Not OUR Day

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dr-kingAs a white person, I feel it’s necessary to reflect upon my relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, his legacy, and who I am in my racial privilege.

When it comes down to it, fellow white sisters and brothers, this isn’t our story to reframe, not our struggle to claim, and this isn’t our day.  And it is seriously easy to allow ourselves to slide the slippery-slope and make this day all about us.

There are places for us to be and work for us to do today that relate to the legacy of Dr. King.  It is a day for us to learn.  This is a day for us to listen to the stories of friends of color, to read about the life of Dr. King, to hear his sermons and speeches once again, to pick up books that focus on white privilege and the struggles that black Americans endure.  This is a day for us to walk next to our friends of color and listen to what they are saying.

This is the time for us to recall how we fell short in the past year in our stands for racial justice.

This is the time for us to find courage that we need for the upcoming months and years to stand for justice and the well-being of our neighbors.  This is a day for us to set aside to recommit ourselves to justice issues.

Yes, Dr. King stood up for a myriad of justice issues – including peace during the Vietnam War and economic justice for all.  And as Dr. King said “Justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” all injustices are interconnected and hurt so many more people than who we first notice.

But this day is not for us to whitewash Dr. King – to forget what he stood for and how he was willing to put everything out there for racial justice.  Today is not the day to do to Dr. King what we have done to Jesus: to make both men hyper-meek in their approach to justice.  Yes, they loved peace and non-violence, but they were willing to go to the grave for their fight for justice.  They were edgy, and both men would not be revered by the majority of our society if they lived in our country today.

May we continue to grow in our privilege awareness.  May we stop falling asleep to our privilege like the disciples in the garden with Jesus.  May we find ways to speak of the authentic Dr. King.  May we listen… and listen more.  May we find ways to become aware of all of our privileges – whether they relate to race, sexual orientation, religion, or other privileges.  May we continue to love radically like Dr. King and Jesus… and may we embrace their courage when the time comes for us to need it.

 

Death’s Frequent Visits and the Spirit Which Remains

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carrie_fisher_2013_cropped_retouched“2016 has been a terrible year,” I’ve heard repeatedly since January.  First, it was David Bowie, quickly followed by Alan Rickman.  Over the year shocking and unexpected announcements were made about the deaths of Prince, Mohammad Ali and Gene Wilder.

We can’t forget the many people who had smaller roles in our seventies/eighties pop culture: George Gaines from Punky Brewster and Police Academy, George Kennedy from The Naked Gun movies, James Noble from Benson, Ron Glass and Abe Vigoda from Barney Miller, and the Pat Harrington from One Day at a Time.  Creators like Garry Marshall who gave us Happy Days and Pretty Woman aren’t here anymore. Even music got a little quieter when Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire as well as Glen Frey from The Eagles died.

And then this month happened.

Our beloved 80’s dad Alan Thicke tragically and suddenly passed due to a malfunctioning aorta.  Then came Carrie Fisher’s heart attack on an airplane.  They said she was stable… so she should be ok, right?  Before we heard any more on her condition, George Michael died on Christmas Day.  Two days later, Fisher died.

For my fellow Generation X-ers, our entire childhood is fading fast before us.  Two thousand sixteen reminded us of this.

george_michael_02_bisThe Grim Reaper’s frequent visits happen occasionally.  In my personal life, I remember the uncomfortable year of 1994.  First, my grandma died of metastatic breast cancer.  Then my grandfather had a massive stroke.  Finally, my grandfather’s brother died from a sudden heart attack in the doctor’s office.  My soul felt a bit worn by the end of the year – especially after a breakup of a long term relationship in October.

Grief is the greatest experience I remember from that year.  It’s amazing how so much grief will cloud one specific year of your life.

alan_rickman_after_seminar_28329As a pastor, I see how death comes in waves.  There are times when we have three funerals in one week.  Or there are times when our congregations seem like they’ve lost so many people in one year.  All Saint’s Sunday is filled with names of our recently deceased read aloud.  I’ve seen this happen in two specific years of my ministry so far: 2010 and 2015.

These are people who we knew and with whom we spoke and with whom I worked.  This still makes me why we experience so much grief when a celebrity dies.

