Today’s post comes to us from Tim Krueger. Tim was born and raised in the Philippines, where his parents served as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He is the editor of Christians for Biblical Equality's magazine, Mutuality (@Mutualitymag), and enjoys finding God's fingerprints in history, culture, and language. He is an occasional contributor to the CBE Scroll, but gave up his personal blogging endeavor years ago after realizing he lacked the time and interesting material needed to sustain a blog. But as time or quality material are less crucial for Twitter, you can find him there (@kruegertw) tweeting maps, puns, and occasionally something of consequence, like gender, faith, and culture. He and his wife, Naomi, live in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
I moved from the Philippines to Minnesota when I was fourteen, but part of my soul is forever bound to those 7,000 islands. When Typhoon Haiyan approached the eastern islands of the Philippines, that part of me began to stir. I scoured the internet for updates. A photo here, a shaky cell phone video there. It just looked like a lot of rain and wind. Not so bad—I’ve always liked rainstorms, and this one could set a record! Haiyan was moving fast, which meant less chance for damage. Nervous excitement turned to hope and almost relief.
Then the rest of the pictures began appearing. The casualty reports began to trickle in. The wave of nervous excitement and hope crashed, replaced by a deep sadness I can only describe as mourning.
I mourn for my home. I’ve never met the people in the pictures, but I feel like I know them. What remains of their homes, stores, schools, streets, and markets looks familiar to me. The giant tangles of power and telephone lines are no different from the ones I used to marvel at through my dentist’s window. I don’t see a foreign country; I see my home.
Usually, when I see rubble, I’m amazed by the power of the storm. Now all I see are the homes, the livelihoods, and the bodies, all drained of life. I see a family who has scraped by all these years, taking two steps forward, now finding themselves three steps back.
Filipinos have a reputation for being the happiest people in the world. Joyous, resilient, and religious, Filipinos are always smiling. But not now. And I wouldn’t expect them to, but it still doesn’t compute. It’s not supposed to be this way. Yet, even through the sadness, I see them on the news thanking God for sparing them. That doesn’t computer either, because in my world, we just complain that God let so many lives be lost.
I mourn because the sex traffickers are circling like vultures, ready to grab up the desperate and newly-orphaned girls and boys walking the streets.
I mourn the silence of many Christians I respect. I’m not talking so much about my immediate church community, who has been bathing the Philippines in prayer this week, but those voices that stake their reputations on biblical justice and reconciliation, demand that the church be more like Jesus and less like white America, and call us to enter into the narratives of pain and oppression in the world. When disaster strikes our shores, they have no shortage of ink to spill reminding us to have compassion on the victims, or to weigh in on the theological implications of so-called “acts of God.” But when thousands of bodies, caked in mud and pierced with splintered boards and rebar, lay baking and swelling in the ninety-degree heat, where is their ink? Where is their lament?
I believe it’s there, but it needs to be spoken more loudly and more often.
I mourn my own silence. Because I know that if this disaster had been an earthquake in Iran, a monsoon in Bangladesh, or any number of other disasters, my soul wouldn’t be troubled. I’d see the news, say “oh that’s so sad,” and move on. I’m keenly aware of the fact that the only reason I feel the way I do is because this happened to my home. When the tidal wave hits a piece of dirt that I don’t identify as my home, where is my voice? Where is my lament?
I’ve never really been one to ask “why does God let these things happen?” I’ll never know, except that our world is broken and that means death and disaster are always around the corner. I’m convinced God is more pained by this than I am, so let us mourn with God and with each other.
But now I find myself asking “how am I meant to mourn?” How are we meant to mourn?
I mourn because I don’t know how to mourn. I believe we’re called to enter into the suffering of our neighbor. But I don’t believe we’re called to live our lives paralyzed by sadness. I don’t know how to live in that tension. My sadness is fading, and normally I would say that’s ok, natural, and probably good. It’s necessary for survival. But maybe it’s just because in my world, when I’m tired of being sad, I can exercise my privilege to step away to YouTube and distract myself with other pressing questions, like “what does the fox say?”
