The Blues
Jun 8th, 2009 by Sonja

I seem to be a little dry lately and don’t have a lot to say, either in real life or here in on my blog.  So I haven’t been saying much.  That’s why you haven’t seen me around here very often.  I have a feeling that might be changing soon (or not), I don’t know.

A little while ago, Mike Todd did a really good piece on atonement (it’s long) and it sparked some really great discussion.  I read through it all and tried to jump in the conversation here and there, but … as I said, I’m kinda dry right now.  So I just listened and absorbed it all.  If you weren’t privy to it, I’d recommend reading it now.   Or not.  I’m just telling you about to set the scene, so to speak.  So you know what I was percolating on.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching a lot of afternoon television the last couple of weeks.  It’s been keeping me company while I’ve done lots and lots of sewing.  I have two channels I prefer in the late afternoon and they run re-runs of “murder” television, as my family calls it; Law & Order, mostly, but also Bones and House.   One episode of either Bones or House ended with a song one day that I could not let go of.  It was a mostly a refrain that went, “none of us are free, none of us are free, one of us in chains, none of us are free.”

So I did some internet sleuthing and found the song and artist.  Bought the whole album from iTunes.  It’s a blues album.  I’m a sucker for the blues.  If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to absolutely choose a favorite genre of music, I likely choose the blues.  Of course, I like almost all genres equally, but there’s something about the blues that gets under my skin.

The song is “None Of Us Are Free” by Solomon Burke and you can enjoy it below … watch the video and listen hard to the words.  It’s a spiritual wrapped up in the blues.

This song reminds me that no matter what theory of atonement you subscribe to, in the end it doesn’t matter.  We are all bound up in this kingdom together until we enter God’s Kingdom …. all together.

None of us are free.  Maybe that’s why this gospel of my own personal Jesus always feels so empty and void.

None of us are free.  One of us are chained.  None of us are free.

Justified By Faith
May 1st, 2009 by Sonja

I read something last night that I’m finding difficult to reconcile.  It was an article in CNN.  And I really do not understand how people who claim to follow a person/God who said these things (among many other similar things):

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (all from Matthew ch. 5)

That’s just one chapter, one sermon that Jesus preached.  Just one.  No parables.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Simple words declaring to all that those who follow Him must always keep love for the other uppermost in their minds.  If that’s the case, how is this then possible?

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  (report in CNN)

Before you go all empire on me, just remember that we who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are not called to support the kingdoms of this world.  We are render unto Caesar the things due him, other than that, we are called to support the endless Kingdom of God.  So would anyone care to explain this to me in a way that does not include references to defending one’s country, because as Christians we do not have a country, we have a Kingdom.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?

Symptoms vs. Disease
Mar 26th, 2009 by Sonja

One of our very favorite television shows here in the LightHouse is House.  Well, it’s really LightGirl’s favorite show, and the rest of us are also interested.  So we watch it in re-runs on USA network with some regularity.  Some of the episodes we’ve seen far too often, others not so much.  We watched an interesting episode last night in which the patient turned out to have the Black Plague at the end.  For those of you who do not watch House, the formula is that a patient presents with crazy symptoms and the show is spent with the team spinning through all kinds of wild, and opposing ideas about what s/he has before discovering the true diagnosis at the end.  Usually this is just in time to save their life, but ocassionally the patient dies.   Last night the patient lived.

It was interesting though, because her symptoms were masked in part by some steroids she’d been prescribed for an intense interaction with some poison ivy and by some meds she’d been given there in the hospital.  So the doctors were fooled until they took her off everything, then the charactertistic plague boils began to appear (in the last 3 to 5 minutes of the show and after she’d had a liver transplant).

I was thinking about that patient this morning as I read, yet again, Rich Kirkpatrick’s fine post from Monday about the weaving together of justice and mercy.   Rich does a great job of discussing and questioning what we’re doing when we Christians set out to “do” social justice.  Not that that is a bad thing.  No, not at all!  There really is no one else who has been commissioned to look after those who have nothing in this world, so we must.

It is the **how** we go about doing that, that Rich is talking about and he paints a wonderful picture in his first two sentences:

The cross was the greatest social injustice in history, but no greater act of mercy has been recorded for mankind and the world.

Most of us, when confronted with the injustice of the world want to act.”

In those two sentences I see Jesus on the cross, with all the power of the universe at his fingertips.  He could have wiped out injustice … the same injustice that we face in our communities and around the world … with a zap, but He did something else.  And I have to wonder why?  In fact, all of His actions and parables throughout the gospels show Him doing something other than what we anticipate or expect from people.  Why?

Then that patient with the plague bubbled up in my head.  And I got to thinking more about her and what happened with her.  You see, the meds she was given suppressed some of her symptoms, but not the disease and the disease (plague) was killing her.  Until they found the source of the disease she was still going to die.

I think that’s they way Jesus thinks about justice and mercy all woven together on the cross.  We can engage in acts of justice quite efficiently for very good purposes and we do all the time.  But if we do not have mercy as the weft to justice’s warp, we will never cure the disease; we will only provide a stop gap to some of the symptoms.  The horrible disease will continue to eat away at our communal body until we figure out how to do both together.

Let me give you a couple of examples.  During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many Christians lead drives to abolish the consumption of alcohol.  This eventually lead to the passing of the Volstead Act (as it was commonly known) or Prohibition.  Congress and the country amended the Constitution for the eighteenth time in order to prohibit the public possession and/or drinking of alcoholic beverages.  If you wanted to drink in private that was your own concern.  This was done out of wonderful motives.  We all know what ravages the “demon rum” can wreak on people who drink too much and too often … for both those who consume and those who get in their way.  It’s bad for your health, bad for your brain, dangerous to drive, etc.  But those ten years when we banned public consumption and possession also showed us something important; that simply banning it doesn’t dry up the need.  If we want people to stop drinking (because we know it’s not a great idea), then we have to look at it in a different light.  We have to weave justice together with mercy.

