An Integrated Approach

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on “biblical” womanhood

The following is a section of Rachel Held Evans’ response to Kathy Keller’s critique of Evans’ book,  A Year of Biblical Womanhood . I highly advise reading the whole response, what she has to say about being a thinking, teach, speaking, embodied woman is lovely and useful. But her discussion of word biblical and how we use it to justify our own selective readings of scripture is the real meat.  The following chunk discusses so many of my frustrations with this word, especially as I experienced it’s usage in college, the word that could trump anyone’s moral high ground.

“But when we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word (like manhood, womanhood, politics, economics, values, marriage, and even equality), we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t fit our presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone, to turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. And more often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says. 

I have been told on more than one occasion that “just because something is in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s biblical.” That’s about as clear as mud, if you ask me! And it shows just how many assumptions go into any claim that this or that is “biblical” in the prescriptive sense. 

What frustrates me the most about complementarian conversations regarding “biblical womanhood” is not the fact that I disagree with a complementarian interpretation of the text but the fact that complementarians consistently insist that they are not, in fact, interpreting the text, but simply reading and applying its clear teachings, and that anyone who might disagree with their conclusions must simply hate the Bible and have no interest in faithfully living by it.  But this idea of a simple, unbiased, and patently obvious hermeneutic is an illusion. It is appealed to, but never explained; cited, but never explored or unpacked. 

…Which one of many reasons why I wrote A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I wanted to unpack that phrase and ask what sort of presuppositions we are bringing to it. ”

Later in the article she continues:

“…this idea of a simple, unbiased, and patently obvious hermeneutic is an illusion. More often than not, appeals to “biblical womanhood”…or “biblical” anything for that matter… represent an oversimplification, a reductive approach to biblical interpretation that fails to at least acknowledge its own hermeneutical biases. We all have these biases. We all have to interpret the text. We’re all selective as a result. That’s not the problem. The problem is denying that this is the case! “

I do not believe that Evans’ is trying to start or fan a debate. Here I think she sets a platform for an honest discussion, involving proper questioning and discourse, where the process of engaging is more important than who becomes what product.  While I have linked Keller’s critique, I have done so for the sake of telling the story of how these paragraphs have come to existence, not to create a dichotomy or even a Hegellian model of thesis-antithesis(synthesis is not the goal here). If you get caught up in taking sides, you’ve missed the point.


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on politics and religion

The two things you aren’t supposed to talk about in polite company. I know.

I should probably wait til our deacon/soon-to-be-priest Mike speaks on politics and faith in a couple of weeks, but after a few very interesting conversations this past week, I’m contributing my two cents.

I’m going to first talk about confession, an odd place to start a discussion of politics, yes, but only in the light of confession and the restoration of correct relationship, do I think we, especially as members of the faith, have any business discussing what I will briefly review.  Confession in the Anglican tradition is a wonderful thing. It assumes both that we have failed to fully imitate Christ and that through His power we can attempt again, trusting that He is a good God who loves and delights in us. We communally confess every week before participating in the eucharist. Through confession we clear the air as it were, and come before one another and God in full harmony. It is my belief that only in this attitude of communal submission can we approach the humbleness required to delineate a sensible Christian ethic of political involvement.

A quick anecdote: I have a friend who is very angry with God, in part because he believes that his chronic sin is a gift God has given him, but that scripture very explicitly considers his choices hurtful to others and himself. Every time I talk to this friend and see the amount of pain his self-inflicted conflict causes, can only say softly, lovingly: “But, perhaps, you are wrong”.  Perhaps this thing upon which you are building a mountain against God, is not worthy of founding a mountain at all. And perhaps if you gave up trying to justify your choices and simply accepted the wisdom offered to you by so many of the body, that this specific battle would seem much less important. I have seen in my own life that only when I have tremblingly come with Christ and said to God, “Even though I have ample evidence to the contray, perhaps, I am mistaken? Perhaps I really have built my opinion on something so false?” have I been able to cast off an old way of thinking and embrace a more secure one founded in love. That’s what scares me about politics, about so much of the world, about Westboro Baptist, and any given media pundit, the inability to softly and humbly ask of ourselves, “Perhaps I am mistaken?”

Here are a few things I think I can say, as a person of faith. A person o faith being an individual who believes that the healing of our world and it’s reconciliation to its Creator is found only through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ and His continued work in the Church.

