How Much of My Sin Can God Handle?


I first felt the fear in 2014 – there was a major, major sin I wanted, and I truly didn’t have it in me to walk away.

I remember thinking, Is this it? Is this the time when God isn’t going to hold onto me? Is He going to let me go?

By the grace of God, I did eventually walk away, but I toyed with that sin. I fantasized about it. I caressed it and fed into it. I nourished and protected an affection for it in my heart.

 

It happened to me again this semester. I longed for sin. Temptation came in the form of lies, selfishness, betrayal, arrogance, envy…

Even as I see those traits within myself, I long to indulge them. I long to have what other people have. I’ve been so good for so long, right? Don’t I deserve a break? Why doesn’t God love me enough to give me the desires of my heart?

Please, Abba. Stop doing this to me. Just hit me with an effing car the next time I go for a run. End this. Please. Your plans for me are too hard. I’m not enough. I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate this place. It would be better to die now. “To live is Christ. To die is gain.”

No, I’m not suicidal. I promise. I know it sounds like I am, but I’m not. I’m not even sad, really.

After about six weeks of caressing and guarding my sin this semester, the other thoughts hit me again: Is this it? Is God about to give up on me? Was this just a temporary grace, dependent on my ability to be a good girl?

In the Bible, there are sort of paradoxical and, dare I say it… conflicting… passages when it comes to the perseverance of the saints. The question is usually posed in the abstract: can a person really, truly be a Christian and eventually lose her salvation?

It isn’t an abstract question to me at all. It is the question that haunts me. Each time I come up against the broken and blackened parts of my heart, I ask that question.

God, is this the time when I’ve gone too far? Am I beyond Your salvation now? Don’t let me walk away. 

I am not a Christian because I want to be one. If my faith was dependent upon me to maintain it, I would have walked away long before now. I am sure of it.

There are really beautiful things about Christianity. There are parts of the Bible that are so shockingly delicate. So rich. So mysterious. So flowing and soft.

However, the beautiful is often obstructed by Fox News and the 2nd Amendment. Also, there’s that grotesque problem that Christianity is ultimately about the murder of God.

Partnering alongside the beautiful and the hideous that are both ever-present aspects of my faith, the honest truth about Christianity is that it’s the hardest thing in the world. Christianity requires me to entrust everything about who I am to a God I can never fully understand. It requires more than I have. More than I can ever give. It requires so much more than anyone can articulate or imagine. It requires the death of God. Yes, His resurrection too.

 

Coming up to the edge of myself is a humbling reminder that I am not a Christian because I have done anything to be one.

I am a Christian because I need Christ.

I am a Christian because I do not have it in me to walk away from sin.

I am a Christian because Christ intervened and intervenes on my behalf.

“Perseverance of the saints” is a nice, sanitized, and intellectual way of trying to figure out what happens when a Christian isn’t enough, within herself, to save herself… and shouldn’t the answer to that question be self-evident within a faith that’s entire canon seeks to answer that question…

 

 

School update: it’s Spring Break… my blood pressure is 142/73. My resting heart rate is 52. I’ve got a ton of reading to do. I’ve got papers to write. I have secured a summer job with the Office of Children’s Counsel (represents kids in custody battles). I continue to lose weight and have days in which I can’t make myself eat even close to a normal number of calories. I’ve admitted to myself that I can’t do all of the things I want to do, and will thus need to tell people no. Yet, I haven’t yet told anyone no. I found out I made the dean’s list last semester. I love two or three of my classes this semester. I hate one of my classes this semester. I continue to build amazing friendships with my peers. I love being surrounded by people who think about everything and engage their community with the hope of making it better.

 

 

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Theology Changes


Dear Readers,

My theology has changed.

I write that with a sense of fear, because it’s hard to let the people we love change.