We’ve never really knew them – we think to ourselves.  But their contribution to the soundtracks and movies of our lives leads us to consider them a close part of who we are and our life experiences.  Remember the middle school sleepovers and singing Prince songs at 1a.m…. or how many times we watched Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves during the summer of 1991 – – right after graduating high school.  Or how many Star Wars movies with Carrie Fisher did we see on the big screen.  The first I watched at the theaters was Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.  Leia is the one who rescues her beloved and then strangles her captor after she is enslaved.  Fisher brought to life one of the strongest females on screen – transforming from a strong-willed princess to a general in charge of the continuing rebellion.

prince_at_coachella_001They are part of our stories, and we are forever grateful for their existence and contributions.  We are grateful for their vulnerability in art.

Which reminds me of the lines in the play Our Town.  After the main female protagonist Emily dies from childbirth, she yearns to experience life once again.  She experiences a semi-ordinary day in her life – giving her the realization that she really didn’t experience life while she ways living it.  Emily says to the state manager narrator of the story: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it… every, every minute?  The Stage Manager replies “No.  Saints and poets maybe… they do some.”

David.  Alan. Gene. Maurice. Prince. Alan. George. Carrie.  You felt all of  the feelings.  Your experience of emotions influenced your craft in generous and ingenious ways.  You were the saints and poets that were mentioned by the Stage Manager in Our Town.  You experienced the range of emotions – even to the point when it affected your health and well-being.  And you are gone today.  But your experiences remain with you forever on that side of heaven where all of you abide.  Fortunately, your gifts remain with us forever.

Thank you for your gifts, your risks, your authenticity.  Thank you for being you.

Death cannot take you fully away from us because your lasting contributions are still here. This is what everyday resurrection is about.  2016 did not win.

*****

(I missed many other artists and leaders who passed this year as well and who contributed so much.  For a full list of notable people who died in 2016, see this article.)

 

Cranky Christmas: The Return of the “Bah Humbugs”

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pexels-photo-249209Much like living with a high pitch noise that won’t go away, I feel as if I am experiencing this Advent/Christmas season with a humming irritation swirling inside of me more than I’ve experienced in other years.

Maybe it’s due to the amount of work I wish I could do but haven’t gotten done.  Maybe it’s due to the things I haven’t gotten accomplished – like Christmas cards (for the billionth year in a row) and how many more extracurricular tasks have to complete before December 25.  Maybe it’s due to all of the failures of this past year or what isn’t going right in my life – according to the world’s expectations.  Maybe it’s due to my endometriosis flaring up a bit (not enough to stop me from getting things accomplished but enough to make me slightly grouchier than the norm).  Maybe it’s due to disastrous political and heartbreaking world events of the past few months.

Now, I won’t describe this as melancholy, because I wouldn’t categorize this as sadness or depression.  Sure, there are moments of sorrow due to the shortened days and lack of peace in our world.  But my Blue Christmas is not a traditional lament.  Rather, I’m irritated.  And this lingering frustration will not subside no matter how many episodes of Modern Family and Parks and Recreation I watch, how many times I view Love Actually or how many peanut butter and chocolate candies I eat.

And all I want to say… or scream…is BAH HUMBUG!

My annoyance at the circumstances of 2016 has placed a filter for the joy of the season.  It’s drowned hope.  It’s robbed my soul of peace, and loving one’s neighbor tends to suffer as a result of my irritations.

And while the presence of the Christ is in my midst, there is a veil between my eyes and Christ’s presence.

So I’m praying that when the Christ candle is lit on Saturday evening, it will be the light I need to see hope, peace, joy, and love that’s been a bit absent in recent weeks.  I pray that it will soothe my soul throughout these shallow-filled days.  I pray that I will not allow this light that is coming into our world to diminish and that it continues to remain strong as time gives birth to 2017.

 

 

Advent Prayer Day 12: A Prayer for the Tired Pastors

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tiredGod from whom all energy flows,
Our bodies crawl from dawn to dusk
From one visit to another,
From one meeting to the next,
From one worship service to the following one,
From one duty until our list is complete.

(It’s never complete.)

We know our help comes from you.
And our strength and courage are bestowed upon us by you.
Yet, our stamina wavers
And we wonder where you are.

Grant that our tired bodies
And even-more-exhausted souls
Find their refreshment in sleep, in recreation,  and in times of fellowship.

