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Come on Over

Constant reader… (the Stephen King nerds just self-identified):

i started this blog several years ago to make a little sense of my own life and faith journey. I was a Kentucky person living in the wilderness; i was learning what it meant to be the pastor of a church, and not just ‘a’ pastor, in the general sense of the word. I was about to start a family. I was missing home, and loving my new place. And i was learning that what the Church was selling, our neighbors weren’t buying.

There is nothing like writing to help you learn a new language–and I found that i was learning was a new language of faith. It was an evolutionary sort of thing as i found my pastoral voice, got to know the community i was serving, and grew my own family all at the same time. And as I wrote and wrestled, I realized that my journey was not so unique. There were, in fact, all kinds of people out there struggling to somehow ‘save’ a failing institution, and/or to find a deeper meaning and purpose in the life of faith.

As of this week, I have a new ‘home base’ for engaging this discussion. We (and by ‘we,’ i mean y’all) are moving over to Patheos. This is an exciting opportunity to connect with even more people–of diverse belief and background–on this journey to seek the sacred.

Patheos is a network of faith-based writers and speakers.  The forum exists to ‘host the conversation.’ And folks…there’s never been a more important time to be having this conversation. As fractured and fearful as the world is right now, we need to take every opportunity to seek something holy in our midst, and to walk alongside folks who are different from us along the way. Over at the new place, you’ll find pieces from folks who are other ‘brands’ of Christian, as well as Muslim, Buddist, Jewish, Atheists, “Spiritual but Not Religious,” and well…pretty much everybody. All engaging in thoughtful, compassionate discourse about how we can all live together in the world, and maybe even save it from itself.

I’m so grateful for your support and encouragement, and i hope you’ll come on over to my new site and subscribe there. Like, today. Bring friends, too. I look forward to meeting them, and to writing about whatever the changing world throws at us tomorrow. Blessings, and I’ll see you on the other side!

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Out of Joint

I hesitate to say this out loud and jinx myself so–knock on wood, or stucco, or whatever’s handy but–i have not been sick in over a year. Not even a cold or a 24-hour stomach thing. No sinus infection, which i used to get chronically, no upper-respiratory gunk, nothing. I’m not sure what i’ve done to gain such a run of great good health, other than 1)take my kids out of daycare, 2)yoga and 3)drink lots of green tea. Whatever it is, it’s working and i’m grateful for it.

However–i am unwell in at least one part of my body. And in the sense that the head bone is connected to the…well, pretty much everything, it is a moving part that gives me more than enough trouble all on its own. The jaw.

Like many people who struggle with chronic tmj pain, i’ve learned over the years, that there is no easy fix, and even ‘specialists’ in the field are pretty much making it up as they go along, and/or experimenting on you. I’ve also learned that tmj pain is rooted in the pysical, the emotional, the psychological, not to mention the environmental and  intangible factors. In other words–there is no ‘expert’ anywhere who can deal in every one of these areas and create what we would call a ‘cure.’

I have a very fancy ‘cadillac’ of a mattress. I have a dental device. I have x-rays of my head and neck in files all across Kentucky and Arizona. I’ve been to a sleep clinic. I’ve had reiki, massage, chakra work (seriously), and i go on the occasional soft food diet. I have not chewed a piece of gum in about 12 years. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of cranial-sacral therapy, which helps tremendously.  (Even if they do tell me to wear bras without underwire, and only flat shoes. ha ha). I’ve tried bedtime ‘guided meditation’ exercises and bio-feedback. I have any number of ways to apply heat to the area. Oh, and i have a red rubber ball that i lay on to apply pressure to various tight muscle areas.

This particular malady is not quite an illness and not quite an injury; the flare-ups can be triggered by any number of things, from emotional stress to a bad pillow to an over-cooked steak. Which means, there are a million little things you can do to treat the symptoms, but nobody seems to know how to treat the issue itself. (Which, by the by, means that few of the available treatments are covered by insurance. Another discussion!) Bottom line is, there’s no easy answer.

I do not mean to whine. Like i said, i’m in overall excellent health. But from a spiritual/theological perspective, my most recent frustrations are making me wonder–in how many other ways do we try to address the symptoms, without getting to the place that is broken?

I can think of many manifestations of ‘jaw pain’–a brokenness that begins with the head and is thus connected to every other part of the body–manifest in the world around us. It goes without saying–healthcare! In how many ways does our current model encourage the patient to take a pill, seek an unneccessary surgery, or simply live with the pain, without devoting the time and energy it takes to treat a whole person?

