A Critique of Today’s Guardian


I want to look at a headline in today’s Guardian with a critical eye. It’s called, “Putin’s disturbing message for the west: your rules don’t apply: Litinenko findings further highlight Russian president’s paranoid nationalism and international indifference.”

The headline caught my attention this morning because it is so didactic. The Guardian isn’t even pretending at subtlety anymore—its headlines now conveniently contain the reader’s expected reaction. There are two ways to read “disturbing:” One: that the Guardian assumes its readers will be disturbed. In that case, subtlety is best. A good comedian does not say, “This joke will really make you laugh: here I go!” It’s cringe-worthy in both cases. The second way is that the journalist himself thought it was disturbing. That is a good way to write opinion columns and a bad way to write news. If the journalist was confident enough that Putin’s attitude was disturbing, he could have easily said, “Putin’s Message to the West: Your Rules Don’t Apply,” and the journalist could go on to defend that gathering (that Putin’s message is indeed “your rules don’t apply,”) in a reasonable and logical way (the journalist does not do that very well). May I please have the information about Putin’s “message for the west” before I decide if I am disturbed? Maybe I will be disturbed, but to inform me of my own future reaction has put me off right from the very start.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 6.07.23 PM.pngPrepare to be “disturbed,” Guardian readers. Putin has said something that will disturb you. Read on! The Guardian has slipped into the clickbait habits of some of its internet-born fellows like BuzzFeed, introducing the story with a cliff-hanger. In my experience, a hefty headline like this must lead to a let-down of a story. In an age of over-hype, I am exhausted. The same way we have all learned to identify a clickbait headline or an ad, we are beginning to know how to identify a tabloid: over-hype. What I want is straight-forwardness. Of course there will always be bias in news, but I predict (and hope for) a quick shift as readers learn to trust news and distrust tabloids. Tell me the news and tell it plain. Stop with the clickbait.

Is it too much to hope for that a newspaper could print a news story that is really just facts about events? Maybe a bit of a catch up on the history of the situation? Could the journalist at least pretend to make an effort to hide biases? It comes down to a lack of trust of the reader—The Guardian thinks it knows what its readers should think about this, so they leave fact holes in the story and a big shiny red button of a headline. I hope readers notice when they’re being talked down to and I hope they stay skeptical.

A Critique of Today’s Guardian

The NorthWest [Montana, Idaho, & Washington]

Thanks for keeping up, friends. Here’s our latest progress:

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August 12: We did our fair share of exploring the beautiful town of Helena, Montana. Our friend Kellea gave us a tour of the Montana Club, a member’s only historical club with a more than chilling basement bar. On her advice, we also checked out the Fire Tower Coffeehouse (whose manager was both Iowan and Norwegian) and MY FAVORITE so far: the BlackFoot Tap Room. This gem shocked us with great beer, social atmosphere, and free popcorn. 🙂 I recommend the Saison IPA. We thought it was funny that Montana State Law limits individual consumption to 48 oz. per day at a brewery, so everyone’s going around with these check mark cards making sure they don’t go over the state limit. This brewery would be my favorite even if it was situated amongst my other faves in London. Way to go, Helena. url That night we ventured past Idaho and into Spokane. Passing through Idaho got me thinking…Washington and Montana both sound cool to me. Why does Idaho not? It’s a tiny strip of land in between. I challenge the marketing department of Idaho to step their game up.

August 13: The next day was a rush to see the amazing Julia in Seattle. A day filled with driving and then the reward: Char & Julia happy in their amazing apartment in Capital Hill (a REALLY cool neighborhood in Seattle). Julia cooked us steak and Char tempted us with ice cream, and they were just generally and predictably entertaining and hilarious. It was good to see faces from home, not to mention a very exciting night of excursion into Seattle, which we found out upon arrival was the prominent gay neighborhood (which is a good sign you’ve found the right place). Rune took this picture of me as part of a series of me eating cheesy snacks in different cities and countries. True story: once in Barcelona I had my hand inside a bag of cheetos and then I slipped on dog poop (doop?) and if he wouldn’t have caught me I would have lost my life to that doop. Hi Rune’s friends and family who I haven’t yet met! This should be a great introduction. IMG_4656

August 14: We bummed around the city for a while before heading to a nearby state park for more camping. We’re pros, by now. Seriously. I’ve got my ears open for any camping olympics. Or if anyone wants to challenge us to a camp-off…we’re going to beat you.

