We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Cultural Challenges Faced by Duck-Dynasty Churches

Is the issue "free speech" or "irresponsible speech"?

On the eve of Duck Dynasty's anti-gay remarks I was blissfully ignorant of the most-immediate cultural war going on between the church-and-state which was soon to hit the airwaves while writing of the identity crisis gripping the evangelical church on the day before. A church body of believers composed of hard-headed conservatives on the right, to soft-hearted liberals on the left, gripping all of America's political and religious arenas in this contemporary day-and-age of outspoken dogma and activist convictions. I happen to be one of those ex-fundamentalists, ex-(conservative) evangelicals that have moved to the left towards a more post-conservative (or progressive) evangelical direction. A direction I once described as Emergent Christianity for lack of another term but am now more recently writing of it as a Post-evangelic Christianity or post-modern Christianity. A Christian faith that may be described as a Christian ethos rather than a movement with faith characteristics described as follows (my short list):

  • a Spirit-inspired, authoritative (but not inerrant) Bible; a Bible that is not literal but literary;
  • actively working - by word (orthodoxy) and by deed (orthopraxy) - through a more contemporary theology that is less pinned to its traditional expressions of God previously based in Greek Hellenism and Medieval classicism, and commonly held by classic church dogmas and traditions today;
  • which propounds an Open Faith and an Open Theology more willing to examine Scripture with the much needed help of outside authorities offered by contemporary science and scholarship as each evolves and transforms in nuance and perturbation;
  • that is willing to re-examine religious judgments and condemnations in the harsher lights of today's more brilliant glare of God's love and grace, mercy and forgiveness;
  • that is orientated towards postmodernism with all its critiques and criticisms of the modernism's secular past, along with its ongoing narrative of God's sovereign interaction in history both now and in the future;
  • that reads the ancient milieu of the Bible as distinct cultures of its day (and mostly lost to us in our reading of its ancient pages) requiring a fundamental updating of our thoughts upon its pages if it is to be relevant to the global, pluralistic societies we live and work within now;
  • a Bible that must be read apart from ourselves and from our pre-formed conceptions of its pages based upon our personal and cultural biases of its words and ideas;
  • is focused on social-political-economic issues of justice for all, equality for all, liberty and security for all; and most of all, respect and honor towards all.
  • is focused on re-integrating the church into the fabric of its social community working with schools, social agencies, political government, and corporate/industrial enterprise through its many members and congregant's individual efforts and talents, skills and gifts, positions and employment;
  • understands the church to be a God-centric, Jesus-first corporate body, in battle with sin and evil, but at the same time God's greatest weapon and tool for the healing and redemption of this present broken world.

In saying this, I will have mostly alarmed or disturbed many of my "bible-believing friends" that have wedded the erroneous ideas of the church as a counter-cultural organism bent on its primary mission of Gospel-proclamation, witness, and outreach. To the latter missions I would heartily agree - though I may disagree with many of its theologies preaching exclusion, discrimination, and racism within the folds of patriotism as part of its biblical witness.

But to the former idea that the church must be counter-cultural I cannot agree. Yes, in the spiritual sense of the description this would be true. The church IS a body of believers who attempt to live for God in its understanding of Jesus' incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. A body of believers who seek truth and justice, love, peace and goodwill, by the graces of the Holy Spirit. But in another sense, must embrace the societal culture it finds itself ministering within, in order to maintain the relevancy of its witness and outreach.

For the church to not update its theologies and behavior is to be perceived as an institution that has fast become irrelevant to societal interpretation and understandings. We all have passions for an societal agenda or platform, based upon our own personally broken backgrounds lived in sin, and its isolating effects of judgment, hate, anger, and abuse. However, the church of Jesus Christ, like its Lord, must reach past itself in order to see others. If it does not it becomes like those Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish religious establishment that Jesus condemned in their pride and legalism of God's will and ways.

Thus, it is important to take the anti-gay sentiments of A&E's Duck Dynasty and set them into the larger cultural challenge facing the evangelical church today. Fundamentally we are in a cultural clash - some misperceived as true, and some misperceived as untrue. And with this clash comes the question of (ecclesiastical) identity: Who are we? What are we? What are we about? What is true? What is false? Where are we headed? What stances should we take (or not take)? And so forth....

