Monday, December 31, 2018

The Bible Lied About Lot's Daughters

Artwork that shows Lot and his two daughters fleeing Sodom (which is in the background on fire). Behind them, Lot's wife is looking back at Sodom and waving her arms. Image source.
[content note: child sexual abuse]

Here's a post with a bit of bible interpretation that blew my mind: The Lot of the Abused: How We Shift the Blame Onto Victims. (It's from 2016 but was recently shared on Love, Joy, Feminism.)

The writer, Ryan Stollar, says that the biblical story about Lot's daughters just doesn't add up. According to the bible, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot lived in a cave with his two daughters, and the daughters decided they needed to get pregnant by their father because supposedly there were no other men in the world. They got him drunk and then the older daughter had sex with him. The next day they got him drunk again and the younger daughter had sex with him. Both got pregnant. And Lot was so drunk that he wasn't even aware of what was happening during sex- "he did not know when she lay down or when she arose." In other words, the two daughters raped their father.

Yeah, Stollar says he doesn't buy it. Remember the part (before they lived in the cave) where Lot lived in Sodom and an angry mob came to his door and he offered to let them rape his two virgin daughters? Stollar asks:
How did these marginalized young girls, who were just moments prior about to be thrown out to be sexually assaulted themselves, become—seemingly overnight—active and machinating sexual criminals?
Instead, he sees it this way:
This causes me to have a different take. Reading the text with an eye towards child liberation and child protection means I place the children at the center of the story. When I do that, here is what I read: two young girls are offered up for gang rape by their father—a father prone to drinking, who cares little about his daughters’ protection, and has no qualms with sexual violation provided it is girls who are violated. The poor children are dragged from one city to another until they are forced to live in isolation with their drunken father in a cave. Shortly thereafter both children are pregnant. A child liberative and protective lens would color this story as child sexual abuse.
In other words, what really happened is that Lot raped his two daughters, but Christians traditionally teach it the other way around. Yep, I can confirm, that's how I always understood this story, look how Lot's daughters were such bad people, right? Wow that whole family was messed-up, right? Maybe I even told myself not to feel that bad for them, when Lot was going to send them out to the angry mob, because look, they are dirty and bad people anyway. They must have learned that in Sodom, such a bad and sinful place.

Wow, very not cool how Christians have always blamed these two children for their sexual abuse. Stollar says:
That is how child abuse and sexual abuse stories work in our world.

The adult claims the child wanted it—or the child deserved it—or the child masterminded it—or the child needed it—or the child was sinful. Abusers constantly are trying to shift blame for abuse onto the victims they abused.
Seriously, go read the whole thing.

When I was reading Stollar's article, I noticed something was missing. Or, maybe not, maybe he knew his readers already knew and it wasn't necessary for him to mention it. He never explicitly stated that just because the bible says something doesn't mean it's true. If I had read this article when I was an evangelical, I would have assumed it was coming from a biblical-inerrancy perspective, because I didn't know there were people who would put so much effort into analyzing a bible passage if they didn't believe in inerrancy. ("Inerrancy" is the belief that everything in the bible is true and without error.)

I can imagine myself as an evangelical, being quite interested in Stollar's interpretation, and then going back to Genesis 19 to see if the text could in fact be read that way. I can imagine myself getting quite stuck when the older daughter says, "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." Trying to imagine how BOTH could be true- that the daughters are victims that Lot sexually abused, AND ALSO the older daughter said these words.

It seems to me that Stollar believes the older daughter did NOT say these words. The bible is just plain wrong, here in this verse. But personally I found it odd that he didn't say so in his article. If I was reading this and I believed in inerrancy, I would have completely missed his point. It would be unimaginable to me that the writer of such an article would not believe in inerrancy. It would never have occurred to me that the writer is saying the bible is just plain wrong about what happened with Lot's daughters. I would have been so confused, trying to imagine a scenario where the two girls were victims of sexual abuse, but where it's still possible to write the account we get in Genesis 19 and have every part of it be *technically* true but wildly taken out of context.

It's so important that Christians read the bible the way that Stollar presents in his article. Noticing when things don't add up. Hypothesizing about the ways the biblical writers may have added some "facts" that weren't true, the reasons they could have had for doing so, and what that tells us about the passage.

