Sociology and the Way People Work

1. //

I only took one Sociology class in my undergraduate career, though I would have taken more if I’d had the chance. Even so, I feel like I learned and got to discuss some really important things. In that class I developed a deep reverence and empathy for lawmakers and government officials, simply because I realized I would never, ever want to do their jobs. In that class I learned a little bit about how culture is shaped, and how things change, and how people react to different aspects of society, and how that leads to more changes.

I distinctly remember us discussing the family unit. Why do human families interact the way they do? Why do we form life-long bonds in ways that so few members of the animal kingdom do?

The simple answer is: our babies.

Human babies develop so slowly, and humans learn so much about how to take care of themselves from their parents and caregivers. This is not how baby frogs and toads work. This is not how giraffes work. Many animals begin to reproduce by the time our human babies are toddling or crawling around, not even yet able to speak.

Whether or not we believe in a higher power or deity, the fact remains that this is how human beings grow and mature. Families must stay together, in some form or fashion, in order to raise healthy children and propagate the species.

2. //

I just read an interview with a strong, upright, compassionate doctor and abortion provider. I so respect his humanity and his desire to help women, and I so respect others who share his opinions and his desire to help others.

But I ache for how much we have forgotten how humans work, and how families work. I ache that we put ourselves in situations where life is created, and unprepared for, and unwanted. I don’t believe that marriage = sex = babies = Glorify God = end of story. I may, at the end of the day, have a biologically childless marriage, myself. I would never, never tell anyone that their ability to have children is what makes their sex valid, or their marriage valid.

But still – still I ache over the separation of “rights” and “how human beings work” in many, many situations that lead to abortion.

Maybe I’m coloured by my own experiences.

You see, I know two girls who got pregnant when they didn’t want to be. (I know more, I’m sure, but for now I’ll stick with this)

One girl was young, a teenager, but had the most loving family in the world. A life-giving, we’ll-stick-it-out-through-anything family, a young family with a home and open arms. A family trying to follow Jesus, who never yet rejected this daughter for any of her previous mishaps and terrible choices. And yet, though her family explicitly offered her all the help, and all the love and desire for the baby she carried, this girl got an abortion. I don’t know what she was thinking. She was scared, I’m sure. Perhaps she didn’t want to experience the pain of childbirth. Perhaps she didn’t want her parents to raise a reminder of her own broken relationships. Her mother cried over the baby so much, the baby who was already loved and wanted and now sacrificed on the altar of Separation of Recreation and Actual Bodily Functions.

Now, the second girl was young as well – in college. I’m sure her circumstances were not too different from the first, but I cannot say. She’d made mistakes, she’d made poor choices. But this time she didn’t insist on her rights, and she put the child up for adoption after carrying her to term. She faced judgment and glares and tsks, but she did what she did and moved on with her life. Someone else, some family, now rejoices in that baby daughter.

My experience taints the emotions I experience over the idea of abortion. I would never, never condemn a woman faced with the agonizing choice of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. But all the unwanted pregnancies I’ve known about happened to girls who should have taken that sociology class.

{{Does it seem like I’m trying to preach against having sex before marriage? I’m not advocating for new laws or universal codes of conduct no matter your belief system. But I’ve written before about the heartache that sexual choices have caused – in my own life, and the lives of others I know.}}

It’s not about “GOD SAYS SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE IS WRONG.”

It’s, Precious sister, things happen that we cannot prepare for. Actions have reactions and sex sometimes makes babies. Why, why would you take the risk with an unfaithful ex-boyfriend? With a boy not even out of his parents’ house? With a man who says he loves you but isn’t able to care for you?

It’s about knowing you can deal with a situation before you do certain things.

{does that make me ill-fitting and heartless? I KNOW abortion-situations aren’t all this way. I know that. But some of them are and it turns my stomach in knots.}

I’ve been brought to the altar so often recently, dragging my rights behind me. Because I don’t serve a God who insists on rights – his own or anyone’s. I serve a God who gave up his “rights” and reached out to me. I serve a Christ who asks that I do the same. The religious right and the progressive left in this country both demand rights for their various causes, for various people.

And yeah, we should give rights to others. I absolutely 100% agree with that.

But it’s still my job to lay down my rights, even once they’re given to me.

