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Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: September edition

Mostly this month I’ve been into Halloween. I cannot even express how unbelievably excited about Halloween I am this year. For the past half-dozen years I’ve daydreamed about throwing a wildly extravagant All Hallow Eve’s costume party, and this is the first year I’ve been in my own house and have the space to entertain, so I’m finally doing it. It’s all I’ve really been able to talk about much, other than seminary and the big projects I’ve been doing at work. I’ve even been crafting, which long-term friends and family will tell you is not something I usually do.

Anyway, if you’d like to share in my Halloween joy, here’s my Pinterest board. I’ve decided to go with a white-black-and-gold color scheme, and a “Fairy Queen’s Study” theme. I start beaming every time I think about it. My favorite thing so far: we had about 50 hardbound Left Behind books at work left over from the end of the craze, and I’m turning them all into sorcery and witchcraft “books.” I think this is the best possible use for them. I’m positively gleeful at the image of Tim LaHaye turning green at the thought of what I’m doing to his books.

Articles on Feminism

I’ve spent a significant amount of time talking about the fact that there isn’t some sort of clearly delineated line between “rape as a horrible crime” and “wonderful sex.” Women, because of a variety of factors, experience this as a spectrum. “The Problem with how Men Perceive Rape,” by Lux Alptraum, is an excellent breakdown of all that.

When Detectives Dismiss Rape Reports before Investigating Them” by Alex Campbell and Katie Baker is a well-reported resource for talking about that whole “rape victims are lying, look at all these ‘unfounded’ reports” conversation MRAs love to have.

Remember that Atlantic article a while back about how women “can’t have it all”? Turns out the author’s come around a bit.

The Hidden Conservatism of American Horror Storyby Laura Bogart helped put into words the reaction I had to AHS when I tried to watch an episode– and why I continued thinking “nope” every time I saw a trailer for a new season.

Articles on Race

If you didn’t hear about the “hot chicken” debacle in Nashville a little bit ago, “Race, Credit, and Hot Chicken” by Betsy Phillips explains how covert and institutionalized racism contributed to that whole mess.

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism” by Alana Massey is a deep look into the centuries-old Christian justification for chattel slavery and also why American Christian culture is so caught up in seeing capitalism as an innately Christian concept– and also explores why those two things are linked.

Books

Not a lot of time for fiction reading this month. I’ve mostly just been trying to keep my head above water with a heavier work schedule and finding my footing with seminary. The best book I’ve read so far for seminary has been Jewish Bioethics: Rabbinic Law and Theology in Their Social and Historical Contexts by Yechiel Barilan. It was fascinating to see how Jewish I’ve become in my thinking about faith, the Tanakh (Old Testament), and Jesus. This isn’t exactly shocking news– I’ve been prioritizing Jewish perspectives on the Old Testament in my research for a few years now, and I read The Jewish Annotated New Testament when I’m studying something there. I’ve also got Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus as a go-to resource, too. It’s not a revelation of any kind to say “Jesus was Jewish,” but I think we’ve lost that almost completely in a lot of ways. Anyway, if you’ve got the time to read a seminary-level text, Jewish Bioethics is an amazing book.

I did finish the Night Angel trilogy. It’s solidly good, although it becomes apparent by the last book that Brent Weeks, the author, is a Christian– characters start quoting the Bible, and the climax of the whole series embodies a crucifixion-style Atonement (although, bonus: the Christ Figure is a woman). I didn’t mind the Christian themes since they didn’t damage the writing or the narrative, but I will say I was plumb annoyed toward the end when purity culture reared its ugly head for no gosh darn reason. There’s also some heavy handed “men are ___” and “women are ____,” but the trilogy was enjoyable enough and the women characters well-rounded enough to let me shrug it off.

Whoever told me to check out Michelle Sagara, I have one of her books coming for me at the library, and I’ll let you know what I think.

TV and Movies

Still enjoying The Good Wife, although season five is hella tense. In order to break up some of that tension, I introduced Handsome to Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, which has actual-goddess Krysten Ritter. Also, Luke Cage released today, and that’s what we’re binge-watching this weekend. The creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, saying “the world is ready for a bulletproof black man” makes me want to cry. I can’t wait to see it.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was lovely and melancholy and sweet and funny, and I highly recommend it. I’ve also been raving about Ex Machina– the ending oh my god the ending. Sweet mother of God. I also enjoyed The Martian a lot more than I thought I was going to– I absolutely loathed Cast Away and I thought The Martian was basically going to be “Cast Away in Space.” It’s not. It’s hilarious. I cannot say enough good things about Spotlight and Concussion, either.

***

So what all have you been reading and watching?

Photo by Matthew Howarth
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Theology

book review: “Good Christian Sex” by Bromleigh McCleneghan

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for about three and a half years now, so I was a little surprised by how pleased I was when Harper asked if they could send me a copy of Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option–And Other Things the Bible Says about Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan. Somehow, that signaled to me that I’d “made it” as a blogger, even though I’m still (quite happily) pretty small-time. Anyway, here’s my honest review in exchange for a free copy of the book.

***

When I first crack open the spine of a book like Good Christian Sex, the first place I turn to is the bibliography. When I got this book about a month ago I glanced over the materials she referenced, and at first was a little wary. There were a lot of pop culture references, a blog post I’ve occasionally been frustrated with, a smattering of male theologians, and a feminist author who makes a case for abstinence that I thoroughly disagree with. Looking over the table of contents made me feel a touch cautious, as well: there’s a chapter on vulnerability and another on fidelity, two concepts I’ve seen go completely sideways in Christian-oriented books.

So I was hesitant as I started reading, but quickly felt my ambivalence evaporate. Basically, if you like the things I’ve written about and spoken about regarding sex, you’re probably going to love Good Christian Sex. I heartily– and almost unreservedly– give my endorsement, which I think has happened basically never.

Broadly, what I love about it the most is its basic assumption and over-arching structure, which are a wonderful harmony of form and function. I’ve argued here, many times, that all our daily choices will inevitably be the outworking of our theology. What we believe about God and their Nature will affect our choices. If you think they’re a malevolent bully with a long list of Thou Shalt Nots, your faith and life will be fear-driven and all that entails. If, like me and Bromleigh, you believe that God is Love … well, you’re going to have an incredibly different outlook.

