How Small Is Your God?

I’ve seen the t-shirt or the sign going around the internet again, “God, how can you allow violence in school?” And the reply from God is apparently, “I’m not allowed in schools.”

The concept, so far as I can gather, is that God, in response to calls for public education to not allow elements of religion inside its walls, has decided to take his presence from all public schools. Either signifying that he has washed his hands of the proceedings in schools, or that his presence is not in these places, nor with the Christian students and faculty that spend the bulk of their days there.

The alternative view is that because public schools are now godless environs are we particularly surprised to discover gun wielding teenagers in these places. God allows nature to proceed without him, which is to say that public high schools are dens of iniquity where it should surprise us not in the least to discover violent children therein.

Bottom line: Atheists don’t realize they need God until massacres have already happened, and it’s their fault for taking Christianity out of curriculum.

This slogan is everything I find distasteful about modern Christianity.

  •        It’s smug – Christians who know that atheists are suffering because they don’t have Jesus don’t have to reach out in compassion, they can reach out with barbs instead. Suck it, atheists (and people of any other religion).
  •        It’s self-righteous – Christian kids at Christian schools don’t get shot because of Jesus. See? You see how Jesus is protecting us because we believe in him? You wish you were that special. I guess Jesus doesn’t really love all his children, huh. Wild.
  •        It’s petty – As a response to school shooting, this is not only a low blow but utterly unhelpful. What a time to say “boy, if only you guys went back to teaching Creationist theology.” It does nothing to meet grieving and fearful people where they’re at.
  •        It’s narrow – This is the most disappointing perspective of God I’ve seen in a long time. How petty is your God that because people don’t worship him he glibly abandons them to bullets? Or, to put another way, how horrific that you would assume that God would remove his presence from schools in the same fashion that he took his presence away from his Son on the cross. Sounds blasphemous to me.
  •        It pretends omniscience – School shootings are absolutely terrifying, but if you can pretend you understand why they happen, and in the same breath unequivocally state it won’t happen to your kids at their school, its a double win. And nothing does this double win better than assuming you know why God allows it to happen. You can apply this to natural disasters also with the general sins of the populace (note: it’s never your sin’s fault, you’re just stuck on a planet with these wretches).  Obviously obviously he allows school shootings to happen to people who don’t worship him so that Christians will be shone, by comparison, to be free of malicious violence. Unless you count the KKK, but I guess that’s one of those terror organizations we try to pretend doesn’t also claim to be Christian.
  •        It’s hypocritical – Given the sexual assault scandals that plague Christian institutions, there’s a lot of nerve here in asserting that the t-shirt wearer knows why scholastic institutions deserve to be shot up. Please explain to me why Christian institutions have so many sexual assault issues then. Surely there’s a comparable reason for why God’s allowing so many Christian authority figures to take advantage of their parishioners.

What’s the Christian response to school shooting, you may ask. I always figure it’s obvious, but apparently it’s not. If you can’t offer a constructive solution, keep your glib slogans to yourself.

Pray, love, care.

Pretend that you recognize that when Jesus was on this earth he came to bring salvation to everyone, not put people in their place because of “Christian karma”. Remember that Christian kids are in these school, along with you know, just kids. Kids who should never be part of your moral shorthand for what you perceive as God’s justice. Please also keep in mind that public schools around the world don’t have God in them and they don’t have schools getting shot up.

And please remember how Jesus responded most harshly to Pharisees, the most religious of the religious, who pretended to know the mind of God while completely neglecting His heart.

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Gendered Idiocy

Gender’s a weird thing to ascribe to inanimate objects, isn’t it? How did colors become feminine or masculine? Why did I have to hate pink as a small child, just so people would understand I don’t like frilly dresses?

Why did I have to carry Lisa Frank folders? Wear lacy socks? Why did the kids think it weird that my dad was the one who gave me manicures? When we played on the playground, why were the boys always the dogs going to obedience school, and the girls the trainers with treats for good behavior?

That last one is probably a blog post for another time.

Since it’s come out that women need their own chips, and last night when I was on Amazon looking for a charging station and came across “charging stations for men”, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve gone too far. (Let’s note though that the men’s charging station comes with a jewelry box holder, so. Come on.)