About ten years ago, I fell in love with a gay Christian. I was melty for him, and I told him so… several times. He was kind to me about it. And honest. I watched him through one season of life in which he intended to remain celibate until he died. I watched him through another season, in which he hoped to someday love a woman and have a family. I believe he is now in a committed relationship with a man, although he and I don’t talk much anymore. It’s painful to stay friends with an unrequited love.

I loved him loyally for about five years. I watched him struggle. I struggled. And I did what I usually do when I can’t figure out my life.

I wrote.

In 2007, I began writing a manuscript about a character named Weston Stark who was living a heartbreaking question: If God loves me so much, why did He make me gay?

I thought it was important for Wes to simultaneously hold two truths. The first truth was that God is real. The second truth is that Wes was, and always would be, gay.

I started by doing research. I did interviews, including a gay Christian who dated men, a gay Christian undergoing Reparative Therapy, a lapsed Catholic who was gay and dating men, a bartender at the local gay bar, and a few others. Absent from my research were interviews with women. I wasn’t opposed to interviewing them, but none really popped up conveniently in my life, while it seemed like there was always another man I could ask for an interview.

Next, I dug into resources at the public library. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on, then I finished up my search with the World Wide Web. The one type of research I didn’t do was digging into the debate of whether God actually hates homosexuality. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to go there, but it was the one place I avoided in my research.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew the verses. For a few years of his life, Weston kept a note card taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, where he didn’t think his parents would find it. On it, was Leviticus 18:22. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I promise, I knew and still know the verses.

Ultimately, my research led me to the ending of Weston’s story: suicide.

I won’t recount the stats or reasoning behind that ending, but suffice it to say that I didn’t believe I could tell his story honestly with any other ending. I tried.

So, I wrote my manuscript. It was mostly completed by year five, but I’ve tinkered with it off-and-on ever since.

Flash forward to 2017.

At the beginning of the year, I felt really torn about homosexuality. After ten years of writing about it, after loving someone for whom it was often the central struggle of his life, and after researching it to death, I was no closer to harmonizing my own heart with what I believed to be the obligatory Christian stance.

My own stance went something like this: nothing in my heart condemns homosexuality. Nothing in my heart believes it’s sinful. I don’t feel any sense of ick about it. No anger or hatred. I have always had lots of gay friends and I adore them. But when I disagree with something I find in the Bible, I yield to God. Because He gets to decide right and wrong. I don’t get to decide.

Then, I started law school.

I met a friend who asked me all of the hard questions, repeatedly.

I started intensely studying the law and how to interpret and understand it, which has an awful lot in common with studying the Bible and how to interpret and understand it.

I decided it was time for me to go where I hadn’t been willing to go previously : Biblical interpretation.

I’ve been reading a lot. Obviously, I have to read for class, which is particularly interesting this semester because I have my first Constitutional Law class… basically I have a class that’s all about interpreting a text written a long time ago, but which we have to apply today. I have also not lost diligence with my Bible, and I’ve read a few Christian non-fiction books about homosexuality, the history of the Bible, and a memoir of a lesbian who converted to Christianity.

And the thing is, the nagging question isn’t whether homosexuality is a sin. It’s a question that’s important. It’s a question that’s relevant. It’s a question for which my answer has changed: I don’t think it’s a sin.

However, the bigger question really is: how do I read the Bible and get out of it what God wants me to get out of it?

I write all of this because I’m afraid that some of you will look on me with eyes of judgment because I no longer see what you see.

I’m still a Christian. I still rely solely on the mercy of a crucified Savior. I still read my Bible and pray on a near-daily basis.

I just think we’ve been reading the Bible wrong.

Here and now doesn’t seem like the time to go into why I think we’ve been reading it wrong. Mostly what I want to do here and now is be lazy. I could wait and have all of these conversations in due time, as they arise with each of you naturally, but it’s far easier for me to just put it out there and let you bring it up if it’s something you want to discuss.

