Tag Archives: Christianity

Good Read:  This is Not The Story I Wanted—But It’s My Story of Rape – Rewire

It takes a lot of courage to write out your story of rape. It also takes a lot of courage to tell people you don’t want to be a Christian anymore. I’ve long appreciated Dani’s honesty and willingness to continue dialogue with people whose worldview perspectives are opposed to hers.

I encourage you to read her latest essay thoughtfully, and be willing to learn from her critiques of purity culture and religious moralism which feed a tolerance for rape culture. I don’t personally believe that Christianity must necessarily produce the warped views of sex, purity, and gender that Dani experienced in her early years, but I’ve seen these views in every church / organization I’ve been a part of, and it needs to be addressed. 

Writer Dani Kelley thought she had shed the patriarchal and self-denying lessons of her conservative religious childhood. But those teachings blocked her from initially admitting that an encounter with a man she met online was not a “date” that proved her sexual liberation, but an extended sexual assault.

Source: This is Not The Story I Wanted—But It’s My Story of Rape – Rewire

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And I also highly recommend Dani’s series of posts “for the well-meaning Christian.”  Some of my dearest friends are atheist or agnostic, and I trust that my love and care for them has improved since reading Dani’s series.

Article: Why are Christian movies so painfully bad? – Vox

This is a great article. I’m so tired of Christians being satisfied with bad, “preachy” movies and books and music because those feel “Christian enough” while truly Christian, challenging art shoots over the head of the average person.

It’s a childish view of the work of the artist, grounded in our Protestant failure to value story and image as highly as we love propositional, systematic statements. And while we are certainly People of the Book, we need to realize that God is telling a single, amazing, vast, nuanced Story of Redemption, one that encompasses within itself everything from erotic poetry (the Song) to apocryphal visions.

Recognize that “Christian art” finds its Christian-ness down in the bones, not on the surface. LikeTo End All Wars is one of the most “Christian” films I’ve ever seen, but it’s rated R.

Let’s support better art.

A couple great quotes from the article – please do read the whole thing:

Any person even vaguely familiar with Evangelical subcultures will recognize the trend of copying and sanitizing whatever pop culture is doing. This trend belies a certain impulse within Evangelical Christians to separate the entire world into two categories: sheep and goats, wheat and chaff.

A good deal of contemporary Christian art is predicated on the sacred/secular divide: As Christian film critic Alissa Wilkinson noted, “Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have been really, really prolific in making pop culture products that parallel what’s going on in mainstream cultural production.”

The end result is that the Christian product seems like a knock-off, a cheap alternative.

Even if Hollywood films do contain embodied messages, they’re not always as explicitly drawn out as they are in Christian movies. That’s because, says Godawa, many Evangelical Christians, who are people of the Good Book, have come to value words over images. “They don’t know how to embody their messages in the story,” he says. “They have to hear the literal words [of the Gospel].”

As with the bifurcation between sacred and secular, so, too, do contemporary Christian artists divide form and content, believing that what a piece of art says is of infinitely more importance than how it says it. The thing communicated is more urgent than how it’s communicated.

Of course, this perspective overlooks the fact that how a thing is communicated is the thing that’s being communicated. To put it in Marshall McLuhan’s terms, “The medium is the message.” That is, when you communicate an idea through the medium of film, the aesthetic quality of the film subsumes the idea, fundamentally altering its narrative shape.

via Why are Christian movies so painfully bad? – Vox.

Questions, Doubt, and Faith: Reading Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

Faith UnraveledRachel Held Evans is a bit of a controversy in Evangelicalism these days.  She’s on Christian-world radar because of her posts that challenge commonly held opinions about gender roles in the church, Christian responses to homosexuality, the creation-evolution debates, and universalism.  I’m pretty sure I could go type her name into my status Facebook status bar right now and spawn about 15 comments.  I’d guess that at least half would be negative, and of those, 2 or 3 would be downright derogatory and dismissive without even considering whatever point I was bringing up.

RHE is a lightning rod.  No argument from me.  So I picked up her 2010 spiritual memoir Faith Unraveled and read it today. Straight through, one sitting.

I may not agree with everything Evans believes. I strongly doubt that I do.  But I applaud her journey through doubt, her willingness to ask hard questions without accepting pat answers, her desire to seek faith in the midst of ambiguity.

