Friends, since I started writing in November of 2013, you have viewed this blog 10,000 times. I can’t even quite fathom it. I’m so thankful for the freedom to muse and follow rabbit trails and think through big things in this space, and I’m glad that you come along with me.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sharing.
In honor of this milestone, I’m hitting the highlights of your favorite posts from the past two years. In order of their popularity among readers and my own affection for them, here are Such Poetic Justice’s top five:
I prayed things for this precious child that I don’t have to pray for my beloved nephew, because the little boy in the grocery store is black. He will grow up to be a black man, and life will not be fair to him.
I pictured his mother, and I thought of Mary, who knew her heart would be pierced by her son’s unearned suffering. I thought of Moses’ mother and the Israelite mothers of her generation who knew what it was to fear for their little brown boys who were dangerously singled out by the powers that be. I thought of the mothers of Bethlehem whose infants were killed simply for being born male. It seems to me that black mothers in the United States have a special insight into these stories and the God they speak of that, in my unwarranted white privilege, I will never be able to comprehend. I know only what I see on the news. This is not my story to tell.
Friends, this is a dirty, rotten lie. It’s a myth that people without these markers of privilege are somehow qualitatively different than people who have them. Our circumstances aren’t a reflection our moral character or worth. They’re a reflection of chance. Your ability to pull yourself up by your bootstraps has a lot to do with the quality of your first pair of boots, and I’m sorry to tell you, you don’t get to pick those out yourself. They’re just given to you, like one talent or ten, without your input at birth.
So this us and them business that keeps us divided and judgmental of one another, this is no way to live. This is not the kingdom of my God, who proudly hosts the most despised members of his community for dinner and praises the bravery of prostitutes. It doesn’t reflect a community who follows the risen and returning Christ. It’s a sign of a society stuck in the crucifixion, assuming the God who loves us all equally and takes a special interest in the down and out still lies dead in the ground. I hate to break it to you, kids, but that’s bullshit. In fact, I’m calling bullshit on this whole messed up system, and I think that by telling this story, Jesus is too.
3. Bad words
As much as I reserve the right to speak my conscious in whatever words I think most faithfully convey my message, I also recognize that for some, swearing is where I lose them. It’s the same as the smug little I’m-smarter-than-you-let-me-show-you tone that pushes me out of the conversation when I hear it from others. It’s a barrier. Part of being in community with each other is compromising and being okay with the fact that we’re going to have to adapt our message if we want certain people to hear it. We meet people where they are, and for some, that requires G-rated language.
So if I recognize that, why don’t I just stop swearing altogether then and not risk offending by accident? Because for some, it’s not a barrier; it’s a door.
Here’s the biggest and trickiest problem of all the ones I’ve raised so far: none of our characters are one-dimensional. No matter how you choose to tell the story and which identifiers you ascribe to each, no one can be summed up in a single word or epithet. Bathsheba is not merely an adulterer, whore, seductress, victim, or wife. David is not merely king, exemplar, stumbler, sinner, or rapist. Those who commit and survive sexual abuse and assault today are not so simple either. They may genuinely be faithful tithers and cheerful ushers and inspiring Bible study leaders and regular Sunday morning attenders and also be abusers and perpetrators of unknown assault, currently or in their past. Their victims may react by becoming broken-hearted and afraid to speak up or brave and free from the pain they’ve experienced or numb to what’s happened to them or a million other things while also being excellent preachers and faithful Sunday school attenders and everyone’s favorite VBS leaders and tireless volunteers who come early or stay late to get the sanctuary and fellowship hall ready for worship each week. This one experience is not what defines a person– it is not the most important thing about them– but it is a vital thing to name and to deal with from both sides.
This woman and I had met once before and grown up in different cities, but we had somehow managed to hear the exact same message over and over again from church leaders, camp counselors, teachers, friends’ parents, the retired sex ed teacher they brought in to talk to the girls in 9th grade–everywhere. They all followed the same script. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I went to the same youth group, and no one ever once told him his virginity was a gift tied to his self worth. No one told him his body belonged to his future wife and that he would have a lot to overcome with her if he gave it away to someone else before their wedding night, assuming he could find a woman understanding enough to take him in his now damaged state. He was told something along the lines of, “Sex is great, but don’t do it before you’re married.” And that was it.