Fish Are Friends, Not Linkspam (21 October 2014)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:16 am
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam


  • On Gamergate: a letter from the editor | Polygon (October 17): “Video games are capital “C” Culture now. There won’t be less attention, only more. There won’t be less scrutiny. There certainly won’t be less diversity, in the fiction of games themselves or in the demographics of their players. What we’re in control of is how we respond to that expansion, as journalists, as developers, as consumers. Step one has to be a complete rejection of the tools of harassment and fear — we can’t even begin to talk about the interesting stuff while people are literally scared for their lives. There can be no dialogue with a leaderless organization that both condemns and condones this behavior, depending on who’s using the hashtag.”
  • Gamergate threats: Why it’s so hard to prosecute the people targeting Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian | Slate (October 17): “The light penalties attached to many of these online crimes also deter officials from taking them seriously, because the punishment doesn’t justify the resources required to investigate and prosecute them”
  • Of Gamers, Gates, and Disco Demolition: The Roots of Reactionary Rage | The Daily Beast (October 16): “Our various “culture wars” tend to boil down to one specific culture war, the one about men wanting to feel like Real Men and lashing out at the women who won’t let them.”
  • Gamergate in Posterity | The Awl (October 15): “Maybe there will be some small measure of accountability in the far future, not just for public figures and writers and activists, but for all the people who could not or would not see their “trolling” for what it really was. Maybe, when their kids ask them what they were like when they were young, they will have no choice but to say: I was a piece of shit. I was part of a movement. I marched, in my sad way, against progress. Don’t take my word for it. You can Google it!”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Closed for Business

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] rookie_feed

Posted by Giselle Nguyen

Illustration by Kelly.

Illustration by Kelly.

When, at 20, I lost my virginity to my first boyfriend, Carl (not his real name), I’d kissed only one boy before him, and all of my other sexual experiences had taken place either with faceless boys online or inside my own bed, alone with my imagination. I grew up in an extremely traditional Vietnamese family and was sexually curious, but very sheltered. I’d never even used a tampon before—that’s how little experience I had with the insides of my nether regions.

“Are you sure?” Carl asked as we sat on the edge of his bed.

“Yep,” I said confidently. I’d heard the first time could hurt, but mostly I was excited. He put a condom on as I lay down, buzzing with anticipation. He pushed into me…and I screamed at the pain, which was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. I ran to the bathroom and cried. I didn’t know if this was normal, but it felt excruciating. You never forget your first time—especially if it happens before you know you have vaginismus, a physical condition that makes penetrative sex incredibly painful or, in extreme cases, impossible.

When I confided in my sisters about the pain I felt during sex after keeping it a secret for months, they howled with laughter, asking, “Is it because you’re not wet enough?” They weren’t trying to be malicious—they just didn’t understand. I went back to my room and cried into my pillow, wishing they had taken it more seriously. I wished I could ask my parents for advice, but I knew they were off-limits because of their conservative values—my mom had long instilled in me that sex before marriage was reprehensible.

Each failed sex attempt with Carl was more painful than the last. We rarely talked about it, but his patience was visibly wearing thin. I tried to push through the pain and keep the spark alive, but it seemed futile, as his feelings about our sex life became more and more clear. Once, when we had phone sex, I said something about riding him, and he replied, “You can’t do that when it never actually goes in.” These little comments ate away at me, making me feel tiny and useless, and I began to dread every penetration attempt. After a while, it was much easier for me to pretend none of it was happening, and I stopped wanting to even try. Our relationship began to crumble, and so did my relationship with my own body. I felt alienated and heartbroken. It never occurred to me that I could seek professional help for the pain, or that it was in any way treatable.

When, six months after our first time, I tearfully declared that I wanted to go on a break, Carl said, “I’ve considered breaking up with you because you can’t do it properly.” It felt like a punch in the gut. I dumped him. He spent the next few weeks pleading with me to take him back, but it was too late. He’d amplified the little voice in my head that snarled, You’re too broken to love.