I didn’t intend to change, nor did I change as abruptly as it probably looks like I’ve changed. I’ve been intensely arguing with myself and God for the past few months, but I’ve also been studying and thinking and praying and worrying for years. I’ve worked it out (and will continue to work it out) with much fear and trembling, and I’ve come to a clearing where I think I’m going to land for awhile.

That’s not to say that my theology won’t change again tomorrow. Sometimes that happens. It’s also not to say that I understand Biblical interpretation. I don’t. It’s a big issue and something I’m going to be actively seeking to understand for the foreseeable future.

In addition to my lazy purposes in writing this post, I guess I’m writing this in the hopes that you won’t assume. It’s easy to assume that all Christians hate gays. It’s easy to assume that the only right way to read the Bible is the way you read it.

But the truth of living a life committed to Christ is so much messier than that. The truth of Christianity is a decade of struggle followed by a realization that what I believe is not what I’m “supposed” to believe. What I believe is the kind of thing that makes lots of Christians really mad.

It’s cool if you’re mad… but I honestly doubt I’ll change my mind if you try to persuade me that I’m wrong. I might be wrong… or maybe you’re wrong. We’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

About the Evil Adolf Hitler


I’ve been learning about Hitler. Everyone kept comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, so I decided I wanted to know what Hitler was actually like. I wanted to know the details of his person, especially the things that had no connection to the evils he perpetrated. So I’ve been carting an enormous book to and from work with Hitler’s pic on the front. Such a book tends to start conversations.

Hitler is the epitome of evil. Whenever someone is looking for the most evil example of a human being, she evokes images of the Holocaust and the man who is most responsible.

Funny thing: when you actually study Hitler, you realize he was kind of artsy and adorable. I know he played a major role in the murders of millions, but if you take away everything he did as German Chancellor and Dictator, and only look at his personal life, you end up seeing him really differently. He wanted to be an artist. He loved going to the theater/symphony/museums. He loved his mom and carried a picture of her with him always. He was awkward with the ladies to the extent that people who knew him teased him as being prudish. He didn’t drink or smoke. He loved dogs and teaching them to do tricks. He was a vegetarian. I haven’t gotten far enough in the biography to be sure about this, but I’m pretty sure he only loved one woman in his life and was completely faithful to  her.

I bring this up because I had a fascinating conversation with my boss about human nature. My boss self-identifies as a Christian who believes that everyone is going to go to Heaven. She believes a lot of things that don’t really fit with the Christian Bible, and I’m not sure she realizes how many tenets of the faith she actually disagrees with… if she were aware, I think she might reconsider the label, or maybe she wouldn’t. She attends church and helps out with the youth group. She’s proud of her Christianity.

Somehow, my boss and I started talking about a documentary I recently watched, called Blindspot: Hitler’s Secretary. It’s a great movie. It’s really just interviews with Traudl Junge, who was one of Hitler’s secretaries, and actually dictated his last will and testament. She was in the bunker when he committed suicide, and she was completely lost to history until about 2001, when she told her story. In 2002, she died.

It’s one of the most engaging interviews I’ve ever watched, because she talks about how hard it was for her to discover the atrocities committed by Hitler, who she’d actually liked.

The weird thing about the conversation with my boss was that she was adamant that Hitler had done horrible things to his secretaries. She interrupted me to claim that he’d slept with them. She even implied that he raped them. And when I told her that wasn’t true, and that men actually teased him for being a prude, she said that he may not have slept with them, but he urinated on them. I told her there wasn’t any evidence of that, but she insisted that her husband had been watching some show that had that on it. I said I would believe it when she showed me a reliable source that corroborated her claim, because everything I’d read said that he was actually a very principled man in his personal life. I told her about his mom, his love of art, his dogs…

And she just wouldn’t believe that he could have been kind to his secretaries.

I said something like, “It must be hard to believe that he could be both kind and evil at the same time,” and she said it wasn’t possible.

This was the moment I probably should’ve turned back. After all, she is my boss. But I saw it as an opportunity, and she talks about Christianity to me nearly every week, telling me what she believes… so I figured it was fair game.

