Thursday, August 29, 2019


A puppy in a basket. Image source.
1. The Strange Political Silence On Elder Care (July/August issue) "But the fact is that, one way or another, society is already bearing these costs—mostly in the form of care provided by stressed-out, uncompensated women who have the misfortune of having a family member who needs care and can’t afford to pay for it. What we need is a way to distribute that burden more equitably."

2. Women Speak About Natural Family Planning (posted 2011) "If, as John Paul II insists, mutual delight in intercourse is proper only when conception is not impeded and when the possibility of its occurence is met with relaxed, joyful expectation; and if, as he also insists, intercourse is the only proper expression of marital sexuality; then for the typical couple enmeshed in ordinary responsibilities, opportunities for generous, appropriate marital sexuality are few in a lifetime. This is not, in my experience, the path to a happy marriage."

3. Woman Wins 50K Ultra Outright, Trophy Snafu for Male Winner Follows (posted August 15) "I felt bad that the first place man didn’t have one, so I tried to convince them to blot out the ‘fe’ on ‘female,’ but they said to just keep both trophies."

4. Why are queer people so mean to each other? (posted August 16) "Everybody was gaslighting everybody. Everybody was problematic. Nobody felt safe with anybody else."

5. Which MCU Planets Could Really Exist? (posted August 9) "So, as it is shown, not even getting into the seemingly infinite supply of water on the planet, Asgard definitely could not exist without a strong foundation of magic."

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Conservative Christians Teach That Wives Are REQUIRED To Have Sex Even When They Don't Want To. Here Are The Receipts.

A man and woman reading a bible together, with the man holding the woman and looking over her shoulder. Image text: "The wife must submit." Image source.
When Christians who believe in complementarianism and "sexual purity" give advice about marriage, one of the biggest points they make is this: A wife has a duty to have sex with her husband, even when she doesn't want to. Because men need sex, in a unique way that women just can't possibly understand. Also, it's totally 100% normal and expected that a wife won't want to have sex with her husband. But she has to anyway.

It's not a very positive or healthy perspective on marriage or sex.

In this post, I have gathered a bunch of "receipts"- a bunch of blog posts from conservative Christians who are teaching this exact thing.

I also found some writers who said it's not always true that the husband wants sex more than the wife, and that the whole "you need to have sex when you don't want to or else you're ruining your marriage" thing goes both ways. That kind of teaching is ALSO a problem, but I'm not going to put examples in this post; in this post I'm just focusing on the ones that are specifically directed toward women.

(Though I am including some that mentioned "oh, and if the wife wants sex more, then the husband has a responsibility to say yes" but it felt like just a little disclaimer thrown in on the side, and the advice was really targeted at women.)

Anyway, here are the receipts:

Understanding Your Husband's Sexual Needs
The lack of regular sex is a significant barrier to emotional connectedness and intimacy for men. Likewise, sex is perhaps the most powerful force bonding a man emotionally and relationally to his wife. Beyond just the act of having sex, sharing and embracing your husband's sexuality is perhaps the most powerful way to build the intimacy you so desire in your marriage. How can you truly be connected with him if you ignore or minimize the one aspect of his life that dominates him physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally?
Submitting to Your Husband: The Basics
Speaking of taking off pants…get intimate! Are you tired of hearing about this one yet? Well, if you are…get used to it. I have said it once, and I will say it again…

Opening my heart and allowing God to work on the intimacy in our marriage has been the best thing I have ever done.

Men NEED sex. Now, I know that’s blunt, but hear me out. Intimacy isn’t just something in our marriage that we can wave off and discredit as, “Oh, he’s just being a guy.” Sex is very much tied to the emotional part of a man’s brain. I’m not going to go way deep into it, but if you haven’t already, check out the experiment I did in my own marriage! (Read: My Intimacy Experiment)

Now, how exactly does getting intimate = submission in marriage? When we submit to our husband’s desire and NEED to have an intimate, emotional connection with us in the marriage bed, we are showing him that we respect the ways in which he feels love. Each and every time that we have sex with our husbands, we are validating the marriage vows said on our wedding day. We are saying, “I care about you, and I want to prove it.” It’s not about getting it over with or just doing it because that’s all that men want. It’s about acknowledging his need for intimacy and deciding to be obedient to God by submitting to our husbands.
The Duggars' 7 tips for keeping your marriage sexy, even after (a lot of) kids
1. Say yes to sex, even when you're tired. Michelle says a friend gave her advice to live by before she and Jim Bob married in 1984: "She said, 'In your marriage there will be times you're going to be very exhausted. Your hubby comes home after a hard day's work, you get the baby to bed, and he is going to be looking forward to that time with you.'" — she's talking about sex, just so everyone's clear — "'Be available. Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls.'"

At the time, as a young bride-to-be, Michelle says, she couldn't imagine ever not wanting to "be available" for some quality married nookie. But with kids, she soon realized, exhaustion can easily extinguish romance. So she's made an effort to follow her friend's advice — and with no birth control and 19 kids, it would seem she's succeeded. "That has been such a lifesaver for our marriage," she tells TODAY Moms.

