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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The 25th Anniversary of The Little Mermaid and The Demise of Mark Driscoll

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I know, how could I possibly pair seemingly unrealistic topics of my childhood favorite Disney movie and Mark Driscoll? Continue reading. It shall all make sense in due time.

My blogging rants have previously spanned to the topics of Mark Driscoll and Disney (e.g., here, here, and here).

In the last few months, a lot has gone on in the world of Mark Driscoll (MD) and Mars Hill, Driscoll’s Seattle-base mega-church. While the purpose of this blog post is not to summarize what all has transpired, I will catch you up to speed here:

The quick summary: Shit went down. MD resigned and Mars Hill has disbanded.

The longer summary: The trouble started when MD got into some trouble regarding posts he made 14 years ago under the pseudonym of William Wallace II to attack “emerging-church-type feminists and liberals.” Why this happened to resurface after 14 years I have no idea, as Driscoll’s last year has hardly been clean, including controversies with possible plagiarism and allegations of paying off NYT best-sellers list. Somehow, the conglomeration of controversy spiraled in the last few months and resulted in the following: Acts 29, the church-planting organization Driscoll himself started, kicked out Mars Hill from its organization (major burn to MD) –> MD resigned from Mars Hill, saying he didn’t want to take away from the church mission, yada yada –> Mars Hill chose to disband.

This is HUGE in evangelicalism.

HUGE.

MD has been (with some exceptions) America’s evangelical, manly-man, neo-Reformed, social-media-savvy sweetheart. He captured the lives and hearts of thousands of Mars Hill goers. I myself, as I admitted in previous MD posts, used to listen to his podcasts. He is a captive speaker, quick with words, quick-witted, and relevant. Churches were planted. Good things happened. I do not want to negate the good things.

Do I believe that MD loves Jesus? I think that he does.

Do I think that MD bettered the city of Seattle and beyond? I think he did.

Now onto why I’m really writing about this story.

I am going to try really hard not to kick MD when he’s down. MD has long been controversial, and specifically what gets me going, are his homophobic and sexist comments that have been plentiful and sadly influential. Anyone who mocks effeminate worship leaders on Twitter is going to get a mouthful from me.

I saw the way this impacted others. Attending a Mars Hill campus in person in 2011, I was horrified to find every other woman pregnant and blonde and gorgeous. Every guy was ripped and strangely Driscoll-like in physical appearance. Everyone was white.

My own church when I lived in California preached out of MD’s book Real Marriage, a book filled with questionable antidotes such as one regarding a woman’s haircut pleasing her husband. This was the book also associated with a  plagiarism/ NYT best-sellers list scandal.

When MD resigned, Mars Hill leadership wrote the following: “Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”

Uh…….?

How exactly are we defining immorality?

What is to be said for so many previous MD followers in therapy from attending Mars Hill and being subjected to degrading “church discipline” for being, for instance, a stay at home dad!!!! (GASP)?

What is to be said for the numerous controversial, hurtful comments that MD has said via Twitter or in personal conversations?

Those are moral because… MD believes that Jesus is God? And his doctrine is in line with certain standards?

Rachel Held Evans, in a typically eloquent post on Facebook yesterday, wrote the following:

It surprises me sometimes how people who are cruel and unkind get a pass on rude behavior from Christians because “at least their theology is sound.” But your theology is only as sound as the fruit of the Spirit it produces. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control – both Jesus and the apostle Paul taught that THESE are the things to look for when assessing whether someone is preaching the true gospel or a false one. I am so much more inclined to listen and learn from a teacher who exhibits these traits than those who may be highly credentialed whose fruit is bitter.

I think we as the church need to take a long, hard look at what fruit we are producing and the ramifications it has on others. There is this archaic idea that heresy means what you believe or cheating on your wife. I think this blog gets it. At the end of it, the writer, Kristen Howerton, says:

“It’s time we examine the negative ramifications to long-standing microaggressions, misogyny, and verbal abuse as seriously as we would embezzling or sexual misconduct from a church leader.”

