Browsing Tag



The Parable of the Good Samaritan, revised

[content note: violence, racism, transphobia, misogyny]

There was once a young black man, traveling alone. It had been a long, hot, grueling day and he was eager to be home. As the hour grew late he decided to take a shortcut home through a neighborhood. There, he saw a group of men armed with clubs and guns, and he felt his heart begin to race. He told himself to stay calm, to look respectful. It didn’t do any good. He saw them start to run toward him– he put his arms in the air, but when they didn’t stop, he threw himself on the ground and prayed.

No one answered his prayer as they viciously beat him. No one came when he felt his bones begin to snap. Finally, they left him alone, in the middle of the road, and spread tape around his prone, dying body.


He could hear voices as people began to gather, could hear them over the pounding in his ears as his heart struggled to beat.

“He does have a wide nose. You can see it, plain as day.”

“Probably stole those skittles, anyway.”

“I heard he stands on the corner and sells cigarettes.”

“Actually, I heard it was CDs.”

He could feel their stares. He could feel it when they crossed to the other side of the street to pass by him.


There was once a trans woman trying to move through her day without attracting any attention. She hadn’t eaten anything, or had anything to drink, since she’d left her house that morning but it had been long enough where that didn’t matter. She had to stop at the grocery store, there wasn’t anything left to cook for her family that night, but her bladder was about to burst. She stared at the door to the ladies room, nervous but trying not to be. Finally, taking a breath and bracing herself, she slipped into the bathroom and hurried into the closest stall, heedless to how clean it was or if the toilet was clogged.

She didn’t notice the man watching her enter the bathroom. Didn’t see his hands clench into fists, or rage spark in his eyes.

Exiting the stall, she kept her eyes down and her body as small as she could make it. As she reached for the towel to dry her hands, an arm stopped her. Terrified, her stomach dropping into her feet, she met his eyes in the mirror. It was the last thing she saw before he started beating her.

Minutes later, she realized she was on the floor. Everything hurt, but she could hear voices.

“I tried to tell you about those predators.”

“It’s so sick. Gender confusion is ruining our culture.”

“Pervert. Rapist.”

What hurt even worse was the silence as they left her behind, bleeding and broken.


There was once a woman at a college party. It was the biggest kegger of the year, and she was out to enjoy the night with her friends– the last night she’d probably get to spend with most of them. After this it was graduation and job searching and moving away and adulthood. She didn’t want to think about it. Tonight she wanted to be carefree one last time.

She spent the night on the dance floor, had a couple drinks. After a few hours she settled onto a couch between two of her friends, but wanted one more beer before calling it a night. As she was about to get up to get it, one of her best friends offered to get it for her. Grateful, since she was tired from dancing and her shoes were killing her, she handed him her cup.

A little while later, she started feeling awful. Maybe three had been too much– but that didn’t seem right. She didn’t normally get this drunk off just three beers. Dizzy and sick, she turned to her best friend and asked him to take her home.

She doesn’t remember anything after that when she wakes up. Nauseated, she can taste bile. Slowly she realizes she’s freezing. Her dress is torn to pieces and with a horrified shock she realizes her panties are gone. What in the world happened to me? Opening her eyes, she nearly shrieks at the cockroach on the ground next to her face. Why am I behind a dumpster?

That’s when she hears the voices.

Slut. Whore.”

“He has such a bright future ahead of him.”

“Did you hear he was a swimmer?”

“Wait. Isn’t he on the football team?”

“At any rate, she shouldn’t have been drinking. What did she expect would happen?”

Each word is a knife in her heart. The sound that sinks the deepest, into her bones, is the sound of them leaving.


But the people who we see as a Samaritan– Syrian refugees. The #BlackLivesMatter movement. Gay Pride. Trans men and women.– the people we despise, the people who make us uncomfortable, who disrupt our otherwise “pleasant society” … as they travel, they come to where the black man lies in the road, where the trans woman is crumpled up in a bathroom, where a woman lies torn and bleeding behind a dumpster, and their hearts are stirred to compassion.

They bandage their wounds, they offer their help. They give them shelter, a space to heal and to be safe.

Jesus turns to us and asks “Which of these was a neighbor?”

The expert in the law, a man who has dozens of Bible verses at his fingertips, who goes to church every Sunday, who tithes from every paycheck and serves in the bus ministry, replies: “The ones who had mercy, who were kind.”

With a prayer that we will finally, finally, understand, Jesus whispers “Go and do thou likewise.”

Artwork by Jan Wignants
Social Issues

my sin is not just my own: systemic injustice and communal repentance

I didn’t understand repentance until I became a liberal.

I’d been raised a Christian, had heard sermons calling for me to repent of my sin every other week, but until I’d abandoned conservatism I never grasped the grotesque beauty and compelling horror of true repentance.

As a child and teenager I thought of repentance in strictly personal, and individual, terms– and mostly in the context of that first salvific event when I was eleven. I’d been really sorry for my sin, for all the times I’d gotten mad at my sister or disobeyed my parents, and that was that, honestly. Oh, I’d continue to be haunted for all the other sins I’d commit for the next fifteen years, but it was all so self-centered. There was some obligatory guilt about hurting people’s feelings, of course, but any time I “repented” it was to assure myself I wasn’t going to burn in hell because Jesus had already forgiven me, or I was trying to make sure I woudln’t be struck down when I took communion.

