Category Archives: rant

9 Reasons I (Still) Refuse To Be The Meanest Mom

Someone recently asked me when I was going to stop writing about not being the “mean mom.”  My answer?  As long as people keep writing articles glorifying being mean, I’ll keep writing about the alternative.

This one, published by Scary Mommy, was the latest one to come across my desk, but there is no shortage of others.  Be the mean mom, they tell us, not the nice mom.  Not the cool mom.  Not the friend.  In reading this one for a second time, I see and understand that it was written in a sort of tongue-in-cheek, humorous style.  And please understand, it’s not that I don’t have a good sense of humor.  I do.  (Ask my dog.  He thinks I’m freaking hysterical.)  I just don’t happen to find humor in disparaging kids, and in treating them as less than …. which is exactly what articles like this do.

The other side deserves to be heard.  The other side needs to be heard.  Here then are the author’s 9 reasons for being the mean mom, and my response from the other side.

1. I’m not your friend.  Not even close.

I say:  I will always be your friend… the best friend you could ever ask for.  I’ve written about being friends with my kids again and again.  And I’ll continue to do so.  For me, it’s pretty simple.  Friends are going to come and go, for a variety of reasons.  But as parents, we have the unique opportunity to be the friend that’s always there.  The trusted rock that our kids can count on… not just now, but for the rest of their lives.  I will proudly, unabashedly, always be that friend for my kids.  In fact I strongly believe that it’s one of my most important jobs when it comes to being a mother.

2.  I’m not here to be cool.  I’m here to raise cool kids.

This is one thing we may partially agree on.  Anyone who ever accused me of trying to be cool wouldn’t get very far.  I’m pretty much a big dork.  I’m socially awkward, I trip over air, and I laugh way harder than I should at “That’s what she said” jokes.  But I’m perfectly me, and I encourage my kids to be their own best selves too.  It’s not a zero sum game, where I have to be “mean mom” in order for my kids to be raised right (or whatever version of “right” that society deems appropriate).  I do my best to be kind, and respectful, and a person with integrity.  And guess what?  My kids are kind, and respectful, and people with integrity.  Who cares about cool?

3.  Because nagging works. 

Lots of things “work”, especially in the short term.  But that doesn’t mean that anything that works is the best choice, or the kindest choice.  Being a mom should be about the relationship.  Nagging doesn’t tend to be a great thing for relationships, and rightly so.  No one likes to be nagged.  Bottom line:  if I wouldn’t like it said – or done – to me, I don’t want to say or do it to my kids.

4.  I married a cool dad.

I think this is meant to be a take on the antiquated good cop/bad cop paradigm, where one parent needs to be the soft one, and the other the “heavy.”  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  My kids have a cool mom and a cool dad (or, at least, uncool in equal measure).  We are different, to be sure, because we are vastly different people.  But good and bad?  Nice and mean?  Nope.  We’re partners; both on the same team.

5.  It just plain works.

Didn’t we already do this one?  Sure, it works.  Know what else works?  Being nice.

6.  It takes a village, except when the villagers are all too nice.

The author feels that a trip to the playground should carry with it a mandatory contract that reads, “If you see another kid being an asshole, don’t hesitate. Say something.”  Gah.  Again with the calling kids assholes.  So here’s the thing:  There seems to be a false dichotomy that states that there are exactly two ways for parenting (and by extension, society) to operate.  1) Parents are “mean”, children behave, and there is order and harmony in all the land.  Or 2) Parents are too nice (ie: pushovers) children run wild, and chaos and bedlam reign supreme.  But there are other options.  Yup, sometimes it really does take a village.  And yup, sometimes a trip to the playground does require intervention involving another child and/or another parent.  I have been there.  But I’ve never met a situation that couldn’t be at least a little more quickly diffused, a little more softened, a little more pleasant for all involved… by being nice.  I don’t care who you are, young or old.  God knows we could use a little more “nice.”

7.  Kids will suck the nice right out of you.  Let them. 

We’re not born with a finite amount of “nice.”  If we are treating our kids kindly from a genuine place of love and respect (and not, for example, from a misplaced sense of martyrdom or insecurity), we literally never run out of niceness.  No one can suck it out of us.  No one can take it away.  In fact, it’s one of those emotional muscles that actually increases the more we use it.  I’ve been a parent for over 20 years, and I still manage to be nice to my kids.  I think I’ll even be able to be nice to them tomorrow.  Crazy! (But true.)  Even crazier?  My kids are nice to me, too!

8.  I refuse to raise little manipulators.

Oof.  Listen, it’s not that I think kids are perfect (they’re human), and it’s not that I don’t think kids – past a certain age – can’t manipulate (again, they’re human).  It’s just that 1) being nice to your kids doesn’t turn them into manipulators; 2) being mean doesn’t preclude it – in fact I think it increases the odds exponentially; 3) children, like all of us, tend to behave as well as they are treated; and 4) calling kids manipulators (and brats and assholes etcera) is tired and uncool and contributing to the problem.  Not solving it.  Look at it this way:  if someone was assuming the worst about you and calling you a name, would you be more or less likely to act pleasantly toward that person in the future?

9.  Still want to be cool?  Just wait until you’re the grandmother.

Nope, it’s not about being cool.  Not even a little bit.  It’s not about being liked.  It’s not even about being nice.  It’s about something far simpler.  It’s about treating my kids the way I’d like to be treated.  At the end of the day, I wouldn’t like it very much if an important person in my life measured their relational success against how mean they were to me.

In fact, I’d actually appreciate the opposite.

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My Daughter Doesn’t Dress For You

teganaseleven

Halloween 2016

My daughter is eight at the time of this writing.  Her wardrobe, besides being fabulous, can best be described as eclectic.  It’s a dress one day, followed by running shorts and a tank top the next, followed by an ever changing mix of leggings and long tops,  and swishy shorts and boots,  and skirts with knee-high socks, and other various combinations that I haven’t even imagined until I’ve seen her put them together.  Last week she wore one of her dad’s t-shirts as a big boxy dress, and believe you me, she rocked it.