Education–a system in which standardized testing, and the resulting number scores on paper, have become much more important than the students themsevles, much less those who teach them. Politics–we go with the guy (or every now and then, the girl) who says what we want to hear, and whose ideologies align with our own, rarely looking at the ‘whole body’ of what they do while in office. Rarely noticing (or caring) how their decisions affect people who aren’t us.

The environment. Where we get our food. Where we shop and fuel our vehicles. Where and how we build communities. Everywhere we look, the world invites us to treat a symptom, or create an aesthetic, without regard for the whole body of human life or the long-term consequences of our actions.

I’ve had many a dentist tell me that braces are the answer! Braces that will cost thousands of dollars and be painful and bring you back into this office at least once every few weeks for the next several years of your life.

Of course, I also had a dentist tell me that braces caused all this mess. Because my childhood orthodontist (in whose office i spent exactly 9 years of my life) was focused on the outward result of aligning my teeth, without looking at the big-picture of my still-growing body.

I’d believe it. Because really, isn’t that how we roll? All of us?

In my ministry life today, I am trying to help a family in need. And by ‘in need,’ i mean, in desperate, all-consuming need. They need medical attention. They need counseling. They need housing and food and reliable transport and education and security. They need the support of a community and they need, yes, the love of Jesus Christ. It is utterly overwhelming. For me. I cannot imagine what it is like to live in their own bodies and heads.

I don’t need a dentist, or a psychologist to tell me that this, right here, is what i carry around in the joint of my skull, which is connected to every other ache in my body. This sense of helplessness in the face of the world’s great need. I will gladly carry that ache if it means, even one time, that I can be a part of changing someone’s life.

But my bigger questions is–what are we missing, Church? How often to we treat the symptoms, but not the illness? Do we give people prayer when they need food? Do we give them just food when they need community? Do we give them sympathy when they need compassion and empowerment?

Do we give a tylenol when they need a whole body realignment?

Yes. We know we do. Again and again and again, we offer easy answers and quick fixes in the face of the greatest human brokenness imagineable.

We cannot save the world from itself. We cannot carry every burden and bear every injury, for what good would we be to anyone? And yet…maybe we can do a little bit better working as the whole body of Christ, bearing witness to the wholeness of creation. Maybe, beginning with the care of our very own selves, we can look a little more deeply at the fullness of life, and hold it with according reverence and gratitude.

Once we’ve done that–learned to treat our own frail bodies as the blessed temples that they are–maybe then we can build our communities to reflect that same fullness of God’s love and mercy at the table. While we cannot cure the world of its every ill, by the grace of God, we can surely, surely do better than a Tylenol. For the one who has born our every pain and burden, we can surely do better.

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Zumba-dy Stop Me

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but i’m a ‘retired’ dancer. I’ve been missing the dance part of my life lately because my daughter has recently started ballet. All those little leotards are making me remember 1)the time when i could fit into such a thing and 2)the sheer joy of movement. For the past 12 years or so, the yen to dance again has come and gone in seasons. This time, in looking at dance studios for my kid, i found one that had an adult Zumba class, and figured I’d try it.  I’ve heard many people go on and on about the awesomeness of it. And furthermore, it wasn’t going to be the trauma of joining a gym, where they give you a complimentary ‘fitness evaluation,’ and proceed to tell you how fat you are in order to sell you your very own personal trainer. (True story: the last gym i joined, ‘complimentary evaluation’ chick told me that technically, for my height, i was considered ‘obese.’ WTF? No, I’m not. and that was two babies and ten pounds ago. I shudder to think what these so-called trainers do to women with already-low self esteem. At least I was able to roll my very fat eyes at her).

ANYway…sorry. I was saying how i went to Zumba hoping for a dance-class-esque experience. And what i got was fine for what it was, but it was not what i was after, you know? I left feeling like I’d had a good workout, but certain I wasn’t going back again. And since I deal in the whole ‘getting people to come back again’ business, I tried to pinpoint WHY i was not going back again. Not surprisingly, my reasons for not going back to Zumba are the very reasons that many, many people visit a church and never go back again:

Expectations– My expectations were based on my own prior dance experience, and also the rave reviews I’ve heard from friends. While the class was fine, it wasn’t what i had in my head. And that makes all the difference.

