Category Archives: The F-Word

The Good Old Days

“We are facing dangers in America. Enemies are being made now that are dividing this country as it has never been divided in its history. We are facing the greatest dangers we have ever faced, and the religious liberals are riding in now on the crest of a wave of what seems to be popular.”*

Sounds familiar, right? It does to me. From blog posts to Facebook statues to sermons, I feel like I’m being bombarded with this idea that we are leaving “the good old days” and about to enter something far more sinister.

Kids used to pray in public schools! Traditional family values prevailed! Men were men and women were women! Children were respectful and everyone went to church and the world was as it should be!

But then it all changed, right? Somehow we Christians didn’t SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE loudly enough and America went off the rails and this new world, this liberal world has arrived.

A few years ago, my grandmother passionately announced that she wouldn’t want to bring a child into the world the way it was. That statement has stuck with me since then, this idea that our present reality could possibly be so degraded that my generation might as well give up, not bring children into this world, because there is no hope for their future.

But then I also remember her calling my mom shortly before I went to Prom with grave concerns about my attending the event with a boy with the last name of “Dominguez.”

And that’s how I know she was wrong.

That’s how I know anybody who looks back fondly at the “good old days” of the 50s or 60s or 70s or 80s or 90s, the ones who want to “make America great again!” are misguided. Because I grew up with eight grandparents, and I assure you, I heard every one of them say something jarringly racist at one point or another. Hateful, even.

Their attitudes were a byproduct of the world in which they grew up. The “good” version of the world. The “more Christian” version of the world.

That 1950s world where women made sixty-something cents on the dollar to men for the same year-round, full time work and likely never questioned sexual harassment as a workplace norm.

That 1960s and 1970s world where people of color were dragged to their deaths and churches were burned to the ground by the KKK. Where white kids beat the hell out of black kids as school desegregation was taking place.

That 1980s world where in Stockton, California a man walked into an elementary school and murdered or injured 37 children before taking his own life.

That 1990s world where female military cadets at my own alma mater were being beaten, raped, and brutally hazed because many men didn’t want them to be allowed in “their” organization.

These were not good old days. These were more days full of scary things.

This is and always has been a world full of scary things.

And I think we can make it better. I think in many ways we have made it better.

I can’t stop wondering: why are we romanticizing a time full of as much as or more hate, racism, sexism, and depravity as we have today? And are we going and do this whole thing again in another 50 years?

Someday when people look back at 2016, I’m worried they won’t remember that there were white Christians who were refusing to even consider that simply living a life with darker skin might be more scary, more dangerous than the white one we were living. That we would rather refuse to accept that black lives do matter for fear that we risk allowing anything or anyone to matter more than ourselves.

I am worried that they won’t remember that in 2016 we could tell our daughters that they could be anything they wanted when they grew up, unless what they wanted was to be the senior pastor of most any evangelical church.

I am worried that they won’t remember that in 2016 Christians chose to fight for our own perceived “safety” in public restrooms rather than remember that loving people is supposed to be fundamentally unsafe, we are called to give up our lives for Christ, yet can’t hypothetically pee in the stall next to someone who might have views vastly different than our own.

I’m worried they won’t remember that there wasn’t one woman in 2016 who wasn’t on high-alert walking down a dark alley at night because we were victims first, and we were told that it was probably our fault for being there in the first place.

I’m worried that they won’t remember that we claim to follow a Jesus who gave up His life for us, who loved the marginalized, who trained his apostles to allow themselves to be martyred for his cause, yet we can’t even consider giving up a chicken sandwich and an indignant Facebook status in solidarity with people we may not agree with, even though doing so would be an act of love that could show them who Jesus is.

I am worried that perhaps future generations will think of this time as “the good old days.” Days we should get back to. Days when we loved less and oppressed more but dammit, we got our way.

Or maybe, what I’m really worried about is that all of this will still be a reality, and they won’t need to look back at anything to be horrified; that we’ll decide to keep these “good old days” exactly the way they are.

*The opening quote is from a sermon by American broadcast evangelist Bob Jones Sr. on Easter Sunday, 1960. It was an anti-desegregation sermon.

“God never meant for America to be a melting pot or rub out the line between the nations… When someone goes overthrowing His established order and goes around preaching pious sermons…and talk about rubbing out the line between the races – I say it makes me sick.”

The F-word and church

It started as a practical offer.

One of the guys who usually helps pass the plate with Jack and two other guys at church wasn’t there on Sunday. There are four aisles. There need to be four people.

“I’ll do it,” I said casually, hoping I wouldn’t hear what I was about to from the men I was standing with, but knowing I probably would.

“Wait,” our friend said, “is that allowed?”

It’s a question I have been afraid to ask about a lot of things inside my church’s four walls. I grew up in traditional baptist churches, where men lead, men teach, men deacon, and men decide.

What am I allowed to do here?

I have been on a journey over the last few years, one that has lead me to really study the Bible and what it says about issues that bothered me. To challenge the ideas that I grew up with and always accepted as truth because I had been told how certain scripture should be interpreted.

