Dear Christians, it matters how you feel. That’s what the Bible says.

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Matt Walsh published a piece about Jen Hatmaker’s interview  with RNS where, among other things, she stated that she affirms marriage equality. It was a turn around for her previously held position that marriage was to be strictly between men and women. She has already experienced a fair bit of pushback as a result, including the end of sales of her books at all Lifeway Christian bookstores.

Walsh’s post boiled down to the main theme that when we’re talking about issues of faith, our feelings don’t matter, we just have to follow what the Bible SAYS. And it SAYS (according to Walsh) that gay sex is bad.

First thing, it’s not super clear that the Bible ever addresses loving same sex relationships. I know the verses that Walsh laid out in his post. And I’ve read lots of pieces from both those who oppose gay and lesbian relationships and those who support them, and there’s just not a consensus.

Personally, I think the context of the passages points to the ritual sex acts with prostitutes. It just seems odd to list things like idol worship and greed and slander and then, in the middle of that, sneak in a bit about two guys who love each other doing it. If a passage just talked about idol worship and then uses a word that COULD translate to sex as a form of idol worship, doesn’t that make sense contextually? It does to me.

So the whole idea that the Bible is Very Clear about gay sex is maybe not really the case. Walsh puts it out as a disagreement between “a lady on HGTV” and the Apostle Paul, but there are a number of scholars who would say that the HGTV lady and the Apostle Paul were on the same page, to the degree that they don’t speak the same language or exist in the same culture or have any of the same framework.

I have been with gay and lesbian couples and I cannot see something that causes harm. Walsh says that opposing same sex relationships “seems quite sensible and utterly consistent with the innate moral intuition that all human beings possess.” I find it to be the opposite. And yet gay people do no hold this “innate moral intuition.” I do not hold this “innate moral intuition.” Jen Hatmaker apparently does not hold this “innate moral intuition.” In fact, many people, probably numbering into the billions do not hold this “innate moral intuition.” Which makes me wonder just how innate it really is.

But beyond that I want to address the issue of feelings. Because that seems to be the real sticking point of Walsh’s piece.

When we start talking about feelings and obedience, I don’t see how we can avoid talking about slavery.

The Scripture never condemns slavery. It condemns poor treatment of slaves. It condemns kidnapping someone to use as a slave. But it never says that slavery is wrong or sinful or morally bad.

Yet most of us feel that owning another human is wrong. Not because the Bible tells us that it’s wrong, just based on our feelings. I think those feelings are good and right. I think they are based on the overall context of the Scripture and how we are best to love one another, but they aren’t based on a particular passage. Our feelings toward slavery have changed, and as such, our practices regarding the morality of slavery have changed.

I believe very much that we humans are created in the image of God. Throughout the Scripture, I see an emotional God. A God who shows compassion. A God who weeps when a friend dies. A God who spares a woman who deserves death. A God who feeds the hungry. A God who eats with the outcast and marginalized. Over and over through the stories in the Bible, we see a God who acts in a way that doesn’t always jive with the rules, but is simply an emotional response to the objects of affection – namely us, the creation.

This emotional, feeling God is in whose image we are created. How do we then draw the conclusion that we are to exist without feeling? How can we believe that we are simply here as mindless automatons, programmed to ignore our feelings and the feelings of those who we love? Jesus told us that his sheep will hear and recognize his voice, and the voice of God that I see throughout the entirety of the Scripture is one that is filled with feeling. That is the voice I choose to listen to.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. The words of this simple song are some of the first and truest things we learn about the Gospel message. We are loved, the Bible tells us that we are loved.

Matt is right – feelings aren’t always true. But when our feelings point us toward becoming more loving, more compassionate, more graceful, then we can trust that we are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, the One who is telling us the Good News that all of us are loved by the One who has created and called us by name.

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Don’t Call Me Nasty

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During last Wednesday’s debate, Donald Trump muttered into his mic, “Such a nasty woman,” about Hillary Clinton.

The phrase was immediately claimed by feminists all over the Internet. You can buy t-shirts, you can post to hashtags, you can update your profile picture all declaring yourself as a nasty woman. It has become a bit of a way for women to speak with pride about their accomplishments. A way for women to own the things that may lead them to being labeled as nasty by a misogynistic and sexist society. And if you’re Janet Jackson, a little extra revenue bump.

I can understand the appeal. When you’re called bitch or cunt or nasty, it certainly feels better to appropriate that language into something that gives you power, rather than taking your power away. It’s better to take pride in language meant to cut and wound. Admitting that those words hurt is a sign of weakness, and any hint of fragility undermines your ability to have an impact on the world around you.

