Hollow Outrage

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Twitter lost its collective mind over the last week.

At least the part of the tweet stream that I swim in.

CT Women, an arm of Christianity Today that bills itself as “news and analysis from the perspective of evangelical women,” launched into a two-month long series called #AmplifyWomen: A New Conversation About Leadership and Discipleship. The first entry, “Who’s in Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?,” written by Tish Harrison Warren, stirred up an incredible amount of ire. I confess that I felt that ire at first. I’m as egalitarian as they come. “Feminism” is not a dirty word to me. My knee-jerk reaction after reading the article was to wonder why men weren’t being called to the carpet. Men like Douglas Wilson, Mark Driscoll, John Pavlovitz. Men – conservative and progressive – who teach harmful things. Why were women being labeled the “bad guys?”

Thankfully, I watched the responses before adding my voice to the cacophony. Often wisdom is found in waiting. I took the time to pause and reflect. The more I thought about it, the more I liked Warren’s article, for several reasons:

  • First, she’s an ordained minister. She’s hardly out to silence women’s voices.
  • Second, her call to accountability is appropriate. Anyone who dares take to a public platform had better keep the words of James in mind: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (3:1, NKJV).
  • Third, she never once asks women to submit to oppressive, misogynistic church cultures (as some claim).
  • Fourth, she doesn’t dismiss laypeople (again, as some claim).
  • Fifth, everything in the piece is applicable to men, just as many (if not most) things geared toward men are applicable to women.
  • Sixth, this is the first entry in a series. Anyone who thought she should or could cover every facet and concern of women in ministry ever had hugely unrealistic expectations.

Do I think that it’s practical or workable for every blogger to submit every piece he or she writes to some “board of blogging overseers?” Of course not. I don’t believe that Warren thinks that’s a good idea either. A large portion of accountability should be left to the readers, who need to know the Scriptures well enough to be able to discern when someone is “off.” (I’m talking about unorthodox “off” here, not legitimate differences in interpretation). Those readers should attempt to correct that author, and then stop following that author and warn others about him or her if he/she refuses to be corrected. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with or oppressive about going to our pastors and saying, “Hey, could you check this out? Have I written anything heretical lately? Would you come around me and support this ministry I’ve got going?” That just makes sense. That’s the Body doing what its meant to do.

The main objection to Warren’s piece appears to be her inclusion of one particular author as an example of the blogosphere phenomenon and the questions surrounding it:

One of the most prominent recent examples of this crisis involves the popular blogger Jen Hatmaker, who last year announced that her views about homosexuality have changed. She was cheered by some and denounced by others. LifeWay stopped selling her books. Aside from the debate about sexuality, broader questions emerged: Where do bloggers and speakers like Hatmaker derive their authority to speak and teach? And who holds them accountable for their teaching? What kinds of theological training and ecclesial credentialing are necessary for Christian teachers and leaders? What interpretive body and tradition do these bloggers speak out of? Who decides what is true Christian orthodoxy? And how do we as listeners decide whom to trust as a Christian leader and teacher?

The accusation, coming fast, heavy and from multiple voices: “You’re trying to tear down Jen Hatmaker!”

Please.

There’s nothing offensive in that paragraph. Absolutely nothing. No name calling, no shaming. Just the facts. Hatmaker did announce a change in her views. Some did cheer. Some did not. Lifeway pulled her books.

Apparently stating the facts is now a mean thing to do?

Jonathan Merritt published a scathing retort,  “Why I’ll take courageous Jen Hatmaker over her cowardly critics any day,” over at Religion News Service. Phrases like “conservative mafia,” “evangelical aristocracy” and “institutional machine” litter the piece. I don’t condone nastiness and I have no doubt that Hatmaker has encountered some – but there’s a massive difference between nastiness and disagreement, between character assassination and parting from someone over irreconcilable doctrinal differences. It isn’t wrong to say, “I don’t agree with this stance you’ve taken and here’s why.” It isn’t horrible to tell your friends, “I don’t think you should follow this person and here’s why.”

Warren wasn’t attempting a shade-throwing take-down. There was no need for “progressive Twitter” (not my phrase and I can’t remember who coined it) to scream bloody murder. And in that scream is an important, unspoken claim: I should feel sorry for Hatmaker. I should defend her.