I have been learning what it means to be an adult Christian. One who decides to love Jesus because of who He is and not because my parents told me we do.

It started when I didn’t marry Ben Sisney.

Ben was the best-friend-boy I grew up with that my parents imagined me marrying. At least, they imagined me marrying a Ben Sisney. Someone who had also spent his childhood running around in a baptist church like I did. As I became a teenager, that’s exactly what I imagined too. He would know the Bible backwards and forwards, would probably be able to quote scripture, and would be able to make intelligent, witty jokes that referenced obscure Bible stories at (alcohol-free) dinner parties.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We'll never have Bible-verse memorizing babies together.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We’ll never have Bible-memorizing babies together.

The problem is, I didn’t fall in love with a Ben Sisney. I am confident that I was never meant to.

Instead, I fell in love with a boy who grew up in a Catholic church instead of a Baptist one. He hadn’t memorized scripture and his knowledge of basic Bible stories was fuzzy. He couldn’t open his Bible to just the right verse because they just didn’t have to do that in his church. His upbringing was different but the result was the same: he loved the same God I love.

So who cares? Well, I did at first. I spent a while trying to reconcile the fact that the person I had pictured being THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD would have to catch up to me in the “look how fast I can look up a Bible verse” department. And OMG(osh, obviously) did that mean that he couldn’t be THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD after all?

Turns out, Jack has led in a way I could have never planned or expected. He has shown me that serving and loving our God means more than being able to pray pretty or quote the entire Romans Road sequence on cue. He has shown me what kindness and humility mean. He has supported me and pushed me in ways that have grown me. And he has challenged me to lead when it time for me to lead.

If that isn’t a spiritual head of a household, I don’t know what is.

I think if I had kept my caps-lock version of that principle in my head, if I had married a Ben Sisney, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That husband might have allowed me to only follow instead of pushing me to become a leader in the right areas.*

*Dear THE Ben Sisney, I apologize for the bad rap you’re getting as my metaphorical good Christian husband. I’m confident that you’re a lovely, non-misogynistic husband to Marci.

And so, fast-forwarding through these years of becoming an adult Christian, of deciding what I would keep or reject from my accept-everything-I’m-told churchy upbringing, I have found myself in the often-confusing role of Christian feminist.

There are those reading this who will find that word dirty. I actually have a hard time stating this publicly because I am acutely aware of all the ways feminism gets misinterpreted. Also, I feel it’s more impactful to live out what you believe than to place a label on it.

I have had other Christians (men) warn me against making Christian feminists my role models, against accepting any of their ideas. I have had friends (and probably my mother) worry about my spiritual security when I mention that I’m not comfortable with ways certain scripture (especially scripture about women) has been interpreted. I have been surprised by blatant sexism in my career. I have noticed the disparity in women who lead vs. men who lead in this world.

I have been not allowed to do things in this life for the sole reason that I’m female. Things I would have been great at. And I can’t stop wondering whether my church will stop me from doing things for that reason too.

I have perpetually not fit into the typical church lady mold that seems to exist, even though some of my friends do fit into that mold and seem to be comfortable with it (and use that mold to be amazing servants of Christ).

I love the way Sarah Bessey puts it:

Women have more to offer the church than mad decorating skills or craft nights. I look around: I see women who can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel, and teaching. Their whole lives are an offering, and sometimes, the best way to properly celebrate that offering is with a dozen cupcakes and a fashion show, and that’s okay, too.

Recently Jack and I have talked a lot about this. I can’t stop wondering if women aren’t leaders in our own church because it’s not allowed, or because we aren’t stepping up. Maybe the women are doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because that’s what they want to do. But what if women are only doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because we think we aren’t allowed to do anything else? If I’m being honest, that’s why I’m doing all of those things (except craft night because I can definitely rock a hot glue gun).

What if we are allowed to lead and just aren’t doing it?

I told him I feel like it’s important for me to be a part of changing that. To be that woman who volunteers for things that only men do when there’s a need for it. To see what they say when I do. And God bless him, he cheered me on.

(He always cheers me on.)

Honestly, I’m terrified about the follow-through here. What if I find out that this church I love, full of people I adore, this place where we finally feel at home, comes back and says I can’t, only because I’m a woman?

(This is how I know when God is telling me to do something, by the way. I never, ever want to do it.)

So I have been studying and praying about this for a while. I feel like this is both a “if anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” thing and a “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” thing.

I don’t want to challenge the status quo for the sake of causing trouble, but I don’t want to not challenge the status quo because it’s scary.

So I offered to pass the plate at church. And yeah, it annoyed me that it was even a debate, that anybody even questioned it. It reminded me of how far I feel the church needs to go. Because to be quite frank, unless these men are passing the offering plate with a part that God gave only men, there is no reason I or any other women can’t stand in the aisle and wait for an offering plate to get to the end of a row.

It was time to step up. It was time to know the good I ought to do and do it.

And you know what? It was allowed after all.