One thing she does not do is dress for me.  Or for her father.  Or for her peers.  Or for boys.  She dresses for herself, in whatever way makes her feel comfortable and confident and best able to take on the world as her own wonderfully weird and perfectly imperfect self.  My wish for her is that that always continues, whether she’s eight or twenty eight.

To insist otherwise is to give in to rape culture, and to an increasingly misogynistic society that tells us that 1) girls are nothing more than sexual objects, and 2) boys are nothing more than walking penises, slaves to their animalistic urges.  It is always amazes me each time that I again realize how equally disparaging this view is to both genders.   Can we give ourselves a little more credit?

Women are more than the clothes they wear.

Men are more than hormonally-driven hunters, always on the lookout for the next thing they might want to have sex with.

Which is why articles like this one, by Shelly Wildman, are so concerning.  Titled How Your Daughter Dresses Matters, she explains why as parents we need to be vigilant in ensuring that our daughters are dressed modestly (which sounds pretty difficult, since she estimates that 80% of what we see in stores is inappropriate.)

From the article, in response to a WSJ online article with a quote that said, “We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: ‘Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!’ But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.”:

Think about that. If, as mothers (or fathers!), we’re encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately, that’s basically what we’re saying. At the very least we’re saying, “Here’s my daughter. She’s on display. Take a good, long, hard look at her.”

And a few lines later, in describing what the author says to the junior high girls she works with:

Dressing a certain way attracts a certain kind of guy. I doubt very seriously that the kind of guy you want to attract is the kind of guy you’re dressing for when you dress like that. Besides, you are above that. You are better than that. You deserve better than that.  So dress for the guy you deserve.

Oof.

First of all, thinking of your daughter in terms of her hypothetical sex life is gross and inappropriate, to say the least.  I don’t care what she’s wearing or not wearing.  Second, if a parent is equating a specifically dressed daughter with an object on display… the problem lies within the parent.   This is going to sound harsh, but that excerpt literally filled me with revulsion.

Our children are not our possessions to display, nor are they puppets with which to act out our own ideals about  what is and is not “appropriate” when it comes to attire.  They’re humans.

As for the “encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately”, there is a very big difference between respecting autonomy and encouraging inappropriateness.  And who decides what’s “inappropriate” anyway?  You?  Me?  The church elders?  “Appropriate” attire is completely subjective, and it’s both unrealistic and arrogant to think that we can define it for someone else.  I would never encourage my daughter to dress in a way that feels inappropriate to her, or uncomfortable to her, or inauthentic to her. 

What I will encourage?  Self-respect.  Self-love.  Self-confidence.  An intrinsic need to think, and act, and dress out of a deep respect for herself... not for me, not for you, and certainly not – as the second quote advises – to land the man of her dreams.  Sorry (#notsorry) current eight year old boys who might one day want to date my daughter: She’s not going to dress for you.

She’s going to dress for herself.

And I can’t speak for the rest of the moms or daughters out there, but if my daughter does in fact choose to be in a relationship with a man:  The man she deserves is one who doesn’t give a single wit about the clothes she’s wearing, and instead sees the person underneath.

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The One About The Boobies

sculpture-naked-bosom-breasts-38444

We talk about boobs a lot in our house (and before I go any further, I’m using the word “boobs” only because it’s my preferred euphemism. I’m not a fan of most of the others, and the word “breasts”, while of course anatomically correct, feels strangely formal. And we’re all friends here, right? So boobs it is. But if you don’t like that word, feel free to substitute your favorite alternative as you go.)

Anyway, as I said, we talk about boobs a lot. Not in a creepy or weird or crass way, but just because we have an eight year old who is extremely open when it comes to talking about… well, everything… and a favorite topic at the moment happens to be puberty. Side note: She also talks about farts way more often than the boys ever did, combined. I always laugh when people equate potty humor with mostly boys, because they obviously haven’t met Tegan yet. But I digress.

She knows – at least in basic concept – about sex, she understands what happens during puberty, and while not necessarily excited about it, she accepts that she’s going to have boobs one day.  She knows that they make milk should she become a mother.  She knows that they come in different sizes.  She knows that you don’t get to pick your size unless you have surgery of some sort.  She knows about bras, and sports bra, and as of recently, she knows about these too:

 

These are the greatest things ever if you don’t wish to wear a bra, or if the cut of your top or dress means that straps would show, or if you’re like me (a 34A to be… lying. An AA, with zero reason to wear a bra for support) and want to be comfortable, but don’t want to worry about any nipple issues.

They’re also similar to what Kaitlyn Juvik  says she was wearing under her (completely modest and appropriate and loose-fitting) black top the day that her teacher reported her for not wearing a bra, because it made him “uncomfortable.” Juvik – rightly – protested, it instantly became a whole big internet thing, and people are quickly jumping to one side or the other. I read one article that had a little survey at the end about whether or not girls should be required to wear bras to school, and the response was rather disturbingly divided down the middle: something like 54% to 46% in favor of yes.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start.

1. No teacher should be looking at an underage girl’s chest long enough or closely enough to even be able to discern if she is or is not wearing a bra.  Let’s just start there.  Her shirt was not see-through, it was not sheer, it was not tight.  It was a black t-shirt; nothing that demanded special attention.  Why was he looking at her breasts long enough to determine that there was no bra in the first place?  That to me is a larger issue that I wish more people were talking about.

2. Schools shouldn’t be in the business of policing undergarments.  If Juvik had violated the school’s dress code, this would be a slightly different conversation.  But she didn’t.  She wasn’t showing cleavage, and she wasn’t wearing anything revealing.   I’m not a fan – to put it politely – of the idea of dress codes in the first place, but I understand why they exist, and can even get behind them if they are fair to both male and females… which, let’s just be honest, they so very rarely are.  But the school’s dress code said nothing about bras (as it shouldn’t, because HELLO they are undergarments!)   What sort of underwear someone does or does not choose to wear should  be nobody’s business but the owner of said underwear.  The fact that I even need to say that out loud is so disgusting that I feel like I need to immediately take a shower to wash off some of the ick.

