, Monday...Superlatives 3/11/12

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'spring' photo (c) 2009, Dean Ward - license:

I was busy hanging out with the good folks of Mars Hill, Grand Rapids yesterday and didn’t get the chance to post Sunday Superlatives. But there were just too many great things to share this week to let it go, so instead I hope you will enjoy today's Monday superlatives.

Around the Blogosphere...

Most Ecumenical: 
Adam J. Copeland with “Let’s have some ground rules for debating the marriage amendment

“There is no one Christian position. Some, like the state's Catholic bishops, advocate for the amendment on Christian grounds. Others, like the majority of delegates at the recent Minneapolis Synod Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, oppose the amendment. As a Christian pastor myself I would be the last to say that one's religious convictions should not influence choices at the voting booth — anything but. However, it should be noted that Christians hold varied and complex positions on the amendment. We cannot be seen as one voting bloc.”

Most Challenging: 
Stephen James at CNN with “Stop Sugarcoating the Bible

“The Bible is a gritty book. Very raw. Very real. It deals with people just like us, just as needy and screwed up as we are, encountering a God who would rather die than spend eternity without them. Yet despite that, it seems like Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really is. They feel the need to tidy up God.”

Most Disturbing:
Design Tax with “Photographer gives Disney princesses a dose of reality

Most Relatable:
Sarah Bessey with “In which I turn my life upside down (as usual)

"This feeling arrives like clockwork by now and, if I were my family or my friends, I would roll my eyes at my own angsty self. But it's real and true: I get this sense of holy discontent, and then usually we do something about it. We move. We change jobs. We start something, we end something. It helps. We are very practised at upending our lives and living at sixes-and-sevens while you rebuild can be a bit addictive.

"But this time I'm learning to lean into it. This time, I know, I sense, that I need to sit here, in the tension of what I think I want and see if it is truly what God wants for us. Instead of feeling the discomfort and just doing something different, I want to feel the discomfort and explore it, its roots, where it comes from.  And then wait on God to move, to speak, to breathe."

Most Encouraging: 
Kathy Escobar with “10 Reasons I’m an Advocate for Women’s Liberation

“It’s easier to play nice. It’s easier to follow the status quo.  It’s easier to stick with the crowd and keep supporting churches & the media & systems that strip dignity and freedom.  but when we do, we condone inequality and align with oppression."

Most Creative: 
American Jesus with "The American Jesus Bracket"

Most Likely to Make You Want to be an Explorer:
James Cameron teams up with National Geographic to dive in a specially designed submarine to the Mariana Trench

Most Likely to Make You Want to be a Detective:
Saint’s ancient heart stolen from Dublin cathedral

Best Sentence: 
Roger Olson, in “My Response to Piper’s Recent Statements About God and Tornadoes” 

“Are people really so unfamiliar with Calvinism that they don’t expect a Calvinist to say such things?"

Best paragraph: 
Chaplain Mike at iMonk in “OTD: Obsessed with Tornadoes Disorder

“It is Islam that sets forth submission and unquestioning acceptance as the ultimate in piety — not Christianity nor our parent faith as expressed in the Hebrew Bible. The faith we follow is one of lively dialogue between the Creator and his creatures. We question, complain, express our anger, cry out in pain, and bargain with God. Sometimes, if you believe the Bible, God even changes his mind at our behest. Like Jacob, we refuse to let him go until he blesses us. Like Moses, we argue with God. Like the psalmists, we groan and hurl curses toward the heavens. On the other hand, preachers like John Piper want us to get in line and behave. They rebuke our messiness, our humanness. They use the sovereignty of God to shut us up.”

Best Analysis: 
Jim Henderson at Relevant with “Women: The Church’s Most Wasted Resource

“We need to start a new conversation about women and Church. At the very least, Christians need to think more honestly about these issues. There is room to grow and new things to discover about how God wants to use women to move His Kingdom forward. That’s why it’s important to to read, ponder and think most deeply about the things that cause disagreement. Not to win but to learn. We need to stop comparing our best with others’ worst. We need to stop criticizing each other and open our own ideas to critique.”

Best Dialog: 
Elizabeth Esther with two perspectives on the birth control debate from Scott Morizot and Father Christian

Best List: 
Brett McCracken with “31 Best Films Directed By Women

Best Writing (nominated by Bill Guerrant):
River Clegg with “Buying This Thing Will Make Me Happy

“I know what you’re thinking, so don’t even say it. Buying that thing won’t make you happy, is what you’re thinking. Buying things never makes you happy, so why would you buy this thing? It won’t make you happy. But you haven’t seen this thing...”

Best Reminder:
Sarah Askins with “Life Isn’t Instagram

Best Question: 
Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink with “Can living smply become its own sort of idolatry?"

