How Conversations Kill

In group discussions on doctrinal differences, all too often group-think takes hold, and I despise where it usually goes. We’re usually either intrigued, engaged, and contemplative, or we’re defensive and accusatory. When the latter occurs, which is unfortunately often, these discussions become detrimental to the health of our community, and for two primary reasons: First, our language inaccurately reflects our thoughts. Second, our motivations are void of humility.

Let me give you an example: In one camp of Christians (Group A), biblical inspiration and inerrancy are established, indisputable facts. Most Christians are in Group A, so this group holds the most power to accuse and abuse. In one of many other camps (Group B), they accept divine inspiration, but reject inerrancy. Let’s say Group A learns of Group B’s beliefs and is thrown for a loop. In the ensuing discussions, Group A may ask, “How can they believe that?” One person may interpret this question as, “How is it logically possible to believe that?” But another may interpret it as, “How can people who claim to be Christians not trust the word of God?” See the dilemma? Continue reading “How Conversations Kill”


A Glimmer of Goodness: Lessons from Blatty’s Colonel Vlora

Dimiter by William Peter Blatty, 2010

I’m going to set aside the obvious connections to the biblical Paul that, well, pretty much set the foundation for this entire novel. Instead, let’s discuss the fictional character Vlora, and how the literary devices used in this book help us recognize the inherent goodness in the ugly other. I’m particularly addressing those Christians who believe lacking God = lacking goodness.

When evaluating the supposedly inherit evil-nature of a person, it is only just to consider the circumstances to which the person is subject, as it is these circumstances which foster a person’s psychological and moral development. According to the fictional version of Albert Einstein, “God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.” (Y’all that quote is totally a lie. Albie definitely never said that, but the idea is nice.)

Colonel Vlora, a man raised in and subjected to the paranoid, oppressive, and atheistic environment of mid-20th century Albania, cannot justly be considered an “evil” man. Just as when the sun is absent and darkness fills the night, we can still see glimmers of light from the stars, so too there is a glimmer of goodness in Vlora which is simply “out-shown” by the absence of God.  Continue reading “A Glimmer of Goodness: Lessons from Blatty’s Colonel Vlora”

“Earth’s Answer” to Blake’s Questions on Sexual Repression 

“Earth’s Answer” from Songs of Experience by William Blake, 1794Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience,_copy_Z,_1826_(Library_of_Congress)_object_31_Earth's_Answer

One thing known about William Blake is that his theological perspective distinctly opposed the common image of God during his time. However, he also held true to very strong religious beliefs. One may question and debate his precise religious beliefs and views on God, but there is one definite window through which Blake offers readers a chance to understand his image of God: his poetry.

In Songs of Experience, Blake indirectly refers to God in “Introduction” and “Earth’s Answer,” making God the subject of the majority of dialogue between the characters. However, this god that Blake describes is not meant to describe who he believes God actually is; it actually is meant to describe who the majority view God as. Blake believed that the common image of God was a tyrannical, oppressive god, that which did not accurately reflect God’s true character. In “Earth’s Answer,” Blake seeks to describe this inaccurate image of God in a manner by which his readers may begin to question their own image of God, perhaps changing it to what Blake believed was more accurate. That is, God did not intend for our sexual instincts, both desires and acts, to be something we repressed or kept secret, “chained in night.” Continue reading ““Earth’s Answer” to Blake’s Questions on Sexual Repression “

The Plight of the Purity Pledge

Comprehensive sex education and religious notions of “purity” are two topics about which I am very passionate. They both have the power to make or break a person’s relationship with sex, and I think we can all agree a healthy, positive relationship is preferred. However, I am entirely dismayed by the way the American Church has distorted teachings on sexuality, so I’m here today to hopefully inform you all about (and hopefully dismantle) why modern practices are so harmful.


Expectations and celebrations of virginity have been an aspect of many cultures for many years. However, a relatively new virginity-related trend has begun to shape the way the American Church approaches sexuality: purity pledges. Purity pledges (AKA virginity pledges, abstinence vows, etc.), in their simplest form, require signing a pledge promising to remain abstinent until marriage. Rituals, certificates, tokens, and family members often accompany them. Pledges may be taken in church, school, or even as a part of extravagant events known as purity balls.

First we saw a push for abstinence teaching in the late 1980s-early 1990s that culminated in the Adolescent Family Life Act, or the “ Chastity Act.” Then, in 1993, an organization called True Love Waits introduced the pledge, followed by the introduction of “purity rings” by The Silver Ring Thing in 1995. The popularity of purity pledges was growing quickly, and by this time, nearly 2.2 million adolescents had signed some form of virginity pledge. Then, in 1996, two events occurred that significantly informed current data and perceptions of the American Christian purity movement. The first of these was the implementation of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which promoted and established abstinence-only sex education in public schools. The second was the founding of Generations of Light, the first organization that used the father-daughter relationship as the key mediator of sexual purity. Since then, abstinence-only sex education programs, which often include purity pledges in the curriculum, have received over 1.3 billion in federal funding. These events marked the point at which abstinence practices spread exponentially in schools and churches, and a growing number of families became ritually involved in purity balls, popularized by Generations of Light. By 2008, nearly 23.8% of adolescents had taken some form of virginity pledge and purity balls reached an annual rate of approximately 4,700.

Unfortunately, pledges have proven an ineffective means of facilitating commitment to abstinent sexual behavior. However, they do have alarming unintended effects on many other aspects of adolescents’ sexuality. The overwhelming ubiquity of purity pledge culture thus requires careful consideration of the implications of these unintended effects. Issues with the practice include health risks, undermined autonomy and intrinsic motivation, perpetuation of patriarchal familial and relational structures, confusing and contradictory messages, and theological inaccuracies, particularly within the practice of father-daughter purity balls. Continue reading “The Plight of the Purity Pledge”

Death Has Personal Space Too

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, written by Leo Tolstoy, 1886.

102377-Leo-Tolstoy-Quote-Ivan-Ilych-s-life-had-been-most-simple-and-mostMuch of life is spent choosing between the outer, physical, material being and the inner, spiritual being. The nature of death serves as an intriguing dichotomy. From the physical perspective, death in and of itself is an unremarkable, inevitable event. Death is the epitome of conforming to the physical world, therefore confining oneself to the limitations of the physical body. However, death is also the pinnacle of relinquishing oneself from the physical and into the spiritual. While everyone must come to death, therefore everyone must ultimately be subject to the more powerful influence of the spiritual over the physical, everyone has the ability to resist spiritual transcendence, and it is in this choice of resisting the spiritual or resisting the physical that the nature of one’s dying process is defined. Tolstoy parallels this dichotomous competition between the two realms, as it pertains to Ivan Ilyich’s dying process, through his representation of time and space.
Continue reading “Death Has Personal Space Too”