People walk into our churches with their own sets of expectations. We can’t really control what they’re ‘used to,’ or the experience their friend has shared. What we can do is make worship a ‘user-friendly’ operation for a first-timer. In other words, make walking in the door as painless as possible, with as few ambiguities as we can manage. This will cut back on the number of places where we can fail to align with the church that lives in people’s heads.

How costly is it going to be?– I often get turned off of a fitness regime because of the cost and commitment level required. I mean, if i’m just trying it out, how much do i really want to invest here? In this regard, the Zumba class did ok. It was very reasonably-priced, and you could pay ‘per visit’ without signing your life away. Is the church this accessible? And this clear about our accessibility? Many people walk in wondering how soon we are going to start asking for money.

The answer of course is–soon. Very soon. We ask for money every Sunday of the world. However, we must make clear that payment is not a requirement for acceptance–rather, it is a response to it. How well do we communicate this truth to people who are just feeling us out? How clearly do we share that giving is a privilege of membership, and not a prerequisite?

Location, location. –This dance place, on the map, looked really close to my house. But in reality, it took me 20 mintues to get there. And 20 minutes to get home. For an hour-long experience,  this is a problem.

My congregation has many folks who drive 20 minutes and more to get here. I’m grateful for these folks, and I’m sure glad that they find us ‘worth the drive.’ However, for purposes of evangelism and community outreach, a church should really focus its energy and resources on the immediate vicinity. In a major metro area, there is a church on every corner–and a new church start in every school/movie theater/community center. While we might reach the occasional commuter, it always serves best to meet your neighbors first. The folks who can walk to your church–or drive there in 5 minutes or less–are going to be your most productive ‘targets.’

Level of engagement– This one is simple. How much did i feel connected to other people in the room? Was this a place where i was going to make friends? Look forward to seeing these people enough to get my butt off the couch on a Monday night? No. There was nothing wrong with them–it was just not that kind of crowd, you know?

Suburban churches often suffer the same types of cultural isolation that you find in suburban fitness classes. There’s not much chatting, not much asking of names or expression of interest in other people’s lives. It is a ‘get where you’re going and get out quick” kind of community, and every area of our lives suffers because of it. All the more reason for the faith community to go against that grain. Let church be the place where people are all up in your business, whether you like it or not. Yes, some people will shy away from that. But some are so hungry for it, without even knowing it, that they will come back again simply because somebody remembered their name from last time.

–Precious time– Is this a timeframe that fits into my life? No, it is at 8pm on a Monday night. Granted, Mondays are my day off. But 8pm is sitting on the couch with a glass of wine time, not lacing up for high-intensity aerobics time. I’m just being real with myself. I’d do better with a class that happens at 5:30 on a thursday, and i could hit it on my way home.

I’ve seen far too many churches engage a round-and-round fight about whether worship should be at 10 or 10:30am on a Sunday. But those questions usually revolve around, what is more convenient for US–as in, the us sitting right here in this room. There is rarely a real discussion about, what are our neighbors lives like? When are they most likely to meet us for worship/come to Bible study class/participate in our interfaith forum/work in our food bank? As busy as the world has gotten, the “when” needs to be a deeper conversation than ‘what gets us home for football?’

All in all, it was not a bad hour spent. It was a good work out. I learned (or reinforced) some truths about evangelism and getting guests back in the door. And also, I really enjoyed the moment when the teacher turned on Gangnam Style, and I swear the (only) two Asian women in the room rolled their eyes like, ‘seriously? what IS it with this song?” It was kind of great.

Otherwise, I am out of the studio and back on the trails today. A good hike, after all, is a dance of its own…

I like to think i'd fall somewhere between rock-hard-abs girl and Mary Katherine Gallagher, in the grand scheme of things...

I like to think i’d fall somewhere between rock-hard-abs girl and Mary Katherine Gallagher, in the grand scheme of things…

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Those Guys are Awesome

Like many Americans, I spent a small slice of my life in the service industry. Several summers waiting tables, and nearly a year at hotel. I could spend days telling stories–good, bad and ugly–of the people i encountered in that time of my life. But in the interest of the broader message here, I’m going to share just two:

The Bad Tip:  It was a Sunday lunch shift. The ‘after church’ crowd who, in southeastern Kentucky and elsewhere in the Bible belt, are also known as the worst tippers ever. Seriously. So this one family–huge family–has asked for 84 refills (of sodas already served in mason jars–this was that kind of place), and left an epic mess of peanut shells on the floor (also that kind of place) and generally ordered one of everything on the menu. They paid and left, and with my receipt–on which they left no tip–was this note.