I viewed sin and repentance this way because individualism is at the heart of conservative evangelicalism. They have a personal relationship with Jesus, not a silly communal religion. They believe in personal responsibility. They eschew concepts like “it takes a village” and– where I grew up– heaped disdain on other cultures that prioritized community over the needs of the individual. This bleeds into the political of course, birthing ideas like “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and “the self-made man.”

This is one of the ways I believe that evangelicalism is culturally American more than it is culturally Christian. My country is thoroughly saturated by the notion that we individually contribute to societies, that we have individual rights and freedoms. Conversely, most of us believe to our core that things like racism, misogyny, and homophobia are individual problems. If someone cracks a racist joke, no one needs to bother correcting him, because being racist is his problem, not theirs.

Which is why I didn’t truly understand what repentance means until I became a liberal and started reading things by people like Audre Lorde and bell hooks. When I encountered “without justice there can be no love” and “without community there is no liberation,” it finally clicked. I am a member of a system. That system is built on white supremacy and misogyny, and it’s not self-perpetuating. It’s continued by us communally, subconsciously, unconsciously, and actively participating in it. It’s the water we swim in.

It’s hard fighting this current. But every moment when we’re not fighting it, when we let that joke or comment slide, or when we hold onto our purses just a little bit tighter, or when we frown in disapproval at the “urban” teenager … we embrace the whole abusive system that keeps us all in place. For many of us, that system is capable of giving us power when we capitulate to it. I could embrace ageism and start babbling about those entitled millennials who don’t have a decent work ethic– I’d be amply rewarded for it with articles in GQ. I could write long screeds against feminism and be hailed a hero on Return of the Kings. I could start lecturing on complementarianism and be welcomed by John Piper with open arms. I could send out a racist tweet and get “FINALLY someone says it” from a few hundred people.

That is what we have to repent of. We must “turn from evil, and turn to do good.” We must repent of our lust for power, control, stability, and earthly rewards. And, we must do it together. I can fight against systemic injustice individually– as we all should– but one voice crying in the wilderness can only accomplish so much.

All through the Old Testament the prophets called for Israel and Judah– as nations— to repent. The prophets profoundly understood something we’ve lost. They knew that while there are a few righteous men scattered about the countryside, sin is a matter of culture as much as it is a matter of the heart. Greed lives in the bellies of all of us, as does the desire to feel like we earned the power and position we have, that we have a right to it. The prophets knew better, and tried to tell us so. And Paul tried to tell us again:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts …

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus … For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do …

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

~from Ephesians 2 and 6

But, I think, that communal repentance might be too much for many of our churches. I could not even begin to imagine the pastor of my last traditional church leading us in a congregation-wide confession of our sins. We built and sustain the beast together, but saying the words:

“We confess the sin of racism and the hatred toward people of color we have created”


“We repent of the violence against women we have caused with our words, beliefs, and inaction”

… seems incomprehensible for any of the churches I’ve attended.

It shouldn’t be that way. Confession is good for the soul, and it shouldn’t be limited to a private accountability partner. Forgive us, for we have sinned should be a principle part of each service, and it should be accompanied by the public commitment to turn away from evil and toward doing good.

Artwork by Dani Kelley (<– pssst, you can buy today’s header on a shirt!)
Social Issues, Theology

the pitfalls of the middle ground

I’ve been hesitant to write about this particular issue because it is, in part, a response to the church I attended with my partner for almost two years. What I’m going to write about today is the single biggest reason why we left that church, and one of the more frustrating things I’ve experienced in other Christian communities since. I haven’t wanted to write about this because I still value my relationships with people who attend, serve, and lead at this church, but I now believe this is a significant, wide-spread problem worth addressing.

First, some background.

I’d been attending for a long time when Handsome suggested that we go to the “Getting to Know Us” session held after the later Sunday service. Most churches have something like it– a way for new people to ask questions and get a feel for the beliefs and mission of the congregation. I wasn’t really keen on going– I felt that I was already familiar with what they’d present, and plus, we were friends with elders and pastors so if I had a question I could just ask them.

Eventually, though, we went, and a woman asked the person directing the session– one of the senior pastors– what their stance was on women in leadership. I perked up, because I wasn’t really sure myself, even though I’d been attending for a while. The pastor responded that women could serve as junior pastors (read: youth pastor, children’s pastor) and fill any other serving or staff position, but they could not be an executive/senior pastor or an elder. When she asked him why, his response was that forbidding women from being an elder or pastor was the “biblical” position, but that the leadership had decided to “take the middle ground” on other leadership positions.

I was grinding my teeth for the rest of the day. When I confronted another elder about what he’d said, the elder explained that the pastor should not have said that his opinion was “biblical,” and that taking a strong stance on anything was anathema to the vision of the church. They worked hard at creating an “open” atmosphere where disagreement is “welcomed,” that the elders did their best to guide the church by the motto “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

For a while, this was a position I liked. I was heartily sick of churches proclaiming that they’d discovered the One and Only Correct Theology and Way of Living, so being at this church was like a breath of fresh air.

