The Elephant I Can No Longer Ignore 

flag-1184117

Today I want to write on a topic that I am embarrassed to say I have never addressed in this space before. I think that there are a lot of Christians – Evangelical or otherwise, who don’t know what to do about the LGBTQ+ conversation, which has become the elephant in the church. So many times I have heard people whom I respect tremendously side step the issue by saying things like, “I’m just not called to that issue” or “My ministry is just really focused on XYZ right now” or “I don’t want to close ministry doors by speaking on something I don’t know much about.”

We reduce our brothers and sisters to an “issue” or a “lifestyle choice”. I’m not talking about your alt-right, Westboro Baptist Church types either. I’m talking about people that are near and dear to my heart who love Jesus and fight for equality in the church but who are strangely silent on this particular demographic. Even in our politics or current events we can somewhat acknowledge in a rather roundabout way “Oh what a shame.” when we here of another report of LGBTQ+ violence. Some are even bold enough to admit (usually behind closed doors) that it doesn’t seem right that same sex couples don’t have the same legal advantages that straight, married people do, although we aren’t quite sure if it’s okay to be okay with same sex marriage, and are definitely not bold enough to say something about it. It usually ends with a fleeting moment of sympathy and then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

It’s as if we have taken the places of the Pharisees, trying desperately to reason among ourselves, what are we going to do about all these LGBTQ+ people? They have turned our theology upside down and are really causing a ruckus! And instead of setting a place at the table to have a conversation or even humbly admit,

“I don’t know where you are at or what you are going through, but I want to.”

we either don’t acknowledge them or quickly turn to blanket statements that offer little more than a facade of superficial Christian love. And you know what?

I’m guilty too.

2016 was a year that revealed some dark places in my heart. It has always been my nature to seek harmony with my fellow man and see equality and justice in the church and in the world. However, how many times have I sought a cause where I wasn’t the one who could stand to benefit? The 2016 election cycle made me see that it wasn’t until I was a single, pregnant mom that I could truly empathize with women who find themselves at the door of Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t until I was a single parent working and in school full time with an infant, struggling to put food on the table that I could empathize with those “welfare moms” seeking government assistance. It wasn’t until I found out my child was autistic that I truly cared about advocating for the disabled. It wasn’t until I married a DACA recipient that I truly cared about immigration issues and reform.

There is power in simply giving a damn. The sad thing is that most of the time, the only person we care to give a damn about is ourselves. 

So how did I get here? Me! The one who cares deeply about social justice and equality, but who is practically privileged in every way? Why should this white, straight, cisgendered millennial, ever give a second thought to LGBTQ+ issues, let alone acknowledge that these are Christian issues too?

To quote retired Bishop Gene Robinson,

I’m one of those sappy religious folks who actually believes in the Holy Spirit.

It’s true.
I believe with all that I am that the Holy Spirit orchestrated what happened next.
And it all started with this shirt.
Sort of.

I got a new shirt!

A post shared by Matthias Roberts (@matthiasroberts) on

To this day, I don’t even remember how I came across this picture, but I am sure glad that I did. Honestly, I probably never would have clicked on his website if it wasn’t for the fact that his name is Matthias, the same as my sweet 5 year old. At first glance I wasn’t really sure what I thought about “LGBT Christianity”, but there was this magnetism – this joy in his writing that let my guard down and piqued my interest.


For some time before this, I was in a season of studying the bible to see what it had to say about Egalitarian theology, specifically regarding what it had to say about gender equality in the church. If you are a Christian woman in the church with a fire in your belly and a mission in your heart, you are likely to be met with resistance in the form of what are commonly referred to as the “difficult passages” that Complementarians use to justify silencing women in the church. Knowing the heart of Jesus, yet wanting to be true to His word, I took to looking at the historical-cultural context of said passages and held fast to my Christian Feminist leanings.

As passionate as I am about Feminism, I can’t help but notice the double standard when Christian Feminists feel slighted when Complementarians condescendingly state “the bible clearly says” in regards to the difficult passages that are used against women from preaching, teaching, leading in the home and in the church, but who will use that same sentiment towards the “clobber passages” that are used as weapons against the LGBTQ+ community. But hey, I let it lie. Most of the Christian community was silent on this issue, why not me? 


