Share the pants, please.

I need to give a little background before I write this post.

1. I am a young woman.

2. I am (happily, blissfully, sickeningly ecstatically) married.

3. I am not sure I could be more of a feminist.

4. I follow Christ

Usually, these four things don’t work together in one person. Most young women, and especially young feminist women, are not married, most feminists are not Christ followers, et cetera.

But I am all four of these things. Without question or conflict.

My husband’s family is, for the most part, complementarian. This means that they believe that, while men and women are equal in the eyes of God in terms of justification, they have different (read: patriarchal) roles in ministry and marriage. (My blood relatives do not really figure into this equation, as they are not Christ followers, in the least. They’re not in my picture anymore, and I’m completely fine with that, but I’ll address that later, if at all.) His family tried to emphasize the complementarian viewpoint and some of his family members were actually quite surprised to find out that, not only did I believe something different, but that I supported it with the Bible. Surprisingly, this was not taken all that well.

The same is true of churches I’ve worked at and the school I go to. Many do not address this issue and continue to blindly perpetuate a way of structuring communities and households that denies the gifts women have from God, including the ability to lead. Others, like my school, officially claim an egalitarian (men and women are entirely equal and serving/leadership is based on gifting, not gender) view, but they don’t do anything to advance this. An official statement is put in a handbook or website, but men still see women as less, and women just take the role they’re given because they’re so used to it that it just seems natural.

All of this is to say that, when my husband and I announced our engagement, we were bombarded with “marriage advice”–from overwhelmingly complementarian points of view.

I assume you understand how well we accepted that.

I’m tired of ranting about how destructive complementarianism is (I’ve learned that no one listens anyway), so instead, I’ll provide a different paradigm, starting with an anecdote about my husband and I.

My husband is skinny. Really, really, REALLY skinny. He eats like a horse, but never gains any weight. We’re about the same size (aside from the fact that he’s four inches taller than me). One time last winter, after a playful romp in the snow, he came back to my apartment with me. Our clothes were soaking wet. I changed, but he didn’t have anything to change in to. I, somewhat pathetically, offered him a pair of my pants that were warm and dry. He accepted and found that they were rather comfortable. Shortly thereafter, we got him his own pair. I have three pairs of these pants (I’m tall with no rear end, thus it’s hard to find pants that fit, and when I do, I buy multiples), and, once we got married, it became difficult to tell them apart. A few days ago, we had to leave unexpectedly and got dressed very quickly. I grabbed a pair of jeans, as did he. Only when we got home did we realize that I was wearing his pants (a size bigger, to accommodate his height) and he, mine. We laughed about it, but I’ve since realized it’s a pretty good metaphor for our marriage.

We’re different from each other. Like the pants, he has his gifts and I have mine. They work together very well, but they’re different. And sometimes, we swap positions. Sometimes he leads, sometimes I do. It depends on which pair of pants fits which person better. But most of the time, we can’t really tell the difference. We share the leadership, submit to one another, and make decisions together. There isn’t one designated leader who “wears the pants” in our marriage–we share the pants, and we don’t bother to look at the size tag unless we notice later on.

This isn’t a theological argument. If you want that, I’ll most likely address it later (in multiple posts), but I encourage you to check out Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org); they have a plethora of support for the egalitarian view, theological and otherwise. This is a practical argument.

If you’re married, or soon will be, don’t try to dominate your partner. Don’t automatically be submissive, either. Both men and women are equally called to leadership AND submission. Look to build your family and home based on following Christ and building one another up in the Lord.

Share the pants, please.

Divorcing the church.

I’ve been really conflicted lately.

I find myself almost constantly situated on the outside of the church, proposing a critique of very strongly-held beliefs that are neither biblical nor ethical. I try to show the Christians around me that Jesus isn’t dead and you can’t separate him from the world outside. I try to remind them that loving their neighbors does not stop at tolerating the annoying person they work with, but requires us to go out into the streets, find those who need to be loved (that’s everyone), and love them. I’ve tried countless times to say these words, but either (or both) of the following invariably occurs:

1. My statements get attacked as unbiblical, and name-calling ensues. (The funny thing here is that most of the words they use to describe me–words that they paint as wretched–are actually accurate and words that I use to describe myself.)