August 15: We hopped on the ferry to the beautiful San Juan Island Archipelago(Orcas Island, disappointingly not pronounced like the plural of Orca, but more like orcus. But they’re not fooling anyone). Ferries are insane. You drive onto a boat and then they take you to an island and then you drive off. I thought this would cost a thousand dollars but only like, 30 each way. WOW, Washington. Way to figure this out. And Norway, I guess, who I’m told…has also figured this out. But I have yet to see proof of that. IMG_4657

August 16: We’ve spent most of today regrouping, planning tomorrow’s whale excursion, and working online in local cafes. For anyone who doesn’t know, we’re psycho about Orca Whales and we’re going on a boat tomorrow to try to see them jump around and maybe into our arms to take home. The dream was that we could maybe pitch a tent on the beach and they would nudge us awake, but so far we’re mostly being woken up by Oregon kids practicing Harry Potter spells with sticks.

Wish us whales!! I’ll leave you with this lovely photo Rune captured of me on the ferry. A gift for photography, that man has. IMG_4662

The NorthWest [Montana, Idaho, & Washington]

The NorthWest Trip

Hey! Here’s a quick update of our lives if anyone wants to keep up. We’ve embarked on a journey of sorts, mostly engineered by Rune due to his need to see every inch of the world, which we’ve done a pretty good job of so far. One of our goals is to leave ourselves as much freedom as we can so we can do freelance work, read, and stay or leave a place as we please. We find camping pretty conducive to this lifestyle because unless we’re trying to camp in a National Park, we don’t need much planning involved. That’s been fun. Here’s the day to day:

August 3: We left Sioux City, Iowa for Sioux Falls, South Dakota for some reconnection with old friends and teachers.


Thanks to hospitality all around, we’ve been coming and going from this nice place throughout the past time in Iowa (Thanks Kari & Lori!). Half way to Sioux Falls we realized we left our tent behind…but Dr. Cole kindly lent us a (6-person!) tent.IMG_20150805_075655

August 4: In the morning, we headed for the Badlands, which has been our longest drive yet (give or take 5 hours?). Of course, at least 10 people had told us about how South Dakota dramatically changes at Chamberlain, but nothing could have quite prepared us for the planet transplant that the Badlands is. All I can say is…Mars with Buffalo. Rune got pretty excited about something called Prairie Dog Town. We were also recovering from the shock of exchanging civilization for the hundreds of thousands of bikers now accompanying us on a pilgrimage to Sturgis, SD for the annual biker rally. They were surprisingly friendly. This was our first day camping, which went pretty well, although we hadn’t quite gotten to figuring out the food situation….so we headed to Wall, SD and enjoyed some Subway. There wasn’t water at our free campground, so we felt a lot like actual pioneers, who crossed the same path not so long ago in history.


August 5: We ventured early to Mt. Rushmore where we saw the Black Hills and also a biker man propose to his biker lady (there were a lot of bikers). This day was a lot about figuring Rapid City out (a notable coffee shop called Alternative Fuels). We managed to track down a camping stove and some taco ingredients and headed back to camp to enjoy what would be the real excitement: a gigantic thunderstorm. We cooked in the tent as the rain and wind hammered the sides and threatened to uproot the tent. It lasted from our dinner until 2 in the morning and managed to collapse half the tent. We didn’t sleep much, and found out that the Badlands are basically a wind tunnel.


August 6: We woke up to a messy, half-collapsed lake of a tent (most of our stuff managed to stay magically dry).  And spent the morning trying to clean and dry everything. Looking back now, I can’t believe how much smoother camping has gone since that day, which was definitely a low point in our belief that we could manage versus the weather. I blame my American Literature classes for the fact that during that thunderstorm, I couldn’t stop explaining to Rune the literary movement of Naturalism, in which some authors contended humans continue a futile struggle to control the world around them….anyway, we thought we were clever for finding clean and suitable showers along with the afternoon’s entertainment at the Rapid City Public Pool. In our bravest moment, we decided to drop on by the Sturgis Bike Rally out of curiosity. After about an hour, we felt like we had seen everything there was to see of Biker culture. Saying goodbye to the South Dakota, we trekked on through Wyoming to marvel at Devil’s Tower (which kept sneaking up behind me in the car’s mirror’s and scaring me like a suspiciously sentient landmark…. Let’s just say it’s weird and amazing and whoever named it is a genius, and I completely understand why Native people regard it as sacred land.