Seems to be working for Jim Bob, too: "We're like a newlywed couple every day!" he enthuses.
Key Truths about a Husband and Wife Needing and Desiring Sex – Part 2 – Is It Just About Sex for the Man?
On the other side, thinking of the good-willed husband, few things wound a husband more than being met with sexual rejection despite his consistent love for his wife (C.O.U.P.L.E.). Not only does he feel deprived sexually, but more profoundly, he feels disrespected and possibly unloved. Most husbands know their wives love them, but when rejected like this, it goes to the core of their being, and they feel dishonored. And in a male’s world, this is colossal. This is less about sex and more about honor. He has a need that only she can meet, and when she rejects him sexually, she leaves him feeling without worth and importance. She shames him, and Proverbs 12:4 says, “She who shames him is rottenness to his bones.”
Is It Reasonable to Say “No” to Oral Sex?
What about wives who just don’t like oral sex, but don’t really have any strong reason for saying no?

My challenge to wives who have flat out refused any kind of oral sex, whether it be giving or receiving, is to really look at why they feel that way.

Are you trying to argue it from a biblical standpoint?

In my opinion, you won’t get very far. Most theologians and people who have thoroughly studied the book of Song of Songs believe it includes positive references to marital oral pleasure. Also, there is no scripture in the Bible that specifically says a husband and wife cannot include oral sex in their intimacy.
My hope would be that a wife who is unwilling to budge would do a bit of introspection to see if her steel-clad refusal is really reasonable.

If you are that wife, are you being reasonable on this?
How Your Husband Feels When You’re Too Tired For Sex
It might seem that putting dear hubby off for another night isn’t that big of a deal. As Leslie puts it, it isn’t personal. In other words… we women tend to think that, for him, sex is primarily a physical need. In the same way that sleep is a physical need! Right? Well, actually, for him…. no. It’s much more than that.

Sex is a powerful emotional need for men.

I was shocked in my research with thousands of men that sex is actually primarily a powerful emotional need for men. It meets a very deep need in a man to feel that his wife desires him—a need that hits at the core of who he is, and is thus far more central to his sense of emotional well-being (and thus the marriage relationship!) than most women realize. (Ladies, if you have the higher drive in your marriage, check out our special article series “When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive.”)

Being intimate with your husband tells him he’s desirable, which, believe it or not, gives him that oh-so-necessary sense of confidence and well-being in all the other areas of life. One husband I interviewed explained, “What happens in the bedroom really does affect how I feel the next day at the office.”

Being physically intimate is as important to your man as being emotionally intimate is to you.

And it works the other way, too. Your (spoken or implied) “please leave me alone” probably makes your husband feel like “you are so undesirable you can’t even compete with my pillow.” Looking at it from his standpoint, that is a depressing message. Do you see how responding—or not responding—tells your husband something emotionally important in a way you might never have realized?

The men often used this analogy: a lack of being physically intimate is as emotionally serious to a man as a lack of togetherness or communication would be to you. It would be similar to how lonely and abandoned you would feel if he suddenly started giving you the silent treatment and stopped communicating.
Lori Alexander writes about this a lot. Like, go over to her blog and you will find an endless amount of horrifying misogynist posts about how wives need to just get over themselves and have sex. Here's a post from her: Premarital Sex Is SO Detrimental To Marriage
One man posted this question on his Facebook wall: “Should a wife have sex with her husband even when she is not in the mood?”

I answered, “Yes, because a wife who loves the Lord and His ways certainly will, since she is not led by her moods or emotions but by the perfect Word of God.”
Actually, it’s a strong woman who isn’t being led by her moods and emotions but instead is living in obedience to God’s command to not deprive her husband sexually. This takes strength whereas doing as you please takes no strength at all.

Why do women act so profoundly disgusted at the thought of giving themselves freely to their husbands sexually even if they’re not in the mood?
And here's one where Alexander reposts something from a blog commenter saying wives need to just fake it: Your Husband's Sexuality is a Gift From God to You
When I speak to younger wives, I am quick to correct them for expressing exasperation about their husbands’ sex drives. This is because an older, wiser woman did me the same favor years back. She taught me that my husband’s sexuality is a gift for me from God and that I was to joyfully receive it, enjoy it, and cherish it, rather than dreading it or resigning myself to it.

It’s mind boggling to think that many husbands have never known their wives’ complete, unbridled, uninhibited sexual response and sadly this has been wasted in past fornicating experiences and the wives now selfishly couldn’t be bothered to offer their husbands anything more than duty sex if any.
I remember being on an island to island flight with only one flight attendant. It was a red eye flight and I could see that the attendant was having a rough morning. Her hair was not as neatly coiffed as they usually have it. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot. Her makeup was meh and her suit was creased in parts. I had a little baby on the flight and the attendant was helping me secure our seat belt so I asked her if she was fine. She said it was her day off but her colleague had been taken ill so she had been given an hour’s notice to cover the flight. She was kind and smiling the whole time. She made the requisite announcements cheerily and treated the passengers with congeniality. If this woman could show up at short notice and against all odds make every effort to treat strangers with affability, how much more should a wife rise above the usual demands of motherhood and life in general to joyfully anticipate and fully meet her husband’s sexual needs?

It’s a matter of putting God and His Word first rather than ourselves.
And this tweet from Alexander too:

Mark Driscoll’s Oral Fixation
She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’”
My Spouse Doesn’t Enjoy Sex
The need is to grow up and learn to be bathed in grace at this moment. And this especially applies in the marriage bed. Don’t say “yes” to your husband’s desire tonight by complying, and then in a half a dozen ways communicating: “I wish I weren’t here.”

