Month: June 2014

A Modest Proposal

Sometimes, I wonder how thousands of parents across the country would feel if they realized their children were being indoctrinated by a twenty-three-year-old who writes a blog with “heretic” in the title.

The responses I imagine are not encouraging.

Odyssey

Explanation: I sometimes write devotionals for kids’ magazines and Bibles. Most recently, I’ve been working on devotionals for the Odyssey Adventure Club. This requires re-listening to entertaining audio snapshots of my evangelical childhood and remembering the unreasonable but persistent crush I had on conspiracy-theorist Jared DeWhite. It’s a hard life, I know.

I think there is a certain responsibility that comes with teaching, whether that’s from the pulpit or on a website. This is particularly true when it comes to tricky topics. How do you write a devotional about abortion appropriate for eight-year-olds? How do you discuss Job without making it sound like God will whisk away any problems or suffering?

And how do you talk about modesty without reinforcing some harmful messages that Christian girls are hearing already? (more…)

That Worship Song I Hated

Summer camp songs can usually be divided into two categories: campfire nonsense songs and chapel praise songs. Easy way to tell the difference? Nonsense songs usually involve dancing and talking animals. Praise songs involve Jesus and possibly other members of the Trinity.

There was one song that split the difference between the two. And I absolutely hated it.

It was called “Undignified,” and was taken from the story about David dancing before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant came back to Jerusalem. The chorus went like this: “Some would say it’s foolishness, but I’ll become even more undignified than this. Leave my pride by my side.”

This was accompanied by jumping around the room, hollering, and anything else you might expect out of a roomful of middle schoolers after you’ve just given them Popsicles and before you’ve worn them out with endless relay races. One of the counselors even started a congo line.

“It’s not even a worship song,” I pointed out to a friend after chapel. “Nobody knows what they’re singing about. They just want an excuse to jump around and act stupid.”

So, when we sang “Undignified,” I just stood there with my bony arms crossed, feeling like the only thinking person in the room, a contentious objector to unspiritual frivolity. (Even at age thirteen, I had Pharisaic tendencies. Maybe especially at age thirteen.) (more…)

Zombie Feminism

One time, I was thrown from a moving vehicle while being chased by zombies.

The story becomes slightly less impressive when you add in surrounding circumstances, but I just want you to appreciate that for a moment before I disillusion you about my epic-ness.

This is not exactly what I mean by Zombie Feminism.

This is not exactly what I mean by Zombie Feminism.

The zombies in question were actually friends of mine who had been turned “undead” in an elaborate game of group tag at my college. The “zombies,” marked with red armbands, had to track down the “humans” and attack them with Nerf weapons, until there was only one human remaining. This human was either A. the most reclusive, B. the most paranoid/sneaky/willing to get up at 5 AM to sneak into the academic buildings, or C. the best shot with a Nerf gun.

During the game, I carried around my impressive Nerf axe, borrowed from a friend because my personal arsenal is, regrettably, nonexistent. People stared. Professors raised eyebrows. I kinda sorta tried to explain. Sometimes. (more…)

When God Feels Distant, Part Two

(Part One can be found here. Yes, I’m writing a sequel to a blog post I wrote three months ago.)

A few Sundays back my church sang, “Cornerstone,” a lovely remixed version of the classic hymn, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.” (That’s the official title. Titles kind of defaulted to first lines when hymnists weren’t feeling particularly creative.)

As I sang, I thought back to my childhood hymn-singing nights (yes, actual hymnals, and yes, Sunday night services populated mostly by elderly folks) and realized that hey, one of the lines was changed.

Original Version: When darkness veils his lovely face / I rest on his unchanging grace.

New Version: When darkness seems to hide his face / I rest on his unchanging grace.

 The way I figured it, there were only a few reasons why this line might have been changed.

  1. Calling God’s face “lovely” calls to mind Facebook comments on a teenage girl’s prom pictures, and feels a bit strange. (Also, isn’t there a Biblical concept about God’s face being so overwhelming holy so humans can’t look directly at it? I think that’s a thing.)
  2. The last line of the stanza says, “My anchor holds within the veil.” Having “veil” in the first and last line seems repetitive and confusing. (Come to think of it, what does that last line mean? Is there a nautical use of veil that I’m unaware of, or is there some serious metaphor-mixing going on here?)
  3. The writers wanted to overemphasize the fact that God’s distance is not because he is actually distant, but because we perceive him to be because of our sin or our fallen world. (“Don’t worry; he’s not really hiding his face, guys! It’s a metaphor! A metaphor!”)

As I looked at this list, I became less and less confident that the third answer was the actual reason the lyrics were changed. Because A and B are strong contenders, people. (To those who, like me, sometimes complain about nonsensical lyrics in modern worship songs, let’s realize that the hymns had problems too.)

