By the People (The Misuse of Romans 13:1-7)

The 2016 election was life-changing for many of us. I just read that 14% of Christians left their churches because of it. Many, many things bothered me (infuriated me, perplexed me, crushed me) during the election, but I’m going to try to stick to one topic for this blog.

After the election, I had no fewer than four Christian friends use their Facebook status to tell people not to complain about 45 so much. “We need to come together now,” one of them said. “We need to let him do his job,” another said. “It’s bothering people,” yet another said.

Aside from the fact that I have a HUGE problem with people passive aggressively telling me what to do with my own page, and apart from the fact that I suspect certain people didn’t mind the plastering of anti-Obama memes on Facebook walls, I believe there is a misconception about scripture at play here.

Romans 13:1-7 says:

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

I say “misconception” giving people the benefit of the doubt. Abuse is certainly a more apt word in some people’s cases.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, Nero was in power. (Some scholars believe that Nero was still a decent chap at this point.) There was no vote to put Nero in power; he was simply named emperor by his great uncle, Claudius.

I was raised to follow laws. Unless those laws are obviously against the law of God, I still believe that I should follow the laws of our land. However, if (and this is debatable) not resisting in Nero’s time meant not speaking out, I don’t believe that “those who resist will incur judgement” applies in America the same way it would have in Rome in the year 57.

Our government is by the people. God has given our nation a totally different way of making laws and appointing leaders. Our speech, and that includes social media, is a powerful way to keep our fellow voters informed. I don’t believe there’s any call to roll over for the current administration. We have representatives to call. That’s the system God gave us. We have laws about impeachment. That’s the system God gave us. Every one of us has the power to create new legislation. Pretty great!

I have a feeling that some people think my daily commentary about this administration is divisive. Here’s how I see it. I am shining a light on every lie, every sexist or racist or dangerous deed or comment, in hopes of affecting the 2018 vote in the system that God gave us. If other Christians are opposing me in that task, I say it is them doing the dividing. This person placed by God into authority is indefensible by Christian standards in a way no president has been before him, and we have God-given ways to oppose him. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, I can’t judge you, but if you are actively defending him or passively doing so by telling those of us speaking out to be quiet, I am not the same religion as you.

Let us part ways.

School Districts, Social Media, The First Amendment, and You

The teachers in the district where my husband works and my daughter goes to school participated in a one-day strike this week. I was thrilled to see that an overwhelming majority of parents on social media supported the teachers’ strike even though all they knew was that our teachers deserve more money. They didn’t even seem to be aware of the main reason for the strike, which was improper bargaining tactics by the district.

The day after the strike, the district posted on its Facebook page that teachers were back to work. I commented “I hope you saw how much parental support they got. I hope you feel just super about your own inflated salaries. I hope your statement that teachers’ claims about unfair labor tactics were “unsubstantiated” comes back to bite you.” I thought it would be the first of many snarky comments.

I also thought it might get deleted, so I copied it and pasted it into my own status and said that I was doing so before it was deleted from their page. A few minutes later, a friend commented to tell me that it was already gone from the district’s page. When I went to the page, not only was the comment gone, but there were no comment buttons on their posts anymore, at least not for me. I was blocked. Banned from further comments.

Here’s where it gets crazy.

My friend Mark said, “If so, that would be a violation of the 1st Amendment which is applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.”

I responded that I’d thought Facebook was the Wild West, and that they could delete anything they wanted. I can delete comments I don’t like on my page, after all. But Mark told me that government pages have different rules! A little Google search confirmed that he was right. I emailed the district with a link to one of the articles I’d found, told them that I was researching the legality of their removing my comment, and asked them to consider unbanning me.

About twenty minutes later, I received an email stating simply that I had been unbanned.

My comment had also mysteriously reappeared.

There are still no other snarky comments on their post. Am I the only snarky parent in the district, or are other comments being deleted? Who knows? One snarky comment that I’d seen on a previous post is missing. Did the woman delete it or did the district? Who knows?

I haven’t commented on their page anymore; my husband has to work with these people, after all, and he’s a popular teacher who is not as confrontational as I am. He even likes most of the admin.

For more information on this, and to find out what kinds of comments government pages ARE allowed to block, read the article below.

This blog is not intended as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on T.V. 

http://www.callawyer.com/2015/05/public-agencies-social-media-rules-may-breach-first-amendment/

 

For Mother’s Day Tell Mom She’s Not Special

Men love their mothers. Everyone knows that. You can tell your buddy that he smells or that he’s an idiot, and he’ll laugh it off, but you best not say a word about his mom. Everyone knows that.

Here are some of the things men say about their moms. “She’s the strongest person I know.” “She was incredibly smart.” “She was the hardest worker.”

I used to find it endearing when men spoke about their mothers this way. Often choked up, they speak as if they respect their mother more than anything else or anyone else in the world. There’s no way this man can be sexist, right?