You don’t have to have the same kind of pleasure to make him feel loved. If you are not enjoying the actual physical realities of touch and sexual union, take joy in him. Take joy in the fact that you can give him pleasure. Take joy in the fact that he only wants it from you. Take joy in the privilege that he trusts you with his naked, emotional, physical, ridiculous abandon that he would be embarrassed in any other context to display. And he trusts you with this. Take joy in the grace of God that you can give yourself to him in these situations.

A mature, growing, gracious wife, who does not find physical pleasure in sexual relations, can find lots of pleasures in the event because of the way God set it up to be. There are ways that a mature wife can delight in that sexual moment.
The Benefits of Being a Sexually Obedient Wife
On the issue of the change in your husband’s ambition and demeanor – Absolutely you giving your body freely and with a good attitude to your husband would definitely help with his ambition and attitude toward life. Have you have heard the phrase “he just needs to get laid?” I know it sounds crass but it absolutely true. When a man (or even a woman) feels sexually frustrated or they are not getting sexually feed at home it will affect every part of their life. Often times it will result in men being less ambitious and more irritable.

When a man feels like he can have sex with his wife whenever he wants and he feels like she desires him and he pleases her that same man will often feel like he can go out and conquer the world!
On the issue of you being tired all the time before – that is absolutely true for many women. The greatest lie of feminism is telling women “You can have it all”. That is utterly untrue. There are only so many hours in day and you only have so much energy to give. If you spend 40 hours a week at your job and then another 10 hours a week commuting you are going to have very little energy left to give to your husband, your children and your home.

Many women today save little to no energy for their sex lives with their husbands. Their jobs get their energy and what little energy they have after going out to their career they give to their children while they husband is left scrounging for scraps of energy from his wife for their sex life.

As you correctly point out – yes it is a sacrifice but I think you would agree based on the changes you have seen in your husband’s life that it was a sacrifice worth making.

I think it is great that you recognize your own rebelliousness and your desire to control your time and your body. At the same time though – don’t beat yourself up. Recognize your sinful inclinations and then give those things to God. We all face different types of sins and as men we have our own sinful inclinations as well that we must recognize and fight through God’s grace.

I just want to admonish you to keep up what you have been doing and realize that your sexual obedience is not just to your husband – but truly it is an act of worship to God himself for all he has done for you. This is also a great testimony that other women can learn from and I want to thank you for sharing this with me and my audience – it is truly a blessing.
This is what I was taught about marriage: that one of the most important aspects of being married is that wives have to frequently say yes to sex they don't want.

I honestly don't know how to form a healthier view on the "one partner wants sex more than the other" issue. I'm an asexual woman married to a heterosexual man, so this is definitely relevant to my life. I don't have a complete answer- but I do know that it has to involve both people being honest with themselves and with each other about their needs and desires. It has to involve communication. It has to involve the actual needs of the actual people involved- not gender stereotypes.


If A Wife Is Required To Have Sex, That's Not "Intimacy"
I Wanna Preach the Good News of Masturbation

Thursday, August 22, 2019


4 sea lions sitting on the sand. Image source.
1. Jubilee always makes some people angry (posted July 24) "Yet the loudest voices of religious moralism in America flip that around, insisting that it’s a sin not to pay all of your debts, with interest, and with interest on the interest. And they’ll fight and oppose anything that looks like Jubilee as a threat to this 'morality.'"

2. Beyond ‘Thoughts and Prayers’: How the Christian Right’s Politics of Providentialism Keeps America from Addressing Gun Violence (posted August 7) "Yes, this assertion that children are not allowed to pray in American public schools is patently untrue, an example of something that we could file under the hashtag #ChristianAltFacts. It is, however, patently untrue in a way that is highly familiar to me as an ex-evangelical, and in a way that very much feels true to Patrick’s target audience."

3. Why We Need the New York Times’ 1619 Project (posted August 21) "The way U.S. history is taught today, black history is often relegated to its own separate courses, or treated as something that can be added to general U.S. history classes at specific moments and otherwise left out."

Thursday, August 15, 2019


A black cat looks up at us and meows. Image source.
1. ‘So heavenly minded you’re no earthly good’ (posted July 10) "Therefore, one of these groups, according to the Bible, knows God and abides in God. The other group, according to the Bible, consists of 'liars' who do not know God."

2. The Disney Renaissance Explained (posted August 6)

3. Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down. (posted August 9) "I’m performing an act of devotion to my Ancestors. This is not about your comfort, it’s about honoring their story on it’s own terms in context."

4. On Republican outreach to black voters and the utter lack thereof (posted July 16) "And so what this exercise shows, I think, is that both of our hypothetical premises cannot be equally true."

5. Honest Trailers | Avengers: Endgame (posted August 7) [content note: spoilers for "Avengers: Endgame"] "The Hulk, who cut down on the run time by finishing his arc before the movie starts."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Renee Bach, who had no medical training, opened a clinic in Africa. Just like missionaries are supposed to.

Map of Uganda. Image source.
So I need to talk about Renee Bach, the white American woman who went to Uganda as a missionary and set up a health clinic even though she had no medical training, and now 105 Ugandan children have died under her care.