And that’s when this delightful thorn in my side came along and wrecked everything. It took less than 140 characters to offend me out of laziness and into conviction, prayer, and study. I couldn’t sweep it under the rug now. I was that “straight, well meaning Christian” who was sympathetic enough to feel sorrow at the plight of LGBTQ+ people but wasn’t quite sure where I stood or what the practical steps were to even begin to think about entering this world, let alone what I could do to help – if I even should.

But really, see the entire thread ^.

Now let’s shift gears for a moment for a flashback sequence to 2009. At this point I had just started my second year of bible college and was of the mind that I was going to end up in Vermont in some sort of ministry capacity. And what was Vermont known for in 2009? The Marriage Equality Act, a bill that allowed Vermont to recognize same sex marriage for the first time. I immediately started trying to figure out how to reach these troubled souls with the gospel. As a part of my “research” I rented the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So which features (now) retired Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop to be consecrated by the Episcopal Church.  I was literally sitting there trying to come up with a strategy for how one goes about proselytizing to “those people”. I was so blinded by my narrow, unstudied view on what the bible says about homosexuality that although I was moved, grieved even, by the tragedy and divide in this film, I was nonetheless convinced that they were wrong and I was right.

Ride’s over. Back to 2017.

So I began to seek out LGBTQ+ voices and just listen with an open heart and mind for probably the first time in my life. I didn’t engage too much, in fear that my apathy would show. I had heard about the Gay Christian Network when I read Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans last year, but never really looked into it. It’s practically an accident that I ended up stumbling across the link to access the livestream for the GCN conference on the first night of the conference. I wasn’t sure if this was for me, but I was ready to listen and learn.

I was nervous thinking about how complicated my theology was about to get if it turned out that Jesus was okay with all of this, but I couldn’t deny that God was there. And I couldn’t push Him away or ignore the elephant in the church this time. Love kept drawing me in. 

In July, my family walked away from the Evangelical Church for a trial separation after seeing that the justice and equality of Jesus didn’t seem compatible within the rigid framework of the Evangelical machine. It’s been a sabbatical of sorts, finding Jesus in unexpected places and truly examining why we believe what we believe (Thanks Scot McKnight). So you can imagine my jaw hitting the floor when it turned out that Gene Robinson was a keynote speaker – whose story I first heard 8 years prior, when I was trying to systematically forge a plan of action to reach “the homosexuals”. It turned out “those people” ended up reaching me. After almost 6 months, I finally “had church”. And it turned out that the ones that I marginalized for so long were my people.

After that conference was over, I felt a fire inside of my bones like I had not felt since I began my journey studying Egalitarianism as it relates to women in the church. I finally felt alive, like for the first time I was giving a damn about something that was not serving my own interests. I felt completely consumed by love as if the weight of apathy was melting right off of me. The regrets I have of slighting the LGBTQ+ people in my life in the past are many. Humility has come back for me in 2017. I choose to move forward with the resolve that I don’t want to one day say with regret, “It wasn’t until my son or daughter came out that I started giving a damn about LGBTQ+ people and issues.” I choose today. I choose now. You can set people free with the sound of your voice (or the signs from your hands). In the words of Ling Lam,

“Every time you speak up you are chipping away at the conspiracy of silence.”

Apathy, be damned.
It’s time to let love in.

♥ MM


For further reading, see:

http://www.thekevingarcia.com/resources/
http://matthiasroberts.com/resource-list/
https://www.gaychristian.net/
https://gcnconf.com/
http://www.reformationproject.org/resources
http://www.faithfullylgbt.com/

The Cost of Living Free

self reflection (4) by Idhren, on Flickr
self reflection (4)” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Idhren

I like to step into every new year with a specific focus in mind. This year my theme was “Live Free”. Truth be told, I would have to say that from 2014 – 2015 I have spent much of my “public life” walking on eggshells and being hyper-vigilant about things I say or do as not to offend. Maybe this is the INFJ in me, because I really do care so deeply about the feelings of others, almost to a fault.

However, I felt like I reached the point where I wasn’t being true to myself and would constantly censor myself when I would feel that my questions or musings started going ever so slightly against the grain. Every time I would silence myself when I would see injustices peeking in (specifically revolving around gender equality in the church) I would die a little more inside.

No more.