Here’s a tip. Service! Don’t bring the check out before asking if the customer wants dessert (–side note; when you’re used to working the  lunch shift, this is what you are trained to do. If someone wants dessert, you can always print another ticket, but it’s more likely they’re in a hurry). Server seems out of it. (um, the guy i was dating at the time was turning out to be a drug dealer? so yeah, i had some stuff on my mind). Not fully awake! (it could be that my eyes were red and puffy because this *%&$# has been blowing cigarette smoke in my face for two hours. Also that kind of place.)”

No, he did not try to have me fired. But seriously, what a rotten day. So let’s not dwell there. I’ll tell you instead about:

The good tip: Two guys passing through town for business came in for a late lunch. They were literally my only table for about an hour. They didn’t order anything complicated. I brought them refills, made small talk, etc. Took them their bill which was about $20. They handed me a $50-dollar bill and told me to keep the change. I laughed because i thought they were joking. I went to ring them up. Came back with their change. They were gone.

I’m no math wiz, but that’s like, 150% tip! And i remembered thinking that one of several things must be true. 1–they were super rich and it made them feel powerful to throw that kind of money around. 2–i must be looking super hot today. and/or 3–those were some really, really nice guys who genuinely wanted to make my day, even though i was a stranger and they’d probably never see me again.

I lean toward some combination of i was looking hot and those guys are just awesome. But I’ll tell you what did NOT occur to me, not even for a second, when wondering what would prompt such generosity. It never crossed my mind that “hey, those guys must be Christians.”

Because really–how often do you think those guys are awesome, and follow it up with, they must be Christians!

I’m guessing almost never. In fact, I think many of us who are Christians spend a great deal of our time articulating the finer points of “–but I’m not THAT kind of Christian.” I’d venture to say that we spend more time trying to defend our ‘brand’ of Christianity from bad rap, than we do actually living our Christian faith. And therein lies the problem.

One server’s ‘bad tip’ story went viral in the media this week.  Because in her case, the rotten customer was not just a Christian–she was clergy.  The situation has escalated to the point that the server lost her job. And i have a feeling we have not heard the end of it.

Notice that when something specifically “Christian” makes the news, it is never in the context of those guys are awesome. It is always something like this business, or some Mark Driscoll brand of ugliness, or some other episode of sanctimonious nonsense, where Christians are hollering about something the rest of the world doesn’t care about, and demanding it be made into law. Like the Tennessee politician who (i’m assuming) is all about free speech, but wants the word ‘gay’ banned from the public schools. You know? That guy. He is our ambassador to the world.

So when the bad tip story hit my newsfeed, my initial reaction was the same as that of my colleagues–not this again. Not another bad Christian story that we have to fight to overcome; another embarassing, public display of unChristlike behavior, from one who should be an example of love and grace in the world. No wonder people hate the church. No wonder nobody takes us seriously.

And then i thought–i’m sure glad the worst thing I ever did has not become a media superstorm.

Because really, much as we try to reflect the image of Christ in our actions, and distinguish ourselves from ‘those kinds’ of hypocrytical, narrow-minded Christians–don’t we all have our moments? Just saying. I’m not, in any way, defending what that pastor did. However, I sincerely hope she has some good friends or colleagues to take her aside and say, “sister–take a vacation. Get a massage, do some yoga, call your mama, go on a spiritual retreat…and try to come back refreshed for the work of the Lord. Because this ain’t it.”

Thanks be to God, it isn’t all on me to make or break the work of Christ in the world. But let this story remind each of us, who claim faith in Jesus and service to God, that much is riding on our behavior. Every word we speak, every move we make, every check that we sign, someone is watching for us to prove or disprove their assumptions about us. It might not be fair, but it is absolutely what we signed up for.

I’m declaring this to be 150% day. Go have lunch at a place where they know you.  Be gracious. Say please and thank you, enjoy your meal, greet your neighbors, express gratitude, engage the staff. And then leave a big, fat tip that nobody is expecting. You don’t have to write a note that says ” Jesus loves you! And i do too! {insert smiley face here, and dot that i with a heart.} There’s no need for that. But act like the person you want people to meet when they come to church. Leave everybody in the place thinking, hey, that guy/girl is awesome! And maybe next time, they will want to find out why…

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The Risk of Relationship

A follow-up to yesterday’s discussion re: “Moral Compromise.”  We are talking about the beginnings of transformation. The sharing of real stories, real relationships; engaging open discourse and genuine interest in those we mark as ‘other.’  Time and again we find that once an ‘opinion’ or an ‘issue’ becomes about a real live person, everything changes.