I said something about how all people have both evil and kindness in them; I do both kind and evil things.

She responded by saying that I might do evil things, but I’m not evil.

I told her that I am evil. Everyone is evil.

She acted as if it’s very unChristian of me to say such things and how could I say that? And I said that’s the point of Christianity. The fact that we’re evil is the whole point of salvation… our evil is what we need salvation from…

She said something about how if we look at the big picture like that, then sure… we’re all evil.

It’s difficult for a self-proclaimed Christian to argue that humans don’t need salvation from evil, but it’s hard for me to describe how much it worries me that her day-to-day beliefs suggest that a man can’t murder millions and yet love his mom. It worries me that she thinks murder is a different kind of evil that’s beyond the evil within her.

She and I were talking about infidelity a few months ago. I don’t remember how we got into that conversation either, but she was adamant that she could never forgive a man who cheated on his wife, and she was surprised I was willing to forgive.

It’s always eye-opening to me to talk to people who believe evil is a term that can only be applied to men who’ve done worse than they’ve done. My boss has never murdered or cheated on her spouse, so men who cheat and Adolf Hitler can rightfully be labeled as evil. She wasn’t comfortable labeling me as evil because I’m a victim advocate who helps out at my church. She isn’t comfortable labeling herself as evil… Evil is the slayer of a race, who urinates on his underlings, who was so bad he couldn’t possibly have been kind to anyone in his life. Evil isn’t the vegetarian prude, who dreamed of becoming an artist, loved one woman, loved dogs, and loved his mom… She (and so many self-proclaimed Christians) prefer the narrative where evil has nothing in common with us…

Loving Church


Since I was 19 or so, the church has been a hugely important part of my life, so when church isn’t going well, it wrecks me a little bit. It’s probably the equivalent of family not going well for someone else, partly because I’m a single woman living in a city without family, and partly because I’ve known the church’s potential for both good and evil. I’ve lived my life in the church, intimately connected… I’ve served, attended, hosted and led Bible studies, prayed corporately, eaten dinners, and sang together with the church… it’s hard to describe how much my sense of community and security is attached to the church, regardless of which church I attend or who is a part of that community.

My current church is not wrecking me.

With all of the rest of my life in an uproar – moving towards selling my house, taking the LSAT, looking for scholarships for Law School, losing friends, being without roommate Kendra, etc… – the church is an enormous comfort to me.

I’ve been attending Midtown Church for something like two ish (maybe three ish) years. When I landed there, it was after a long stretch of feeling like there might not be a church in the entire city of Tucson that was a good fit.

I’m a firm believer that churches are broken, and no one should expect to find the perfect church, but I’m also a firm believer that there are a few foundational elements that have to be right, and I feel completely blessed to be at a church where those foundational elements are right.

Midtown Church is prepping to merge with another church. Having been through a failed merge previously that sort of thrashed me around in the waves, you’d think I’d be worried, but it’s really nice that I’m not even remotely stirred up over it.

In large part, I’m not worried because I don’t feel like it’s my job to make it work. There’s a wonderful freedom in knowing that there’s someone else whose job it is to make it work, who is well-equipped to make it work. I’ve always struggled with finding the sweet-spot of church involvement, oscillating between over-involvement and under-involvement, but right now, I’m running a nice, sustainable pace.

I think about Mike sometimes (he was my pastor during the previous merge), and I feel a raging sadness at him, because he wasn’t ready, but couldn’t let go of it enough for anyone to help him. I’ve learned from watching my adoptive parents, my cousin, and Mike how difficult it really is to be a pastor. I have a great respect for the position. And as Brandon, Kira, and I were talking about the merge a few months ago, I realized how much peace I feel in entrusting myself to my current pastor.