I learned something new the other day, did you know that boys can like flowers? I had no idea men could like something so FEMININE. And yet at the same time, when did we decide flowers were feminine?

Why do I think dolphins are feminine but sharks are masculine?

Why are margaritas girly drinks, but beer is manly? Doesn’t beer have less alcohol? And why do I assume that less alcohol makes something more feminine, except when it comes to fruity cocktails??

Why is red wine more butch than white? Aren’t both of them girly? Why is rose the girliest of girly wines?

What are we doing, society??

I’d like to say that these are all just ideas of my own invention, but the reality is that whether we acknowledge it or not, we subconsciously ascribe gender to things that don’t need it.

And I still couldn’t tell you why. I could not explain why male deodorant smells like pine trees and female deodorant smells like clean linen. Or why women’s razors are less effective than men’s razors.

I’m sure you could give me some answer about marketing and etc., but I don’t think there’s anything that really explains this stupidity as well as the absolute laziness of humans based probably initially on easy stereotypical jokes that we then took too seriously, because we can’t agree on what’s funny and then suddenly I’m trying to figure out if I really need gendered pens for my lady hands.

Winning Against Luck

Ladybugs are lucky. Or so the story goes. People love them, at any rate. They think they’re cute. We count their spots. Even if you are disgusted by insects, there’s a good chance you think ladybugs are cute and harmless.

But not me. I am a ladybug mass murderer. I actively search out ladybugs so I can kill them. When ladybugs die they smoosh yellow and let out a stink. I assume all ladybugs, in the death throes, pee themselves from terror. And yet I go on killing the cute little bastards.

My apartment has a plethora of the winged horrors and I have found them in my pillow case, on my neck, in my sink, on my table, climbing on my pans, napping on my blanket. It occurs to me now that I’m a magnet for ladybugs.

This is encouraging on the one hand. Tiny luck-bugs are actively seeking me out.

On the other hand, what does it say about me that I ruthlessly assassinate them, these tiny heralds of blessing?  That my floor is littered with the speckled shells of deceased lady-lucks?

I don’t quite believe in luck, though. Never have.  Luck’s for people who think that life can be improved with little steroid shots of magic. Luck is for people who see just enough to recognize how extraordinary rare life can be, and find it terrifying. Terrifying to grasp that the sheer scientific odds of you existing as you are, the person you’ve become, are absurdly astronomical. Luck explains the unexplained for those that need an answer to everything.

Or to be honest, maybe the guilt of hundreds of homicides is weighing on my conscience and I’m trying to validate these innocent deaths through a tangential rant about luck.

Who’s to say?

 

 

Happy Holidays or Seasonal Calamities?

I asked a friend for some assistance with writer’s block on a holiday blog post. I wanted to write about the struggles of single people during the holidays, but I couldn’t find an appropriate angle. Here are some of the unhelpful suggestions:

  • The silver bells have a ring to them but you don’t?
  • Children make snowmen but you can find no men to make children?
  • The weather’s as cold and dark as your heart?
  • There are lights on the houses but none in your eyes?
  • You really put the “miss” in mistletoe.
  • Now that your eggnog’s gone you’ve realized maybe your eggs are gone?
  • New Year’s Eve? More like two beers and leave.
  • Jingle Bells? More like Single’s Hell.
  • A reindeer can find his way out of the fog he’s in but you can’t?
  • Your credit card gets swiped right more than you do?
  • You get plenty of presents when all you want is someone’s presence?

In summary: it sucks to be single during the holidays for precisely the same reason it sucks to be single the entire rest of the year. You’re missing out. It’s just worse at Christmas because there are more puns.

If this holiday season is starting out on the wrong foot for you, if you laughed at the above list and then gave a quiet, sad sigh, I’m here for you. Me and so many others who know what it’s like to be alone and “without” at Christmas.

I’ve always found it amaing how many more Hallmark holiday movies are churned out during this month, movies that just reinforce and validate the “normal” standard of girl meets boy and they fall in love and live happily ever after. ‘Tis the season to be reminded that you’re unfulfilled.