August 7: We left Sheridan Wyoming with hopes of Montana. Rune had his first Buffalo Wild Wings experience in Billings, (“it was good.”) and we spent most of the day looking at the horizon as we drove. Which, I must admit, was not something to complain about. When we got to our AirB&B in Paradise Valley, Montana (we were taking a short break from camping to dry out our stuff and renew our rugged spirits), we were greeted by a cowboy who gave us a giant, “historical replica” TeePee to ourselves. The guy gave us an enrapturing lecture on the volcano that is Yellowstone and got us pretty anxious to set up camp the next day on yet another strange planet: Yellowstone National Park. We caught a local beer in a nearby saloon (they call it that) and had a nice long talk with the bartender who gave us some advice on how to see wildlife but not get eaten by it.


August 8: We finally set up camp in Yellowstone Park. We had to get there before 11 AM to get a spot in one of the park’s campgrounds, which we did (surprisingly) successfully. The campground was extraordinary and we spent most of the day setting up, getting organized, and pointing at birds and elk. The wildlife is not a joke in Yellowstone…it’s actually a semi-dangerous place, so we had a lot of rules to follow that involved keeping food in safe places and disposing of dish water in specific ways, etc. The punishment to breaking these rules could be an actual bear attack, so we were careful. We never saw any bears (happy & sad about that), but plenty of other wildlife. In the evening we jumped in a hot spring and hung out for way too long. It’s moments like those that make me argue with the Literary Naturalists.


August 9: We took the lonngggg driving tour of Yellowstone Park, which can only be justified by pictures (if that). Rune’s favorite was Old Faithful (why?) and mine was the concept that we were hiking around an overdue underground volcano that could erupt at any moment surging the earth into the next ice age.

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August 10: We splurged on a horseback riding tour, which was very worth it.


August 11: Saying goodbye to Yellowstone was sad, but we trekked through the rest of Montana to hang out in Bozeman and then Helena, which are extraordinary. We found so much local life (not to mention breweries everywhere) but the highlight was getting to the Nichols’ home, who welcomed us with Elk Spaghetti and a very enthusiastic history of Montana which completely won us over. Their mountain view didn’t hurt either.

Stay tuned if you’d like! We’ll be at it for a few more weeks and hopefully keeping good track.

The NorthWest Trip

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is in its Sixth Season free online. The concept is that Jerry calls up a famous comedian, asks them to come out for coffee with him, and treats them to a ride in a sports car he has picked out for them personally. He tells us a lot about the car and then explains why the car is a symbol of the person he’s about to hang out with. The show, without meaning to be, has become an example of comedy’s shift: Jerry is the face of my father’s generation of comedy. If you, like me, are now watching the entirety of Seinfeld on Hulu, you’re probably discovering the origin of jokes told, retold, and satirized for a generation. He’s a legend; that’s obvious. Although, I think to watch Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is to see Seinfeld’s cluelessness regarding the change in the genre he captained for so long. He’s famous for observational humor, which he does impeccably, but to watch Comedians is to watch Seinfeld oblivious to the genre he influenced that has long changed into something he doesn’t recognize.

Comedians is awkward, and this is nice sometimes, but there are times when I feel bad for Jerry. He’s putting himself into a car with another comedian, and the insights they catch are sometimes priceless, like the very first episode with Larry David, the producer of Seinfeld: the two are friends; they’re clearly like-minded. They have the same ideas about what comedy is–about what’s funny. They keep each other laughing during the entire outing. There are others, like the episode with Ricky Gervais, in which the two are clearly going in different directions. Seinfeld with his pithy dad-jokes; his famous one-liners, and Gervais with extremely dry and characteristically British humor, saying things like, “We’re going to bloody die in this car” without laughing at all, or signaling that he thinks he’s being funny. Jerry might laugh a bit awkwardly at this, waiting for Gervais to break. When Gervais doesn’t, sometimes the camera cuts. There are hits and misses throughout the series, and if you can put up with Seinfeld’s discomfort, the misses are often more poignant than the hits.