Another example came to my in-box this morning.  LightMom sent me information about Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard-educated economist who has worked at the World Bank and Goldman-Sachs.  She was born and raised in Zambia, but spent part of her childhood in Wisconsin while her father worked on a doctorate in linguistics.  She returned for her own education and then employment.  She’s written a book called “Dead Aid” and I watched her interview on Charlie Rose on the subject.  You can view it below or listen to the shorter, less nuanced version on NPR by using this link.

According to her bio (linked above), “Dambisa argues for more innovative ways for Africa to finance development including trade with China, accessing the capital markets, and microfinance.” If you listen to the interview you will hear her argue strenuously that government-to-government (bilateral) aid has hastened poverty in Africa.  We have known this for more than 30 years.  I remember hearing about it from my African friends when I was in college.  I was most taken by this quote in response to a question by Charlie Rose about whether or not aid should be seen as a failed experiment, “I don’t believe that Africa and Africans are a practical experiment in economics.”  It was one of the few moments when emotion was clearly observed on her face and in her voice.  Think about that for a moment, we have excellent motives … the end of poverty amongst a people we have treated poorly for centuries.  Yet with our very attempts at helping them we are continuing to treat them as less than capable human beings.  LightMom, who sent me the interviews, swears she heard Dambisa point out that when a star humanitarian in US sent thousands upon thousands of mosquito nets to Africa, it helped malaria but it put the local mosquito net manufacturers out of business.

So what do we do?  How do we weave justice and mercy together?  Is it really alright to starve a local mosquito net manufacturer in the name of eradicating malaria?  We go in with excellent motives and great ideas, but our horizons are too narrow and we fail to see what the ripple effects are going to be of our actions, though our actions might be excellent.

What is justice in the face of 70% of the population of a continent living abject poverty?  What is mercy?  These are questions we must begin to ask and answer honestly amongst ourselves as we face a new economic future; one in which it will no longer be possible to continue simply halting the symptoms, we must properly diagnose the disease and treat it.  Or our communal body will die.

The Price of Belonging Is Silence
Mar 10th, 2009 by Sonja

I’ve been on FaceBook for a couple of years now.  When I joined there were mostly college kids and just a few emerging church types around.  For the longest time I had about 30 or so friends.  I’d gain a friend or so here and there and then I had 50.  And then my blogging network grew and I gained some more friends.  But still it was hit or miss.

Then the floodgates opened up.  Anyone could join FaceBook.  And they have.  O Mi Goodness.  Grandmothers (as in people old enough to be my mother) are on FaceBook.  And people from my long lost past have been finding me.  And I’ve been finding them.  It’s been a grand adventure.  Some particular joys have been finding friends from college.  I’ve been to a couple of high school reunions and I do hear news of those friends from home from time to time.  But college friends?  Well, when I left college, I was done.  In the words of Jesus, I wiped the dust off my feet and got out of town.   I thought I didn’t care if I never heard from anyone ever again.  But it turned out that I did.

Now I have.  Several in fact.  And I’ve been having a ball exchanging news of families and children and lives.  Not all is great news, of course, but it’s catching up with one another.  So that is good.  I may indeed have the courage to go to our 30th reunion in four years ;-).  Who knows, through the wonders of FaceBook, alot of colleges may see a ressurgence in reunion attendance.  That would be an interesting statistic to look at.

One thing I’ve noticed on many of my old/new friend’s profiles is attendance or notation of their 30th highschool reunions this year.  And realized … hah!  Mine should be as well.  Not that it will be, because our class (rather than an alumnae association) is in charge of such things and we’re notoriously unorganized and under-unified.  The class before us and after us … hyper-together.  Us?  Not so much.

In any case, it’s got me thinking about highschool too.  I don’t remember terribly much about highschool.   Most of you wouldn’t recognize my highschool experience.  I went to highschool in the mid to late 70’s at a school which was designed to be both experimental and experiential.  By the late 80’s it had morphed to a more traditional format, but when I was there it was fairly cutting edge in terms of educational theory.

When we didn’t have a class scheduled, we had free time and could do anything we wanted to do.  Literally, anything as long as we did not disturb another class that was in session.  We called our teachers by their first names (with only one or two exceptions).  We had a smoking lounge for kids who smoked.  We had a regular lounge to just hang out in when we had free time.  We could hang out in the library.  Or the science lab.  Or the art workshop.  Or with a teacher.  Or outside on the lawn if it was a nice day.

We had great class selections too.  Not your standard English classes … I remember a great class in science fiction one semester, another class in movie-making.  One year for science I took a hands on earth science class wherein we disproved the standing Vermont Geological Survey’s theory on the direction that the last glacier had taken through the state.  Our class’s Adamant Pebble Campaign was written up and published in Vermont Geological History.  That happened when I was in ninth grade.

All of it sounds fairly idyllic.  And some of the time it was.  For many of the students it was as well.  However, for many of my years in highschool my father was chairman of the schoolboard.  For all of my years there, he was on the schoolboard.  I love my dad.  I think my dad is pretty wonderful.  But those years were hell.  Because my dad is a stickler for fiscal responsibility and is financially extremely conservative.  The mid to late 70s were not years when any local community had a spare sou to rub together.  So he was probably a great person to have in charge of the school’s budget during those years.  But not if you asked the teachers.  Add to that the fact that he was a reformed smoker and he took the teachers smoking lounge away from them.  Many of the teachers were mature enough to be able to separate me, the student, from my father, the schoolboard chairman.  But there were many who could not, including a few who I had once been close to.

I don’t remember talking to my parents about it.  But I do remember wishing that my father would just shut up.  I could not figure out what drove him.  Why did he have to make such a stink?  Why couldn’t he just let it be?  Let the teachers have their stupid smoking lounge?  Let the budget go?  Didn’t he know how hard it was … how the teachers were talking (and falling silent when I came by) and looking?  Even the bus drivers looked sideways at me sometimes.  I think I might have asked my mom once or twice and she tried to explain.  But I couldn’t verbalize what was going on at school, and as I look back on it now, I’m not sure it was really that important.