I love that she fully embraces this outworking. It’s clear that she’s asked the question How does “God is Love” affect our view of sexual ethics? and this book is the result. Every chapter has this motion– from the general to the particular, from the theological principle to the application. I love writing that has clear organization and flow, and Good Christian Sex didn’t disappoint.

***

Each chapter deals with its own particular topic, but they build on each other– not something that always happens in these shorter non-fiction works. What I appreciated the most was that she doesn’t flinch away from the challenges any more typical evangelical question would make when encountering her title.

I don’t want to spoil it too much, but she addresses the assumptions of the Augustinian-Platonic view of the Flesh and Spirit, and why that dualistic treatment is problematic. I appreciated that she discussed pleasure holistically before talking about pleasure in any sexual context. For many Christians, pleasure in and of itself is suspect, and she deals with that fundamental idea before moving on to desire– another thing that Christians have a long history of demonizing.

Her third chapter lays out a holistic relational and sexual ethic (one that includes LGBTQ people!), and she even managed to include some ideas that pleasantly surprised and challenged me, which I didn’t expect. I’m going to gush a little, but this chapter is basically my “Consent is Not Enough” post more fully fleshed out and in someone else’s words. I also think anyone struggling with the nonsense in I Kissed Dating Goodbye should pay special attention to her chapters on vulnerability and “A Theology of Exes,” which is an excellent argument against purity culture’s particular fears and insecurities.

The chapter on fidelity that I was fearing might sour me on the book shockingly didn’t. For my friends and readers who are poly– there’s room in there for you, and it helped me to frame some of the reservations and questions I’ve been having in a new light. I think that chapter might be, by itself, why I’m so excited about this book. It’s a layperson-accessible, non-scholarly book, and I learned something. That hasn’t happened in … a while.

***

I’m very hopeful for Good Christian Sex‘s future. It’s already going on to my list of “books to recommend to questioning people,” and I think I’ll be buying a few copies just to have on hand in case I can convince someone to read it. I think this book could be a good way to start a conversation with someone, because it so thoroughly answers the base questions that an abstinence and purity-oriented person would have. It acknowledges all the different assumptions we might have, and oh-so-gently and graciously offers a completely different way of seeing relationships and sex, built on a different model they may not be used to. I’d already made the leap to structuring my relationships — sexual and otherwise– on a foundation of respect and consent, but this book can take someone by the hand and lightly guide them to new way of outworking their faith.

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Theology

a journey of unlearning

This is my first official paper for seminary. It’s for my hermenuetics class, answering the question “Who and what circumstances made me the kind of interpreter of religious texts that I am today?” A lot of this y’all have heard from me before, but I do mention a few concepts I haven’t talked about on the blog before, so if you have questions about anything I say here, feel free to ask– this was written for a man familiar with speech-act theory, after all. 🙂

***

When I was ten, my family moved to northwest Florida where we joined an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. For the next ten years we attend a church that began as unhealthy, turned toxic, and ultimately became a cult-like environment. Eventually I would attend a small fundamentalist school that was equally toxic and cult-like. Totalitarian control of our lives, especially our spiritual lives, became what I considered normal.

One of the best tools the “pastor” and the college administration used to control us was through our understanding of Scripture: what it is, how it functions, and how we are to understand it. I was taught that God preserved his Word for us, and that preserved word is the Bible, handed down to us through the “Received Texts” and translated for us into English in the Authorized Version. Not only did God preserve his Word in this manner, he also continually preserves it in our interpretations of it. Scripture will be foolish nonsense to the non-believer, but those who possess the Holy Spirit will be guided by God to a proper understanding of his Word. This is possible because of Inspiration and Inerrancy, and always results in believers comprehending the “plain meaning” of a text. We can read the Bible translated in English, devoid of any historical context or awareness of linguistic peculiarities, and arrive at a “correct” and “Spirit-led” understanding. In short, a person can rely on their status as a believer to justify any interpretation they make, for it is not really their interpretation at all.

After I graduated from college and my family had been excommunicated from our church, I finally had the opportunity to begin reassessing my framework for hermeneutics. That process began when I read God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson. Reading it was an illuminating experience, and I began questioning what I had been taught about “preservation.” I had been raised to revere the King James translators, and thought of them in the same terms as the Masoretes. I thought the 1611 translation had been a moment of divine intervention in history, a time when God brought the brightest minds of a generation together to accomplish his work on earth. Learning that the translators were just human, flawed men who politicked and lied, who were controlled by a monarch with political goals for his Bible, who sometimes misrepresented the words in order to create more beauty and poetry in English troubled me profoundly. I was forced to re-evaluate what it might mean for God to “preserve” his Word.

When I was in graduate school studying English, I was exposed to literary theory for the first time. The professor introduced us to a variety of approaches, from post-structuralism to phenomenology to psychoanalysis. One of the methods he taught us was how to “deconstruct” a text, and for homework asked us to deconstruct Genesis 3. I was confident that the Bible would be immune to deconstruction, and when I discovered the opposite I was devastated. Not only was it possible to deconstruct the Bible, it was easy. At first I did not know how to respond to this revelation, but after several years of processing my traumatic faith experiences, I felt comfortable interrogating concepts like Inerrancy and Inspiration and whether or not they should affect the act of interpretation.

Literary theory gave me the ability to understand what it means to interpret, and to be an interpreter. I confronted theories like “Death of the Author” and thought about what they might mean for the Bible. My professor provoked intense discussions about the location of the text, about meaning, about differánce and the relationship between the signifier and the signified. I began applying all those concepts to the Bible, and discovered anew beauty and value in it. Literary theory enabled me to divorce the Bible from the harmful teachings of my youth.

One of the events that helped me heal from my toxic religious upbringing was discovering feminism for myself. My background in the Quiverful and Biblical Patriarchy movements had taught me that feminism was anti-God and wholly evil, so when I encountered feminism as affirming, powerful, and truth-filled, it began unraveling my interpretations of many biblical passages. I rejected complementarianism, the doctrine that men have “headship” over women and began seeking alternate explanations for passages like Ephesians 5. This led me to Christian egalitarian circles, which seek to apply an abundance of historical context and analysis to texts, instead of relying on the “plain meaning” I had grown up with. I learned about things like the Greco-Roman Household Codes, the difference between history and myth, and appreciated the argument that the Bible cannot be separated from its historical time and place. For a while I felt invigorated, believing that the Bible could be a tool for liberation and not just the oppression I had experienced.