Strong, humble leadership is a gift of unmeasurable worth

Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Vampires, and Donald Trump: a Theological Discussion


I read comic books. Regularly. Granted, my leaning in comic taste is towards social commentary and the obscure, so Batman and Superman aren’t my favorites. I’ve read comics about each of them and watched their movies, but neither is really a personal favorite. I should also disclose that I have a bias for the overtly good. The overwhelmingly good. The characters who would never use one of the unforgivable curses, regardless of how much sense it would make to use them. Yes, I am mixing my genres, but with Harry Potter walking to his death, sacrificing himself to save others, I think he probably fits into this discussion as well as anyone does.

I’m pretty proud of myself for, up until now, restraining from commenting on or even sharing the comments of others on, the current political climate. However, I’m going to try to bring together Superman, Batman, Donald Trump, Jesus, and a few others in one ridiculous blog post.

Let’s start with superheroes in general. Superheroes exist because humanity wants there to be superheroes. There is/was/always will be some sort of hole in the human heart that superheroes fill. I believe that heart hole is a fear that humans are the epitome of existence, and there is no one out there greater than we are to rescue us when things get bad. Superheroes replace that fear with hope.

Superman is the original superhero. Of course, that’s debatable – just ask Google. But, for our purposes, we’re going to consider him to be the first superhero. He entered the stage sort of in the midst of WW2 ish. Superman is superior to humanity in ALL ways, yet he lived as a human. He concerned himself with human concerns, and was, for all intents and purposes, Jesus. He was both human and god. He was completely selfless, sacrificing his own wants/needs to save people who didn’t even fully appreciate him. He never wavers in his goodness or tries to make the ends justify the means. Of course, the cannon does include evil superman stories, but those exist because they are distinctly NOT Superman. Sidenote: Superman also has some obvious Moses in him, but I’m going to ignore that for the purposes of this post.

Batman is the embodiment of everything Americans want to be. He’s rich. He’s athletic. He has the coolest of toys. He’s got a sidekick and a butler. He’s single-handedly populated Arkham Asylum with the baddies he’s defeated. It’s okay that Batman is dark and tragic (aka depressing), because he’s ultimately protecting the rest of us. I’ve been told that Batman is superior to Superman, because he is human and vulnerable, and therefore, it’s more badass that he wins fights, because his natural advantage over most baddies is negligible in contrast to Superman’s enormous advantage in most fights.

I’ve always hated Batman.

While I admired Heath Ledger’s performance, among others, in the Batman cannon, I’ve always hated that Batman is the anti-hero. He is what I would probably be if I were a superhero/superheroine; I’d be hurt by someone very early on in my story, and then I’d exact justice in an attempt to keep others from feeling what I’d felt. Batman is indisputably human… except that he’s a vampire. I’m not even going to qualify that statement, but I am going to say that vampires don’t sparkle, and neither does Bruce Wayne. He is a baddie we’ve tried to make into a good guy.

Superman has always appealed to me. I get that it’s frustrating that he can be really struggling in a fight and then muster all of his strength to finally win… but I also think it’s far more realistic that someone who is very much not like me would save me, as opposed to someone very like me saving me. Also, I think it’s telling that Superman’s villain, Lex Luthor, has A LOT in common with Batman. It makes me think that dirt and grime really do amount to dirt and grime, as opposed to the weird morality of dark heroes where dirt and grime actually amount to fairy dust.

Theologically, Superman is Jesus and Batman is Adam.

Jesus was a God Who became man and saved us from sin and ourselves. Adam was a man who learned of good and evil, and was thrust into an eternal battle that he was ill-equipped to wage, but continues to fight nonetheless.

Batman is an attempt to turn a man into a god.

That’s one of the reasons I hate him. He is an attempt to lower the standard to something that’s achievable by human means. Batman is the idea that you or I could wake up one day with enough motivation to make ourselves into gods.

We (American society/Hollwood/whoever) have been creating and watching A LOT of superhero stories in mainstream media lately. Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Batman v. Superman, Hulk, X-Men, Ant Man, Man of Steel, Iron Man, etc… We have been obsessed with characters who save the world when it’s doomed.

