Not the Same Thing

Rejecting commonly held, even centuries old, interpretations of scripture is not the same thing as rejecting scripture.

Opposing the current state of the/a church is not the same thing as opposing the Body of Christ.

Rejecting politicized theology is not the same thing as rejecting Truth.

Distrusting certain church leaders is not the same thing as distrusting spiritual appointment.

Encouraging honest questions is not the same thing as encouraging unfaithfulness.

Welcoming righteous challenges to the status quo is not the same thing as welcoming dissension.

People will always make these types of inaccurate characterizations and accusations. If you aren’t surrounded by a body of honest, supportive, rational, and humble believers, then all of these pursuits can feel extremely isolating. However, if pursued in the context of healthy relationships and with pure intentions to seek God and Truth, they can be very edifying and releasing.

For a long time I felt trapped by a community of people who attacked my character any time I dared to do any of the above. Now that I’m free, I hope to be encouragement to anyone who finds themselves where I once was.

Don’t give up. Not on God, not on yourself, not even on the people who accuse and hurt you. But especially don’t give up on your questions. God loves the honest seeker. You are not alone. I’ve been there, and so have many others much wiser than me. Hopefully, in time, you will find the healthy family that encourages your questions through love, guidance, and accountability. You will find your freedom in Truth, just as Christ intended for you.

Godspeed, peeps.

Tears for Tiers

If you’re like me, you have a hard time keeping your thoughts to yourself…or simple…or short…or remotely uncontroversial…

If you’re like me, you’ve had painful experiences with others using them against you, twisting them, making false accusations…

And, if you’re like me, you’ve noticed these people often spew anger, hurtful accusations, and condemnations due to differences that really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. For instance, a friend was told he’s going to hell because he’s a theistic evolutionist. Not only is that hurtful and divisive, it also doesn’t make any darn sense. Bottom line: most differences just do not warrant the strong emotional responses they are often given, and I’m. So. Over. It. Continue reading “Tears for Tiers”

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”

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.

Background

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”

Performance, Entrapment, & Princesses in Father-Daughter Purity Balls

PPPThis image, taken by photographer David Magnusson, was captured at a father-daughter purity ball in the US. It’s beautiful photography, but the subject…well, it’s creepy, right? Makes you feel kinda uncomfortable. This image is only the half of it. Father-daughter purity balls are rife with tensions and an eeriness that is difficult to describe…

Emergence of the Father-Daughter Purity Ball

The existence of purity culture as an independent arena of ethical formation, religious teaching, and spiritual testing is nothing new to the American evangelical church. However, the shift to purity-focused events as a sight of public spiritual and behavioral commitment to abstinence occurred only a few short decades ago, in 1993, with the founding of True Love Waits, an organization promoting abstinence education and dedication. With the founding of this organization arose an entirely new method of promoting purity in the form of pledges. Continue reading “Performance, Entrapment, & Princesses in Father-Daughter Purity Balls”