3. It encourages misogyny and rape culture.  We find ourselves, again, with another situation where a woman’s body is deemed responsible for someone else’s discomfort.  THIS IS NOT OKAY!  Women are not responsible for men’s thoughts.  Women’s bodies are not responsible for men’s comfort. Women’s boobs are not responsible for men’s actions.  My body, and my daughter’s body, and Kaitlyn Juvik’s body have just as much right to take up space in this world as my husband’s, and as my son’s.  If someone is uncomfortable due to what someone else is or is not wearing, that is on him, and him alone.

4. They’re just boobs.  Let’s just take a minute here for some perspective.  Males and females both have nipples.  We’re basically talking about a matter of a little bit more (in my case, a very little bit more) fatty tissue beneath them.  That’s it.  It’s nothing to get freaked out about.  Seriously, they’re just breasts.  Yes, I understand that they’re often viewed and used in a sexual context, but these are not genitals.  And you know what?  Even if we were talking about genitals…  I might not be “comfortable” if I were eye-level with the graphic end of a Speedo, but I would defend till my last breath the wearer’s right to wear it. 

It makes me angry, and to be completely honest, a little bit scared, that this is the world in which my daughter will grow up…. a world that wants to tell her that she needs to wear a bra, whether she wants to or not, lest she offend the delicate sensibilities of the men around her.  A world that wants to tell her that she is nothing more than a body.   A world that wants to tell her that she is somehow less than exactly as she is, and that she doesn’t deserve to be here, exactly as she is, as much as her male counterparts.

My daughter?  I’m going to tell her to be strong, and to hold her head high.  I’m going to tell her that she matters, not because some man told her she mattered, but just because she is her.   I’m going to tell her that she can be anything, and do anything that she puts her mind to.

And that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether or not she’s wearing a bra while she does it.


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In A World Where Rapists Only Get Six Months

brock turner

This is the face of a rapist

I have been sitting here, staring at this blank page, for half an hour now.

So many words, and yet….. no words at all.

The one thought, the one thing that keeps coming back to mind is:  “How in the hell did we get here?  How is this the world we live in?”

I think of that boy.  I think of Brock Turner.  I think of the depravity of a kind of person who could not only do what he did, but show no remorse.  I think of the people who defend him, and of the journalists who want to keep bringing up his swimming records.  Because, apparently, being really good at something is somehow worth more than the woman he assaulted, and the life he forever altered?  Ted Bundy was good at things too.  I think of that girl, and what she went through, and what she continues to go through.  I think of what he took from her.  I think of her family, and her friends, and the people who love her.  I think of ALL the victims of sexual assault, past and present, and how verdicts like this are an assault to them all over again.  I think of the students who stopped the assault, one of whom was crying so hard at what he saw that he could barely answer the officers’ questions.  I think of the judge, the judge who felt a person who systematically removed an unconscious girl’s clothes, then physically and sexually violated her behind a dumpster is not a danger to others, and who couldn’t possibly be punished for more than six months because of the severe impact such a punishment would have on his life.  I think of the boy’s father, who – among other equally disgusting things – said that his son shouldn’t have to pay a steep price for his “20 minutes of action.”

He’s depressed, his father tells us.  He’s barely eating.  He’s a shell of the boy he once was.  It’s horrible what this has done to his life.

And in six months, his punishment will be over.  While the girl he raped is punished and haunted by his “actions” every day for the rest of her life.

But it was the alcohol!  He made a bad decision, and he drank too much.  She made a bad decision and she drank too much.  He’s seen the error of his ways.  He never should have…. drank.  Oh and according to his father he’s “totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”   Wow!!  How noble and selfless!!

How about this, Brock Allen Turner?

How about you educate other college age students not to rape?

How about you tell other college age students that if someone has had too much to drink, you should help them, not strip them of their clothes, push them behind a dumpster, and violate them?

How about you explain to other college age students what consent means, and how consent is something that an unconscious person is not able to give.

How about you admit to the vile and heinous crime you committed, and that you deserve the maximum punishment available?

How about you quit trying to garner sympathy, and whining about how this is ruining your life, and think about the ACTUAL victim here?

How about you apologize not just for your crimes, but for the disgusting and misogynistic and patriarchal society that supports you?  The one that not only allows a rapist to walk free after six months, but wants us to actually feel sorry for him.

I do not feel sorry for Brock Turner.

I feel disgusted with Brock Turner.  I feel anger towards Brock Turner.  I feel rage at a system, and a world, and a society that lets this be okay.

And to his victim?  To you I offer my whole hearted support, and love, and validation.   There are not words for how sorry I am for what you endured, and what you continue to endure.  You are strong.  You are brave.  I stand with you.  Lots of people stand with you.  I hope that you know that.  I hope that you feel our support.

I hope that somehow, someday, I can tell my own kids about the backwards system that supported people like Brock Turner, and about the people like his victim who bravely stood up, again and again, to say “no more”…..

and how that system eventually changed.


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My God Won’t Leave You Stranded On The Side Of The Road

SONY DSC

Christianity has a bit of a PR problem.

As I type that, I want to laugh (except of course that I’m so sad I want to cry), because it’s just about the biggest understatement I could possibly make.

Christianity has a really really huge, colossal PR problem.   The word – and concept – of Christianity has become such a marred and dirty word that I don’t know that it’s likely to ever recover.  In fact, many God-loving people are abandoning the word altogether, because they’re sick and tired of having to follow the statement of “I’m a Christian,” with a hastily uttered addendum of “But not one of those Christians.”  I actually started calling myself a follower of Christ a few years ago, because I felt like it more accurately described my position.

And really, who wants to be associated with… well, those Christians?