"And yet, strangely enough, as much good as “living with less” has done me, it has also been too much of an idol at times. Somehow my brain got wired into thinking that in an ideal world, spending less is always better. But I have learned that less is not always better and cheap is not the equivalent of good. What sometimes appears cheap or less actually hides other costs. Cheap for me sometimes translates to pain or hardship for someone else. Cheap can mean more work and more repairs and more hassle when things break or malfunction. Cheap also sometimes translates into less healthy - and that can be costly down the road. Furthermore, a love of cheap can get in the way of understanding and living out the extravagance of God. Being too cheap means that I can spoil the joy of others by not going out or in denying giving to others. Certainly God wants us to use the resources He gives us wisely, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of honoring others and delighting in the good gifts He has given us.”

Cake Wrecks with “World’s Creepiest Wedding Topper

Carlos Bovell (at Pete Enns’ blog) with “Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear

"This culture of fear discourages evangelical leaders to move the conversation forward, since the backlash can be severe; they are not sociologically poised to offer guidance. Thus the onus to foster the conversation is awkwardly placed on students or young faculty members, those living in the tensions between the academic and apologetic worlds and who feel the most pressure and enthusiasm for synthetic thinking. Yet in order to be effective, students require the intellectual freedom to carry out their work. The same sociological forces that prevent evangelical leaders from joining the conversation also exert tremendous pressure on younger evangelicals. There is a cycle of fear, and the question is how to break it." 

The Kitchn with “A Tastier Bagel: 10 Delicious Spreads

Suzannah Paul for the Women in Ministry Series at Ed Cyzewski’s blog with “Ministry, Mentors, and Holy Imagination

“Presence is powerful.  So is absence. Seeing women in leadership matters to girls and equally to women still longing to have their passions, talents, and personhood affirmed by the Body of Christ. The void of women’s leadership in the Church is painful and palpable, and the spectrum of God’s image will never be fully visible so long as any are silenced, diminished, or excluded. It’s difficult to dream what we haven’t glimpsed. Christ’s Bride suffers for lack of holy imagination.”

[If you aren’t following this series yet, be sure to subscribe to Ed’s blog. He has found some amazingly talented women to contribute.]

Most Colorful: 
Andrew Blackmore with “A Time and Place for Irrational Exuberance” 

“We all embody more than our prescribed societal roles. We are more than just our jobs. We are more than our friends and families and we are more than everyday life ever allows us to be. It is joy that sets us free. Laughter is as great a reminder of our humanity as our tears. Shared euphoria, seen in this context, is more than a spiritual good; it is a necessity for a fulfilling spiritual life."

Most Likely to Serve as a Cautionary Tale: 
Smart Money with "5 of the Costliest Tweets Ever"

Most Likely To Serve as a Reality Check: 
Dennis Merritt Jones with “Spring Ahead...Really?

“Time really is the reef upon which our mystic sailing ship gets caught. So, as you adjust the clocks in your home, car, office or your watch on Saturday night, try to become the silent witness of how, no matter how you may be able to manipulate the hands on a clock, you can't change something that doesn't really exist. Setting your clock doesn't change time -- it only changes your perception of a changeless reality. Enjoy this present moment because, irrespective of what the numbers on your clock may say, Now is all you will ever have -- make every holy instant of it count.”

On the blog...

Most Popular Post: 
Some Resources on the Invisible Children Controversy

Most Popular Comment (with 116 “likes”!):
In response to “Rush Limbaugh and Three Evangelical Blind Spots,” Ben Wyatt wrote: 

"Thank you for this, Rachel!

One other point about sex: I wonder if part of the problem is that the church has a tendency to teach people the importance of virginity, but not chastity. For example, it's somewhat common to hear pastors/parents tell single people: 'The most precious gift you can give your spouse is your virginity.' That teaches them that sexual purity is about keeping your body in a particular state--and if you have sex once, your virginity is gone, and can never be recovered. So there's not a lot of room for redemption in the current discourse, because our emphasis is entirely on telling people that they can never screw up, not even once, and when they do the whole game is lost. And, of course, girls bear the disproportionate burden of this sort of thinking.

Chastity, on the other hand, isn't about the state of your body, but the state of your soul; it's not just about whether or not you've had sex (although part of being chaste is having sex only in the context of marriage), it's about self-control, respecting your body, and enduring your trials with patience. And, of course, chastity is about more than sexuality--there's a reason why we talk about a 'lust for power,' after all. Furthermore, chastity can be regained, just like any other virtue. After all, if someone loses their temper once, we don't say they are doomed to anger for the rest of their life; why, if a girl has sex outside the context of marriage once, do we assume that she is 'damaged goods' for the rest of her life?

So I guess my point is that maybe Christianity has focused on the physical act of sex, and ignored the underlying moral virtues at stake, like chastity. That leads to an unredemptive belief that, once you have sex once, your sexual morality has been irrevocably destroyed. Putting the focus back on chastity might help us remember that repentance and redemption are always possible, as well as encourage us to view sexual behavior in a wider context of self-control, bodily respect, and patience, rather than as a simple prohibition against a particular physical action." 

Great. Now I’m going to spend the rest of the week not only feeling an hour behind, but also a day behind. :-)

Anything catch your eye online last week? What’s happening on your blog?

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