2016 was going to be the year that I was going to be bold, not for the sake of making waves or causing disunity, but because I could no longer be silent. There was a primal rage deep within me that had been stirring for some time now. A holy fury at the indifference that slowly began to become evident all around me, like a fog that wouldn’t lift. Suddenly I began to identify with Guy Montag’s exasperation to apathy.

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I started to realize that there was something rotten in the state of Evangelical Land and resistance was not welcome. And it was not welcomed with a smile, a membership card, and a volunteer sign up sheet. Where is the conversation in all of this? I wanted so badly to sit down and “reason together”. This time I couldn’t let something so central to not only my faith, but my humanity be reduced to some uncomfortable crumbs to be swept under the complementarian  rug.

My year of living free has not been this cathartic release of suddenly being able to show the world who I really am. Living free is choosing to stand up for what is right when it would have been so much easier to let it be and look the other way.

To live free is to love, but not join arms with those who staunchly oppose full equality in the church and the world. Walking away from a community that I loved, but could no longer link arms with was hard, but looking in the mirror was harder still.

One of the most difficult things I faced this year were all the ways that I have hindered others from living free. It’s a cold, hard stare in the mirror to realize that the bondage you are running away from was once your own finger pointing at someone else. There are so many times that I wanted to dig my head in the sand as I began to recount the faces of so many friendships lost because of my own close-minded, all or nothing approach to what I thought was speaking “truth in love” in the name of Jesus.

The disaster of this election season was the microscope that revealed that the person I used to be reflected a hollow, counterfeit Jesus who cared about the outcasts of this world in word, but not in deed. I found myself wondering how I could go so many years being apathetic about issues that are so close to God’s heart. In a way I feel this election cycle has been a litmus test of sorts for the Evangelical Church, in which many feel their days of living free are numbered.

Living free wrecks everything. It will cost you pride, bondage, being right, and it might even cost you your religion. I suspect that living free doesn’t look the same for everyone. For me, living free meant that the Evangelical Church and I had to have a trial separation because I just couldn’t find Jesus anymore. When you can finally see that it is for freedom that you have been set free, you never want to be the source of that bondage for anyone ever again. When you taste that freedom for yourself you don’t know how to live any other way.

♥ MM

 

 

How to Love When Thy Neighbor is Thy Enemy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Love Thy Neighbor…” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Orignaux Moose

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, it has been a rough transition amid the post election day air. Tensions are high and yet the season is calling to us that “it is better to give than to receive” and “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  How do we navigate season’s greetings when so many are still dressing the wounds of trauma and fear? Lately “love thy neighbor” seems synonymous with “love thy enemy”. It seems simple enough to love your neighbor, but your enemy? Not only to love them in a passive I’m-a-Christian-so-love-is-kinda-my-thing-way, but to love them the way that we are supposed to love ourselves, the way Christ loves us. That’s radical.

I don’t have any easy answers, but something happened to me recently that caused my heart to feel “strangely warmed”, to quote John Wesley. On Saturday I was met at my front door with some volunteers from the local Southern Baptist Church. They showed up to bring me some food for Thanksgiving. Mind you,  I didn’t sign up to receive it, they merely coordinated with my child’s school to donate food to their neighbors because “they can”. Out of their abundance they wanted to bless their neighbors. No strings attached. No one asked how much our household income was or if we were worthy of what they were offering. I wasn’t expecting much. I thought maybe a few canned goods, maybe a plate of classic Thanksgiving staples, enough for our family of three.

Nope.

I was overwhelmed. They brought us not three plates, but three large boxes of food including the 13 pound turkey that we prepared today for our family. I kept thinking we really don’t even need this. Surely there are families out there that are more in need of this than we are. Why us? I was just so undone by this unexpected, but appreciated blessing. Here I was in the hallway of my apartment, holding hands in prayer with these Southern Baptists, who statistically probably did vote opposite us and all I could feel was the love of Christ radiate from them. This was the closest thing to a comforting word that I had received since the election. Even if they were unaware of how it was being received, even if they wouldn’t have wanted to send that message, I grabbed the moment and I held on tight. 

I wasn’t physically in need of these groceries, but my spirit was desperate for an act of love from the Evangelical church. In the wake of the election results, my family felt like our world was turned upside down. We felt betrayed in a sense by some of our friends and family, not because they didn’t vote for our candidate, but because of the overwhelming apathy in response to the trauma and anxiety we have been facing since.