Except, after two years, it became increasingly obvious that this church was not actually open and disagreement was not actually welcomed. Gay people were brutally condemned from the pulpit like clockwork every year, women who’d had sex were called “dirty shoes” and “used toothbrushes,” the pastor made jokes about abusing week-old infants, and complementarian messages about marriage and leadership were intrinsically endorsed (a woman could “speak” but they always said something about being “spiritually covered,” all the marriage sermons were complementarian, and the married small groups all used Captivating/Wild at Heart or other, similar books).

Anytime I raised a concern about one of these things, the same exact thing happened: the leadership would circle the wagons, defend their positions and protect the pastor from any criticism whatsoever. On one occasion, after the pastor had victim-blamed abused women for the third week in a row, my partner confronted him after the service. The pastor’s response: that “real attenders would know what he meant.” To my partner, who had served on the Sound Team, the Pit Crew, and as small group leader for three fucking years. He’d be at church at 5 or 6 am every single Sunday, and yet was not considered a “real attender” by this man.

We tried to stick it out for another six months after these problems really started rankling us, but it became crystal clear that the staff was not interested in feedback or criticism. We tried to convince various pastors and elders that their “non-position” on women in leadership was actually a position, but they didn’t take us seriously. They were invested in their “middle groundand that was that.

A year after we left, this came through my news feed:

A pastor friend of mine asked a question: do churches that become LGBT affirming see growth in numbers or decline in numbers? As a church planter and someone reading about being affirming this is important to him.

I was instantly seeing red, and suddenly, something crystallized for me.

The “middle ground” is a way for people who don’t really want to admit to being sexist or homophobic bigots to look and feel like they’re really Nice Christians™. The church we attended didn’t want to admit that their position is misogynistic, and they used “Third Way” and “Middle Ground” as a cover-up. This pastor friend-of-a-friend wasn’t genuinely interested in being affirming to LGBT people– he just wanted a popular, well-attended church and somehow sate his conscience while making bigots feel right at home.

See, this is what happens when you try to inhabit a supposed “middle ground,” when you try not to “take a position” on something that fucking matters like whether or not you’re anti-woman or anti-LGBT. Don’t want to take a position on exactly what is going on during Communion– sure, fine, whatever. Don’t want to get dogmatic about what exactly Revelation means? Have at it.

Think you can just skirt around patriarchy and homophobia? Not going to happen.

At the church we left, by “compromising” on women in leadership, the flashing-neon-sign of a message they’re sending their congregation is that being misogynistic is an acceptable position that can be supported by Scripture. By embracing a false “middle ground,” they are implicitly endorsing a view of the Bible that subjugates women while simultaneously telling us that women are not important enough to fight for– or even take a damn stance for.

This pastor fellow, if he decided to keep his mouth shut on being affirming (if, indeed, he actually is), is sending the same message: your homophobia and bigotry is welcome here. We will not confront your hate. Our “numbers” and “attendance” are more important to us than LGBT people.

Currently, this is also the reason why Handsome and I are not attending a traditional church (we do have our small group every week). The best I could absolutely hope for in this area is the local ELCA church where the pastor swears up and down that he’s affirming, but when I asked him what he’d do if a fellow congregant said something hateful to my face, he said “nothing.”

The “middle ground” is nothing more but a retreat into fear. It’s the concession that something else is more important to you than defending oppressed and marginalized people.

Photo by Ian Sane

a #meninist sums up my childhood in the Biblical Patriarchy movement

[content note for descriptions of physical abuse, extreme misogyny]

If you haven’t heard of the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, you should definitely check it out. Most of the time I don’t have the stomach to pick through the misogynistic underbelly of the internet, but they do all of that for me, putting it in one somewhat-more-manageable post, broken up with entertaining commentary.

I read their “Furious about Furiosa” post, which gathered together the collective outrage of MRAs who are upset about Mad Max: Fury Road. I grew up adoring the post-apocolyptic campiness that were films like Waterworld and Mad Max, so I’ve been keeping track of Fury Road, although I’ll probably just rent it when it comes out. Something that intrigued me was that the producers asked Eve Ensler (who created the Vagina Monlogues) to consult, and she worked with them to make sure the themes and characterization were handled appropriately.

I was laughing, shaking my head at all the vitriolic nonsense, until I got to this:

The only way back is to begin punishing ambition in our daughters and in all female children. They need to be physicall­­y and psychologically disciplined to be servile and deferential and they unfortunately need to have it beaten into them that they should NEVER trust their own judgement and always seek guidance and permission of their male headships.

My daughter would be turned out with nothing but a shirt on her back if she so much as looked at a college website or played with her brother’s educational toys.

She would be belted to the point of being unable to sit if she exhibited confidence in decision making.

I don’t want my wife to step foot out of the house unless her every dime and minute spent can be accounted for and executed in conjuncture with my approval. My daughter will exude obedience and timidity for whoever her future husband is and it’s imperative that all Christian Men demand nothing less within their own homes. Playtime for feminazis and the left is over. This is our world and our heritage to protect. Let the cultural war begin!