For the past 2-1/2 years I have been writing of a postmodern, post-evangelic Christianity that accepts the fact that we live in a post-Christian world causing our responsibilities within it as a church to have dramatically changed. Especially our perceptions of ourselves and our church doctrines. Along the sidebars of Relevancy22 are a host of topical discussions dealing with as many areas as I have had time to write about or observe. Mostly its in a form of re-thinking (or re-envisaging) what a postmodern, post-evangelic Christianity may look like... one that has looked into its past by deconstructing itself, and then has proposed a different kind of future where it may live-and-breathe in a postmodern reconstruction of itself.

But for today, I must focus on the issues most present, and that is Christendom's discriminatory stance on gays, its harsh language and condemnation on the LGBT community. It has been this blog's position for sometime that for many gays this is who they are, whether we like it or not. It is not something they can change. Whether it derives from the nature v. nurture argument is irrelevant. Whether it is a sin issue is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it is a present societal civil rights issue which is fundamental to the rights and privileges of a segment of society that our greater society deems to heartily condemn and deprecate.

Looked at another way, just as heterosexuals may enjoy fidelity and loving covenant with one another, so too may homosexuals. And just as heterosexuals can (and will) lust, so too will homosexuals. A homosexual is no different than a heterosexual in the temptations of life and choices made. However, it is fundamentally wrong to tell a homosexual to deny themselves and force their lifestyle and identity into a closet that is shut before our eyes but not theirs. Each individual under the American Constitution has rights and privileges in regards to his or her's gender or sexual identity, and this includes the LGBT community.

This, of course, will affect the church's traditional understanding of words, and word-categories. One of them is the word for "marriage" traditionally understood as a covenant bond between a man and a woman. To it has arisen the word for "civil union" to describe non-traditional unions between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. Unions that are homosexual instead of heterosexual.

However, under our present laws and constitution, a fundamental, legal discrimination is still being perpetrated within American society's jurisprudence by holding to the present categories of "marriage" and "civil union". A discrimination (or racism, or inequality) that says that the word "marriage" is a more legally powerful word than the word "civil union". Thus the problem and the solution. To remove all discrimination in the eyes of the law, a "civil union" must be referred to (and named) as a "marriage" in order to be recognized, and invoked, if legal equality and judicial defense is to be fully apprehended for all of its citizens. This is law of the land that is being painfully ratified one-by-one across each of the states of this nation.

We tend to be more sympathetic to the issues of inequality when looking in historical hindsight to the illegality and abuses of slavery and past gender and working class inequalities. So too with today's present laws preferencing sexual inequality and discrimination. Traditional church orthodoxy will struggle with this societal issue no less than it did in the 1850s (re the American Civil War's fight between the rights of slavery and state's rights) and the 1960s (the final acceptance, and adjudication of, the Civil War's consequential outcomes of Emancipation and Federalism).

For the church to be relevant - and postmodern - is to defend the rights of all men, women, and children... and not just for some of those rights for a some segments of society. If it challenges church dogma than so be it. The words of man are not written in stone. And neither is the Lord's as we see time-and-again in the Old and New Testaments as Israel struggles with God's laws and demands, discovering that submission is liberty, and liberty is submission. The Pharisees got it wrong when they made God's laws iron-clad. And we do too when missing the vital elements of grace and forgiveness, peace and mercy, hope and freedom, in God's submission to the Cross. For it is at the Cross that we find God's love. And it is at the Cross that equality's freedom must be resurrected.

Hence, what we know for sure is that what can be written in stone is the hardness of our hearts when failing to see the grace and forgiveness of our Lord to all mankind. Its tribes and nations, clans and families, societies and communities. As Christians we wish to err on the side of God's love and not on the side of our own darken hearts of pride and legalism. Let us avoid these darker sins and lead out with dogmas of acceptance and community. There is a sin that leads to death, and it is the sin of unmitigated dogmatism in the face of God's inspired, authoritative Word of Life misperceived and misrepresented. Let us not fall into this sin of self-righteousness. Peace.

R.E. Slater
December 31, 2013
edited December 20, 2014

Recent articles discussing the church's cultural crisis - 

1. Openness to true developments in the intellectual drama of the human species.
2. Openness to different ecclesiastical traditions.
3. Openness to different expressions of the spiritual journey.
4. Openness to holding to Scripture in a different way.

* * * * * * * * * 

The Christian Evangelical Movement's Ugly Racist Streak

December 25, 2013

Many people of faith have rushed to denounce "Duck Dynasty's" Phil Robertson's homophobia — but his racism is a different story.