NPR has an article about it: American With No Medical Training Ran Center For Malnourished Ugandan Kids. 105 Died. I recommend reading this; it gives a good overview.

(And I also posted another link about it on my June 27 blogaround, with my comment: "Oh wow this is terrible. And the only thing I can think is 'God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called.'")

What strikes me about this story- the reason I feel, ahem, "called by God" to blog about it- is that what Bach did is EXACTLY what the romanticized missionary stories I heard my entire life in the evangelical church say to do.

To be clear, most missionaries don't do things as reckless and bad as what Bach did. Most missionaries are more grounded in reality and common sense. I find her story so striking because it sounds exactly like the idealized version of missions that is presented in American evangelical churches.

This is what happens when somebody actually "steps out in faith" and literally goes and does the things that, according to American Christians, perfect godly missionaries do. This is what happens when that naive romanticized ideal collides with reality. In this case, she claimed to be able to provide medical care for severely malnourished kids, and she actually just made things worse, and many died.

A bit of background about myself: So, I'm a white American Christian who's been living in China since 2013. I do not identify as a missionary. The first time I came to China was in 2010 on a short-term mission trip, when I was a college student. Back then, I was "on fire for God" and totally bought into radical Christian missions ideology. However, there were a lot of things I did NOT buy into- I did not believe God was "calling" me to go to China, and my motivation was NOT "we need to go help those pathetic Chinese people"- instead it was more along the lines of "the image of God lives in every person in every culture, and if I only know my own American culture, I'm missing out on so much of knowing God." That mission trip left me with an overwhelming, obsessive desire to move to China long-term, and I devoted myself to learning Mandarin Chinese- which I am now able to speak, read, and write. I researched a lot of different options for how to move to China- and many of them would have involved being a missionary. Personally, I didn't care that much about whether I came through a missions organization or just a normal secular job. I just wanted, needed, to be in China- and I believed "All Christians are missionaries wherever we are." Looking back on it now, I'm glad none of the missionary opportunities ended up working out. Back then, I was in the early stages of leaving evangelicalism, and I'm glad I didn't end up in an organization where I would have to constantly explain to my colleagues how I can be a Christian if I don't believe in "God called me" and all those other things I no longer believe in. Anyway I moved to China in 2013 and now it's 2019 and I'm still here.

So yeah, I have Some Things To Say about missions.

I want to touch on a bunch of aspects of Bach's story, and how they relate to the way white American evangelicals talk about missions:


So ... in my experience, white American Christians seem to think that countries where most people are not white are poor and unsafe and those people are so sad and need our help.

Before I came to China for the first time, I had never traveled to any non-Western countries. I didn't really have any idea about any specific country's characteristics; it was all just a vague mass of "exotic." I didn't choose China for any particular reason. It was just the mission trip opportunity I happened upon when I was like "I want to go on a mission trip this summer."

In particular, Africa is seen as a pathetic, needy land where everyone is poor, everyone lives in a dusty hut with no food, no water, no medical care. Where everyone just spends all their time being sad about how poor they are, I guess.

IN REALITY, Africa is a whole continent, with over 50 countries, all of which are unique. It's extremely diverse. Statistically, it is true that the poverty rate is way too high, and lots of people don't have access to clean water- but that doesn't tell the whole story. That doesn't mean everyone lives in the middle of nowhere with no resources. There are cities. There are universities. People are full people with full lives- not stereotypes.

(And I'll stop there because actually, I too know basically nothing about Africa...)

But white American Christians have this idea that these places are so poor, they have nothing, they don't know how to take care of themselves, and therefore if we just waltz in and improvise something, well even though we don't really know what we're doing, at least it's better than nothing.

This bit from the NPR article describes it very well:
"Just think of the arrogance," says Lawrence Gostin, who heads the Center on National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. "Who are you to assume that you can do better than they can? It's not your judgment call to make."

Gostin adds that while the circumstances of Bach's case may seem exceptional, he sees her actions as stemming from an attitude many Americans bring to developing countries.

"The American cultural narrative is that these countries are basket cases."

And so, says Gostin, Americans assume that whatever their qualifications, they're sure to be of help.

The result, Gostin says, is that everyone from college kids to credentialed doctors routinely parachute into poor countries for medical missions that completely disregard local laws and conditions.

"People think that they're doing good. And they have no idea how much harm they can cause."

And people back home in the U.S. are often complicit, says Gostin. Because when these volunteers write blogs or post videos to share their exploits, "They're celebrated."
Yes, reading Bach's story, I get the impression that she felt like, "I'm not qualified to help- but there is no other option, so I have to." Umm. Yeah, not true. There are real hospitals. There are real doctors. There are real laws about how you can't just go around trying to provide medical care if you're not qualified.

God's calling

Yep, Bach believes she was "called" by God to do this.
On her first trip, in 2007, she worked at a missionary-run orphanage — staying on for nine months.

Once back home in Virginia, Bach — now 19 years old — came to a life-changing conclusion: She should move to Jinja full time and set up her own charity.

In an interview with NPR, Bach says it felt like a calling from God.