That truth goes both ways. Always.

There is still a long way to go down the road to equality and inclusion of LGBT folks, in all segments of public life. Even so, I am grateful today for two more real live people,  willing to take the risk of relationship. If you haven’t read the story of Shane Windmeyer–the gay rights activist who became friends with Dan Cathy–take a minute and treat yourself to a refreshing glimpse of humanity.

“It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another.  We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families.  Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before.”

The risk of relationship is a spiritual discipline and a sacred calling. May we all try to “do better” than any of us have experienced before. It is the hope of the Church, the hope of the world, and the hope for the kingdom that might yet take shape in our time.

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Moral Compromise

I’ve seen two news items today that made me really happy. How often can you say such a thing?

Here they are: thing 1 being, a tiny little coal town in Eastern Kentucky (holla!) passed a city ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Thus far, Vicco is “the smallest municipality in Kentucky, and possibly the country, to enact such an ordinance.”  If you haven’t read this piece yet, take the link over. You’ll be glad you did. I mean, mullets are involved. Seriously. And somehow, tolerance seems all the more worth singing about when it emerges from the holler.

My other good news involved this Maryland Cub Scout pack that posted an anti-discrimination statement on its website. While the area council made the pack remove the post, there continues to be discussion (again) within the organization regarding possible repeal of the group’s notorious, rigid stance on homosexuality.

Which is cool–because scouts are awesome. My church hosts scout meetings. I’ve participated in interfaith scout services, scouting Sunday, and presided over Eagle ceremonies. Little known fact–i used to work at the Bluegrass Council office (for about five minutes). And i’ve personally known many a sharp, talented, and respectful young man who has moved up through those ranks. For all this, i’ve become more and more disturbed by how desperately they cling to this bit of ‘old boys club’mentality. Yes, i realize they ARE a boy’s club, in the most literal sense of the word. Still… you know what i mean.

Unsurprisingly, the Family Values folks are saying that, if the Scouts abandon their exclusive values statement, they will be another casualty of “moral compromise.”

I’ve heard this kind of wording thrown around in religious circles. Churches that adopt inclusive welcome statements are accused of ‘selling out’ to secular values; or ‘caving’ to pressure from popular culture; and yes, compromising morals and values (two of my FAVORITE words) in order to be more ‘of the moment.’

First of all, if churches truly wanted to be ‘of the moment,’ wouldn’t we be a little more willing to give up the organ music and the passing of the plate?

Furthermore, one could argue that it’s the voices of intolerance who let a popular and comfortable worldview shape their values. Meanwhile,the Viccos and the Pack 442’s of the world challenge that which is easy and popular. They say, ‘enough; we are moving on.’

Vicco certainly didn’t cave to popular opinion. Lest we forget–this is Appalachia. Popular opinion is NOT especially friendly toward LGBT folks. What happened in Vicco was, a real live gay person became part of their story. And that changed everything. It was no longer an ‘issue’ or an ‘opinion.’ It was a small town looking out for one of their own, and what we have now is history.

I’d imagine that something similar happened with Pack 442. I would love to know the story of why this one small group of voices decided they were going to be more welcoming and open. Was there a boy with two dads who needed a place around the camp fire?

Newsflash: there is ALWAYS a boy with two dads who needs a place around the campfire. And once it gets personal, it is no longer about popular opinion, or anybody’s opinion. Once a real live person becomes part of the story, that story shifts dramatically.

What happened in Vicco–and what probably happened in Pack 442, and what happened in my church, and, thanks be to God, is happening in churches all over the world–is that real live people became part of the story, and a lot of things became beautifully simple and clear.

Slowly, over time, we come to realize that we are all just a roomful of people with a gay child or sibling, a lesbian best friend or neighbor, a bi- or transgendered ex-spouse or hair-dresser–and damned if we don’t love them anway.

You’ve heard it said that prejudice rarely survives experience… that may be true on an individual level. And yet, our organizations and social structures can hang onto prejudice for a long dang time. Even as each and every one of us starts to realize, in our own personal relationships, that who we love and how we’re wired is not such a dang big deal. I’m thankful for every little church, every little Cub Scout pack, and every little mining town that is learning to embrace its own, in spite of whatever belief might be ‘popular.’ Rise up singing, people.