It's interesting to me to think about how, back when I was evangelical, I knew how to be skeptical about things people said, how to think about what biases they may have that would lead them to lie- but I didn't apply that to the bible at all. Of course not! Something that, in any other context, would be highly suspicious, I would accept without question if the bible said it. Like "God told us to kill all these people and take their land." Instead of asking, "What might have motivated the writer of 'Joshua' to claim that God told them to kill the people and take their land," I just... believed it. And now I'm realizing how my study of the bible could have been so much richer and so much deeper if I had been allowed to see the layers, see how the writers changed and adapted stories for their own purposes, how they were motivated by politics, how they embellished with completely-made-up "facts" that showed their own biases. Instead I just read the bible like "here's what it says, therefore that's what happened and that's all there is to it." (Plus a lot of research into fan theories- uh, I mean, apologetics- to explain the contradictions.)

Anyway, to sum up: The biblical account of Lot's daughters raping their father is NOT how it happened. The story itself doesn't make sense. It sounds like the story an abuser would tell to cover up the abuse and blame the victims.


Reading US History Inerrantly
Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Josh and the Big Wall" (1997) 
The Bible's Contradictions Matter, And It's Not a Logic Problem

My favorite genre of bible fan fiction is about taking characters the bible portrays as "bad" and reimagining their stories. Here are 2 fics I've written along those lines:
Noah's Evangelism
Achan's Sin

Thursday, December 27, 2018


A sleeping cat wearing a Santa hat. Image source.
1. A 5-Month-Old Girl Has Been Hospitalized With Pneumonia After Being Detained By The Border Patrol (posted December 19) "Portillo told agents that her daughter was sick shortly after being detained, but they told Portillo it was normal and that everyone coming into the holding cells was ill. She wasn't allowed to get new medication or see a doctor."

2. The best $6,250 I ever spent: top surgery (posted December 18) "Last year, I publicly admitted to having a body for the first time, an act so embarrassing I have still not fully recovered."

3. Blogger Elizabeth Esther Regrets Her Participation in Josh Harris Documentary (posted December 20) "My takeaway is that nothing has changed for Josh Harris. He still believes the same things. He just doesn’t like how he said it in a book he wrote." (My post about Harris's documentary is here: So I Watched Josh Harris's Documentary.)

4. The Amazonian tribe defending their land with technology (posted December 20) "Over four years, the Waorani used hi-tech GPS technology, camera traps, and drones to map out 180,000 hectares of their territory."

5. Advent Calendar Day 17: Fair and foul are near of kin (posted December 17) "A Christmas caganer is a figurine of someone — traditionally an anonymous peasant in traditional dress — squatting and pooping."

6. When Teen Cas Innocently Suggested Testing a Miracle (LSP #73) (posted December 17) "And then, and then, and then we could sit back and wait for the world to wonder and marvel at how a little girl could possibly have known an ancient language so fluently at her age."

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My Urbana 12 Commitment Card

Logo from Urbana 2012. Image source.
Urbana 18 is going to be held December 27-31, so I'd like to talk about my experience with Urbana. Urbana is the huge student missions conference that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship holds every 3 years. It's about missions- about the world, about God calling you to go be a missionary, about embracing different languages and cultures, about the needs of humanity on a global scale, about our radical obedience to a God who wants us to sacrifice everything for the gospel.

ANYWAY here is a rough timeline of what happened to me:

2009: Went to Urbana
2010: Went on a short-term missions trip to China
2012: Went to Urbana
2013: Moved to China, and I've been living here ever since.

Umm. Did I come to China because of Urbana? No? Kind of? Maybe? It's more complicated than that. It wasn't like "while we were in that giant auditorium singing 'I Will Go' I just got this sense like God was telling me, 'Perfect Number, go to China.'" It wasn't like how the Christian leaders at my college encouraged us to sign up for Urbana by name-dropping famous missionaries who apparently "heard the call" at Urbana. It wasn't like that.

(And because it wasn't like that, I spent 2010-2013 living in the US, wanting SO MUCH to be in China, but not even sure if I was "allowed to", because "God didn't 'call' me." But that's a story for another time. Seriously, ask me about that sometime and I will TELL YOU. Or look through my blog posts from 2012.)