My feminist journey has been six years long at this point, and rather circuitous and wandering. For a long time I clung to Inspiration as a significant doctrine, although my application of it evolved for several years. My faith needed the Bible to be “of God” in a real—although ineffable—way. However, I recently came to the conclusion that whether or not Inspiration is “true” is irrelevant to how I approach interpretation. What is more important to me is an idea feminist theologians have termed a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” which sounds more ominous than it is. Before I began approaching the Bible this way, I was attempting to “re-interpret” passages to support my feminism. I was doing it with the best of intentions, but I now feel that some earnest egalitarian Christians might be allowing their needs to override an accurate rendering of the text. With a hermeneutic of suspicion, a biblical passage can be sexist, or even misogynistic, and I do not feel the need to argue with that. I approach biblical passages now with more acceptance and authenticity than I ever have before, because I no longer need those passages to “do” anything in particular.

In short, I learned to let the Bible be no more or less than what it actually is and to at least somewhat disconnect my theological system from it. I am a feminist Christian reading a Bible moored in cultures that included the oppression of women and other vulnerable minorities, and I believe it would be inaccurate to attempt to explain those oppressions away. I can believe that God is Love and the Bible is occasionally hateful without having a crisis of faith.

Photo by Loren Kerns
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Feminism

Redeeming Love Review: Non-consensual Marriage

Plot summary:

  • Michael gives in to “God,” goes back to Pair-a-Dice for Angel.
  • He discovers that she’s been beaten.
  • Marries her while she’s nearly unconscious and delirious.
  • Then he takes her back to the farm, where she recuperates.
  • Angel tries to learn how to cook and lay a fire, but fails.
  • She tries to seduce him, but he refuses.

***

I’m going to skip most of chapter six, which is mostly just Francine getting Michael back to Pair-a-Dice and the Palace to “get” Angel, where he finds her beaten and nearly unconscious. This firms up his belief that he’s been ordered by God to take her away, but he decides they have to get married before they leave town.

Right now I’m wondering why on earth Francine thinks they have to get married right then. The next few chapters reveals that he’s not intending to have sex with her until she’s not doing it as a “chore,” so there’s no motivation to marry her for that reason. Everyone knows she’s a prostitute, so it’s not to “protect her reputation” (like what frequently happens in other Christian romance novels). So why marry her right this instant, when it’s absolutely clear that she’s in no state to consent to being married and he knows that she wants nothing to do with him?

I don’t want to be so cynical to assume that Francine has these two get married at this point so that Angel is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t want, but there’s no other narrative reason I can see that makes sense. It’s possible she has them get married so that she doesn’t offend the delicate sensibilities of the modern conservative evangelical reader, but as far as story telling goes this is pretty horrible. It’s especially horrible considering the fact that laws of coverture where still in place. By marrying her, knowing that if she knew what was going on she never would have even said “why not?” (note there: she doesn’t say “yes,” and Michael is such an abominable monster where that is good enough for him), he now actually, literally, legally owns a woman he knows doesn’t want to be married to him.

And that’s how this whole situation starts.

There’s one significant issue being woven into these chapters that needs to be highlighted. At several points, Francine gives us something like this:

Angel couldn’t tell whether her sarcasm had gotten to him or not. It occurred to her belatedly that she might anger him and this wasn’t the best time to do so. She swallowed more soup and tried not to show her fear. (105)

and this:

What did he want from her? And why did she sense he was more dangerous than all the other men she had ever known? (110)

Angel’s backstory has made it clear that she’s experienced a lifetime of abuse, and people like me see Angel’s reactions to Michael’s every facial expression and vocal tone as hypervigilance, but frustratingly that’s not an interpretation we can take for granted in Redeeming Love. People like Francine aren’t entirely ignorant about what some of the consequences of abuse might be, it’s just that they look at something like hypervigilance and see bitterness instead. In this story, the reader “understands” that Michael is nothing like the abusive men Angel’s experienced. We’re supposed to take him at his word when he says he’ll never hurt her, that he loves her. Instead, we’re supposed to look at Angel’s mental commentary as a sign that she is bitter, and her own understanding of the situation isn’t to be trusted. She’s over-reacting.

The reality is that the opposite of this is true. In my experience, many Christians, especially those who ascribe to “nouthetic” or “biblical” counseling, take Francine’s point of view: trauma can result in bitterness, and that bitterness can poison a victim’s entire way of thinking … but they couldn’t be more wrong. In reality, victims are usually more capable of spotting abuse than people who haven’t been traumatized. Couple this over-writing of how victimhood is typically experienced with the fact that this section is called “Defiant” and she starts these chapters with quotations like “I am dying of thirst by the side of a fountain,” it’s clear that the reader is supposed to see Angel as stubborn, bitter, and inherently untrustworthy as a narrator.

What makes it worse is that Michael is doing things that are abusive.

“By the way. My name isn’t Mara. It’s Angel. …”
“The name Mara comes from the Bible,” he said, “It’s in the book of Ruth.”
“And being a Bible-reading man, you figure Angel is too good a name for me.”
“Good’s got nothing to do with it. Angel isn’t your real name.”
“Angel is who I am.”
His face hardened. “Angel was a prostitute in Pair-a-Dice, and she doesn’t exist anymore.” (105)

One of the first things an abuser has to do is erase their victim’s innate sense of personhood and their right to their own sense of self. They intentionally strip their victim of their own identity, and replace it with what they want their victim to be.

Then this happens:

“Look,” she said tightly, “I want to start getting up and about on my own. With something on.”
“I’ll provide what you need when you need it.”
“I need it now.” (113)

He does give her clothes to wear in this scene, but it’s brutally clear that he did it because he decided she needed them, not because she said she needed them. Another thing abusers have to do is make sure their victims are dependent on them. Sometimes this takes the form of financial abuse, sometimes they make their victims feel that they’re incapable and incompetent, but it’s all about making sure they can’t leave you. This particular scene is troubling because it’s one of the ones that connects Michael’s character to God’s: a common Christian concept is that God provides us exactly what we need when They decide we need it, and not a second earlier.