Exactly.

More later but first…

NOW ONTO THE LITTLE MERMAID. 

The 25th anniversary of everyone’s favorite classic was this week. Growing up, I was obsessed with Ariel, as was every late 80s-90s girl. I had my Ariel Halloween costume and Ariel dolls and barbies and Ariel EVERYTHING.

I LOVED THE LITTLE MERMAID. Who didn’t? Cute, clever, catchy, adorable. A success for Disney, a success for mankind.

It wasn’t until I saw this Second City clip several years ago that I got to thinking:

What messages was this movie really teaching me?

Maybe not the 1st… or 100th… or 1000th… time that I saw that movie at age 4 would I think differently, but I wonder… what kinds of things did I implicitly learn?

I wonder… what we would find if we did a study on young girls before and after watching The Little Mermaid? Specifically, I wonder whether we would find that little girls are less likely to want to be a woman president or the effect a movie such as that would have on their ambitions and views of womanhood.

And as someone who has had an eating disorder for 13 years and is sensitive to weight-based discrimination, this movie is SO FRUSTRATING! Ariel is practically a mass-disseminated cartoon pro-ana figure, so much so that this PERFECT “Realistic Movie Trailer” renames the movie, The Little Waistline. And how fitting that the villain is a fat old woman. Perpetuating decades of stigma against older women and showing young girls that FAT IS BAD.

I read the host of perky articles that come out on the day that The Little Mermaid turned 25, and I tried to relive my childhood love of this movie. It didn’t work.

I know too much. I’ve been through too many years of therapy. I’ve battled too many companies selling pro-ana shirts, and we still haven’t had a woman president, and eating disorders are existing in unprecedented numbers. I have battled my entire life the voice that tells me to sell myself for society.

That started in childhood. THESE are the messages young girls get!!!!!

It’s not The Little Mermaid‘s fault, but does this movie perpetuate these messages, in my opinion? A resounding YES!

BRINGING IT TOGETHER

I told you I would bring it together. Now what could a middle-aged pastor from Seattle have to do with a movie about a mermaid?

Turns out, a lot (in my opinion).

Media, my friends, is an important thing. We are not untouched by what we fill our minds with; we are not untouched by what we watch or see or listen to or by the venues and organizations we attend.

Media is powerful, sometimes so subtle, you don’t realize how it’s slowly seeping into your consciousness, changing the way you see the world.

Both to Mark Driscoll and The Little Mermaid perpetuate some ugly stereotypes about the objectification of those who are different, whether it is those of different genders, sexual orientations, physical appearance, or anyone who you label as “the other.”

Sadly for evangelicals, Disney is stepping it up. Movies like Frozen and Brave are FAR (X 1000) better than movies like The Little Mermaid. I think Disney is learning their lesson. I am hopeful for today’s young girls, that they will be empowered to do WHATEVER it is they want to do, including achieving equal pay and other problematic society ills. I am hopeful that the movie Miss Representation and The Representation Project exist. I am hopeful because activist movie clips like THIS are going viral.

For evangelicals, I am not so sure. The oppression and discrimination of women and LGBTQ people is still prevalent is so many churches. And while The Little Mermaid turns 25 this year, MD JUST resigned. Apparently mocking stay-at-home dads and effeminate male worship leaders is still kosher in evangelicalism. So I guess the evangelical church is at least 25 years behind the rest of culture. Probably more than that.

I am not trying to be a hater, or promote a boycott of Disney/ Mark Driscoll. Like I admitted, I listened to Mark Driscoll. I loved (LOVED!!!!!!!!!) The Little Mermaid. If you like MD or old-school Disney movies, you know what, have fun. I will probably show my future daughter The Little Mermaid.

However, I think it’s well within my rights as a human to be critical of culture. I am in the field of mental health as a career, and I am an activist regarding body image, eating disorders, and gender-related concerns. And some of these things don’t sit well with me.