People hear the word Christian these days and they think of people like Phil Robertson.  They think of people freaking out about coffee cups.  They think of people freaking out about bathrooms in Target.  They think of people freaking out about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)  They think of people petitioning and boycotting and generally spending their collective time and energy on being negative.  They think about people withdrawing their funds for starving babies – literally taking food away from hungry children – because of an administrative policy that wouldn’t discriminate against gay people.  They think about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes.  They think about hatred.  They think about prejudice and bigotry and judgement.

And as of this week…. they think about tow truck drivers proudly taking a stand and refusing to tow the car of a disabled young lady who’d just been in accident… all because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on her car.

People hate Christians.

And not because, as some would have you believe, they’re doing God’s work à la Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”)  No.  They’re hated because too many of them have been behaving  like horrible, horrible people – and it could stand to be said: not at all Christ-like – and then proudly claiming God as their justification.

And I get it.  I struggle with my love for my fellow Christians too.  I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I want to desperately yell, “We’re not all like this!!”  Yes, 98% of my writings on Christianity have been born of straight-up frustration.  No question.

But I realized something.

In the time it took me to decide to write about this, to find the perfect picture, and to brew the perfect cup of coffee, it dawned on me:

This is not about Christianity at all.  It’s really not.  It’s about select individuals making bad decisions, and using “God” as their cover. I’d like to believe (really, I need to believe) that people are smart enough to see the difference.  That anyone with a working, thinking, rational brain can recognize that a Christian, as in a follower of Christ, is NOT synonymous with a “Christian”, as in “I’m going to leave an innocent girl stranded on the side of the road BECAUSE GOD TOLD ME TO.”

Am I horrified by this behavior?  Yes.  Do I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone would bring God into something so ugly?  Yes.  But my ranting and raving and general defensive word-spewing only serves to bring me down to their level. I’m not the spokeswoman for Christianity at large.  Beyond that though, I can’t control what anyone else does.  I can’t control what anyone else thinks.  If someone wants to behave like a complete and utter jackass and  delude themselves into thinking it’s what God wants them to do, it’s their choice to make. If someone wants to lump all Christians together and label them all as horrible, bigoted, self-seeking sycophants, so be it.

None of that changes my faith.  None of that changes my God.

Have you met my God?

(Ack, I just heard the way that sounds.  Please don’t stop reading.  I do NOT mean that in a door-to-door, “Brother, have you accepted the LORD JESUS as your personal savior??” kind of way.  What I mean is… do you know who it is that I – and others like me – personally follow?  Because let me perfectly clear: It is not a deity who would ever… ever ever ever… ask me to turn my back on someone who needed my help.  In fact, my God is very much the opposite)

My God has more love, and grace, and patience than humans can even comprehend.  Love and grace and patience for ALL people …. Black people and white people. Gay people and straight people.  Christians and atheists and Jewish people.  Sanders supporters and Trump supporters.   Able-bodied and disabled.  People who spend Sunday morning at church.  People who spend Sunday morning at Target.

My God wants me to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, and to stand up for the oppressed.  It’s kind of the whole reason I’m on earth.  I really believe that.  All this other stuff… it’s just noise and distractions.  And make no mistake;  I miss the mark, a LOT.  (More on that later)  But what I strive for? This is it.

My God wants me to use my powers for good, not evil.  I realize I’m a person and not a superhero, but it’s far more interesting to think of our skills, talents, and gifts as super powers, don’t you think?  I like to think that my super power is writing, but, you know, I’m not God, so….  A few years ago, I thought I heard God to tell me to get trained to teach yoga, so I did.  And I’ve spent many moments since then wondering if that was the right decision.  I had two shoulder surgeries in two years.  I have had chronic physical illness, chronic pain, and the worst anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m clearly supposed to be learning something from the experience, and I’m still not sure what it is.   Maybe one day I’ll go back to teaching.  Maybe I’ll shift my focus elsewhere.  But I digress.  We’ve all got powers, and we all get to decide how we use them.  My God wants me to use them for good, whatever they ultimately end up being.

My God wouldn’t ask me not to bake a wedding cake.  If wedding cakes were the way I brought to the world my skills and my heart and my love of Christ, He would ask me to bake two.  He would ask me to make the best damn gay wedding cakes that ever existed, and to do it with love.  He would ask me to throw in some free cookies too.  Not the day-old ones that were sitting out in the case and starting to get dry around the edges, but fresh cookies.  Beautiful cookies, made with the finest ingredients I could get my hands on.

My God wouldn’t ask me to spend my time and my energy and my blood, sweat, and tears on picketing, petitioning, and boycotting. My God tells me that my time is so much better spent doing the work I need to do on myself so I can live out my faith to the best of my ability.  So I can show people what Jesus actually looked like; so I can show people how Jesus actually behaved.

My God wouldn’t ask me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  The entirety of what I feel, and believe, and know to be true about my God and my faith tells me that the moment someone is in need is in fact the very moment that we’re here for. As a follower of Christ, as a person with a heart and a soul, as a human sharing this earth with other people, I am here to help my fellow man.  This is it.  This is what it’s about.  Forget the fact that it was his job as a tow truck driver to tow his car.  Forget that.  He was there to do a job, and he chose not to do it.  And I don’t know… maybe he hates his job.  Maybe he’d had a bad day.  Maybe he had a traumatic Bernie Sanders bumper sticker incident in a past life.  Setting all that aside….  no matter who or what he may believe in, or why he was there, or why the woman needed help in the first place:  as a human being, with values and morals and a sense of right and wrong, there was only one thing to do.  And he didn’t do it.  And then, he blamed God.

Which brings me full-circle to the beginning of the post, and the agony of people behaving badly, and the sadness and frustration of people lambasting Christians as a whole for believing in a God (except they usually words like “imaginary sky ghost”) that would ask them to do something so awful.

Let me say again that my God wouldn’t want me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  Whoever or whatever those people are talking about is not my God.