If most men feel this way about their mothers, and if we know there are a lot of sexist men, then something doesn’t add up. I am starting to think that a lot of men seem to think that their mother is some sort of female warrior outlier. She is or was so special not because she, like many women, could budget for the house and build a fence and soothe a bee sting and work full time and drive everyone everywhere and help with algebra, but because she was one of the only women who could do all those things.

Better than MOST women.

Ask your friends, men. They will probably also have warrior outlier moms. Amazing! You and your friends happen to have moms that are better than most women.

The other day I commented on my Twitter account about Chris Matthews saying on Hardball that Sally Yates had handled herself in a way that some women don’t know how to. Just like men with their moms! Complimentary, with such respect, but only for that one woman, as if she were an exception to the rule.

Women are strong. Women are smart. Women can handle themselves in a hearing in front of congress. Your mom is not special. She’s a woman. And I suspect she wouldn’t mind hearing that you realize that this Mother’s Day.

 

I Understand Hamilton in a Way That You Don’t

I understand Hamilton in a way that you don’t.

I AM Alexander Hamilton, writing like I’m running out of time.

I’m Eliza. Helpless in love. A woman wanting to be a part of the narrative. Teaching my kid piano.

Both, white, seeing the poor treatment of non white but

Aaron Burr. Never in the room where it happens.

I’m King George losing my country.

Eliza. “Take a break.” Helpless.

I fear I’ll be Eliza. Unimaginable. Counting is for lessons, not for fighting.

Alexander Hamilton. Can’t talk less. Can’t smile more.

Not Eliza. Tell the story of someone who didn’t make me part of the narrative?

Not Lin-Manuel Miranda. God I wish I were.

You understand Hamilton in a way that I don’t.

And you.

Dear Christians

The other day, when Mo Brooks was trending for implying that people who live good lives don’t get sick (he did admit later that many people have preexisting conditions through no fault of their own) I commented on someone’s tweet by tweeting “A pastor’s wife told my friend, ‘your son has diabetes because you and your husband must have sin in your life.'”

Twitter being what it is, my tweet was retweeted by indignant antitheists with the alacrity I always hope for with my lonely, unretweeted writer-tweets. Of course, now the tweet was out of context and out of my control.

You might think that my “Dear Christians” is going to be a letter warning you about tweeting ammunition for atheists. It is not. I’m begging you not to get so conceited about your relationship with God that you think you understand his reasons for doing anything. You don’t know why your friend’s son is sick. You don’t know why someone died in an accident. There are so many Bible passages that warn of this conceit. The entire book of Job, where God gets mad at Job’s friends for telling Job that he was sick because he sinned; John chapter 9, where people ask whether a man or his parents sinned, and Jesus says that the man was ill in order to show the power of God and not because of sin; Luke chapter 13, where men ask Jesus what sin some other men committed that caused them to be crushed by a falling tower and Jesus says (my paraphrase) that they have a lot of nerve thinking they aren’t just as sinful.

This same pastor’s wife (and I know a lot of pastor’s wives, so if you know me please don’t try to guess) had a lot of good qualities, but she also claimed to know what a dream I had meant. I went from thinking God had called me to do something to second-guessing myself when she said, “No, that dream meant you’re supposed to help people who have gotten spiritually sidetracked.” I never pursued what I had woken up thinking God had called me to do.

The funny thing about my tweet was that I was immediately followed by angry atheists who thought I was one of them. The thing is, I AM angry about Christians who tell others that they have bad things happen in their life because of sin. These same Christians often decide that the bad things that happen to THEM are sent by Satan because they’re getting too powerful for God’s kingdom.

I sincerely hope that my new atheist friends don’t unfollow me when they see me tweet a Bible verse or something. These are people who have been seriously harmed by Christians. I’ve noticed that most people don’t blame wars on religion unless they have ALSO received deeply personal injuries from people in the church. They may have been assaulted by clergy, not received any grace from their parents, or simply had a Christian acquaintance tell them in passing that their illness was punishment for sin.

Atheists have plenty of ammunition against Christians. I don’t regret what I tweeted. I’d rather get it out there that yes, people within the church say unbiblical and hurtful things, and we’re sorry! My tweet was not retweeted because it was news to anyone, it was retweeted because so many people related to it.

Dear Christians,

Let’s read our Bibles. Let’s speak in love and let others figure out what God is saying to them. Let’s be humble about how many years it takes to really understand His word and be very, very careful with our words before fully understanding.

 

 

Are Christian Women Bloggers a Crisis for the Church?

I debated before writing this. For one thing, the answer is so obvious to me that blogging about it seemed a waste of time. For another, if people didn’t already know about the series Christianity Today was doing, I wasn’t sure I wanted to draw attention to it. Nonchristians already view Christians as less tolerant of women in authority, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give them more reason to dislike Christians, and by extension (sadly) Christ.