I am all too familiar with the scars that life leaves, and I am a fan of changing things so that people in the future can have a few less scars in life. So I’m going to leave you with the following thoughts:

For Disney lovers who show their little girls The Little Mermaid: If you must show your little girl this iconic movie, please have a discussion about it with her. She is SO much more than her body and selling and starving herself to please some hot dude (per the realistic movie trailer “white Aladdin”).

For evangelicals: Think before you preach, attend church, talk to others, and use the Bible to condemn. We need a movement based on love and acceptance, a movement that honors differences, and minimizes support groups needed for people in church. I mean GUYS how crazy is it that people should need to be in therapy or band together because of an oppressive church experience that leaves them feeling like scum. How much do you think Jesus is weeping because of that? MD’s popularity shows me how much we evangelicals are under the sea-– and many people don’t even know it.

Lessons Disney Taught Me

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I was not born silent, but I came to be that way.

When I was young, my favorite movie was The Little Mermaid. I insisted on being Ariel for Halloween, played mermaids with friends, and watched the movie over and over again (probably to the point of nauseum). I never questioned the subliminal messages that perculated into my subconscious as a result of my role model.

Ariel taught me important lessons about silence and identity. On some level, I came to see that perhaps who and where I am aren’t good enough. In fact, in a quest for the unknown promises of freedom, I might have to give up my biggest gifts– my passion in life, and most importantly, myself, or at least my state of being and relating in the world. I might be rescued off the beach by my soul mate without having any reciprocal communication. The fact that, “I want more,” could lead me to drastically change my physical state and expunge my previous existence in pursuit of a new self that means giving up who I am. I learned that I would find happiness in silence and sacrifice. I could get anything I wanted… as long as I sold myself in the process.

I never questioned the story, but I learned. Over the years, I started talking less and less. I cannot blame Disney for my silence. I cannot blame my females who chose to defer to powerful men and culturally-accepted social hierarchy rather than their own feelings. However, this culture that socializes every child to the point of gluttony and extreme excess certainly reinforced established patterns or made things worse.

It was not Disney that was the problem in my life. My idolization of Ariel was a symptom of something that became much more profound: I felt like my voice didn’t matter, and there was something wrong with who I was.

After years of struggling with my identity, I came to see how I did not come to exist scared and voiceless out of a vacuum. There were factors– a lot of them– I started addressing that were part of the problem. In order to move forward with my life, I was going to have to start thinking differently.

Disney hadn’t even gone through my mind until a few years ago, a Little Mermaid ride opened up at Disneyland. After going on it for the first time, I was disgusted… or perhaps more like repulsed by Disneyland’s depiction of Ariel. Ariel looked like she was struggling with anorexia, and her ghost-like figure looked all of 10 years old.

I saw Ariel differently that day. She was not just a carefree mermaid who wanted to be free anymore. She was a Disney product– a doll modified to meet standardized cultural ideals. Even in that form, she was small and silenced. I was haunted by her emaciated form. At Disneyland, I had this urge, a) to call whoever created this ride and yell at them and b) to re-consider what I once valued as worthy of idolization. Ariel was not as ambitious, spunky, or musical as I remembered her as a child. She was muted and sad. It was heartbreaking to see the tattered aftermath of a character I once wanted to be; to envision how this character affected me and how my perspective had so drastically changed.

I am reminded of myself when I see children partaking in everything related to Disney princesses (aka Disney crack/ brilliant marketing scheme). A child might light up and ask me, “Which Disney princess is your favorite?” I watch the abundance of princess costumes and know how often kids watch the movies. Then, I think of the haunting figure of Ariel at Disneyland.

How many times does a child need to watch Sleeping Beauty or Snow White or Cinderella or The Little Mermaid to conceptualize women differently? How long until that message of sleeping, submission, and inadequacy without a man penetrates so deeply that they change who they are?