//Is that just getting the gift but never opening it? Is my tear-stained gut even making any sense?//

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

I get weary of hearing that question. I get even wearier of hearing some people answer, “no,” or a “yes, but-” with a thousand qualifying factors, like the prohibition of ever being alone with a member of the opposite sex. I guess I’m not going to say what anyone else hasn’t said before, but to anyone who struggles with this question, I just want to let you know:

I exist. The answer is simply an unqualified “yes.” To deny the possibility that men and women can enjoy plantonic friendships is to look me in the eye and invalidate my existence, my experiences.

What I’m NOT saying is that this is normal (in this, or possibly any, culture). I cannot promise that your opposite-sex friendships will look any particular way. I cannot even know whether you, yourself, are capable of living in platonic intimacy with someone who belongs to the sex you find attractive. I would never be so presumptuous. Every person is different, and so many factors play into such situations, like childhood, hobbies, school, parenting, siblings, and more.

All I’m trying to do is just clarify that yes, I exist. This “mysterious” and “debatable” topic isn’t as mysterious as we like to think. It’s just hard. It’s just rare. But just because Sally and Harry couldn’t keep out of bed, doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the rest of us.

[As one author recently put it, I am not a sex-fueled robot.]

I guess I just think my story is really beautiful, and I hope more and more people become open to stories like mine.

1: I grew up with brothers. I know many people who never experienced the joys of opposite-sex siblings, and that always made me sad. I think there is something so special, so human, about learning to interact early with different sorts of people. Boys and girls don’t take the same journeys growing up, for better or for worse. They often do different chores, attend different extra-curricular activities, and deal with different things during puberty and the transition to adulthood. To learn how to respectfully, lovingly, joke, touch, play, write, talk with a boy helped make me who I am. I absolutely wouldn’t be Me if I hadn’t grown up with big, creative, loving brothers.

2: Home. Because I was homeschooled, family meant a lot. Because I grew up in and around church, I learned that the body of Christ was like a family. I spent so much time at home, at other people’s homes, and loved the feel, smell, taste, of just Being Family. When people asked me to “feel at home,” I learned to feel at home. I learned to see boys in houses as brothers; to not get offended at their sass, to roll my eyes at their silliness, to play video games with them, to listen when they needed an ear, to give back as much spunk as they gave me. Because that’s what you do with brothers, right?

3: Being a company. I started doing theatre when I was thirteen, and there’s a reason why subcultures of dance and drama know more about intimacy without romance than the average person. In high school theatre, I learned to hold hands with my company members, to dance with them, to pray with them, to give a much-needed back rub (even amidst the consternation of select mothers). We napped, cried, prayed, laughed, sang together. Sure, we tiptoed through some of it with awkwardness. And we definitely were told to “avoid the appearance of evil” more than we should have been. Because our hearts were young and noble and our hands sought to help and hold, not molest or defame. Sometimes we listened and obeyed. Sometimes we rolled our eyes and gave bear hugs anyway.

My aunt came to pick me up from a rehearsal one time and was taken aback by all the hugs. “Do you have to hug every single person before you leave?”

Well, yes. Of course.

It was a culture of hugs that we cultivated. A culture of love and silliness and memories and inside jokes. Sure, eventually some of us paired off romantically. But a pretty significantly low number, what with all the hugging and loving and being together. The hugging never led to the pairings. The specific attraction between the specific people had more to do with that, I think.

In high school, one of my dearest friends was a boy a little older than I. For much of the summer, I spent a lot of my time working part-time right in his neighborhood, so after I was relieved from my duties we met at a stopsign between our respective locations and gave each other a huge hug. Then we took a walk, or played on the playground, or went back to his house.

Part-way through the summer, his family went through a major upset. His world started crumbling at the foundations, and he was lost in a whirlwind of questions, confusions, heartache, and tears. So after we met at the stopsign and hugged, we normally walked to a park bench and I put my arms around him and just let him cry. Weeks of this. Weeks of whispered words of comfort. Weeks of wet faces touching in solidarity. Weeks of his scent on my clothes, his tears on my shirt. Hours and hours sitting in the sunshine in an empty playground, talking about heartache, encouragement, or just not talking at all and holding hands instead.