The misses are great because we, who know Jerry Seinfeld, are watching him navigate the rapidly changing world of comedy. It’s remarkable, for instance, that the first season contains 12 men, not including Seinfeld, and not one single woman. This production decision, intentional or not, reinforces the show’s old (tired) world belief that women aren’t funny. While the genre kissed that notion goodbye years ago (with the exception of that one jerk everyone’s got in their Twitter timeline), this show seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that you can’t get away with that kind of thing anymore. To release a season of comedy interviews with 13 men (12 of them white) and 0 women is to miss a very heavy half of the genre. They’re waving a huge red flag that says “We’re 10 years behind!” The only disservice they’re doing is to themselves; comedy fans now have access to the brilliance of Fey/Poehler, Wiig/McCarthy, McKinnon/Bryant/Strong, etc., etc., a few clicks away on Hulu, not to mention other fringe comedy outlets like Weird Twitter and Youtube that are not dictated by the iron fist of Saturday Night Live.

Someone must have clued the producer of Comedians in on this after the first season, because their half-hearted effort to make up for the first all-male season includes what looks an awful lot like a token woman or two in the next five seasons. Scrolling through the list, you’ll definitely recognize the women, although a lot of the men are lesser known: Tina Fey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer. They’re no-brainers. I don’t see much effort to dig deep. Like Seinfeld’s cars, the comedians he picks seem to be chosen with a taste for the classics.

The show is really enjoyable and most of the guests are hilarious regardless of their chemistry with Seinfeld. The irony may be in Seinfeld’s introduction to each show: his explanation of all the features of the classic car he and his guest will be touring in. I can’t imagine a more old-world gimmick for a show about comedy than a tour of a classic car. It’s nice to see Jerry care about Corvettes and BMWs because we love Jerry, but that’s a niche interest. That’s an interest my dad– even my grandfather and his friends might talk about. It’s a show of wealth, age, and male domain. It’s good that Seinfeld’s doing his old-car, all-man thing if that’s what comedy means to him, but it’s also refreshing to see this show as a dramatically ironic reminisce of a time that’s gone.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Better Call Saul, Lilyhammer, Hillary Clinton

Let’s Chit and Chat about pop culture according to my humble opinion.


The Good:


Let’s start with the obvious: AMC’s Better Call Saul is not surprising anyone with its quick wit and dramatic plot. We saw and loved that writing in Breaking Bad. BCS surprised me in surpassing Breaking Bad with its intimate character insights and consistent sense of humor that doesn’t stunt or lighten the drama. Jimmy, the main character of BCS (Bob Odenkirk) is a less conflicted but not less interesting protagonist than Walter White was. I find BCS a refreshing experience because, god forbid, I actually like the main character. It’s a bit more classic of a show formula–an underdog working up in the world, but his moral compass combined with his tendency to wind up in the underworld is enough to keep the show more than interesting. Every episode of the first season was stand-alone satisfying even though the show taunts you with tantalizing cliff hangers in the last five minutes of almost every episode the way Breaking Bad used to. The show’s not yet airing on American Netflix (one of the only Netflixual perks of living in Britain, trust me). Although we see returning characters from Breaking Bad (notably the alternate story line in BCS, Mike Ehrmantraut’s), the show immediately takes on a pace of its own. It doesn’t rely on Breaking Bad the way I expected it to. I don’t hesitate to say that after the first season, in my book, Better Call Saul surpasses its predecessor.


The Bad:


As much as I appreciated Netflix’s original series Lilyhammer at first, the novelty of an American mobster moving to Norway wore off fast as stereotypes and formula took over the show. The third season only gets worse as the show fails to acknowledge Johnny’s (played by Steven Van Zandt) hypocrisy. His hypermasculinity in a Scandinavian country was also pretty funny in the first season but just becomes painful as he makes woman after woman into objects of his conquest for power of a Norwegian town. He intervenes with muscle when a Muslim man won’t shake a woman’s hand (he’s supposed to be the hero for feminism in this scenario, apparently) but the show fails to acknowledge his hypocrisy as the owner of a strip bar who hires his waitresses out as sex workers and overlooks their physical abuse by patrons. The show’s occasional chuckle isn’t worth my constant cringe. Is racism and sexism still where we are in comedy? What year is it? I would complain that the few women in the show have no character depth, but the men don’t either.