I do in fact implement this in my own home and practice what I preach vehemently. I have a daughter and sons and they are being raised to know that they are unequivocally different and 100% not equal. My wife is from a highly devout family and she was cowed long ago into obedience by her powerful, alpha father. I kinda won the life lottery.

That was posted by user “TS77RP1” on the Return of the Kings forum, one of the MRA/red pill hubs, and something you should only google if you are feeling extremely mentally and emotionally prepared.

I couldn’t laugh at that because … that was what I was taught. Oh, TS77RP1 is being for more bluntly and explicitly honest about what the people in the biblical patriarchy/Quiverful/Stay-at-Home-Daughters movements want to accomplish, but that’s all. He’s just being honest. He’s not trying to cloak what people like Michael Farris (of HSLDA and Parental Rights) and Doug Phillips (of now-defunct Vision Forum) teach under a fog of “but the husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the church.” The velvet glove came off at this particular forum, but this is the end game.

You hand this over to John Piper and Wayne Grudem and Douglas Wilson and they’d be appalled, horrified, and repulsed; there would be much arm-waving over how they’re nothing like TS77RP1. Except… they teach the subordination of women and the headship of men based on nothing except sex. They might not resort to “belting” their daughters, but they do tell wives to stay in abusive marriages. They do tell women to submit to husbands who aren’t loving them “biblically.” They do say that men “conquer” their wives.

Currently I’m researching a project that compares the beliefs and justifications of abusers to the beliefs and justifications of complementarians … and the more I dig, the more horrified I become. There’s more than just the occasional overlap– the justifications for complementarianism and the rationalizations of abusers are the same.

TS77RP1 just said it out loud.

Photo by Amy McTigue

The Prophecy of Amos, Revised

Note: what appears in this post isn’t intended to be a translation– it’s a reaction to the words of Amos as I read them in English in the NIV, ESV, King James, and the Message. It’s an interpretation based on trying to find modern meaning and truth in an ancient text. Also, I am aware of the problems of taking passages that apply to ancient Israel and forcing them onto modern-day America.


Amos 2 : 6-8

This is what God says:

For your sins I will not turn back my wrath.
You sell the innocent for middle-class comfort and
ignore the needs of our immigrants for tomatoes you don’t want to pick.
You climb your corporate ladders on the backs of minorities
And claim that Ferguson and Baltimore “isn’t about race.”

Father and son sexualize and objectify every woman they see
Taught by a culture that says “no means yes and yes means anal
And so you profane my holy name.
You go to church wearing clothes made by sweat shop workers
And drink coffee grown and picked by enslaved children.

Amos 3 : 9-10

Assemble yourselves in the mountains of Afganistan
See the great unrest and the oppression that your interventions have caused.
You gave them weapons to help you,
but then you turned on them and destroyed their government.
You do not know how to do right.
You store up in your bases and forts and air stations all the military might that
Going to war and “preserving our foreign interests” have given you.

Amos 5 : 21-27

I hate, I despise your Passion Conferences
I cannot stand your church services.
Even though you gather the offering every Sunday
I will not accept it.
Though you have “fellowship hour” before Sunday school,
I will have no regard for it.
Away with the noise of Casting Crowns and Third Day!
I will not listen to the music of your electric guitars.

But let justice roll on like the river,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!

Did you bring me your offerings
Ever since the Great Awakening?
You have lifted up the Shrine of your Constitution
The Pedestal of the American Flag
You say the pledge to the Christian Flag–
All of which you have made for yourselves.

Therefore I will make the Almighty Dollar less than the Euro
And destroy the industrial-military-congressional complex
says the Lord, whose name is God.

Amos 6 : 3-7

Go to Canada and look at it;
go from there and to Great Britain
Compare: how many women die in childbirth there?
How many rapists are punished?
You ignore the evils justified by “national security”
And terrorize Pakistan with UAVs and bombs.

You assemble your Ikea furniture
and lounge on Ethan Allen
You dine on lambs shipped from New Zealand
And feast on veal and filet mignon.

Your hipsters strum away on their guitars
And you Christian-ize “Take me to Church” and “Hallelujah.”
And wear T-shirts that parody Facebook and Coca-Cola for your pride.
Your youth groups chug gallons of milk for a contest
And you teach girls to obsess over “modest is hottest.”

But you do not grieve over the black and brown children gunned down by police
And their sisters, handcuffed, who have to watch them die.
Therefore you will go into exile: your lock-ins and potlucks will end.

Amos 9 : 11-15

When I end all of this,
I will restore the communities destroyed by urban programs and gentrification
I will repair the decayed walls of those who live in assisted housing.
I will build it as it should have always been
So that the poor, marginalized, and oppressed can be given what was stolen
Stolen by slave owners and plantations and white privilege.

The days are coming
When corrupt farming conglomerates are overtaken by the migrant workers
And CEOs by the burger-flippers.