Oh, and then this:

Michael studied her with patience. She was small and weak but possesed and iron will. It shone from her defiant blue eyes and the rigid way she was holding herself. She thought she had enough to overcome him. She was wrong. He was doing God’s will, and he had plans of his own, plans that kept growing, but he had said all he was going to say for a while. Let her think on it.

“You’re right,” he said. “I don’t own you, but you’re not running away from this.”

He’s saying he doesn’t own her, but he does feel entitled to her. He explains his “plans” in a bit– additions to the house, watching their children grow up– but at this moment there’s something missing from his statement: she’s not running away because he won’t let her. If you’ve read Redeeming Love before, you know that the implied threat there is ultimately carried out.

This is what makes me say that Michael is an abuser: his overwhelming sense of entitlement. That is the single biggest problem that all abusers share. Universally, abusers feel entitled to their victim. They believe that they have the absolute right to marry a woman who’s been beaten into delirium and rename her and threaten her and tell her she’s going to have his kids while she is vocally objecting the entire time. Can you even picture a man who you barely know sitting across from you on a coffee date telling you that you’re going to marry him and have his children and oh, by the way, you keep saying you want to leave but I’m not going to let you?

The fact that Francine and a vast majority of the people who read Redeeming Love think that Michael is an excellent stand-in for God is detestable and horrifying.

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Theology

thoughts on my first week in seminary

I’ve spent the last week traveling– Mineeapolis, then Ann Arbor, then Lansing, back to Ann Arbor, and home again– and I had homework today, so no Redeeming Love review this week. I figured that instead I could let you all know what my first impressions of seminary are so far. First, a shout-out to Emmy Kegler who was a magnificent hostess for my stop in Minneapolis. I stayed in the attic of the most adorable bungalow ever, was cuddled by a floppy-eared cuteness puppy brigade named Gertrude and Hildegarde, and drank tea out of a Mario-themed mug. It was a good visit.

***

Very first thought on seeing campus: am I in the right place? This does not look … open. It has a creepy empty ghost-town vibe. This is due to the fact that a large part of United’s campus is dedicated prairie space, filled with native plants allowed to grow abundantly and unchecked. They also have bee hives on campus, and have beekeeping courses open to the community. It makes the front end of campus look abandoned, but it’s actually a pretty cool thing they’re doing.

Second thought: I’m not the oldest person here, not by a long-shot. I was mildly nervous that starting seminary at 29 would put me seven years ahead of most of the students; while there are many who just graduated with their bachelor’s, there were plenty of others my age or older. However, that did cause me to mistake a professor for a student, which caused a conversation she was probably too polite to indicate she didn’t exactly follow.

Leading to my third observation: the professors are incredibly engaged with the students. I’ve heard a lot of speeches about how the faculty are there to foster student growth and learning, but I think this might be the first place where I was actually convinced that was true.

Another thing I was nervous about was chapel. My experiences with college chapels thus far has been … well, they’ve largely been coercive and manipulative from start to finish. I knew I was in a progressive place, but I still felt anxious and uncertain. When I walked in and the entire seating area was blocked off by caution tape, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with that. The speaker used it as a metaphor for how seminary can be a “dangerous” space, and it felt downright odd for someone to use an image like that and mean something like “seminary can make you feel vulnerable and challenge beliefs you didn’t know you had” instead of “you’re going to be blasted and stomped on by THE SPIRIT OF CONVICTION.” He also used the phrase liminal space, and hearing something with mystical connotations to it used in a chapel context made my heart glow just a little bit.

I went to chapel twice, and we sang hymns and songs from all over the world. I wondered if singing a Bolivian hymn or singing in Arabic would make me feel out of place, but it didn’t. It was a really lovely reminder that my American culture isn’t the only way Christianity is experienced. There was even some dancing, and we played a few icebreaker games. It was the first time in three years when someone asked me “oh, what do you write about?” and I wasn’t nervous about answering them.

***

My hands-down favorite thing so far is the library, which I’m sure surprises exactly none of you. I’m used to general-interest libraries for counties or colleges, so a special-interest library like a seminary library is a completely new experience and I’m completely head over heels in love. I also didn’t realize how much I missed honest-to-goodness librarians. I was worried about having access to research materials since I’ll be doing almost all my work a thousand miles away– but he made it clear that if I need access to something I can get it. I can also check out books for the entire term, so I looked up all the projects and papers I’ll be doing this semester and checked out a lot of books and mailed them home to myself.

I spent the day carrying around a box full of books, and people would stop and ask why. As I explained about being a distance student and looking up all the project requirements the night before, at least three people made a Hermione comparison, which of course I didn’t mind a bit. I absolutely would have read Hogwarts: A History before I even got on the Express.

Because I’m so excited (and because they arrived today): here’s what I got:

  • The Hauerwas Reader edited by John Berkman and Michael Cartwright, because people quote Hauerwas and Nouwen all of the time and I figured I should at least be familiar with one of them.
  • Is Life Sacred? by Geoffrey Drutchas– there are a surprising number of texts on abortion written by men … or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
  • A Brief, Catholic Defense of Abortion by Daniel Dombrowski and Robert Deltete because the “Catholic” bit piqued my interest.
  • Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion by Beverly Harrison because it looked like the most comprehensive book the library had on the topic.
  • Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions by Daniel Maguire and I didn’t even look at the back cover because I’m doing a presentation on abortion for my Comparative Religious Bioethics course and taking this one home just seemed obvious.
  • Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender, and Politics by Marcella Althaus-Reid looks amazing because the first chapter is titled “Indecent proposals for women who like to do theology without using underwear” and it just gets better from there.
  • Introducing Feminist Theology edited by Anne Clifford. My feminist theological education has been piecemeal so far, and I’m taking steps to correct now that I can check out $100 books.
  • Feminism is for Everybody and All About Love by bell hooks because I’ve read some of her other work but not those two in their entirety which is pretty much a sin in my book.
  • Woman Invisible: A Personal Odyssey in Christian Feminism by Marga Buhrig because it seemed interesting.
  • Feminist Theology: A Reader edited by Ann Loades because it features basically everyone, including a few names I’ve only heard of and can’t find any of their work online.
  • Rape in Marriage by Diana Russell because I reference this book all of the time and I’ve only been able to read sections of it so far. This one isn’t for a class, but because of personal interest.
  • The Battered Woman by Lenore Walker, also because I reference it– at points, on an almost-daily basis. Lenore was the one who first articulated the “Cycle Theory,” arguing that abuse follows a Honeymoon-Escalation-Incident model.
  • Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home by James and Phyllis Alsdurf, because many of the books I’ve read have referenced this one, and because it’s exactly up my alley.
  • and, lastly, The Religious Context of Misogynous Relational Violence: An Ethnographic Study by Norine Roberts-Oppold because it’s basically perfect. It’s her dissertation, and I’m going to try to find her and let her know I’m reading it.