Why?

Between Facebook and Twitter, she has 757,563 followers. Her books are (and will probably continue to be) bestsellers. She had a TV show. She’s a featured speaker with the Belong Tour (if you can figure out exactly what that tour is about, you’re smarter than I am). Her articles for the Today show’s parenting site have been read by almost seven million people (if I am interpreting that statistic correctly; go here and decide for yourself). She testifies to a happy family life. By all accounts, she is beloved and successful.

I’m supposed to feel bad because she’s taken some heat? I’m supposed to buy into the “Christian machine” conspiracy theory?

I don’t.

Call me callous if you like. Shrug.

No leader is or should be immune to criticism.

Most fascinating to me about the whole brou-ha-ha is the near-complete lack of response to the second entry in the series, “The Great Female Commission,”  because another supposed fault of Warren’s piece had to do with her not addressing the lack of opportunities for women of color in ministry. She, a white woman, wrote from a place of “privilege.” Again, it was impossible for her to cover everything in that article, but I do recognize the validity here. The Church has a terrible track record with women in general, and an even worse one with women who aren’t white.

But…”The Great Female Commission” is an interview with an African-American woman who’s doing cool things in women’s discipleship.

And there’s very little engagement with it.

I see you, Twitter. I see you complaining about hashtag appropriation (#amplifywomen rose out of the Women’s March back in January), which has to be one of the dumbest, most nonsensical things ever. I see you mercilessly laying into a woman who dares to express a view different from you, the very thing you vociferously condemn others for doing to your preferred Christian celebrities. I see you talking a big game about supporting and uplifting women of color and then refusing to engage with Natasha Sistrunk Robinson and her thoughts on discipleship.

Your outrage is hollow.

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Addendum: Warren posted a follow-up to the CT Women piece on her personal site. April Fiet shared a thoughtful response, as did Hannah Anderson.

Photo credit: Anna Demianenko

 

Five Minute Friday: Grow

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Wicked headache yesterday. Spent my time curled up on the couch, attempting to sleep it off. The dogs made sure to get up in my face to see if they could provide any comfort by way of hot breath and calloused paws. The husband brought me an iced coffee in the hope that a jolt of caffeine would soothe the pain. Pain pills and ice packs later, I’m upright but not entirely human.

Kate says: grow.

Go.

I’m taking a break from social media.

Facebook and Twitter can be great things. I’ve connected with wonderful people across the miles through those platforms. My church family shares prayer requests and praises on our group page. There are times when social media is beautiful.

Then there are times, like right now, when it’s a time-sucking waste. I don’t care what dress some flash-in-the-pan celebrity wore to the latest narcissistic awards show. (How is that even a trending news item, anyway?) I don’t care that someone to whom I barely spoke in high school wants to be friends now. I don’t care about Farmville or whatever it is the kids are playing these days. I don’t care about David Avocado Wolfe and his octaves of sunlight and other ridiculousness that is relentlessly shared.

But I stay engaged, despite the not caring. Because I want to be distracted. From what is good and better. From what I need to focus on right now.

Growing up is hard to do. Again, social media is not the great ill of the world. It’s a useful tool. Did you read that correctly? A tool. Not a means of measuring the quality of friendship. Not a way to feed the gnawing hunger for recognition. Not a good use of the hours we have been given when other duties and delights are clearly shoved to the background.

I have a love-hate thing going on here and I’ve crossed into the “hate” phase. In a world of immediacy, I crave distance. Quiet. While I’ll never completely abandon social media, especially as a blogger, it’s time for me to take a soul inventory. What needs to go? What needs to stay? What should be added? How is God directing me to order my days so that He can grow me into the woman He wants me to be?

I don’t have clear answers to those questions, but this I do know: The feeds don’t satisfy. They are junk food, empty calories. I need substance.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Alexander Filonchick

Pro-Life, Pro-Woman, Pro-Responsibility

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Twitter lit up like a bonfire this week with #ShoutYourAbortion.

Let me be clear: Every person is free to share or not share her experience. I do not believe in censorship. Neither do I believe that women who have chosen to have abortions should be called names or threatened with violence. Waving around giant pictures of aborted babies doesn’t help anyone.