The Evangelical Church has a racism problem. And it is incumbent on us in this Christmas season to tell the truth about that. Recently A&E suspended Phil Robertson, the patriarch of its hit show, “Duck Dynasty,” for making incredibly homophobic statements in a GQ magazine interview. In typical fashion, he affirmed his evangelical belief that homosexuality is a sin, but went even further, comparing gay people’s sexual behavior to bestiality, and declaring emphatically that they would not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Liberal-minded folk, some Christians included, have been outraged at his homophobia, while conservative Christians of all races jumped to defend his right to free speech. Many of these Christians feel particularly threatened by what they call “censorship” of Robertson, because the belief that homosexuality is a sin, and the right to declare that belief freely without recourse, has become for many of these people a defining marker of their identity as Christians.

A reluctant evangelical, I reject conservative theological teachings on homosexuality; the violence that the Church does to gay people in the name of God is indeed one of the primary reasons for my reluctance. But I am also ambivalent about the Church because of its continued subjugation of women and its failure to be forthright about its continuing racism problem.

I grew up in a black baptist church, in a small town in North Central Louisiana, about 30 miles west of where “Duck Dynasty” is filmed. I made my first “profession of faith” in Jesus Christ while at a white baptist church I had visited with my childhood best friend, Amanda, when I was about 7 years old. I was baptized at the age of 13.

At 33 years of age, my disillusionment with the church — which has come to full bloom in the last five years or so — is the thing that perhaps most solidly marks me as a member of the Millennial generation. Though I am often ambivalent about that label, too, I still get why Millennials, fed up with the vile homophobia of the church — as particularly evidenced by the “Duck Dynasty” episode — are leaving the institution in droves. But in the fervor and closing of ranks over Robertson’s homophobia, many Christians, white and Black, old and young alike, have missed the racist remarks he made in that same interview. Millennials, it turns out, haven’t proven themselves to be fundamentally better on race, despite post-racial proclamations to the contrary.

Apparently, according to Robertson, 1950s and 60s Louisiana — the Louisiana of his childhood — was a happy heavenly place where Black people hoed cotton and eschewed the blues:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” - Phil Robertson

I have several aunts and uncles and a grandparent who would beg to differ with Robertson’s account of events. In 1956, several hundred African Americans were purged from the voter registration rolls in Monroe, and spent years struggling to be re-enfranchised.

I’m reminded of these words from James Baldwin’s essay “A Fly in Buttermilk”:

“Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see.” - James Baldwin

But racism and colonization have also allowed white people, like Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, to create the Jesus they wish to see, too: a blonde, blue-eyed white man with long hair. Now my Bible says that Jesus was a Jew with Egyptian (Read: African) ancestry (Matthew 1). But many white people are decidedly uncomfortable worshipping a God that doesn’t look like them.

As Evangelicalism goes, racism, homophobia, and sexism go hand in hand. Black evangelicals like to tell themselves that they can reject Christianity’s racist past, while embracing homophobic and sexist ideas about the position of gay people and women, in the world and the church. I have come to say: It just isn’t so.

God is not a racist. I know that despite a Bible that sanctions enslavement and implores slaves to obey and be kind to their masters.

God is not a sexist. I know that despite a Bible that tells me that women are to be quiet in church, that women are not to teach men, that women are to submit.

God is not a homophobe. I know that despite a Bible that declares sex between men to be an abomination.

God is love. That is a truth I learned first and foremost from the Bible. And it holds moral and political weight for me because of the life that Jesus Christ lived, from birth to death and back again.

I love the Church, despite myself. But I won’t love it uncritically. This is what hermeneutic consistency requires. And worshipping alongside white folks who are more moved to stand with a homophobe than to stand against racism gives me great pause.

The Church can no longer afford to be disingenuous about its racism problem. Easy unity is not what we need. Time has run out for an African American Church that continues to tack hard to the right — uncritically imbibing the agenda of the (white) Evangelical Right, without acknowledging that this position, predicated as it is on the belief that Christian = Republican, is fundamentally averse to, and in some ways responsible for, the declining social and political condition of African Americans, gay and straight alike.