My next boyfriend, Peter, was kinder than Carl, and I thought things might be different with him sexually, too. We got along so well and everything we had done together had felt great and comfortable for me. We’d only been together a few weeks, and it was just a few months after everything had fallen apart with my ex, but everything about it felt good. So when he asked, “Are you sure?” when we decided it was time to have penetrative sex, I told him was, and I meant it. Regardless of that mental certainty, the physical pain was the same. Trying to have sex was like a searing blade ripping through me. Although I’d never told Peter about the difficulties I had with sex before—I thought they might have been specific to Carl—he knew it wasn’t right when I cried out in agony, so he just held me while the tears came. He didn’t speak, he was just there, and though I felt ashamed and confused, I was thankful for the silence and the warmth.

When we talked about it after several equally painful attempts, Peter was incredibly supportive and patient. Sometimes, I resented him for that. Despite his constant reassurance that he loved me regardless, I wondered why he stuck around: Wasn’t this was taking as much of a toll on him as it was on me? Why didn’t he just leave me for a model that worked properly?

I began to fear all sexual contact. Though our relationship remained strong, I became more and more sexless, even as I simultaneously wanted sex more than ever. Thanks to my parents’ values, I grew up judging girls who had casual sex, but as I became more deeply absorbed in my own sexual issues, I began to envy them. I sat uncomfortably as groups of friends gossiped about sex and felt left out because I didn’t have anything to share, saying a tiny little prayer of thanks every time the conversation passed seamlessly by me so I could remain inconspicuous. Sometimes, I fantasized about living a different life and fucking hundreds, thousands of boys, just because I could.

The Ahistorical Pharisee [Pope Francis Bookclub]

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 09:28 pm
[syndicated profile] unequally_yoked_feed

Posted by Leah Libresco

In 2014, I’m reading and blogging through Pope Francis/Cardinal Bergoglio’s Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus.  Every Monday, I’ll be writing about the next meditation in the book, so you’re welcome to peruse them all and/or read along. The most striking line I found in this week’s meditation from Pope Francis came as he discussed the [Read More...]
[syndicated profile] ms_magazine_feed

Posted by Stephanie Hallett

Amanda was enjoying her daily run when she was attacked and raped. Afterwards, she went to the hospital where she was immediately offered emergency contraception. In the video below, she shares her story in an ad paid for by the No On 67 campaign, and explains that she opposes Colorado’s personhood ballot measure—Amendment 67—because it would ban the use of emergency contraception, such as Plan B, and all abortions in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Well, not to the advertising team at Hulu. No On 67 submitted the video to the ad-supported streaming network—which has been running plenty of election-related ads in recent months—but was turned down.

In an email, Hulu account manager Erin explained that the ad was rejected because, “According to our advertising bylaws we are unable to accept ‘Ads that advocate a controversial political or other public position’ which unfortunately [the No On 67 campaign] falls under due to the subject matter of abortion.”

Hulu had not responded to our requests for comment by press time, and it’s unclear if pro-67 ads have been allowed to run. However, the network hasn’t been shy about other political ads, reportedly allowing spots attacking the Affordable Care Act to run.

Amendment 67 asks voters:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?

If passed, it could ban abortion, emergency contraception and many forms of birth control, and could also criminalize women who have miscarriages.

Coloradans have twice rejected similar measures—and we hope they’ll do the same in this election. In the meantime, use the hashtag #HuluLetHerSpeak and sign Progress Now’s petition demanding Hulu allow Amanda’s story on their network.

Get Ms. in your inbox! Click here to sign up for the Ms. newsletter.



Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

John Templon, "No, Obama’s Pronouns Don’t Make Him A Narcissist", BuzzFeed News 10/19/2014:

Conservative commentators are fond of pointing to Barack Obama’s excessive use of the word “I” as evidence of the president’s narcissism. (“For God’s sake, he talks like the emperor Napoleon,” Charles Krauthammer complained recently.) But there’s one tiny problem with this line of reasoning. If you’re counting pronouns, Obama is maybe the least narcissistic president since 1945.