Prior to that, we were obsessed with the apocalyptic tale of waking up one morning to find that the world has turned to Hell and a handbasket overnight without our notice. I took a Horror Lit. and Film class in college that focused on what was scariest to us, and what my instructor pointed out was the wave of films in which we woke up and discovered that the world had broken, completely and possibly irreversibly, while we were sleeping… 28 days later, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead, Contagion, Signs, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend, The Book of ELi, etc…

Prior to that, the U.S. suffered September 11th.

I was in high school when September 11th occurred. I remember watching the news in Mr. Morrill’s English class and seeing a human being jump 100+ floors to his death. That moment shook me to my core. It changed the world to me. It showed me that the world is bad enough that it might be better to die than to live.

September 11th changed all of us.

It broke us, provided a rude awakening, and forced us to consider how the rest of the world sees us. We’ve looked to our future and seen struggle, hatred, and death.

I honestly think Donald Trump is going to become the next U.S. President.

I do.

I didn’t believe it until this week. I’m not sure what happened this week, but I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is unstoppable.

Not because he’s qualified – he’s not. He’s got about as much XP in navigating U.S. and world government as I have playing football.

He’s not unstoppable because he’s a decent leader who’s going to fix everything – he’s not. I’m pretty sure he’d sell any one of us to the Islamic nations he so disdains… if he believed it would bring him profit.

He’s actually kind of a big buffoon – a spectacle – who seems to succeed regardless of what he says or does. He’s Razzle Dazzle, and, in true Chicago style, he’s getting away with murder.

Donald Trump is an unstoppable force and he’s going to win because we refuse to believe the Savior we need is One Who is completely different from ourselves. He’s going to win because he’s presented himself as the savior we’ve been seeking. Donald Trump is going to win because September 11th made us feel the impotence that’s always been ours (not to mention the recession that amplified our impotence). What more can we desire for our primary representative than a man who has whatever woman he wants, insults whomever he wants, has cool gadgets and a butler, and claims to be the only person on Earth who can make us strong again? What is America if not a land of extreme power and transcendence… just like Donald Trump is a man of extreme power and transcendence? He is a man who not only builds walls, but persuades the neighbors, who he hates, to build his walls for him. He is a man who wields power as if it doesn’t require caution. He is the American savior. He is the vampire we’ve been waiting to climb into our bedrooms at night, the millionaire we’ve hoped would teach us about sex, the dark hero, whose dirt and grime is actually sparkly pixy dust…

Donald Trump is the fiction we’ve been writing to ourselves for decades.

He has taken the stories of our worst, post-September 11th fears, and combined them with the stories of our last hope in combating world destruction. He has written himself as the Dark Knight who is uniquely-qualified to foil those evil, Islamic aliens who wish to kill off all of humanity to rebuild their own society in its place.

…We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!  We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Isn’t it interesting how America and its holiday somehow transcended all other nations to defeat the evil alien invaders? Even in our stories in which we are united with all of the rest of the world, we unite under the U.S. banner, the banner that believes we are the leaders of the world. Our fiction for as long as I can remember has told the story Donald Trump has claimed as his own. Beware the man who tells you what you want to hear.

I’m not saying you should vote for Hillary. Hillary is NOT invited to this post. The ONLY concern of this post is the frightful prospect that Batman/Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Donald Trump has bamboozled a nation… he’s not only deceived a “Christian” nation into believing that he’s the “Christian” candidate, but he’s masqueraded as if he, himself is Jesus Christ.

Donald Trump is NOT the Christian candidate. He is NOT a savior.

Thoughts and Prayers Ring Hollow in the Presence of a Corpse


John Scalzi wrote a blog post in response to Orlando, and his basic thesis was that it’s not enough to offer thoughts and prayers after the fact. He cited Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:21-23, and even though I’m fairly certain he labels himself as something other than a Christian, I thought his point was right on.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to post on Facebook that your thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and families affected by tragedy, but I do feel a grating on my nerves every time I see one of those posts.