***

I’ve done a few homework assignments and have more homework to do this afternoon– but I think I might be able to manage two courses ok. I’m used to graduate classes involving more work than what these two have assigned, but we’ll see what the future holds. Two of the papers are even the length of a blog post, so that works out great for me!

Photo by OiMax
lamp
Theology

Christian kindness as gaslighting

I think that at this point it’s pretty obvious I’m a “liberal” or “progressive” Christian. I’m still not entirely sure what those terms might mean (does anybody?), but I’m excluded from a variety of Christian spaces because of my beliefs. Sometimes I think that’s weird, considering I still affirm the ancient creeds of the Christian faith so I feel that when it comes down to the brass tacks of it all there’s more we can agree on than stuff we’ve can’t, but I’m learning not to let it bother me.

I want to be a part of Christian community. I meet with other Christians every week to talk about living our faith and that meets an important spiritual need for me, but I also want to be involved in the wider religious context. As much as I find Christian culture alienating and as often as I criticize it, I’m not of the mind to abandon it– not entirely.

Because of that, I’ve spent the last few years interacting with Christians that … well, we tend not to agree. In the conversations I’ve been having for the past three years, I’ve noticed a few patterns. Almost all of these interactions happen online, so of course that’s a dynamic all its own, and means that my experiences might be less nuanced than in-person encounters would allow.

Conversation Type #1: Hostile

It’s not always obvious from the beginning of the conversation that it’s going to rapidly deteriorate into verbal abuse, but it frequently starts out argumentative. The people who want to argue come to me with many assumptions about my positions, or have clearly already decided what they think about my any argument I could make. I’m not treated as a reasonable person with a credible thought process from the outset, so there’s usually no point in engaging with this type of person. If I respond at all, it’s to point them in the direction of what I think is a good post on the subject and then block them if need be.

Example: a few weeks ago I had this interaction on my blog’s Facebook wall:

Jeff Fink: Can someone provide “FACTS” to go along with the accusations?
Me: There are plenty of sources cited in the article itself.
Jeff: Child rape? Death threat? Do you have police reports, court documents, something of that nature? Thanks for checking.
Me: Like I said, there are sources cited in the article.
Jeff: So Samantha are you a true benevolent Nortic creature of peace and truth? Or are you a reptilian of the forbidden fruit?

A reptilian of the forbidden fruit? I had a good laugh and moved on.

Conversation Type #2: Open

These are my absolute favorite, and I’ve had two good experiences with this type even just this week. Today, even. A friend of mine made a remark about finding Martin Freeman attractive, and someone she knows asked for clarification on sexual objectification and the difference between commenting on a man’s appearance vs. a woman’s. The conversation went well and everyone stayed civil and kind. I’ve gotten a few comments recently on this post that I think are wonderful– here and here.

I like questions that are genuinely asking for my thoughts. We may not come out on the other side agreeing, but I think it’s important that we do our best to understand each other. I try to have compassion and charity in my heart when I approach my comment section, although that’s not always possible for reasons that might not have anything to do with the comments themselves.

Conversation Type #3: “Nice”

This is the type that prompted this whole post. This type I am done having, and while Christians aren’t the only ones who do this sort of thing in general, it takes on a whole new color when it’s a Christian doing it. Last week, Katelyn Beaty, managing editor of Christianity Today, said something incredibly dismissive, and a few of us called her on it. She responded to us, and I and Emily and Elizabeth took some time to try to explain to her why what she said was wrong. I even wrote an entire post.

But all of her responses had something in them that I’ve seen hundreds of times over the past few years:

A “teachable spirit.”

Humility.

Graciousness.

All of it false.

***

In the aftermath of that conversation, a few of us who’d participated in it or watched it happen came to a realization: we were being triggered by it. It was deeply upsetting us even though Katelyn stayed perfectly cordial for the entire discussion. Conversations with someone who isn’t being ridiculous and awful don’t usually make you want to smash everything, but that one did.

That’s when we figured it out: this type of “Nice” conversation is a form of gaslighting. In that conversation, Katelyn was attempting to subvert our observations of the interaction. Her initial comment was awful, and given all our history, obviously demonstrates that she has not listened to people like me or Elizabeth when we’ve talked to her about it in the past. She took what we had to say and tossed it right out the window … but then had the audacity to claim that she “had no idea” that there was a connection between purity culture and rape culture, that she was “sorry if she was dismissive,” that she’d “love to hear more.”

She was responding specifically to #IKDGstories and #stillpurityculture– she had already heard “more,” she just didn’t give a flying fart in space.

That’s what makes this gaslighting. She was trying to pretend that what we knew as true– that she’d seen all of us sharing how I Kissed Dating Goodbye kept us in abusive relationships and all the rest– never happened, even though her own damn tweet showed she was well aware. But, instead of getting aggressive and angry like my rapist used to, she did it all with sugar and sweetness and using our first names like she was our friend. She expected us to treat her like she meant it, like she was being honest, even though we had all the proof in the world that she couldn’t care less.

I’m merely using Katelyn because she’s a conveniently recent example, but I’ve seen this same conversation style play out over and over again, and I’m so bloody tired of it happening.

I think things like being humble, patient, and engaged are considered virtues to most Christians– it’s part of how we’re supposed to “reach the lost” and all that. But instead of being humble, being teachable, they just put on a big show and slap some syrupy niceness on it. As long as they look justifiably “nice” to the people on their side of the fence, as long as they leave plenty of wiggle room in what they could have meant, it’s acceptable. When people like me say no, this is not ok, she– and those watching– get to act like our justified anger is an overreaction.