But let’s be honest: Twitter – 140 characters – is not the ideal place to have this conversation. Like it or not, the topic of abortion is a deep one, whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. It’s impossible to address the complexities in such a limited format.

Of course, the proponents of #ShoutYourAbortion say that there need be no controversy. That it need not be a delicate issue. A woman should be able to say “I did this” with neither explanation nor context, which I suppose is fair enough. Such a stance turns away from the ideas of good storytelling, but all right. If you really want to take to Twitter and share, that’s your choice.

There has been a good amount of backlash regarding the hashtag, evenly divided (from what I have seen, which is, of course, not every single tweet ever) between the pro-life and the pro-choice crowd. The basic point is that #ShoutYourAbortion comes across as combative, prideful and does nothing to actually further the conversation or foster understanding between people of opposing views. Such objections have been met with “stop policing,” “the medium doesn’t matter,” “you’re an idiot,” “concern troll,” “I hate pro-life people,” and “moron.” (Again, just what I’ve seen).

Those responses are ridiculous. One does not start or engage in a controversial “movement” and then stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and scream at people – even people who agree with the position – who say that there are better ways to go about it. That amounts to nothing more than willfully ignoring constructive criticism.

Because the medium does matter. The way a message is communicated is important. Why else do writers spend so much time laboring over sentences? Why else would history be split on the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate; those who listened on the radio believed Nixon won, those who watched on television gave the victory to Kennedy. Why else do costume designers spend hours locating just the right fabric for a dress?

So, by all means, share your story. Just don’t be so shocked when people react negatively when that story is so very limited and without any kind of context. Don’t be surprised when you’re told that you come across as celebrating what so many – pro-life and pro-choice – see as an incredibly tragic moment.

I did have two “laugh out louds” as I responded to some of what I was seeing under this hashtag. One gentleman (which I thought was odd, because aren’t men supposed to have no voice in this at all?) slammed me for tweeting to Lindy West (one of the women who orchestrated #ShoutYourAbortion) that Twitter was not the best place for the conversation. When I told him that I had my own story with Planned Parenthood, he then told me to go ahead and engage. Except that I was already engaging. He just didn’t like what I had to say.

The second came when I saw someone, I don’t remember who, compare #ShoutYourAbortion to the efforts of First Wave feminists. That is nonsensical. First Wavers were a diverse lot, to be sure, but these were the women who fought for the right to vote, equal status and protection under the law, the right to attend college, the prosecution of rapists and the perpetrators of domestic violence, prison reform, reducing the length of the workday, child labor law and the abolition of slavery, to name a few.

Things that we could and should still be advocating, for women and girls around the world. But instead #ShoutYourAbortion. (And, you know, #FreetheNip).

Priorities, right?

I am disheartened to see the focus of feminism so narrowed in on “reproductive rights.” Abortion-on-demand has nothing to do with equality. If it was about equality, then men would be allowed financial abortions for children they do not wish to support. No, I’m not a champion for deadbeat dads. They are despicable. But if we’re going to have a standard, then it should be applied across the board. A woman can literally sever all of her ties to a child. So, too, should a man be allowed.

But that will never happen (nor do I actually believe it should) because this isn’t about equality. Abortion-on-demand is about escaping responsibility. No, I am not speaking of pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother. I’m not even speaking or rape or incest. I am speaking of women who have access to more forms of contraception than ever before. I am speaking of women who attempt to hijack the philosophical concept of bodily autonomy by saying that the baby “has no right” to “live off of” her. (Ignoring that the act of sex invites the creation of a child. Ignoring that the bodily autonomy argument is never applied to women who drink or use drugs while pregnant). I am speaking of women who have attended college in greater numbers than at any other point in history, meaning that they have probably taken biology and thus know that the genetic material of the developing child is entirely unique and separate from her own and that the “it’s my body” reasoning falls short. I am speaking of women who live with the cognitive dissonance of deeming an aborted baby as “merely tissue” while going on to have children at a later point. I am speaking of women who insist that life does not begin at conception, but then have no consistent answer for when it does begin. (Why should a toddler not be “aborted?” After all, she continues to rely on her mother). I am speaking of women who passionately yell “save the trees” and “eat vegan” and then, somehow, disassociate themselves from “products of conception.”

I’m saying that women know better. We are too smart, too informed, for this.

