Tag Archives: Christian

How Can I Be A Christian

I was recently asked how I could be a Bible-believing Christian and believe what I do about homosexuality. This is not the first time I’ve been asked this. It’s kind of becoming a thing for me. The sting gets less sharp each time, and I’m really praying that my heart doesn’t harden further either. This isn’t in a response to a particular person, but it’s something I think about a lot, because like I said, this question is brought to me frequently. I’m not judging whether people who ask me this are really Christians. I really want to express an answer to them. I can see how some people find my beliefs and my faith to be in competition. 

What people don’t understand is that I can be a Christian and question the Bible and how it affects people’s lives. It’s the same as looking around a world filled with murder, rape, disease, and death, and question if God really is love. The questioning doesn’t mean I’ve stopped believing. It means I’m wrestling.

The Bible is not easy to swallow and even harder to digest. Sure, there are parts that are sweet, but there are others that are as bitter as gall. I can’t just numbly accept the fact that God frequently ordered His followers to commit genocide, and I can’t just accept the excuse that “Things were different in the Old Testament.” Was God just pissed off back then? Took a few hundred years to cool off and then sent Jesus, who was all nice and loved everyone? No. God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and so I wrestle.

What people don’t understand is that there are different ways to interpret the Bible. I personally don’t think that it’s “Biblical” to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Knowing Jesus, I just don’t see him shutting an oven, crossing his arms and being all, “Sorry, bro, no homo.” People keep saying that Jesus “offended” people with the truth, but they always neglect to clarify who Jesus offended. He always offended the Pharisees. Today, those would be pastors, evangelical celebrities, members of the 700 club, and the Religious Right. He wouldn’t have looked at a woman who had gotten drunk and been raped and say, “Well, I’m sorry, but if you didn’t dress like that…” He wouldn’t respond to a new restriction on abortion by tweeting a picture of a coat hanger. He wouldn’t stick pamphlets about gay marriage into kids’ Halloween bags. He would do things that surprise the people who claim to know Him best. That’s where I want to have “an open mind.” I don’t want to miss Him because I have this preconceived notion of where He walks.

People used the same arguments against gay marriage for racial discrimination, and while I’m not saying sexuality and race are equal in every way, the point is the Bible has been misread before and I’m just very interested in figuring out what the heck certain parts of the Bible are talking about, even beyond sexuality. Religion and “Bible-believing Christians” have caused centuries of injustice so I want to be cautious before I claim a specific opinion is God-breathed and infallible.

I can be a Bible-believing Christian while still questioning everything because being a Christian never depended on one’s certainty of doctrine. It depends on love. I can be a Christian because at the end of the day, after oceans of doubt and questions have washed over me, I still choose to swim towards the horizon towards Jesus. Very rarely are people brought to Christ because they heard a Christian saying things like, “That’s just how it is. It’s not me, it’s the Bible. It’s sin, plain and simple. I’m just telling you the truth.” People are brought to Christ because of love.


A Big Happy Family: The Rules and Rituals of Relationships at a Conservative Christian College


Let’s go back to my freshman year of college at a conservative Christian institution.

That feeling of “not being good enough” haunted me, though it was more complicated than that. It wasn’t as if I devalued myself, that I thought I was worthless. I knew I was a good catch, but I just wasn’t the fish anyone wanted. Whenever a boy talked to me, threw a smile in my direction, I fell in love. I wrote lists of what I wanted in a guy, which included traits like “quirky,” “honest,” and “confident.” My fixation on a relationship filled me with guilt and my journal was interspersed with lists of valuable traits in a guy and hard-edged promises to focus on God and holiness. I was torn between a desire to be loved and a desire to be autonomous. My school taught me to find my satisfaction in Christ but also continuously shoveled teachings about marriage and gender roles at me, making it impossible to not be aware of how single I was.