Ironically enough, the progressive Christians who inspire me the most these days are white. Rachel Held Evans, Jay Bakker, Brian McLaren and theologian Peter Enns are fighting the good fight of faith. But I won’t let any of them off the hook for their failure to be more forthright in addressing racism. Evans, Bakker and McLaren are great on questions of homophobia, poverty and sexism; but racism, when it is addressed at all, is largely addressed as a problem of individual attitudes rather than systemic disfranchisement. What Robertson’s statements point to, however, is that individual prejudices, and the amelioration of them, are bound up with the structures that support them. After all, it wasn’t his racist statements that got him suspended.

This is the season of hope. And I am hopeful. Because even though Phil Robertson said gay people would not inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus did say that the Kingdom of God is within us. Phil Robertson and his ilk don’t possess the keys to the kingdom. We do.

* * * * * * * * *

by Rachel Held Evans
January 13, 2013

After “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson made crude and controversial statements to GQ Magazine regarding homosexuality and race and was subsequently (and temporarily) suspended from A&E, it was disheartening to see so many evangelicals publicly defend him. On TV, Facebook, magazines and newspapers, Christians rallied to “stand with Phil,” sometimes hailing him as a sort of unofficial spokesperson for evangelical Christianity with little regard to the message this might send to the black people and gay people who were the targets of his remarks.

Rather than writing about this myself, I thought I’d open the floor to some Christian brothers and sisters who can explain what evangelical support of Phil Robertson communicates to them.

- - -

Brittney Cooper

"When Evangelicals support Phil Robertson, it tells me that they don’t think combating homophobia and racism are significant issues for the Church or in building the Kingdom of God. As an African American Christian who grew up in Robertson’s neck of the woods with aunts and uncles who absolutely experienced racial discrimination in the 1950s and 60s, I find his comments about happy, singing Black people to be insensitive and unconscionable. His quip about “pre-entitlement, pre-welfare” Blacks is the worst kind of race-baiting and racial stereotyping. Yet, when (white) Evangelicals support him, I know it is because his invocation of entitlements and welfare resonates with many of their political views, which unfairly tie welfare programs to black bodies.  I wonder how we worship the same God, when Phil Robertson’s God seems to hate gay folks and be perfectly fine with the subjugation of Black folks (and women). When Evangelicals support him and his offensive views, they make it clear that they don’t support me, a fellow Christian. They make me wonder if their Christianity is only for straight, middle-class, white people?"

Dr. Brittney Cooper is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. A scholar of Black women's intellectual history, Black feminist thought, and race and gender in popular culture, Dr. Cooper writes extensively about both historic and contemporary iterations of Black feminist theorizing. Is co-founder, along with Dr. Susana Morris, of the Crunk Feminist Collective, a feminist of color scholar-activist group that runs a highly successful blog. Find Brittney atbrittneycooper.com.

Benjamin Moberg

“When evangelicals support Phil Robertson, it tells me that they want me gone, that they'll do whatever it takes to scare me away. They will ‘stand with Phil’ in comparing me to alcoholics and terrorists and those who have sex with animals. They will whip social media into a storm I cannot outrun. When I tell them it's upsetting, they say I'm intolerant; when Phil's employer suspends him, they incite a mob overnight. And I am just so exhausted of this. I am tired of being the most galvanizing symbol for evangelical rage. I am tired of being told that my pain does not matter.” 

Benjamin Moberg blogs at RegisteredRunaway.com.

Tamára Lunardo

"When evangelicals support Phil Robertson, it tells me that they have no interest in loving me or much of the universal Church. It tells me they have more interest in following the fashions of a segment of American Christian culture than in following Jesus’ command to love one another as he loves us.

And it tells me that, not only has their myopia caused them to have missed the point of Jesus entirely, it’s also regularly causing them to miss real crises in the Church. As evangelicals cried, “Persecution!” on behalf of a man who was not denied his freedom of speech but merely his freedom from reproach for freely speaking hatred, Syrian families were being murdered, Honduran children were falling ill from unclean water, and American citizens were being denied equality.

When evangelicals support Phil Robertson, they tell each of us—not just the gay us, the black us; but the fearful us, the harmed us—“I do not, will not love you as Jesus does.”

Tamára is a collector of fine tattoos, an imbiber of cheap wine, and a singer of eclectic music. She works out her thoughts on life and faith at Tamara Out Loud, occasionally with adult language, frequently with attempted humor, and hopefully with God’s blessing. Editor of What a Woman is Worth and copywriter for "Feed The Children," she holds a BA in English and her five kids, when they let her; she almost never holds her tongue.