BuzzFeed News analyzed more than 2,000 presidential news conferences since 1929, looking for usage of first-person singular pronouns — “I,” “me,” “my,” “mine,” and “myself.” Just 2.5 percent of Obama’s total news-conference words fell into this category. Only Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt used them less often.

MSNBC turned the BuzzFeed FPSP counts into a nice graph (Steve Benen, "Criticism of Obama's pronouns falls apart", MSNBC 10/21/14):

There's a long history of LLOG coverage of this piece of derp, for example:

"Fact-checking George F. Will", 6/7/2009
"Obama's Imperial 'I': Spreading the meme", 6/8/2009
"Inaugural pronouns", 6/8/2009
"Royal baloney", 6/9/2009
"Another pack member heard from", 6/9/2009
"I again", 7/13/2009
"What is 'I' saying?", 8/9/2009
"Open fraud as Op-Ed discourse", 7/10/2010
"Fact-checking George F. Will, one more time", 10/6/2009
"Recommended reading", 5/3/2011
"Presidential pronouns, one more time", 5/22/2011
"Two more pundits who don't count", 6/21/2011
"Another pundit who can't (or won't) count", 6/23/2011
"A meme in hibernation", 3/31/2012
"Another lie from George Will", 5/7/2012
"Obama pronouns again", 10/31/2012

"First Person Singular, Redemption Plea Edition", 1/11/2014
"Another casual lie from Charles Krauthammer", 9/16/2014

And the whole inferring-narcissism-from-I-talk idea turns out to be nonsense anyhow — Angela L. Carey, Melanie Brucks, Albrech C.P. Küfner, Nichlas S. Holtzman, Fenne große Deters, Metija D. Back,  M. Brent Donnellan, James W. Pennbaker, and Matthias R. Mehl, "Narcissism and the Use of Personal Pronouns Revisited", in press, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

Among both laypersons and researchers, extensive use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e. I-talk) is considered a face-valid linguistic marker of narcissism. However, the assumed relation between narcissism and I-talk has yet to be subjected to a strong empirical test. Accordingly, we conducted a large-scale (N = 4,811), multi-site (five labs), multi-measure (five narcissism measures) and dual-language (English and German) investigation to quantify how strongly narcissism is related to using more first-person singular pronouns across different theoretically relevant communication contexts (identity-related, personal, impersonal, private, public, and stream-of-consciousness tasks). Overall (r = .02, 95% CI [-.02, .04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns (total, subjective, objective, and possessive). This consistent near-zero effect has important implications for making inferences about narcissism from pronoun use and prompts questions about why I-talk tends to be strongly perceived as an indicator of narcissism in the absence of an underlying actual association between the two variables.

Honey, you still fog my glasses

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:59 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. … I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.” That’s Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich talking about Obamacare

• A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that most Americans think the country is “on the wrong track.” It turns out this has been true of every such poll since January 2004. The Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson says this marks a prolonged period of national gloominess.

But keep in mind, this poll question isn’t solely a measure of the national mood. It’s also asking the public to make a prediction about where things are heading. That prediction may turn out to have been accurate or inaccurate — right or wrong. It’s not an entirely subjective question. Just look back to that January 2004 poll, when a majority of Americans said the country was “on the right track.” Does anyone today think they were right about that?

• Credit where credit is due: Kudos to Focus on the Family for denouncing right-wing “Bible prophecy” loon Rick Wiles for celebrating the Ebola outbreak. Wiles said, “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”


• Here are two great examples from yesterday that show why I think Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist is one of the best blogs in all of blogtopia.

First there’s this: “Maryland Delegate Spreads Story of Anti-Christian Discrimination at Sheriff’s Office … Turns Out It’s All Wrong.” He heard the story and then checked it out — calling the sheriff’s office and getting the sheriff himself on the phone to get the actual story. That looks an awful lot like actual journalism.

And then there’s this, which is just terrific: “An Interview With Robert Wilson (a.k.a. rwlawoffice), the Commenter Who Always Seems to Disagree With What I Write.” It’s a neighborly, mutually respectful exchange — the rare achievement of genuine disagreement.

