Disconnected Generations?

My vote this election season will go to Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton.

According to comments made earlier this month by feminist trailblazers Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, this makes me either a boy-crazy political infidel (Steinem) or someone worthy of a special place in hell (Albright). Judging from the reaction these comments received, I apparently am not the only one who felt angry, bemused, belittled, and befuddled by these statements.

Albright appears to have gotten somewhat of a pass for her oft-repeated statement that there is a “special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.

But Steinem was taken to task on Twitter for her comment, made while speaking to HBO’s Bill Maher earlier this month, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Young feminist voters created the hashtag #notherefortheboys to let Steinem know just how far off base her comment was.

#Notherefortheboys clearly demonstrated the disconnect between those who gave birth to the second wave of feminism and those who are riding on it today. Slate magazine writer Christina Cauterucci had this to say about the schism:

These unfortunate statements about young women and the backlashes they triggered reveal a common thread between ageism and sexism, which intersect in ways specific to progressive movements. Some older women are convinced that younger women take for granted the struggles that preceded them and aren’t yet wise enough to lead the movement; some younger women believe that their forbearers are out of touch and old-fashioned, hampered by the racism, heterocentrism, and class divides of feminisms past.

Cauterucci is on to something here.

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What Steinem and Albright Get Wrong About Today’s Feminists

Longtime proponents of women’s rights Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright have experienced some resurgence in the media as of late, but not for defending women’s rights.

Instead, they’ve made headlines for what many are calling anti-feminist views.

Discussing the presidential election in an interview with Bill Maher, Steinem suggested that younger women are voting for Bernie Sanders in an effort to meet boys: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Albright, however, has made no such apology for her statement at a Hillary Clinton rally, that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Young feminist voters, who in the Democratic party largely support Sanders’ presidential bid, took umbrage at these statements, and an obligatory new hashtag, #notherefortheboys, was born. No one can blame this new generation of feminists for their anger. Steinem’s statement insultingly dismissed young women as too boy-crazy, naïve, and incompetent to have any real understanding of the political process, while Albright’s statement, while one she’s been making for years, used here seemed an explicit attempt to guilt women into voting for Clinton.

You can read the rest of this article at Sojourners, by clicking here.

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Why a Pro-Life Christian Supports Bernie Sanders

Today I’m happy to feature fellow political junkie, Lucas Jackson, as a guest blogger. Lucas takes on the oh-so-sensitive issues of both abortion and politics, and makes a strong argument for why he, a pro-life Christian, is voting for a pro-choice candidate, Bernie Sanders. Lucas and I would love to hear your thoughts on this; you can leave your take on the issue in the comment section below. And if you want to contact Lucas personally, you can reach him at jacksonlucas149@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Why a Pro-LIfe Christian Supports Bernie Sanders
By Lucas Jackson

Jesus isn’t running for president.

Neither is Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Dietrich Bonhoffer and William Wilberforce also aren’t on the ballot.

No matter who we support he or she will be very flawed.

I’ve watched almost every debate, followed the political cycle religiously and read up on the candidates’ records extensively.

And my takeaway is that the candidate who best embodies my values as a Christian – and it’s honestly not that close – is Bernie Sanders. And while my perspective below is a Christian one, I feel strongly that much of it may resonate with people of other faiths or more secular backgrounds.

Make no mistake – Bernie Sanders’ position on abortion troubles me, and his rhetoric on that issue is largely unhelpful. He calls pro-life Republicans “extremists” and gives no ground to the other side. Marco Rubio showed the type of dialogue the abortion issue in our country so desperately needs at the Republican debate Saturday night, saying that he recognized the right of women to control their own bodies and respected that right but views it as less than the right of an unborn child to life.

But the reality is that the Supreme Court is not going to fundamentally change abortion in America – only a revolution in our political and economic systems will.

Our political system must change because right now it gives us two parties that selectively choose when life matters. We need a realignment that brings together people of conscience on the right and left. But it also must change because it’s corrupt, and our government, like any of us, cannot serve two masters. Abortion will be sacrificed like any other non-financial issue to political expediency when the powers that be (for lack of a better phrase) decree it.

We need an economic revolution that puts the needs of people first and gives women and families the resources they need to both prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the economic hardship associated with having a baby and raising a child.