May we learn to prioritize what is needed
And let us find the grace we need when certain tasks remain incomplete.

May our spouses and partners and parents and children understand our frenzy.
May our friends continue to invite us to parties even thou we’ve turned them down four times before.

May our bodies remain strong,
May the flus and infections stay far away,
May additional unforeseen tasks that may pop up wait until January,
And may we see the Christ around us even when our eyes are focused elsewhere.

Amen.

America’s Lot Moment

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sodoma_-_aldegrever

I wrote this only a few days after the election.  This is how I felt – not only at the time – but continue to feel as I process what happened in our country.  This is how I feel every time I hear of another hate crime committed. 

 

I am a woman of privilege.  While I have some awareness of my racial, citizenship, and sexual orientation privilege, I am also still waking up to my privilege.  The results of the election came as a shock, and part of this shock is due to my privilege-related naiveté. 

This was written with much respect to all people who have been assaulted in any shape or form, not making light of assault, and also knowing that a piece of us felt violated on Election Day because the results affirmed the complacency with abuse.  Abuse has happened in many forms, and the Bible reflects that abuse as well.  Please be aware that this could be a TRIGGER WARNING for many people.

*****

“Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man: let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.” (Genesis 19:8)

I imagine most people feel disgust after reading this text and are shocked to know this is actually in our sacred Scripture.  Angels, in the form of two strangers, visit Lot in Sodom.  When the community heard about the visitors, they bang on Lot’s door and order him to send them outside so that they can know them intimately – – or, basically, rape the two men.

Lot refuses to accept their demands.  Instead, he offers them another option.  Here are my two virgin daughters.  Know the two of them intimately instead of our visitors.

Unfortunately, Lot’s daughters would not be enjoying the intimacy that comes when two people mutually give themselves to one another.  This would be a violent gang rape of two young women.  Based on the fury of this crowd, there is even a possibility the rape would have led to the death of one or both of the young women as we see in the similar story of Judges 19.

What appears in Genesis 19 does not seem like a story about Lot’s hospitality or creative problem solving. By offering his daughters, Lot still affirms the violent actions of a group of men. He does not give a second thought to sacrifice his daughters in the attempts to placate the Sodom community and to protect the rights of the privileged.

Up until a week ago, whenever I read this text, I could not fully imagine what the two daughters must feel.  How could someone who says they love you be fine with throwing you away with such haste? How could the one to whom you looked for protection be willing to throw you to the wolves knowing that you would be violently attacked?

And then the election of 2016 happened. Just like Lot’s problem-solving proposal, it felt like many Americans have offered up the lives of people of color, the bodies of women, the equality of LGBT people, the religious freedom of Muslims, the well-being of immigrants, and the dignity of people who are disabled.  In the process of trying to solve foreign and domestic issues, our neighbors chose to overlook love of neighbor and turn their heads so that racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry could grow stronger.

While some believe that the election results will eventually lead to positive results in our country, within the first week we saw the number of hate crimes grow.  Pictures of hateful words spray painted alongside of buildings and videos of students chanting slurs continue to become the new normal in 2016 America.

Couldn’t Lot have offered a more humane solution? Couldn’t we, as Americans and Christians be more compassionate and considerable in the way we solve our problems?

Some of our neighbors wonder why we still “can’t get over” the election results and its aftermath. Like Lot offering to throw his children to strangers in order to solve a problem, many people across our country feel like their neighbors were willing to toss them aside in an effort to build a country that could be to their satisfaction once again.

Knowing that many of us have been treated like Lot’s daughters has left us aching, worrying, and wondering what will happen next.

It feels like we must live under a new normal. We must live with the normality of women being physically assaulted.  We must live with a renewed interest in a type of “law and order” which will elevate the mass incarceration of our brothers and sisters of color.  We must know that families will be torn apart based on who was born in this country and who was born elsewhere.  We must know that Muslims fear for their lives as the country waits to see if a registry is forced upon them.   We must know that marriages of our gay, lesbian, and bisexual sisters and brothers are in jeopardy.

We may be Lot’s daughters in twenty-first century America, but we refuse to be thrown to the men of Sodom without a struggle.

Lot’s daughters found agency… and all who have been marginalized will find their power.