I had my first Victim Services call where I was in the presence of a corpse. It was a man who had gone out in his backyard to garden and whatnot, and instead, he ended up collapsing face-first and dying there in his yard. By the time his wife found him, ants were crawling on him and the blood had settled into his front half and toward the ground.

I stood with the deceased’s brother-in-law while law enforcement checked the body for personal items.

It was a humbling experience.

As I stood there, I prayed. I always pray when I go out on calls, because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God hears me even though the people around me don’t hear me. So don’t take this the wrong way, but my prayers would have been hollow if I hadn’t also been there. If I hadn’t stopped what I was doing and gone there.

Right? What if I had received the call, decided there wasn’t anything I could do to be of help, and just posted on Facebook, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family of the man who died in his backyard…”?

If I posted that, you’d think I’m a lunatic. You’d probably be like, “Wtf?”

And yet, that’s what we do with tragedy. We (by we, I mean Christians… not all Christians, but a lot of us) are conspicuously uninvolved when it comes to the broken world around us. We offer our thoughts and prayers, and then we go about the business of living.

I’m feeling particularly stirred up about this right at the moment, because it has been non-stop questions and weird comments since I started volunteering with Victim Services.

Why did you decide to do that? I’m so sorry you had to see that.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to know why… I think they thought they were asking me why I chose Victim Services rather than something else, but it took me a long time to think of it that way. I honestly thought they were asking me a question with a self-evident answer: I decided to do it because it’s good to help people.

That’s honestly the only answer I have. I didn’t exactly choose it over something else. There wasn’t a profound epiphany or a message from God. There was an opportunity to help others. Roommate Kendra had been talking about it, and I thought I was probably capable of doing it, so I decided to do it.

I don’t believe helping people is a choice. I believe it’s an ethical mandate. I believe it’s about saying yes when an opportunity is in front of you, rather than sidestepping it and hoping for something that’s a little less daunting. I don’t think the Good Samaritan just happened to find exactly the opportunity he was looking for; I think he was walking along and came across someone who needed help. Well… I was walking along and my roommate told me about people who need help.

It’s not about Victim Services; it’s about being what we pretend to be. I can write a status update that says, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Orlando,” or I can take an extra shift on the crisis unit and I can donate blood.

As far as saying things like, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” or “I’m sorry you experienced that…” I’m sort of at a loss. You’re sorry I had to see… the brokenness of the world, up-close? You’re sorry I had to experience being there for someone who’d experienced great loss? I just…

Volunteering for Victim Services isn’t an unveiling of the world for me. There are calls that haunt me, for sure, but the world is as it always was. People are sinful and they wound each other. People die. Limiting my interaction with tragedy to New York Times articles and status updates doesn’t change the world… it doesn’t help anyone. It honestly doesn’t even help me sleep better or feel safe.

I stood next to a stranger this weekend and talked to him while his brother in law laid in the sun under a tarp. We talked about all of the losses he’d seen in his life. We talked about God, family, history… we talked. And a police officer went through pockets and struggled to get jewelry off of hot, swollen fingers and a swollen wrist. The stranger I was talking to was there because that’s what he could offer his sister, the spouse of the deceased; he could stand outside in the 115 degree heat while she cried inside. I was there because that’s what I could offer them both; I could stand in the heat and talk so that this stranger didn’t have to be alone when law enforcement put the rings, wrist watch, and pocket contents of a beloved corpse into his hands.

I hope and pray that when tragedy strikes me you will offer more than a Facebook post.

The Sanitization of Christ: People Cannot be Good Enough


I’ve really struggled with how to write this post. This is the third post in a series that I expected to have finished writing by now, but I got hung up writing this one.

If you want to look at the other two posts in this series, you can scroll and click and find them yourself, because I’m too lazy to give you a link.