Or was it?

I learned something really important from those teachers during those years.  It had nothing to do with readin’ ‘ritin’ or ‘rithmatic.  Those years were my first brutal lesson that the price of belonging is silence.

I’ve had to learn it over and over again since then, to be sure.  Most people prefer the status quo.  They want the easy road, the way things are or the way things have “always been done,” to change.  They prefer the wizard in the back pulling levers and their green spectacles, to having a full spectrum of color on their own.  When you point out the wizard … you will be expelled, you may be sure.

I’ve learned with my father that sometimes you have to speak.  You can’t not speak.  The price of belonging may be silence.  But, sometimes, that price is too high.

Aunt Jemima – International Women’s Day Synchroblog
Mar 7th, 2009 by Sonja

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Julie Clawson of One Hand Clapping challenged us to find some unsung heroines of the Bible and celebrate their stories today in a synchroblog.  So I pulled up BibleGateway and put “daughter” into their search engine.  I think it came back with about 110 hits … or something like that.

Some daughters just got honorable mention.  That is, they were simply mentioned as so and so’s daughter and that was the end of that.  Others had an actual story attached to their name.  Sometimes the story was fairly mysterious.  As in the case with Caleb’s daughter.  She was married to her cousin, by Caleb’s younger brother because Caleb had promised his daughter to whomever won a particular battle.  His nephew won the battle, so he married off his daughter.  This is not very acceptable by today’s standards, but in that culture we can understand it.  The next couple of verses recount an event that is odd.  Caleb’s daughter went to him and asked for some additional land.  When he gave it to her, she also asked for a couple of springs.  So he gave her those.  And there the story of Caleb’s daughter ends.  With the gift of springs.  It’s mysterious, really.  In there for a reason, but why?

So I moved on and found the story of Job’s daughters:  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  This story can be found in Job, chapter 42 … the very end of the book.  Job has come through his trials with some version of success:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :

 2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

 5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

 6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

This is curious to me, because here we see the result of what happens to friends who might give you (however well-meaning) an incorrect perspective of God during your trials.  Those friends will have to sacrifice in your presence and have you pray over them.  This is an interesting perspective that I’ve not heard taken away from Job … but more on that another time.   I’m just thinking we need to be very careful with what we say to people about God when they are experiencing trials.

In any case, the account goes on tell us what happens to Job in the rest of his life:

 10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.

Wait?  What?  Three short sentences.  That is all we have of Job’s daughters.  They were part of a family of 10 siblings.  We don’t know where they fell in the sibling order.  We do know who among the girls was eldest, middle and youngest.  We know they were beautiful.  Most astonishing of all, we know that “… their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.”  That’s it.

It’s a genealogist’s worst nightmare.  We have names and nothing else.  We know only the most bare facts of their existence.  But we know one more thing.  Job gave them status.  He told the world that his daughters were equal to men.  His daughters were not chattel to belong to their husbands.  They owned something of their father in their own right.  I’m not certain I can fully convey how remarkable this was for that time.

It was miraculous.  Unheard of.  Women were not considered capable of owning or managing the things that men did.   But Job did it.

These are the just sorts of passages I do love.  Open-ended, without a tidy message.  We don’t know what happened to Job’s daughters.  We do know that Job lived to see “… his children and their children to the fourth generation.”  I believe that would be his great, great grandchildren if I’ve figured correctly.  My guess is that his daughters married and children of their own.  So how did they use their inheritance?  And … did they pass it on to their daughters?  What was their inheritance?  Was it land, animals, jewels?

I wonder about those things you see.  We have things (land, jewels and the like) that have been only passed to women in my family.  Our summer lake house is among them.  When my aunt left it to our family, she left it to my mom (her relative).  Her will stipulated that if my mother had pre-deceased her, it was to go to me and my brothers.  She was emphatic that it stay in her family.  In the 100 years prior to that, the house had always passed woman to woman.

They are so intriguing to me.  Those daughters.  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  They are the opposing book-end to Job’s first three daughters.  As I thought about them and let their names rattle around I came to another realization.  I’d heard two of the names before.  Jemimah and Keziah were common names given to girls who were slaves in the American South.

I started looking for confirmation of that.  Of course, I quickly ran into a brick wall … because records of what slaves were named by each other were … um … slim.  Nobody thought it was important to keep track of what they called each other.  Sometimes just the gender and the slaveholders last name is recorded.  Certainly, no inheritance was given to these men and women.  It is intriguing to me that Jemima and Keziah were used as girls names though.

I wonder … could those names have been picked on purpose?  Are they names of hope?  We’ll never know for certain.  But we do know some few things.  We know that some slaves were given Christian training.  Some were even given Bible teaching.  We know that some of the stories resonated with their experience and certainly Job’s would have been among them.  It’s not a terrible stretch to imagine naming your daughter Jemima or Keziah out of hope … hope that one day you would have an inheritance to leave her, hope that she would be known as the daughter of a man who was blessed by God, hope that your trial would be ended in blessing rather than curses.

I think there might be something to that.  None of Job’s other children are named.  Not his first ten children (seven sons, three daughters) and not his second seven sons; just these three daughters.  So, it seems to me that these names spring to the top as names that are symbolic of the hope of a good outcome at the end of horrible trials … the kind of trials endured by slaves in the antebellum South.

