me are bone-deep bruised, although there’s nothing there and I haven’t done anything to it. Intense, vivid dreams. Mental fogs. This weekend I did all the makeup for the bridesmaids in my sister’s wedding, and that night I couldn’t move and could barely breathe– after doing nothing, or what should have been nothing, but is apparently now a big deal for me.

I’m laying on my parent’s couch, hating every second of feeling so weak, and now I’m staring at a lifetime of constant, never-ending pain, and my brain starts screaming you will never escape this.

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While I deal with triggers and times that I refer to being in a “funk,” I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have struggled with serious depression. I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but not suicidal impulses, and those times have been brief and related to periods of extreme stress or emotional trauma. I’ve never had to fight a constant never-ending daily battle with mental illness, and I am extremely grateful for that; but because of everything I’ve just described I feel that I can understand what it could be like.

Every day I have to make a monumental choice about something that seems like it should be relatively simple for normal people. Because I have chronic pain and illness, I have to fight every day not to give in to it, not to let the FM and the costo control everything about my life. I do things, even knowing that they will hurt, because the alternative is do nothing. And I go about my life every day knowing that the same will still be true tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will hurt. Tomorrow, I will be tired. Tomorrow, I will not want to get out of bed. Tomorrow, there will be pain. Always.

And, I have to fight all the mental baggage that comes with it. I have to acknowledge things like you don’t contribute or you’re a burden as the lies they are, lies that have been given to me both by my culture and by a jerk-brain fed by insecurities and doubts. Lies that feel so true.

What I can’t imagine is going through something so painful while also having to fight the lie that suicide would be a release– a lie that my own brain is convinced is absolutely true. Those among us who fight severe depression– and if they are breathing, then they are fighting with all of their might– are dealing with the same things as I am, in a different way. But, I’m lucky. I wake up in the morning and even when I am in breath-taking pain I can feel my partner wrap his arms around me and I am happy. My friend comes over and we watch Rizzoli and Isles together while I’m curled up under a fuzzy blanket and high on painkillers, and I’m laughing because even with the pain, life is good.

I can’t even imagine going through life experiencing all the pain I do and not having those touchstones to latch on to.

Which is why I’ve been crying and shouting off and on for the past two days. When I heard that Robin Williams had passed . . . I’m not sure why his death has affected me so deeply, but I can’t help but think of all the ways his art has changed my life and then start crying. And then when I hear some of the stupid things that have been floating around the internet, I just want to scream.

My pains, because they are physical, would never be treated that way. I would never be called a coward, or selfish. If one day a cyst ruptures and it causes a systemic infection and I die, no one is going to hear about it and think what a selfish thing to do, dying like that.