You Keep Using That Word {i do not think it means what you think it means}

Today I will talk (again) about Just Saying What You Mean.

Currently, it is very “in” to talk about “traditional marriage.” But if you are inclined to say “traditional marriage” – I think it very likely that is not what you mean to say.

What you mean to say is “one man one woman marriage” or “marriage as I believe God intended” or “marriage modeled after Adam and Eve.”

But -in the hopes of appealing to nonChristian audiences, and in the hopes of making nonChristian arguments against the legalization of gay marriage- people have instead really jumped on the phrase “traditional marriage.”

So, in light of that… here are

Four Things You Can Do To Preserve Traditional Marriage:

1. Marry your spouse for money, social position, or political advantage

2. Give your husband the right to rape, beat, or divorce you with no social, legal, or monetary ramifications

3. Get married and start having children around the time you’re able to reproduce – or at the very least before the age of 20

4. Let your family pick your spouse for you

Ready to rethink “traditional marriage” yet? Ready to get more specific, more intentional with your words?

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What Has Fear to do with Faith? Part 1: An Introduction / The Romeike Family

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::in which I introduce the topic of Fear.

I have decided to write a series of posts on the subject of Fear. Fear is something that creeps into the carpet and into our minds quietly, but more and more I am shaking awake and noticing others embedded in the coils of fear. Christians do talk about fear. Sometimes. Kind of. Certain types of fear; certain things to fear.

We talk about fear of loneliness, fear of singleness, fear of disease, failure, and death. We have such a strange juxtaposition in Western, Christian culture, in the way we talk about fear. On the one hand, we talk about having “freedom from fear” through Christ in such a fluffy, abstract way. Yet at the same time, we foster fear of losing our freedoms. Fear of the government. Fear of bodies, fear of sex, fear of differing opinions, fear of persecution. Fear of messing up. Fear of being wrong. Fear of sin. Fear of other people’s sin.

I think we have a fear of giving too much grace. Or of giving grace but not giving enough “truth” (or, our opinion on Truth). I think we have a fear of looking weak. I think we have a fear of our God looking weak. But Jesus took on weakness in many ways; he came to shame the powerful by using weak – and he started with himself. Jesus was serious about reminding people that choices have consequences, but Jesus never picked up a sword and Jesus didn’t fight back when he was beat up on. Jesus didn’t invoke his God-given rights. Jesus died. And this biblical description should speak loudly into how we fear, and think about fear.

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::in which I talk about the Romeike Family

Currently there is a German family called Romeike seeking permanent asylum in the United States, because attending an outside school is mandated in Germany, and Mr. & Mrs. Romeike desperately wish to homeschool their children. Though they have been living in the U.S. for 5 years, and though initially they were approved to stay, the ruling has recently been reversed by the courts. Still they fight (with the aid of HSLDA) against deportation.

I ache for my brothers and sisters, fellow believers, in the Romeike family. My own mother has told my numerous times about when she was first convicted to homeschool, and I cannot imagine the pain that loving, involved parents must endure when they are told “no” by the state or country. I count myself blessed to live in a country where such laws do not exist; I enjoy living in a place so generous about personal liberties and subcultures. I think the German stance of desiring to prevent parallel societies is a terrifying one – and one that stifles creativity, faith, and individual growth.

However, just because I think something is sad does not mean much. The Romeikes may be deported. The courts may rule that U.S. asylum spots would better serve other people who are fleeing from more dangerous, more life-threatening situations. The Romeike children may be compelled to continue their education in German public or private schools; and if Uwe and Hannalore continue to keep their children at home, the children may be forcibly removed. I think that is a sad thing – and I am fortunate to be neither a ruling judge nor a German refugee in this tricky situation.

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::back to Fear

The Main Thing in this situation, after the sadness and the anger and the talk of basic human rights, is the fear.

Many people desire to increase the time they spend with their children by homeschooling. Many educators desire to homeschool their children to ensure the quality of the child’s education does not suffer in a chaotic, teach-to-the-test public school system. Many Christians desire to homeschool in order to remove influences of bullying, peer pressure, Godless sex-ed, science with which they disagree, and generally secular worldviews.

Those desires, I think, are generally good and benign. Those desires often spring from strong, nurturing, parental love. I would share some of those desires; were I to ever have a child, I don’t know if I could put him in a public school. I’ve seen so much hurt from it.