The Ugly:


The ugliest thing happening in my sphere lately are people’s ridiculous reactions to Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. How often are we going to talk about her husband? How much are we going to talk about the Lewinsky scandal? How many times am I going to hear what color she should dye her hair or what color suit looks better on her? Please, someone tell me this is just a short phase people are going through and that I won’t have to hear this kind of garbage for the next year and a half? Why am I hearing, “I know she’s a woman, but I actually disagree on her foreign policies.” Let me help y’all by correcting that sentence: “I actually disagree on her foreign policies.” It’s as simple as that! You don’t need to apologize for criticizing her and you don’t need to feel any specific way because she is a woman. The most feminist thing to do is treat Hillary Clinton consistently with the way you treat every other politician. Isn’t this obvious?? Again, someone enlighten me with the year. So, I guess if you insist on critiquing her fashion sense, please spend the same amount of time doing this to Scott Walker. Or better, spare us.

Better Call Saul, Lilyhammer, Hillary Clinton

New Adventures: Finding Good Coffee in London

It’s been about a year since the last blog post went up, and hopefully I’m going to switch gears here a bit. College graduation happened in May at which I said teary goodbyes to my remarkable professors and some great friends at USF—it has to be a testament to the impact my English professors have had on me that I’m reading David Foster Wallace’s whopping, thousand-paged Infinite Jest simply for kicks and am loving every minute of it. Now I’m preparing for my next adventure: a year volunteering overseas with an incredible organization called L’Arche International.


I discovered L’Arche after reading a book by Henri Nouwen about his experience working with the organization in Canada (the book is called Adam). Basically, L’Arche grows communities with people who have special needs by creating group homes where people with and without special needs can live together in supportive partnership. Many of the group homes have about four people who have special needs and four people who do not. They are grouped in a community environment and asked to help each other live the best lives they can—whatever that means for each individual. Many of the residents of the homes work their own job or go to school, some help in the community garden, and others live a more relaxed pace with support from the assistants. My community will be in a neighborhood called Lambeth in London. I chose this organization because of its philosophies of mutuality (not as much a caretaking situation as it is an actually authentic house of family-like fellowship), its policies on spiritual lives (supportive but not forceful or required), and its ratio of people with special needs to people without special needs (often 1:1, which is basically unheard of). One of my favorite things about L’Arche is that it celebrates excessively. I’m talking about all-day birthday parties, singing and dancing and cake (Do they have cake in England?).


I chose this specific community in Lambeth, London (the organization has communities all over the world) for several reasons: One, I speak the language (mostly…), Two, I hope to use the location as a chance to really immerse myself in both a big-city setting and in another culture, and Three, I hope to use the location as a platform for a bit of no-pressure, weekend-trip-or-two, European travel.


I chose the field because I feel most myself when I am with people who have special needs. I feel like I am with family. I love the honesty and the pace of life and I feel authentically valued for everything I am, no exceptions. I am excited for the trip and the travel, yes, but I am much more excited to meet the people who I will live with for the next year and for the things I hope to learn from them. Pardon the cliché, but I really mean that, because there are so many things about living in London that I have no idea how to manage. First of all, apparently people don’t drink coffee there. I’m going to need a lot of help navigating that whole fiasco, and I’ll need the people in my house’s help to find a place that will sell/make me coffee. I’m also fairly directionally challenged, and the people living in my house will have experience with the transportation systems and with the city in general. I am truly looking forward to the opportunities to open myself up to learning from them.


Here's a side-note, I got to see the pope at the vatican a few weeks ago. :)
Here’s a side-note, I got to see the pope at the vatican a few weeks ago!

I think the best things happen when I let experiences change me, and that’s what I want from this. No-expectation, ready-for-anything, encountering and experiencing openly.