• “I’m gonna tell God how you treat me, I’m gonna tell God how you treat me one of these days.”

Bill Lindsey’s post had me searching for additional versions of that great old song and I came across this one — an adorable a capella rendition by a 9-year-old girl. She’s seated at a desk, apparently reading the words off the computer screen in front of her. Or maybe she’s looking at the latest round of awful stories of online abuse — the terroristic threats against Anita Sarkeesian, the vile cesspool of “GamerGate,” and all the other daily horrors that make life online intolerable for any woman with an opinion and a voice. That’s what I was thinking of, anyway, as I heard her singing, “I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.”

It’s a beautiful song. I hope it’s true. My eye reaches but little ways, etc.

• “Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa”  The question should actually by why it’s legal or in any way socially tolerable for some evil bastard to charge poor people $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa.

And the answer to that question is partly this: Because we’re a nation of sanctimonious, victim-blaming jerks. We’re addicted to the endorphin rush of moral superiority we get from blaming uppity poor people for wanting furniture that we think someone in their station doesn’t deserve to have. And we’re too busy doing that to bother reining in the loansharks, scammers and predators who gouge the poor with schemes like “rent-to-own.”

• “You might get AIDS in Kenya, the people have AIDS, you got to be careful, the towels can have AIDS.” This man finished second in the Republican Iowa caucus. And now he’s warning us against Africanized AIDS-towels. OK.

[syndicated profile] rookie_feed

Posted by Jane Marie

Collage by Minna.

Collage by Minna.

A lot of the articles that have been written about the comedian Kate Berlant contain some line amounting to, “Ms. Berlant’s stand-up act is hard to define”…including this one, because it’s true! Her performances are totally her own. This makes trying to summarize them difficult, but here are some attempts to give you at least some frame of reference for what she does and how she does it: Her act is avant-garde/planned improv/experimental/digressive/ranty/silly/stream-of-consciousness. There’s no, “What’s the deal with cellphones?” or “Men are like this, women are like that,” in her act—Kate’s stand-up is like nothing you’ve seen before.

The character she plays on stage evokes a motivational speaker who has no product to sell but themselves. Have you ever seen Enlightened? It’s about a woman, Amy Jellicoe, who is so earnest in her quest for personal growth that she can’t tell she’s become a caricature of a New Age woman. Imagine if that character were a stand-up comedian: That’s Kate, and her act is one of my favorite things happening in comedy right now. She recently moved back to her home town of Los Angeles after almost a decade in New York, and I invited her over to sit in my backyard and talk about what comedy shows and freak shows have in common, plus more.

JANE MARIE: You’re from here?

KATE BERLANT: I am. I was born to two parents, if you can believe it. Both my parents have lived here for a long time. They’re older. They’re 70. My mom had me at 43, so that’s tight.
My dad is an artist so our house is also his studio. It’s like half a studio, half our house.

Very Lena Dunham.

It is very Lena, I’ll be honest. I really relate. The parallels are shocking.


Just very nurturing to a young creative voice.

When did you first know you were funny?

My identity since I was very small was about making people laugh, for sure. Now, because I’m home and I’ve been spending a lot of time at my parents’ house, I’m watching some old videos of me as a baby—but I’m, like, doing impressions? It’s very trippy. None of my parents’ friends had kids when I was very young, and my parents entertained a lot and had dinner parties and I would always be at the table really trying to get their attention. Growing up in that house where I was only around adults, I wanted to be taken seriously, or to be funny not just because I was the child, but because I was actually able to make them really laugh, like an adult would.

I did stand-up for the first time when I was 17. My senior year I was really bad at math. They wanted to put me in special ed. classes, I was so bad at math, so I proposed an idea. I was like, “Everyone relax. Just don’t make me do math, and I’ll do an independent study.” And they let me do that! So I did my independent study in stand-up.

Really?! And that replaced math somehow?