I already believed- because I had been taught this in church for my entire life- that God loved the whole world, and that all around the world there are people who desperately need our help, either because they're living in poverty, or because they haven't "heard the gospel." And I believed I should obey God no matter the cost. Urbana just helped me see, in real-life practical terms, what it would mean to live like I really believed those things. (I no longer necessarily think those are good things to believe...)

It wasn't like "I moved to China because at Urbana God told me to move to China." Nope. Not one bit like that. Maybe it was more like "I moved to China because of these things I believed about God and the world, which I had believed my whole life, but Urbana reminded me of them in a way I couldn't shake."

(I've actually been working on a post about "the real reason I came to China" for a while, so stay tuned for that. Maybe in the next few months.)

Anyway. What I really want to talk about in this post is my Urbana 2012 commitment card.

What is a "commitment card", you ask? Well on the last day of a Christian conference, they have all the attendees fill out a "commitment card" where you write down what actions "God is calling you" to take as a result of your experiences at the conference. As it happens, a while ago I found an image online of an Urbana 2012 commitment card, and I posted it on the blog post I wrote about radical Christian missions. Here is the image:

Urbana 2012 commitment card. Image source.
Here is the text, the different "commitments" you can choose from:
I say "yes" to Jesus, who extends God's lavish welcome
1. I am deciding to become a follower of Jesus for the first time.
2. I am deciding to recommit myself to following Jesus.

I commit to extending Jesus' invitation
3. I will invite someone who is not a follower of Jesus to study Luke with me

I commit to join Jesus in his global mission
4. I commit to serve and learn in a global or cross-cultural setting
5. Short-term: less than one year
6. Mid-term: one to two years
7. Long-term: more than two years
So for each of the numbered items, there's a box you can check if you're "committing" to that one. Yep, this is exactly what the commitment card I filled out looked like. I remember I checked off the last one- commit to doing cross-cultural missions long-term, ie more than two years.

All right, that was 2012, that was 6 years ago, how about we revisit that "commitment" and see if I did it or not?

Well to start out with, let's talk about what the word "commitment" means. This is a two-year commitment. Wow. That is a really big deal. I wonder about the other students who checked off that box. I wonder if it was a decision they made at Urbana, or if they had already been planning to move to another country.

In my case, I was already planning to go to China, before I went to Urbana 2012. The commitment card didn't represent me making a decision; it was just me writing down the decision I had already made, the decision that had been on my mind constantly since that short-term mission trip in 2010.

But the way Christians always talked about Urbana and God's "calling", I imagined that typically, these "commitments" were something new, something that had just come up within the few days that people were attending the conference. As if someone showed up at Urbana with no plans at all to do long-term missions, but with their "heart open to God", and during the conference they felt like God was "calling" them to go to such-and-such country that they had never been to before and knew nothing about.

(I even knew Christians who chose not to go to Urbana specifically because they were worried that God was going to "call" them to go be a missionary in some foreign country. Ha, I could write a whole post analyzing what this says about obeying God and not being allowed to make our own choices.)

I have no idea, in reality, how long people thought about it before making "commitments" at Urbana. I don't know what percentage of them counted the cost. But I do know that we were encouraged to "step out in faith" and "trust God" and go ahead and make that commitment even though we didn't yet understand how it would work out in practical terms. After all, if God is telling you to do it, then God will make sure those minor details work out. (Minor details like "I don't speak the language"...) No worries.

It seems to me that an idea which comes to you in an emotionally-charged Christian environment like the Urbana conference can disappear just as fast when you go back to your normal life. If, out of nowhere, "God calls you" and you "commit" to moving overseas for 2 years, but that's something you had never actually thought about before, then how on earth is that actually going to happen? Raw emotion isn't going to get you there. You have to find a job or find a missions organization. You have to fill out visa applications. You have to buy a plane ticket. You have to pack medications and maybe get vaccines, depending on which country you're going to. You have to at least learn how to say numbers, so you can buy stuff, and "where's the bathroom?" But before you do any of that, you have to do A LOT OF RESEARCH to figure out where to even start.

So I wonder, how many students made "commitments" at Urbana to do missions, and then nothing ever came of it.