He’s the baby of his family, accustomed to a family full of arms and hands and faces. He was always particularly adept at connecting emotionally with girls, and not so he could take advantage of them. That summer when I was fifteen and he was seventeen, I laughed with him and sistered him and sometimes we talked about the girl he was in love with.

I don’t know very many adults in my life who, had they been a bird at that park, would have been 100% OK with our afternoons. Not because we did anything wrong, or broke anything sacred. But because boys and girls can’t be friends like two girls can, I guess. Because touch and intimacy are somehow thought to be elements of Marriage Only, or at the very least, gateways to unholy sexual behaviors.

I loved this boy more than almost anything. But never “like that.” Even now that we’ve both married other people, I regret none of that summer. I cherish it and know that my arms were there for him when he desperately needed them. I rejoice that my time was well-spent, and a fragile young man who might have had his faith all wrecked was able to remember that he is loved no matter what.

Aside from my husband, my closest, most long-standing best friend has been a boy (though I suppose he’s mostly a man now). When we were young, making that sometimes-awkward tween transition, we wrote letters and emails and played video games and dreamed. We danced and did shows and made a box full of memories that still sits in my closet. He was the eldest in his young family, struggling to know right things, behave right ways, and still be himself. He walked a fine line between caring and noticing the opinions of those he respected, and being oblivious to (or simply ignoring) the judgments of others. He half-reluctantly became friends with the limelight. He wrestled intensely with how attraction fit into his penchant for making friends with girls (if, indeed, it did). He stubbornly wore glasses instead of contacts so girls wouldn’t fall in love with his pretty blue eyes, and he got in a lot of trouble for his tendency to “woo” his new, young, female friends and then innocently move onto the next new friend to be pursued, leaving a trail of broken hearts.

All this …and there was always me, pestering him and hugging him and sometimes holding his hand on the couch while we watched movies or talked about the latest Life Struggle. There were long delayed good nights inching toward the front door, with muted laughter and goodbye-kisses on the hair. People thought from time to time that we were an item, I suppose, but when asked we clarified, “No, my brother.” “No, my sister.” Eventually people stopped noticing, caring. Eventually people caught on to the possibly unusual wavelength we lived on. Our relationship, a strange combination of banter, mockery, tenderness, loyalty, nerdiness, intimacy, and family-sharing, has been one of the most treasured parts of my existence.

And it wasn’t that gender or sex was ignored or didn’t matter. He’s a boy and I’m a girl and that’s important. It’s part of who we are. We wouldn’t have the same sort of friendship if he were a woman, or I a man. Skirts and dancing and strong arms and intuition and different perspectives helped define our relationship. We dealt with different lenses, different bodies, different experiences, different frustrations, different struggles. But those things were factors, not foundations. Those things were peripheral, and not core. Those things were, are, variables to discuss and explore, not boundaries or fences that keep us from love or friendship.

I don’t want to make you feel lacking if you haven’t this same story. I don’t want to say that it’s possible for everyone to have such stories, such friends. I don’t even want to say I’ve never broken hearts, never make unwise choices in my opposite-sex friendship, never taken anything for granted when I should have thought more about it.

But I know, I know, that I have experienced glorious agape, soul-closeness, with boys who never wanted to undress me. So please believe me, believe others, when they say it’s possible. We may be few, but we exist.

(And it’s actually kind of nice over here.)

What I’ve Learned from the Internet This Week

What The Internet Told Me This Week…

1. Apparently, when young Christians write about why they are leaving the church, they’re not REALLY leaving the church for those reasons. By claiming to disagree with specific theological emphasis, politicizing of Christianity, shaming, excluding, and the barriers many churches have erected between faith and science…

…what they really mean is that they think the church should follow their every whims, cater to their personal tastes, and abandon the truths which have lasted since the dawn of the church.

2. Apparently Christians are not allowed to have differing opinions on Atonement Theories. Even though there are many-

(Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Satisfaction, Penal Substitution, Sacrifice, Governmental, Recapitulation, Expiation/Transformation, Reparation, etc)

-and no one theory has ever been declared Orthodox by Christendom, for a denomination to dislike one, or wish to pull one out of focus, inherently makes them “liberal” and discounters of Actual True Scriptural Doctrine.

(tgif?)