But after seeing the reaction to Christianity Today’s series on Christian women bloggers and who’s in charge of them, I couldn’t keep quiet. Thankfully, I did see many replies on Twitter defending women’s right to blog without someone with a degree in theology checking in on them, but many people, including women, agreed with the first essay in the series which implied that women should be held accountable by their denomination—that there needed to be some sort of guidelines for these rogue Christian bloggers.

The essayist threw in a quick statement that men were to be held accountable, too, but let’s face it. Christianity Today’s Twitter headline said “especially women,” and the only blogger mentioned by name was Jen Hatmaker. I guess she got too popular and then made a statement that did not please the powers that think they be.

Crisis! Crisis! Who’s in charge of Jen? Who will control the blogosphere, they wonder. Well, I have three thoughts about all this.

1. If there’s a crisis in the church, I would argue that it might be something like how to help refugees or who is in charge of well-known pastors who shill for sexist, racist politicians.

2. If bloggers are a crisis, there is no way for the church to hold bloggers accountable even if it wanted to. Sorry!

3. If you have a problem with a blogger’s theology, you can blog about why they’re wrong. The blogosphere patrols itself. Get with the times.

Christianity Today had the gall to use the hashtag #AmplifyWomen, which came out of the women’s march. They may be amplifying women writers, but the first one they amplified in their series had a clear message—that women should only be amplified if they are saying what they are “supposed to” say.

If the women in the New Testament’d had the technology, they’d have been blogging their fingers off. “He’s alive! I saw him!” And good gracious, I hope Peter wouldn’t have said, “I know I just denied knowing him, but let me see that before you hit publish.”

I’d like to say that I won’t even read the other articles in the series, but I’ll probably get swept up in it. Someone needs to hold them accountable, after all.

The Time I Didn’t Go to Church on Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. New Year’s Eve is a close second, but Easter wins because of Jesus. Christmas is nice, but there’s the stress of present-buying and the knowledge of all that little baby Jesus is going to have to suffer. Easter is the celebration. It is finished. He’s alive! Rejoice!

I haven’t voluntarily missed church on Easter since I started attending 20 years ago. My husband and daughter still attend our church, but I’ve decided that it’s not the right place for me. It’s Easter, April 16th, and it’s raining, and I’m at home blogging and watching people on Twitter criticize 45 for not going to church. My reason for not going to a service today is very different than his (he said he doesn’t need forgiveness, so I’m guessing that’s why he doesn’t bother) but it still feels strange and like something I have to rationalize.

Talk about awkward, my daughter was helping in children’s church, and since my husband was rehearsing with the worship team, I dropped her off. Everyone in their Easter best, and I hadn’t showered yet. Good to see you! Good to see you!

People in church leadership know that their church isn’t going to be a permanent home for every Christian who walks through the door, so why do I feel so awkward? I’m not uncomfortable with my reasons for leaving, so why am I uncomfortable with the thought that not everyone will agree with my reasons? Obviously they don’t agree, or they wouldn’t still be there.

I imagine they think I’m judgemental. I even imagine some of them think I’m a bit crazy. The truth is, most of them probably aren’t spending much time thinking about my reasoning at all.

Obviously, there’s no perfect church. I never thought I’d be the church hopper or the one who doesn’t go at all because there’s no perfect place. Don’t forsake the gathering together, I believe the Bible says. But here I am, home by myself on Easter and feeling utterly, well, okay with it. I believe in God with all my heart. I rejoice in the fact that Jesus came back from the dead and proved his resurrection to his followers so convincingly that they risked their lives to preach “We SAW him” for the rest of their lives. I am thankful that accepting his sacrifice is my ticket to eternal life in heaven.

I know many have been here before me. Some people will say, “You need to find a church family,” and some will say, “Do what’s right for you.” I guess the point of this blog is that we are all at various points along the “do what’s right for you” storyline. I recently realized that no matter what I’m doing, I have a vague feeling of “I’m not doing the absolute best thing I could be doing right now.” And I don’t even mean big things like career. I mean doing the dishes or choosing an outfit or teaching a concept. What a burden that I didn’t even realize I was carrying!

And so I’m probably making WAY too big a thing about not going to church for a while. I need a lot of alone time, and I take a long time to process things. I’m not a joiner. The thought of finding a new group of people who ask me to be a part of anything besides the music sounds exhausting right now. The thought of either grilling the leadership before joining or hanging around for six months to see how things run sounds exhausting, and frankly, futile. (Search for my previous blog about starting my own ideal church.)

I try not to write blogs that just meander through self-involved drama, and this is definitely a violation, but I know that someone can probably relate. Thank you for reading 600 words of me weaving my way to telling myself, “It’s okay. Stay home this Easter. God loves you just the same.”