I cast myself as some kind of long-suffering heroine in a tragedy. The different one. The one who waits and waits but no one comes. Some people pass by, fascinated, but they never stay. They care for a time, I know they do, but my problems don’t have an expiration date and people get tired. I get that. It hurt to think that people just stick around for as long as they do because they feel sorry for me. It’s pity. That’s the worst. It’s like a zoo exhibit for The Sad Girl. Please do not feed. You visit for a while, feel bad for the poor creature all locked up, but it’s getting late and it’s awkward to just stand around.

Paranoia believes that every kind word or encouragement is a forced gesture. Any sweetness became overbearing. I became angry with people who spouted their buzzwords and vague assertions about hope and pain. It was impossible to connect with someone who didn’t seem to have their feet planted. I just ended up kind of swatting at them, trying to get a grip, trying to cling to their stability. Maybe I scared them away. I wasn’t sure what to expect of people. This was a Christian college. We’re a big happy family, right? Not total strangers. That’s what they told us when we lined up in chapel and were told to sing with our hearts and clap with our hands. All in one room, me with hundreds of other kids, but I still felt like a bruised fruit in a perfect bowl.

On my floor, there was a group of students who were into a more radical form of Christianity, and being more familiar with that, I adjusted my spirituality to fit in more. I believed there was power in what we did, no appeal to God ever goes to waste, but nothing I did seemed to alleviate the depression or loneliness. I realized that I felt more fulfilled during a simple conversation with a person who seemed genuinely interested in me than with an hour-long prayer session. Eventually, I became exhausted with the hysterical spirituality I found myself involved with, but I still hung on the fringes, reluctant to sever the only connections I had.

Being at a conservative religious school has made me disillusioned with Christian establishments. There were so many rules. We had to go to chapel five days a week; they scanned our ID cards and kept a record, so if we missed more than our allotted number of skips, we got fined. I didn’t even have people to complain to; everyone seemed to think it’s a reasonable thing to ask of students. Some girls said, “If you enjoy going to chapel and it makes your day a bit more Jesus-filled, what does it matter if it’s a requirement?” Except I didn’t enjoy it and it didn’t make my day more Jesus-filled. It was a bunch of announcements mostly, sometimes a special speaker, one who always seemed to talk about marriage.  One chapel in particular annoyed me so much that I live-blogged it to my brother. The speaker talked about how waiting for the right person was important and to enjoy being single, and then ended with a story about how when he accepted that about his life, he met his future wife two weeks later. How very convenient. At another smaller chapel I attended to try and avoid a fine, a young married couple took questions about how to live a Godly life as a single person. A young married couple. They were, I don’t know if I mentioned this, married. Everyone who talked about how to be single was married.

For a class, part of our homework was to keep a journal with a Bible verse each day. I couldn’t even be real about it, I had to turn it in as part of my grade, so it wasn’t even a real journal. It just made my skin crawl, turning worship and the Bible – the two main tenets of the Christian faith – into things that were scanned, measured, and graded. I felt like I was the only one who was really angry about all of this, like really, red-faced angry. It made me feel even more isolated and vulnerable to feeling like I was somehow “better” than other people because I was so aware of the injustices and hypocrisy bearing down on a rabble of young minds.

Was this narcissism? Believing in all of this? Even though being in pain sucked, it separated me from other people. It made me unique. I sat alone and wrote depressing poems, shaking my head at the nuzzling couples and giggling cliques. Oh, you foolish children. How could you understand the depth of life’s agony? And even if you do, you have a symphony of love around you to keep you from drowning. Unlike me. Poor, sad me. Trying to pull myself out of self-pity usually made it all worse. I was self-centered and angry for being self-centered. You. Stop. Stop being depressed and so full of yourself.

Why I Am Not My Husband’s Helpmeet

Screen shot 2013-11-23 at 11.17.39 PM
How about no

Being in an evangelical/Christian environment for most of my life, I was always familiar with the term helpmeet, or helpmate. It was what a woman’s role in a marriage was supposed to be, if she was a “Biblical” woman. In conservative circles, it usually meant staying at home to raise children, learning to cook, clean, and so forth. In more progressive dialogues, it could also mean going to work to support the family, full-time or part-time.