Osheta Moore

"When I finally tuned into what I call the Duck Dynasty Drama—the uproar and turmoil caused by Phil Roberson’s comments that African-Americans in Pre-Civil Rights Era Louisiana were somehow “happy” or “godlly,” I pushed my laptop away and cried.  I felt the chasm forged by racism stretch wider. I felt the Shalom of God, his unity on earth as it is in heaven, slip away as believers took sides, rallied together in disgust, and used “rights” and “amendments” as justification for ignoring the suffering of their African-American sisters and brothers in Christ.

When evangelicals support Phil Roberston and his comments, it tells me we’ve grown to love our positions more than people. As an African American woman, it tells me that the Church is not interested in Calvary-like reconciliation; we’d rather stop short at empty words of “I’m with the blacks” and insensitive generalizations like “they were godly; they were happy” and uneducated assumptions that, because you have not heard, seen, or have been party to mistreatment, it doesn’t exist.

While I can prove Phil Roberston’s assessment wrong by opening up any book on the Jim Crow Era and the Civil Right Movement, I don’t think that would create space for Shalom.  Shalom happens [when] we take up our cross and follow Jesus.  Shalom happens when we crucify our love for our rights and listen to the ones who are hurt by our misuse of those “rights”.  Shalom happens when we take Paul’s words in Galatians to heart and authentically attempt to fulfill the law of Christ by, “carry (ing) each other's burdens.”

One of my favorite moments in Christian fiction is found in Neta Jackson’s The Yada Yada Sisters Get Down. This book is the second in a series about a diverse group of women who meet to pray weekly.  Jackson faces the elephants in the room of whites and blacks having deep, meaningful relationships very quickly, especially in book two when one of the White main character’s husband, Denny, is mistaken by, Ma Dea, an aging African American woman who is suffering from dementia, as one of the men who brutally lynched her brother nearly 70 years ago.  She flies into a rage when she sees him at her daughter’s beauty shop, throwing a brush at him and screaming hysterically. Denny is affected by the pain she suffers even after all these years, so much so that he can’t shake that experience, so he prays, talks about racism with a trusted black friend, acknowledges his own privilege as a white man, and finally accepts that as a follower of Jesus his calling is to seek Shalom, harmony and wholeness for Ma Dea.

He goes to the beauty shop, kneels before her and asks for forgiveness.  He accepts responsibility for the actions of her brother’s death at the hands of racist men—even though he had no active connections with white supremacists. Even though he knew and loved black people.  Even though he never told a racist joke and respects Dr. Martin Luther King. I think there’s something holy and Christ-like about his action. I think this is the response evangelicals should have towards Phil Robertson’s words.  Not indignant calls for “free speech” but impassioned movement towards reconciliation by first seeking to understand why those words hurt and then asking for forgiveness even though they may be innocent of the sin of racism.  It looks a lot like Jesus taking on the sin of the world although he himself was sinless.”

Osheta Moore is an Assembly-of-God-Methodist-Southern-Baptist-a-teryn turned Anabaptist living in Boston. She has four children, two boys (Tyson and TJ), one girl (Trinity)  and a church plant (New City Covenant Church). She writes on her blog,"Shalom in City" and at the top of her bucket list is to dance in a flash mob—all the better if it's to Michael Jackson's,  "Thriller".

Brent Bailey

"When evangelicals support Phil Robertson, it tells me less about their attitudes toward sexual minorities than their ongoing interactions with me do. Robertson's comments about gay men were undoubtedly inaccurate with regard to the reality of my experience, but throughout the commotion that followed his interview, it became apparent he had come to symbolize vastly different things in the eyes of different people who supported him: cheeky defiance, or resolute faithfulness, or endearing political incorrectness, or something else. Though such controversies ostensibly offer me a simple test for identifying who is for me or against me based on who takes which side, the complexity of lived relationships seems to be frustratingly resistant to such a dichotomy."

Brent blogs at oddmanout.net.

Wesley Hill

You might also appreciate Wesley Hill’s words at “First Things”:

…Just because someone quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and is opposed to same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that they’re speaking up for a theologically informed, humane, pastorally sensitive view of what it means to be gay. Not by a long shot. And social conservatives should think twice before linking the concern for religious liberty to a vindication of Robertson.