New wine will drip from the mountains
And flow from the hills
And I will bring my black and brown and LGBTQ children the justice I require.
They will be given the opportunities cishet white men have always had
They will earn a living wage.

I will plant them in their own land,
Never again to be uprooted.

Says the Lord your God.

Artwork by John Jude Palancar

can video games turn us into misogynists?

For most of my life I didn’t consider myself a “gamer,” mostly because I had an incredibly narrow understanding of what a gamer could be. I was usually more interested in books and film than I was in video games, so I didn’t think I was “allowed” to describe myself as a gamer. Over time I changed my mind.

That happened in graduate school, and the first time I self-identified as a gamer a bunch of boys tried to laugh me out of the room. Mockery, derision, dismissal … I was an English major, a book nerd– and they were being extremely honest when they said that I was “too pretty.”

For weeks I tried to establish my cred– that I’d grown up with the TurboGrafx-16, the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64, Gamecube, Playstation 2, and Wii. That I’d played Doom and Warcraft. I can still cycle through all the different responses you’d get by clicking on an orc grunt and the StarCraft Terran medic (“where does it hurt?” still makes me giggle). I still cry when I think about Kerrigan (and I played through that mission so many times before I figured out that it was rigged). My family hosted Unreal: Tournament LAN parties. I can hum the theme songs from Sonic the Hedgehog. Diddy Kong Racing and Star Wars Episode I: Racer are still my all-time favorite games, and I downloaded an N64 simulator just to play them. That guy who proposed to his girlfriend at a Con by cosplaying Link and Zelda and then saying “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this” while offering her a ring makes me sob like a baby.

In high school I played EverQuest, Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies— I even played Lord of the Rings Online from beta and all the way through grad school. I love all of the Fable and Assasin’s Creed games and I’ve played through Portal a half-dozen times. Currently, I’m saving up money to get Bioshock Infinite.

It was extremely frustrating to have all of that dismissed like it didn’t matter. I was a girl, and that’s all they could see, so they did everything they could to ignore me. Had I played every single Halo? No, only 3? Not a real gamer. Had I ever played Call of Duty? No? Not a real gamer. It was endless. I eventually realized I didn’t have to prove myself to them and I walked away, but it still irks me at times that those dumbasses were so smug and arrogant and they still think that I couldn’t possibly be a gamer because I was a girl.

So, yeah: video games and sexism? In every single encounter I’ve had with “gamers,” they go hand-in-hand.

Which is why I’ve been paying some attention to #GamerGate. Anita Sarkeesian is one of my all-time favorite people and YouTubers, so she’s how I found out about it, and I’ve been keeping up with it since about early September. If you’re not familiar with it, this post is a good synopsis. I also really loved this video, which covers the base assumptions of #GamerGate.

There’s already posts and articles and forum threads and twitter conversations aplenty covering what’s wrong with this “movement for journalist integrity” (coughbullshitcough), but there’s one argument I’ve seen pop up quite a bit, and I want to address it: video games cannot make players be misogynists.

This is not an argument unique to #GamerGate– I’ve already heard it a number times, usually in response to the Feminist Frequency Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games series. The argument usually follows this pattern:

  1. Research shows that violent video games don’t increase aggression among players (which some research does support; but then, some research says no, it can make people more aggressive and hostile).
  2. Ergo, video games can’t make people be sexist, either.

I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist, but in a way that argument makes a certain sort of sense to me. I don’t think that video games can make a non-violent person go on a shooting spree at their high school. I’ve grown up around incredibly violent and graphic games, and I’ve enjoyed camping with a sniper rifle while picking other players off, delighting in “FIRST BLOOD” and “HEADSHOT” being shouted out of my speakers during an Unreal: Tournament deathmatch– but I have never once wanted to pick up a gun and shoot anyone, or even become a sniper. I’m not a violent person, and playing violent video games didn’t change that. That is also true for most of the people I know.

However, saying that video games can’t make people violent so they can’t make people sexist, either is a false equivalency for the simple reason that everyone is already sexist.

Video games that uncritically (key term) show sexism, misogyny, violence against women, rape, sexual assault, sexist slurs, domestic violence, casual sexism, sexist tropes/costumes all contribute to our cultural assumptions about gender and women. There isn’t a culture of “regular” people walking around cities robbing, looting, defacing, and killing indiscriminately like what the player does in the Grand Theft Auto series– however, there is a consistent problem of violence against sex workers, a problem that GTA engages in by allowing players to murder sex workers in order to retrieve their money.

Sexist video games capitalize on the already existing oppressions in society. The sexist tropes that appear in video games don’t show up in these narratives completely out of thin air– they are present in games because they are present in our culture, and every single time we encounter one of these tropes or patterns it can reinforce the patriarchal narratives our minds have been steeping in since birth.

Gamers aren’t being forced to become misogynists against their will by playing these games– these games are simply relying on shallow depictions of women, on clichéd storylines and tired plots, and a player who absorbs the gendered messages of these games without analyzing them is having his or her beliefs confirmed, not invented.