Yeah, everyone was being held back because I was so bad. I was like, “I’m sorry, WHAT!?” So they had to just get rid of me. It was an emergency. I started watching and listening to a ton of stand-up, and then I did it for the first time at my high school. It was my one-woman show, and it went…well. [Laughs]

Who was the comedian you saw and thought, “Well, I could do that?”

When I was 17, I watched a documentary about David Cross called Let America Laugh and was just like, “I need to do that.” The movie followed him on tour with Shonali Bhowmik who was in Variety Shac, the sketch group with Chelsea Peretti, Heather Lawless, and Andrea Rosen, and I was obsessed with them.

I very vividly remember the first time I sat down to write anything: I finished the documentary and walked over to my computer and writing jokes. Not to be too poetic, but I do remember it just pouring out of me. My first jokes were truly about the pope. Like, “What’s with the pope, right!?” I had no idea what I was doing.

Then I went to Bard [College in upstate New York] for a year, but I was going into the city every single weekend to go see shows. Eventually I got my first real show, a “cool” show at UCB and I was like, “OK, I have to move here.” So I transferred to NYU and I went to Gallatin…

What is that?

It’s an individualized study program there, like, “make your own major.” So I did that, and I picked…

…stand-up comedy?

Honestly? Kind of! I graduated with an individualized major in the cultural anthropology of fucking comedy.

Does it make your stand-up better that you know more about comedy than anyone else?

I think I don’t know about comedy at all! I feel like I haven’t seen a lot of stuff that people have or something? In fact, I get paranoid—sometimes if people really like something, I won’t want to watch it, because I don’t want it to seep in. Stand-up is so contagious in that way, which is cool and exciting, but also produces a very similar tone; you hear the same style.

Have you ever heard someone tell one of your jokes?

Actually, yes, but we cleared that up privately. I don’t think anyone ever steals a joke intentionally.

They just hear it and think they thought of it?

Yes. It’s very simple and very harmless.

What did this person say when you talked to them about it?

They were just like, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” And I wasn’t saying it like, “You fucking stole!” I really was like, “Hey, B-T-W, I’ve kind of been saying that.”

OK. So you get this undergrad degree and you’re doing stand up in New York…

I started hosting a show on the Lower East Side. It was the first time I was performing regularly. Then I went to grad school at NYU and studied women in comedy and other women performers. The history of female objectification and whatnot.

What did you learn? Tell us everything!

Um, I learned a lot and IT SCARED ME—I’ll be honest. [Laughs] I got really obsessed with studying the history of the freakshow: women put on display and human otherness. It’s called “enfreakment.” Processes of enfreakment are about turning otherness into a performance. Oftentimes, it’s rooted in a lot of historical violence. I got really obsessed with conjoined twins and bearded women, and I started to feel like female comedians were these bearded figures doing this historically very masculinized thing—but were women.

Priests at Every Elbow

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 07:17 pm
[syndicated profile] ekklesia_project_feed

Posted by Kyle Childress

I Thessalonians 2:1-8

Indeed, the appeal we make never springs from error or base motive; there is no attempt to deceive; but God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel, and on those terms we speak… With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves, so dear had you become to us. (I Thessalonians 2: 3-4, 8).

Unbelievable! Paul it seems identifies himself, his very person, with the Gospel.‘God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel,’ so that we have imparted ‘to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves.’ These are not exactly expressions of humility. What would you think if Kyle said that of himself? ‘God has entrusted me with the Gospel so that my very self makes present God to you. Indeed, if I fail in the ministry then all our salvation is in doubt.’ I suspect you would think if Kyle expressed such views, he would have gone around the bend. But I am telling you not only is that exactly what Kyle should think about his ministry but also it’s what you should hold him to. For if the Kyles do not exist and churches like Austin Heights Baptist do not exist to make Kyle’s ministry possible, then we are indeed lost.

So said Stanley Hauerwas, preaching on the I Thessalonians lectionary text, in the worship service that was part of my tenth anniversary celebration as pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church.