And I’ll be perfectly clear (and honest).  God knows, I don’t always do the right thing.  I want to;  I do.  But I’m a fallible human. Sometimes I let fear, or pride, or ego, or laziness, or just plain selfishness keep me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing to do.  I’m a work in progress, like everyone else.  But when I drop the ball, when I do something unkind… IT’S ALL ON ME.  And when you drop the ball and do something unkind, it’s all on you too.  Not God.

My God wants me to love my neighbor.  He doesn’t want me to be an asshole.  Full stop.

I’m tired of having this discussion over and over.  I’m tired of people behaving badly.  I’m tired of the emotional gymnastics I always go through when people rail about how horrible Christians are… when half of me wants to agree with them, and the other half is cut to my core at the hatred, wanting to curl up and cry, “But…  but… we’re not all like that!!!”

Mostly I’m tired of all this ridiculous noise, distracting us from doing what we need to be doing, and what we need to be focused on: Doing the right thing, loving our neighbor, and standing together to say we won’t tolerate bad behavior.  I don’t care who you are or what you believe in.  If you stand for love and kindness, I’ll stand beside you.

I’ll stand beside you, with my God, and work on me.  Work on my patience, work on my compassion, work on my love…. both for the person on the side of the road, and for the person who left her there.  Both for my fellow Christians, and for the people that aim to hurt us. It’s hard sometimes.  But I’m working on it.  I want to work on it.  God wants me to work on it.  Because my God?  He only wants goodness, not bad.  Lightness, not dark.  Love, not hatred.  Anything else is not God.  It’s user error.  It’s humanness.  It’s the dark side of humanity.

But I’ll work on me.  And you (if you choose) can work on you.  In the meantime…..

If you’re going to be a bigot;  If you’re going to do something disgusting and inhumane:  At least own up to the fact that you’re doing so out of your own moral shortcomings, and leave God out of it.


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I Won’t Throw Stones… Unless You’re LGBT

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Two fast points right off the top:

  1.  This is going to be long.
  2.  This post was originally going to be about something else.

The whole thing started with Bruce Jenner.  He had just done his interview with Diane Sawyer in which he discussed his transition from male to female.  I didn’t watch the interview, for no other reason than I wasn’t particularly interested, but from what I understand, Bruce is happy now, after denying who he was for a long time.   I’m a big champion of people following their own path, and being their own authentic selves, whoever that may be.  So I say… Go Bruce.

Shortly after the interview aired, Matt Walsh posted an article in which he was being, well… Matt Walsh… calling Jenner “a sick and delusional man.”

Partially in response to Walsh, Jarrid Wilson then wrote a really lovely and grace-filled blog post, reminding us that as Christians, our job was really nothing more than to extend love and compassion to Bruce Jenner, like we would to anyone else.  It always amazes me when people want to refute a call to love, but refute it they did, complete with admonitions that we have the responsibility to call people like Bruce Jenner out on their sin, and that we need to “speak the truth in love” (which, by the way, is one of the most awful things I think Christians say… right up there with “love the sinner, hate the sin.”)

So – at least in conservative Christian circles – Walsh was praised and Wilson was condemned.

Bruce Jenner IS WRONG!  It’s disgusting!  It’s A SIN!  We need to tell him!  We need to tell EVERYONE!  Let’s shout it from the rooftops!  The world is going to hell!

And sure, they’ll recite their “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric, but make no mistake… nothing about the anti-LGBT crusade is loving.  Its whole entire reason for being is to hurt and condemn:  the adult equivalent of the old grade-school tactic of putting someone else down to raise yourself up.

Of course, it’s not like this is anything new.  This has been going on forever.  I’ve been writing about this forever.  But there’s just been SO MUCH of it lately.  Just a couple of days ago, I received a several-paragraphs-long email outlining in great detail how unkind and unloving I am to advocate for being more loving towards LGBT folks. (??) I’m damning them to a life in hell, she tells me, because by not calling them out on their sin, I’m taking away their opportunity for a chance of redemption, which is the most hateful thing I could possibly do.

It’s not the first time I’ve received a message of that sort – apparently writing about issues of faith seems to invite people to try to judge me/save me/throw Bible-verses-as-weapons at me – but given the current societal climate it irked me.

I’m frustrated.  I’m exhausted.  I’m angry.  I am so indescribably tired of this unfair and hateful treatment, thinly veiled in “biblical values”, towards this one specific segment of society.

So that’s what I was going to write about.  How it needed to stop.  How people needed to take a step back, gain some perspective, and focus on their own sin.  Think it’s a sin to be in a homosexual relationship?  Don’t be in one.  Think it’s a sin to have gender reassignment surgery?  Don’t get it.  But this constant persecution is damaging and hurtful and pretty much the opposite of anything that Jesus ever espoused.

Then something happened.  And now I’m more disgusted with the culture of mainstream Christianity than I think I’ve ever, ever been.

The details are still surfacing, but it’s come to light that Josh Duggar  (of the infamous 19 Kids and Counting Duggars) molested 5 young girls, four of them his siblings, over the course of 3 years when he was a teenager.  His parents, though aware of the abuse, did nothing about it for over a year.    When they did finally deal with it, they did so by keeping it “in house.”  He was disciplined by his father.  He got a “talking-to” by a police officer friend who never pressed charges (an officer who is currently serving jail time for child pornography).   He met with his pastor who helped arrange some sort of supposed rehabilitation in the form of living with yet another family friend for a few months and helping him perform physical labor.

This seems as good a time as any to point out that sexual assault is a serious crime, and should be treated as such … not merely “dealt with” at home.

There are so very many things wrong with this scenario, and how it was handled, that I don’t even know where to start.

But oh how Christians are defending the Duggars!!!

Josh Duggar shouldn’t be vilified.  He was just a kid.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

He made a mistake, and he said he was sorry.  Who hasn’t made mistakes as a teen?

He was just young and curious.

They dealt with it in their family, and it’s not our place to judge them.