A lot of the specifics of what my time will involve are still fuzzy, but I hope to keep everyone informed as much as I can as I get over there, move in, and start training. I’d love feedback from anyone about your experiences in this field or in this country, from what I should pack to what I should do while I’m there. I’d love any contacts you’d like to share with me. I’d even love to complain together about how tough it is to navigate the visa system (seriously…). Thanks for sticking with me, all of you! I leave on July 15th, and until then you’ll find me in Sioux City, Iowa, reading Foster Wallace and watching Travel with Rick Steves until I drop.

New Adventures: Finding Good Coffee in London

The F Word As A Tool of Empowerment

From an early age, I knew “feminist” was a bad word. Flirty boys in middle school youth group would tell me tired old “woman jokes” to get a reaction, but to prove that I was cool and easy-going I told the boys that kind of thing didn’t bother me. And it really didn’t. “I’m like, the opposite of a feminist,” I would tell them proudly, “none of that makes me mad.” It didn’t—I had great, kind men and strong women in my life, and my adolescent heart just didn’t see a need for the likes of the F word.

But nothing will bring out your inner feminist like college. I started to meet guys—for the first time in my life—that didn’t respect who I was as a person. They treated me with indifference (a well-known goodie two-shoes at the time, and already dating someone) as they fixated on the very single “party girls.” I would walk into a fellow freshman’s room to see his conspicuous poster of girls in swimsuits and my sense of worth would immediately shrink. As a theology major, I participated in classroom debates about “The Woman’s Issue” as male classmates reassured me that the Bible was very clear on the concept of women in leadership, but that children’s ministry was there for the taking! I met with a seminary recruiter who told me with sincere kindness that he thought I would be successful in ministry despite my gender. As all this built up, I overheard someone say in a coffee shop that “all feminism means is that you support equal rights for women. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter if you wear makeup or not, whether you are married or single. It doesn’t even matter if you choose to label yourself as such.” I didn’t believe the guy. I looked up the dictionary definition of feminism, dictionary-trusting English major that I am. He was right.

I had never considered myself a feminist before—feminists were mean and angry and boys didn’t like them. I was hurt though. I was hurt by the way I had been treated and the way other women had been treated. My mother had been refused a “breadwinner” bonus in the catholic high school that she taught physics because women aren’t supposed to be breadwinners. I was a little embarrassed to be a woman and I was angry that I was embarrassed. Periods are disgusting, the shape of breasts should be covered up, and just about every insult I heard every day could be unraveled to basically mean “woman.” My eyes were suddenly opened to the secret messages the world had been hurling at me since I was born. Chances are, no woman will make it to the cover of Sports Illustrated unless she’s wearing a bikini. Because what a woman does matters less than what she looks like. I listened to the nation’s endless obsession with the appearances of Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. “Your worth,” the world said, “is in how much men like you. And men like [insert bikini model’s name]. Try as hard as you can to become her.” Suddenly, all the time I spent shaving my legs, putting on make-up, toning my abs, smiling when I didn’t feel like it, shopping for push-up bras…they were all just ways I could make myself more appealing to men. A male friend tweeted, “Yoga pants should have a weight limit.” The world said, “Work hard to make their worlds more aesthetically pleasing.”

So I guess, instead of explaining the extent of my frustrations when someone asked me, I found it easier to say, “I’m a feminist.” The word packed a punch and I liked that. It made people a little uncomfortable. Those of you on a coast or in a big city that think I’m exaggerating, I dare you to drop by any town in South Dakota, engage in conversation with someone in a public place, and drop the F bomb in regards to your beliefs. Chances are they’ll treat you like you proclaimed your loyalty to the anarchist revolution. In my experience, the conversation will either end or get so condescending that you’ll have to excuse yourself.

A male friend once questioned my use of the word: “It’s so violent. I mean, right or wrong it just has the connotation that women want to overpower men.” I was very cautious in asserting myself in this matter (and most matters, honestly). I didn’t want to seem to aggressive or mean. I wanted him to still like me. “I guess ‘equalist’ does the concept justice,” I said, and I used “equalist” for a while.

I explained my transition from “feminist” to “equalist” to a professor once in a coffee shop. She is a well-known diva, a fighter, and I’ve never seen her apologize. She ruffles feathers here because she simply does what she wants. She’s got opinions and she’s not afraid of her own voice. I explained, “maybe the cause would get farther if we gave up the F word…it rubs so many people the wrong way.” She chuckled a little and told me without hesitation, “Never apologize for the F word.”