If feminism is about acknowledging and championing the equality of women, if it is about opportunities and choices, then it must also be about responsibility. We cannot blast men for shirking their responsibility to women and children while doing the same thing ourselves. If a woman chooses to have sex, then she chooses to open herself to the possibility of a child. She does not have to parent the child, but she cannot say that the child has been deposited within her womb without consent. Sex is the consent. (I am obviously not speaking of rape or incest victims).

Abortion-on-demand is neither the exhibition of independence or power. It is sad. It is motivated by fear and selfishness. I can say that. Once more, I have my own story.  So here’s where I turn to the pro-life community:

We must do better. We must embrace and uplift women. We must refuse to name-call or judge. We must be the support system every pregnant women needs, whether she’s unmarried or not. We must be the shoulders to cry on, the arms to hold and the ears to listen. We must be available. We must provide transportation, job references, babysitting. We must adopt when possible. We must help women to shoulder the burden and celebrate their courage and tenacity in stepping up to the plate.

Let us be the true culture of life in a world promoting death.

My journey to faith. (15)

For a look at the feminist case against abortion, please check out this article. (Yes, it appeared in a Catholic magazine. You can handle it).

Addendum: I have been told that this piece comes across as condemning. Stating that pursuing abortion is motivated by the desire to escape responsibility is not any more condemning than saying that a kid commits theft if he steals candy. It is no comment on the character of the person. We all have done things in order to escape responsibility; we are all entirely equal that regard. I am not throwing stones at women, attempting to silence them or rubbing my hands together with glee and hoping that someone will feel sooooo bad after reading this.

I linked to my own story twice in this post. Though I did not have an abortion, I have been down this road. I have talked with women and read testimonies. I completely understand the thoughts and the feelings. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. Yet this does not erase the fact that, bottom line, aborting a child because you don’t want to carry it to term is a selfish act. It is the only logical conclusion that I can draw when the reasons women give for pursuing abortion are “I was in school,” “I wanted to advance my career,” and “kids would hinder me.”

Addendum #2: Over on Twitter I continue to be picked at for my “tone policing.” Let me just reiterate that I never once said women should not share their stories. I thought I was clear in saying that Twitter wasn’t the best place for the conversation due to it’s sensitive nature. That the hashtag comes across badly, regardless of original intent (attempting to give the benefit of the doubt here). Watching the hashtag explode (implode?) into name-calling and threats (from both sides) confirms this for me. But again, if you want to go that route, go ahead. Just don’t get your knickers in a twist and promptly cast yourself as a victim when you don’t get a universally positive response. (Note: That’s not me defending the awfulness of people posting photos of aborted babies or making death threats. That’s completely wrong. I’m talking only about those who share an opposing view).

Addendum #3: The charge of “tone policing” leaves me shaking my head. I’m wrong for saying that there’s a better way to do have this conversation, to share these stories – literally nothing about content, just the medium. Fast on the heels of this charge comes the accusations of “judgmental” and “controlling.” Basically, others can say what they want, how they want, where they want…but I can’t.

We’ll just let that “fairness” sit and marinate for awhile.

31 Days in the Quiet: Meddlesome

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Gentle Reader,

The word for “quiet” in the passage that I have been contemplating this month is the Greek “hesuchia” (hay-soo-khee-ah), which is “quietness; description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.”

I love that word, officiously. It means “assertive of authority in an annoyingly domineering way, esp. with regard to petty or trivial matters; intrusively enthusiastic in offering help or advice; interfering.”

In our all-too connected world, it’s easy to meddle in other people’s lives. I’m not even sure we’re aware when we’re doing it. Someone posts something on Facebook, drops a curious tweet, posts a blog. We think that we’re entitled to offer an opinion. And maybe occasionally we are; surely a loving, sound word of advice or a differing view expressed respectfully in the context of a solid relationship can be good things. However, I think that all too often we skip from engaging in dialogue and go into that domineering mode. I know I certainly have.

The truth is, we’re too obsessed with each other. The smallest of molehills becomes the largest of mountains in the space of seconds. I know I need to pursue discernment when it comes to what I do and don’t comment on, whether in the virtual universe or in that of flesh-and-blood.

I think we all do.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all posts in the 31 Days in the Quiet series, go here.