People are being way too harsh and judgmental.

Judge not lest you be judged.

People in glass houses….

They were an inspiration before, and they’re still an inspiration now.

I’m ……. Seriously?  Are you kidding me?

So, same-sex attraction is such a vile thing, such a pertinent issue to address, that people feel compelled to write to me (some random heterosexual internet stranger who just happens to believe that people have the right to love who they want to love), to warn me of its dangers….. but molestation of young children, a teenaged boy fondling the genitals of his baby sisters, is shrugged off as a teenaged “mistake”… it’s not our place to judge… how dare we cast stones at this upstanding Christian family!….. And after all he did say he was sorry……

My level of disgust is matched only by my confusion.  How do you defend a child molester?  How do you justify freely throwing your proverbial stones at someone because of their sexual orientation, yet demure because of a sudden sense of self-righteousness when it comes to a beloved Christian family that happens to includes a son who sexually violated children?

And don’t misunderstand.  I’m not advocating for the stoning of anyone.   My point is not to publicly flog the Duggars.   Actually what I think should happen now that this has been made public is that the whole family should be investigated, and that someone should ensure that the children are currently safe, and that they have received, and are currently receiving, the needed support.  Based on the teachings of some of the people the Duggars follow, I don’t think it’s unlikely that there is lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.  Such deviant behavior generally doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if Josh Duggar was indeed a victim as well, he too should be receiving appropriate counseling that will address it.

What we SHOULD NOT DO is continue to sweep his crimes under the rug and excuse them as mere childhood curiosity.  We should not defend this “good, Christian family” as if they’re somehow people we should emulate.  We should not stand sweetly behind a philosophy of “Oh it’s not my place to judge” when it comes to something as vile and heinous as child molestation and incest.

HE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED CHILDREN.  His parents knew it was happening.  I’m going to judge.

Is he genuinely sorry?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by his victims?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by God?  That’s between him and God.  But I’m not going to sit here – as a Christian, as a human, as a parent of both boys and a little girl – and excuse what he did.

And the fact that the very same people who are doing the excusing are the people who have no problem standing on a soapbox in judgement of the man who works hard all day and just wants to come home and kick back with a beer and a TV show with Adam instead of Eve…. is a hypocrisy of the most disgusting kind.

You’re essentially saying:

Homosexuality = bad

Child Molestation = eh, everyone makes mistakes.

I have never been as disillusioned and disappointed with the current state of the institution of Christianity as I am right now.  I love God.  I Love God.  I am an all-in, whole-hearted, unabashed follower of Christ (even if I never share those stupid Facebook posts that start by attempting to shame you with “99% of you won’t pass this on”……) I will always be a follower of Christ.  But this?  Defending the actions of a child molester, while railing out the other side of your mouth about “sick and delusional men” just because you can’t personally relate to their path?  That’s something I’ll never be a part of.  If I had any remaining sliver of hope that there was a place for me in the whole of American Christianity, that hope is gone.

God, save me from your followers.


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An Open Letter To Phil Robertson Supporters

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To my fellow Christians,

I’ve never been a fan of Duck Dynasty.  Let me just admit my bias right up front and start there. I watched the show once – well before all the controversial headlines – and I would rather walk barefoot through a forest of Legos than be subjected to watching it again.  But people have different tastes, and I understand that.  And when you find a TV show or an artist or a public figure who you can relate to in some way, it’s a powerful thing.  I think as a Christian, there’s something particularly alluring about seeing a fellow believer in such a prominent way in mainstream society.  And I understand that too.

Hey this is a cool!  This guy’s on this popular quirky reality show, and he’s a strong believer! What a nice change of pace!

I think we all want to feel we belong to something larger than ourselves.  We want to feel that we FIT somewhere. So when someone like Phil Robertson comes along, with his beard and his ducks and his “good biblical values”, people desperately latch onto him….. and they hold on so tight that they can’t even see what it is they’re grasping.

Oh how ardently people defend him!!  But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not HIM they’re defending so much as the idea of the Christian ideal that they (mistakenly) think he represents. We should encourage and support and defend the rights of those who are putting themselves in the public eye as a representative of Christ-like behavior.  Absolutely.

The problem is….. his behavior is pretty much the antithesis of Christ-like love.   I’m literally embarrassed that Christians are so steadfastly standing behind this man, hailing him as a role model for Christian values.  I have to ask, because I just cannot understand, even a little bit….

Seriously?  THIS guy?  THIS is who you choose to hold up as an ambassador of our faith? THIS is how you want to represent Christianity?

Honestly, it’s no wonder that so very very many people are turned off by religion.

This is a crass, vulgar, hate-filled man who made graphic comments about what kind of sex gay people must be having, as well as comparing homosexuality to bestiality and stating that AIDS was God’s punishment for immorality.  This is not Christ-like!!  (In case you’re wondering, you can find out what Jesus actually had to say about homosexuality here.)

He blames STDs on “beatniks and hippies.”  Sex apparently is a very big issue for him, as it’s something he rails about often.

And most recently, he recounted a graphic, disturbing hypothetical story (pulled from his own imagination, for reasons I fail to understand) about atheists getting raped and murdered in their home.

Again, I have to ask:  THIS GUY?

Now, I’m one of those rare Christians who doesn’t believe that homosexuality in and of itself is a sin (and honestly, even if I did, I have better things to be concerned about then who someone else is attracted to) but even if we disagree on that, can we agree that vulgar and hate-filled rants aimed at gay people are not the answer?

I have many atheist friends whom I love dearly, and I don’t think it’s my job to convert them.  (I think it’s my job to LOVE them, and to live out my own faith to the best of my ability)  But even if we disagree on that, can we agree that graphic fantasies about raping and murdering entire families of atheists are not the answer?

Can we agree that if we’re really going to represent Jesus, we need to start with LOVING people, instead of damning them all to hell?

Can we agree that if we’re going to hold someone up as a role model for our faith that it should be someone who models kindness, and grace, and actual love towards mankind?