In some ways, I am so encouraged by our culture and even Disney. I saw Frozen this week, and it avoids many of the pitfalls of previous Disney movies. Frozen was controversial and brought up issues that Disney has not yet brought up. A queen was crowned with no discussion of a king needing to take the throne. Characters who knew each other for a day didn’t end up married. The movie Miss Representation (which is on Netflix and worth seeing) is like a breath of fresh air, and I am so encouraged that the public is speaking out about the lack of women in power positions and the effects of the media as it pertains to the sexualization and objectification of women.

However, in other ways, I am so discouraged by things that are displayed in this video. As a culture, we have so much more work to do. Once you begin to identify sexism and advocate for gender-related issues, it is hard to go back. I can’t un-know things I know. I can’t un-feel the disgust I feel about this culture’s predominant views of women.

It is about us. It is about what we value as a culture. It is about what we, as a culture, idealize. There is a lot of discussion in the eating disorder world about making more realistically-sized Barbies. While that is well and good, it is not just about a woman’s body. It is about how children grow up understanding gender. In this era of constant media consumption, it is ignorant to think that these childhood role models and toys don’t have an effect on people. Being saturated with a certain agenda is likely to leave a stain (if not far worse). I want to be a savvy media consumer in my life as an adult, but what about young children, who are too vulnerable to know what messages inundate them?

Disney princesses sell, but at what cost? Who do we have to objectify to sell a product?

At the end of the day, the point of this post is not about Barbie, or Ken, or Disney, or any toy at all. It is not about me complaining about how Ariel was a bad influence on my life (although she was, and she’s a very questionable individual). The whole Disney princess franchise is something deeper and more political. It is about sales and sexuality. It is about media controlling the way a woman comes to understand herself.

I think of my tendency towards silence and my impulse to self-sacrifice, and I wonder if we are raising another generation of girls to struggle with the same problems.

I have no easy answers for parents who want to raise their daughters by empowering them. I am not a parent, so I don’t even want to open that can of worms. There is such a tension for parents between the child’s saturation in our culture and the desire to prevent girls from learning about gender exploitation. My interest is more in the systemic issues present in our culture so that in the future, parents won’t have to be put in such a difficult dilemma.

One female senator said the following in 2013 after being ignored: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand for her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” She got a round of thunderous applause. That’s one step toward our gender having an equal voice.

“Engagement Season”: On Being a Single Christian

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Apparently we are now in “engagement season,” as this picture on Instagram that went viral showed. The viral nature of this picture has prompted lots of discussion on marriage/ singleness, so I decided, maybe it’s time for me to start talking about singleness, because, well, I am single. And I think about it a lot. Now let’s up the ante: let’s talk about Christian singleness. 

First a little background.

When I was growing up, I thought that my life would begin when I got married and had children. Even though I was always a high achiever, I considered career goals to be a back up plan reserved for my first few years of marriage prior to the commencement of popping out babies. I had this world view for a disturbingly long time– even in college, I was prepared to meet Prince Charming at any time and leave everything I had to follow him. My identity would be in being Mrs. Prince Charming. That’s where I would find worthiness and wholeness.

I was primed to think this way. My role model growing up was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, which, looking back, is scary, as this Second City skit hilariously depicts. I was idolizing a voiceless young girl who changed her body for a complete stranger who she apparently loves. Not to mention that she is 16. Growing up, I also saw a lot of educated women who stopped their lives when getting married and having children. The rest of their existence was filled with helicopter parenting, militant PTA presence, facilitating parties, and complaining to the principal about difficult calculus teachers. What is a young girl to learn from these models of love, marriage, and womanhood? That being a wife and mom were king. More than anything, those experiences colored one’s identity and guided the rest of a person’s life. Getting a job? Getting a raise? An education? Apparently less exciting and valued than blowing $70,000 on a wedding, as this article from the Huffington Post shows. 