So tell me, because I really don’t know: how should the body of Christ mourn together? How do we hold mourning and joy in tension? How do we enter in, yet stay afloat? What should we care about, and how deeply, and for how long? Are we all meant to mourn deeply, or are we meant to mourn what’s close to us, while our community surrounds us with love? I think maybe that would work, but that means we need space for lament. We have Facebook walls, but no Wailing Wall—where can we gather to listen and mourn, and then to heal together, to break bread together, and to serve the broken together?
Note from Rachel: If you want to help, consider donating to Samaritan's Purse. As many of you know, my brother-in-law Dave, his wife Maki, and their family live in Cebu City, where they have been working closely with Samaritan's Purse in relief efforts. In a beautiful coincidence (?) my sister Amanda, who works for Samaritan's Purse, has been helping to coordinate those efforts. We've all been impressed by this organizations' speedy and effective strategies.
Other fantastic organizations on the ground include: World Vision, the Philippine Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Oxfam. Give what you can.
I had an amazing time at the Q: Women and Calling event in New York City and, to my surprise, left feeling profoundly encouraged about the progress of gender equality within evangelicalism. I’ll share more about that in the week ahead, but you can get a little peek at what our conversations were like by watching this dialog with myself, Shauna Niequist, Kathy Khang, and Rebekah Lyons above (and here.)
Best Teacher in the World:
My mom, Robin Held, who was honored as "Educator of the Week” by a local news station.
Mom teaches 4th grade science & history at Dayton City School and creates a fun, family-like atmosphere in her classroom where her students learn to be as compassionate and curious as she is. Right now her students are tracking the phases of the moon by observing it each night. Later in the year, they will work together to build an awesome model of the Jamestown settlement. She teaches through storytelling, song, art, rhythm and rhyme and she goes out of her way to love on the kids who come from difficult home situations. We can’t go anywhere in town together without her getting stopped by dozens of former students eager to give her a hug.
I am so blessed to have had this amazing educator as my mom. She made our childhood incredibly rich and fun and memorable. Eshet chayil, Mom! You are a true woman of valor!
Around the Blogosphere...
USA Today features our friend Caleb Wilde in “An Undertaker for the Overshare Generation”
“He tweets. He blogs. He embalms. Caleb Wilde is a sixth-generation mortician, working for the family business in small-town Pennsylvania — a Victorian-style funeral home where the only visible concessions to modernity are two big-screen televisions used by overflow crowds to watch a service.”
(We featured Caleb in “Ask a Funeral Director”)
Micah J. Murray with “How Feminism Hurts Men”
“Because of feminism, church stages and spotlights are often dominated by women. Men are encouraged to just serve in the nursery or kitchen. Sometimes men are even told to stay silent in church. Because of feminism, women make more money than man in the same jobs Because of feminism, it’s hard to find a movie with a heroic male lead anymore. Most blockbusters feature a brave woman who saves the world and gets a token man as a trophy for her accomplishments.”
Best Writing (nominated by Kelley Nikondeha):
Antonia Terrazas at Deeper Church with “So Great A Cloud of Witnesses”
“…We sing at the end of the night. Heart cracked open, this feels like a petition. My voice is lost in the crowd of witnesses.”
Best Open Letter:
Lea Baylis with “An Open Letter to Paleo Diet Enthusiasts” [Language Warning]
“There is one thing that would impress me about the Paleo Diet, and that’s if you went full on. Like, move into a cave and start hunting your meat and gathering your vegetables. Go on, hunt some big game with a bow and arrow. Prepare your meat without the benefit of running water and antibacterial soap. Carve your own knife that’s sharp enough to cut through bone.”