Of course, Hallmark like so many other socially aware companies –jewelry stores, department stores, even car dealerships — can’t help but misunderstand the meaning of Christmas for their own economic ends. The unfortunate truth is that we all get suckered in because it sounds so much better than our lives actually are.

Like the above list we play either/or with our happiness and sadness. Either I’m a sad single or a happily married. Either i’m fulfilled in a relationship, or empty on my own. Christmas, and every other season of the year, is not a black and white look at celebrating life. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, in a lot of cases it’s glittering. It should be reflecting the best life has to offer — in any way you find yourself living it.

Be a vibrant and colorful single this year, don’t make your life either/or. Don’t be content to be pitied. You’re a glorious showing of this life, a life that should inspire gratitude, and exude joy that comes from purpose truly found, not socially mandated.

The Unsociable Female

I’ve always been a little too introverted for “normal”. As a kid I preferred playing on my own in my bedroom to family time. I disliked making small talk in the vestibule of church — still do to this day.

I don’t enjoy “water cooler” talk, small talk, chitchat. I don’t ask how your vacation was, your time off work, your big holiday because I don’t care, for the most part. I don’t mean this aggressively or antagonistically, I just mean that for me it holds little value because so much of the conversation is routine, by rote or memory. When someone asks how you’re doing we all know to answer “fine” or some derivative thereof. So if we’re all doing it just to do it, why bother?

So I tend not to say the right things when they should be said, and I jump in too quickly and get familiar too quickly. And later someone will ask me about that person, something mundane and obvious that you’d discern from small talk, like occupation, and I won’t know because I didn’t care about that.

The problem I’m discovering as an adult is how much more I’ve been required to be sociable by virtue of my gender. I’m realizing more how “interesting” conversations get pulled to the male side of the room. I’m aware that the initial relating that’s so commonly attributed to women therefore includes me, and aware too of how often I’ve feigned enjoyment of these tedious conversations and situations because it was expected of me, when an equally introverted man might be allowed to avoid it.

If men are socially awkward and don’t like “idle” conversation it’s fine. If women don’t it’s abnormal. It’s weird, it’s probably why she’s single. Women who are naturally expressive, naturally extroverted, naturally inquisitive, naturally social are correct, and the rest of us are deviant. Odd. Unnatural.

I’ve been skilled enough with my camouflage that when I moved to college the concern was I’d hole up in my room with school work and DVDs and not make any friends and be miserable (half of that was correct). When they learned I was moving into my own apartment, no roommate, the main concern was I’d get bored and hate it.

Being good at faking sociability, extroversion, has its benefits, but as I age I find more drawbacks. Once you’ve pretended to be good at something for long enough, say 30 years, it’s expected that you will continue and when/if you don’t, understandably people are confused and disappointed, to say the least.

But we do need to stop assuming introverted women are going to be “shy” as an indicator. We need to stop making women with “resting bitch face” smile all the time. We need to stop shushing women for being blunt and direct because it’s too aggressive and masculine. We need to stop expecting relating to be the solely female domain.

Sure, I may not be like “most women”, but to be honest with you, I kinda figure most women are not like “most women”, and that there’s a lot more of us wearing camouflage than we’d ever dream.

“Putting Yourself Out There”

As far as I understand it from context clues, the phrase “putting yourself out there” is a way of reassuring someone after an embarrassing, unsuccessful, or humiliating social encounter of any kind.

“Sure, your date didn’t go the way you planned, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

“It’s too bad that you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

As if you should be pleased to know that it’s through trying something that you fail, as opposed to those who stay home and can say things like “I bet if I put myself out there it’d go better. Oh well, back to Netflix.”

Whenever I hear someone say “at least you’re putting yourself out there” I don’t see encouragement. “At least you’re available for rejection” that’s what I hear. “At least you were brave enough to have some actually say to you, “no thanks”.”

Also, where is “there”? Most often this phrase is used in conjunction with single people, and used by married people. Married people often talk about the dating pool as if it’s an actual body of water teeming with single folk looking to be in relationships. Just put your suit on, get out there and dive in! But I haven’t actually found this oasis that seems so easily accessible in the phrase “out there”.