2. I’m not heard or acknowledged at all.

Please, don’t hear me as some whiny drama queen who talks so much that no one listens anymore. I’m not complaining. I’m just prefacing my present issue. Neither am I trying to instruct others based on my mastery of the topics at hand. Each suggestion I give is a directive for my own life just as much as, if not more than, those I may be speaking to.

All of this goes to say, I’m not sure if I can be a part of the church anymore.

I see the church saying they believe the Bible, but then either not realizing or just not following its direct implications in the world beyond the doors of the sanctuary. I have an ongoing beef with the “Religious (Christian) Right” because of their varied beliefs on economic strategy, birth control and sexual health, racial and gender equality, homosexuality, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the list goes on. I’m relatively certain that I agree with them on nothing. Yet this movement has continued for decades and has claimed that their beliefs are Biblical. I’ll address these disputes in depth in a later post, but I use them as an example here because they are one of many groups I find myself in conflict with.

In fact, I am hard-pressed to find Christians who will even go so far as to seriously consider an alternate view to their own.

I know that I can’t get rid of church history and, as awful as it has been, it is part of my heritage. And I don’t want to leave the community I’ve found with some of my equally-yoked brothers and sisters who choose to remain in the church. But I don’t think that I’m bearing any fruit by attempting to be a change-agent, and I’m tired of being a so-called bullhorn.

The Bible writes a lot about the community of believers. My quick BibleGateway search returned 113 uses of the word “church” in the Bible, all in the NT. Let’s unpack this word a little, though. The original word–“ekklesia”–most literally means “gathering.” And, in the first century AD when the majority of the NT was written, that’s exactly what churches were. They were small gatherings of people who met, usually, in a person’s home, to worship. Preaching wasn’t as big of a deal within these gatherings, because there was no canon to preach from, and aside from affirming Christ, there wasn’t much else that was all that exciting. Theology was not conceptual or abstract–it only came into play in practical settings (marriage, diet, money, etc.) or in the aforementioned affirmation of Christ’s work and person, which served to eradicate doubt or uncertainty in the minds of new believers.

If this is the Church that the Bible talks about, I definitely want to be a part of it. I love the community I have in which I and my brothers and sisters discuss our lives, where God is at work, where we need/want Him to be at work, and how we can pray for one another. I absolutely love worshipping alongside these people, especially when it’s just us–no show, no fancy lights or stage setup, just a guitar, a djembe, perhaps a keyboard, and a dozen or so off-key singers sitting in a circle. And, yes, we do discuss theology, and I enjoy it, but for us, it’s usually practical issues that lead us there, or we’re commiserating over how complex the whole lot is. I love that. And I think that that is along the same lines as the NT Church.

So perhaps I’m not divorcing the Church after all. I’m just leaving all my old lovers–fancy buildings, organized services that only occur once (or maybe twice, if you’re crazy) a week, bulletins, etc.–behind, and I’m pursuing my true Love, Christ, with like-minded brothers and sisters.

Hear me out: I’m not saying that it is necessary to up and leave our established church communities. I’m just calling for critical, keen, and aware minds that are not afraid to evaluate their situations. If you’re in one of those blessed communities that has committed to following Christ wholeheartedly, at each hour of the day, every day in the week, then by all means, continue. But please, look at your surroundings. Does your church’s values match its world’s needs? Is it aware of the people and creation beyond its walls? Does it respond to the outside community? If not, it might be time to reconsider who you choose to covenant with.

The Cross or the flag?

September 11th is a tricky day for me.

I live in the United States. I have for my whole life. And, legally, I’m a U.S. citizen. But that is not where my allegiance lies.

My citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20).

It’s unavoidable that, as long as a person is living on the earth, they are going to be living in some country (or commonwealth of a country) under that country’s government. I’m not trying to suggest that we destroy the notion of a government. Incidentally, I’m a socialist, so I believe in a pretty strong government, at least economically. But that’s a topic for a different post.

However, as followers of Christ, we are not supposed to hail Caesar as our lord–Christ is our one and only Lord, and it is Him who we hail.

I might be an American citizen, but I am not an American. I am a Christ follower.