Benjamin Moberg with “On Football, Incognito, and What It Means to Be a Man”
“And he made that star quarterback understand that his value was not in his arm, his speed, being the captain was not just about athletic ability. His value was in how he treated others, how he led others with grace and understanding, how he could be a friend to the freshman full of athletic insecurities, how he could be an example.”
Audrey Assad with “I Shall Not Want”
Jamie Wright with “This is my Brain on Hugs”
“As soon as I saw my son's friend's dad, my arms began to rise like a hungry zombie, “We are going to hug you, Semi-familiar-Dude-in-the-grocery-store!”, and my brain was like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”. So my arms were indicating they wanted a hug but my face was implying that a hug was a really bad idea. That poor guy. I'm just so confusing, with my arms that say “hug” and my face that says “stab”. But it gets worse!Because. My mouth was going non-stop during this terrible, terrible interaction.”
Halee Gray Scott at Her.Meneutics with “The Church’s Missing Half”
“A failure to proportionately and adequately represent women is a failure to steward the giftedness of half the individuals in our midst. The spiritual gifts are not gendered. The genesis of leadership is grounded in the spiritual gifts, which are freely given by God without respect to gender, race, or social class. When we don't showcase enough women's gifts and voices within the body, we fail to steward the corporate giftedness entrusted to us. Like the unfaithful servant, we bury the one talent entrusted to us. How would the church account for a similar stewardship of financial resources, that half of the resources were burned away?”
Abby Paternoster and Nathan Groenewold at the Calvin College Chimes with “Listen First: Introduction to LGBT Feature”
“Last summer, I walked into Pastor Mary’s office and forced out the deepest, darkest secret this CRC pastor’s kid had to offer: I’m gay. I never thought I would say those words out loud. To anyone…”
It looks like the response to this series has been overwhelmingly positive on the Calvin campus, which is so encouraging.
Best Response (nominated by Bob Keeley):
Debra Rienstra with “Love Reality”
“As the older generation, our job is not only to teach but to bless. So I want to bless the students who’ve courageously told their stories on this campus. I want to bless the many gifted, beautiful students (and friends, colleagues, acquaintances...) I’ve known who happen to be LGBT—I have been greatly blessed by them, and grateful for their trust and honesty. And I want to bless this current generation of Calvin students who are doing difficult theology, in real time, in real life, right now. Thank you for what you are teaching us, what you are demanding of us in this moment.”
Donald Miller with “The Story You’re Believing May Be a Lie”
“Imagine how much unnecessary negativity floats around in our brains because we’ve made up a story in our mind, convinced the narrative is true?”
Jennifer Lundberg with “You Made Me Brave”
“Because of you, because you were my friend, I was now brave enough to stand up to those around me that pushed me to vote against my conscience, against you. Because you were my friend. Not my gay friend. My friend. And your marriage, your family are important to me. Very important to me.”
Chaplain Mike at iMonk with “Are we more gracious than God?”
“But even on the cross, Jesus uttered the words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). That is not the language of penal substitution. Those are words of generosity — Jesus is asking God to overlook the ignorance of his executioners. Maybe sometimes Jesus just looks us in the eye, touches us, and says, “Go in peace.” Maybe sometimes he just runs down the road, throws his arms around us, and welcomes us home. Maybe sometimes he just lets us off the hook. His love covers a multitude of sins.”
Marlena Graves with “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover”
“Even though I’d like to think that I am generous and mostly unprejudiced, that I’m immune from judging people based on superficialities, I know I do. After my family, and what amounts to be a small church full of people, were maliciously harmed by Christian leaders of a certain theological and denominational bent (despite an uproarious public outcry calling these leaders to account and condemning their actions), I find myself recoiling when this particular denominational group is mentioned. I have visceral reactions. I associate much that is wrong with the church with them and people like them. I am prejudiced. I am judging a person by denominational trappings."