And I stopped apologizing. The word makes some people uncomfortable, but if I’ve learned anything about words from writing, it’s that weak ones don’t do anything. No one remembers them and they don’t change anyone’s mind. If the word “feminist” is a little strong, so am I.

The F Word As A Tool of Empowerment

How can we heal the disconnect between the Evangelical Church and the Gay Community?

One of the things that keeps the Church and the gay community from reconciling is a lack of listening. Hands down, the question I get asked most often by people who think homosexuality is a sin is, “How can you accuse the church of not loving gay people? Plenty of churches love gay people—they just do not accept their behavior. Wouldn’t it be less loving to allow them to behave however they want, in contradiction to the Bible?” This is a deep black hole of a question, but in my humble opinion it demonstrates a lack of listening to the majority of the gay community. The church is continuing to look at homosexuality as a behavior—and a behavior that goes against several (very debatable) passages in the Bible. The old adage to “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes to mind. It suggests that the Church is fully capable of loving a person completely while we acknowledge and root out the “sin” in her or his life (This is not even getting into the question of whether their sin is the Church’s business to root out in the first place). The problem with all of this is that it lacks the other half of dialogue.

The majority of the gay community insists again and again that their sexual orientation is not simply a behavior—that is a part of their identity in the same way that being straight is a part of someone’s identity. If sin is something that separates a person from God, which is a whole separate black hole of a debate in itself, than isn’t testimony from the gay community valuable? Why is the church dismissing it in their insistence that homosexuality is a behavior and that it is sinful? If the gay Christian community says, “We are gay—it is a part of our identity and not simply a behavior—it is not separating us from God or alienating us from other people, and we could not fight it without lying to ourselves,” what should the Church’s reaction be?

Before I was let go from camp, my friend Jeremy was let go from the same camp for being gay. He had been working at camp for several years in successful leadership, but that fall he had come out, and camp’s reaction was to inform him that he was very welcome to visit but was not welcome to work there. I sat in on a meeting as Jeremy tried to explain to the administration that he is the same person doing the same ministry—that he has actually grown closer to God as he has become more honest about his true identity—and that he felt embraced by God rather than convicted. The administration’s response was to shrug with sympathetic eyes as they quoted Scripture. I’d be willing to bet this sort of interaction happens a lot.

Scripture is a mystery, and a few times every century people come to the consensus that they were interpreting it incorrectly all along, and that the policy of say, not allowing women to be teachers, is actually just some bad theology that could be interpreted in a different way to keep the Church from becoming the oppressor. I dare the Church to throw away your easy answers and take a little risk when you converse with someone who is gay. Open your mind to the possibility that they could be telling the whole, complete truth about their identity and their orientation. Right now, the common interpretation of Scripture does not match the testimonies of thousands of intelligent, spiritual individuals. This is something that’s only going to be solved with both parties listening with real open hearts and empathy. Are we strong enough to listen?

How can we heal the disconnect between the Evangelical Church and the Gay Community?

The Least Political Zimmerman Article You’ll Read All Week

I followed the Zimmerman trial half-heartedly (mostly because I do not trust the media to relay legal information to me without holes) and started to engage in the conversation as soon as the verdict was released. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of both Martin and Zimmerman supporters. I have my own opinions on the trial and the verdict, but they’re all being voiced more eloquently than I could voice them. Now, though, the trial is over, and what we’re left with is a public outcry to fix an array of uncovered injustices in our country. In my humble opinion, even if you find yourself whole-heartedly convinced that Zimmerman was in the right, you have one very clear-cut responsibility now that the trial is over: to listen.

No matter how you feel about the outcome of the trial, the wisest thing to do now whatever our race, whatever our religion, whatever our political leaning, is to listen to the specific frustrations and complaints that have been stirred up by this trial. Gun laws, yes; Stand Your Ground laws, yes. But especially race. The past generations have had their racial issues right in front of their faces: undeniable. But we’ve gotten pretty good at thinking we’re past racial bias and past discrimination. Certain well-known radio talk show hosts want you to dismiss the protesters and their outrage as false victims wishing to gain undeserved attention, but I am convinced that, trial aside, outrage about protecting racial minorities and identifying our biases can only contribute positively to our society, should they remain peaceful. Some facets will insist that this trial had nothing to do with race, and we all have opinions regarding that, but I’m saying that we need to move beyond the specifics of the trial and to the issues that the trial has brought to our society’s surface. Even if you are under the impression that race has had nothing to do with this trial, it’s in our focus now, and if you care to be in open dialogue with the thinkers of this nation, you’re going to want to be open to some hard questions about racial identity.