Aunt JemimaThus I came to the Aunt Jemima pancake empire.  It was begun in the 1890’s by two men who, having created an instant pancake mix, needed an icon to name it and represent.  One of them ducked into a black-face minstrel show and there heard the following song:

The monkey dressed in soldier clothes,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Went out in the woods for to drill some crows,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
The jay bird hung on the swinging limb,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
I up with a stone and hit him on the shin,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

The bullfrog married the tadpole’s sister,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
He smacked his lips and then he kissed her,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
She says if you love me as I love you,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
No knife can cut our love in two,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

Shortly after hearing the name, Nancy Green was hired to represent Aunt Jemima.  She was currently working as a servant for a judge in Chicago, but had been born and raised a slave in antebellum Kentucky.  Aunt Jemima and her pancakes were introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.  It was held from May to November and Nancy smiled, sang, told slave tales, flipped and served almost a million pancakes during that six month period.  In the hundred and ten years since then she has become perhaps the most well-known African American female face in history.

Yet, there is something vaguely disturbing about that.  This name, Jemimah, started out as a name of hope, blessing, inheritance and beauty had become a term interchangeable with disparagement, slavery and bondage and now … commerce.  You never hear Jemimah as a name anymore.  There are no young women with that name … no fathers or mothers hoping to pass on that message of hope, blessing and inheritance to their daughters with that name because it’s lost all of it’s power.

We still hear Keziah.  You might not recognize it.  You’ll hear Keshia or Aisha.  Both of those names have their roots in Keziah.  A name of hope and blessing and inheritance for girls.   That’s just what we need to give our daughters today … a sense of hope and blessing and inheritance.  What sort of inheritance will you give your daughters?

*****************************************************

This is my contribution to the International Women’s Day Synchroblog –

Here are links to some others –

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s workteenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Patrick Oden on Rahab and the spies
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women

Best Posts of 2008
Dec 28th, 2008 by Sonja

“Best Of” posts are beginning to pop up all over like dandelions in springtime.  They’re sparkly and eye-catching.  I always like them because they catch the year in review and give the reader a walk down memory lane.  But … you knew there was a “but” coming.  So often in church-y circles the “best of” posts are either all men or men in overwhelming proportions.  I’ve been blogging for more than three years now and I keep hoping this will change.  That the onset of the internet will bring about changes to this dynamic.  But I’m not seein’ it yet.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are some men (Rick “Blind Beggar” Meigs, Bill Kinnon, Brother Maynard, Brad Sargent, John Smulo, Shawn Anthony, Patrick Oden and some others to name a few) who are wholly committed to women in full partnership in life, ministry, blogging, you-name-it.  They have gone above and beyond to support women and engage them equally.

What does that look like?  I know a lot of folks are put off by idea of feminism and I’m mystified by that.  But let’s look at it from another perspective.  We all look at families and tend to agree that a “whole and healthy” family includes a mother (female) and a father (male).  No matter what your feelings are about who should be in charge and when, we all know that healthy families require both the male and the female perspective to adequately parent, raise, etc. the children.  At the very least, there are whole books on the subject of healthy families requiring two parents where one takes on the feminine role and the other the masculine (in the case of homosexual relationships).  We know very clearly what the lack of men does to a family and what the lack of a mother can bring to children.  So my question is … why do we find this lack of the feminine voice or perspective so very acceptable in church/ministry leadership?

It is in the interest of balancing out the perspectives that I present my Best of 2008 … plus one from 2007 because it was so good.

… in no particular order … UPDATED to include a recent post by Peggy Senger Parsons that is a must read.

Erika Haub – The Margins – “the church that came to me

“When she saw me her eyes teared up, and as she spoke she started to cry. She told me that she could not believe that I had let her into my home, with full access to all of our things, and then closed my door and gone to sleep. She said that she had never felt so trusted by someone; she had never felt so much pride and dignity and worth as someone who did not have to be doubted and feared.”

Kathy Escobar – the carnival in my head – “what could be

here’s my hope:

that we’d be people & communities radically in touch with Christ’s love for us & continue to risk our comfort, ego, time, money, and heart to offer mercy & compassion to others.  that we’d be somehow known as  ‘those weird people who love other people unconditionally, tangibly, and in all kinds of crazy, unexplainable ways.”

Tracy Simmons – The Best Parts – “The Rescue Parade

When people rescue dogs or trees or human beings, they are displaying how much they are made in the image of their creator. He longs to see all things rescued and restored. It’s in our spiritual DNA whether we are aware of it or not.

Makeesha Fisher – Swingin’ From the Vine – “Missional:  It Sure Ain’t Velveeta

Being missional is hard work. Getting down and dirty in people’s lives, giving everyone a platform and allowing your voice to form from within the context of community versus individual aspirations and spirituality is not a nice easy package deal. You can’t just cut off a block from the end of the yellow brick and nuke it to gooey perfection. It’s time consuming and risky and generally not very “pretty”.

Rose Madrid-Swetman – RMD –

Building To Serve Others Part 1
Building To Serve Others Part 2
Building To Serve Others Part 3

We discussed the pros and cons, the why’s and why not’s of taking the step of leasing a space. Our biggest fear was that we would lose sight of the congregation as the church. You see when we rented a basement room for Sunday worship only, everything else we did as a faith community happened in our neighborhoods, the host community and in homes. Moving into a leased space that we would have 24/7 access to could endanger us to put the emphasis on the building as the church rather than the church being the people.

Heidi Renee – Redemption Junkie – “Great Losers

I just can’t seem to walk past a smidgen of interesting brokenness or discarded story. I am so moved by outsider and found art because deep in my heart I long to be a mosaic artist. I have not yet begun to piece together those precious bits and fragments pocketed along my journey.

Julie Clawson – One Hand Clapping – “Experience and Empathy

It’s one thing to intellectually acknowledge the need for better health care around the world, I am discovering it is another thing altogether to attempt to imagine oneself in another’s position. I knew the need for equity before, but my experiences have helped me to empathize. I know I am lucky and privileged. I don’t desire to trivialize or cheapen the plight of others by claiming to truly understand, but I am a firm believer that empathy is necessary if one is to truly care and make a difference. And experience helps with that.

Grace – Kingdom Grace – “Disciples or Converts

I think that we often circumvent the real life of the Spirit in conversion methods, discipleship methods, and in the way that we function together as groups of believers.  What are the ways that we tamper with natural growth and unintentionally cause lack of reproduction and other genetic deformities?

