I love Eve.

Eve, my favorite bible character, or otherwise known by the patriarchy as “Adam’s wife”, showed up in a TIME op-ed piece co-written by one of my heroes, Glennon Doyle Melton. This particular bit or writing right here (click link) is the whole reason I couldn’t stand being a woman in the church any longer. In fact, I think I have now spent a cumulative 7-8 years in therapy working this poison out of my own self-concept.

More pressing still, I now have a daughter, and I’m genuinely afraid to bring her up in the church for fear she might receive the same messages I did. In fact, I go visit churches by myself like an adult pre-screening a PG-13 movie to make sure it’s not going to be too corrupting for my child’s eyes and ears. Sometimes I actually picture myself sitting in the back of her fictional Sunday School classroom, and when we get to the whole bit about Eve, standing up and saying something like:

“Alright. That’s enough of that then.

Listen up kids, let me give you a brief little background about ancient semitic oral tradition and language, and how that fits into a much larger puzzle of religious and cultural context than the story itself reveals on the surface.

You tracking with me?

Okay, cool, next up: the ‘serpent’ as a symbol of feminine spirituality and the cycles of life-death-and-re-birth innate in a woman’s developing consciousness.

Any questions so far?”.

(Somehow I’m still waiting for my invite to be a guest Sunday School teacher at any church in town?!).

As Christian women (and men) start to wake up and demand better for themselves and their daughters (and sons), the church is going to have to decide how to respond. And as they do, I sure hope they look to JESUS instead of Mike Pence for guidance. Because Jesus spent plenty of time with women, all by himself, without a chaperone. In fact, they were some of his closest companions.

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Arrogant, Overfed, and Unconcerned.

(… continued from here):

My next opportunity to take a class with this professor was in the fall of 2004. The title of the course read “Prophetical Books of the Old Testament”.

For many weeks the class proceeded quite predictably. There were reading and writing assignments, and wonderful class discussions about historical and contextual criticisms of the text. I remember spending many enjoyable moments discussing the Hebrew-to-English-to-modern English problems of translation. For a big ole Bible nerd like me, this was all perfectly sublime.

One day, while reading through the book of Ezekiel, our professor asked the class to participate in an out-loud reading exercise. I felt transported back to elementary school as I listened to others read from the text, paying extra attention to each word, in order to be ready to do my part when the moment arrived. Before I had the opportunity to impress my peers with my spoken word skills, someone read the following verse aloud:

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

(Ezekiel 16:49)

Immediately after the last syllable of the last word in that verse was spoken by my classmate, my professor interrupted. “Wait, wait, wait a minute”, he said.

We waited.

“Could everyone please take out your pens?”, he asked. “Pens, not pencils. We should be sure to make this permanent”, he added.

He didn’t speak again until every single person’s pen was poised over their new, expensive, annotated Old Testament textbooks.

“Alright then, if you would please start crossing out all of the words following ‘the sins of Sodom were…’”.

No one moved.

“Go on. Put your pens through the words ‘She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, etc., all the way to the end of that sentence”.

Some people tentatively appeared to draw lines through the words.

“And then write in the word ‘HOMOSEXUALITY’”.

No one moved again. (Thank God).

“I mean, that’s what I heard in church, didn’t you?”, my professor said with the slightest, almost imperceptible hint of mischief in his voice.

“I mean, God’s good but he’s not always right, right?”. The mischievous tone was a bit more obvious.

A few people put down their pens.

“I mean, sometimes I’m arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. I’ve certainly ignored the poor and the needy at times”, he confessed while pointing his finger into the center of his chest with each confession. “But – and this is important – I am not a homosexual”. As he said those last five words, “I”, “am”, “not”, “a”, “homosexual”, he reached out his arm and began to deliberately shake the same finger, previously pointed inwards at himself, outward and away from himself.

After a moment or so of stunned silence, someone sitting a few chairs to my left let out a slow, self-recriminating whistle.

I felt like scales had fallen from my eyes.

If there was a lengthy class discussion that followed this exercise, I don’t remember the details of that interaction now. However, I do know that ever since that moment I have become incapable of seeing the church’s decision to police other peoples’ sexuality as anything other than a smoke screen. A smoke screen designed – specifically – to deflect attention from the ugliness of our indifference towards the suffering of others.

** For a bit more on this topic: click here.

Excerpt from my book…

Healing My Religion (Working Title)

For my daughter, Evelyn. My hope is that I might leave you in this world with a sense of how the Sacred is alive within you.

And for my grandmother, also Evelyn, who loved me like Christ loved her.

Disclaimer:

This is not a story about a prodigal return to my Christian origins after years of living in sin. By many people’s standards, I am probably still ‘living in sin‘. Instead, this is my literary attempt to wrestle with my own religious tradition, acknowledging both the pain and the joy it has offered me.