I don’t know if it requires a map no one gave me, directions I’ll never be able to follow, or some secret pass code, but there’s no giant single person pool where we can pair up. Mostly there’s a lot of desert punctuated by misleading vistas that proclaim bodies of water but result in puddles.

“There”, in my experience, means “anywhere that’s social”, which covers a lot of ground, and still turns up very few single available humans. The unfortunate reality is that single people look an awful lot like married people because we all tend to look vaguely, I don’t know, human-like. And as it turns out, it’s not just singles going out to socialize, but it’s married people too. So unless you’re prepared to walk yourself to a “meet” market, odds are you’re going to run into a bunch of married people “out there”.

The truth is that while these are all perfectly valid reasons to hate the phrase “put yourself out there”, none of them actually cover the reasons why I personally dislike the axiom. These are the reasons why I find it hurtful for my friends, because when you are trying to find someone it does begin to feel exactly like there’s some cool club out there that’s hidden from you, that’s inaccessible to you, and there’s no way you’ve even got a shot to get in. When even “out there” is frustrating, exclusive, out of reach, it’s certainly no longer a helpful expression.

But the reason I’ve always hated it is that I LIKE the indoors. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I love being inside. Love it. Always have. Inside has food, blankets, movies, wifi, pillows…I’m happy inside.

But I get the impression this is wrong of me, because so often I’m still told to “put myself out there”. There’s an impression that my life would be better if I just tried to not be single. I’m not a fan of this idea because it strongly implies that my life is inferior by virtue of the fact that it’s singular. It implies that contentment without a romantic relationship is incorrect, doomed to failure, and in need of fixing.

As a society, as a Christian community, we tend to prize marital relationships above the single life, and we could get into the whys and wheres of that, but to be honest, I’m more focused on the fact that as great as marriage is (can be), there will always be single people. And we must believe, we must espouse (pun!) that the single life is valuable in its own right, it isn’t something that needs to be fixed, it isn’t broken (necessarily), and it’s not miserable by default.

So I implore you, friends, don’t throw your single companions out there into the cold. And don’t judge them for staying in the warmth of the indoors. Encourage them to live their life to the fullest, and make sure that “fullest” doesn’t fixate on romantic culmination.

Who’s Responsible for Abuse?

The problems with systemic sexual assault — assault in general, are more myriad than we want to admit. With the Harvey Weinstein allegations and accusations that take place over decades, showcasing a variety of blatant abuses of power, it should not be difficult to fathom why it took so long for truth to come to light.

What’s staggering anytime something of this magnitude happens, is the number of people who are quick to remark that it’s surprising someone didn’t say something sooner. What we all seem inclined to forget is that the culture we are involved with and invested in is something we all too easily become inoculated against. “It’s just how things are done” is what anyone who feels helpless says in the midst of a situation that’s overwhelming. In these cases, trying to justify and rationalize is about the only survival weapon one can grasp — and make no mistake, in abusive environments, survival is all that is hoped for anyway.

To suggest that victims, or those who knew victims, or those potential victims who escaped, were responsible for speaking up is to ignore how often in our own lives we ignore indications of abuses of power and normalize the event to save ourselves further stress.

A few years ago I was leaving work heading to the parking garage to take the elevator to the fourth floor and to my car. Outside the garage were a large number of homeless people, this wasn’t not really remarkable because it’s common in downtown Bellingham, but what happened next was.

I got on the elevator and as the doors closed, a man brandishing a stick as a make-believe sword charged into the elevator, sword first. My friend and I immediately parted to get out of his way in this tiny box. We then all proceeded to take the elevator to the four floor. After which the man got off and continued practicing his sword fighting in another area of the floor.

During the elevator ride I spent the bulk of my mental powers on rationalizing and normalizing what had just happened. In this stressed out environment my worst fear — besides being attacked — was offending this man who held power in this situation. My goal was to be as pleasant as possible if addressed, and to otherwise pretend I was invisible. I didn’t want anything to happen to me.