Rebecca Wanzo with “12 Years a Slave and the Problem of (Black) Suffering”
“Looking away has become a national pastime -- from the poor, the sick, and the civilians killed by war and drones. It is unclear to me what kinds of representations of suffering can always escape condemnation as sentimental, or manipulative, or "suffering porn." But when we disparage 12 Years a Slave for trying to capture the essence of pain in chattel slavery, we are disavowing people whose pain can never totally be represented. There are, of course, other stories about slavery and black people that can and should be told. But that does not lessen the importance of this one.”
“The darkness does not want you to use your voice. You are so full of light. The darkness will tell you that you are too much. Too loud. Too greedy. Too masculine. Too angry. Too emotional. Sometimes you will believe this. Sometimes you will try to make yourself small, and quiet. Sometimes you will hurt yourself trying to be small and quiet. Do this with me. Walk outside and look up to the sky. Reach your hands up to the wide, expansive sky, far above the crowdedness and the jostling. There is room for you up there. There is room for every bit of you up there. That place is yours.”
On my nightstand…
Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church by Edward Gilbreath
On the blog…
Most Popular Post:
On Being Divisive
Most Popular Comment:
In response to “Can we teach our children modesty without guilt,” Ben Irwin wrote:
"As the parent of a three-year-old girl, I wonder about this a lot, too. Here's one thing we've started doing, and one thing I've stopped doing that will hopefully make some kind of difference (even if it feels like we're just making this up as we go)...
One thing we've started doing: teaching our daughter about her body...minus the euphemistic names for certain parts. We want her to grow up knowing (a) her body is not something to be ashamed of and (b) it belongs to her. She doesn't need to flaunt it or use it to conform to someone else's expectations. And she doesn't need to feel like it's something dirty or shameful either.
One thing I've stopped doing: making jokes about how I'm going to invest in a shotgun collection when she starts dating, or how I'm not going to let her out of the house till she's 30. I know they're just jokes, but they can still affect someone's mindset — hers, mine, etc. In particular, these jokes reinforce the patriarchal view of a girl as someone else's "property" ... her dad's, her husband's, etc. It contributes to the false notion that her body is something dangerous, something to be kept locked away, something to be ashamed of. I'd rather take my chances letting my daughter out the door someday with a healthy view of herself than keep her under lock and key with a skewed view of herself.”
Ben followed up with a great blog post as well.
So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog?
So I’ve heard from more than a few of my Reformed brother and sisters that I have a bad habit of painting the Reformed tradition with a broad brush (especially when I’m disagreeing vehemently with more conservative groups like the Gospel Coalition!). So I figured since we’ve already featured Justin Taylor for “Ask a Calvinist…” it was time to interview someone from the more progressive end of the Reformed spectrum. And I think we found the perfect interviewee.
The Reverend Jes Kast-Keat is a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. She currently serves as the Associate Pastor at West End Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Roman Catholicism and American Evangelicalism influenced her while growing up. It wasn't until seminary that she encountered the Reformed Tradition and fell in love with a wide stream of robust theological thinkers and vibrant spiritual leaders. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in New York City for the past three years. While theology makes her heart sing, you will also find Jes enjoying a show on Broadway, sitting in Central Park with the poetry of Mary Oliver, or hitting up a concert.
Jes is one of the twelve voices that writes for "The Twelve. Reformed. Done Daily" which is a collaborative project of diverse theologically Reformed voices. Her theological inspirations include John Calvin, Serene Jones, Oscar Romero, Teresa of Avila, and the countless everyday theologians who ask questions and "ponder anew what the Almighty can do". Preaching the grace of God and administering the sacraments is what gives life to Jes. You can follow her on Twitter here.
You know the drill!
If you have a question for Jes, leave it in the comment section. Please take advantage of the “like” feature so we know which questions are of most interest to readers. At the end of the day, I’ll choose 6-7 questions to send to Jes for response. You can look for the follow-up with her responses in about a week.
Check out the other interviews in our “Ask a…” series here.
Which led to this fun conversation:
Then a bunch of you jumped in and shared your favorite Berenestain Bears stories and I counted the whole day as an internet win.