These were strong words in Stanley’s provocative sermon. These were words that made all of us in the congregation sit up and pay attention to what the Apostle Paul was saying about ministry to the small, struggling congregation in Thessalonica. For me, they were uncomfortable words.

In listening to Stanley’s high view of pastoral ministry, I squirmed. I was not so sure I agreed with such an elevated perspective of ministry. I mean, I know pastors! I also knew then and know now that when anyone is put up on a pedestal they will eventually fall off or get knocked off. It is much safer to never be on the pedestal in the first place.

I also know churches. At least, I know something about American mainline Protestant churches. Churches cut ministers down to size a long time ago. We say, “We do not need anyone standing over us representing God. We can go to God for ourselves, thank you. We believe in the priesthood of the believers, after all. We do not need priests,” we say. “I am my own priest and I don’t need some preacher getting in the way. We’ve seen too many ministers who try to act like God and it does not matter if it is the pope or fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastors,” and everyone in the congregation nods their heads and say, “Yeah, that’s right!”

So no wonder that Hauerwas’ assertion that pastors make God present to the congregation is outrageous and makes us feel uncomfortable.

But the discomfort of the pastor being lifted up as the one who makes God present to the congregation raises an interesting question. What if Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians also is about the ministry of every member of the body of Christ, the church? Paul is specifically seeking to encourage and strengthen the small Thessalonian congregation but perhaps we can look through the communal lens of being the body of Christ and say that it is the responsibility of all of us in the church to minister and encourage and strengthen. In other words, for our purposes here, we are all priests – priests to each other.

Hear Baptist theologian James McClendon on this:

Here, then, is the challenge of radical reformation in ministry: not a set-apart ministry of those who work for God while others work for themselves, and not a flock of secular ‘callings’ (doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief) tended by a shepherd with a religious calling (priest or preacher, pope or pastor), but a people set apart, earning their daily bread in honest toil, to be sure, but living to become for others the bread of life … Every member is called to discipleship; baptism … is commissioning for this ministry … on this view every Christian is a cleric. True Christian leadership is not affected by exalting (or by denigrating) the gifts of the few, but by discovering that the Spirit has a gift for each. Every member is a minister.

What often happens in our congregations is that we are uncomfortable with exalting the pastor above the laity so we devalue (Hauerwas’ word) or denigrate (McClendon’s word) the role and office of the pastor. The mistake is that we pull the pastor down to our level. Instead we are to see ourselves exalted as ministers of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we all are lifted up to become priests, priests of the living Christ to each other. This was what the great preacher Carlyle Marney called a “proper priesthood.” Priesthood of the believers is not “I’m my own priest and do not need anyone else” but “We are priests at each other’s elbows.” In Jesus Christ we are all lifted up to embody the Way of Christ and be a part of the ministry of encouragement of the church.

Perhaps Hauerwas, McClendon, Marney and the Apostle Paul are challenging all of us, those of us in the pulpit and serving at the altar but also those sitting in the pews of our priestly vocation to each other and to a hurting world.

I Will Listen. I Will Learn. I Will Grow.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 04:27 pm
[syndicated profile] lovejoyfeminism_feed

Posted by Libby Anne

As my regular readers will know, I often blog about parenting. Primarily, I blog about the wonder I have found in parenting gently and positively after growing up in an authoritarian family that relied on corporal punishment. One response I frequently get is that I should not speak about parenting as though I know anything when my children are only five and two. I’m told to wait until they get older and see how it works for me then. This completely misses the point.

Abuse is a very difficult word for me. I have never stated, either on my blog or to myself, that I was “abused” as a child. Nothing my parents did constituted legal abuse in my state, and there was also so much love, and so many other children had it so much worse. Was I abused as a child? I suppose it all comes down to your definition. But I can tell you this: I was parented sub-optimally. I was hurt. I obeyed out of fear. I felt ignored and stifled. I was afraid of my mother. And all of the happiness that was also present in our home cannot erase these things. Things could have been different—things could have been so much better.