There was a time when I embraced the bitch moniker. I was opinionated. I was loud. I wasn’t quiet about my accomplishments. All the markers of a bitch. All the signs of a nasty woman. Might as well beat people to the punch if that’s what they were going to call me anyway.

The truth is, I’m not a bitch. Being loud and opinionated and proud aren’t automatically negative traits simply because I’m a woman. Calling myself a bitch just to beat someone to the punch didn’t elevate me, it just brought me down to the level that made it okay for others to think that it’s okay to call a woman a bitch because she’s not as feminine as she’s “supposed to be.” It might have kept women who aren’t naturally boisterous from speaking their mind lest they too be called nasty. It was a mask that made me think that maybe there was something just a little bit wrong with me for being my authentic self.

I don’t say that about myself any more. I don’t call myself and bitch, and I won’t say that I’m a nasty woman.

A woman isn’t nasty if she dreams of being president.

A woman isn’t a bitch if she leaves an abusive relationship.

A woman isn’t a cunt if she gets angry about misogyny.

A woman isn’t a prude because she isn’t interested in being hit on in public.

A woman isn’t a slut because she wore a bikini at the beach.

A woman isn’t a tease because she went on a date and didn’t have sex after.

A woman isn’t a whore if she did have sex after that date and doesn’t want a second date.

I don’t want to use Donald Trump’s pejorative as a way to describe myself or the women in my life. I’ll use words like courageous, bold, strong, powerful, honest, free. You may think those things make us nasty, but you’d be wrong.

And I’ll use all of my loud, opinionated, proud words to tell you.

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A Prayer for National Coming Out Day

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Dear Lord,

For all who are coming out for the first time, sharing another part of themselves with their friends and loved ones, let them know your strength.

For all who have been out for any amount of time and are living as their authentic selves, let them know your joy.

For all who are not ready to face the backlash of being honest about their sexuality, let them know your protection.

For all who are putting their privilege aside to stand by an LGBTQ child, let them know your peace.

For all who will use this day to demean and belittle your gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and questioning children, let them know your forgiveness.

For all of us who journey through this life, let us know your love, and let us extend that love to everyone we meet.

Amen.

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Yes, it IS political

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So Donald Trump has had yet another instance of, “Good God, did he really say that?”

In case you somehow missed it, there was recently a tape released from 11 years ago of the Republican nominee speaking on a hot mic about a woman (she is not named in the recording). Among other things, he said that he just kissed, he didn’t wait, and if you’re attracted to a woman, you should just “grab them by the pussy.”

I have seen a number of people speak out against this latest obscenity, for which I am grateful. Some Republicans have pulled their support for him, citing this as the tipping point. Both Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus have called out his comments, though neither have pulled their endorsements.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, a lot of those calling out his remarks are prefacing their comments with, “This isn’t political.” I understand why they want to do this. Stepping into a political firestorm like we’ve seen this election is frightening. We’ve seen actual violence between people who disagree, so suggesting that you’re picking sides is scary. And most of us don’t want to fight with our friends, so we soft pedal our views a little bit, casting them in the best light we can.

But here’s the thing. Donald Trump is running for president of the United States of America. He is seeking the highest office in this country. He wants to be the face of our country to the rest of the world and for the people living here.

Two years ago, speaking out against his words and actions toward the disabled and women and immigrants and people of color and the LGBTQ community wouldn’t have been political. Then you could just shake your head at his deplorable deeds and remind people that we should be better than this just as people. We could mourn the rise and success of someone who thinks so little of so many, but you’d be right. It wouldn’t be political.

But there’s no way to separate that out now. If someone is a politician, their actions and the acceptance or condemnation of those actions are political.

To say it’s not political is to say that politics aren’t influenced by behavior. But we know better.

A person who believes that it’s okay to sexually assault women will not work to enact laws that protect women from sexual assault or that punish those who perpetrate assaults.

A person who believes that it is acceptable to mock the disabled will not work to protect the rights of the disabled in the workplace.

A person who chooses a running mate who enacted one of the first laws allowing people to discriminate against LGBTQ people will not work to ensure that strides made in the community will be maintained.

A person who calls all Mexicans rapists and demands the halt of immigrants who practice a particular religion will not work to ensure that our country helps those who want a better life.

A person who says that the only way to lower crime is to enact racist, unconstitutional policies like stop and frisk will not work to bring justice to black and brown communities that are crying for safety.

His words and behavior give us a pretty clear picture of his potential governance. So calling out his words and behavior is a political move. Talking about the behavior of a candidate is talking about their politics.

