On Donald Trump: Post Election Musings 

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On Wednesday morning I woke up as I normally would, snoozing my alarm past the point I should, and groggily leaned to my side to check my phone.

The memories from the night before flashed before me… the increasingly anxiety-ridden faces of the MSNBC newscasters, state after state lighting up in red with the words: ” (state)- Donald Trump: Projected Winner,” stunned texts from my friends, “What is happening?” I remembered in horror as the newscasters dissected Michigan counties, mine and the ones adjacent to me. I remembered a newscaster saying, “Michigan will decide the next president of the United States.” I thought to the many Trump signs I saw canvassing for Hillary and to my conservative family members. My immediate reaction was: Oh my God, it’s up to us, and she’s going to lose. 

I went to bed thinking that it couldn’t be real; still holding on to the faint hope that decency would prevail, that Hillary’s face would be on my Google home screen as our next president when I woke up. “Wake me up when Hillary is our president,” I texted a friend before drifting into sleep.

I was wrong.

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Becoming a Liberal Christian IV: Unforced Rhythms of Grace

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It’s taken me a while to finish up this blog series, so bear with me here. If you want to be reminded of previous blog posts, check out I, II, and III. Also, I was planning another blog post to be IV, but the writing spirit wasn’t moving me, so here is what I have to say next.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Chronicles of Narnia regarding Aslan (a Jesus-like figure):

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I have heard it said that Jesus came to disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed. Walking with Jesus is not a walk through lilacs, unicorns, and lollipops, nor is it walking on egg shells to appease a God with his eyes narrowed, finger outstretched, and ready to strike people down who don’t do (a politically conservative understanding) of his will.

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Myths About Eating Disorders: Debunked

Knowledge is power, but when it comes to eating disorders, there is a lot of misinformation that is out there. Sadly, this lack of knowledge of accurate information about eating disorders can even extend to health care professionals. With conflicting messages about what is true, it can be hard to sort out what information is accurate.

Because I have lived now over half of my life with an eating disorder, I’ve learned a lot of stuff (mostly out of necessity), and I have become aware of some eating disorder myths and stereotypes that exist. In this post, I am going to go over a few of these myths and debunk them.

 

What are eating disorders?

Myth:

Anorexia means starving yourself and being emaciated. Bulimia is bingeing and purging. And… that’s all.

Reality:

Eating disorders are most commonly described as complicated biopsychosocial mental health conditions that impact all bodily symptoms, the brain, and can have devastating consequences such as death. The most commonly recognized eating disorders are: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and EDNOS/ OSFED (eating disorder not otherwise specified/ other specified feeding or eating disorder). Eating disorders involve some type of dysfunctional behavior(s) around food, including restricting food or caloric intake, fasting for long periods of time, using compensatory behaviors after eating such as purging, laxatives, diuretics, or overexercising, and/ or bingeing, or eating a large amount of food (of course there is social construction around what is considered “large”) in a discrete period of time.

Many eating disorder behaviors overlap. People who have suffered from an ED for a considerable length of time frequently experience diagnostic cross-over. Thus, these symptoms are neither clear-cut, nor are they necessarily noticeable. Eating disorder behaviors are often done in secret. Also, people with bulimia or binge eating disorder may not be over- or under- weight. Similarly, those who struggle with anorexia may not be emaciated.

It is important that people educate themselves about the impact of eating disorder behaviors and rely less on stereotypes of how eating disorders are culturally portrayed… namely how someone with an eating disorder “should” look or behave.

 

Who gets eating disorders?

Myth:

Privileged white adolescents.

Reality:

Anyone! While eating disorders are most represented in the media as occurring in Caucasian women of upper or upper middle class SES in a Western country, people of all races, sexual orientations, genders, economic statuses, and ages can develop eating disorders. There is a serious lack of representation of other eating disorder voices, which is why I’m really happy that this Marginalized Voices Project exists. We need to get better media representation of what eating disorders are like and who they affect.