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The important doctrine to believe here is that no person can be good enough to earn her own salvation. The problem I’m having with this post is that morality does not have a straight-forward, simple function within Christianity. Morality is important in Christianity, even crucial, but it’s also paradoxically unimportant.

It’s confusing, even if the sole influence on your beliefs about morality is the Bible. However, most people are also influenced by strange beliefs that have nothing to do with the Bible. Take, for instance, the scales at the pearly gates. Someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that a person’s morality will be weighed, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, she’ll get admitted into Heaven. Problem: these scales are not at all Biblical.

Another complication with this post is how desperately I want to rely on the Old Testament for my biblical support. I said I wasn’t going to do that, but the Old Testament is morality-heavy. Reading the book of Leviticus is all it really takes for me to realize that I am not capable of living up to the law of God.

So… with those complications/challenges in mind, let us strike out into the land of Things the Bible does actually say:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

I have to use these two verses as building blocks. I tried not to, because I’d rather have three verses that state my point, rather than building a foundation to my point, but I really don’t see a way not to start here.

First, “the wages of sin is death…” this means that there is a cost of sin, and that cost is death. There is some interesting interchanging going on with the word death, because it could probably mean both physical death and spiritual death. Regardless, we have to start out by understanding that there is a cost that must be paid for every sin.

Second, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” this is pretty explicit; all people sin.

Third, “the free gift of God is eternal life…” Gifts are given, while trophies are earned. Trying to earn a gift is actually kind of offensive. If I give you a book because we’re friends, and you go online, find out how much the book costs, and give me the dollar amount tomorrow, I’m going to be pissed, because you clearly don’t understand the nature of gifts.

*There is more we can dig out of those two verses, and I didn’t want to cut off anything about God and Jesus, but I’m going to move forward.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

This is the classic verse that Christians quote to prove this point, and it’s a good one, because it explicitly states that a person’s salvation is not of her own doing.

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“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

This is also a passage that lots of Christians know and quote. I’m using it because the verse from Ephesians stops short of explaining what/Who the gift is that saves us. This verse addresses that, and I want to spend some time on it.

Unfortunately, John 14:6 is a verse that’s often wielded, like a weapon, against anyone who isn’t a Christian. It’s something people use to say that people who don’t believe in Jesus are going to burn in Hell, and I suppose it’s effective for that, but I want to go back to just a scoash before this verse, because I think Jesus spoke those words as a comfort, rather than a battering ram. Also, I think the chapter break interrupts an important flow.

John, chapter 13 deals with the Last Supper. It’s a gorgeous depth of the final things Jesus tells His disciples. It’s Him washing their feet, telling them to love one another after He’s gone. The chapter comes to a close when Peter asks Jesus where He is going and, in his arrogance, Peter basically says, “I’ll follow you anywhere. I will die for You.” Jesus corrects Peter and says that actually he (Peter) is going to betray Him (Jesus).

Then the chapter ends.

However, in the very next verse, Jesus tells the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and I feel like it’s meant to flow. You are going to deny me three times, but don’t get caught up on that. There’s something more important…

I’ve not read this anywhere. I’ve not looked at commentaries, so we are purely in the land of Katie reading a passage and explaining what she thinks it means.

I believe Jesus is trying to show the disciples that their betrayals of Him should not break them. If they will believe in God and believe in Him (Jesus) – trust that He is preparing a place for them in Heaven, then they will be with Him and the Father in Heaven. I believe He is affectionately comforting them that when they betray Him, they need not hang themselves, because their salvation never rested in their own choices and actions. It always rested only in Him. They don’t need a map so that they can follow Him. They don’t need to know where He is going… He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and He has and will take care of all they require.

I think this verse is really a gentle, beautiful verse, because it’s God telling us He will pay the wages of our betrayal of Him.

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The point of the gospel – the point of Christianity – is that no one is good enough. That’s why Jesus came to Earth. That’s why He was tempted, but did not betray His Father. That’s why He died. He paid wages that no one else can pay.