Faith Unraveled is a book about doubt and a book about faith.  Both-and, not one supplanting the other.  Her narrative about leaving the intellectually-driven Evangelical world-view Christianity and wandering in a desert of uncertainty doesn’t match my story, but it resonates with me.  We’ve asked many of the same questions; it’s just that mine came in a different order.

Rachel’s Christian faith unraveled when she smacked hard into the Problem of Evil but couldn’t swallow the easy answers — that we should overlook hard questions about genocide in the Old Testament, about hell and the afterlife, about the horrors of war or rape or abuse because God’s plan turns evil to good.   It’s easy to flip out that answer as if it makes rape not rape, or genocide not genocide, or Hurricane Katrina not horrible. (I created my own dust-up about this topic after reading N D Wilson’s book Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl.)

And Evans’s doubt-story centers in the heart of the painful, terrifying question — what kind of God does Evangelical Christianity offer if He destroys 200,000 humans in a tsunami or entire Canaanite cities without a pang of sorrow?  “They were going to Hell anyway” is hardly an appropriate response, but it’s what Evans heard from many of her Christian friends. And I’ve heard it too.

And all of my years of seminary coursework taught me there’s more nuance and ambiguity in the biblical texts than many of the hot Christian authors or preachers are willing to live with.

I could hand Rachel Held Evans’s book to my friends who are searching, doubting, agnostic, uncertain, wounded, or even hostile and I believe her words would open doors to good conversations about the difficult spaces within my Christian faith.

I’ll leave you with a few passages that stuck out to me, and a recommendation to read for yourself, whether the book or the controversial blog.

From Faith Unraveled (I read on Kindle, so I don’t have page numbers):

My friend Adele describes fundamentalism as holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand.

We would all like to believe that had we lived in the days of the early church or the Protestant Reformation, we would have chosen the side of truth, but in nearly every case, this would have required a deep questioning of the fundamental teachings of the time. It would have required a willingness to change. We must be wary of imitating the Pharisees, who bragged that had they lived during the time of the prophets, they would have protected the innocent (see Matt. 23:30), but who then plotted against Jesus and persecuted his disciples.

Evolution [as a believer] means letting go of our false fundamentals so that God can get into those shadowy places we’re not sure we want him to be. It means being okay with being wrong, okay with not having all the answers, okay with never being finished.

To Jesus, “by faith alone” did not mean “by belief alone.” To Jesus, faith was invariably linked to obedience.

Some Christians are more offended by the idea of everyone going to heaven than by the idea of everyone going to hell.

What if I’m wrong? It was a question loaded with uncertainty, possibility, and hope, and it was a question to which I often would return. To be wrong about God is the condition of humanity, for better or for worse.

In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith.

God’s ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine.

I can never open my Bible without being aware of my own presence beside it. It reminds me that I’m always there, that I cannot read a word of this glorious, God-breathed book without bringing myself along, baggage and all.

Perhaps our love for the Bible should be measured not by how valiantly we fight to convince others of our interpretations but by how diligently we work to preserve a diversity of opinion.

I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.

Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people.

Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue

Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-point answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life.

Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them.

Yes.  The Truth is big enough to handle your questions. Your hard, agonizing, terrifying doubts and what-if’s about God and the Universe and How Things Work.

Gender, Church, and More Questions

10 Ways Male Privilege Shows Up in the Church | The Junia ProjectThe Junia Project.

^ I appreciated this post because it sets in front of us a difficult question regarding male-female roles in the conservative Church.

I fully understand why leadership positions are reserved for men in most Evangelical churches. It’s a long discussion, so if that idea is new to you, I’ll have to refer you elsewhere rather than giving all of that context here.  This link offers a fair statement of the viewpoint I’ve heard from pulpits my entire life, though this author is more emphatic about a woman’s role in the home than most pastors I’ve sat under.

But I think there’s a failure here to consider the whole counsel of Scripture, the illustrations of women in leadership, and (especially) the negative effects of a myopic, one-gendered viewpoint when it comes to corporate decisions.

(It was Dr Mark Minnick, in one of the pinnacle churches of Fundamentalism, who hammered home the point that I Cor 11 clearly assumes a woman is involved in verbal public ministry when it takes up the question of wearing head coverings.  “If a woman prays or prophesies …..” I’ve rarely heard anyone else bring this up.)