This experience of mine was fleeting, minor, and uneventful, but I feared the potential actions of a man who did have power in that situation. In no way was it a situation I felt capable of taking charge of or directing. After I got off the elevator, it did not occur to me to call the police simply because nothing had happened to me. Could this man have actually been physically violent to someone else? Is it possible that after this he went on to actually attack someone else with a sword? It now strikes me as a possibility, but at the time I was only filled with my own relief at leaving that situation unscathed.

It is infinitely easy in hindsight to tell someone what they should have done, knowing full well what the outcome would look like, but at the time? At the time of any stressful situation the body is in survival mode. I’m told with proper training in the military encountering the stress of a war zone is made somewhat easier due to automatic reflexes that have been ingrained. Instead of thinking about the right thing to do, you just act as you’ve been trained.

I cannot stress this enough; women — as a very general principle — have been taught not to make waves, not to cause a fuss, just to keep their heads down and do the work without being obtrusive. The reflexes of someone growing up in a war zone will always look different from a trained soldier or a bystander in another country, and it is the same with systems of abuse.

A woman seeking help from an abusive relationship will voice her discomfort until such a time as it is made clear that this is not welcome.

“You’re overreacting.”

“You took it the wrong way.”

“That didn’t mean anything.”

If you are told often enough that your discomfort is meaningless, or that you will need to handle horrible situations in order to achieve your desired goals, most people will put up with almost anything, because they now believe it is normal. Women have a tendency to learn that their own intuition is not valuable, it’s not accurate, and they’re too sensitive. All of which can contribute to a system that perpetuates abuse.

What this entire situation should call us to is again critical reflection on and intense vigilance of any person in a position of power. There are many people who hold positions of power because those around them live in fear. They hold positions of power because it has been made clear that it is in the victim’s “best interest” to keep quiet. They hold positions of power because so many people are trying to survive, to normalize completely un-normal cultures.

It should disgust and infuriate us when we see people abuse their power, instead the true problem is that often these titans are applauded and supported by the unknowing population, and even when we do know, we find many reasons to excuse it. We reward success and achievement, not ethics and positive influence.

Our focus is wrong and as long as that remains, victims will live in shadows seeking to survive the horrors of their environment silently.

Before we get too excited about a leader, about their charisma, their “common man” vernacular, their relatability, their lack of PC content, consider for a moment the small fleeting voices we have heard for decades, potentially, signalling the alarm.

We are, as a culture and society, doomed to repeat the environment Harvey Weinstein created unless we are willing to dismantle the untouchableness with which we embue powerful leaders — simply because of the position they hold. In this, we will always all be culpable.

Men of Tinder

Tinder, the phone app that allows you to browse photos of humans and decide if you want to get to know them from a short bio, musical preference, brief list of common interests, and four additional photos, is perfect for the lazy slob that I am (at least when it comes to dating).

It is also a treasure trove of similarities. And if you’re someone who likes finding odd/obnoxious patterns and habits in groups of people (totally me) then you’re able to find some interesting commonalities in the truly varied group that is: Men of Tinder.

What you’ll find in photos

  • Fish — I don’t know if all fishermen use Tinder, but certainly a larger than average amount. What I don’t understand is why they think posing with a dead fish is a big draw for the average woman. Is it proving you’re an excellent hunter/gatherer? We’ve got grocery stories, my friend. I can get my own fish.
  • Pecs — Alright, so women are probably looking for dudes that are built. I get that. And on one hand I almost appreciate men pandering to that specific desire. But there’s no way to do a shirtless selfie that doesn’t make you look like a tool.
  • Women — So you know hot women. Great. From a picture it’s hard to judge relationship and context. Those could be pictures of your wife for all I know, or long term girlfriend. I get it. Other women think you’re fun to hang out with. But now you just look like a guy who’s trying to use his popularity with women to lure in other women to compete over him. Gross.
  • Random objects — Tinder man is not in these photos, it’s just random things he may or may not be interested in. Or photos of slogans that are apparently way too challenging to try and write out in the bio.
  • Children — I get it. You’re pandering to our maternal instincts. Maybe they’re your kids, maybe not, but guys look less sketchy when they’ve got a kid snuggled up next to them, right?
  • Cats — Cat guys are the weirdos. I don’t know why. This might just be my impression because I hate cats.
  • Dogs — “My dog is better than yours” is what is always said in a bio when a guy has a photo with a dog. I don’t know why this is a competition. Can’t we just love all the dogs? I get it. You’re an alpha bro who likes winning. You don’t have to win at dogs.