Males, older women (40+), as well as people who are gay and of other racial groups, who have EDs are getting increased attention because—well, they get eating disorders too. Sadly, treatment is not necessarily tailored to them, and it needs to be.

 

What are the causes of eating disorders?

Myth:

Eating disorders are caused by Western media, trauma, families, or other environmental factors.

Reality:

Eating disorders cannot be pinpointed as being caused by one given factor. If you’ve ever taken a statistics class, maybe you’ll remember that correlation does not imply causation. Just because eating disorders exist (or are identified) in predominantly Western-influenced cultures, that doesn’t mean that culture CAUSES eating disorders.

Similarly, any risk and precipitating factors—a traumatic situation, an unhealthy family system—cannot be said to CAUSE an eating disorder. Perhaps these factors may increase the likelihood of an eating disorder developing, or they could be precipitating factors, but they are not the cause or fault of culture, or a family, or trauma.

I would also heed caution in that there has been an increase of media coming from companies such as Dove challenging cultural perceptions of body image. This is all good. I am a fan of challenging the oppressive body-image status quo. However, there is a difference between eating disorders and disordered eating or general body image issues. A girl might have negative feelings about her body from reading fitness magazines, but that is completely different from that girl developing a serious eating disorder.

Also, there is a significant biological basis of eating disorders that is still being explored. One study by Bulik and colleagues in 2006 suggests that anorexia is among one of the more heritable psychiatric disorders (0.56 as reported in her study).

All that to say, in general, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to a cause or causes of eating disorders. My stats 101 lecture for the day: Be very, very careful about language pertaining to causation. Eating disorder research is being conducted because so little is understood still. There is not enough available knowledge to determine that something is a cause (or even causes) of an eating disorder. Talk about risk factors, talk about precipitating factors, talk about comorbid conditions, that’s fine. But talking about a cause suggests that 1+ factors completely explain the manifestation of someone’s eating disorder, and that is not something that can be said at this time.

 

What are the treatments for eating disorders?

Myths:

Once you have an eating disorder, you never get over it.

or 

You just need to eat.

Reality:

Eating disorders can be treatment resistant. I am living proof of that. However, treatment can also be effective. Recovery is possible. People don’t have to struggle with eating disorders forever and ever until they die. Recovery is not easy, and it may take time… a lot of time. Like years. Maybe more. But it can happen.

While eating disorders can be difficult to treat, certain treatments have been shown to be effective: CBT, DBT, family-based therapy, perhaps even acceptance and commitment therapy. I have more thoughts pertaining to this, but right now I will just say that there are some good options out there. I have been privileged to have seen a lot of great therapists who specialize in eating disorders, and I have been a part of treatment programs that have used all of the above treatment modalities.

People with eating disorders are not lost causes. They are not resistant, difficult, or frustrating. They are hurt and scared. They are in desperate need of empathy and understanding.

Notice that none of the treatment I have mentioned involves locking people up and force-feeding them. I had an acquaintance who once said, “If I got an eating disorder, my parents wouldn’t have put up with it. They would have just locked me in my room until I ate.” Honestly, good luck with that. Because I’m pretty sure that’s not addressing the problem. As in, I’m totally sure. That’s not going to work.

For whatever reason, people can have this mis-perception that the problem is the food, and all we need to do is make these people freaking eat. I both agree and disagree with that– it both is and isn’t about the food. I do not think that people can delve into root causes of their eating disorder while engaging in eating disorder behaviors, but I also don’t think that magically eating will fix everything.

So: there are some treatments that exist for eating disorders that work. Maybe the treatments that exist could be improved, but eating disorders are not untreatable.

 

 

Jesus’ Stepford Wives: When God Ordains Sexism (… or people think he does…)

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I am mostly writing in response to this article put out by Jezebel which alleges that Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church is the “worst person ever.” I have a long and complicated relationship with Driscoll. I started listening to Mark Driscoll* in 2006 during my freshman-year-in-college church podcast binge. He always fascinated me. He is such an engaging speaker. I loved watching his Q+A videos, and he was formative in my theological development. What I’m trying to say is: I’m not trying to be a hater.