My experience as an evangelical Christian with dating and marriage has been much, much worse than my experience with singleness in the dominant culture. Things get elevated when moral and divine components embedded into discussion. As a teenager in an evangelical church, I was given rhetoric like, “God’s plan for your perfect mate,” a poem that can be summarized by the following: God wants you to have the perfect marriage. Just wait. Draw close to him, and when the perfect time comes, he will give you more than you could ever ask or imagine in a mate. I heard things like, “If you dance with God, he will let the perfect guy cut in,” and, “God is writing my love story.”

I drank the Kool Aid… for a while.

I patiently (well, not that patiently, let’s be honest) waited for Mr. Right to march in, and (cue the crickets). It hasn’t happened. Theologically, this has been problematic for me. Am I not being a good enough Christian? Am I not holy enough? I’ve been having this really long dance with God, and it’s super awesome, but when is this awesome guy going to cut in? Maybe if I learn this lesson… and that one… GOD AM I BEING PATIENT ENOUGH YET???? (Crickets). Okay, guess not.

There is this strange theological view of God as a cosmic matchmaker who is facilitating billions of chick flicks. What about those of us who haven’t gotten cast? What about those of us who haven’t gotten the ring by spring? Are we missing something? Are we not good enough? What about people who never get married? Or who get divorced? Or who are in abusive relationships?

In my despair over being single, I’ve poured over Christian literature on singleness (and marriage). I remember reading a book based on the story of Ruth, which described how she patiently waited for Boaz. I read it every time I was lonely, which was a lot. Over the years in church, I have gotten the consistent message that a primary concern of the Christian life is getting married. I saw marriage portrayed like a massive party with balloons, blow up toys, and awesome cake. You could finally have sex. The instructions that Paul gives about lifelong celibacy? Contextual, apparently.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not willing to be this single Christian woman who prays daily for my future husband and cultivates the traits of “sweetness and submission” to male authority figures. After years of therapy and theological education, I will not wait on the edge of my castle in a Cinderella dress waiting for my Mr. Jesus-Right to sweep me away. Yes, I pray, and yes, sweetness and submission can be beautiful and godly things, but I think that God is much more concerned about how I live and love others where I am than wistfully cry myself to sleep and read Mark Driscoll, who obviously understands the plight of single women (oh wait…).

Jesus talks about a lot of things. Poverty is a big one. The oppressed. Healing. However, the Bible does not talk much (anything?) about picking a marriage partner in the way that our modern culture conceptualizes marriage. The Bible can generalize to things like marriage, and there are clearly examples of marriage being a blessing in the Bible, but the Bible is not a guide book for dating or marriage. It is so much more than that. In addition, the way that the current evangelical church has defined dating and marriage are not inherently cornerstones of our faith. Just because many Christians are married and God can work in marriages doesn’t mean that marriage should be “the” ideal for every Christian adult’s life. Clearly marriage is not a mark of holiness and godliness in and of itself because Jesus and Paul both chose celibacy.

The evangelical emphasis on marriage is so pervasive (google the books/ articles written on marriage by evangelicals), I wonder if it borders on idolatry. The implication of the dance-with-God–then-the-perfect-guy-will-cut-in phrase is that you stop walking with God when a guy comes around. God is like your wingman who desires you to have a greater good… MARRIAGE. Isn’t that kind of problematic? Christian Mingle, a site that appears on my facebook page incessantly, has the verse Psalm 37:4 on its home page, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Then right below it, it has a picture of a couple gazing into each other’s eyes. If I recall correctly, Psalm 37:4 is not really talking about marriage– it is talking about delighting in God. Not God… so you can get a better husband. Not God for anything. God for himself. Elevating marriage over God is something that I have struggled with doing in my own life, but I think that a lot of Christians– including pastors– do that as well. And their beliefs are conveyed to teens in youth group and divorced single moms and single twenty or thirty-somethings attending baby showers every weekend, and it hurts. Yes, marriage is something to strive for and is something to be celebrated, and yes, churches are right to address marriage, but marriage cannot be seen as the only (or “preferred”) path, because it’s not.