Even when it’s lived out in a more “feminist” way (going to work), I have major issues with term “helpmate.” It literally sounds like the phrase “helping your mate.” You’re telling me that the whole purpose of my life is to “help” a man? Even if I go to work and put the kids in daycare, none of it is for me, it’s all to further this God-given mission that my husband has been set on? I was created to “help.”

This cannot be true. It contradicts the rest of the Gospel and what we know about God. He creates people for specific, unique, and individual purposes:

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It also doesn’t make sense given God’s track record with women and their purposes. Jael killed the general of an enemy army rising against Israel, Deborah was a prophetess and the highest authority among the ancient Hebrews, Rahab negotiated for the lives of herself and her family with the Hebrew spies she hid from execution, Esther was the queen of a pagan nation and saved the Hebrew people from extinction, Mary gave birth to the Messiah, Lydia funded the early church independently with her wealth…these women were not assisting any man. Would anyone dare ascribe the word “helpmate” to any of these women?

No person is just a prop in another actor’s story. “Helpmate” isn’t even a good translation of the original word. Most translations don’t even use that word anymore, they translate it as “companion.” The word describing Eve, the first woman, is ezer. It appears 21 times. It appears as a description for God and the help He gives to Israel.

Deuteronomy 33: 26

There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty.

So, a woman is designed to help a man in the same way God helps His people. That is not a role that should be looked down upon, or squished down to fit into a strict list of rules. The concept that woman was meant to just help man on his big life’s purpose and not have her own thing going on is actually explained RIGHT IN THE NEXT CHAPTER. After Adam and Eve sin, God explains that their lives will not the same now.

Genesis 3: 16

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Patriarchy. Right there. The result of the fall was patriarchy. To adhere to the belief that women are meant to submit beneath their husband’s commands is adhering to a sinful hierarchy that God didn’t establish. He made Eve to be a companion, equal to man. It even explains why the word “ezer” was originally translated to just “helpmate;” the society it was translated in was a patriarchy and would not like women getting the idea that they should be on equal footing with men.

So that’s why I am not my husband’s helpmeet. He does not “lead our household.” So then who does? God does.


This is slightly off topic, but it really bothers me when people say that feminism has switched the roles and that women actually dominate men now. First of all, in what area of American society is that true? Seriously, name one field or area of media that has more women or men. And now, what area of the GLOBE is that true? There are women in some parts of the world that are fighting for a right to DRIVE A CAR. I also don’t trust statistics and surveys that ask men how they view equality. In a study recently (I looked online for forever looking for the original source because I read it a while ago, can’t find it, but it’s real), when there ratio of women to men was about 30-70, men saw it as equal, but when it was truly 50-50, men perceived that there were more women than men. Society has conditioned us so well to view inequality as “normal,” that our perception on equality is warped, especially when men are told over and over again that women will take over and make things worse for them. If a man and woman are up for the same job, and the woman gets it, a lot of men (not all) will become bitter and say it was just because she was a woman. Maybe it’s because she was better qualified than you or any number of totally legit reasons. The man is under the false impression that he was “owed” something.

Just because someone is being given more rights  than they’ve had before, or even just the same rights as you, doesn’t mean you’re losing your rights.

Nor Is There Male And Female

Feminism is considered a sin in the modern church. It is hurled as an insult. Despite its evolution from the radical second wave of feminism to a more moderate, global movement, It is still associated with rebellion and rejection of Christian values. It’s been described as “an old, old heresy meant to destroy God’s design on every front…an ancient form of paganism.” John MacArthur has taught extensively on the evil of feminism: “Godly women don’t impact the world by putting on a suit and by carrying a briefcase; they impact the world by raising a Godly generation of men and women.” I’d be curious to hear what MacArthur thinks about Mother Theresa, who didn’t exactly wear a suit, but she definitely wasn’t a mother in the traditional sense either. And why couldn’t Godly women impact the world by entering it? Does God have limitations like that? What about women who can’t have children, or who just don’t like children, who would rather interact and work with adults? Is there something seriously wrong with them, something EVIL?