Most of my issues with Driscoll have been in relation to gender and sexuality. In Driscoll’s own words, I saw those differences to be open handed, issues that can be debated among the church, that aren’t prerequisites for salvation. Our issues were not close handed issues, like I am accusing him of heresy. We both affirmed the basic tenants of Christianity. I am knocking the fact that he is reaching people for God. That he is furthering the Body of Christ. That he is preaching the Bible. That he has good things to say. Even though I am not on board with the whole traditional gender roles, male headship, Biblical Manhood and Womanhood thing, I never saw a problem listening to the occasional Driscoll podcast…

…until after I took a leadership position at my seminary in 2011. I was walking around my apartment cleaning one day, listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon. My roommate, a fellow seminarian, was horrified and asked, “Are you listening to Mark Driscoll? Don’t you think that’s kind of hypocritical since you’re on student government working to fight gender issues?”

I had never thought about it like that. Prior to this time, I listened to Driscoll because I liked his theological sermons and in depth Bible study. As I was reflecting, though, I wondered: By listening to this person, how am I inadvertently supporting the kind of discrimination I am trying to eliminate? Am I being socialized to other aspects of his “culture” along with listening to his teachings?

Around that time, I visited Mars Hill for myself, and I noticed the strangest thing. In contrast to the pot and hippie-ish coffee drinkers I had seen in Seattle all weekend, at this church there were qualitative demographic differences. All the women at Mars Hill looked really similar. Many were blonde. And it felt like 60% of the women there were pregnant! I was like, What strange kind of land have I stepped into? I felt like I had been time-warped into the Stepford Wives with a Jesus twist.

I started noticing Driscoll’s objectification of women. One quote from his Song of Solomon series: “Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical. Right here. We have a verse.” Interesting exegesis…. He also made clear that women should be in the home, and men who were stay-at-home dads were subject to church discipline at Mars Hill.

The Jezebel article presented other eye-opening things that Driscoll has said about women. For example, saying that Ted Haggard’s wife “let herself go” and holds responsibility for not getting him out of his sexual predicament? Calling pastors’ wives who let themselves go “lazy”? That is classic blaming and abuse. Then there is the whole thing about women being the weaker vessel. It’s funny, because I just wrote a paper about why people wanted to deny women the right to vote in 1900, and Driscoll bears uncanny similarities to the arguments people who opposed the Suffrage Movement used. They said that women were too easily swayed and “hysterical.” Therefore, deny them privileges.

Driscoll would counter that argument with the fact that he cares about women, loves women, etc. … but they just have different roles, that they must be treated differently, more delicately. To which I would respond: That is still sexism. It’s more covert sexism, that has a benevolent tinge to it, but still sexism.

Mark Driscoll, I do not want to knock you down as a person. I have respect for you as a brother in Christ. However, there are some things I want to say about some of this teaching that do not sit well with me. Ultimately, my allegiance is to God, and I believe God has called us to the reconciliation of all things, shalom, and redemption. I think your opinions about women– yes, they are opinions– are wrong, destructive, and perpetuate oppression.

Please do not treat me as a weaker vessel because the internalized feeling of being a weaker vessel is what I have been facing my entire life. I have grown up learning that I shouldn’t “let myself go,” that I should please others and not myself. I have lived it, and it is killing me.

Now you are sitting here as a pastor saying “there’s a verse” for why I should oral sex to my (nonexistent) husband? That I shouldn’t let myself go? That I should wear my hair and dress the way you want it? That my husband is my gardener, and he should be pruning me? How dare you!

I am starving, floundering, to break free of exactly what you’re promoting femininity to be. I am fighting for my life to be free, to let Jesus into my life, to let these unrealistic, archaic expectations of femininity go. It is my personal struggle, but I believe that God is with me, his grace there at every step. And yet you are saying that God wants history to regress a century and we should just live in the Victorian times? No, I will not accept misogyny that is being marketed as “conservative evangelicalism.” I renounce that in the name of Jesus.