Looking back, much of our history–that of our country, and that of Christendom in general–seems pretty bereft of justice. It is not ‘moral compromise’ to insist on a better kind of future. For our friends, siblings, neighbors, hair dressers, and yes, for that little boy around the camp fire. Welcoming he and his two dads into the circle will make us anything but popular. And yet, once they’re in our midst, it somehow becomes a really great story.

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For Life. Still.

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when emotions run high, it seems an important time to re-post this piece i wrote awhile ago. What has happened to the elusive ‘middle road,’ that place from which people of differing views can see another side, and engage in valuable discussion and discernment to approach difficult topics? If you’ve already read this, talk amongst yourselves.

Come to think of it–talk amongst yourselves, anyway. It’s important. Find somebody with whom you do not agree today, and try to remember that they are a whole person, too.

A slight re-framing: instead of posting this on the heels of Rep. Akin’s appalling remarks about rape (and how, sometimes, it is pretty much ok), i’m sharing this reflection as New Mexico discusses a bill that would force pregnant rape victims to keep the baby “as evidence” in sexual assault trials.

To begin, I would like to say that which goes without saying, but somehow does not: to be pro-choice does not mean one is necessarily pro-abortion. In fact, i don’t know anyone who is FOR abortion. Like, yay, let’s all go get one, then we’ll get a mani-pedi and hit happy hour for margaritas. For far too long, this is the image of  ‘pro-choice’ that has been adopted and promoted in the public realm of discourse.

But I’m one of many, many people of faith in this country: who are pro-choice, but anti-abortion. If you think that is an oxymoron, stick with me. I think that abortion is sad and awful, and should not be used as an alternative to birth control, or as a matter of convenience. At the same time, I do not think that the government is equipped to make any sort of decision about women’s bodies. Furthermore, if abortion were to be criminalized, who would go to jail, exactly? I am pretty sure it would be women. Every. Single. Time. Where is the father? Somewhere getting another girl knocked up, maybe, but definitely not in jail.

I’m one of  many people of faith in this country: who think that the best way to prevent abortion is through education, good healthcare, accessible contraception, and healthy conversations at home, school, and church–not just about abstinence, but about sexuality, respecting our bodies (ours, and those of others) and the sacred intent of sexual relationships.

I’m one of many people of faith: who believe that the most proactive way to reduce abortion is to address matters of poverty,  racial and gender inequality, and other factors that leave women feeling trapped, alone, and desperate. Making childcare, health care, and education more accessible for single mothers, for instance…that would be a good start. Making it easy for single parents, same-sex couples and non-traditional families to adopt a child…that would open up some new avenues of conversation as well.

All this makes me one of many, many people of faith in this country: who feel we have nowhere to stand in the ‘pro-life/ pro-choice’ debate. It has become such a polarized, black/white, wrong/right sort of thing that there is no middle ground. There is no whole-person, big-picture voice. You are either sending women back to the dark ages, or you are killing babies.  No other options.

Well, until now. We are beginning to see, in our age of polarized partisan politics, the ugly results of single-issue voting.  Powerful men, leaders of this country, revealing their shocking ignorance of women’s bodies and their callous regard of violence toward women. Again and again, their voices shine light on what comes of extreme ideologies and rigid party lines (in either direction). 

There’s a better way, people, and we know it. Whether you would classify yourself as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ we can all agree that no kind of rape is sort of ok. That brand of harmful rhetoric is what comes of dissolving important human issues to a tiny box on the ballot. Check or don’t check. No other option. This is what happens when we elect our leaders based on one belief, one hollow promise, one stump speech or sound bite. We find ourselves represented by people who are for anything BUT life, anything but progress, anything but human dignity and intelligent discourse.

I’m pro-choice, but I get why many people are not. I really do. I respect the other side of this discussion, and I struggle with it myself. But voting for one man (or woman) based on this issue alone—or ANY one issue, for that matter–diminishes us all as human beings. It reduces us to something the size of a ballot box, and from that miniscule frame, no life can grow.

If we truly value life, then we value life at every stage. Not just at conception, but beyond the womb, and into the needs of childhood; into the realms of justice and mercy and adequate nutrition; into questions of education and healthcare and equal rights; into protection for victims of rape and abuse, and for the whole journey of a human life. Until this conversation encompasses the whole picture of humanity and global well-being, then it is doubtful that any of us can claim God as being entirely on our side.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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