But I also know that, if for whatever reason, I had no choice in the matter, God is so much bigger.

And it seems so often that the possibility of good desires not coming to fruition scares the living daylights out of us.

From their actions, I think it’s very possible the Romeikes cannot imagine being able to raise their children without homeschooling. It seems like public school would be the very worst thing for them. And yes, public school can be a very bad thing. But again, fear has started to strangle when we go from very bad thing to the Very Worst Thing.

It is wonderful to have rights – but we live in a broken world and cannot always have them. Christ gave up his own rights in order to show us how to love and serve. Christ showed us that, no matter how dire of a situation we find ourselves in, we still look to God; we still trust God. The Bible is not a parenting “handbook” – and nowhere in the Bible is modern homeschooling advocated above modern public schooling (neither institution existed). What God desires of parents is for them to protect, love, and train their children in the best way they are able.

And when we are shut down? When our options are taken away? When we are persecuted? There is grace.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (M. 5:4).

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (M. 5:10).

Let us show the world, let us show our children, that the kingdom of heaven cannot be stifled by persecution. That love covers over a multitude of sins. That no hard thing is too hard for Christ. That government-mandated worldly influence, even for 8 hours a day, can be defeated by a mother’s example and a father’s kind word. That grace is big enough – that grace covers.

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Postscript: If your take-away from this post is ‘my personal opinion on whether the Romeikes should be deported,’  you have misread and can find that conversation elsewhere on the Internet.

“Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

Today is draining; today is sad. Today I am grateful for the “blessed are you“s.

Four summers ago, again and again throughout rehearsals and performances, I popped up behind a man with a heart painted on his face and rainbow suspenders, suggesting, “Master! Blessed are the poor in spirit?” My palms were open, ready to receive something from my Lord. He smiled and filled my hands with his, responding enthusiastically, “For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!”

That was a play about Jesus, a play about parables, about what the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth looks like.

I’m glad I have that memory tucked away inside me. I’m glad I have those colours, that gentleness, those songs. It’s a comfort to know that, when I am poor of spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is still mine. Today I mourn. Today I am meek. Today I know what it feels to be persecuted, to have all manner of evil spoken about me, simply because Christ informs my words and actions. Simply because I try to be like Jesus, and do what he told me to do. He tells me to protect, affirm, defend. I am angry at unrighteousness, because he got angry at unrighteousness. He called hypocrites what they were: snakes; a brood of vipers. Because they deceived and strangled the sheep. I’m tired, so tired, of the sheep being deceived and strangled. Jesus didn’t mind his own business. Jesus did say “sheep, solve your own problems.”

He is like the shepherd, who left the 99 to find the 1. I want to be like that. I must not know how to do it – but I so badly want to mirror God in this way.

I am doing it wrong, they say. I am following the world, not Christ. But it isn’t true. I am following Christ.

Is it that I  simply misunderstand him? Or do you?

How am I to ever know?

Just Say What You Mean

Never, until now, have I seen such a push from Christians linking marriage to the absolutely fundamental necessity of bearing children.

Of course, Christians generally have believed in the birthing and rearing of God-fearing children as a calling – maybe even one that makes us unique from non-Christians. But never did I hear this discussed as something that applied to nonbelievers – or something that would make or break a marriage. If it’s so all-encompassing and drastically important, why has it not been framed so urgently until now?

Why have I not heard a preacher say this…until now?

Why is it an argument of DEFENSE against the upcoming governmental laws regarding homosexual marriage?

Even as contraception grew, the danger spoken of was that “more contraception will lead to promiscuity” – not that somehow removing children from the picture would nullify the definition of marriage.

{If children are the clincher, why did not a prophet, or Paul, or Jesus issue such a warning, such a directive? Why did Christ’s words on marriage not address the barren couple – who so obviously failed to produce a proper marriage in the eyes of God?}

I’m tired of the excuses. Just be truthful: you don’t want gay marriage to be legalized and accepted because you believe it goes against Scripture and the will of God.

And that’s ok.

I think that’s a valid interpretation of Scripture. I think for a careful, wise student of the Bible, it’s valid and well-researched to say “I believe homosexual behavior is a sin – and not the way God originally designed humans to function.” Christians and biblical scholars don’t all agree on that, and that’s ok. There are plenty of things Christians disagree about. I think if it was a matter of salvation, Jesus probably would have mentioned it a couple of times. Or once.