If Christian men are intimidated by strong women, that’s their problem. If they don’t know how to deal with their intellectual equal, that’s something that men need to deal with. Men have been conditioned to believe a woman needs to be “meek” and “quiet,” forgetting that men are given the exact same directive. When a woman doesn’t meet the standard, she is shamed and men are encouraged by other Christian men to deal with the situation. Instead of discussing with men how to treat women as their true equals, the church tells strong women to “step down.” Isn’t this a suppression of who a woman is? Some women have aggressive personalities, that’s just who they are. As women, we’re told constantly to “find our identity in Christ,” not in men, but apparently our identity in Christ is defined by men. For the sake of “making a man feel like a man,” strong women have to water down who they are in order to feel like they’re following God’s will. What about Deborah? She was ordering men around all the time, she was literally in the highest position possible in her society. People like to treat her as if she was a fluke, but what if she wasn’t? What if other women had been judges? And even if she was the only woman who became a judge, what was it about her that makes her so special that she could override “God’s law” about gender roles? Churches don’t talk enough about Deborah.

What is at the heart of not liking women to be leaders or pastors? I’ve heard different concerns, such as, “A woman is more emotional, less stable, and doesn’t possess the self-control necessary to manage a church.” If that’s a problem for women, it’s just as much a problem for men. How many male pastors have been caught having affairs, many times with minors who they have spiritually manipulated into sex? How many churches with male leaders have been caught misusing funds? Men and women are equally vulnerable to all kinds of problems with stability and self-control. It’s an issue of character, not of gender. Another concern I’ve heard is that men will be distracted by a female pastor, perhaps even led to impure thoughts. This is not a compliment to men. Are men so weak that they are unable to look past the physical differences of a pastor and actually listen to them? I’ve heard people say that men don’t like to be taught by women, because it makes them feel like “less of a man.” I’m sorry, but how about some humility? This woman – this pastor – has gone through training for her job. She knows more about the Bible than the average Joe sitting in the congregation. If he thinks he knows more than her, just because he’s a man, he is incredibly naive and frankly, stupid. It’s a calling back to the old days where it was thought women just had smaller brains than men, that no matter how much education she had, she could never be smarter than a man. We know this is false. What we also know is false is that God assigns gifts based on gender. So, do only men get the gift of teaching? Prophecy? Pastoring? And if women do have these gifts, what right do we have to decide they should only use them in a certain arena – the home – and not in the church? Where is that in the Bible?

I believe at the heart of this mistrust of women in spiritual leadership, is a fear of women. The church still has this belief that all women are evil. Eve took the fruit. She ushered in the age of sin. Therefore, engrained in the gender, must be some darkness that doesn’t exist in men. How is this Biblical? All have fallen short of the glory of God. There is no verse that says women are worse than men, simply by being women. People point to Jezebel, her name is the symbol of evil womanhood, but she was evil because of her hatred of God, not because she was a woman. God could have become flesh in any way he wanted, but he chose to come through a woman. It was the perfect beginning for Jesus, whose ministry is saturated with treating women as equals, and not shaming them simply because they were born. Why does the church ignore this? Why does the church still cringe and squint with skepticism the second they see a woman standing in front of a congregation, before she has even opened her mouth to speak?