#GamerGate is such a perfect illustration of this, too. Without even realizing it, these gamers who are so worried about “journalistic integrity” have only even gone after women, none of whom were journalists. You’d think that if they cared about journalistic integrity they would have en masse attacked the journalist that Zoe Quinn supposedly dated in order to get positive reviews (which don’t exist, by the way), but they didn’t. This “movement” hasn’t turned any Gater into a misogynist– they all just already were.

Photo by Mack Male

Mark Driscoll’s resignation letter

You might have heard the news that broke just a little while ago– Mark Driscoll has officially resigned from being a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. This is exceedingly good news, and while I was not exactly joyful to hear it, I am hopeful that those who have been abused by Mark and the Mars Hill leadership can gain some hope and comfort from this. Mark Driscoll wasn’t the only problem at Mars Hill– no one becomes a spiritual abuser of thousands all by themselves– but he was the most visible example of misogynistic, abusive Christianity and I’m glad he’s gone.

For the moment.

Because he’ll be back.

However, that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about a few things happening in Mark’s resignation letter that hopefully won’t be ignored in the flood of “see, everyone, now we need to forgive him and NEVER SPEAK OF THIS EVER AGAIN” posts that are probably coming. You can read the entire letter here, if you’d like, but there’s a few things about this letter that I think it’s important to highlight.

This appears in the third paragraph:

You have also shared with me that many of those making charges against me declined to meet with you or participate in the review process at all. Consequently, those conducting the review of charges against me began to interview people who had not even been a party to the charges.

The “You” there is “Board of Advisers and Accountability.” When I got to this section, at first I was a little puzzled why this was coming up in the middle of what was supposed to be a resignation letter, and then I remembered that this is not so much a resignation letter as much as it is a PR move on Mark’s part. It’s his attempt to continue controlling the narrative and what gets talked about as he leaves, and “these people who have forced me into this are cowards whose stories aren’t credible” is supposed to be one of the things he wants us all to bicker about.

Except most of the people who have “made charges against him” have done so publicly, with their names attached, and they have put an overwhelming amount of proof out there for anyone to review, including memos and e-mails. That whoever Mark is talking about didn’t feel particularly inclined to talk to a “Board of Advisers” isn’t at all surprising, especially when people like Paul Tripp resigned from it because it was incapable of actually addressing the issues at hand. Why would anyone abused by not just Mark Driscoll but an entire system set up to keep him in power ever want to talk to these people?

This is not a failure on the part of those who “declined to meet.” They’ve done more than their fair share of suffering in order to expose Driscoll and Mars Hill leadership, and “declining to meet” was probably the only option they had to protect their mental and spiritual well-being.

Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry.

This line made me laugh– a bitter and cynical and rueful laugh, because oh it’s just so … sad. What this line actually means is: well, nothing I did was actually ILLEGAL. If the best thing you have to say about your behavior is “well, I wouldn’t go to prison for it,” you have a problem.

But let’s talk about how he says he didn’t commit “heresy.” The fact that he doesn’t think his abusive behavior– and his plagiarism– is immoral is a problem all on its own, but that the Board decided he’d never taught anything heretical is revealing. Granted, I’m not one to bandy around the word “heresy”– but Mark’s tribe is. I mean, they pull out the “heretic!” when someone uses a feminine pronoun to describe God in a poem.

But Mark gets to call women “penis homes” and preach entire sermon series on how women should basically be nothing more than sex slaves to their husbands and … crickets.

And, to be blunt, that Mark’s and the Board’s standard is “don’t be convicted of anything illegal and don’t do anything heretical or immoral” is more than just a touch horrifying. It’s also troubling, because the “standard” that these people claim to adhere to doesn’t have “don’t do something illegal” as its baseline. The Acts 29 Network even has a whole article dedicated to the “Biblical Qualifications of a Pastor” (posted March 2010, when Mark was still in charge) and these items jumped out at me:

4. A Pastor must be humble – not arrogant (Titus 1:7)
5. A Pastor must be gentle – not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
7. A Pastor must be peaceful – not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
16. A Pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7)
17. A Pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3)

The Board of Advisers and Mark himself admitted to all the different ways Mark has not been any of these things– and some of these he even admitted to in the letter. He says that ” I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.” The Board of Advisers said this:

We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.

Mark is quite clearly saying my own articulation of the rules do not apply to me.

One of the last things he says in this letter, though, made me angry:

Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family—even physically unsafe at times—and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill.

I am not in Seattle, and I do not personally know the Driscolls. It is entirely possible that his family has received threats, even threats of physical violence. That would not surprise me at all, considering the things that Mark has done in an incredibly public way. Threats against his family are completely inexcusable and I will not justify them if they happened.

However, there is absolutely nothing in this letter that says “I am resigning as pastor because I have sinned against the people I was supposed to shepherd.” He never says that. He says a bunch of stuff about how the Board didn’t say he was disqualified to lead, and how the people accusing him are a bunch of untrusthworthy cowards, and how he’s leaving because it’s just not the best thing for him. This letter is dedicated to creating this image of a man who was persecuted out of being a pastor, and it makes me sick because that’s not what happened.

Mark is a misogynistic abuser who has spent well over a decade creating a church and staff that would enable his behavior, and this letter is nothing more than a continuation of that. It is insurance so that one day he can start another ministry and do it all over again.