Radio Silence.

Moving forward, we must resist injustice on all fronts, stand for what is right, not waver on speaking the truth, shine light in dark places, and peacefully protest, but we need not withhold love while doing all of the above. I never thought that days before Thanksgiving I would be holding hands with a couple of Baptists that just decided that they wanted to spread some holiday cheer. Honestly, I don’t really know how to love when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy, but I think it looks something like this.

♥ MM

Sylvia Plath’s Post Election Day Advice

6140667236_58ea3c5e2b_o.jpg
Powells – The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath” (CC BY 2.0) by Photos by Mavis

On November 9th about half of the country woke up absolutely heartbroken about the results of the 2016 presidential election. I stayed up and watched in disbelief as I saw state after state get called in favor of Donald Trump. The outcome of this election crushed me and made many people like myself feel less safe. I cycled between sobbing and rage until I felt cold and empty. Then I turned to Twitter. And the first thing I saw was this tweet that totally resonated with me.

Oh Twitter.
Oh Sylvia.

For a moment I felt like I could breathe and let myself just be in silence for a bit. I started thinking about what other musings, advice, or lament that my dear Sylvia might have for me. As I lay ugly crying in my bed, I remembered this gem.

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I took her up on it.
I washed the snot from my face.
I was still a wreck, but I at least had a moment of repose.

“Let’s face it: I’m scared, scared and frozen. First, I guess I’m afraid for myself… the old primitive urge for survival. It’s getting so I live every moment with terrible intensity. It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain… remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The responses that I have seen from the right towards people on the left that minimize the trauma and grief felt by so many families that may be saying goodbye and parting ways upon Trump’s first days in office jarred me. Can’t we reason together? If you want to justify your vote for Trump, is there room enough to also justify the safety of your neighbor? How about some understanding?

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t want you to tell me that my future will be ok, while endorsing a man who promises that it won’t.

“I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say “fine”.
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Let me yell.
Let me vent.
Let me cry.
Let me seethe.

Build a wall? Will you be my wall, neighbor? A soundboard that I can bounce my pain off of, in hopes of having a shred of solace bounce back to me? Just a little understanding, is all.

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

In all of this, please do not confuse my passion for hatred. I love you neighbor, but I will not censor myself to show my love. Understand that it’s not that I am hopeless, it’s just that now I hope less. I do not wish for doom. I don’t want to “let it burn”. I know you want to make America great “again”, but I think that people like you and people like me and people that don’t look or talk or think or pray like either of us are what make us great. And more than anything…

Please, I want so badly for the good things to happen.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

♥ MM

16 Songs to Get You Through Election Day

photo-1420161900862-9a86fa1f5c79

A few weeks ago I was driving to the grocery store and listening to Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory album in the car. “With You” came on and I started cracking up because a line from the song reminded me of something Hillary Clinton had said early on in her campaign and has repeated since. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton getting inspiration for her campaign by jamming out to Linkin Park? Hilarious. So I started thinking about other songs that remind me of various moments in this unbelievable election season.

Well, it’s almost over folks. The anger. The passion. The name calling. The awkward family gatherings. The Fear. Let’s hope we can put most of these to bed by tomorrow night. For now I leave you with 16 songs – dedications if you will –  to the 2016 presidential candidates.  I hope, even if for a moment, you can laugh instead of cry on Election Day.

Hillary Clinton

26661084206_62c0b992a8_o

Bernie Sanders

25196039674_66387db7f4_o.jpgBernie Sanders” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

29496467614_705445fafb_o       “Donald Trump” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore
Brilliant list of songs to Trump here.

Ted Cruz

8571613486_2192245db0_o.jpgTed Cruz” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Ben Carson

16398673351_6018d2cd64_o-1Ben Carson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Marco Rubio

24612452556_acfffb202f_o.jpgMarco Rubio” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

John Kasich

23990066154_35515b0a00_o.jpgJohn Kasich” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Jill Stein

25619634422_5c366af3d8_o.jpgJill Stein” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Gary Johnson

6287558589_ebf033bef6_o
Gary Johnson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

What songs would you add to the list? Comment below!