What you’ll find in bios

  • Self-Employed — As one sharp friend of mine mentioned, it’s just code for “unemployed” given how often it appears.
  • Height — Almost always guys include this physical detail in their bios. Also they always blame women for it so apparently we’re always asking about it. Women! Stop. It. Also, all men seem to reluctantly divulge. Like women over 40 being forced to tell their age. “I’m 5’9” because apparently that matters.” Ugh only to SOME women. Stop talking to women who make you feel like crap, I don’t care how hot she is!
  • List of physical assets — This is usually just a list of material possessions of any substantial worth like a car, a house, a good job, etc. Since I never think to ask about these things it makes me genuinely concerned that they’re just responding to the blanket material questions that some women ask. Which, by the way, how is that not just an instant red flag for them??
  • Nothing — If you’ve just posted one photo or several photos but no bio, it doesn’t matter how attractive you may look, or how normal. I a mentally filling that bio in for you and it’s not complimentary. It’s bad. It looks very bad.
  • 4/20 Friendly — A lot of guys are really just looking for pot buddies.
  • Outdoorsy requirements — I’m probably bitter about this because there’s so many attractive outdoorsy men who are looking for someone to go rock climbing with them and I am soooooooooo not that person. If there’s a picture of you happily in a sleeping bag in the great outdoors, I’m fairly confident we won’t get on well.
  • Female requirements — I don’t care if you have specified “I don’t like materialistic women” the fact that you feel compelled to say this smacks of you having at least a certain baseline issue with women. Also the whole “I don’t like women who don’t laugh” I mean geez, did you ever consider that maybe you’re not funny?
  • Whining — This one always gets me. I don’t know a single woman who is lured in with the “I guess women only use this to check out hot guys because no one ever responds to a good guy like me”. Oh sweetie, that’s not how anything works. Sometimes life’s hard and you need to buck up.
  • Life advice — Speaking of handing out unsolicited advice, Tinder men are full of it. Whether it’s a pithy phrase perfect for a motivational poster, or a quote you picked up somewhere to help spur your aspirational living, it’s gross. It smacks of some 80s sitcom Dad handing out wisdom at the end of a half hour episode. That may do it for some, but that’s a really niche market you’re working in.
  • Just Ask — Usually it’s phrased like this “I don’t know what to put here, lol if you want to know something just ask.” This is pure laziness. If you can’t even pretend you’re interesting or thoughtful, don’t make me work to figure it out.

Bottom line: Tinder caters to the demographic that believes in taking good selfies that make it look like you didn’t just take a selfie for a dating app, and those with any amount of writing skill and healthy (over-healthy) self confidence.

All this to say: if you can’t get any hits on Tinder, it 100% has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It probably just means you’re bad at marketing. And to be honest with you? That’s kind of a good thing.

Rage Against the Sheetcake: Tina Fey’s Delicious Satire

“sheetcaking” has been a recent addition (I think–it was hard to sort through all the google search results of editorials vilifying and heroizing Tina Fey’s recent appearance on a special SNL Weekend Update.) to American vocabulary. It basically means “eating your feelings.” If anyone does know the origins of the term, I’d be happy to learn it.

Of course, just last week the term went viral. I saw friends on both sides of the political spectrum share the video. Some accepted its sly lampooning of white privilege with good humor, some took it seriously as a riotous emblem of the current esprit de corps and accompanied the post with hashtags like #fuckyeah. Others took it seriously as a direct criticism of either themselves or their political perspectives and dismissed it as tone-deaf at best, a flagrant indulgence of white privilege at worst.