Just please, please stop with the children stuff. Stop with the sanctity of marriage stuff. If we truly want to fight for the sanctity of marriage, we need to start fighting against no-fault divorce. We need to fight against the mindset of those who get married out of societal or family pressure.

Even better, we need to start really caring for young people and newlyweds, being honest with them, and teaching them to love Jesus, honor their bodies, and stop being ignorant of/terrified of/nonchalant about sex. We need to respect our spouses and invest in our own families.

Unfortunately, this sort of removes us from the political spectrum, doesn’t it?

Kind of refocuses our priorities, doesn’t it?

{Oh, that we would cease to lobby, scream, and cry for the world to follow God’s Laws when they don’t even know God’s Love.}

What I Do (and What I Will Not Do)

The transition into independence and adulthood is a slow one. For me it began by taking college classes while living at home and getting a job in a restaurant. I paid for my classes, books, and gas with the money I earned from the restaurant, and my parents graciously fed me, housed me, and made sure I had everything I needed during this busy time in my life.

I’ve always been an independent student, but starting college really drove that home. Especially when I started taking classes, reading books, that my mother (my previous teacher of 18 years) either disliked or had never read. This was on me. It was my responsibility to remember to do my reading, bring homework to class, and study up on concepts well enough that I could be an active participant during class periods. It was exciting in many ways, and I liked it.

Similarly, when I got my job at the restaurant, it was solely my responsibility to do my duties, forge relationships with my superiors and co-workers, and learn how to represent the restaurant well. I got to come home and tell my family stories, but it was removed from them. It was a part of my life; my experience. I was forging a new family, in many ways, that didn’t include my parents or siblings.

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Now, today, I am forging a new family also. I am growing into a new home where I notice that there are always dishes to be put away and laundry to be done, because it is my responsibility to make sure it happens! My husband and I are learning how we best like to divvy chores and arrange bill payments. One thing I’ve volunteered to Mostly Take Charge Of is food purchasing and preparation. I was never “the family chef” growing up, but I really do enjoy learning about food and how to make it well, so this is an exciting time for me. I’ve already had a few failures, but my husband is encouraging and gracious and we’re learning gracefully.

Which finally brings me ’round to my point.

I have control over what I do and what my family eats. That’s a really huge thing. Even just the “food” facet in our lives is such a significant one.

And we like to make significant choices, don’t we?

We like to feel like we’re somehow making a difference with the daily, mundane choices we make.

Isn’t that why we boycott things? We’re not actually doing anything in our day-to-day lives that fulfills our need to support our passions, so we boycott our “enemies” – the ones who disagree.

But I’ve realised that I don’t need to “boycott.” I don’t need to say, I’m not buying this BECAUSE…

Because I don’t have to justify my choices about my family’s food intake to anyone. And if I made decisions about the health of my husband based on political motivations…what kind of a wife would I be?

I’m not boycotting Starbucks because they support gay rights. I simply don’t buy coffee from Starbucks because I don’t enjoy coffee. I don’t boycott big business farmers because they fill their produce full of pesticides and their animals full of hormones and byproducts. I’m simply trying to buy from local and organic farmers because I want to put more real food and fewer chemicals in my family’s diet. I’m not going to boycott chain restaurant, stores, or manufacturers. But I am trying to purchase more things from local and small businesses, because I love my city and I want to invest in its economy. I endeavor to continue my research on wages, slavery, and the mess that is the global clothing industry, and make more conscious choices about where I buy my clothing. I do buy things from Target because it’s convenient for me, they have lots of things that I like, and it’s not really any of my concern that Corporate Target supports gay rights. If we truly live in a free and democratic country, I should be pleased that they (as a business) have the right to spend their time and money as they please.

I’m tired of Christians being known for boycotting things. I want to be known for taking care of my family and buying good things for them. Because, in the end, I want people to remember me for feeding them when they were hungry. Letting them sleep on my couch when they needed a place to stay. Giving my time, when I was able. Giving my hands, when they were needed.

I don’t want to be remembered as someone who judged you for your stance on Chick-Fil-A or Starbucks. I want to quietly live my life and look like Jesus. I want to practice true religion.