Recently, I read an amazing post by Christena Cleveland called, “Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults.” It is beautiful, and you should totally check it out. She writes, “In a Church that was founded by a single guy, singles are terribly marginalized.” Cleveland also has some helpful tips for churches so that singles are not treated like second-class citizens or oddballs. Also importantly, Cleveland has the experience of being unmarried herself. I appreciate how Greg Boyd, a married pastor, invited Cleveland to speak with him about singleness to his church so the voice of an unmarried individual was heard.

You know what is annoying? When people who are not single think they have the right to talk about singles. I grit my teeth when I hear someone say, “I was exactly like you, and then this guy came along, and everything changed! But I totally know what you’re going through.” Pastors are historically annoying about the topic. I can’t find statistics about this, but from my own experience: most pastors I know are married. And they got married at 22 to their high school sweetheart. And then they preach to their churches about marriage and have marriage seminars and have the audacity to say they understand singleness? You haven’t been single since you were 18. You’re done now.

If there is one thing I learned in seminary, it is this: it is hard to live in the tensions: between what you want and don’t have, between what is and what should be, between what you know and don’t know. I am not willing to settle for pat answers about… most things. Marriage is one of them. I am not willing to accept the evangelical cultural mandate for a certain kind of marriage. Yet, I am looking for a Christian man. This leaves me with a small pool of potential relationship partners, but it is a risk I am going to have to take because I am not willing to lose myself and my convictions for some guy just because he loves Jesus. Consequently, I am not willing to date a guy who is not a Christian just because he happens to be more accepting and liberal.

In lamenting about our lack of choices of single men, my roommate joked that Rachel Held Evans should start a dating service so we can filter out all Christian guys who are expecting us to submit to them for all major decisions. We would both sign up. Neither of us are joking. However, until then, I will be content learning more what it means to love the other, following the Spirit imperfectly, and realizing that in Christ, I am enough. I am enough with or without a husband, with or without a family. Until that right guy comes along, if he ever does, in the dance that is life, I will be awkward dancing in a corner eating Sour Patch Kids and laughing at my own jokes. Honestly, and this has taken me years to say that, I am okay with that.

Part 2: Jesus is a Pansy- Masculinity and Homophobia

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This post is a follow up about Mark Driscoll and his view of masculinity and homophobia, which are important enough topics that they warrant their own post.

Driscoll’s view of masculinity is related to and in reaction against the perceived femininization of the church. To Driscoll, the church is filled with “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists.” He challenges it by creating a “macho ethos” in his church and media following (think: church members prefer movies like The Fight Club).

In addition to projecting his own view of masculinity onto others, Driscoll projects his sense of masculinity onto Jesus. If I heard Driscoll and never read the Bible, I would think that Jesus was a pro-wrestler, which is why one NYT article on Driscoll was apply named, “Who would Jesus smack down?” Driscoll has said, “I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” In a recent sermon on the “Do Not Kill” commandment, Driscoll said, “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist; he’s patient. He has a long wick, but the anger of his wrath is burning.”

The idea of the feminization of the church is not inherently problematic. Yes, probably men have felt alienated by the church and by portrayals of Jesus, and that is something that needs to be addressed. But just because you sense a perceived need, you cannot just make up a view of Jesus that meets your cultural perceptions of crude masculinity and say it’s in the Bible.

Newsflash to Driscoll: there are Christians who are pacifists. They– we– do not appreciate Jesus being called a “pansy.” Shane Claiborne says that Fight Club makes for bad theology and is in fact “a betrayal of the cross,” as Jesus’ death meant to reconcile all things and ended the shedding of blood. He continues, “Mark may see things like ‘kindness, gentleness, love and peace’ as feminine, dainty things for pansies, but the Bible calls them the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ These are the things that God is like.”