*****

Photo credit: Heinrich Aldegrever (1502-1561), Lot impedisce la violenza contro gli angeli, (1555).

 

A Prayer for Broken Relationships During the Holidays

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wood-light-fashion-peopleGod of all links, all vines, all connections-
In this season of festivities and meals,
As we stand deep in memories and nostalgia,
We come to you with our hearts raw from friction.

Moms and daughters.  Sons and fathers.
Siblings, aunts, uncles
Choose to stay away from one another.
The pain is too great to be in the same room.
Words weigh heavily on our souls
When past sins and current life circumstances are discussed.

They don’t understand us.  We don’t understand them.
And so we stay away.
At tables sit empty seats and cold plates
Because someone has to be right
Or because their voice and votes resemble hate.

We pray that they can accept us for who we are,
For the challenges we have,
For the choices we have made.
May they step into our shoes.  And, when possible, may we embrace them with grace.

We pray that the shadows of the night can melt away as we look to the dawn.

Through the radical acceptance of Christ, may we open tables that have been closed,
Add seats that have been taken away,
And may the food multiply as our meal-sharing grows.

Amen.

Not an Anomaly: Progressive Christians in Your Midst

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hideFor many years, I was led to believe that there was only one way of being Christian.  This way would focus on specific issues like abortion, who is allowed to get married, who isn’t allowed to have sex, and who will be granted eternity in heaven.

As time went on, I realized I never really identified with this flavor of Christianity.  It was too bitter: condemning anyone who didn’t fit into their moral code.  It reflected a sour that first appears as sweet.  People invited you to their church which held certain strong perspectives – some bragging about being baptized or born again.  All wanting you to join and change the way you are living.

Very little of the greatest commandment was discussed in these churches.  Sure, there was a lot of implicit “love God” as they spoke of their devotion to Jesus.  But loving neighbor was the null.  It was hidden from their theology. In some cases, it had been discretely removed from the church altogether.  Needless to say, hypocrisy was a dominant force in turning me away from the Church during my twenties.

For me, I needed to worship in a place who would accept my views – even if people didn’t have the same perspectives.  I needed a church which valued my individuality and, at the same time, encouraged us to be in covenant with one another even in our differences.

Hypocrisy and negativity may have challenged me to switch churches and even denominations in my early 30’s.  I could no longer fit my square self into the round hole my church had become.  While shame raged within me, I walked away from the congregation – moving towards something new.  For me, that was being part of the United Church of Christ.

Yet as part of my call to ministry, I knew I had to talk louder than the voices of condemnation and hypocrisy and present another side: one of grace and love.  For many years now, I feel called to present Christianity in even more unconventional and heretical ways.  I believe this is to witness to a more loving and more grace-filled faith.

A few days before the US General Election of 2016, I became a member of a (not so) secret online society called Pantsuit Nation.  Some of the threads presented in the group include wrestle with their progressive Christian faith.  They feel like they are an island as progressive Christians.  They wonder if they can reconcile themselves and their political perspectives while still having a relationship with God.

My answer: Yes, we can.  We can be liberal in our views of politics and faith.  And God still has a place for us here on earth and here in heaven.  There is a community of faith somewhere for you, and through this community, you will be able to realize that you are not alone in your faith journey.

There are so many of us online, in faith communities and in your neighborhoods.  You are not alone in your perspectives.  And your perspective matters.

Now is the time for us, progressive Christian friends, to speak aloud of what it means to be a progressive person of faith.  Now is the time for us to talk of our struggles to find churches that align with our way of thinking.  Now is the time for us to speak of our justice work, how being pro-choice does not mean you are pro-abortion, how all marital statuses should be respected and how marriage equality does reflect the love of Christ.  Now is the time for us to speak to how our faith leads us to affirm black lives matter, women’s bodies matter, Muslim religious freedom matters, the dignity of people who are disabled matters, the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people matters, immigrants well-being matters.

When we are able to affirm the lives and livelihoods of our sisters and brothers who may find themselves in the margins, people are able to see the Christ in our midst with more clarity.

People are looking for us and our churches.  Are we brave enough to shout the good news of God’s love and acceptance to all people, even in the face of hate?

 

 

Faithful Badassery

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faithful-badasseryAccording to Google, the word “badass” is defined as “a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person” and “a formidably impressive person.”