My fellow Christians, I think we need to take a collective step back, and take a good long look at what it is we’re doing, how we’re representing Christianity, and who we’re hailing as our heroes. For me, I’ll look to Jesus for my example.  But if you need a human example, there are people out there to emulate.  There are kind people, loving people, people who use their platforms to spread positivity, not hatred.

I ask you though, in all sincerity, to stop looking for them on Duck Dynasty.  Stop telling yourself (and others!) that Phil Robertson’s words or actions represent the true nature of Christianity, because they do not.  He doesn’t represent the God that I know.  He doesn’t represent the Jesus that I know.  He doesn’t represent any of the loving, giving Christians that I am privileged enough to call friends.

The state of American Christianity has gotten so far off the mark that I don’t even know that it is fixable anymore.  I see the worship and admiration of people like Phil Robertson, and I genuinely fear that we’ve lost our collective heads all together.

Let’s bring humanity – and some common sense! – back into our faith.  Let’s give a little more effort towards “loving your neighbor as yourself”, and a WHOLE LOT LESS credence to sad, confused reality stars who are bent on persecuting others.

Sincerely,

Fed Up and Frustrated


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Dear Parents: Don’t Be Assholes

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Last night, before I went to bed, I read another article about the latest parent to publicly shame their child as so-called discipline.  Because the parent’s humiliating and degrading behavior was not enough on its own, photographic evidence of said “discipline” was then splashed about on social media as though it was entertainment.  Thousands of other wounded parents banded together to clap their collective hands.  “Bravo! Way to stand up and be a parent!!”

Different parents, different places…. but it’s the same story every time.   The first parent does something really cruel and hurtful to their child, they share it for the world to see, and people laud them as parent of the year.  The first parent then feels vindicated in his or her behavior, and scores of people feel proudly right in their wrongness.

You guys, I am so very tired of this.

And I learned after the 5th or 6th time that it happened, that I can’t open up a dialogue about it either. Doing so inevitably leads to my getting chastised for judging, and – ironically – my getting shamed for shaming the parent for shaming the child. And I’m so very tired of that too.

Because it’s not about shaming a parent. It’s not about one specific parent at all. It’s about having the conversation, the important conversation, that starts with:

Hey. Do the right thing. BE NICE TO YOUR KIDS.

And yes, I understand that we need to have compassion for these parents as well. As someone always reminds me, “Hurt people hurt others.” Absolutely. These parents’ friends and loved ones need to be reaching out to them, and they need to be helping them with tools and alternatives. They need support. Perhaps they need therapy.

But the thing is, someone also needs to be a voice for the children, who society just won’t give a voice of their own. And if I have to choose between standing up for the children and possibly stepping on a few toes, or staying silent to spare feelings…. I’m going to choose the children. Every time.

There’s a time for niceties. There’s a time for soft words and understanding and back-patting.

There’s also a time for honesty.

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There’s a time to tell people to grow up, to get real, to deal with their own issues, and stop freaking taking them out on their kid.

We’re all coming into this parenting gig with baggage. God knows I’ve got my own issues to deal with. We’ve all been hurt. We’re all wounded. But the days are ticking and our kids are growing up no matter how we treat them. We’re never going to get back this time in their lives. There is no time for tip-toeing. Kids should not have to pay the price for our refusal or inability to deal with our own crap and move on from our own old wounds.

We have to do right by our kids. Period. Full stop.

A friend of mine has adopted the wonderfully succinct parenting motto of “Don’t be an asshole.” I can’t help but think if more people informed their parenting with that philosophy in mind that the world would be a softer, kinder, gentler place. Don’t be an asshole to your kids.

Don’t like the word choice? Call it something else. Call it the Golden Rule. Call it doing unto others the way you’d have them do unto you. Call it treating your kids the way you’d like to be treated. Call it whatever you want, but do it.

Yes, deal with your own issues. Yes, give grace to yourself. Yes, offer yourself forgiveness for past mistakes. Yes, reach out to others who can support you and help you in your efforts to do better. But be nice to your kids. For all the flowery advice and philosophical waxing and wordy prose can be boiled down to that one simple phrase. That’s where it starts. That’s the first step to more connected, more compassionate parenting.

No more excuses, no more bullshit. Just a decision. Right now, today:

Be nice to your kids.


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If You Can’t Say Something Nice: Learning to Keep Quiet About Others’ Appearance

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Guilty.

Let me just start there. I’m not proud of it by any means, but I’m guilty. Someone will post something about some celebrity’s plastic surgery, and I join in the collective rubber-necking. I look at the pictures. I shake my head. I lament the obvious poor decision making skills of the individual, and/or the ethics of the doctor who would commit such atrocities.

Or on a more intimate – and shameful – level, I’ll do it at the grocery store. Assuaging my guilt by telling myself, “Well it’s not like I’m saying something to them“, I’ll make snap judgments about the skirt that’s too short, the top that’s too revealing, the fit that’s so unflattering.  It’s amazing the vast amount of ways your brain can tempt you (in just a fraction of a second!) into unkindness.

I’ve been convicted as of late to stop this.  To make a conscious decision to no longer engage in such an ugly practice. Ugly, by the way, is not a word I use lightly.  NEVER appropriate to use about someone’s outside appearance (I do honestly believe that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way), actions can be ugly. Thoughts can be ugly. Words can be ugly.

And feeling the need or the right to critique another person’s face or clothes or waist size or boob job?  That’s ugly.

The past couple of days my Facebook newsfeed has been awash with new pictures – complete with commentary – of a popular actress.  People can’t seem to leave her alone.  And it’s not her acting that they’re talking about, or her new movie, or her work at all.   No, her crime is at once more basic and more insidious.

She dared to go out.  In public.  Looking…. different.

Good grief, what is wrong with us?

Of all the things in all the world to discuss, we choose THIS?  Whether or not some celebrity we don’t even know has had plastic surgery, and how, and why, and to what effect?