What about me though? I committed to 2 or more years of cross-cultural missions. And I've been living in China for 5 years now. So, uh, does that "count"?

I mean... Back when I was an evangelical, I believed in the concept of "we are all missionaries, no matter where we are." Basically, even if you're not living in a foreign country, even if you're not in a Christian job like being a pastor, even if you just have a "normal" life (whatever that means...), you should still think of yourself as a missionary. That means that you should work hard to "show God's love" to people and to "share the gospel" with them- that should be a high priority for Christians no matter where we are or what job we have.

And I still believe that. Well, in an ex-evangelical way. I no longer do evangelism- because it's BAD and UNLOVING to assume that I know what complete strangers need (ie, they need to become Christians). But I believe in doing good and loving people even if that's not part of my actual professional job description. Do the right thing, spend time and effort caring about people, etc.

Umm. So. ... Am I a missionary?

LOLOLOLOLOL no. No, I very much DO NOT identify as a missionary.

Do I "serve and learn in a global or cross-cultural setting"? (The actual text of the commitment card.)

I mean, yes... except that I think the "serve" here is actually Christianese for "doing the things that good evangelicals are supposed to do, like evangelism." So if we're using that definition, then no. If any of this is dependent on being a good evangelical, then no, no I have NOT spent 2 years doing that.

Overall, I have no regrets about this. I did good enough. I moved to China. As for that stuff about continuing to buy into that whole ideology about evangelism and missions, nah I don't feel bad about leaving all that behind.

One more thing I want to say about the concept of committing to move to a different country for 2+ years: Actually, that's not really something you can commit to, because there could be unexpected problems that come up and force you to move back to your home country.

When I first came to China and I was teaching English, I had a coworker who was also from the US, let's call her Anna. She had been working in Shanghai as an English teacher for less than 1 year, and then she started having health problems, and she had to move back to the US to get treatment.

I met another American here in Shanghai, let's call her Cathy. She came to China because she got a job as a music teacher here, but then when she got here the school was like "actually you won't be a music teacher, you're going to teach English." Yeah, that happens sometimes- the job they actually want you to do is completely different from the job they said you were going to do.

Cathy, as you might imagine, was NOT HAPPY about this. She spent a few days scrambling around to find a new job- at one point saying to herself, "If I don't find a new job today, I will have to go back to the US." She did find a different teaching job, and she worked there for a few months. But then she had problems with her visa, and China is a giant bureaucracy, and she couldn't get those problems solved so she did end up moving back to the US.

I have another American friend, let's call him Tim, who was studying in Japan in 2011 when there was a huge earthquake that caused a huge tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdowns. It was bad. Wikipedia says 15000 people died. Because of that disaster, Tim ended up leaving Japan and coming back to the US. From what he told me, it sounded like most of the international students he knew in Japan were leaving.

In her book When We Were On Fire (which I blogged about here), Addie Zierman talked about the period of time she and her husband spent in China. For her, it was a very low point in her life. She developed depression because of the culture shock and because of how isolated she felt. For her own mental health, she needed to leave.

And the book Runaway Radical (which I blogged about here) tells about how Jonathan Hollingsworth went to Cameroon as a missionary, because he was so "on fire for God" and bought into all that ideology about sacrificing everything for the sake of the gospel. When he was there, he suffered spiritual abuse from the leaders of the missions organization. The situation got worse and worse, and finally he decided to leave, and they wouldn't even give him his plane ticket or refund any of the money his donors had raised. He was able to get back to the US, eventually.

My point is, sometimes you plan to move to a foreign country and live there for a certain period of time- 1 year, 2 years, whatever- but then circumstances outside of your control force you to leave. So I'm really really uncomfortable about the idea of "making a commitment" about it. Yes, you can make a commitment to try, to put in a reasonable amount of effort in pursuit of that goal, but making a commitment to actually do it... uhhhh... Especially if you've never even traveled there before and you really have no idea what you're committing to. (*cough* like most of the students at Urbana *cough*) When you don't know how hard and painful it is to be an immigrant.