…[Robertson] implies that if gay men could only open their eyes, it would dawn on them how myopic they’ve been. “I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” The conclusion to draw from this comment, as Katelyn Beaty noted earlier today on Twitter, is “that gay men should just wake up to how awesome women’s body parts are.” But, of course, that’s just not how sexuality works. [Read the rest here.]

- - -

I would love to hear from more of you who were the targets of Robertson's comments. What message does the "Stand With Phil" movement send to you? What sort of response would be most healing and helpful from Christians? How can we move forward from this fraught and charged debate around a reality TV star into efforts at true reconciliation?

- Rachel

Monday, December 30, 2013

Exploring American Masculinity: "Telling Boys How to be Men"

There's Something Absolutely Wrong With What We Do To Boys Before They Grow Into Men

Joseph Lamour

"Be a man" is something we've all heard at one time or another, even a few of the women reading this right now. Being a "man" in that sense means something completely different to me (and maybe you, too) than what that phrase implies.

I can't even begin to describe the toll that the concept of masculinity has taken on my life. And it's felt everywhere. It's time we make changes, starting from within ourselves.

The Mask You Live In - Trailer

Published on Dec 18, 2013

From the team behind Miss Representation.
Coming in 2014, an exploration of American masculinity.


Motivational: Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid

Cheryl Conner, Contributor
November 18, 2013

Editors’ Note: Following the huge popularity of this post, article source Amy Morin has authored a Dec. 3 guest post on exercises to increase mental strength here. Cheryl Conner has also interviewed Amy Morin in a Forbes video chat that expands on this article here.

Amy Morin is a licensed
clinical social worker and
writer (Image courtesy of
For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker,  that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

 1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

It takes much practice to
hone mental strength
6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

Cheryl Snapp Conner is a frequent speaker and author on reputation and thought leadership. You can subscribe to her team’s bi-weekly newsletter, The Snappington Post, here.

Psychology: The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People

Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day, and read only nonstimulating tabloids that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.

3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life. Talk about it to everybody, and make sure to read up on the symptoms so you can speak about them knowledgeably and endlessly. Practice the behaviors most associated with that condition, particularly when it’ll interfere with regular activities and relationships. Focus on how depressed you are and become weepy, if that’s your identity of choice. Refuse to go places or try new things because they make you too anxious. Work yourself into panic attacks in places it’ll cause the most commotion. It’s important to show that you don’t enjoy these states or behaviors, but that there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.

Practice putting yourself in the physiological state that represents your negative identity. For example, if your negative identity is Depressed Person, hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, breathe shallowly. It’s important to condition your body to help you reach your negative peak as quickly as possible.

Exercise: Write down 10 situations that make you anxious, depressed, or distracted. Once a week, pick a single anxiety-provoking situation, and use it to work yourself into a panic for at least 15 minutes.

4. Pick fights. This is an excellent way of ruining a relationship with a romantic partner. Once in a while, unpredictably, pick a fight or have a crying spell over something trivial and make unwarranted accusations. The interaction should last for at least 15 minutes and ideally occur in public. During the tantrum, expect your partner to be kind and sympathetic, but should he or she mention it later, insist that you never did such a thing and that he or she must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. Act injured and hurt that your partner somehow implied you weren’t behaving well.

Another way of doing this is to say unexpectedly, “We need to talk,” and then to barrage your partner with statements about how disappointed you are with the relationship. Make sure to begin this barrage just as your partner is about to leave for some engagement or activity, and refuse to end it for at least an hour. Another variation is to text or phone your partner at work to express your issues and disappointments. Do the same if your partner is out with friends.

Exercise: Write down 20 annoying text messages you could send to a romantic partner. Keep a grudge list going, and add to it daily.

5. Attribute bad intentions. Whenever you can, attribute the worst possible intentions to your partner, friends, and coworkers. Take any innocent remark and turn it into an insult or attempt to humiliate you. For example, if someone asks, “How did you like such and such movie?” you should immediately think, He’s trying to humiliate me by proving that I didn’t understand the movie, or He’s preparing to tell me that I have poor taste in movies. The idea is to always expect the worst from people. If someone is late to meet you for dinner, while you wait for them, remind yourself of all the other times the person was late, and tell yourself that he or she is doing this deliberately to slight you. Make sure that by the time the person arrives, you’re either seething or so despondent that the evening is ruined. If the person asks what’s wrong, don’t say a word: let him or her suffer.

Exercise: List the names of five relatives or friends. For each, write down something they did or said in the recent past that proves they’re as invested in adding to your misery as you are.