Photo by Nicola
girl jumping
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: August edition

So I’m heading out to seminary today, so no Redeeming Love review this week. Sorry that’s been inconsistent so far, but I’m hoping that after this I can be better about posting new segments on Mondays.

Articles on Feminism

In Defense of Villainesses” by Sarah Gailey is just positively brilliant. Also, if you’re a geek and not reading the Tor blog what are you even doing? I’ve read it a few times because I’ve loved it just that much. I read a review of Gone Girl a while ago that inspired similar feelings— her “we need women who breathe fire” still manages to induce chills.

This one also could go under “Politics,” but I think it fits better under “Feminism.” Written by Michelle Cottle, “The Era of ‘The Bitch’ is Coming” should help remind all of us that just like electing Obama didn’t end racism, if we elect Clinton it’s not going to be the end of sexism. In fact, if Obama’s presidency is anything to go by, misogyny is going to come out into the open in a way we haven’t seen in a while.

Articles on Theology

This will probably become a more dominant category now that I’m in seminary. My theology reading tends to come from books, not articles, but anything that I read that’s not behind a paywall I’ll try to share with y’all.

I read “God is not Great; God is Good” by Alexis Waggoner right after Handsome and I had an intense debate about that very topic during small group a few weeks ago. I’ll probably explore this concept more in seminary, but I’m definitely leaning toward a deistic/open theism view of God. As someone who spent her life suffering abuse, the idea that God takes an active hand in world events … bothers me.

So I talk a lot about how the Old Testament treats gender identity, and “Is God Transgender?” by Rabbi Mark Sameth is a good introduction to the concept, I think.

Someone I know is going to be participating in The Courage Conference, and I encourage all of you to look into it and push your pastors and church staffs into attending, even if all they can do is watch online.

I do my best, when I’m reading about racism, to focus on reading work by men and women of color. However, “How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism” by Richard Rohr was really good. If I can find an article on the same topic written by a person of color, I’ll share that one down the road.

Articles on Politics

The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way weirder” by Dylan Matthews was … interesting. I tend to cringe away from calling a white nationalist movement something bland and mild like “alt-right,” and I wish Clinton hadn’t used it. I understand why she didn’t, but this bandying around the bush just gives them credibility, in my opinion. However, like Dylan notes, it is more than just white supremacy.

I love meta analyses. When you really want to whip out some hard-hitting science, nothing beats a meta analysis. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s basically “a study of studies.” It looks over all the available, credible research on a given topic and tries to come to a more-firm conclusion than any of the independent studies could have arrived at on their own. “Parents have been spanking children for millennia. 50 years of scientific evidence said they were wrong” is primarily an interview with Elizabeth Gershoff, who compiled 75 studies and a combined data set of 161,000 children to say– as conclusively as possible– that spanking fucks everything up. To which I and every other spanking survivor say: no shit.

Books

I’ve been doing more movie-and-TV watching than book-reading this month, so I’ll just give you an update. I’m still reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong which continues to be fascinating. I’m also working through Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Revolution. This weekend I picked up Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, but I haven’t touched it at all yet. I also got Good Christian Sex to review next month, and will be interviewing the author, Bromleigh McCleneghan. I’m also going to be reading God’s Feminist Movement in the next few weeks for another review. None of that counts for seminary reading, though, so I’ll probably still be working on most of these for a little while.

For fiction reading I’m digging into Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy and so far I’m enjoying it. Been a while since I’ve read a book written by a man about men, so we’ll see how it goes. If he includes more women characters than Karen Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker set, I might cry. So far we’ve got one minor character who’s a girl, and another two tangential characters that are women that I’m not sure we’ll see again … which is already beating out Karen’s complete and utter lack of women background characters. She almost made up for it in the last book with two lead women characters … almost.

I read Beautiful Creatures last week and it was … well, I really liked how well the author included elements of the Southern Gothic. I grew up in the kind of rural Southern community that makes up the cultural setting, and I think the authors did it well. There were a few moments that would have been better if they’d really embraced the creep but overall I enjoyed the feel of the book. The main character was a little shit, though, so I wasn’t interested in continuing the series.

Books that I’m looking forward to reading when I’m not inundated by seminary:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik looks like it’s going to be brilliant. I was explaining the concept to Handsome, and I discovered that I know a shocking amount about the Napoleonic-era naval conflicts for how much I’m not interested in that. I’m also really fascinated by Last Song Before Night because of this article about her approach to worldbuilding. After a months-long search aided by r/tipofmytongue and r/fantasy– as well Peter Ahlstrom– I finally found the title for a book I’d been desperately wanting to read but couldn’t’ remember: The Paper Magician. Pretty sure I’m never going to forget the title of that book.

TV and Movies

Still watching Alias, still enjoying it– although, at this point, I’m really just watching it for Jack and in the hopes that Michael goes deliciously dark and murders his traitor double-agent wife. I discovered that there are two premises for this show: 1) everyone in it, with the exception of Jack Bristow, is actually a really fucking bad spy, and 2) everyone marries a Russian spy.

Discovery of the month: The Good Wife. I got into it because it aired between Elementary and Madam Secretary and I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch, so I’ve actually seen the last few episodes of the final season. Handsome was out of town on business last week, so I decided to download the first season to check it out and I am loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a show as much as this one in a while. Possibly since the first time I saw The West Wing. There’s a main character who’s a bi woman, and there have been a few times where I’ve squeed and started bouncing on the couch because yay. Although, to be honest, the fact that when Alicia asks her if she’s gay and her response is that she’s “private” I was a little bit meh about.

***

So what all have you been into?

Photo by Carmela Nava
baby feet
Feminism

personally pro-life, politically pro-choice

I’m about as pro-choice as it’s possible to be. I’m unflinchingly pro-choice, even. There are no ifs, ands, or buts  in my approach to abortion, no caveats, no disclaimers. I am completely opposed to “late-term” abortion bans, TRAP laws, and any other restrictions on a person’s ability to conduct their own medical affairs. I believe that abortion should be treated no differently from any other medical procedure: it is safe– far safer than childbirth— and it is private.

