The Rick Warren Bru-ha-ha

December 20, 2008

I am of two minds on the Rick Warren matter.

My first reaction is to say, “Look, I don’t like the guy either. I don’t agree with his theology. I don’t agree with his politics. But it isn’t like he was chosen to be the minister-in-chief or something. He is giving an invocation. I know it has a lot of symbolic meaning, but it doesn’t have any practical consequences in and of itself. It is a gesture of the president elect to say, ‘I am not a president only to progressives or to liberals, but a president to the whole country.’ And, there are big parts of the country that can identify with Rev. Rick Warren. And, as conservative evangelical pastors go, he is one of the less offensive ones who has at least made some overtures toward changing the tone of the rhetoric. My hope is that it is a gesture that will soften the hearts of those who would tend to be more opposed to Obama and his policies. It will not solve many problems, but it is a gesture of unity, which people are always talking about. You know, one country, working out our differences and that sort of thing. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Heck, I don’t like it either. But I see it as a strategic move that may help in the long run with things that matter more than who gives the invocation at the inauguration.” (It is of course another matter whether there should be invocations and benedictions at inaugurations anyway.)

That said, it occurred to me how often discrimination against women or the GLBTQ community can often be chalked up to theology, while few people will stand for discrimination against ethnic minorities chalked up to theology. I try to imagine if someone gave the invocation that said that they still supported slavery based on theology. Or that women should obey thier husbands based on theology (heck, Warren may agree with the second of those statements). What would it mean to have someone give the invocation as a gesture of unity and goodwill who was known to support legalized discrimination against women – that they should get paid less, that rape should be less of a crime, that they should not have inheritance rights? Hmm. No matter how symbolic or strategic that would be, I would be feeling really unhappy about this. So then I started rethinking what I said above.

And now I just don’t know. The thing is, so many of these difficult issues are totally intrackable. “We” dig in our heals. “They” dig in their heels. We write on our blogs about why we are right. We affirm each other at our churches about why we are right. We are smug. We know whose side God is on. And where does this get us? What is the way forward toward better understanding each other, finding common ground to work on together, even, dare I say it, finding areas where compromise makes sense. I am not talking about any particular issue, but rather all of these very intense social and political issues that are so close to our hearts – all of our hearts – and where it seems so difficult to move forward.

I’m guessing having Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration isn’t the answer. But I wish we could come up with a better one that just insisting on how right and just we are and getting offended and indignant. Not that I am somehow immune to this. I do it to. But there must be a better way…

On the question: Can you be a person of faith and a feminist?

December 16, 2008

Wow. There is a post over at, a third-wave feminist blog which I tend to really like (although the style is not always exactly my style), titled Can you love God and feminism? I was a little shocked by the title, but thought that perhaps it was simply meant to be provocative.

Um, I think it was actually serious. And even if it wasn’t meant to be serious, many readers are taking it that way. The post is about a very conservative brand of Christianity that is very sexist, and then somehow asks, from that, if feminism and loving God are somehow incommensurable. I think the author of the post does not really think this, but also has not thought out (well-enough) the implications of her framing. It leaves open the door for the worst framings of Christians and feminists… Christians who must somehow be incapable of valuing equality and the full humanity of all people, or feminists who are somehow incapable of connecting with or unwilling or uninterested in the divine. I feel like to ask, “Can you love God and love feminism?” is like asking, “Can you love men and be a feminist?” Or “Are all feminists feminazis?” It is just a bad way to frame the question that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the issues or people involved.

As someone whose job and studies as a doctoral student and, you know, like my entire life calling, is, in many ways, at the intersection of feminism and faith, reading many of the comments was like a huge punch in the stomach. I suppose it is good. A good reality check. A good time to reach out to people. A good encouragement to post more about this on my own blog.

I encourage those of you who are are feminists of faith to include your voices in the comments over at the post on feministing. You have to register once in order to comment, but it only takes a second. There are so many posters on there who have clearly been convinced by more conservative parts of religion, particularly Christianity, that the patriarchal versions of Christianity are somehow all there is of it. There are likewise rather naive framings of Paul and Jesus and the bible as all totally feminist friendly. Oh, is there outreach work to be done. What surprises me so much is so many self-identified feminist posters who are so dismissive of the experiences of people who are feminists and people of faith. Like just totally excluding them as valid, dismissing them as “duped” or tricked or just wrong. How very unfeminist.

One question that someone posted that perhaps readers here could help with is: Does anyone have suggestions on where to get your feminist Christian fix? I’ve been trying to find some sort of blog or magazine or anything, and I know there’s a lot of academic work out there, but is there anything a bit more…I don’t know, enjoyable to consume?

Sadly (I need to remedy this) I am much more familiar with the academic work, and not more popular stuff. Anyone have any ideas?

Don’t you bet this is a fun church to attend?

September 4, 2008

Church Sign: Kissing Girl Leads To Hell

The Associated Press reports that “a church in the Columbus [Ohio] area is turning heads with its public spin on the pop song I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. (For more on the song, including the lyrics, you can see my old post on it.)

A sign outside Havens Corners Church in suburban Blacklick has the lyrics from the song’s chorus, “I kissed a girl and I liked it” — and adds, “Then I went to hell.” … Church pastor the Rev. Dave Allison said the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, so the sign is intended as a loving warning to teens.

Yeah, that seems really loving to me. And I bet it is super-effective too. I sure won’t be kissing any girls now that I have read that on a church sign and I bet all the teenage girls in the area won’t be either. Good thing we have been warned!