I just hate the idea that someone could spend so much time, effort, money, and emotional energy to move to another country, and then something bad happens and they're more or less forced to move back to their home country- which is a difficult situation just by itself- but then on top of that, they feel the weight of guilt because they broke a commitment they made to God. If it was me, no matter what the problem was that forced me to leave, I would feel like it was my fault, that I should have just tried harder and I could have found a way to stay. Or I would feel like my sin was in making that commitment in the first place- making a "rash vow" like Jephthah, am I right? Like it didn't matter if I'd vowed something that was actually impossible for me to do. It's my fault for not adding fine print to the Urbana commitment card.

(By the way, here is a link to the BEST POST I HAVE EVER READ about the biblical story of Jephthah's daughter. "The story of Jephthah is the story of everyone who decides that vows and codes and rules must be absolute. That way of thinking always ends in death.")

Anyway. I'm revisiting my 2012 Urbana commitment card because it's a big deal to commit to 2 years of cross-cultural missions, and that matters to me. InterVarsity keeps statistics about these commitment cards, as if they really matter and these are real commitments we are making. Look at this link- it says in 2012 at Urbana, 4248 students committed to that last option on the commitment card, 2 or more years of "long-term mission." I was one of them. I want to know what happened to the other 4247. 6 years later, where are they? Did they do their 2 years? Did they quit being evangelical, like me? What did it actually mean, that we made this commitment?


Readers: If you have experience with making "commitments" at a Christian conference, leave a comment about it! Especially if you went to Urbana.


I Didn't Count the Cost Before I Moved To China
This Is Exactly the Martyr Fairy Tale We Aspired To
InterVarsity just strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel. (I no longer support InterVarsity because of what they did to queer people in 2016.)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Trans and Religious

A church with a rainbow flag over the door. Image source.
For Advent this year, I'm giving money to support trans people, and posting links to some good articles about trans people and Christianity.

Today I want to share this post by Shannon T. L. Kearns, How Do You Reconcile Your Trans Identity With Your Religion?
Can I tell you a secret? You don’t actually have to reconcile your faith and your sexuality/transness. Not really. What you need to do is free your mind from the narrow view that says there is only one way to understand Christianity. That there is only one interpretation of Scripture. That there is only one way to read the Bible. That there is only one way to get into Heaven (and that getting into Heaven is the be all end all of the Christian life). Because once you do that work; once you really understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus (and what it doesn’t mean) then you will find that there is no reconciliation to be done. Because you’ll find that who you were created to be is good and holy and beautiful.
(go read the whole thing)

Also this: The journey of one transgender Latina in the church, about Nicole Garcia, a trans Latina woman.
The report Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that while discrimination against transgender individuals was pervasive, “people of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African American transgender respondents faring far worse than all others in most areas examined.”

For example, while transgender people are twice as likely to lose their jobs as the general population, transgender people of color are four times more likely to face unemployment, the report says. The majority of those killed in transgender hate crimes are transgender women of color, according to Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“We didn’t stop being black, Latino, Asian or Native American just because we became trans,” noted Kylar Broadus, executive director of the Trans People of Color Coalition.

On a grass-roots level, Garcia said she has experienced a wonderful welcome at Mount Calvary Lutheran in Boulder, Colo., where she serves currently as a seminarian. And two other Colorado churches, St. Paul Lutheran in Denver and Christ the Servant Lutheran in Louisville, have given her funds toward tuition.

Yet Garcia still wonders if a congregation will accept her as a minister just as she is. “How can I feel comfortable as a Latina with dark skin in a denomination where inevitably at least 90 percent of the congregants in any ELCA church will be white?”

Garcia is very aware that when she graduates, she will have up to $25,000 in student loans. “Even though I have church credentials as a national church leader and a background in counseling, who will hire a 58-year-old Latina trans clergyperson?”

The answer to that question will help determine how radically inclusive mainline churches can be moving forward.
(go read the whole thing)

Merry Christmas everyone~ If you have money, consider donating to trans people in need on the #TransCrowdFund hashtag, or to Trans Lifeline.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Scene between Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner from the first Avengers movie, except the image has been edited so they are both wearing Santa hats. Rogers says, "Doctor Banner ... Now might be a really good time for you to get merry." Banner says, "That's my secret Cap. I'm always merry." Image source.
1. “Father, Husband, Brother, or Son” Is for White Men (posted December 13) "Conservatives talk about a “war on men,” and then they turn around and accuse migrant caravans as being mostly made up of men as though men are less deserving of peace, and safety, and employment, and they, in fact, are the ones waging a war on men."