I haven’t experienced aggressive sexism, but I’ve experienced the “nice” kind, which drives me crazy. It’s the kind of sexism that treats women like children. In high school, boys I knew disliked me for various reasons, would hold the door open unnecessarily. It was a small thing, and I never said anything because I knew I would instantly be ridiculed for being a “crazy feminist,” but it was knowing they were only being nice to me because I was a girl. They disliked everything else about me, but because I’m a woman, they have to treat me a certain way. No. Stop. We don’t like each other. You let me open that door myself and I will close it on your face. Funny thing is, boys who did this had no problem making “get in the kitchen and make a sandwich” jokes when Hillary Clinton was in the 2008 election. Hmm. Charming. Teachers were sometimes the same way. I make a point and they explain it back to the group, as if I didn’t do a good enough job. Thanks, sir. Thank you for making my feminine incoherence understandable. I kept track and it only happened with the girls. These things were small, but they grated on me. It’s a popular thing now to say that “men need respect” and “women need love.” Uh, no. Ideally, we all need both, but I would much rather be respected. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to make a well-thought out argument and then to have a man pat me on the head, and say, “Aw, I love you so much,” and nothing else. I’m not a dog. I’m not a pet who doesn’t care if you treat me with dignity, who just wants to sit on your lap and be “loved.” That is humiliation at its finest. It’s like I’m a babbling child all over again. Treating women like children is believing they need protection from the cruel world, that being at home with the kids is the safest place. Going to a job, having a career, is just too much pressure for a woman to handle. I have no problem with women who stay at home, if it’s their choice. If they feel pressured by Christian society and their husband to stay at home, that’s when I have a problem.

I think a big reason for men being angry about women being in the workplace or in positions of leadership is because it proves that women (by nature) do not need men to protect and provide for their every need. Men have been taught that that is their role, and when suddenly, that role is not necessary, they have an identity crisis and blame feminism. It’s time to reconsider gender roles. It’s time to think about what feminine and masculine mean. It’s time to actually believe the words in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, NOR IS THERE MALE AND FEMALE, for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus.”

A Rough Patch


The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.

– C.S. Lewis

Church was never my thing. The concept of sitting with a bunch of people all staring into the same direction made me uneasy and I especially hated the part where we all had to greet each other. I don’t know these people, why accentuate that with awkward handshakes that varied from “the limp fish” to the “Hulk smash?” When I was younger, there was Sunday school, and I liked that even less. It required interaction with hyper peers and all I wanted to do was zone out in the big sanctuary or color in all the “O’s” on the dozens of bulletins.

The first church I was remember was one of those big churches, with the concert-like worship services, massive camera set up, and a thousand-plus people whose names I would never know. When I was about six, we moved to Belgium, and found a church there that was used to ex-Pats and other international connections. I don’t remember specifics about that church, except that I liked it better because I actually had a few friends there and it didn’t feel like I was going to a football game. Coming back to the States was tough. We church-hopped for a while and ended up going to a church where they also had a homeschool co-op group we went to a couple times. I remember nothing of significance there, except that that was around the time I knew I needed glasses, because I couldn’t read the song lyrics on the projector. Then it was back to the original big church, where my brother and I were ushered into youth group as is custom for youths. I hated it. I was bored and didn’t know how to react when other girls in my group asked questions like, “So did Jesus like get his period and stuff?” or when they learned I lived in Europe, “Do you speak European?” There were two female leaders who I both liked a lot, who would occasionally look at me with a mixture of pity and appreciation, probably because I was quiet.

We switched to an Episcopalian church after my parents persuaded me that I did indeed have to attend some kind of Sunday morning service and Wednesday night religious youth gathering. It was pretty much the opposite of everything the modern Lutheran church had been. Liturgy, pastors with robes, kneeling benches, real wine for communion…I liked it for a while, but soon the repetition made it too easy for me to zone out. I couldn’t connect emotionally with anything, I couldn’t relate my crushing depression and intense feelings of isolation to a serene, old tradition-based service where the Scripture readers would practically shout at the small congregation in a disconcerting monotone. The youth group wasn’t much better. All the kids knew each other very well and even though my parents pushed me into practically every event, I never got past a certain point of acknowledgement. I felt tolerated. Nothing more.