Sanders is not perfect. In most ways he has not yet converted his message of anger at Wall Street and Washington into a hopeful, unifying message of what the future in America can be. He has not elaborated on his foreign policy views nearly enough and stumbled when asked about them in the last debate. As far as my views on gun control are concerned, he’s not as strong as Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders is running a campaign that resonates with my most deeply held Christian values – loving our enemies, serving the least of these, telling the truth, acting with humility. When Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables in the Temple, Sanders says “exactly,” he doesn’t say “yes, but what could they offer me in the way of campaign contributions or speaking fees?” When Jesus says “love your enemies,” Sanders passes up opportunity after opportunity to take advantage of political moments to attack his main rival. He will not run a negative ad. He doesn’t have a Super PAC to run one for him.

When given the chance to savage Clinton – already struggling with the issue of trustworthiness – over her State Department emails, Sanders said “enough about the damn emails.” When confronted about his staff accessing Clinton campaign data, Sanders offered an explanation of what happened and noted he’d fired the staffer. When the debate moderator persisted and said “will you apologize?” there was an audible gasp when Sanders turned to Clinton and said, “Yes. I’m sorry.” Politicians just don’t do that.

When Jesus and page after page of scripture calls us to walk humbly before our God, Sanders seems to be the only political candidate in either party whose campaign is based on something other than “look how great I am.” He rarely praises himself. When he talks about his record, it’s usually to defend it or emphasize facts. Compare that to the other candidates in both parties and the contrast is surprisingly shocking. He is campaigning on an idea, not for his own glory. (I personally think Rand Paul in many ways matched Sanders in this respect, but he’s no longer running.)

And my God, he tells the truth. He does seem to avoid exaggerating or twisting facts, but what is really remarkable is that for all the criticism that his health care and anti-poverty proposals are “unicorns and rainbows,” he’s actually got it exactly right – he says clearly that he can’t get these proposals passed under the current Congress, that the only way we are going to fundamentally change our country is if millions of Americans engage in the political process and demand change. He’s right.

I admit, I also agree with a lot of his policies. Wall Street tanked our economy and controls our political system. Our criminal justice system and economy are corrupt and racially unjust. Climate change is real, almost certainly man-made, and serious. And so on.

But what attracts me to him most of all isn’t that I agree with his solutions, it’s that he’s addressing the actual problems in our society. Agree or disagree with his proposals to fix these problems. But what must be recognized is that Bernie Sanders is offering solutions that actually meet those problems head on, rather than solutions that are politically expedient.

I find his message of revolution to be deeply Christian. Jesus’ message was one of radical love. President Jesus would not accept millions of children living in poverty. He would not accept 30 million Americans without health insurance. He wouldn’t accept the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in our political system.

And that’s what’s so important about Sanders – his message isn’t just that we should fight child poverty, it’s that we shouldn’t accept the idea that poor children are a fact of life. In that sense, he’s not just challenging economic policies or political realities, he’s challenging the fundamental assumptions that underline our political system and our society. That’s what’s so radical – and so Christian – about Sanders.

In challenging our political system, he’s begun to recognize that the solution to our problems doesn’t lie solely on his side of the political spectrum. He’s winning independents who are voting in the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, where some undecided voters are choosing between Sanders and Trump, he’s recognizing that our disastrous trade policies have devastated working families on the right and left. There’s space there to forge an unlikely coalition, the type a corporate, pro-trade Democrat like Clinton could never forge. And Sanders went to Liberty University and spoke eloquently about the possibility of working together to fight poverty even when there’s disagreement on abortion and gay marriage. It would have been easy for him to reject the invitation from Jerry Falwell Jr. to attend. But he went.

There are other candidates with redeeming qualities. John Kasich has a unifying message in an otherwise angry primary field. Chris Christie deserves enormous credit for talking about how being pro-life means being pro-life for people after they’re born, like the 16-year old drug addict lying on the floor of Juvenile Hall. “I’m pro-life for her,” Christie said.