Pam Hogeweide – How God Messed Up My Religion – “First Time To Notice A Homeless Person

He looked over at me. Our eyes locked, me the middle-class teenager from a middle-class Vegas family; him, the ghost of someone’s son now orphaned and phantomed like the nobody he knew he was born to be and die as was. It was a definitive moment for me. In that one glance I saw past the dirty beggar who didn’t have a job or a home. I caught a swift glimpse of a man who was not born for greatness, but was just born. He had no purpose, no grand plan. No derailed American dream to be somebody. For an instance I saw my brother, my father, my son and my husband. This unknown man was more than a Utah phantom. But that one look told me that not only had he become invisible to others, the true man of who he was – this beggar was an imposter of his true greatness – but more urgently, he had become invisible to himself. He did not matter.

Christine Sine – Godspace – “Discerning The Winter Blues

I was reminded that I once read that the tradition of Advent wreaths actually began because farmers took the wheels of their wagons during the wet winter months and this became the framework for the Advent wreath.  Now I am not sure that any of us would consider taking the wheels off our cars over the winter but I do think that we need to build times of rest, reflection and renewal into our schedules.  Maybe we should stop driving our cars at least for a few days so that we can relax and refresh.  We are not meant to continually live in harvest season.  We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming.  In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm.  Most of them will never blossom again.

Cheesehead – A Cheesehead In Paradise – “A Sermon for the Celebration of the Reign of Christ

(Let me say for the record, if any of you are considering running for elected office, and someone comes to church to see what kind of sermons you listen to, and nobody finds anything even the least bit sketchy that I have said—if nothing I preach is found to be even the slightest bit counter-cultural and it’s all perfectly agreeable—that’s probably not a good thing and you should call me on it.)

Christy Lambertson – Dry Bones Dance – Abortion Series

1 – Late Night Comedians, American Politicians & Abortion Week
2 – Nuance is Bad For Fundraising
3 – Put Away the Coat Hangers
4 – Let Me Tell You About Your Experience
5 – We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Partly Right (part I)
6 – We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Partly Right (part II)

That’s why I have declared it to be Abortion Week here at Dry Bones Dance (or possibly Abortion Month, depending how long I go between posts.) Whatever your position is, I’m not going to try to change it. Really. I promise. I just want to take an emotionally charged, extremely polarizing issue, and show how our public conversation about it – from both sides – virtually guarantees that we won’t ever get anywhere on the issue.

Erin Word – Decompressing Faith – “The Tribe

This tribe is not bound by collective adherence to a doctrine or by a building, but in mutual love for each other and a desire to set each other free from the things which have chained us. My tribe is not a place where anyone has to justify their experiences, but a place where we learn from a myriad of voices. My belief in the value of Jesus in my life is unwavering; many other aspects of my faith are in constant flux as I learn and grow. This I am able to do in a community where boundaries are elastic and belief is defined only by a love for Christ. Searching together for ways to better love on the world and on others, as Jesus exemplified, is the common thread we share.

Sally Coleman – Eternal Echoes “Perichoresis

Sally writes gorgeous poetry and takes stunning photographs of beaches, sunsets and people.

AJ Schwanz – AJ Schwanz “High Bar

And then I wonder:  am I just being me-centric?  Is this something God’s calling me to, or is this me being idealistic and believing the grass is always greener?  What if it doesn’t look the way I think it should?  What if it’s right in front of my face and I’m ignoring it because I don’t like the way God’s engineered it?  When push comes to shove, would I make the sacrifice; or would I be sad, hang my head, and walk away?

Cynthia Ware – The Digital Sanctuary – “Lord Teach Us To Pray, Virtually

I see the benefits….yet there is a part of me that still feels like something is funny about it. It feels like it should be ‘in addition to…’ instead of a replacement for interacting with your small group or people that can actually pray and stop by and drop off a casserole.

Molly Aley – Adventures In Mercy – “Obama Ushers In End Times

I literally thought that God wanted me to war against my culture.  I believed that culture was out to get me, out to get my kids, out to get my church. I mistakenly forgot the real enemy, and thought it was my culture instead, unlike God, who knew exactly what the real problem was when He came down INTO an equally-fallen culture.  He saturated Himself in it, unafraid to pal around with the worst of the lot and, interestingly, the only ones He had a real problem with were the ones righteously abstaining from said culture.

Peggy Brown – The Virtual Abbess – “Abi and Covenant

What The Abbess is looking for as part of the whole missional order discussion is a “rule of life” and a “rhythm of life” that provides a group of Christ followers with a focus, a framework, for the working out of our cHesed — our already-existing sacred duty to love God and love each other — in the context of apprenticing disciples.

Sr. Joan Chittister – From Where I Stand – “A Glimpse Of Oneness For A Change

The struggle between “red states” and “blue states” in the “United States” may be a political problem but, if truth were told, “oneness” is not something religion has been particularly good at over time either. Religions and religious professionals have been far more devoted over the years to creating Absolutes of themselves. They routinely cast other religious and their scriptures and prayers and beliefs into hellfire. They persecuted and oppressed and either forced people into their own religious tribe or hounded them out of it. They made converts at the end of a sword and divided families and called one another pagans and infidels. Many still do.

Judith Hougen – Emergent Self – “Part Two – Incarnational Reality

With very few exceptions, none of the people who’ve helped me understand and walk in incarnational reality have been Evangelical Christians. Which might help explain why conservative Christians can be mean sometimes. You really must deny incarnational reality (except in theory) in order to behave so contrary to the way of Jesus. You would have to work awfully hard to denigrate others while walking in a conscious awareness of God’s loving presence. Incarnational reality demands a response–either we open to Christ in each encounter, each breath, or we honor–I dare say worship–our own feelings, agenda, and sense of rightness.

