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.

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.

 

 

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.”

 

Jesus Was on the Cutting Edge of Feminism, So Why Did the Church Fall Behind?

I was in the grocery store today, and I heard a man behind me jokingly telling his friend, “So manly.” He was clearly making fun of his friend for a “nonmanly” purchase or something, and the friend was in on the joke, too. It was all in good fun, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the exchange, but I wasn’t surprised to hear the rest of the exchange, in which I found out that they were church friends who had run into each other.

The man who had said “so manly” looked very, well, manly-man. Tall, bearded, with a short, pretty wife and a few kids. In fact, I recognized his wife from a multi-church event. I knew how much time and effort she put into parenting and volunteer work. I knew some very personal, heartbreaking struggles she’d had. She either didn’t recognize me or didn’t see me.

While I was checking out, a grocery cart tipped over and crashed to the ground, and everyone turned to make sure that a kid hadn’t fallen. “She’s okay,” we heard and all breathed a sigh of relief. It was only a child-sized cart that the young shopper had lost control of. Another man said, “Shopper in training!”

“Unfortunately she’ll become an expert,” I heard from behind me. Turns out Manly Church Man was checking out at the register next to mine. “Probably more of an expert than even my wife.”

Here’s what I wish I would have said. DON’T YOU SHAME YOUR WIFE! SHE PROBABLY DOES A SHITLOAD MORE FOR YOUR FAMILY THAN YOU DO! AND DON’T YOU TELL A STRANGER’S LITTLE GIRL THAT SHE’S GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A FRIVOLOUS SPENDER! But I only looked my cashier in the eye and wondered if she’d heard the same thing.

Why are so many church men stuck in this picture of manliness? Millions of dollars are spent every year on nonfiction Christian books aimed specifically at men. Just look at their titles and covers. Old school masculinity being sold like it’s not being sold to any other group of men.

Jesus spoke to women with as much respect as he spoke to men. Angels spoke to women just like they spoke to men. I still struggle with Paul’s words about women not speaking and wonder if God would really want them in the Bible. (Here’s a site that explores the misunderstanding about Paul’s words: https://www.gotquestions.org/women-silent-church.html )

Not only does the church’s view of masculinity hurt women, it hurts men. Young men who do not fit the typical picture of a church man don’t feel like they belong at church. What if they want to wear makeup? What if they don’t like sports or camping? Did Jesus die for them? Yes! Can they be powerful for the kingdom? Yes! Let’s not hinder them.

And if the manly church man culture hurts women and young men, it hurts Jesus. It hurts Jesus because Jesus feels the hurts that we feel, and it hurts Jesus because when nonchristian people don’t want any part of Christianity because it offends them (for nonlegitimate reasons—I’m not saying that we should deny Biblical truths to go along with society) Jesus loses many opportunities to save.

Ouch.

So, Manly Church Man, when you’re at the grocery store, people are listening to the way you talk about your wife. In a society that’s reeling from the misogyny of the current White House administration, they are listening more closely than ever.

Don’t limit Jesus.

And for goodness sake, tell your wife today how much you appreciate her.

Margie

I was on the verge of tears all day today. Donald Trump combined with having that stupid, heartwrenching audition song from La La Land stuck in my head, I guess. I actually did shed a few tears at random times. I kept thinking about all the art and beauty that would disappear if the article I read about Gorbachev is right. He thinks the world is preparing for war.

I thought I was going to cry watching my daughter’s honor band rehearsal, where she was playing under the direction of my college band professor, but I didn’t. I watched them rehearse at the incomparable Weill Hall, brought my daughter home for her dinner break and dropped her back off for the evening rehearsal. I’d planned to stay and watch some more, but the car was on empty, so I left to get gas and for some reason didn’t feel like hurrying back. I hadn’t had much dinner, so I ran to the store.

I’ve been shopping at the same locally owned market for well over a decade. It’s one of my favorite places. The cashiers feel like friends. As I checked out I found myself wishing they were good enough friends to ask for a hug. They aren’t. I thought about it on my way out, but they aren’t. Several of them probably wanted a hug too, but it’s just too weird. What a strange world.

At home, I pulled into my parking spot, got out, and said hello to a woman I see out walking a lot. Long ago I chatted with her about her dog, but the dog wasn’t with her this time.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “I fell recently and it’s been tough getting out in this cold weather. Luckily I didn’t hurt the fusion.”