Throughout the week as I watched the drama, horror, conflict, pathos, and ugly demonization meted out on those who stated almost any opinion at all develop out of the horrendous events at Charlottesville, I struggled with what to feel, how to feel, and if there was anything to share in it. Sometimes, as I commented on Katrina’s recent post, I’d just rather listen. But then, as she discussed, staying silent, too, became a problem. Here is the list of items about me that contributed to my sense:

1-My family on both sides emigrated within this century. I’ve got no familial connection to either honoring or denigrating early America and the choices thereof. Of course, I now bear all the privileges of an American, so there’s not point in saying I’m not involved at all, but there’s a sense of removal, certainly. The furthest east my relatives have ever lived is Michigan, which would have been both Union country and wild frontier during the times before and after slavery. The Netherlands–from which most of my family emigrated–certainly contributed to the slave trade during its heyday, but any real connections to the industry are lost to time.

2-I’m white. I’m white-white. Not only am I white, I’ve grown up in one of the whitest areas of the country. I could count on one hand the black kids at my high school. Hispanic students were more common, but still a vast minority. I can think of one South Asian student, and he was adopted. I now live in Seattle, one of the least diverse–not for lack of trying–cities in the nation. This predominantly white experience wasn’t through any lack of trying to experience culture, or any desire to be removed from other cultures, just because there was very little available.

When I moved to San Francisco after college to teach school, white students were in the minority; my classes were filled with Hispanic Americans, Indian Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans. Middle school students notice cultural differences, but I did not see a lot of racist actions. The most racist thing I ever heard was a complaint about attributing a fart to someone on the field trip bus; “It smells like curry!” I loved how my students brought culture to conversations, and how being different seemed to be simply and easily accepted. All the same, I couldn’t fail to notice that the teaching staff was predominantly white (also female–another conversation for another day). I did during the last year of my time there actually see firsthand a gang-related conflict go down at a large church youth event. I saw kids punching each other; girls screaming with their hands buried in each others hair, I pulled fighting students apart and held a girl’s hands behind her back to keep her from scratching her opponent’s eyes out. It still feels like a strange, underwater nightmare. I remember shooting incredulous looks at my fellow youth staffers as we separated instigators and spoke to the police.

3-I’ve been in the South only a handful of times. I know racism and militant neonazism exist; I’ve watched the editorials and movies. I’ve read about these groups occasionally, heard firsthand accounts of how violent racism is still alive and well in the South. I’ve rarely if ever experienced it or seen it firsthand; I feel distinctly unqualified to make judgements. I can unequivocally condemn Nazism as a damaging ideology. But it makes no difference to the people involved in it. It doesn’t change hearts or minds. It doesn’t seem to help anyone for me to rant and rave.

Watching Tina Fey dig into an American flag sheetcake felt at once enlightening and…therapeutic. I watched it again, and I thought, as many people did, of Marie Antoinette’s famous words prior to the French Revolution; “let them eat cake.” Words used to define wealth, privilege, and ignorance. A phrase that has gone down in history as a damning foreshadow of the thoughtless pride that lead to the downfall of the ruling aristocratic class in France.

As the news covers more and more examples of the widening chasm between rich and poor Americans, the loss of the middle class, the evermore pride-filled flagrant indulgences of the wealthy, from Kardashians to Trumps to NFL players’ ridiculous salaries (yes, I said it, Hawks fans), parallels to pre-revolutionary France are often made. Fey’s play on that richly-weighted metaphor was both deeply resonant and challenging. It was one of the things that let me know both that a) it’s ok to feel at a loss, unable to do anything really valuable, and b) that inability to understand firsthand what all of this means doesn’t preclude me from saying something about it.

In case anyone misunderstands, Nazism is evil. Neonazism is evil. Those who embrace these ideologies are at best misguided, at worst sold out to an evil ideology. Anti-fascists who respond to violence with violence are wrong. Slavery is wrong, and white supremacy is wrong. As a Christian, actually, pursuit of the supremacy of any one person or race over another is wrong. White privilege may not be directly my fault but it is in my power and in my responsibility to be a part of changing it. While I’m still learning what that looks like, maybe this is a start.