Our true and primary identity is found in God, the creator of heaven and earth, and the Church.

Government is not His chosen vehicle for healing society.

Government can affect change on the structure and practice of a society.

The American government is not His chosen vehicle for healing American society.

The American government can affect change on the structure of the lives of it’s citizens, but it should not be excepted to carry out the mission of the church.

If the government has more to do with structure and function, then how should a Christian approach elections? Legislation? Judiciary review? What should our over arching goal be? Since the American model of government is responsible for organizing and adjudicating various structures of life, perhaps we should hold it to its most broad convictions, allowing us the space to make our own decisions about how to live and work. What would it look like if we voted with the goal of creating a world were it is easy, not mandatory, to live like a Christian? It seems to me a permissible society that values the traditions and truths of others and restricts little of human dealings except in instances of harm and abuse would be the safest and most conducive place for Christians to live radically according to the love of Christ preserving the mysteries and praying as Christ taught us.

It seems to me that as contemporary, protestant, American Christians we most often abdicate our role as the image-bears of Christ, of those called to heal the world through the power of the Holy Spirit, but then blame a government for not protecting the fantasy of moral purity that so many truly devout people hold. In this we are mistaken. Perhaps if we said, the responsibility of truth, love, wisdom and grace lies in us, not in our laws, perhaps then we could continue the work of healing the world. We will constantly be doing the work, well or not. Let us stop acting as if we can’t live like Christ taught us until we have x, y, or z policiy passed.

Like the reading from James in this morning’s service said, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires”. and maybe if we all started our political discussion with a posture of confessionally humbled hearts, with the question: “Perhaps, I am mistaken?” softly on our lips, we would begin the process of true discourse, both to heal our world through the work of the church and to wisely select lawmakers who understand the limitations of government and are not saddled with an issue-centric moral imperative.

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a long over-due update

So it’s been a while since my last post, over two months in fact. Life has been quite packed this spring and as new post ideas started to build up, my ability to do all of them justice dwindled, and I gave up.

However, after a recent bout of extreme illness which forced me to basically stop my life for two weeks, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to go, even as the drowsy effects of all of the prescriptions my doctor prescribed are still lingering.

The garden is coming along nicely, though with Chicago being in a constant state of weather flux, the plants are never sure whats going on. Meg and I try to water them, and while they are growing, it’s an uphill battle.

Otherwise, the start of summer is heralding my annual sense of wanderlust and change, Fitzgerald said it best with Nick Carraway, who “had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”. So many thoughts and ideas are percolating inside my mind. Being sick has left me ample time for thinking, reading, writing, and listening. The beginning of summer is always a time of dreaming, of re-orienting,  for me. And its a good time to take a step out and discover new ways to keep myself present and content with the process of my life(one thing I can do is to be more intentional about consistently writing throughout the summer).

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on taking it personally.

I love the following poem. Truly. I come back to it again and again. I find that I often subconsciously pick a poem that becomes emblematic of a stage of life. Its becomes an anthem, something I come back to in times of stress and point to, saying, “See! Don’t you all understand? He gets it!”.
I found this poem in college. Its not my constant mantra anymore., but it testifies to the gosepl in a way that I think Fredrick Buechner would appreciate–I just finished Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. Rather, if it doesn’t testify to the truth of the gospel, this poem at least gets at the core thing in all of us that desires the cosmic narrative, the story of our lives to be played on the grand scale. In that respect, Hoagland, with out referencing the gospel, demands and articulates our deep need for all of this to matter, and in such perfectly pairs with the tradgey, comedy and fairytale of Burchner’s gospel. And there is just something lovely about someone brazenly demanding that the ugly, the unkempt, the rigmaroll of life, in all its beauty be acknowledged.

By Tony Hoaglandb. 1953 Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

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a running explanation

I’ve started running recently. Not for weight-loss, not because I like it, not because I want to run a marathon (though maybe one day I will).

For some reason, my friend from work thought it would be fun to do The Shamrock Shuffle—the unofficial inauguration of Chicago running season. 40,000 crazy people run every year, looking forward to the booze-fest that awaits them at the finish line. You can’t really call yourself a Chicagoan with out having run it at least once. Well, maybe you can, but having done it, I now hold a completely different appreciation and sense of solidarity with my city and its people.