"It was a very, very profound feeling and experience. It's kind of hard to even describe in words," she says. "Like there was something that I was supposed to do."
This kind of thing- the idea that an average American Christian suddenly gets "called by God" to go do some absurd unrealistic thing in a foreign country- is how missions is portrayed in the American evangelical church. Yes, back when I was a teenager, I totally 100% believed that I could be just minding my own business and then suddenly God might "call" me and then I would have to go live in a hut on the other side of the world and be a missionary. I assumed that's how people became missionaries. It was totally a real, believable possibility that could totally happen to any Christian.

Notice, also, that God apparently called Bach to "move to Jinja full time and set up her own charity." Yes, not just move to Uganda, but SET UP HER OWN CHARITY. See, the more daunting and unrealistic the task from God is, the better the story. Of course it sounds impossible! That's why we need God's help! And God will make it a success.

In my case, back in 2010 when I was considering going on the mission trip to China, I did not feel that God was "calling" me. I just really wanted to go- and it confused me so much. Am I allowed to go on a mission trip just because I really want to, or do I need a special invitation from God? I always imagined that God's calling would be commanding me to do something I didn't want to do.

And after that, when I came back from that mission trip with an obsessive desire to move to China long-term, that didn't feel like "God's calling." It wasn't some out-of-context command to do some weird thing I didn't want to do. It came from my own realization about how little I knew about the world, and how I hated that about myself. After being in China, I just COULD NOT STAND living in a culture where I'm the majority and I have privilege and I understand how society works. I felt like it tempted me to believe that I understand the whole world, when in reality I only know a tiny tiny fraction.

I spent so long praying about my decision to move to China. Because God didn't "call" me. And so I worried that I wasn't "allowed" to do it. At times, I attempted to redefine "calling" so that "I have a huge internal desire to do this thing, perhaps the desire was given to me by God" would count. I'm no longer interested in redefining the term "calling" so at this point I just say no, God didn't call me to move to China. I just did because I wanted to.

But yes, the way Bach talks about being "called" by God to go start a charity in Uganda is 100% a normal thing people in American churches would say.

Being unqualified

The article says this:
Except Bach was not a doctor. She was a 20-year-old high school graduate with no medical training. And not only was her center not a hospital — at the time it didn't employ a single doctor.
She was completely unqualified. She had no business opening up a medical center.

But in the missionary stories I always heard in church, being unqualified- by "worldly" standards- was seen as a good thing. Christians like to say, "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called."

It wasn't about your own abilities. It was about God doing this amazing, seemingly impossible thing, and giving you the opportunity to be part of it, if only you'll trust God and jump in way over your head.

The less qualified you are, the better the story. And so, even though in reality, most missionaries spend years training and studying the culture of their destination country, they emphasize their lack of qualifications when they tell their story to the supporters back home. This is not good.

Bach was so young- only 20- and she moved to Uganda and started a charity for starving children. Wow. Look at how impressive that sentence is! How young- only 20! How scary and foreign Uganda is! How huge the task- starting her own charity! And how poor and needy the targets were- starving children! Wow! Hard to imagine a missionary story better than this- according to the way missions are talked about in American churches.

In reality, though, when a thing looks like it's impossible and it's going to fail spectacularly, typically it ends up failing spectacularly. "God" doesn't "work a miracle" and make it a success against all odds. In reality, when you have no medical training and you let people think you're a doctor, and you attempt to treat their extremely vulnerable children ... in reality it's not good.

And here's the part that scares me even more: Was she "stepping out in faith" when she took risks with these children's health care? I didn't see anything about this specifically in the article, but I know how American evangelicals talk about things like that. What if, when Bach didn't know how to help a patient, she prayed about it, and got a "feeling" from God telling her what to do, and she went ahead and did that even though she had no actual medical knowledge indicating it was actually the right thing to do?

Because that's how the stories go, when they tell them in church. God sends you into some situation where you are horribly unqualified, you're in way over your head, you have no idea what you're doing. And then of course, you encounter problems and you need to make a decision about what action to take- but there's no way you have the ability to make a good decision. Not on your own, at least. But you pray, and you get a *feeling* about what God wants you to do. And then, even though you still have no idea what you're doing, even though you're terrified, you "step out in faith" and do the thing. That's how the very best role-model missionaries live.

Wow, that's horrifying, to imagine someone might use that method IN THE ACTUAL REAL WORLD when caring for a starving child in a medical setting.

And I want to be clear, nothing in the article said Bach actually did that. But it said she made medical decisions without any actual doctors present at the center. I personally believe it is extremely likely those decisions were based more on prayer than on actual medical knowledge.

The missionary blog

Oh, the missionary blog.

NPR's article mentions Bach's missionary blog several times. When I went on my China mission trip in 2010, missionary blogs weren't really a big thing yet- THANK GOODNESS. Instead, I sent email updates only to my family and people who had given me money for the trip. I remember a few years later, seeing kids from my church posting links on Facebook to their own mission-trip blogs, and the concept felt very cringe-y to me.

Why? Because if you're going to some country where you've never been before, you're gonna have a ton of culture shock, you're gonna be so clueless about everything that is happening- do you really want your initial reactions to that to be there on the internet for everyone to see, forever? *cringe*

Like yeah, my first day in China I had a lot of opinions about things, a lot of wide-eyed "wow can you believe this is how they do things here????" and I now realize all of that was incredibly naive and I didn't have A CLUE what I was talking about. So good thing I didn't broadcast that to tons of people all over the internet.