Meet Jesus: My running list of things that would somewhat traumatize lots of people I know

June 14, 2007

I just got a huge kick out of what is probably a great book. It is called Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher and it is on the front page of the UUA bookstore website. It is so something I would get for my kids (if I had them) but I just envisioned some of my dear and beloved more traditional Christian friends and relatives and how dreadfully horrible this book would seem to them – you might as well give your kid a book called “How to Be Evil.” This goes in the same category with the tradition at my home UU church where everyone is invited to dress in costume the Sunday closest to Halloween and sing a song called “The Witch Song” with the following chorus:

Who were the witches, where did they come from?
Maybe your great great grandmother was one.
Witches were wise, wise women they say,
And there’s a little witch in every woman today.
There’s a little witch in every woman today.

Perhaps you have to come from a Baptist charismatic background to appreciate the absolute horror that these two very nice UU innovations would invoke. Why makes me laugh, I don’t know. It just does. It would so not be funny if these ideas were even ever mentioned anywhere some of my nearest and dearest. Or in my hometown. So not funny.

Missionaries of Cambridge, MA

October 18, 2006

Somehow, in studying at my favorite coffee shop a few days ago, I managed to sit right next to some of the few evangelical missionaries in Cambridge, MA. As some of you will remember, I also managed to be approached by one of the few anti-choice street proselytizers in Harvard Square and had the pleasure to reflect on that experience here. Perhaps folks can just sense that my mega-church-Baptist-Catholic heritage will, at least, prevent me from being rude and even, perhaps, help me understand a little of where they are coming from. Or maybe I am just a statistical anomaly. Anyway, the missionaries sitting next to me reminded me a lot of my Campus Crusade days – friendly, hip-seeming people in love with Jesus. Which, of course, I think is lovely and have no problem with. In fact, I sort of miss that closeness with the savior of the world that one feels like one has as a Christian in love with Jesus. However, what I was a little irked by was all the talk of taking the message of Jesus to other countries. I am not even that terribly opposed to sharing about the work Jesus has done in your own life with other people, especially if you are very culturally sensitive as they appeared to at least be trying to be (I was not purposefully listening – they were just right next to me and I could not avoid it). I mean, I like to share about Unitarian Universalism and how much I enjoy my faith and how much I get from it, and the work of hope and justice that it has the potential to do. But my thing with spending one’s life sharing Jesus in other countries is all the time and energy this takes without lots of practical results. I guess to me, the idea would not to be to share Jesus for Jesus’s sake (just like I don’t share Unitarian Universalism for its own sake) but rather to share the LOVE of Jesus through one’s work and let God take care of the rest. Kind of Jesus as the path and not the destination. (I DO however, understand that this is exactly the opposite of how they feel. Jesus is FOR SURE the path AND the destination. I’m just saying what I would prefer.) This is why I am pretty impressed with what I know about Habitat for Humanity (I’m sure they aren’t perfect, but try to focus on my general point here). Habitat builds houses and says we are showing God’s love through our work. Houses – something people really need. So if you are DYING to share Jesus with the people of the world, why not do that WHILE you are doing something helpful. Rather than spending all your free time plotting and planning about how to share Jesus – why not do that through your works and, as they say, give the rest up to God? I think a house or clean water or unconditional, sustained, support and love over years speaks way more than going through the rehearsed-yet-spontaneous-sounding ways of sharing your testimony and bringing people to Jesus. The missionaries sitting next to me seemed relatively progressive (as missionaries go) and truly excited about sharing their excitement about Jesus and wanting not to be all “we know best” and “give up all of your culture and adopt our culture along with our god” old-style Christian missionary. But rather than having strategy meetings at a cafe and lots of small group meetings on planning and months of praying (I heard them discuss this all) why not DO God’s work of love and justice and trust that those acts, and inquiries about your acts of love, will be the path to sharing the message of hope of your faith rather than thinking that God or Jesus needs you to run around laying out all the details to people who are not in need of more creeds, but are in fact, in need of deeds, particularly from privileged Americans whose privilege rests in large part on the structures set up by the U.S. military and economic hegemony. Just my thoughts. Now back to work. p.s. Afterthought here: I really don’t like the idea of going to other countries to bring people to Jesus at all. I don’t like the idea of Christians thinking that they have something better than what people already have. I guess my point is that if you have a strong passion to be in another country or culture to do works of love, and the people in that community happen to ask you about your faith, you share with them from an honest place, and those people happen to convert to Christianity, I see no harm in that. But when the idea is to go there so that people will accept Jesus and you do good things in order to show people “See, how cool Jesus and Christianity is?” I do not think this to be okay. My main point is that I am much more supportive of people who feel no need to convert others to their faith, but instead feel a strong need to love and do works of justice as a result of the faith that they hold. I’m going to stop now. I could go on but I won’t. Hope this is clear enough.

Killing the Buddha Does It Again: Jam for the Lamb, Rock for the Flock

August 24, 2006

As I may have mentioned before, and certainly for those who know me, I am not a laugher. I am not against it of course, it just takes a lot to make me really laugh. Like spontaneously. But the article God and Guitars at Killing the Buddha just cracked me up. The author is writing about a Christian rock concert he was at as a 15 year old…

Beside us, a middle-aged man wearing a moustache, a leather jacket, and a green mohawk shouted, “Rock for the Flock!” He raised his fist. “Jam for the Lamb!

Whoever picks the Christian articles for ktb HAS to have been involved in evangelical Christianity at one point or another. They just hit it right on the nose so often (one of my other favorite articles ever is Jesus and I Broke Up). So, now go read God and Guitars at Killing the Buddha.