My friend Corrie recently wrote the following challenging words to her audience, regarding still more recent conflicts about memorials to the US Civil War:

“Compassion must be lived out loud. You *cannot* say “All lives matter” and yet insist on keeping monuments and flags representing only one kind of life at the brutal cost of others….You *cannot* say a piece of concrete is worth more than the pain of your neighbor. Pain must not be mocked. And when you do, perhaps with catty memes or retweets, you are actively participating in deepening an already painful divide. If one part of the body hurts, it all hurts. When was the last time you listened to anyone who mocked your pain or said it didn’t matter?

It matters to me. There, I said it. Now let’s eat some cake.

 

Now Is the Time to Overreact

I’m a woman. So I’m no stranger to overreacting.

I mean, I’m a woman, I’m no stranger to being told I’m overreacting.

And overreacting is bad. It’s not reasonable is it. It’s not rational. Zeal is way out. Overreacting is passe. We hear things, snippets of things, small ideas or words and think these things:

  • That’s a minority opinion.
  • Everyone knows that’s crazy.
  • They don’t mean it.
  • There’s a kernel of truth.
  • Listen to the other things they’re saying.
  • Give them another chance.
  • You didn’t hear it right.
  • You’re misinterpreting.
  • Maybe he’s a racist, but he’s a nice guy otherwise.

So we let behavior slide, and we let words slide because we don’t want to make a big deal out of something that is “probably nothing”. And we have been doing this, culturally, for years and we have done it most profoundly harmfully to minorities in this country.

Here’s the things I have myself though in response to racism around me:

  • I don’t want to get into politics with him.
  • He’s an idiot, of course he thinks that.
  • This isn’t the time or place.
  • I don’t know enough about this to say whether he’s wrong or right.
  • I probably am overreacting.
  • Maybe I’m just a bleeding heart liberal.
  • I’m just too focused on the one side.
  • I wasn’t there, how can I really know.

My lack of zeal is the problem. My willingness to let things slide is the problem. My stance toward casual racism is in part what contributes to an entire country having a casual approach toward racism. And it’s easy to be casually racist, because it requires you to do nothing but think and act defensively. To remind yourself when you hear about racism that

  • It’s probably not how it actually went down — the media skews things in favor of minorities.
  • They’re making things difficult for themselves.
  • If they’d just focus on keeping their heads down and doing work this wouldn’t be a problem.
  • It’s not like I have it that much easier.

This is an absence of zeal. An absence of love. An absence of empathy. This is selfishness. This is apathy. This is complacency. This is rationalizing.

I’m a good protestant. I believe in total depravity. And because I believe in this wholeheartedly, it is my job to work against it with every fiber of my being, in my own self and in the world at large.

There are too many Christians who believe in “tough love” to minorities. The old adage “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”. They believe that minorities ought to put in a little effort and try a little harder to earn the support — financially and otherwise — from the Christian community.

This is completely against the saving grace of God and the state he found me in when he saved me.

We are not to reach out to the oppressed because they earned it, they deserve it, or they’re worth it. We are to reach out to the oppressed because we are to show the love of God to whomever we can.

Sin is easy. Sin is the natural default. Doing nothing is easy. Doing nothing is the default.

Be zealous. Be loving. Start in your small circle to take the important stance that racism in all its forms and colors is not okay. It’s sinful.

It is when the majority of people do nothing, that insanity is free to reign. This has been shown in history time and time again and in every age the human reaction is the same.

  • I’m probably overreacting.
  • It’s probably going to pass.
  • This isn’t that big of a deal.

Please, overreact to racism. Please overreact to ideologies that inflame violence, incite hatred, and beget pain. Things pass only when we take a stand against them. Things only become unacceptable when we say they’re unacceptable.

I’m terrified of what my friends and neighbors will think of me being so passionate about this topic, isn’t that tragic? I’m afraid of what they’ll say about me.

But if I’m being totally honest, I’m more afraid of what the future will say about me if I don’t stand up and speak up for what’s right. I’m afraid for the people who will get crushed under the wheel of my apathy. I’m afraid for the people I could have helped, but didn’t because it didn’t affect me. I’m afraid of the way history will remember me if I’m okay with what’s happening now. I’m afraid of the history we’re creating because we’re unwilling to overreact.