However, I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, this position is relatively recent– more recent, even, than where I was when I wrote the Ordeal of the Bitter Waters series over two years ago. My feminism is continuously evolving, and back when I wrote that series I was more uncomfortable with so-called “late-term” abortions than I am today. I’ve been evaluating and re-evaluating my stances on reproductive rights for almost eight years now, and I’ve arrived at a place that feels more drastic than a complete reversal should.

As an inexperienced and woefully uninformed young woman, I was fervently pro-life. I picketed clinics a handful of times; I canvassed neighborhoods trying to get TRAP laws put on my state’s ballot. I didn’t think there should be exceptions for rape and incest. Over time, however, circumstances forced me to confront what I believed about abortion, and I realized that my pro-life position was morally indefensible.

My theological and political background puts me in an interesting position, especially as I’ve been observing this election season– my first presidential election as a registered Democrat. My social media feeds are a sometimes-hilarious mix of extremes because some of my friends are Marxists, some are Libertarians, and at least two friends post almost nothing but pictures of guns. What’s becoming troubling to me is that we all seem to have forgotten the value– and governing necessity– of compromise, of embracing a spectrum of beliefs and positions in order to accomplish a good work.

I don’t think there’s anything that demonstrates how polarized we can be than abortion. This election season, it seems that tension has coalesced around Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine. He, like other Democratic men like Joe Biden, embrace a complicated position toward reproductive rights: personally opposed to abortion (a somewhat ridiculous position for a man to hold, I’ll admit), but still in support of abortion remaining legal and accessible.

This is where my perspective can seem a little bit wonky to some of my pro-choice friends and colleagues: I don’t have a problem with Clinton choosing Kaine as her running mate. He wasn’t who I was hoping for, but I think the reasoning for choosing him is logical and practical– two of the things I admire most about Clinton’s approach to politics.

I do have a problem with Kaine’s history. He supported abstinence-only education because he felt it would lower the abortion rate in Virginia, which flies in the face of common sense and well-established fact. He banned “partial birth” abortions, a ridiculous position that speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of medical procedures. He used state funds to support Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which use deceptive, manipulative, and unethical tactics. Even though he’s seemed to have evolved on these positions, I understand the hesitancy many of my pro-choice colleagues are feeling.

However, as fervently pro-choice as I am and as much as I will fight to protect our reproductive rights, I can support Kaine for vice president because he embodies one of my most valued positions:

I will work with anyone,  even someone who’s pro-life, to advance reproductive justice.

I am absolutely for what some call “abortion on demand.” I am vocally in support of bodily autonomy being seen as a fundamental right. However, I am troubled by certain unfortunate realities surrounding reproductive care in this country because I am pro-choice. The US has a much higher abortion rate than many other developed nations, and I think that’s indicative of larger problems.

For example, for teenage girls who gave birth by fifteen, 39% of their partners were older than twenty. For girls who gave birth by seventeen, 53% of their partners were older than 20. There’s some nuance there, of course, but that research indicates that up to half of all teenage pregnancies are a result of rape. That, to me, highlights the gross and horrifying failure in sex education. The abstinence-only “purity” approach leaves people, especially girls, vulnerable to violence and abuse.

In a survey from 2004, a huge number of the people who responded— 73%– said they’d had abortions because they couldn’t afford to have a baby. There’s other reasons to have an abortion, obviously, but when three quarters of the people having an abortion cite their finances as the most important reason they needed an abortion, it means that there’s a definite lack of choice involved in their decision. That’s unfortunate, and upsetting. Abortion should be available without limits– you shouldn’t have to prove you have a “good enough” reason– but if they would have preferred to keep their pregnancy but can’t afford to, that’s a problem.

There are so many avenues to provide real choices. Reducing child care costs. Making reliable contraception widely available. Offering comprehensive education on reproductive health and consensual sex. All of those things are proven in reducing the abortion rate (as well as just being good ideas on their own), and this abortion-on-demand feminist thinks that’s an important enough goal that I’ll even work with Tim Kaine to ensure that people are free to make a true, unbounded, personal choice.

I don’t need ideological purity in the people I work with. I don’t need to agree with you on everything to try to get something accomplished. I don’t like litmus tests, and I abhor movements that are unwilling to bend in order to get the work done. If you’re personally pro-life, but think that decision is a personal one best left to a person and their doctor, we can shake on it.

If you’d like to know more about these pro-choice positions, I recommend Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement by Sarah Erdreich.

Photo by Toshiyuki
michael austin red dress
Feminism

Redeeming Love review: Introducing Michael

Plot summary:

  • Michael sees Angel, God audibly speaks to him and says “This one, beloved.” (53)
  • He buys half an hour with her that night and proposes.
  • She refuses. She continues to refuse, over the next week, quite emphatically.
  • Michael argues with God, leaves town.
  • Angel decides she’s done working for Duchess, demands her wages.
  • Duchess has her beaten. Angel wants Bret Magowan to kill her, provokes him.

***

I’ve been reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong for a little bit. In the second chapter, she’s explaining the different ways the prophets described their deity, and I want to share what she says about Hosea:

It was only with hindsight that it seemed to Hosea that his marriage had been inspired by God. The loss of his wife had been a shattering experience, which gave Hosea an insight into the way Yahweh must feel when his people deserted him and went whoring after deities like Baal. At first Hosea was tempted to denounce Gomer and have nothing more to do with her: indeed, the law stipulated that a man must divorce an unfaithful wife. But Hosea still loved Gomer, and eventually he went after her and bought her back from her new master. He saw his own desire to win Gomer back as a sign that Yahweh was willing to give Israel another chance. …

Hosea saw Yahweh as a jilted husband, who still continued to feel a yearning tenderness for his wife. (48)

There’s a lot more there, and the surrounding argument about how the prophets were anthropomorphizing God is fascinating, but I wanted to highlight that section because it’s important to me to remember that the American evangelical way of interpreting the Bible is far from the only way, or the “right” way. We’ll see Francine’s acceptance of their interpretation of Hosea pop up for the first time here, and I would like us to spend time separating what conservatives say about Hosea and what Hosea might actually have to say for himself.

It’s ok to find Hosea’s story troubling. You can’t remove the man from his culture, and his account is an excellent example of this. However, I do think it’s both possible and necessary for us to wrestle with the parts of the Bible that make us uncomfortable, especially when that discomfort is a sign of conscience.