6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.

Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Think about how everyone around you is trying to take from you. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing you personal, social, or professional gain.

7. Avoid gratitude. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?

Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all. Such attempts to encourage gratitude and cheerfulness are common and easily deflected. Simply point out that the things you should be grateful for aren’t perfect—which frees you to find as much fault with them as you like.

Exercise: Make a list of all the things you could be grateful for. Next to each item, write down why you aren’t. Imagine the worst. When you think of the future, imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s important to be prepared for and preemptively miserable about any possible disaster or tragedy. Think of the possibilities: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease, horrible accidents, massive crop failures, your child not getting picked for the varsity softball team.

8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.

Exercise: Do some research on what natural or manmade disasters could occur in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, nuclear plant leaks, rabies outbreaks. Focus on these things for at least an hour a day.

9. Blame your parents. Blaming your parents for your defects, shortcomings, and failures is among the most important steps you can take. After all, your parents made you who you are today; you had nothing to do with it. If you happen to have any good qualities or successes, don’t give your parents credit. Those are flukes.

Extend the blame to other people from your past: the second-grade teacher who yelled at you in the cafeteria, the boy who bullied you when you were 9, the college professor who gave you a D on your paper, your first boyfriend, even the hick town you grew up in—the possibilities are limitless. Blame is essential in the art of being miserable.

Exercise: Call one of your parents and tell her or him that you just remembered something horrible they did when you were a child, and make sure he or she understands how terrible it made you feel and that you’re still suffering from it.

10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. If you inadvertently find yourself enjoying some flavor, song, or work of art, remind yourself immediately that these are transitory pleasures, which can’t compensate for the miserable state of the world. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through a forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception.

Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In other words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.

11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.

You can ruminate on the problems of others or the world, but make them about you. Your child is sick? Ruminate on what a burden it is for you to take time off from work to care for her. Your spouse is hurt by your behavior? Focus on how terrible it makes you feel when he points out how you make him feel. By ruminating not only on your own problems but also those of others, you’ll come across as a deep, sensitive thinker who holds the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair and seek out negative feelings, like anger, depression, anxiety, boredom, whatever. Concentrate on these feelings for 15 minutes. During the rest of the day, keep them in the back of your mind, no matter what you’re doing.

12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.

Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.

Exercise: Make a list of your most important bad memories and keep it where you can review it frequently. Once a week, tell someone about your horrible childhood or how much better your life was 20 years ago.

13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Exercise: Go to online dating sites and see how many bad choices you can find in one afternoon. Make efforts to meet these people. It’s good if the dating site charges a lot of money, since this means you’ll be emotionally starved and poor.

14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.

It helps if the things you criticize are well liked by most people so that your dislike of them sets you apart. Disliking traffic and mosquitos isn’t creative enough: everyone knows what it’s like to find these things annoying, and they won’t pay much attention if you find them annoying, too. But disliking the new movie that all your friends are praising? You’ll find plenty of opportunities to counter your friends’ glowing reviews with your contrarian opinion.

Exercise: Make a list of 20 things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day. For best results, dislike things you’ve never given yourself a chance to like.


I’ve just listed 14 ways to make yourself miserable. You don’t have to nail every one of them, but even if you succeed with just four or five, make sure to berate yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still clinging to their love for you has tricked you into going—make sure your misery seems organic. If the therapist enlightens you in any way or teaches you mind-body techniques to quiet your anxious mind, make sure to co-opt the conversation and talk about your misery-filled dreams from the night before. If the therapist is skilled in dream analysis, quickly start complaining about the cost of therapy itself. If the therapist uses your complaints as a launching pad to discuss transference issues, accuse him or her of having countertransference issues. Ultimately, the therapist is your enemy when trying to cultivate misery in your life. So get out as soon as possible. And if you happen upon a therapist who’ll sit quietly while you bring all 14 items on this list to life each week, call me. I’ll want to make an appointment, too.


Cloe Madanes is a world-renowned innovator and teacher of family and brief therapy and one of the originators of the strategic approach to family therapy. She has authored seven books that are classics in the field: Strategic Family Therapy; Behind the One-Way Mirror; Sex, Love, and Violence; The Secret Meaning of Money; The Violence of Men; The Therapist as Humanist, Social Activist, and Systemic Thinker; and Relationship Breakthrough. Contact: madanesinstitute@gmail.com.