I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of it in myself, and I’m tired of it in other people.  It’s not nice to criticize others.  It’s not nice to play judge and jury about someone else’s appearance.  I could sit here and talk about society and self-esteem and acceptance and what a bang-up job we’re doing at sabotaging ourselves… but sometimes starting with the basics needs to be enough.   It’s simply not nice, and I don’t want my kids growing up to think it’s okay.  I don’t want my kids growing up with a mom who inadvertently SHOWS them it’s okay!

And so, I’m challenging myself  – and if you’re reading this, I challenge you too – to make the decision to stop.  For 21 days (not only for 21 days, but because 21 days is widely regarded as the length of time it takes to form a new habit), I’m going opt out.  Opt out of reading the articles that focus on someone else’s appearance.  Opt out of the discussions about someone else’s looks.  Opt out of any mental commentary on someone else’s clothing choices .

We’re better than this;  I know we are.  We can have real discussions about important things. About kindness, about beauty, about joy….. not about someone’s lip injections.   We can laugh about life’s absurdities and foibles and whimsy….. not about someone’s haircut.

We can judge each other not based on:

dress size

body modifications

hairstyle

clothing choices

make-up technique….

but on character.

And those times when we catch ourselves?  When we’re tempted with unkindness, when gossip becomes too alluring, when we truly don’t have anything nice to say?  May we be the change we want to see, and not say anything at all.


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Whatever You Did for One of the Least of These… Some Thoughts About World Vision

Alice is a 6 year old girl who lives in Rwanda.  She has big brown eyes, her favorite thing to play is ball games, and she likes to sing.

Jordan is 4.  He lives in Ecuador, has a sweet smile, and loves to play soccer.

Dominic is an 8 year old from Ghana.  His pictures show a gentle soul.  His favorite pastime is rolling tires, and his favorite thing to learn about is science.

All of the above are real children, waiting to be sponsored through World Vision.  I share this with you not to make you feel guilty.  The truth is, I don’t sponsor a child.  In fact, I’ve never personally sponsored a child through World Vision or any other organization.  We’ve mostly chosen to give our money locally, and/or to causes or people that we know personally.  Also, the decision to sponsor a child is a commitment, one that needs to be honored, month after month.  Making such a commitment wasn’t always the best choice for our family, especially during the months and years that we ourselves struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table.

Now though, I’m seriously considering it.  Not just in response to the recent fallout, but also because I think we have a responsibility…. not just as Christians, but as living, breathing, caring human beings who share this planet… to step in and help those who are less fortunate, especially when they’ve been turned away by others. Of this, I am sure.  And I’d certainly like to think that the vast majority of people reading these words would agree. We’re here to help each other.

So where on earth did we go wrong?

Here’s a bit of timeline, for those who are unclear on the details:

 

On March 24th, World Vision (an organization started and run by evangelical Christians) announced that – after much deliberation over the years – their new hiring policy would allow them to hire those in same-sex marriages.

Over the next 48 hours, they were inundated with messages, phone calls, and Facebook posts from angry Christians who disagreed with their decision, and who promptly pulled their sponsorships and support of World Vision.

On March 26th, faced with dropping sponsorships in the thousands,  the people of World Vision felt they had no choice but to officially reverse their decision.

All told, 10,000 children were abandoned by their sponsors.

 

I truly don’t think I’ve ever been as heartbroken or disappointed by my fellow Christians’ behavior as I am over this. And make no mistake.  This is not about homosexuality.  This is about people hurting hungry kids to make a point. This is about taking food from the mouth of a child to take a theological stand.  It’s about people who are clinging so tightly to a belief…. so desperately… so stubbornly… that they’ve completely lost sight of what it is they are holding. How sound is your theology if it causes you, in any way, to take food from a hungry child? How is it showing God’s love if your stance against a group of people – any people – is so great that you’re literally willing to use an impoverished child to make your point?

What difference does it make if Rachel in payroll is married to a woman??

10,000 kids.  I’ve already heard people saying, “Oh that number must be exaggerated.”  I do tend to trust the number, especially since it was given by the president of World Vision himself, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s exaggerated.  What if it was “only” 1,000?  Would that be okay?  What if it was 100?  10?  What’s an acceptable number of hungry kids left without a sponsor?

The Bible tells a parable of a lost sheep, and a shepherd who so loves and cares for every individual sheep that he will leave 99 sheep behind to go find the one that is lost.  (Matthew 15) Every person is important. Every life is important.

But the more I think about this, the more I realize that the “lost sheep” in this scenario are the ones who honestly believed that the Christ-like thing to do was to take their money away from these children.  I have no other way to reconcile this in my mind.  Those people are lost, and I don’t know how to reach them.

I hear a lot of comments to the effect of, “What’s the big deal?  So they’ll just take their money to another organization whose morals line up with their own.”  Well, first of all, you won’t find one.  These organizations are made up of people… imperfect people, every one of which is going to do something in his or her own personal life that you deem inappropriate.  Second, and most importantly, it’s not just a hypothetical, abstract organization that you’re pulling away from.  It’s a child, with a name, and a face, and a real need that you were filling.

It’s Alice from Rwanda.

It’s Jordan from Ecuador.

It’s Dominic from Ghana.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of these difficult conversations.  I’m tired of trying to explain something that’s unexplainable to my kids.  I’m tired of people using a God that I love to defend some pretty horrible things.  There are so very many shades of grey in this world, but this isn’t one of them. God does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  Jesus does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  In fact, it is the absolute opposite message of that very same Bible that you’re using to justify this.

 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

I am devastated right now.  I am angry.  And to be totally honest, my first reaction when I heard about all of this was truly, “I. Give. Up.”  But I know that’s not the answer.  Now more than ever is the time to stand together… Christians and non-Christians alike.  Gay, straight, conservative, liberal…. everyone who can see this situation for what it is, and to recognize that there was a clear right and wrong here.  Stand together, speak boldly, and say,

“No more.”


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