If you go on a short-term mission trip, don't make a blog about it. Because that's the culture shock talking, and the more you learn about the place where you're traveling, the more you'll realize you knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at the beginning and you don't want the whole world reading that. Yeah, sure, it makes sense to send emails to your family and people who gave you money, but don't post stuff more publicly than that.

(As for me personally, when I first started this blog I used to do more posts about "wow look at this interesting aspect of Chinese culture", but the longer I've lived here, the more I've realized I don't know and it's not really my place to be acting like an expert on China.)

Bach's blog wasn't a short-term-mission-trip-my-first-day-in-this-country blog; she had been to Uganda before. But still, in my opinion, the posts mentioned in NPR's article have that wide-eyed-cluelessness "I'm on a grand adventure from God where I am the main character" feel.

Yes, let's talk about that part. So, when you go on a mission trip, one of the main goals is getting the people you meet in the destination country to become Christians. And maybe offering them some kind of service (in Bach's case, food and medical care) because they are in need. And both of these aspects are things you don't actually want them to know. You don't tell your targets "my goal is to get you to become a Christian." You don't tell them "I came here to help you because you're so poor and deserve my pity, look at me being such a good person, a white savior who stoops down to help you." But when you talk to your supporters back home, you do say those things.

And so when people write a mission trip blog, the audience they have in mind is those supporters back home, and other people from their own American Christian culture, who hold the same beliefs about missions.

But. It's the internet. Everyone can read it.

And people in your destination country have smart phones.

So you get missionaries posting photos of those "poor, needy" people they met, sharing romanticized versions of these people's stories- all without their consent. Treating them as stereotypes, as objects in a grand adventure that God is directing. What happens if those people- who, in reality, are intelligent human beings with a whole life, just like you- find your blog?

It's not very likely ... because of language and cultural barriers, it's not likely that people in your destination country are browsing around the same areas of the internet that you are. Except ... except for Facebook. What if you post links to your mission-trip blog on Facebook, and then you find "wow, our new friends we met in X country have Facebook, this is great, we can keep in touch!"

What if they read what you really think about them? *cringe*

The things people write on mission-trip blogs- those are the things that we're not supposed to say out loud where our evangelism targets (and other non-Christians) can hear us. The internet connects people in ways that they maybe didn't realize they didn't want to be connected.

Here's an excerpt from the NPR article:
Ten years ago, Renee Bach left her home in Virginia to set up a charity to help children in Uganda. One of her first moves was to start a blog chronicling her experiences.

Among the most momentous: On a Sunday morning in October 2011, a couple from a village some distance away showed up at Bach's center carrying a small bundle.

"When I pulled the covering back my eyes widened," Bach wrote in the blog. "For under the blanket lay a small, but very, very swollen, pale baby girl. Her breaths were frighteningly slow. ... The baby's name is Patricia. She is 9 months old."
See what I mean? It reads like "wow, here I am on this amazing adventure that God has sent me on. I met this mind-blowingly sick baby- isn't it exciting?" Do you think the parents want this dramatized account of their child's life-threatening condition broadcast for American Christians to read?

But that's how Christians talk about the people they meet on their mission trips. That's how they've always talked, when they go back to their home churches and share their "mission moment" during the Sunday service. That's bad enough. But now, in the 21st century, when blogs allow them to share their ignorant stereotypes with a much wider audience than before, ooooh I cringe.


Bach's story is exactly what would happen if someone literally did all the things that American Christians say missionaries do. Go to Africa, a land so backwards that they don't know how to do anything, a land where they're desperate for help from random unqualified Americans. Follow God's "call" and put yourself into an absurd, impossible situation so you can watch how amazing it is when God turns it into a success story. Go even though you have no qualifications and don't have a clue what you're doing- that gives God an even bigger opportunity to show off. And document it all on your missionary blog- all the one-dimensional people you meet, all the shocking situations you end up in because you had faith and obeyed God's call, all the excitement and fear of living this wild adventure that God allows you to be part of.

The most impressive missionary stories in the white American evangelical church have people doing exactly the things that Bach did. In reality, though, she did a very bad thing. She was reckless with children's lives, and many of them died.



This whole thing reminds me of the news last year about John Allen Chau, another missionary who did all the things that a perfect role-model missionary should do. Here are my posts about him:
This Is Exactly the Martyr Fairy Tale We Aspired To
Evangelicals Agree With What Chau Did (And It Makes Me Angry): Here Are The Receipts

And another related post:
Runaway Radical: The Stories You Can't Tell In Church

Monday, August 12, 2019

If One Partner Doesn't Want to Fix the Relationship, Then It's Just Not Fixable

A man and woman sitting on opposite ends of a bench, ignoring each other. Image source.
So Focus on the Family is publishing a new book called "How God Used “the Other Woman”: Saving Your Marriage after Infidelity" by Tina Konkin. Sarahbeth Caplin has a blog post about this: A New Book from Focus on the Family Blames Women When Their Husbands Cheat. Yep, the book is about how, if your husband cheated on you, you can save the marriage by determining what your role was in causing him to cheat. Umm. Okay... that sounds unhealthy and victim-blame-y.