Photo by Barret Anspach

the church won't rein in misogyny, but bloggers will


I’m guest posting at Convergent Books today about the Acts 29 Network’s decision to remove Mars Hill from its membership.

My friend, like the evangelical community at large, was captured by Driscoll’s apparently genuine and forthright style. The outspoken pastor rocketed to an extremely influential position among evangelicals, at least partly because he comes across as ballsy. It is said that he is willing to say out loud what the rest of us are thinking.

And that is exactly the problem.

Recently, the board of the Acts 29 Network—an organization founded by Driscoll—removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the group’s membership. Acts 29 said Driscoll had become a “distraction.” A message from the board members, made public by Acts 29, went even further in asking Driscoll to “please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.” Such an action, when taken by an established evangelical church-planting network, attracts attention.

Further, LifeWay Christian Resources has—at least temporarily—removed Driscoll’s books from its stores’ shelves in order to “assess the situation regarding his ministry.” But, like others, I am left to wonder about the timing of this move. Was it merely the only PR move left to a major Christian retailer that had been selling Driscoll’s books for years—apparently without reservation?

You can read the rest here.


"Captivating" Review: 77-92, "A Special Hatred"


Other possible titles for this chapter could be:

  • “Satan Makes Them Do It.”
  • “No One has Free Will. Satan or God Decide Everything Always.”
  • “We’re Not Quite Sure how to Construct a Rational Argument.”

Today’s post might be just a touch snarky, as I’m a little bit tired of their nonsense. There are two glaring problems with this chapter, but before I jump into them, I want to begin by highlighting how self-contradictory John and Stasi are. Because they adhere to gender essentialism, they are incapable of recognizing the problems that come with thinking about people that way, and it forces them to make arguments that aren’t internally consistent.

Something that happens in this chapter makes me feel all sorts of conflicted, because I want to be heartbroken while I also want to smash things. It’s funny how often the two go hand-in-hand in my life nowadays.

But a young, rebellious, unwise woman set loose with a Eurail Pass and a bleeding heart attracted cruel attention. While traveling through Italy, I was sexually assaulted, and although I was furious at the man, deep in my heart I felt somehow worthy of assault … Later, in the south of France, I unwittingly put myself in a dangerous position. After enjoying a few too many drinks … I accepted a ride back to the hotel from the men we had been drinking with. You must be shaking your hear as you read this, knowing what was coming. I am. Their offered ride did not lead us back to the hotel but instead to a private location where I was raped.

Internalized misogyny logic: trusting that men aren’t rapists means getting raped is all your fault, you foolish girl.

I understand this perspective. It’s where my head was for three years after I was raped and assaulted– I believed in all the lies of my sub-culture; “men only go as far as women let them,” and “you can incite a man to rape you by being sexually impure,” as well as many others. Stasi believes that women can be at fault for the sexual violence perpetrated against them– both passively and actively. The fact that Stasi is spreading these lies around as a rape survivor is shattering, but it also makes me angry. There are so many toxic messages in this book I am desperately sorry for all the men and women who have read it.

However, contrary to this paragraph, Stasi and John go on to make the argument that violence against women exists because Satan hates women for the following reasons:

  • He used to be beautiful. Now he isn’t, and he can’t stand that women are pretty.
  • He is a murderer, and he hates that women can make babies.

Neither ones of these makes sense, but Stasi and John are convinced that this is true because they believe that 20th century white middle-class American stereotypes about gender apply to everyone who has ever lived. To them, men are not beautiful, which just baffles me. Also, apparently, human females are capable of asexual reproductionWe definitely make life all on our own and we don’t need sperm to do it. Nope.

They also go on to claim that Satan targets women because we are “the weaker of the two [sexes].” I was a little surprised that they made this argument, because its premise is that women are either morally or mentally (or both) inferior to men. If Satan targeted the woman because she was “weaker,” it necessarily means that women are more easily deceived, have weak moral wills, are not as autonomous, aren’t as capable of expressing agency, and are more easily corruptible than men. That’s some pretty blatant misogyny.

What also frustrates me is that they frame the way that Satan targets women as “an assault on femininity.” That’s just more of their gender essentialism speaking, but heavens does it make me want to tear my hair out. Being feminine and being a woman are not the same thing, and this belief centers the white, heterosexual, American perspective as the standard. But, to them, “femininity” and “womanhood” are not just synonyms, they are the exact same thing.

John closes out the chapter with six pages of blaming Satan for his sexism. After describing a woman’s soul as “a bloody mess,” he spends a lot of time talking about how, as a manly man who mans very dudely, he doesn’t like taking the time to understand women.  But that has nothing to do with sexism or misogyny or patriarchy. Nope. It’s because Satan wants to use him to get back at women for being pretty.

So, these are the conclusions of this chapter:

  1. Rapists rape because Satan made them do it, but they only rape foolish people who sort of deserve it anyway.
  2. Misogyny and patriarchy are really just Satan attacking women cuz we’re pretty and are capable of being preggo.
  3. It just makes sense for Satan to attack us. Men are more moral and more intelligent.