I have avoided using the word as it hints at some vulgarity.  When you are a leader in the community and church, you look to separate yourself from bad words as to keep a clean image in the eyes of others.

And yet, that’s not exactly what Jesus did…

From experience I can tell you that being a good girl goes only so far.  While being a good girl most of the time is fine, only being a good girl results in people walking all over you and God’s call going mostly unanswered.

Being a good girl keeps a person in two dimension mode, forgetting that adventures are beyond her comfort zone, and that God is sometimes drawing us to those new places.

As time goes on in life and we experience how the world really works.  Life and its brokenness begin to bang up our good girl souls.  The good girl begins to be replaced with something a bit more edgy.  Unfortunately, this loss of innocence happens with all of us.  What we are called to realize is that our scars and screams actually work to God’s and our benefit. You know when the remnants of the good girl need to shine and when the good girl needs to have a seat while the faithful badass takes her place.

The faithful badass is powered by the Holy Spirit.  Just like the lyrics to Pink’s song “Raise Your Glass” we must “raise our glass when we are wrong in all the right ways.”  We stand with the faithful badasses in every age as they walked with God.  We see the faithful badass in the Bible when Vashti says no to Ahasuerus, when Esther stands up for the Jewish people, and when Ruth decides to stay with her mother-in-law in her deepest grief.  We see this faithful badassery when Hagar does everything she can to survive with her son Ishmael, when Tamar fools Judah into giving her offspring, when the daughters of Zelophehad fight for their inheritance, and when Jephthah’s daughter negotiates time to fully live before her slaughter.  And we see many faithful badasses in the women who have lived since the life of Jesus – from Thecla who refused to get married and, instead, evangelized the good news to Joan of Arc who managed to lead in ways young women were not allowed to lead during her time.

Faithful badassery comes from our savior Jesus the Christ when he healed on the Sabbath, ate with the undesirables and turned the tables over when people were unjustly marketing goods in the Temple.

This faithful badassery has been woven throughout all spaces and times.  When I see caregivers spending each pellet of energy ensuring their loved ones are well, I see this faithful badassery.  When I see people of color or women marching because they do not feel that others believe their lives or bodies matter, I see faithful badassery.  When I see men and women speaking out against fraud or sexual assault, risking their own reputation in the use of their voices, I see faithful badassery.

All faithful badassery comes directly from the Holy Spirit.  Without this Spirit of God, we could not exit our comfort zones, risk the death of our bodies or souls, or radically care for one another.

As a leader in the Christian faith, I believe we should claim faithful badassery as part of who we are because it absolutely was a part of who Jesus was and who the Christ is that resides with us today.  It was a part of the lives of God’s children throughout history and it will be a part of the faithful until the end of time.

So when we place our feet on the ground each morning, will we ask ourselves “How will I be a faithful badass today?”

The Disturbing Story of King Ahasuerus

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V0034399 Esther faints before King Ahasuerus. Engraving, 1767, after

Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled over many provinces.  His name was King Ahasuerus.  While he was on his throne in the Citadel of Susa, he threw a tremendous party.  The palace was decorated in marble, silver, various colors of stones and, of course, GOLD.

On the seventh day of the great banquet, in his state of mirth, he commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, to remove herself from her separate banquet and parade around his banquet full of men wearing her crown…

Probably ONLY  her crown…

…Because, of course, he was king.  And rich.  And celebrated.  Some would say a star, perhaps.  And he could demand such exploitations.

Queen Vashti was fair to behold- possibly a “10.”

But Ahasuerus failed.  Queen Vashti refused to become another prop in his life, to be objectified by not only her husband but the many men who may grope her as she paraded.

Ahasuerus was furious – an anger which raged inside of him.  He successfully impressed his guests with all he had, like the marble and silver and gold.  But his wife – his greatest “property” – he could not control.

Loopholes in laws were always to his benefit, and after consulting some wise men of his time, Ahasuerus deemed what Queen Vashti did to him as wrong.

Out of this great anger, this great male leader of the time then imposed more rules against women.  All men were to be honored… or basically obeyed… by their wives.

What happened to Vashti?  Well, she went away…disappeared.  First wives can be sent away without a second thought…

Did he pay her off?  Did he settle in some divorce?  Or did he just throw her out on the street without a second thought and resources to help her survived?