Elizabeth Potter – Still Emerging – “They Used To Call Me Betty

The lack of fit intensified as I grew older such that when I relocated to a new city a number of years ago, I decided to ‘change’ my name. Rather than introducing myself to new people I met as “Betty,” I asked them to call me “Elizabeth.” It has taken years for my family to adjust to this ‘new’ moniker, but finally I have a name that fits. It is strong, and regal, and seems ‘just the right size.’ They used to call me “Betty,” but I have chosen to rename myself. Hello, my name is “Elizabeth.”

Kim Petersen – Chrysalis Voyage – “Robust Faith

Maybe it’s why I liked this response from a listener who wrote in: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is faith struggling. Where God is concerned there must always be room for doubt.” Chief Rabbi Sacks picked up on it earlier in his interview by challenging Humphrys: “If you didn’t have faith you wouldn’t ask the question…Faith is in the question.” Humphrys dismisses the statement as a cop out meant to shut down the conversation, but for me this statement contained the crux of the whole issue. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a shut down in intellect and a blind leap into the unknown. There is an intentional ongoing search for Truth and a coming to grips with and peace with that which will always remain a mystery. They are not mutually exclusive. A robust faith encompasses the doubt, the struggle.

Peggy Senger Parsons – A Silly Poor Gospel  “My Bus Karma

Bon Chance, Madame” is one of my code words with God. It usually means “Heads Up Peg – this may get rough”. With no great leading on the line, I should have taken my bag back, called my daughter and gone back to their house for another week of baby snuggling. But one of my character flaws is a severe allergy to anything that feels like going backwards. And one of my consistent delusions is that the normal rules of the universe don’t apply to me. The combo gets me in trouble all the time.

The Cost of a Life – Part Two
Dec 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

When LightHusband and I started dating and for the first part of our married life he was a drummer.  He played the snare drum with the Third US Infantry Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps; the US Army’s Honor Guard for the President.  About six months after our first date, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for the second time.  This lead to an interesting juxtaposition for the two of us.

LightHusband was scheduled to march in Reagan’s inaugural parade in the lead unit.  I was busily looking for protest to march in.  And I was fairly vocal about it.

Ronald Reagan was a very popular President and his legacy has much to be admired, but we are now beginning to realize the one major flaw in what he left us:  trickle down economics.   I knew then that any idea that people could be willingly parted from their money and it would somehow trickle down to those with none was ludicrous.  Even given the tenets of capitalism, it would never work.  I was determined to protest it.  LightHusband, of course, had his orders which were to march in the parade.

Neither event happened.  The weather prevented all outdoor activities that year as it was unseasonably cold and we all celebrated the night before by drinking into the wee hours at a local watering hole.  I seem to remember that Blue Hawaiians featured prominently in my repertoire that evening.

Ronald Reagan was duly sworn in without public protest or public fanfare of the outdoors variety.  He continued his presidency for four more years without a hitch.  Not that anyone anticipated a hitch, of course.

During his presidency I was vigilant for the evil I was sure that was to come.  I was certain that all sorts of horrible economic woes were about to befall us because of Reagan’s ill-thought-out plans and designs.

But.

Nothing happened.  In fact, we slowly but surely began to dig ourselves out of the rut.  And by the 1990’s our economy was in a boom again.  The Dow didn’t know a ceiling.  Unemployment was low.  Housing starts were high.  All economic indices were that we were good.  It appeared that trickle-down economics did work.  Or at least some version of it.

The trouble is that trickle-down economics rewards greed.  So does capitalism (inherently).  So we find ourselves in 2008 with an economy on the rocks and now we are looking to the government to bail out the very corporations which stumbled and fell in the first place.

It took a long time for ugliness inherent in trickle-down economics to become apparent, but now we are seeing the fruit ripen on the vine.  What is that fruit?

–Customers who trample a temporary employee to death at a Wal-Mart so they can get the best prices for Christmas …

… and then sue the store for inadequate security.

–Executives of the auto industry who fly individual private jets to Washington DC  to ask for money to bail out their companies.  I understand the need for private planes … but did the idea of plane pooling never occur to these men?  No one is that important.

–AIG receiving a multi–billion dollar bailout, then taking its staff on a multi-million dollar retreat.

These are well known and well discussed examples.  But they are examples of greed run amok.  Greed at the top and greed at the bottom.  We are all greedy … every one of us.  We all want what we do not have.  We look over the fence and see green, green grass that must surely taste sweeter than the dusty dry stalks at our feet.  Inherently, we are told, that’s a good thing.  Go for that greener grass … you deserve it.  You’ve earned it.

No one ever thought to ask what expense it came at.

Cost of A Life – Part One
Nov 21st, 2008 by Sonja

When I was in high school it was a huge big deal to gather friends and go to Burlington for the day.  I lived in a tiny town in central Vermont.  There were about 4 stores in the local larger town, so going to Burlington represented shopping, eating and metropolitan nirvana for us backwoods hayseeds.  Once one or two of us reached driving age, and had parents who would release an automobile into our possession, we were free.

I had my first experience of ordering Chinese food on my own and using chop sticks in Burlington.  We’d wander up and down Church Street together.  Church Street has since been blocked to auto traffic and is an open air mall.  Back then, it was an ordinary street filled with adventure for teenagers in from the back country.  Some distance away from Church Street, a new experience opened up in the later years.  Two funny guys from New York City bought an old gas station and turned it into an ice cream store.  Man.  They made the best ice cream anywhere.  And it should have been … it was made with real ingredients.  Whole milk, whole cream.  Real fruit.  Dark chocolate.  Ice cream to die for.

But … ice cream in a gas station?  Who would buy it, the old-timers in the state ridiculed the idea.  And the lines in the summer were around the block.

Pretty soon, the ice cream was being cartoned and sold in small containers throughout the state.  But one could only get it in Vermont.  There were now also a couple of other scoop shops … I forget where the earlier ones were placed.  But I know that I had my first anniversary dinner in one ten years later.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle cone and LightHusband went next door for a slice of pizza.  We sat outside on a swing to eat.