When Michael finds out who Angel is, he “felt as though he had been kicked low and hard” (so, in the balls), and then says to God “Lord? Did I misunderstand? I must’ve. This can’t be the one” (54). Francine is projecting modern Christian attitudes about prostitutes back onto an 1850s man, because as I’ve mentioned before that wouldn’t have been a big deal at the time. However, it’s important that Michael be repulsed by the ideal of marrying a “soiled dove” for theological reasons: according to the common conservative presentation of Hosea, women like Gomer/Angel/Nation of Israel are disgusting. They’re disgusting like all born sinners are disgusting, really, but Francine really wants to nail the message home through using Michael to voice her whorephobia.

However, if we looked at Hosea with an alternate lens, we could reject the whorephobia in the narrative– which, honestly, is only one chapter out of a fourteen-chapter-long oracle– and look for the compassion that’s woven into the rest of the text. A lot of the anger Hosea feels is directed toward the “Johns” of the ancient world– the people who exploit and oppress and abuse. After he buys Gomer back there’s no brimstone directed toward her or their children. The story conveys a sense of justice– the people who were abused and neglected will be restored.

But, that emphasis on compassion is not theologically relevant to Francine. The typical evangelical desire is to convince everyone that we’re disgusting sinners in need of God, and that’s what Francine needs Angel to understand– that she’s a disgusting whore in need of Michael’s saving grace. Francine beats us over the head again and again with all the times that Angel has “failed” at saving herself through these chapters until she ultimately gives up and decides to provoke Bret into beating her to death (93).

The biggest problem with Francine’s characterization of Michael– and therefore Hosea, ergo God themself– is that ignoring consent is an essential facet of both Micheal and God’s character. At the end of Michael’s opening scene, there’s this line: “But he knew he was going to marry that girl anyway” (56). There’s no if she’ll have me anywhere– not there, not in the next three chapters. At one point God tells him to “Go back and get Angel.” Get her. Not “try to convince her again, I’ll soften her heart for you this time.” None of that, nothing resembling consent. Just abduction.

What Angel wants is irrelevant to both God and Michael. What she wants to be called (64). That she doesn’t want to leave (67). He tells her that she “doesn’t know anything about” him (67) and rejects her stereotypes of “men,” but then makes a stereotypical assumption about her (that he “wants what you don’t even know you have to give”) and it’s not a problem for him to override her own sense of personhood (68). Her life choices “became my business the minute I saw you” (77). When God orders him to abduct her, and he refuses, it’s not because abduction would be wrong, or that he doesn’t want to do something to Angel that she doesn’t want, it’s because “The last think I want or need is a woman who doesn’t feel a thing” (80).

***

All through these two chapters, Francine is painting a deliberate picture of Angel’s resistance. This section of the book is called Defiance, and it’s supposed to parallel an evangelical narrative about conversion: God draws people to him that don’t understand that they need him. They want to stay in their sin (the Palace), they don’t want to accept help or a way out that they didn’t make themselves (marry Michael).

Angel is being stubborn. Michael has given her plenty of opportunities to show her that he’s actually a decent human being. Speaking of, the fact that Francine thinks that Angel could tell at this point that Michael is “not like” (sarcasm quotes there) Duke, or Johnny, or Bret … it’s disturbing. All Michael has done at this point is be an arrogant, irritating man with a frightening temper (76-78), but the subtext to all of Angel’s thoughts is “why don’t I want to accept his help?” which she wonders openly at several points. The answer: again, she’s a disgusting sinner who doesn’t know she needs God/Michael.

A few last notes: there’s some horrific fatphobia here, with Francine describing Duchess using terms like “rolls of flesh,” “puffy cheeks,” a comment about a second chin, and then calling all of that “obscene” right before Duchess orders Bret to beat Angel (89). Yaaaaay. Also, she’s a terrible writer. She freely flouts the old “show, don’t tell” rule, and switches being narrators sometimes in the same sentence. There’s no definite point of view– it’s not a true third-person narrator, and we’re jumping in and out of people’s heads, getting the inner thoughts of basically every character, not just Angel and Hosea.

Bonus prediction: Francine’s going to take Old Testament passages that refer specifically to Israel and apply them directly to Michael and America, the Christian Nation.

firework
Uncategorized

Announcements!

Y’all might have noticed that over the past few months I’ve made the occasional reference to applying for seminary. I first thought about the idea I think almost two years ago now, and spent a lot of time researching options. I tried to apply to a few places, but kept bumping into a few roadblocks– namely, the fact that my undergraduate degree is unaccredited. Most of the seminaries I wanted to apply at wouldn’t even consider me. Some that would, like Calvin or Fuller, where just … a little too conservative.

But, in January I found out about United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities when I was at the Gay Christian Network conference. I explained my situation to the spokesperson there, and he gave me the Director of Admission’s number directly so I could talk about it with him. Our phone conversation was promising– he understood where I was coming from, and he said I could apply without worrying that my lack-of-an-accredited-degree would affect me.

Well, last week, I was admitted!

Starting September 1st, I will be a student again. It’s exciting and terrifying, but I’m happy and grateful. I’m looking at course lists and the like, and seeing possible course offerings such as Comparative Religious Bioethics is tickling me silly. I’ll be pursuing the Social Transformation concentration, and I think it’s going to be fantastic. I’m not sure what my course load is going to look like over the next few years– I think I’m going to start out with two courses at a time and see what happens.

There’s also another thing being added to my plate: for the next few months my workload at the bookstore is basically doubling. Not to unmanageable levels, and overall I’m happy about it, but between seminary, managing a bookstore, dealing with all the travel I’ll be doing, and trying to make sure my fibromyalgia doesn’t wipe me out, the one thing that’s going to have to give  is the blog.

I’m going to keep up the Redeeming Love review– I’ll have a post up today, in fact– and I might write a few posts when I can, but the schedule is probably going to be a little bit inconsistent until I figure out what life is going to be like and my schedule returns to normal at the bookstore. It’s possible the papers I’ll be writing for seminary classes can be recycled into blog posts– let me know if you’d be interested in seeing those!

Anyway, I’m very excited to be stepping into this new chapter. Hopefully it’s a good one.

Photo by Funca