Caplin's post includes a quote from Sheila Wray Gregoire, a Christian blogger with a much healthier view on cheating. Here's the part that I want to talk about:
A marriage can only start healing if the cheating spouse first repents. That’s always the first step. Once that’s done, the hurting spouse can choose to extend grace, can go to counseling and look at how drift was caused, and try to rebuild. But unless there is total repentance from the cheater, you won’t get anywhere.
Yes, she is absolutely right. If the person who cheats isn't interested in fixing the marriage, then it doesn't matter what the non-cheater does- it's never going to work. In that situation, the marriage is just not fixable.

To put it more generally: If a relationship has some kind of huge problem, and one partner wants to work on solving the problem, and the other partner doesn't, then it is just not possible to solve the problem and make the relationship healthy again. It's just not.

This fact is SO IMPORTANT TO ME because I never heard anything like it in Christians' teachings about purity and dating and marriage.

In Christian purity culture- which is targeted toward unmarried people- breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever. And in Christian teaching about marriage, divorce is Always Bad. So all of the advice about what to do if you're in an unhealthy relationship is along the lines of "do these things to fix the relationship" instead of "here are the criteria you can use to decide if the relationship is fixable, or whether you'd be better off just leaving." Leaving is not an option, so I never heard any teaching about how to make a healthy decision about leaving.

Yes, the "how to fix your marriage" advice from Christians often included a disclaimer about "we're not talking about people in abusive relationships- if you're being abused then you should get out" and "okay in SOME cases divorce is okay, like if there's cheating or abuse." But those things were only mentioned to show that we aren't talking about them. They only gave "here is how to fix your marriage" advice- they did NOT give "here is how to recognize abuse" advice or "here is how to go about getting a divorce if there's cheating or abuse" advice.

And similarly, for the unmarried people, there was no teaching about how to break up in a healthy way. All of purity culture was about how to avoid ever experiencing a breakup, because if you have an ex that means you gave them part of your purity and you can never have a perfect marriage. Back then, I was terrified of breaking up. So terrified.

So no, I never knew that if one partner doesn't want to fix the relationship, then it's just not fixable. I never heard that before. I never knew that, in a situation like that, it's not possible to make the relationship healthy. If your partner really shows no signs that they'll ever be willing to work with you to solve the problem, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to break up. There's nothing good or virtuous about staying in a relationship like that.

Instead, all the advice goes like this: If your husband isn't treating you right, then here's what you need to do. You need to pray for him every day. You need to be a better wife. You need to submit to him more. You need to smile and not complain. You need to have sex with him more. And so on and so on. And if you do all these things, he will magically change and become a better person.

(Related: all the evangelism tactics we used to do, back when I was "on fire for God." We were trying to get people to change their personal religious beliefs. I didn't know about boundaries; I didn't know everyone's beliefs belong to them and I can't "make" them change. All the evangelism training was about how to try to coerce and manipulate people into changing. And how to pray for God to coerce and manipulate them into changing. I thought if I followed all the steps, then it would "work.")

No, it doesn't work that way. If someone doesn't want to change, you can't make them change, no matter what you do.

See, I now believe in boundaries morality. Boundaries means you can't "make" anybody do anything. You can't make someone treat you better. You can't make someone agree with you. You can't make someone become a better person. Everyone is in charge of their own self. You can't make someone treat you better, but you should set boundaries so that people who would mistreat you don't have access to you and therefore won't be able to mistreat you. And sometimes, when you set a boundary and somebody realizes they don't like being excluded from your life, it might inspire them to change their behavior and stop mistreating you. Maybe. It might. But it also might not. The goal isn't necessarily to make them change, it's to protect yourself from their bad behavior, whether they change or not.

A long time ago, I was dating a guy, let's call him Xin, and he was sometimes very nice and affectionate, and sometimes seemed to be acting like he didn't really want to have a girlfriend. And I loved him, and I cried a lot during the times he wasn't treating me right. I ... It never occurred to me that I would be better off breaking up with him. I was starting to get out of purity culture but I was still terrified of the very concept of breaking up; it wasn't something I considered as an actual option. Instead I tried everything I could possibly think of to manipulate him into being a better person. Occasionally he would treat me better, for 1 day, and I would be so happy and feel like it was all worth it and we could totally make this relationship work.

It felt like a big milestone when we hit the 6-month mark. Then the 1-year mark. I thought that being together for 1 year was something to celebrate- as if staying together is "success" and breaking up is "failure." No, that relationship was happy for just the first few months but then it should have ended. We all would have been better off. Staying in a relationship with a partner who doesn't treat me right isn't an accomplishment.

I knew the relationship wasn't happy, and so I feared that it would end. And by "it would end" I mean my boyfriend saying to me "we should break up." I never thought maybe I could be the one to say to him "we should break up."

I thought "loyalty" was a good thing. I thought it was godly how I was good and loving toward him while he was being heartless toward me. I thought "giving up" on the relationship was a bad thing. I thought I was supposed to selflessly love him and always do what would be best for him.

It turns out, in reality, "loyalty" isn't intrinsically good. It's only good to be loyal to someone who deserves your loyalty. Someone who loves you. Someone you can trust. And it's bad and unhealthy to be loyal to someone who doesn't treat you right. (And that's why I don't worship any god. I believe in God, but I don't worship them because I'm not willing to say they deserve my loyalty. Boundaries.)