The most prudent critical thinkers will listen to protesters, even casual protesters in arenas like social media, when they tell us that they identify with Martin because they have been profiled or discriminated against. The wisest among us will trust the outraged when they tell us their personal experiences—experiences that are valuable and that indicate a necessary change in our thinking and our behavior. There is a reason why this case has stirred up so much emotional depth: race is complicated, it’s deep in our hearts, and it cross-cuts into our very identities and families. It’s not an easy or simple topic. Right now the hardest thing to do, but something the wise will manage, is to put down offensive rhetoric and be someone who is open to receiving the change this trial will surely bring to our nation, our neighborhoods, and our history books. We have an opportunity to learn from people who have passion for good reasons—we have the opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt and listen.

The Least Political Zimmerman Article You’ll Read All Week

How James Dobson Convinced me to Keep Prayer Out of Schools


Somewhere in the turbulence of high school, I found myself at a rally to protect traditional marriage. The rally was led by the (in)famous James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family and well-known advocate of “traditional marriage.” It consisted of Dobson bellowing a very convicted and passionate speech about how we must protect our children from a future America that will throw God away and ignore his commands. The event center full of people cheered with wild but Midwest-polite fury. I was there willingly, having not yet committed myself to the burning questions that destroyed my religious foundations and rebuilt them unconventionally. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I think Dobson and his supporters are pretty straight-up wrong about how they interpret marriage, but I vividly remember something else he said that has had me confused for years. In the midst of Dobson’s pleas to “remember God” during these trying and confusing times, he prompted the crowd—“We want prayer in schools again!!” and the crowd would cheer uncontrollably; “We want the name of God on our nation’s currency!” Again, people clapping and screaming; “we want the religion of our fathers in this country again! We want to be one! Nation! Under! God!” and people are just going insane. But even then, I was confused, and I guess I still am. So here I am to ask a few questions about this agenda.

There is a strong demand by traditional Christians to involve their religion in the politics and government of the United States. It really only starts with legislating morality like bans on gay marriage, but it also includes things like demanding prayer in public schools, erecting religious statues on state grounds (the famous Texas courthouse) and basically protecting the religious rhetoric that seeps into all politics (don’t get me started on presidential speeches) and essentially denies the worth of the other religions and lack of religions that live and thrive in this country. And I truly cannot understand why. How could keeping “In God We Trust” on our currency help anyone to actually know God? Has it ever? Because in my experience, pushy Christianity does exactly that: pushes. A prayer at a public school graduation only makes people that don’t pray uncomfortable and unwelcome. Which church agendas strive to make visitors uncomfortable and unwelcome? It seems to me like we’re letting our sentimentality get the best of us here. Isn’t it kind of like when a high school football team refuses to change its name from the “Fighting Chiefs” because “it’s always been like that?” The team is choosing to hurt a group of people with a violent label rather than take a few steps to change their name. I’m already anticipating the “This is a Christian Nation!” plea, but there is already more than enough great writing disputing that fact that I will not waste keystrokes on it.

Perhaps these people have historical interests in pushing intrusive religion. That’s fine with me, but they should be passionate historians, not passionate Christians.

What if Christians went out of their way to learn about other religions and whole-heartedly respect them—without the intent to evangelize? What if they listened when atheists talked about the reasons they don’t believe? What if we took scientific questions seriously? Could we shed our reputation as pushy truth-deniers? Or will we strive to maintain our very comfortable and politically powerful spot in the supposed majority? 

 Christians should put everyone else’s comfort ahead of their own. They should be willing to duck into a corner to pray with their families; to put themselves out for the sake of the group. That would be a cool reputation to have—I think one that Jesus (and Gandhi) would approve of.

How James Dobson Convinced me to Keep Prayer Out of Schools