Adding to this, and rather shockingly (sarcasm inserted right…here), I’m also a pacifist. I think Shane Claiborne states it very clearly when he writes (in Irresistible Revolution) that “when Jesus said ‘love your enemies,’ he meant not to kill them.” There’s biblical evidence everywhere for a nonviolent, peacemaking sort of life. Again, that’s not the point of this post, but I promise I’ll address it soon.

I think that what happened ten years ago was awful. I don’t ever rejoice at the death of a brother or sister, and even less at the great number of people who died that day. I think it’s completely alright to mourn, to grieve, and to remember the people who died that day.

But, in the U.S., we often forget (or intentionally disengage) the fact that the people who headed the attacks had families and friends too. They died just the same as anyone else. And, if we’re going to mourn the loss of the U.S. citizens who died, we also have to mourn the loss of our Middle Eastern brothers. We have to stand by their families just as much as the ones within America’s borders. They were just as much people as anyone else.

When I say these things to people…well, outside of my little group of ex-patriates, I am often accused of hate speech towards America, and, more shockingly, towards the church.

So September 11th is a tricky day for me.

Let me state very clearly right now: I have a strong distaste for the U.S. government and the way it conducts pretty much everything. Hating it is a very short step away. But it is definitely not my goal. On the contrary, I’m trying to turn my anger into passion and help individuals affected by the government’s actions. I am not trying, nor will it ever be my desire, to stage a coup or a government overthrow or anything else related to it. I keep my hands clean of politics. I want nothing to do with it because I don’t think, as a follower of Christ, that I can impose the beliefs I hold as a result of my Lord on anyone else who doesn’t follow Him as well. So I can understand how my words could be construed as hate speech, but that is not what they are.

I cannot, however, understand the notion that they are hateful towards the church. Christ did not exclude anyone–no matter how poorly society viewed them–from His love. Nor did He ever take up arms against his oppressors and enemies, but asked the Father to forgive them, and submitted to their Cross, even to His own death. If this is the Christ the church claims to follow, then the church should have picked itself up and gone over to the Middle East, joined hands with our Arab brothers and sisters, and worked for reconciliation and peace.

Instead, it (by and large–there are beautiful exceptions) exchanged the Cross for the flag, appointed itself the judge of who should live and die, and took revenge.

Have you ever seen a little kid start hitting another kid for taking his/her toy? We tell little kids not to do this. Why? Because it’s violent, it’s mean, and it’s revenge.

In the words of my little sister, “It’s just not nice.”

Doesn’t revenge seem a little…childish? Immature? Ridiculous for adults with rational minds and (relative) control over their emotions?

The prophets in the OT got thrown into pits for speaking against Israel, even though their words were from God. Why? They were a harsh critique, and no one likes to be reprimanded or corrected.

So when did a few words of correction, or maybe just suggestion, become hateful? That, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer.

For anyone who has misconstrued my words as hate speech towards the church, let me state my views clearly: I believe followers of Christ are to be nonviolent peacemakers who are deeply concerned with standing beside our brothers and sisters, regardless of their nationality. Each person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and we are to see His face in each and every person, no matter where they are from or what they believe.

We are called to love our neighbors AND OUR ENEMIES. So today, as you remember what happened ten years ago, pray that love would overcome anger, revenge, and hatred. Pray that the light of Christ would shine into this present darkness. Go out and promote peace–not at the end of the sword, but at the end of an outstretched hand.

This is the start.

So. I gave in.

I got a blog.

I’m usually a little late on all things technological. This is especially true as of late. But I got a blog.

Why? Because I’m a heretic.

Allow me to explain: I’m a Biblical and Theological Studies senior. I’ve spent the bulk of my college career studying the Bible, the Church, and just about everything else related to these. And I’ve learned a lot.

Including that the Church doesn’t really follow Jesus anymore.

That’s my aim in life. I want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I long for that kind of lifestyle. But when I look at the Church, I see a group that pulls small bits of Scripture out of the Bible and makes it say whatever that group wants.

That’s not what following Jesus is about. Not that I have any clue what it is about, but I’m certain that wasn’t the point.

This is me, trying to figure out what is.