More importantly, however, is that you recognize that your actions are political as well. If you say that this kind of behavior can’t stand and then vote for this candidate anyway, you are absolutely saying that this kind of behavior CAN stand. You are saying that xenophobia and racism and sexism and misogyny are bad, but they aren’t that bad.

If we’re talking about politicians, our words are political. Let’s just be honest about what our politics stand for when it counts.

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Ideals, Humanity, and Grace for Hillary Clinton and Me

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It’s been a week since the first presidential debate, and one of the issues raised therein was just how feminist are either of the candidates.

Hillary Clinton recently released an ad highlighting some of the most egregious statements about women made by Donald Trump. In the debate, she brought up the specific case of Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe contestant who gained weight after winning the title, bringing scorn and shame from Mr. Trump. Following the debate, Mr. Trump has defended his statements about Ms. Machado, and during the debate itself, he defended crass, derogatory comments he has made about Rosie O’Donnell, saying that she deserved them.

The question being raised was whether or not someone who spoke about (and still speaks about) half of the electorate thusly is someone who is qualified to represent Americans in the highest office of the land.

Of course, as soon as you call one candidate’s views on women into question, it becomes fair game for them to turn the tables.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked Secretary Clinton and her treatment of Monica Lewinsky following the revelation of then President Bill Clinton’s affair. In a private email to a friend, she called Ms. Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon.” She has not ever walked back that statement, though in 2014, she did say that she “wished her well.”

Does this mean that Hillary isn’t a feminist?

I don’t think so.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to be on the board of a non-profit she was starting to help the women in our state achieve greater freedom. I loved the mission that she laid out, but felt like maybe I wasn’t a good choice. After all, I had an affair with a married man, so I had inflicted pain on a woman. That wasn’t the behavior of a feminist.

And yet, I am a feminist. My beliefs about the importance of equality for women have not changed. My desire to see women in positions of influence and power has not diminished. I long to see women receive equal pay for equal work, and recognition for the work that they do. I want to see women able to speak without apology. I am a feminist, and I am happy to offer whatever support I can to feminist causes.

Certainly my affair was not feminist behavior. It wasn’t Christian behavior. It wasn’t loving behavior. It wasn’t even entirely sane behavior.

It was, however, human behavior.

High stress situations do not always reveal our best selves. When we feel abandoned, when we feel alone, when we feel sad, we may say or do things that betray our ideals.

Hillary Clinton has spent her life fighting for the rights of women everywhere. Over and over she has shown herself to be a champion for women and for feminism. Her nomination as the Democratic representative is a huge milestone for women everywhere.

Her anger and subsequent name-calling of a woman who caused her pain is not a shining moment of feminism. Certainly tearing down another woman is something we want to avoid as women seeking equality for other women. But in the middle of a public scandal, it is an understandable offense.

I don’t say this to excuse bad choices that any of us make when we’re in pain, but to remind us, to remind myself, that one negative decision does not erase all of our ideals. Instead, they are a reminder that we are human.

More than that, when we stray from our ideals, they allow us to reassess those beliefs. We have an opportunity to ask ourselves if we still hold to the things we believed, or if those ideologies have changed. We are offered a chance to affirm those beliefs, or if necessary, evolve.

Giuliani may be right that Clinton was wrong to attack Lewinsky during the exposure of her husband’s affair. However, she has shown herself in her actions both before that time and since, to be an advocate for women’s rights. She may not have lived up to her ideals at all times, but that does not strip her feminism.

Aspiring to live up to our ideals is a worthwhile pursuit, even when we are hurting. But allowing ourselves a measure of humanity in our pain is necessary.

Giving grace, to others and ourselves, is a worthwhile ideal as well.

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Go Ahead & Have a Happy Marriage

 

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I read another article yesterday stating that marriage isn’t about your happiness. It’s not a new idea – lots of people have floated that idea before. Maybe I’m not a reliable source, since I ended my first marriage, but I just can’t buy these words from Debra Fileta:

Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love—which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving—and then doing it all over again.

No wonder we choose divorce over commitment. Because often, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment, over real love.

In my first marriage, I lived by the creed that my happiness was unimportant, that self-sacrifice was the way to a successful marriage, to the point that even when he told me that he was an atheist without involving me in the previous year-long process, I simply accepted it without examining how it made me feel. I was so accustomed to putting my own feelings on the back burner that any negativity I felt was simply shoved away to keep the peace. I thought that this kind of sacrificial service was a more “real” version of love. Because real love didn’t care about emotions, it was better not to bother with emotions at all.

These articles point to a world that eschews commitment and make the assumption that personal happiness is the culprit. While emotions are not always accurate, they are still true, and personal happiness is a good tool for determining the overall health of a relationship.