In high school, I started going to my boyfriend’s church. My favorite high school teacher was also the pastor and there were other people I knew there, too. I didn’t have to start over and the transition was smooth. It was the first place I felt at home. I loved the sermons, the environment was relaxed, there wasn’t a pressure to perform. This would be where I belonged for the next seven years (minus a few year gap where I just didn’t go to church or school, because of my mental breakdown). I worshiped sincerely there, I met some of my best friends, I taught youth group there, I even had some dramatic spiritual experiences. Then everything seemed to fell apart all at once.

The lead pastor left and I haven’t really spoken to him since, not by choice, but by circumstance, I suppose. It felt like a betrayal. The rest of the staff got switched up and after building the youth group into the strongest ministry at the church, a large chunk of the kids graduated out of it and it seemed to slip away back into obscurity. It no longer felt alive to me. I lost the one church that had meant something to me, after so many years of searching. I left the church and haven’t really been back to any since then.

I’ve tried a few. Chris goes to the church he found when he first moved to Minnesota, but I’m still grieving, and I don’t really know how to recover. We’ve been to one together a few times, but I’m terrified of trying to meet new people and that was what made a church feel like home. My social anxiety is especially high when being social and church/religion collide. The people who have hurt me the most have all been Christians; the risk factor is already too high for me to handle.

I haven’t lost my faith in Christ; I’ve lost my faith in His Body. It looks and feels so different than being with Him does. The contrast is so stark, it confuses and wounds me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to reconcile the Groom and the Bride. I do know that they’re supposed to be together though. They’re just going through a rough patch right now.

The Shepherd

ImageLately, I’ve been questioning my faith. Do I really believe what I say I believe? Or, more frighteningly, what if what I believe really doesn’t fit with being a Christian?

I feel the latter more often than the former. I’m constantly getting fed the message that one cannot be a Christian if one believes A, B, and/or C. People, as close as friends and as distant as major religious leaders, love deciding what convictions do and do not fall under the Christian umbrella. Since politics has apparently joined theology as a key factor in determining one’s stance with God, there seems to be a never-ending stream of do’s and do not’s.

I’ve always fought back against the stream. In high school, I remember being asked why God would create humans and after a little thought, replied, “Maybe He was lonely.” The teacher looked at the class and said, “Can God be lonely?” More than one voice said, “No,” and the teacher moved on as if that single word was the end of the matter. In my opinion, if God can’t be lonely, I don’t know how we could relate to Him at all, since at least for me, that feeling has dominated most of my life. High school continued to offer spaces in which I could argue and I’ve gotten used to disagreeing with the majority of the Christian representation in America.

However, my grounded fervor has begun to shake. I’ve felt distant from God for a while, partially because I’ve been too afraid to find a church to plug into, and also because I’ve been a bit miffed with how my life is going. I see the confidence with which people declare their beliefs as the one true way and I begin to tremble. What if I’m wrong and they’re right? What if believing X and Z really does mean I’m ignoring God’s truth?

Last night, I was thinking about this as I tried to sleep. I imagined being a ewe in a flock of sheep. The sheep around me were all huddled in a circle and when I went over to them, they stared at me.

“What are you?” they asked.

“I’m a sheep.”

“No, you’re not. You look funny. Your ears are shaped differently than ours. Your hooves are weird.”

I was troubled and a little hurt. I go and try to find the shepherd. After calling, I heard his voice and went over to where he’s standing.

“What am I?” I asked him.

“You’re a sheep,” he answered.

“But the others say I’m not.”

“That doesn’t matter. You’re a sheep.”

“How can I be sure?”

“You recognized my voice when I called you.”

So after all my doubting and anxiety, the answer is simple. I still hear Jesus’ voice. I am not so far off the path that I’ve lost my sense of Him, of His compassion and mercy, His patience, His humility. When I’m overwhelmed by all the descriptions of Jesus people are throwing before me, I shut my ears to every voice but His and His voice is full of grace. Even if I am wrong about some specific issue, it doesn’t change who I am.

More importantly and most importantly, it doesn’t change who Jesus is.