You know the name of the company; it’s become ubiquitous with ice cream now.  Ben & Jerry’s.  Their pints stock freezers nation-wide.  For all I know, you can get them in Canada too.  The company sold out to Hershey or Nestle or some large conglomerate several years back and the ice cream isn’t nearly as good anymore.  What was once innovative is now just silliness and twaddle.  One might say they jumped the shark.

If you asked me what the most innovative thing about Ben & Jerrys was, the answer might surprise you.  For their ice cream was divine.  They were locovores before it became trendy or even had a name, using only small family dairies for their milk, cream and eggs.  No, the most innovative thing about Ben & Jerrys was this … their executive compensation structure.

I remember reading in Inc. Magazine back in the late 1980’s that they had structured the company in such a way so that neither Ben nor Jerry were compensated greater than 7 times the salary of the lowest paid employee of the company.  Think about that.  No matter how much Ben or Jerry made, it could never be greater than 7 times the salary of the lowest paid person in the company.

This has been on my mind recently as I read about the financial crisis on Wall Street and in Detroit.  I read about the “necessity” of golden parachutes in the tens of millions of dollars and executive compensation packages that look like lottery ticket loot.  There are some companies which have made an attempt to restrain executive compensation.  Whole Foods limits compensation of its executives to lowest employees in the ratio of 19:1 according to this Fast Company article written in Feb. 2007.  It’s the reprint of a letter written from CEO, John Mackay to his leadership team in which he raises the compensation ratio from 14:1 to 19:1 and reduces his salary to $1.00.  Apparently, what is left out of all company press is that Mr. Mackay also has an impressive stock option from Whole Foods.  Of course.  Cynics point to this as evidence of malfeasance.  Make of it what you will.  He’s still only taking $1 in salary and donating the rest to charity.  He’s a rarity in the business world.

I have to wonder though.  In yet another grocery store albeit tiny, independent and Mennonite, I saw this on the wall last spring:  “The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”  I’ve been meditating on that for months now.  Especially in light of our nation’s current financial woes.

The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.

What will our greed cost us?  What amount of our lives will we be exchanging in order to pay for these few at the top?

When we begin to understand that we, or rather our representatives in Congress, have done that for us, then perhaps we will begin to actually change things.

Leadership In An Age of Cholera
Nov 4th, 2008 by Sonja

Crime & CholeraCholera: any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms ; especially : an acute diarrheal disease caused by an enterotoxin produced by a comma-shaped gram-negative bacillus (Vibrio cholerae syn. V. comma) when it is present in large numbers in the proximal part of the human small intestine.  Merriam-Webster on-line

I just voted.  Yes, I voted for the hip, young man of color for President.  I have many reasons why and I’ll get to them in a second.  But first a wee story or two.

It was exciting to go and vote this time.  In fact, I scared my poor poll worker, I was so exuberant at the little screen.  Then when she handed me my sticker, she hugged me.  As I attempted to dance through the wrong doors in exit, all the poll workers called to me and I turned around abashed at my silliness.  I was just too giddy.  Why was I giddy?  Here’s why.

I remember the 1960’s.  Most of all, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  If I had to pick a hero, he’d be it.  He was a legend in his own time.  I might pick Gandhi, but for a real American hero, I’d pick King.  Every year I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech and cry.  I’ve studied his speeches and writings; I have a fairly good idea of which Biblical prophets he was studying when he wrote.  And today … well, today … I got to vote for someone based upon the content of his character not the color of his skin.  Amen and hallelujah.  And the tiny little poll worker who hugged me?  Well, she was African-American too.

Mind you, I did NOT vote for Obama because of his roots either. Did I listen to both sides?  No, not equally.  I lost respect for the Republican party back in 2000 and again when Republicans treated James Jeffords with such disrespect when he became an independent.  The party had huge barriers to overcome in my mind, and they failed to get there.

Here is why I voted for Obama …

“People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” John Kotter

I didn’t find that quote until about a week ago when I was looking for something else entirely.   But it encapsulates my reasons for choosing Obama for president.  Even my father has some qualms about the details of his platform, the hows and wherefors.  What exactly will he do if he is elected?  For someone with little time in his role in the Senate those are very legitimate questions.  But it’s his ability to inspire that I look at.

Frankly, I’m tired of leaders who go around poking into private business looking for what is wrong.  I want leaders who will inspire us to find our dreams and make them reality.  It is in those dreams and that reality that we will rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, get us off the dependence on petroleum and many of the other ills that we currently find ourselves in.   That sort of leadership is transformational; it begins at the top and trickles down.  We learn how to encourage and develop our own dreams.  Then we learn how to encourage and develop the dreams of others.

Or will it?  Can a charismatic leader help us overcome our addiction to power?  That’s the question for the ages.  Too often people in leadership are at the top, they lead from above and are in a position of power.  They have the ability to cause hardship, pain and devastation to those they purport to lead.  Typically, those who are leading hold all or most of the cards.  But in this new scenario, of dream empowerment, the little guy, the individual is given the space to dream and realize those dreams.

So, will we find this in Obama?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But that’s what I voted for; that’s what I’m hoping for.  That’s the kind of leadership I’m hoping for.  In this age of choleric leadership, we need something new.  We need something that won’t revolt us and turn our stomachs.  Something, someone nationally, and locally who will help us find our own dreams and turn them into reality.

****************************************************************

This is part of synchroblog on Leadership … the rest of the most excellent writings are below, please check them out:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

The Choices We Make
Nov 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

This subject has become extremely volatile lately.  It’s been bandied about in classrooms, blogs, pubs, buses … everywhere (in fact) that two or more are gathered.  Just the other day, a good friend of mine and I were catching up on the phone and she exasperatedly said, “Well, I’m voting pro-life, and that’s that.” She quickly moved to another topic, and left me to wonder, “what does that even mean any more?”  I’m not sure I know what “pro-choice” means either, for that matter.  So I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and thinking.