In my previous marriage, I spent the better part of a decade finding personal happiness in relationships outside of my marriage, because there wasn’t much happiness to be found inside. I spent nearly all of my time online with people that I had met through writing, or with friends I had made through parenting or church groups. I instinctively knew that happiness mattered to me, and I found it where I could.
happiness-tool

When we tell people that happiness is unimportant, we ignore one of the best tools to gauge the health of a marriage.

The truth is, those relationships that were outside of my marriage weren’t always rosy. Even in the years when Rich and I were friends, we had difficult patches. Times when we didn’t communicate well, times when we just weren’t very happy. But because there weren’t limits on how our emotions gauged the overall temperature of our friendship, we could use that to adjust the areas where we were unhappy, and strengthen the friendship. This was true of all of my outside relationships. I was able to use happiness not as the measure of whether a relationship was worth keeping, but rather as a way to determine the health of that relationship. And yes, relationships that left me consistently unhappy needed stronger evaluation, and sometimes they needed to be left.

In the article quoted above, the author writes, “They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy. And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail, to abandon ship and to stop investing.”

I don’t know who the mythical “they” are as mentioned here, but I don’t think that there are many who would agree that the first time we feel unhappy, we should abandon any relationship, let alone a marriage. Most adults recognize that any commitment will have periods of disillusionment and disappointment, neither of which are hallmarks of happiness. Most people understand that generosity is a key to any strong connection. Most recognize that there are times when the needs of others come before our own. Marriage takes work, and work isn’t always happy. However, work that is always unhappy indicates that there are larger problems. Ignoring emotions can lead to ignoring deeper problems, and ignoring deeper problems can lead to the breakdown of a marriage.

Self-sacrifice is essential in doses. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and helps us to grow as people. Non-stop sacrifice, on the other hand, leaves you depleted. It leaves you worn-out and small.

You only have so much self to go around, and when there is no you, there can be no we.

My marriage isn’t only about my happiness. I do, however, want to have a strong marriage, and if my happiness is a tool to show me areas where our marriage is weak, then by God, I’ll go ahead and have a happy marriage.

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Intentional Marriage

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Yesterday Rich and I took advantage of the holiday to enjoy an evening off. We went to a matinee of Don’t Breathe and then went to a local Japanese Steak House for some teppanyaki. Nothing extraordinary, just a few hours spent together enjoying one another’s company.

I didn’t think much about date nights in my first marriage. In fact, I would have said that they weren’t an essential part of a strong marriage. And I don’t entirely disagree with my “then” self. When kids are young and you’re lucky if you can sit down on the toilet without a child knocking on the door, or even just barging in, finding an opportunity for you and your spouse to get out of the house can be daunting. We had four kids in just under five years, so date nights were a luxury that we could rarely afford.

In those early years, however, we still tried to be intentional about spending time together. We had a regular Sunday night ritual that we rarely missed – hoagies and Fox’s Sunday night animation line up. It wasn’t anything special, but it was a point every week when we would reconnect and remember that we were an “us” in addition to the other hats we wore.

And then it fell to the side. We stopped being intentional about our time together and allowed other things to take priority over it. It didn’t seem like a big deal. After all, it was just a sandwich in front of the TV. Nothing special about that. Besides, we were fine. We didn’t examine our relationship, so we didn’t see the cracks that were forming.

I don’t know if you can ever really pinpoint the beginning of the end of a marriage, and I don’t know if it’s even wise to try. But the lack of intentionality in my first marriage certainly contributed to its demise. Loneliness in my marriage led me to find friendship outside, and eventually one of those friendships developed into something more.

September was when I left my first marriage, so it’s the month when I tend to think about the state of my current relationship the most. (As an aside, a recent study showed that divorce filings peak in March and August. So maybe September is a good time for all of us who are marriage to evaluate those relationships.) When I’m assessing my marriage now, one of the key factors that I look at is intentionality.

  • Are we looking for opportunities to serve one another?
  • Is our relationship characterized by kindness?
  • Are we honest with one another?
  • Are we willing to admit when things aren’t going well and commit to fixing them?
  • Are we asking for what we need from the other person and listening when they tell us what they need?

Some of these are easier for me than others. I still struggle with saying, “It’s fine,” when it’s not fine. I struggle with deciding if I need to be honest about every feeling I have exactly when I have it, or if that might be damaging (honesty really is good pretty much always, I’m finding). I’m still relearning what it means to be in a healthy marriage, after nearly a decade in an unhealthy one.

But I am committed. I’m committed to our marriage. I’m committed to honesty. I’m committed to kindness. I’m committed to service. I’m committed to intentionality.

 

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