Ultimately, we need a President who will challenge the idea that childhood poverty is acceptable. Who will unify people across religious and political lines, rather than turn politics into a team sport. Who will govern effectively with the Congress he or she has, but inspire and lead the country to elect the Congress it deserves. Who will stand up and say that the dignity of human life must be protected, all human life, from the womb to the villages of Iraq and Afghanistan to death row to the streets of Chicago. A President who understands that family values include letting women bond with their baby after it’s born rather than sending them back to work three minimum wage jobs within a week or so after giving birth. A President who radically rethinks how we interact with the rest of the world. A President who is actually pro-life and not “pro-birth,” and understands that abortion rates decline when we address poverty, when we take care of mothers and families, when we end the school to prison pipeline that destroys families.

Until that President comes along, the best I can do is Feel the Bern. And there’s no shame in that.

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Loving Hard: In Memory of Gideon Bruce

In many ways it made perfect sense that I would call her at 7:30am, blurry eyed and frogged-voiced, having just rolled out of bed, bone-weary. It was the day after Christmas. All six of us were sick—whooping cough, we’d later find—and exhausted from both the fun and the coughing.

After I received her text—stilted, formal, apologetic for its intrusion—I called every hospital in the area, finally finding her where two of my own four were born.

Her husband answered, his voice making clear his surprise. After all, who calls the hospital phone these days? But I didn’t want to call her cell. At least I was awake enough to think of that.

“She’s with a nurse right now. She’ll call you back.”

Of course, she didn’t. And who can blame her.

She’d been at my house just four days prior, shuffling from one foot to the other the way pregnant women do. Her daughter ate a cupcake. They left within moments—I’m sure she was tired.

He was born a trimester too early, weighing barely one pound. Placental failure. Not insufficiency, but failure. I cried all day.

One hundred and ten days later—on her birthday, no less—he came home. Still tiny, still feeding through a tube, still too cold for his own good.

I finally met him at five and a half months, found him not yet the weight of my second the day he was born.

“Are you kidding, he’s huge!” His mother protested.

I was embarrassed at my gaffe.

“Yes, yes! He is. Of course.”

He was beautiful. I held him as long as I could, only putting him down when I ate my burger. So warm… he had finally learned the trick of self-regulating his temperature and he performed it masterfully.

He was beautiful.

A mere three weeks later, I cried again. This time the news came by mass email, one I read at least three times before feeling it settle, hard, between the shoulder blades, the eyes, the heart: “Almost zero chance of normalcy… Leave us alone. We’ll let you know. We don’t need anything. Just… let us be.”

“Should I come home?” A text from my husband.

“No. It’s fine. I’m praying.”

I’m praying.

I prayed to God, to Google, searching every avenue for an answer, but finding none.

I emailed a client—world-renowned pediatrician, a fellow congregant at my church. He would know.

“This will be difficult. No matter what, this will be difficult.”

The next day a follow up: “Be patient and hope that some sort of answer will come in the years that follow.”

And the next day: “Do they go to our church?”

No.

When I lost my son, eight months old, flaming hair, world’s most gummy smile, I thought those answers would never come. No years would follow—the earth stilled, and with it, my heart.

I know her days are frozen—she’s said as much. Each day she lifts him, tries to gauge if he’s gained an ounce. Half-an-ounce. A stack of envelopes in one hand, a baby in the other. How do they compare? Which fatigues her muscles more?

She looks at his head. Measures it’s circumference. Eyes it against her daughter’s .50 cent bouncy ball—the kind on end caps at grocery stores, drawing the sticky eyes of children, begging meter money from purse bottoms. She’s refined the skill—can tell you the weight and width of a fly these days. She and her husband take bets; they’re experts now.

I pray.

Google frustrates me with its ambivalence, God tries my patience. I keep living. Cooking, cleaning, writing. My daughter hits her first single. My oldest lands an internship and the youngest just won’t quit climbing the stove. We are living.

She’s living too. Living in fear, in doubt, in the hollow place between inhale and exhale. She watches him breathe. Smooth, warm, the way he should. Air fills small lungs, routes oxygen to all the necessary places. Escapes in sighs so sweet a flower bears its name.

But his name is not sweet. His name is that of a warrior who dared ask God for more. More miracles, God, and I will do your bidding. Do not be angry, God, but I simply must have more. God relented and the trumpets blew and the idols fell. And when that warrior died, years later, the alters were resurrected and the false Gods rose.

Let him live, God.