Part I

Chapter 1 (In The Beginning)

I was born and raised in a suburb of Kansas City, KS – just outside of the “Bible Belt”. My parents took us to church every Sunday, and taught us to pray before dinner and before bedtime every day. I don’t think I knew that there were people who called themselves Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus or Sikhs until well into my early adolescence, and I did not get exposed to a single piece of thoughtful dialogue about any of those spiritual perspectives until my junior year of college.

This is the backdrop for my earliest religious sensibilities.

My parents were – and still are – very decent, very hard working, and very generous people. They have always modeled to me a general benevolence towards humanity, which they would likely ascribe to their religious sensibilities. For me, however, being raised by socially responsible parents did not completely inoculate me against some of the uglier aspects of church culture.

Like most busy parents of small children, my mom and dad could not supervise every single Sunday School lecture I received, nor mediate every interaction with other kids or their parents in our wider Christian community. And at some point along the way, one of my Sunday School teachers (note: these were often volunteer parents, and not necessarily seminary graduates) explained to me that the only way anyone could expect to get into heaven was if they believed Jesus Christ was God’s only Son.

So, I’m 7 years old, and I repeat this revelatory new information at school one day.

I don’t know why I said it, other than that it had been said to me, and I had a pretty bad habit of sharing the secrets adults shared with me. I want to believe that somewhere in my 7 year-old brain, I must have thought I was trying to be helpful. Like, “Hey guys, FYI, there’s this religious test coming up that you do NOT wanna fail – the consequences are brutal. So, here’s the cheat sheet! Catch you on the flip side!”

Appropriately, many of the children in my elementary school class were upset by this announcement of mine. My teacher, and my parents were also very upset. And thank God they were, because it was my first big lesson in how religion could hurt other people, and that made an enormous impact on me.

(….. more later).

In The Beginning

Do you know that there are TWO different creation stories in the book of Genesis?

Genesis chapter 1 describes the creation event in the way most of us have heard it: God created the earth in 7 days, “let there be light”, yada yada. The second story, however, which begins in Genesis chapter 2, does not have that 7-day storyline, and instead says this:

“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens – “. – Gen 2:4

“The day”, as in ONE day, or maybe “the day” as in “time period” – e.g. “back in the day”.

Additionally, in this second version of the creation story, the order in which God creates things is different from the first. Story 1 reports the order of created ‘things’ in this way: 1) separation of day/night, and separation of heavens/earth, 2) separation of earth/seas, 3) vegetation to cover the earth, 4) lights in the sky (i.e. the sun, moon and stars), 5) living creatures in the waters and in the sky, 6) living creatures on the dry land (including humans, male and female simultaneously).

“So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them”. – Gen 1:27

Story 2, however, orders creation like this: 1) earth, 2) water, 3) man, 4) vegetation, 5) other living beings, 6) woman.

Somehow, over the years, these two stories seem to have blended into a bit of a religious folklore that says “God created the earth in 7 days”, and “God created man first, and then woman second”.

But what the Bible actually says is: “here are two different versions of how this all went down – enjoy!”

Now, of course, these stories have some fundamental agreements – e.g. they seem to agree about the phenomena of 6 separate creation movements, and that God was in charge of the roll-out either way.  But they also have some pretty fundamental disagreements – i.e. how long it took, the order in which it all happened, etc.

And while this is all completely fascinating to my inner literary-critic, it’s not really the point I’m trying to make here. The point I am trying to make, however, is that if we set out to read the Bible as a literal account of historical events, our brains are going to explode less than 3 pages into the reading material.

Or, in other words, THE UNFOLDING OF THE BIBLE NARRATIVE ITSELF DOES NOT NECESSARILY ENCOURAGE A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE TEXT.

Good talk,

Whitney

Open Letter To The Evangelical Right (2nd Edition).

 

Dear Persons To Whom This May Concern:

You will no longer find me apologizing for my “liberal” political ideology — unless, of course, “liberalism” gets hijacked at a later time and means something different than it does today. But for now, I am proud to wear that label.

To me, liberal political beliefs are synonomous with “being a good neighbor”, “caring about people other than myself”, being firmly on the side of racial and economic justice, fighting for access to decent public education for every child in every town and city across America, championing the health care rights of women, thinking about how to take care of our disabled, our infirm, our aging, our traumatized, and our mentally unstable Americans, finding ways to provide ongoing support to the brave men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect us, and being a good steward of the planet we inhabit.

And if that means my taxes are higher tomorrow than they are today — as a Christian SPECIFICALLY, why should that concern me? As scripture tells us, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48). And also this: “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39).

Trust me: the yoke of this belief system is easier, the burden much more light.

Grace to you, as it has been given to me,
Whitney

An open letter to “Evangelical Christians”:

Written on November 9th, 2016, on the morning after the US election:

Dear “evangelical Christians”:

Here’s a brief Bible refresher for you, because based on the way many of you voted yesterday, I assume you haven’t been reading it.

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49).

“”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “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.'” (Matthew 25: 34-40).

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 37-40).

HELP ME UNDERSTAND.

— Whitney Roberts Logan’s personal Facebook page.