These repressive factions of evangelical culture sicken me. It sickens me that people are taking the bait. It sickens me that last year, my then-church chose to do a sermon series on Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage. And do you know what sickens me the most? That Driscoll articulates his opinions about gender roles in the name of God. The idea that, “It’s in the Bible… There’s a verse for that.”

I resent that. The last time I checked, Jesus did not command women to blow their husbands. He also didn’t say that women should stay at home in most or every situation. That is bad theology, it’s offensive, and it’s misogyny.

When I think of Driscoll’s growing church in Seattle, it makes me sad. I know that it is reaching people, and I should be happy about that, but I keep getting this haunting image of a female in Seattle who was educated, ambitious, and opinionated, only to start attending Mars Hill and change completely. I imagine her getting married and popping out babies immediately and quitting her job. I imagine her becoming indoctrinated to her “role” as a woman and losing her identity in the process. That grieves me. Yes, she is “saved.” Yes, she is in Christ. That is good. But… I don’t think it’s good enough for the church. I think that you should sell your soul to Jesus rather than Jesus-and-outdated-versions-of-femininity. Being abused and enslaved by restrictions and regulations… that is not redemption. That is tragedy.

Driscoll’s popularity saddens and illuminates me to the fact that we, as evangelicals, are so socially backwards. We have such a long ways to go in reconciling all things to God. It saddens me that his disgusting, vile comments about women are accepted as streamline. They are not challenged, and dissent is silenced. Mark Driscoll isn’t the worst person ever, as Jezebel ascertains, but his sexism should also not go unchecked. His view points necessitate us to discern and critically think about the role women have in evangelicalism and where we can go from here.

*Mark Driscoll is an interesting character, to those who don’t know him. He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and he has written a lot of books. I don’t even want to count how many sermons he’s given. He’s got to be reaching John Piper status soon. He is also definitively reformed and complementarian. Google him.

The Infamous “5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder” Article

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I have been toying with whether or not to write this post, not because I have a dearth of opinions on this article, but because it is so repulsive that frankly, I don’t think their web site deserves any more site traffic. However, the fact that there are people out there that write and believe this haunts me. I feel as if I cannot let these claims go. So here goes an extremely pissed off reaction to this despicable article.

My first thoughts on reading the title, “5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder,” was, “This has to be a joke,” and then, after reading the full thing, “Low, dude, low.” My gut reaction was hardly one of empathy. I wanted to strangle the shit of out this person and sentence him to a life sentence of life in an eating disorder treatment center, and honestly, I’m still struggling with those urges (I’m joking… about the strangling part. Not the treatment center part. He totally deserves that).

He had me disgusted at the picture of the girl throwing up in the toilet on the top of the article. Or maybe with the tag line, “Nothing screams white-girl problems louder than a good old-fashioned eating disorder” (proceeding to say that for the article, he would exclude certain eating disorders and that he was not counting “fatties without self-control”).

But like a train wreck, or like a reunion show of The Real Housewives, he kept going. According to the writer, a girl with an eating disorder is advantageous as a partner because her obsession with her body will improve her overall looks, she costs less money, she is fragile and vulnerable, she probably has money of her own, and she’s better in bed. Part of me doesn’t even want to respond to the absurdity of what he is saying. He is speaking out of misogyny, overt sexism, elitism, privilege, and a phobia/ fear of fat. His article demonstrates the objectification and violation of a vulnerable population and condones abusive behavior. I could also go on and on about how people with eating disorders are not all rich, nor do they look like they have an eating disorder (whatever that means), nor are they necessarily white, nor are they necessarily female, nor are they necessarily homosexual. Nor will I dispute his blatantly ridiculous claims such as, “It’s a well-known fact that crazy girls are exceptional in the sack.”