2. 7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion (posted December 13)

3. ‘No matter what the laws might be, you would honor yourself for doing it’ (posted November 24) "The ICE agents operate with support from exactly the same kind of white Christian who supported the slave-catchers in 1858."

4. A Christianity That Makes Room for Rage (posted September 28) "I slowly came to understand that if I was going to remain a Christian, I needed to find a path that had room for the rage and grief I carried with me as a rape survivor."

5. Anne Graham Lotz: My Breast Cancer’s a Sign That an Attack on Israel is Imminent (posted December 15) "If that’s her logic, she’s going to be shocked when she learns how many other people are also born in 1948." Yep, I know all about how the "personal relationship with God" strand of Christianity can lead a person to think the whole world revolves around themself.

6. You Can’t Be Autistic Because. . . You Speak (posted September 12) Debunking this myth~

7. Lament for the Slave Girl in Pharaoh’s House (posted November 19) "It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. She didn’t have a lamb, or doorframes. She couldn’t even call her body her own."

8. Advent Calendar Day 5: The quest for the canonical Santa Claus (posted December 5) "Why should “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” be more authoritatively canonical than, say, “Here Comes Santa Claus”? I’m not sure, but I think it is — just as I think the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies are, while amusing, heterodox and non-canonical."

9. Today I learned the Newsboys did a cover of "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Nice.

Note: This is the Newsboys as in "Michael Tait is the lead singer of the Newsboys." Those of us 90's kids who grew up evangelical may remember when Peter Furler was the lead singer of the Newsboys, and Tait was part of dc Talk. Good times. Here is a Newsboys Christmas song from that era:

10. A Christmas Miracle: Speaking in Tongues at the Company Party (posted December 11) "To this day, I don’t think that hypnotist realized that he had assigned me the role I had been born to play."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My Marriage Is So Good, I Forgot "Unequally Yoked" Was Supposed To Be A Problem

A man and woman praying at church. Image source.
So I read this article, from The Gospel Coalition: Help! I Married a Spiritually Immature Man. It's about Christian women who marry men that aren't good enough Christians- how women end up in that supposedly bad situation, and what the women can do about it. Weirdly, sometimes the article seems to be talking about a husband who is not a Christian, and sometimes it seems to be talking about a husband who's a Christian but just not as "mature" as his wife. Umm... referring to all non-Christians as "spiritually immature", assuming that they're not good enough husband-material- this is Christian supremacy and it's not "loving your neighbor as yourself."

I'm not going to actually go through and respond to specific points in the article, because the writer's perspective is just so completely different from mine, it's hard to know where to even begin. Instead, I will write about my own marriage, and how my "spiritual life" is related or unrelated to my husband.

All right. I am a Christian, and my husband (Hendrix) is not religious at all. We've been married for 1 year, and in total we've been together for 5 years. And us being different religions is just... not an issue at all.

When I was a kid, I was taught that it was a HUGE PROBLEM if a Christian married a non-Christian. They would be "unequally yoked." The Christian would always worry that their spouse was going to hell. The Christian would be constantly trying to change their spouse, which isn't healthy in a marriage. The non-Christian would try to get the Christian to sin, or would convince them it's okay to not go to church and not read the bible and not care about religion. And so on.

Indeed, back then, long before I met Hendrix, I was the sort of Christian that would not have been compatible with a non-Christian. I would have believed he was going to hell. I would have worried and tried to change him, and always felt superior because I'm right and he's wrong. I believed a husband is supposed to his wife's "spiritual leader," so obviously he needs to be at least as good of a Christian as me. And I used to get all worried and guilty over my "sins", blowing them way out of proportion, and I would NOT have been happy with a husband who told me those "sins" are just normal human things that aren't a big deal and I don't need to worry so much. "Sins" like wanting my friends to care about me, rather than believing "God is all I need." And rushing through my "daily quiet time" because I'm tired. And being attracted to people.