Scot McKnight put up a question about the issue of abortion and pro-life vs. pro-choice at Jesus Creed one day a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t often comment in a thread there and I have not started a conversation based upon one of his since the early days of my blog.  But this one is personal.  I’ve spent a long time thinking this one through, for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is that LightGirl now reads my blog and I wanted to have the chance to talk to her before I posted this.

I’ve seen Obama referred to more than one place as a “pro-abortion zealot” and in other places as simply “pro-abortion.”  I’ve seen other folks say that they cannot possibly vote for a president who is not pro-life, or who will “kill the innocent.”  And I’m genuinely confused by the rhetoric.  You see, I have something in common with candidate that gives me a unique perspective on this subject.  Both of us are the products of a marriage brought about by our mothers’ pregnancies with us.  His parents’ marriage ended in divorce, my parents are still married.

When you know that your mother got married because she was pregnant with you, it challenges any settled conclusion you think you might come to on the issue of abortion.  Every time you get to one place or another, you remember your mom and her particular set of circumstances.  What if …

Among many things, it decidedly does not make one a “pro-abortion zealot.”  I cannot speak for the candidate personally because I do not know him.  I can, however, speak for myself.  I know that I see the issue as incredibly nuanced and far more filled with shades of gray than with the black or white that most true zealots would like us to believe.  In my heart of hearts I have occasionally wondered what might have happened to me, had abortion been legally available to my mother when she discovered her pregnancy in the fall of 1960.  But as she is fond of saying to me, “Stop playing the what if game.” 😉  It was not available, and now I’m here … for better or worse (my words, never my mother’s).

This argument, this issue has become incredibly divisive and words have become bombs that are thrown at one another.  Witness the exchange between the candidates during the last presidential debate.  As Senator Obama reminded us, “no one is pro-abortion.”  Even those who are the most ardent supporters of “pro-choice” secretly hope they never have to take advantage of that choice.  I would hope that we can all at least agree on that.

I’ve lived on both sides in this war.  I marched in one of the largest pro-choice rallies in Washington back in 1989 and carried an ancient “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.  My mother, husband and several cousins walked too.  I’ve been pro-life as a member of an evangelical church for fourteen years … and written letters to politicians, etc.  I’ve supported our local Crisis Pregnancy Center with donations and prayers.  But after all of it … I think they’re all wrong.

I want to begin with a reveal of sorts.  I have had an abortion.

I could tell you it was the lowest point in my life and I’d been raped or something horrible like that.  But it would be a lie.  I was engaged to LightHusband and the baby was due about a month after our scheduled wedding.  The truth is, I had terrible anger issues at the time.  We had no money.  There was no money for child care and no money for me to stop working.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had a baby then I was certain to abuse the child.  I was terrified.  Horrified.  Guilty if I did and guilty if I didn’t.

That all sounds weak and thready now.  But at the time, we (LightHusband and I) were in a deep hole with no way out, no one to talk to and nowhere to go.  As ridiculous as it sounds, out of wedlock pregnancy is still a stigma in our culture.  It is a gross and abject failure of huge proportions for women on so many levels that one cannot bear to acknowledge it.

Many of my friends (regardless of their faith) have had abortions.  Others have given up babies for adoption.  Some have had the horrible fate to have done both (some as the result of unmarried sex, others as the result of rape or incest).  All have gone on to raise families.

My oldest cousin is a woman now in her sixties.  When she was in her thirties, she was a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in her town.  She had two daughters about my age (early teens at the time) and found herself pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy.   It was the source of many uproarious jokes in my family and still is.  However, she went on to have that baby, who is now a wonderful woman in her own right.

My point in all of this is that when we engage in the abortion debate, we forget that it’s not about theology, or exegesis or theory … it’s about individual women and men, as well as the babies that everyone wants to hang their hat on.  Individual women (and men) who, in a very dark hour, are making a Hobbes choice.  There is rarely a good outcome; only frightening and intolerable.  Abortion and adoption have long running ramifications that leave scars.  Getting married and raising the baby at a young age is a risky choice that only rarely works out well (my parents are a rare exception to that rule).  And we all know how well unwed motherhood works.  We can wave the Bible around all we want, but until we’re ready to show individual women that they indeed have another way out, it’s all just so much hot air.  Or as Paul might have said, a clanging gong.

I’ve changed as the years have gone by.  There is too much at stake to use a hatchet, when a scalpel is called for.  Or perhaps analogies of cutting implements are insensitive in this instance.  Perhaps when all is said and done, we should not be putting our hope in the law.  I’ve often thought (as have others much smarter than I) that the law cannot change hearts.  Sure, say those of a more conservative bent, but it draws boundaries around behavior.  Yep, I agree.  However, I began think about about a deeper law and a deeper magic.  I began to think about it in terms like this:  Jesus said things like “I have come to fulfill the Law.”  and “Perfect love drives out fear.”

Before He came, the Jewish law was convoluted and nearly impossible to fill perfectly.  Our way to the Father was blocked at almost every turn by jots and tittles.  So He sent His Son to fill them all.  To make the way straight and give us a way in.  His perfect love would straighten things out and we would not have to be afraid anymore of not knowing.  And this morning ASBO Jesus posted this which perfectly demonstrates, for me, this issue:

Sand/Rock - ASBO Jesus

The whole issue is complex, complicated and far too delicate to be left to lawyers and politicians. Nor is it something that can be abolished with laws. Unplanned pregnancies within and without marriage are part of the imperfectness of this world that we live in. We cannot make them stop happening by virtue of changing laws, but our response to them can change through one avenue … love. We can only respond to each of them within the context of an individual relationship. Going after them with the hatchet of the law can only breed contempt, fear and anger. For the life of me, I can’t find those in the Gospel of Jesus. So … mark me, pro-human and pro-relationship. I’ll leave the debate to the zealots.

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