♥ MM

Why I Can’t Afford to be a One Issue Voter

flag

To say that this election season has been ungraceful would be a gross understatement. It’s been a doozy. For me it’s been a mirror of sorts, and a mortifying one at that. Those who have known me for a long time would look at the comparison of me 5 years ago and now they would say, “What happened?” I can identify with this explanation.

You see, I too used to be a evangelical one issue voter, that one issue being abortion (although the “sanctity of marriage” is a close second). So I can identify with the reactionary righteous indignation at any platform or candidate that hints otherwise from my conservative friends. I see you. I was you. I have spent more then half of my life aligning myself with and participating in pro-life activism on the evangelical front.

I could afford to be a one issue voter. I was young, white, and privileged. I had barely started living my adult life and I was sheltered from how cruel life can be. Never did I contemplate to what detriment such tunnel vision could have for those outside my particular demographic. After all, what greater cause is there than life? What more vulnerable life than an unborn baby? It just made sense. I was able to read between the lines of “vote your conscience” and “choose life” to understand that the Christian churches and school I attended believed that republican = good and democrat = bad.

I didn’t make a 180 turn around in my political leanings in an instant. It was a gradual “How could I have been so very selfish? How could I not see?” However, it didn’t come without shame. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even vote in the 2012 election because I was so nervous about what the outcome of voting blue would mean in my various professional and social circles at the time. It has been a sobering journey to come to grips that I no longer fit the mold of that conservative evangelical  ideal.

The unique thing about the 2016 election is that with our candidates, this isn’t even a question of who the moral candidate is, because frankly there isn’t one. What we do have is one candidate who is qualified to be president and one who is not.

Could it be that this tunnel vision on abortion is actually contributing to more abortions and not less? When confronted with facts, would the far right rather have a “pro-life” candidate that is tough on legislation while having higher abortion rates or a candidate that believes in a woman’s right to choose with lower abortion rates? The evidence seems to suggest that the numbers of abortions go down under democratic leadership. In fact, the abortion rate has dropped by 13% under the Obama administration.

It is easy to jump in wholeheartedly to one issue politics when many of the other issues don’t directly affect you. As a young conservative I never would have thought twice about social programs, race relations, disabled rights, or immigration (just to name a few). I regret to say that I was so absorbed in my evangelical circle of being in the world and not of the world that I didn’t see how considering a narrow focus to be a virtue could hurt my fellow human beings nationally and around the world.

I took some punches from the real world that shook up my political foundation. All of a sudden, I could no longer minimize the challenges that single mothers face to a simple point of rhetoric. I was living it. Gaining friendships with undocumented people and eventually marrying one forced me to take a hard look at how cold the stance on the right is on immigration. I could no longer feign detachment even if I wanted to, in respect to the real issues  undocumented people face. I held my breath when my husband (then boyfriend) was detained by border patrol merely on racial profiling. There was no cause to hold him and he was in the final stages of obtaining his DACA  certification.

When my son was diagnosed with Autism, the stigmatizing cure culture rhetoric of the GOP could no longer do for us. When the Clinton campaign recently put this ad out it was a painful reminder that it took me having a disabled child to start truly giving a damn about this issue with my vote.

In fact, if you look at Donald Trump’s website there is not one single mention of any type of plan to benefit disabled people. If you can find one, I would gladly edit this post.

This mirror, this 2016 election season has been a tough one for me to look through. Maybe I was more self-centered than most one issue voters, but it is clear to me that the danger of such tunnel vision is not worth the risk of continuing in this vein. When I was a one issue voter, I clung so tightly to my ideals, even to the point of cutting people out of my life that would dare take a counter stance to what I thought a good Conservative Christian girl should believe. Ironically I am finally empathizing with the frustration that my liberal friends must have had at my inability to see how I was so completely missing the point even though my intentions were pure.

In the midst of the chaos I see a lot of discussion cautioning that we should be careful not to lose friends over politics. Generally I would agree with that. It is absolutely possible to see the worth, value, and potential of people who don’t agree with me politically, but when clinging to the narrow scope of one issue politics means that you are okay with racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, one must ask themselves, “Is this a healthy friendship to have?”

Even today I am restoring relationships that I destroyed because of my close-mindedness. I am humbled that they would be interested after what damage my intolerance had wrought. As for this election, I am a different kind of one issue voter entirely.

♥ MM