And finally ... well ... I decided that me loving Xin and wanting what's best for him meant I should tell him "okay, we will take a break from our relationship." I didn't do it for myself; I did it because I decided he would be happier if I stopped trying to manipulate him into being a decent boyfriend. (Or at least, that's how I reasoned it out- maybe I also did it because of "selfish" reasons but I was a good Christian and therefore wasn't allowed to be honest with myself about that.) I still thought there was something wrong with making a decision to break up. I still thought that I should always put others first and never be motivated by caring about my own emotional needs- that would be "selfish." I didn't know about boundaries yet. In boundaries morality, you put yourself first. That's how it should be. But all my life, Christians had taught me the exact opposite.

And then I started dating Hendrix, who from the very beginning has always acted like he is just the luckiest person in the world to have the privilege of being in a relationship with me. And every day he says and does little things that show he's in love with me. (Reader, I married him.)

But even if I hadn't met such a good partner after breaking up with Xin, breaking up still would have been a good decision. Being single would be better than being in a relationship like that- though I didn't have any way to believe that back then. I loved Xin, I was lonely, and my whole life I had heard so many warnings about losing my "purity"... if I have to start over and find a new partner, that means starting over with less purity than I had originally, and therefore I would be less valuable and less deserving of a good partner.

I wish I had been taught a whole comprehensive ideology about "yes, even though breaking up is sad because you love him, logically it is a good decision because of these reasons." Instead, my "whole comprehensive ideology" was purity culture with its beliefs about how breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever... And then occasionally an adult who didn't buy into that might tell me I deserve better and someday I'll find a way better partner, and in the meantime it's better to be single than to put up with that crap anyway... but I didn't have any way to actually fit that in to the rest of my worldview with regards to dating. So it felt like just some fleeting faraway possibility, not something I could actually trust.

No, the idea that I could tell him "we should break up" because I deserved better was never something I actually considered. There was no way I could, when I believed "loyalty" was good and "giving up" was bad, when I believed a relationship that ends is a "failure" but a relationship that keep racking up anniversaries is a "success." When I believed in "always put others first." When all the relationship advice I'd heard was about "here is how to fix your relationship" instead of "here is how to know if your relationship is worth fixing." When I had heard stories of women who suffered for years and years in bad marriages, who kept submitting and working hard to be a good wife, until finally God magically changed their husband into a good husband- and those women were role models, that was the "correct" thing to do in an unhappy marriage. When divorce was only mentioned in terms of "yes, divorce is allowed in some cases but we aren't talking about that," basically saying that if your husband cheats on you then technically it's not a sin to divorce him but it's still better to stay in the marriage. When Christians were always saying "marriage isn't about making you happy, it's about making you holy" and divorce is for those selfish losers that didn't realize "marriage is hard" so they bailed at the first sign of conflict.

I wish I had known about how to put myself first and how to make healthy decisions about breaking up. I wish I had known about boundaries, and no matter what I do, I can't "make" someone treat me right. I wish I had known that if one partner just won't do the work to fix the relationship, then it's just not fixable.


"How Far Is Too Far?" My Story, And What I Wish I'd Known
From "Virtues Morality" To "Boundaries Morality" 
"Marriage Is Hard"

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Adult dolphin and baby dolphin. Image source.
1. Why We Shouldn’t Build the 30-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea (posted July) "Oh, the fourth reason why it was so good is because America 'owned' it, in that we invaded a sovereign kingdom, set up permanent military bases, created a coup, and annexed it against the will of the people 60 years prior, and then made it an official state a few years prior to the scientific 'discovery' of Mauna Kea."

2. 2 countries issued travel warnings about the United States after a weekend of mass shootings (posted August 6) Uruguay and Venezuela.

3. Iraqi man dies after Trump administration deports him (posted August 7)

4. Why Did Target Stop Selling a Popular “Humanist” Throw Pillow? (posted July 31) "You can’t buy it even if you want to hand them all your money. There’s no explanation — or even an acknowledgment that the product ever existed."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Scar, from the 1994 Lion King cartoon. Image source.
1. Who Invented the Food Pyramid and Why You'd Be Crazy to Follow It (posted July 26) "Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings, forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries."

2. Making progress in Chinese in spite of praise (posted 2012) As a white person who can speak Chinese, I can confirm that this is very real.

3. James Dobson Visits the Border and Shows His Nativism (posted June 28) "We love you. God loves you. But you can’t come into our country. Sorry."

4. The Lion King: Was It Worth It? | SCB Review (posted July 23) [content note: spoilers for "The Lion King"] "Here's the thing about the animated Scar, is that he's just perfect." Yep, I agree with pretty much their whole review.

5. Jury: Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ copied Christian rap song (posted July 30) Wow, this takes me back to like, 2011 when I was super-into Christian rap. (Wow I could write a WHOLE POST about that- any readers interested? Here's a sneak peak: Lecrae is like the rap version of John Piper.) And yes, back then I totally did notice that the beat running through the entire background of "Dark Horse" sounded a lot like "Joyful Noise."

6. One-Time Purity Culture Advocate Joshua Harris Now Says “I Am Not a Christian” (posted July 26) Wow. As far as I know, no details have come out about this besides his instagram post, and I am all curious and want to know more. BUT ALSO, remember just last week I said, and I quote, "right now he still has a lot to learn and he should work on learning that instead of continuing to tell everyone his half-baked opinions" so, yeah, it's okay that he hasn't shared details.