But I'm a completely different kind of Christian now. I don't believe in hell- or rather, I don't believe in the "accepting Jesus into your heart is what decides if you go to heaven or hell" version of hell. I'm not concerned about people I care about going to hell, because I believe that God is just, so They're not going to be giving out huge unreasonable punishments like eternal torture. I'm totally not interested in Hendrix becoming a Christian. Like, I have had enough problems being a Christian... I'm proud of my faith and it's really important to me, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to other people. I don't think it would massively change anything if Hendrix became a Christian- he already has all the qualities that make him a great husband for me. I feel weird even writing that, because it's just not even a possibility, and that doesn't matter to me at all.

And back then, when I was a good evangelical, I needed "accountability" because following God meant forcing myself into things that were unnatural and painful for me. I had to repress so many emotions, had to read the bible every day (no excuses), had to awkwardly force people into religious conversations they didn't want to have (ie "sharing the gospel"), had to deny myself and give up whatever God asked me to give up, had to be fighting my sin all the time, couldn't rest, had to constantly question my motives because if I was doing a good thing for "selfish" reasons then that was a sin. On their own, nobody can force themselves to live under that many restrictions constantly, so I believed Christians need "accountability," which means your Christian friends frequently check in with you to encourage/guilt you into it. 

So of course it would be bad if I was trying to live that way and also had a non-Christian husband. He would "tempt" me into believing it's okay to relax a bit and let some of those things slide.

It was a lifestyle that I now see as anti-human and unnatural, and that's why I would need other Christians to constantly push me to keep living that way. 

But my spiritual life now isn't like that at all. It's about being healthy and loving myself and loving people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and learning from them. And it feels so good; it's not something that needs to be constantly pushed on me. I still feel that I need other Christians to talk to about my beliefs, and my husband isn't able to meet that need, but I have Christian internet friends and I write a huge giant blog about that stuff. So I'm good. I don't believe that married people are supposed to get all their needs for human connection met through their spouse. Of course we need friends too. That's a good and healthy thing. Not a "this is less than ideal, but we make it work" thing.

Also the idea that one person can be another person's "spiritual leader" no longer makes sense to me. Back when I was evangelical, "spiritual growth" was one-dimensional: there is one ideal way to be a Christian, and "spiritual growth" means moving toward that ideal. We all knew the things we were supposed to do: read the bible every day, pray, go to church every Sunday, be more loving, be more patient, don't be angry, don't be selfish, share the gospel, and so on. A "spiritual leader" should encourage you to do those things. They would look at your current situation and tell you what you need to do to become that "ideal" Christian. Your "spiritual leader" is farther along than you, on the one-dimensional path towards that "ideal Christian" goal.

But I no longer believe there's one correct "ideal" for people's spiritual lives. People believe in many different religions for different reasons, and that's fine. For ex-evangelicals in particular, some of us are still Christian and some stop believing in God altogether. I'm still Christian but I think it's totally fine for other ex-evangelicals to stop believing in God. (Or change to another religion. Or whatever.) That's valid. I get that. And some ex-evangelicals go to church, and some don't. Maybe we find a better church and we're happy there, or maybe we've experienced so much trauma in church settings that we're just not able to go to any church at all, even a "better" one. I wish I could go to church but I haven't found one that doesn't cause me to have depression. And some ex-evangelicals study the bible, and some have so much bible-related trauma that they don't want to read the bible at all. And some pray and some don't.

My point is, everyone has to be in charge of their own spiritual life (or lack thereof), because there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Nobody else can know what you need as well as you. Nobody else can tell you what religion you should believe. Nobody else can say whether going to church would be helpful or harmful to someone who's had bad experiences in church but still identifies as Christian. There's not one "right answer." It's different for everyone. And that's why the idea of having a "spiritual leader" no longer makes sense to me. I need to be in charge of this myself.

Yes, I sometimes ask my husband "should I go to church for Christmas?" (or other religion-related advice questions) and we talk about the pros and cons, and he's very helpful, but of course in the end it's always my decision. It has to be my decision. Nobody else knows what I need.

So that's our situation. I'm a Christian, and my religion is very important to me, and my husband is not religious. And... it's just not a problem at all. I can see how it would DEFINITELY be a problem for certain types of Christians- like when I used to be evangelical and I believed non-Christians were going to hell, and my "relationship with God" meant constantly repressing myself. But I don't believe that anymore. I now believe it's fine to believe whatever religion you believe- what actually matters is how you treat people. And nobody is qualified to take charge of another person's spiritual life and be their "spiritual leader", because nobody knows your situation better than you.