"Captivating" Review: 48-60, "Dominating" and "Desolate" Women

kamino gravity

Finally, Stasi’s moved past her obsession with beauty, at least for the moment.

She opens this section by arguing that the primary consequence of The Fall and The Curse is that women want to control and dominate. Which, ok, for the sake of argument I suppose I can give her that. I don’t have any real reason to argue with this interpretation of Genesis 3. I’d also argue that the same thing goes for men, as well—the curse that God gives them also has them fighting for control and dominance, so . . .

But, Stasi has a pretty narrow view of what “controlling” and “dominating” are (with examples like Mrs. John Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility), and she take an interesting approach to defining these terms: she defines them by what she believes is their opposite. In this book, that is vulnerability. In order not to be the conniving, manipulative women she holds up as examples (like Lady MacBeth), we have to be vulnerable. Vulnerability and tenderness is feminine, and feminine is good.

Controlling women tend to be very well rewarded in this fallen world of ours. We are the ones who receive corporate promotions. We are the ones put in charge of our women’s ministries. Can-Do, Bottom-Line, Get-it-Done kinds of women. . . . We have never considered that by living a controlling and domineering life, we are really refusing to trust our god. And it has also never dawned on us that something precious is squelched, diminished, and refused.

To be clear, I don’t think Stasi is condemning women who get promotions and lead women’s ministries. However, she does condemn a particular kind of woman who earns these things. The “Can-Do, Bottom-Line, Get-it-Done” woman. Now, perhaps I’m reading Stasi incorrectly and I’m hearing something else in these words, but as one of those authors who believes that it’s my job to communicate, I’m going to go with it.

I describe my best friend as “The Competent Beast Who Gets Shit Done” (competent being my favorite compliment since reading Fascinating Womanhood). She is a brutally efficient organizer, and I’ve seen her pull off unbelievable things like she’s Mary Poppins. She is straight-talking, and commanding, and it is, honestly, awe-inspiring.

She also has trouble being vulnerable. I can count the number of times she’s been vulnerable with me on one hand. She’s always honest, and she’ll tell you what she’s feeling, but I don’t think I’d ever describe her as vulnerable. Or tender. She is an Amazon. A shield-maiden.

One of the most fascinating things about my best friend is that while she is basically Wonder Woman made flesh, she is also one of the more stereotypically feminine women I know. She loves baking, and interior design. Her favorite motif is bows, and she has “Hello Kitty” stuff all over her car.

And Stasi has spent the last seven pages telling me that my best friend is Lady MacBeth.

Uhm… no.

There is more than one kind of woman in the world, Stasi. You’d think I wouldn’t have to say that, considering she said that on page x, but apparently, it bears repeating. My friend is all of the “controlling” and “dominating” things Stasi has described, but she is still a woman, and nothing Stasi can say will ever convince me that my friend is this way because of The Curse.

She moves on to talking about “desolate” women:

Desolate women are ruled by the aching abyss within them … they are consumed by a hunger for relationship …

Desolate women also tend to hide their true selves. We are certain that if others really knew us, they wouldn’t like us—and we can’t risk the loss of a relationship. (55)

We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing withdrawals. We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe. We act in self-protective ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know … And so by hiding, we take matters into our own hands. We don’t return to god with our broken and desperate hearts. (57)

I’ve known people a bit like what Stasi is describing here, and I could see myself in this section (at times), so I understood where she was coming from more with this. However, she illustrates her point by saying these women read books like Men Who Hate Women and the Women who Love Them.

Because God forbid a woman read books about abusive relationships and domestic violence and how to escape them. That would be the absolute worst. That would be an example of her being desolate and “ruled by the aching abyss.”

And … Samantha Throws the Book Across the Room Time #4.

Way to condemn one of the most valuable resources that abused women have, Stasi. That sentence might have actually killed women, who after reading this book and listening to her, they throw out resources about misogyny and abuse and attribute all of their problems to some “aching abyss” they have.

And not only that, I am frustrated by how Stasi and John are insistent that patriarchy and misogyny don’t exist. Almost everything that Stasi described in this half of the chapter has its roots in the damaging messages of patriarchy that both men and women receive.

She describes Lady MacBeth in the absolute worst of terms, and she quotes the line when Lady MacBeth asks the gods to “’unsex her,’ to remove her femininity so that she can control the fate of the man in her life, and thus secure her own fate.”

To me, that screams patriarchy. Lady MacBeth, as a woman, had no control over her own life. Not who she married, not who her children married, not where she lived, not even if she continued to live. Everything in her life was decided by the men who ruled over her in the starkest and most literal terms, so she tries to wrest whatever sliver of authority she can, and it turns out that her husband is actually pretty open to her manipulation. I’m not praising Lady MacBeth, but I do understand her. But Stasi doesn’t see that. It’s like she’s blind. Patriarchy can’t possibly exist, so all of the evidence that it does has to be attributed to something else.

In Stasi’s world, that “something else” is usually women.

Five gold stars for people who know how the image at the top fits with today’s post, because I’m a geek like that. Also, my first YouTube video is up! Subscribe, share, all that!