This is a difficult question, and one that many others have tackled recently. So I’m not going to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

I guess I’m just here to wish that conservative Christians would revisit exactly what they think Scripture prohibits, not set up fences to make sure there’s no possibility of crossing a line.

Many women in our churches do the work of deacons (even wielding considerable de facto authority) but are stripped of the title, salary, recognition, or respect for their work.

And the question of whether women can be pastors is not at all the same as discussing the extent to which women should be active teachers and participants in the ministry to the Body as a whole — as adult Sunday School teachers, in worship, and in guiding the direction of the assembly.

Maybe let’s start there?

A dark tale with Southern roots

This will seem like a very strange followup to yesterday’s post about Christianity changing its response to abuse, but hold on till the end and I think you’ll see the connection.

South Carolina has a surprisingly robust music scene, especially in Columbia and Charleston. (The Upstate really needs to catch up. …. and develop more of a “music scene” to support a couple more good venues for good old-fashioned rock. But that’s an issue for another day.)

One of my favorite South Carolina bands is The Restoration, fronted by Daniel Machado and based in Columbia.

The hubby and I first met Daniel when he opened for some friends of ours at the local Irish pub, and then got a flat tire in the parking lot which not a one of us — even the big burly guys — could manage to break free from the rusted lug nuts. So Daniel packed himself off to our friends’ house for the night, which turned into about a 3-day saga. So I feel a bond with Daniel, one somehow linked to great music, a banjo, South Carolina, and the crappy vehicles that musicians always seem to drive because the Universe is unjust. (In MY universe, musicians would make enough to eat without worrying, and financial analysts would have to drive 17 year old Corollas with rusty fenders.)

We’ve followed Daniel ever since, making the switch with him from The Guitar Show (his first band) to The Restoration, his roots-music band that delves deep into the twisted history of the South.

An encounter with William Faulkner at a USC literature course set Daniel’s sights on Southern Gothic storytelling. He grew up steeped in the Southern civic Christianity that flavors everything down here — God is woven into South Carolina life, regardless of your personal belief.  Here, especially if you’re white, good people respect the Almighty and appreciate the Bible; bad people believe evolution, vote for Obama, and claim to be agnostic. I think the Republican to Democrat ratio here in SC is something like 8 to 1.  I’m not even sure why I bother to vote (because seriously, regardless of party affiliation, my vote does not matter).

The Restoration kicked things off with an incredible album called Constance. I’ve written about it before, when we attended the CD release show, and I highly recommend hitting the newspaper interviews that I’ve linked to in that post.

Constance tells the story of a biracial young man in the 1910s whose rage against the injustice of his life, both economic and racial, blazes into hatred against a particular man as the cause for that injustice.  Like any good Faulkner follower, Constance doesn’t end happy, just like the racial reality of many Southern towns. (The last lynching in South Carolina was in 1947.)

This depressing narrative captured Daniel’s soul, resulting in some pretty amazing art.

The Restoration followed with a sophomore album named Honor the Father. It’s a dark, twisted story of a cultish Bible believer in the 1950s who follows Old Testament law straight into the arms of domestic abuse, murder, and weirdness.  Cheery.

The album spawned a Kickstarter for an indie film – fitting for a story of the 1950s, not all Mayberry as they’re cracked up to be.  You really ought to listen to the album in whole, but definitely check out the film:

Honor the Father from Christopher Tevebaugh on Vimeo.

Diana Bright grasps for a means to escape her husband’s transformation from insecure youth to domineering husband in this musical short about the 1950’s South.

The Restoration released a quick EP back in December, I think, called New South Blues. It crackles with satire toward Christians who speak so often of Gospel but live so much like the broken world we inhabit.

To quote a verse from the title track:

Lo the Facebook lamentations 
About the “spoiling of the nation” 
And how the good ol’ days are gone. 
Oh? They never mention ol’ Jim Crow. 

“In the past, turned the page” 
Muslim witch hunt, Proposition 8 
This is the new South 

and later

In all fairness, the South has no monopoly 
On ignorance and bigotry 
You understand 
We just have the most trusted brand

Whenever I hear Constance or Honor the Father and especially New South Blues, it hurts my heart that so many people see Christians as racist, misogynist hypocrites.

I listen, so that I may remember. And be different.