I will look at it from a more personal lens. As a survivor of anorexia, I am absolutely repulsed and insulted by pretty much every word of this. First of all, the very premise of the article is offensive to me. People with eating disorders shouldn’t be objectified as “today’s best-buy in the West’s rapidly plummeting dating market.” I think people with eating disorders are pretty awesome people, and I think a guy would be lucky to date one of us, but we are not just sitting with our Melba Toast waiting for some asshole “Prince” to take us out to dinner so we can order salad. I don’t know what fucked up planet this guy is on on which he thinks that these things are options for him and anyone else.

Clearly this author has no idea what an eating disorder really is, and if he does and is writing these things, he needs empathy classes. Or, as suggested earlier, a sentence to a diet of Ensure and group therapy in residential treatment.

An eating disorder means spending your life with one foot in this world and one in the dead. An eating disorder means going to sleep not knowing if your heart will keep beating into the morning. As for the whole she spends less money thing? An eating disorder often means getting in debt because you spend so much money on binge food. And 4 coffees and sugar free jello and all organic food and tons of fruits and vegetables? Also expensive. An eating disorder means selling your soul. There is nothing sexy about that. Eating disorders are tragic.

The author says that an eating disorder is only good if it “hasn’t excessively marred her appearance.” Well, guess what, when you’re in the thrust of an eating disorder, you don’t care about your appearance. Your hair is falling out? Your stomach doesn’t function? You have hair on your skin? Your cheeks are bloated? Whatever. When you are at that point, at the point of no return, nothing matters anymore. And if it doesn’t matter, you still can’t stop. You can no longer remember why you are doing this all in the first place. It’s not like you can choose for your eating disorder to control you until a certain point, until you start getting “ugly”. It doesn’t work like that. I’ve often heard that the best anorexic is dead. That’s where eating disorders stop. The grave.

As one comment on the original post said, if someone was to write an article, “5 Reasons to Date Someone with Cancer,” and have those be the reasons, that would be seen as absolutely vile, disgusting, and be taken down. What this person doesn’t understand is that eating disorders are DISORDERS. It can take over your life. It can consume you. And, it can kill you. Even if this author was joking, to joke about this subject is not funny. It is insensitive and offensive.

To the men in the world, I don’t want you to date me or anyone else because I am “fragile or vulnerable,” because I have “daddy issues,” or because I’ll spend less of your money at a restaurant. I want you to date me because I’m me. I want you to date me regardless of any issues I have had or have or will have. I want that for everyone else as well. I think of the little girls in the world and how disgusting it is that one of them would end up with some sexist asshole like this someday. It breaks my heart.

We all deserve more than this. I have been impressed by several articles that have been written against this article, including ones by the Huffington Post and NEDA. I have appreciated the public outcry over this article on social media. I agree with the Huffington Post, that this article shows us how completely vile the internet can be.

However, I think it goes deeper than this. The cultural obsession with thinness penetrates deeper than misogynist bloggers. It relates to an idea that was exemplified in this post, which is a girl’s reaction to someone who wanted “a little bit” of her eating disorder. Many people idealize the idea of an eating disorder, especially anorexia, as meeting the cultural ideal. Sometimes they don’t admit it so blatantly, but it is still a passing flicker in their minds. The Return of Kings article is extreme, but it begs us all to look at our cultural biases and where we might oppress others because of weight. Wanting to date someone with an eating disorder because she is fragile and good in bed is bad. BUT someone desiring to have “a little bit” of an eating disorder, or spending a lifetime trying to fit the elusive cultural idea, those things are bad too. More than that, all of it is heartbreaking.

Like the Huffington Post article says, the internet will continue being crazy, but the issue for us is how to react. I am writing to stand in solidarity with those whose voices are not being heard. I am writing in response to blatant lies and because to the deep of my core, I have been offended and disgusted.

We all deserve better than this. My friends deserve better than this. My future daughter deserves better than this. My cats deserve better than this. Pretty much everyone and everything in the entire world deserve better than this.