Ahasuerus then decided to find a new wife… a brand new hot wife.

This wouldn’t be just any wife.  She would be pure – A VIRGIN!  A Jewish woman named Esther was one of these women.  They would be gathered in the palace.  I suppose you could say that she was considered another “10.”  But the still they ordered her cosmetic treatments…

Because she couldn’t be truly beautiful to the powers that be without these procedures.  Her authentic raw self wouldn’t work for someone like Ahasuerus who focused on women as his possessions to be admired…

She waited for him to call… he was the one who demanded her attention and not the other way around.  She must wait for him – for his compassion, companionship and care.

Like with Vashti, Ahasuerus looked no further than her outer beauty – forgetting that she was a person of faith, a messy flawed amazing person and a woman determined to save the lives of many others.

Queen Vashti risked all she had to stand up against a demanding man in power.  Queen Esther risked all she had to stand up to a system that was going to exterminate her family and friends.  Vashti worked outside of the system and Esther worked inside.

That is how Esther survived… Giggle when he wants.  Get touched and paraded when he wants.  And she gets to thrive in his palace.

In reality, Esther and Vashti’s beauty came from their courage, their brave souls and the Spirit which worked within them.  Too bad Ahasuerus missed all of this beauty as he gawked at their bodies and faces.

Funny how few faith leaders call out King Ahasuerus for what he was and what he did and how he objectified the women in his life.  Funny how this patriarchal attitude becomes normal and expected in our realities today too.  Funny how we allow the privileged male leaders in our society to treat women this way.  Funny how these attitudes haven’t died in two or three thousand years.  Funny how those who read this story honor courageous Queen Esther but forget about the bold Queen Vashti.  Funny how many of our closed-minded clergy are not calling out King Ahasuerus of the Bible…

Or the King Ahasuerus of today.

*****

While I am not explicitly political on this site, I felt the need to write this as a reflection of a Biblical story that always concerned me AND as a theological statement on some of the 2016 election players.

Single in the Sanctuary – The Privilege of Marriage

maldives-sunset-wedding-bride-37521-largeUpdated version from my post on September 29, 2016.

In 1996, I was newly independent – living on my own for the first time. While at the time I was in a relationship with someone 90 miles away, I was not married spiritually or legally.

I was changing over my driver’s license, plates, and car insurance.  When I called around to find out insurance rates, I was told that my insurance rates would be considerably higher since I was not married.

I thought about all of my friends who were getting married that year and how they were sharing living expenses with their spouses as well as registering for new items for their house and getting better deals on taxes and insurance.

I suppose that may have been the first time I thought about the privilege of marriage and the slights unmarried people face from time to time.

Now, there are privileged states with each part of our lives.  I don’t necessarily think that being unmarried is a significant marginalization like being an ethnic, racial, gender, sexual orientation or gender/identity/expression minorities.  I am extremely privileged in most ways and do not want to distract people from the serious marginalization that goes on in our communities – from being arrested due to color to being beaten due to religion or sexual orientation.

But from what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced, there is more privilege to being married.  It’s an experience that I have never experienced but friends who are aware of their privilege have noted how they now feel more privileged now that they are married.

Admittedly, I had some feelings bubble up within me when I read Katherine Willis Pershey’s article “Field Notes on Sex and Marriage: Fully naked, fully known” in the September 28, 2016 Christian Century.  (If you want to know a little about my backstory story which was triggered, please see this.)  First of all, I have so much respect for Willis Pershey as a writer, pastor and colleague and have enjoyed her writings.  The progressive/Mainline Protestant community is blessed by her talents, and I want to make sure to lift her up for what she gives to her colleagues and those to whom she is ministering.  I believe it has taken much courage to write some of the things she has written, and I thank her for her vulnerability.

What challenged me is not as much the writer’s perspective on the topic as it is about the lack of another perspective in the publication – a choice most likely by the editors.  I think many of us are on the same page when it comes to making sure that everyone is in a healthy situation when becoming intimate.  I don’t necessarily think a 14, 15, or 16 year old has the emotional and intellectual development to engage in sex at such an early age.  Are they willing to ask the hard questions of their partners before engaging in physical intimacy?  Are they willing to get tested for sexually transmitted infections or make the decisions needed when having an unwanted pregnancy?