Boundaries in Dating: In which I roll my eyes so much
I'm dating a nonchristian and I want to marry him. Here's why I believe that's not a problem.

Monday, December 17, 2018

How Churches Can Welcome Trans People

A church steeple. Image source.
During Advent this year, I'm giving money to support trans people, and if you are financially able then you should too. :)

And this week I want to share some articles about what churches should do to welcome trans people:

How to tell if your church is welcoming for transgender people (from Queer Theology)
If your website says nothing about transgender people I will automatically assume that you are not welcoming of transgender people.


How do you refer to God on your website? Do you use only male pronouns? Or only binary pronouns?

Do you have lots of gender specific ministries and groups? If so do you make clear that transgender people are welcome in those groups? Do you have groups for transgender or non-binary identified people? (And really, do you need gendered groups to begin with?)
Being a pastor for trans people (Elizabeth Palmer interviews Tracy Nolan)
When talking to a person who identifies as trans, use the pronouns and name that the person asks you to use. When in doubt, ask. If you make a mistake, apologize and move on.

Consider how you might be perceived as a minister. Identify yourself as a safe person through your language and interaction.

Don’t assume that someone who identifies as trans is broken or needs pity.

Pay attention to how you might advocate for someone—but first offer and ask their permission. Some may not want your advocacy, or it might not be safe for them to be public about their trans identity.

Don’t “out” anyone. Their story is theirs to share, and they may not share it with everyone for very valid reasons.
Have a good Advent, everyone, and let's continue to support trans people by donating money on #TransCrowdFund or to Trans Lifeline.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Music Round-Up

Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy it's time for my annual "Christmas Music Round-Up" post, in which I post more-or-less the same songs every year because I'm a creature of habit.

So anyway. Here are my favorite Christmas songs:

"Joy to the World" (Whitney Houston)

"Gloria" (Michael W. Smith)

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (Casting Crowns)

"Glory to God in the Highest" (Soul Children)

"Let There Be Light" (Point of Grace)

"Emmanuel" (Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant)

"Mary Did You Know" (Pentatonix)

Merry Christmas everyone and happy holidays~ What are your favorite holiday songs?

Thursday, December 13, 2018


A golden retriever wearing a Santa hat. Image source.
1. Blessed Be (posted December 6) "As a horny evangelical teen, I knew sex had to wait until marriage. So I wrote soft-core erotica about my wedding night." Yessss I relate to SO MUCH of this.

2. I Want to Have Sex Like… Steve Rogers (in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) (posted 2015) Oooh this is a post theorizing that Steve Rogers is demisexual. I never thought about that before, because his lack of interest in dating/sex in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" felt completely normal and reasonable to me, so I didn't think anything of it. This blogger points out that's not how movie characters typically feel though. Nice.

3. Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S. (posted December 9) [content note: sexual assault]

4. Who Did Leta Say "I Love You" To? | Fantastic Beasts Theory (posted December 11) [content note: spoilers for "Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald"] "On top of all that, it would also give Dumbledore the opportunity to observe sacrificial protection some time in the past, so that in the future he can give Harry a really vague explanation of what happened that night."

5. Talking Back to Conservative Christians as They Attempt to Appropriate #ChurchToo. A Day of Action on Thursday, December 13 (posted December 10) "Is it any surprise, then, that many of us are skeptical that anything good can come from #ChurchToo being addressed by a group of conservative Christians who are deeply invested in holding on to demonstrably harmful evangelical teachings about sex, sexuality, and gender?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "A Snoodle's Tale" (2004)

This is a really really good message. Also, it was presented as UNCONDITIONAL. The snoodle was good and amazing the whole time (he just didn't know it) even though he didn't believe in God at the beginning of the story. There was NOT A WORD about "if you believe" or "if Jesus is in your life"- no, it was presented as EVERYONE is intrinsically good and valuable and talented. Because God made them that way. And it's true regardless of whether they even believe in God.
Just want to emphasize how GOOD this message is.


To see all my VeggieTales reviews: Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales (Master Post)