But regardless of whether it’s the actual reason in this case, the modified lyrics made me wonder: do we tend to downplay the distance of God? (more…)

The Lost Spiritual Discipline

I volunteer with a tutoring program at a friendly local megachurch, and when your student doesn’t have any homework, they have you read out loud from missionary biographies as reading practice.

One night, we were reading the story of Samuel Morris, a passionate young revivalist who came to America after miraculously escaping a rival tribe who tried to kill him. Guy had an interesting life.

At one point, Sammy Morris declared that he was going to set aside Fridays as a day of fasting, since that’s the day Jesus died and the day God spared his life in the jungle.

He also happens to have a dorm (and three statues) named after him at Taylor, which is cool.

He also happens to have a dorm (and three statues) named after him at Taylor, which is cool.

I glanced up from the story. “Do you know what fasting is?” My student, a shy seventh grader, shook her head. “It’s when someone gives up food for a set period of time and dedicates the time to God.”

“Oh,” she said. “Isn’t that like anorexia?”

Well. How do you explain to a thirteen-year-old with very little spiritual background the complexities of a spiritual discipline that we rarely practice in the Protestant church (though Jesus seemed to assume that we would)? Especially when it has a lot of superficial similarities to a self-destructive pattern of behavior that we tell young girls to stay away from at all costs?

Awkward silences are my favorite. (more…)

Biblical Myers Briggs Types

In case you ever wanted to know which apostles were introverts or how organized your favorite prophet was, here’s a fun chart I found, created by InterVarsity. (If you don’t know your Myers Briggs type, I created an unofficial quiz a while ago.)

biblemyersbriggsHere are a few of my observations:

  •  What on earth? I am completely not Peter! I make fun of him basically all the time. I mean, I never blurt out things without thinking, or jump to conclusions, or care too much about what others think of me, or…wait. Well played, InterVarsity. Well played.
  •  Also, my twin sister has the same personality type as Luke. That’s pretty cool. We’re the apostle siblings!
  •  How did they determine a type for the prodigal son? I mean, he gets two lines, and we don’t really see how he interacts with others at all.
  •  Bet it was hard for David and Solomon to understand each other if they really were completely opposite personality types.
  • Fun fact: studies have found that when you ask people whether Jesus was an introvert or extrovert, they are most likely to answer whatever they happen to be. According to this, though, if he took after his mom, he’d be an introvert.
  •  Why couldn’t Jonathan be my personality type? Or Barnabas. I love those guys. They’re both only one letter off…maybe I could become an introvert. Or organized. (At this point, anyone who knows me should be laughing hysterically.)
  •  Is it bad that I was really disappointed that Jezebel and Rahab weren’t on this list? I feel like that would be interesting. Also, Moses. He’s kind of a big deal—why didn’t he make the cut?
  •  I appreciate the artist for not making these characters blonde white people. (Does that have anything to do with personality types? No. But it needed to be said.)
  •  Since David is my least favorite major Bible character, should my nemesis be an ESFJ? (Yes, I realize that this makes me an awful Christian since David was a man after God’s own heart. But we all secretly have a Bible hero who we wouldn’t get along with in real life. Admit it.)
  •  Why make the ISTP Laban? He’s the only villain on this chart. Not cool, InterVarsity. Are you trying to give all ISTPs self-esteem problems?
  •  Three of the four women on this chart are thinkers rather than feelers, and also extroverts, which is unexpected. Although, to be fair, to be a named character in the Bible, particularly as a women, you usually have to make some noise.

Your turn: first of all, what is your Myers Briggs type? Also, if you have any guesses on a type for a character not listed here, I’d love to hear them.

Grace is an Ebook

Sometimes at work I’ll be coding Bethany House’s ebook specials page and I’ll think, “This is boring. What does this teach me about theology?”

I will let the nerdiness of that statement stand for itself and move on to my conclusion.

If you are a normal citizen of the twenty-first century, there are two basic ways for you to purchase a book: print and ebook.

Calvin's dad is not a normal citizen of the twenty-first century.

Calvin’s dad is not a normal citizen of the twenty-first century.

If you buy a print book, you have taken one copy that will need to be replaced. If you check out a print book from the library, someone else can’t read it until you bring it back. If you steal it from your local bookstore, it’s gone. Print books work on the concept of scarcity—a limited number of copies exist, and if I own copy, you can’t own the same copy at the same time.

On the other hand, if you buy an ebook, it doesn’t make one less copy of the book somewhere. The amount available is unlimited. This is why, when I post a free ebook special on the Bethany House Facebook page, people share it all over the place. By inviting others to join in on the deal, they’re not hurting their chances of getting the book too. Everyone can enjoy it.

I think Christians should have an ebook mentality when it comes to most aspects of life. (more…)