I guessed from her gesture that she was referring to back surgery, but it was cute the way she said it as if I knew all about her surgery. I figure she’s told a lot of people in our complex and she assumed she’d told me before. We had never said much more than “hello” before. Now I told her that I was upset about the state of the world, and we just kept chatting. She told me her name was Margie (with a hard “g.”)

We talked for a long time before she said something that began with “The Lord blessed me with…”

“I thought you might be a Christian,” I said. “I am too.”

She asked me if I knew any other Christians in our complex and asked where I went to church. When she was healthier, she’d attended a church that she liked except for its Calvinism. I had to have her explain that. I told her that I thought my church got Biblical principles right and explained the time that I did have one beef with them, whereupon she quoted Jude 3 (…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.)

What a hoot! How many people do you run into who can pull an appropriate Bible verse out of their mind? It was cold and dark, so finally I told her goodnight and walk carefully, and she gave me a hug! Suddenly I realized how strange it was for me to have wished for a hug at the grocery store. I’d never thought such a thing before, and here was Margie, out after dark which she said she doesn’t usually do.

I have often regretted not saying things like this, so I immediately told her, “When I was at the grocery store I wished I could ask someone for a hug! You’re an answer to prayer!”

She said, “Then you need another one,” and she hugged me again.

Thank you, neighbor. Thank you, God. Every day I need to be reminded that the beauty will NEVER be gone from this world. I seem to need to be reminded more than most, and God doesn’t seem to judge me for it. He simply reminds me one more time.

Guest Blog! Why My Pro-Life Sister Marched in D.C.

This is a guest blog from my big sister. I have long looked up to her as a model Christian, mom, wife, Bible-studier, and person-lover. She’s the real deal. She’s not a blogger, but she puts this into words better than I have because what’s in her heart is pure and based on absolute devotion to God and His word. Thank you so much, Becky, for letting me share this. 

Tonight I travel home from the women’s march in Washington DC. I wanted to process so many thoughts and emotions before I put it out there in writing but I finally realized I just need to begin. It will have to come in chapters as it is a bit overwhelming.

First of all I have a lot of friends who won’t understand that I went, so I will begin there. I love Jesus. This is what informs me. I happen to know that he values each and every human being more than he values his own life, his own purity, his own safety, or position. He is not afraid to love anyone. That people would receive a message different than that from the church this election cycle absolutely breaks my heart. I needed to represent what I know is true.

Second, I love living in this free country of mine and respect the office of the president so deeply that I cannot accept certain things quietly. I cannot accept that we did not disqualify a man who boasted about sexually assaulting women and then gave the “boys will be boys” brush off to “explain.” It literally hurts my heart. Women, you are more valuable than this. You matter. You deserve protecting. You deserve justice. My friends with disabilities, you know you are my favorites. Making fun of you and brushing it off by saying something like “I do that whenever someone I’m talking to someone who doesn’t know what to say,” is not okay. You are more valuable than that. You matter. You deserve to be treated with respect. You men and women of color, senators and single moms, you who sell stocks and you who sell cds on the street corner, you deserve to raise your kids without having to teach them how to survive the police. You are more valuable than this. Your lives matter. Mexican people who have come into California illegally, I have seen how hard you work in the fields picking food that most of the US eats. I know farmers who have had to leave produce in the fields because the workers were too few. We need you and we need to value you enough to give you a less dangerous and costly way to come. You are valuable. You matter. Muslim Americans, I am sorry that we have , as we did with Japanese Americans during WWII, let fear overtake love. Love, as I know him, is fearless. If the threat of a registry arises again, we will fight it. Registering people according to their religion is out of a play book we don’t want any part of. You are more valuable than that. You matter. You are our neighbors. People who feel threatened because of your identity, you should never ever experience violence or abuse, or fear to let yourself be seen. You deserve to know peace. You deserve to live in freedom. You are valuable. You matter.

I know what some of you are saying- “What about the babies?!” Yes I am pro-life. I spent years volunteering to offer women help, information, options. I hate abortion as I also see it as another kind of assault on women. I now think that reversing Roe V. Wade is trying to put the genie back in the bottle. If you truly care about the issue, more than the law, I think we can better reduce abortions by (returning to my first point) fighting rape and abuse, making sure women make equal pay for equal work can afford healthcare, etc. Reduce the need. I will stop there for now. Too long already. I marched for the people I care about. All of them.