Anyway, about 2 months ago, we started running once a week. It was bad. I mean, I hated it. I was proud of us for getting out there, we at least were running every Thursday while our co-workers went out drinking. So two points to my sense of moral superiority, but still, I hated it. I have never liked running. Although every few years I get back on a treadmill, hoping that as I’ve matured I’ve also developed a hereto unknown passion and love for running. This has never been the case, until now.

Fast forward to the end of March. We ran the Shuffle. I walked over every bridge, I nearly cried from the pain of my body processing the gatorade I so desperately needed to keep going. But I did finish; with a pretty respectable time, considering I’d never run that far, nor had I trained more than three or four times for this thing.

All of the sudden, I was a runner. This was something I did, it was a part of me. I ran a major race, I couldn’t dis-acknowledge that fact. I cared about this thing much more than I admitted, even to myself.  Somewhere, between the hundreds of people in start group B and the finish line, I became like the thousands around me hurling themselves down the streets of Chicago. I felt legitimate. I felt powerful. Like I had weight in the world because no one could tell me that I didn’t finished in 48:31. That’s what the clock said. I had done this thing. There were thousands watching that day that did not do it. But I did.

That feeling was exhilarating, I had actualized in a way I didn’t expect. And now every time I run there is an after taste of that first race. I exist. My body does this crazy thing. I will move myself through space and prove to you and myself that I am alive.

And as of today I am officially registered for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon at the end of June. Last weekend I ran six miles, on Sunday I will run seven. I will continue to delight in my existence, in the ways I am fiercely, fearfully, and wonderfully made.

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a holy week reflection

For the past six years I have celebrated Holy Week at a church that relishes spectacle. Complete with a 2 mile prayer walk, operatic interpretations of the creation narrative and 700 people acting out the valley of the dry bones story; these people know something about the revelry of God. While I attended that church, I rarely participated. I often just stood in service and cried the entire time. I wasn’t in the most helpful or healthful place in college. When asked by my best friend if I was alright, I could only ever reply: “I hurt. And how can I not cry in the face of truth?” At that time, it was enough just to stand and painfully glance into the face of truth and love.

Fast forward a few years, post college, post-disastrous relationships, post- spectale-church-of-truth.

I find myself part of a small Anglican church-plant. We meet in all sorts of places. Last night we held Maundy Thursday service in a sweet little 7th Day Adventist church. Completely devoid of spectacle, we brought bowls and bath towels from home for the washing of feet. The congregation was maybe 25 people. What struck me that night, as it does every Sunday in my friend’s apartment, is that God is present in the liturgy, no matter where that liturgy is held. I still cried (though not as much) last night. There was no best friend to hold my hand. My tears were of those harkening back kind, when, even though you are no longer in the place of raw scraping, the muscle and psychosomatic memory is such that you are profoundly aware of who you are and where you have been. When every image of abundant love reminds you of all of your own failed attempts and how sweet, earnest and pathetic they were.

I am both that same girl from six years ago and a wholly new person.

How can I possibly begin to articulate how I now understand why so many of my attempts to love have failed? It’s a long and complicated story. But it always comes back to this: I refuse to let my creating-brother-father-lover God love me. Because I hold up walls to him, I can’t help but hold up walls to others. I don’t barricade myself in the obvious, “I won’t reveal x,y,z” ways. But in the “I can’t sustain a larger perspective outside of this moment because I am scared!” kind of way, and that causes me to do all sorts of damage. I can’t dissect it out into words. I am not sure how the change happened in me. But every holy week for the past six years I have taken a step, a small step closer to accepting that Jesus Christ actually loves me, even though I still hold up walls and I still chafe at the idea of worth and love.

I know truth when I hear it, and I can’t help crying when in the presence of it. But this year I realized I have outgrown simply recognizing the face of love, I must now begin to walk with Him.

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a new blog

Consolidation. Streamlining. Control. Balance. Not the most warm and fuzzy of words. However, they are helpful guides in how I view my online presence. As I find the need to pull out of the facebook and google+ mentality, I’ve found myself questioning how I connect with those who my not be in my geographic location but who definitely factor in how I socially and professionally locate myself.

I am attempting to create a homebase, a hub, if you will, where I can integrate my various forms of social media and ideas about myself. Where I can begin circle the proverbial wagons and generate a coherent self. Lofty goals for a blog? Nah.