Driscoll’s words have translated into overt discrimination, homophobia, and public shaming. Mark Driscoll has talked about homosexuality more than any pastor I’ve ever known, and I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. I don’t have to be Freud to realize that maybe there is something else going on here. He also compares masturbation to homosexuality because you’re playing with your own parts and you’re the same sex as… you. Like, why are you even thinking about that? Who thinks about that when they masturbate?

A more disturbing display of his homophobia is on a recent Twitter post, in which Driscoll asked his followers to tell stories about “the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader.” One heartbreaking blog by Tyler Clark says, “When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack ‘effeminate anatomically male’ men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot.” Rachel Held Evans entreats other Christians to call out what Driscoll is doing: bullying.

I am disgusted by how Driscoll is perpetuating discrimination, shaming, and oppression of other men who are not 100% “macho.” It is so cruel to mock men who are effeminate and say “gay” and “faggot” in discriminatory ways… and worse yet, to do it in the name of Jesus. MD: Think of the men who you are alienating. Think of the men who don’t feel welcome at your church, who think that there is something wrong with them for not being like you. Think of how much homosexual people are already hurting, at the direct hand of the church, and how you are just perpetuating that.

I was able to hear Bishop Gene Robinson, the first ordained Episcopal bishop who is gay, speak last year, and he was talking about how he and his church went to a gay pride parade just to hand out water to thirsty people. No judgment, no mocking. That is a beautiful display of how we should treat the other. There is no room for high school bullying. Mark Driscoll, if you are a man, you need to stop mocking other men. Stop mocking people who aren’t you. Get on your knees and start handing out water to people you’ve hurt. Aren’t these people also your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Gender is not a static construct, unlike some evangelical culture might lead us to believe. It’s not as simple as: if you have a penis, you’re going to like violence and meat, and if you’re a woman, you’re going to giggle on the phone with boys and twirl your hair. There are no people who are “purely” masculine or “purely” feminine. That is very simplistic thinking.

My heart breaks for the people who Driscoll has hurt, the people, like Tyler Clark, who flashback to high school being taunted for being a “faggot” when hearing Driscoll speak, the men who have publicly shamed others after receiving “permission” from Driscoll to do so.

Mocking others and being insensitive are so not the markers of what Jesus is in the Gospels. Jesus said controversial things like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5). Jesus’ followers wanted to haul ass on his enemies at times, and others wanted him to be a Zealot and overthrow Rome. Jesus chose not to do that. He could have. Heck, if he wanted to time warp and watch the Backstreet Boys in concert 2000 years later, he could have. Jesus could have done anything. Instead of promoting power, he gave up his power (Philippians 2). He came to serve, to wash feet, and to die on the cross.

In his life, Jesus really did the reverse of what people thought he would do. Jesus hung out around the prostitutes, the unclean people, the sick, the dying– the oppressed. Rather than aligning himself with the Pharisees, who imposed rules onto others, Jesus had the harshest things of all to say to them, including: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs,which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). He did not say that to the downtrodden or downcast. He said that to the religious people in charge.

As Rachel Held Evans wrote:

“The bad news for Mark is that we *do* worship a guy who got beat up. We *do* worship a guy who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We *do* worship a guy who spoke honorable about women and treated them as equals. We *do* worship a guy who surrounded himself with just the sort of people Driscoll likes to publicly mock. We worship a guy who inaugurated his kingdom, not by “making somebody bleed” but by bleeding! Pastors should certainly strive to reach and serve men. But we can’t do this by twisting Jesus to fit into our culture’s skewed views of masculinity. Getting men to go to church is not the same as making disciples of Jesus.”

I am proud that I worship a God who has been sent to heal the brokenhearted, who is counter-cultural and embodies Love, as well as the fruits of the Spirit. I am thankful that God would not stand in a high school hallway calling a person derogatory names regarding his/ her sexuality. I am thankful that Jesus could have killed, but he chose to be killed. I am thankful for the redemptive love of God, and I am thankful that Jesus was not a sexist, homophobic, heterosexist wrestler.

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.