Of course, one article can not articulate many clergy’s multi-layered view on the subject of sex, and I think that space was limited from allowing nuances.  But I suppose the way I picked up on the article’s premarital sex perspective is what many of us have heard over and over again: “Now that I’m married, I’m allowed this extra privilege.  You must wait until you are married.”

Just like men should stop telling women what to do with their bodies, married people telling single people what to do with their bodies.  Add sex to the long list of privileges that married people can enjoy – from discounts to companionship to house furnishings.

Again, I don’t want to place the burden on this one writer who has heartfully wrestled with this issue.  She was expressing what worked well for her.

But unfortunately, when a publication decides to only print a common, well-repeated message that has lasted from decade to decade and century to century, those who have faithfully chosen the other perspective are faced with shame once again.

Why I needed to write about this now: single people are tired of hearing what we can and can’t do from another married person, or what we haven’t experienced, or for what we must wait.  With a space like the fairly-progressive Christian Century, I was hoping that it was a safer space for single, divorced, widowed, cohabitating people, and anyone who doesn’t fit into a traditional marriage.  Because they chose not to split the space with a writer from another perspective, it did not feel like a safe space.

We aren’t all ready to marry at 22, or 25, or 30, or even 40.  We consistently and ethically evaluate when the right time to get married because we don’t want to marry at the wrong time, or in the wrong situation, or the wrong person.  We make the best decisions for us – and they’re not always perfect (no one person’s choices are completely perfect).

Many of us make choices throughout our lives to adhere to what is considered the popular Christian ethic regarding intimacy and others of us don’t.  Since shame was the first major thing that divided humans from God, we don’t want to place shame on others so that their relationships with God, neighbor and self is destroyed.

Looking at history, it seems as though people have been restricted from getting married – from slaves in the 19th century to racially diverse couples in the 20th century to LGBT people at the beginning of the 21st century.  It seems as though some people want marriage reserved for some and not other – maybe to keep privilege for themselves.  And even though some are open to marriage equality for all, they aren’t open to marital status equality for those who aren’t married.

If you are a true friend to single people, are you willing to advocate for equal tax breaks?  Are you willing to ensure that their insurance rates aren’t higher?  Are you willing to help them find a way to furnish their house instead of waiting for their magical significant other to arrive and wedding registries to become available?  Will you stop criticizing and shaming them on their relationship and sexual choices, knowing that not everyone can fit in some pretty marriage box?

I don’t think I can no longer sit silent as both conservative and progressive married people continue to “marriagesplain” us on how we should live our lives.  No person of any type of privilege should pigeonhole us and shame us even the slightest into fitting into another’s box no matter who we are on our life journey.

As the church and as faith leaders, please think about how you talk to someone of a different marital status.  How do your words encourage them, validate them as full humans, give them a sense of hope?  How have your words shamed them in the past, and what can you do differently with the next unmarried person you meet?

More needs to be written from the progressive single perspective as there are plenty of writings by married people telling singles how to live – and usually it’s same perspective: be chaste, save sex until marriage, if you don’t wait, you will be damaged.  Yet, single people are authentically wonderful just as they/we are, made in God’s image, and we want to be heard as well.

Willis Pershey is a gracious and open-minded writer who is willing to dialogue with others who hold other perspectives.  We should create opportunities to dialogue with clergy like her on difficult subjects such as sex.

I hope that in the near future I have the courage to read Very Married as I have heard amazing things about it and want to honor her work.  As I read the book, I’ll be sharing some of my “single girl” thoughts here.  At this point of my life, being very single for 43 years, watching everyone I know and love walk down the aisle to privilege, I still find it hard to step into that space.

So I ask all of you today to create spaces for the very married and very single to understand one another.  Until we can create those spaces, we singles will still dwindle in some purgatory until mindsets change or we change to fit into others’ view of what a complete human looks like.

This is an updated version of the post which I wrote last week in response to the Christian Century article.  Katherine Willis Pershey’s article can be found here.  Bromleigh  McClenegan’s response on the Christian Century’s site can be found here.  I would like to give gratitude to both clergy women as they are willing to engage one another and many of us on this difficult subject.