Full and healthy, conqueror of enemies. Bearer of swords and trumpets and weighty things of glory. An unlikely warrior, God. Let him live.

**********

I wrote this prayer in July of 2014. Four months later, on November 28, 2014, Gideon passed from this world and into the next. He was not quite one year old.

Today, on this one-year-anniversary, my household is where it should be: in a time of board games and late nights, of midnight pie with cream, and just one more game of pool before heading off to bed. We’re enjoying the smell of simmering soup while the just-put-up tree glitters with fresh-bought lights and tip-top star, and the littles dance to a singing snowman we plot to sneak away as soon as their heads are turned.

We are living life as it should be lived. As Gideon’s mom would say, we are loving hard.

I can think of no greater tribute to a boy so loved and missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the American Way the Jesus Way?

Brian Zahnd is the co-founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Brian is known for his focus on embracing the deep and long history of the Church and wholeheartedly participating in God’s mission to redeem and restore His world. He is also the author of several books, including, A Farewell To MarsBeauty Will Save the World, and Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Today, as we in the US prepare to celebrate Independence Day, Brian talks to us about the conflation of flag and cross, Christianity’s long history of accommodating itself to the pressures of nationalism, and the transformative hope of local churches to overcome both of these distortions of the true message of Christ.

You’ve said that for many American Christians, the American Way and the Jesus Way are essentially the same way of being human. What do you mean by that?

Many American Christians would be hard pressed to identify five examples of how the Jesus way differs significantly from the American way. In the civil religion of America, the Jesus way and the American way have been conflated into the same mode of being human. In essence this means Christianity exists primarily to support the supreme idea of America. Put just so it sounds ludicrous, nevertheless it remains the tacit assumption of American civil religion. But authentic Christianity is a radical challenge to all other allegiances.

Christians confess that Jesus is Lord and thus “We the People” are not. Christians are far more committed to the Beatitudes than the Bill of Rights. Christians believe that only Jesus has a manifest destiny to rule the nations. Christians proclaim that “the last best hope of the world” is Jesus, not America. And that most American Christians would view these assertions as controversial reveals just how deeply the Jesus way has been subverted by the American way.

You can read the rest of my interview with Brian Zahnd at Red Letter Christians. He’s an amazing writer and speaker — the interview is truly worth a read!

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Amy Schumer’s Feminism: And Then What?

I am not one to eschew the feminist label. I am a feminist, plain and simple.

But I reject the notion that there is one standard definition of “feminist.” I remember how rejected and misunderstood I once felt in the women’s studies department of my undergraduate institution — so much so, in fact, that I dropped my women’s studies minor a mere one class short of completion. My particular Christian ethics did not jibe with the feminist norm being taught, and many thought me a traitor to the cause.

That was about 15 years ago. In the interim years I’ve learned a lot about popular conceptions of what it means to be a feminist. I’ve realized ideals I once thought immutable are actually cyclical and subject to both minor and major revisions, made by different thought leaders over time. And one current, popular semi-wave of feminism is being led by comedian and actress Amy Schumer.

You can read the rest of today’s post on the “new” (problematic) face of feminism at Sojourners(Definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to check out their beautiful new website!)

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Where is the Hope in Charleston?

Last night while attending Sojourners’ annual conference, The Summit, I heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Jim Wallis, C.T. Vivian, and so many other legends in their fields. Afterwards, I stood in a small circle with others, discussing faith, justice, and reconciliation. I was the lone white face in my group of five; the other four were African-American, faith- and thought-leaders all.

One person, the only man in the group, referenced white supremacy. My ears perked up and I wondered, “Is that really a large part of the issue anymore?” I waited for a break in conversation so I could ask, “Aren’t we dealing more with subtle, insidious, and implicit biases these days?”

I never got the chance to ask. This morning at 5:00 a.m. when I picked up my phone to hit snooze, I saw an NPR alert: nine dead. I knew without question that those nine were black. Turing on CNN confirmed it, and I cried. No one had yet said the gunman was a white supremacist, but what else could he be? Who other than someone who feels his life supreme could take the lives of nine others, cause such aching disbelief and sorrow to their friends and family, and bring such hot pain to those around the nation who, like me, woke to tears and rage and confusion and heartache?

You can read the rest of my morning-after lament at Sojourners.