My parenting decisions are not something I’ve pulled out of thin air on a whim. Rather, I’ve reflected on the way my parents parented and how it hurt me and have resolved not to repeat those patterns. I will not use corporal punishment because of the effects it had on my own childhood, and on my relationships with my parents. I will listen to my children, because I was not listened to and I remember how it felt. I will not demand immediate obedience from my children, because I remember what it felt like to be required to be an automaton.

hugI have tried to build something positive on the ashes of the parenting patterns I have chosen to burn rather than copy. I love my children, but then, my parents loved me and still they went about parenting in a way that was hurt me. So in addition to love, I have chosen respect. I love my children. I treat my children with respect. After all, they are people, too.

A couple of days ago, I was thinking again about trying to “change” your children. Someone asked me, shouldn’t we try to shape and change our children to make them better people? These words have too much baggage for me. I believe that we should teach our children, and help equip them for the world they will enter when they are grown—and the world they inhabit today. But my children are not mine to shape as I will. They are born with their own personalities, inner lives, and sense of self. That is not mine to change. I can encourage my children to greater compassion, empathy, and understanding, but my parents viewed me as clay to be molded and I know how that turned out.

I remember the pain of unmet expectations. My parents invested so much of themselves in me turning out a specific way, and when I didn’t, they took out their pain and grief on me. I refuse to repeat that pattern. Children are wild cards. All I can do is be the best parent I can—to love them, to treat them with respect, t0 teach them—and then set them free to fly.

I have been told that my own idealism about parenting is not so different from the idealism of my parents. After all, they adopted the teachings they did because they wanted so badly to raise my siblings and I correctly—to turn out perfect children. They thought they had found the perfect formula. But I do not claim to have found a perfect formula. I do not claim that my children will have perfect childhoods, or that I will turn out perfect children. Refusing to repeat the toxic patterns of my parents’ parenting is not idealism. It is realism—and compassion. I will not hit my children. I will treat them with respect. I will not ignore my children. I will listen to them and what they have to say. I will not demand that my children become automatons. I will encourage their input and involvement in family decisions.

I do not blog about my experiences parenting to give others a formula to follow. It is true that I think some of the principles I follow—respect, communication, compromise—are generally applicable both in raising children and far beyond that, but I would never promote a cookie cutter formula approach. To be perfectly honest, the main reason I blog about my experiences parenting my own children is because of how healing they have been.

It is not that things are always perfect, but then, we are all quick to apologize when we make mistakes—and to learn from those mistakes. It is not that I think I have found a formula that will produce perfect children—again, I make no such claims and have no such expectations. It is simply that I am refusing to repeat the practices or approaches that hurt me as a child. I will not repeat the cycle. It is that I am willing to listen, learn, and grow alongside my children. I do not pretend infallibility. It is that I see my children as human beings worthy of respect rather than as subordinates. They are not my property to do with as I will.

Do I have more to learn? I’m sure I do! But I will learn it, because I will listen. And perhaps that is the difference. My parents have been raising children for as long as I am alive, but they have rarely listened to their children. They would rather follow cookie-cutter approaches than be willing to grow as parents.

I am ready to listen. I am willing to learn. I am prepared to grow.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014 04:23 pm
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Posted by Claudia Rebaza


Banner with seven circles and a 'No' sign in the third one, reading 'Seven Years, Seven Wonders, Organization for Transformative Works, October 19-26 2014 Membership Drive'

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It's that time of year again. You see the banners, you read the posts — but why is the OTW asking for money? Well, one of the many reasons that the Organization for Transformative Works is awesome is that we don’t have any advertising, which is why we rely on your support.

When visiting any of our websites, you don't have to worry about having a fanwork or article squeezed into a corner of your screen by advertising or accidentally clicking on an advert. The OTW and its projects are free of any advertising.

The reasons the OTW does not accept any advertising tie into some of the founding principles of the Organization itself.

In a presentation for the Nine Worlds convention in August 2013, OTW staffer Lucy Pearson described some of these principles: "The reason the OTW was formed really had to do with the fundamental lack of security that fans have when they rely on commercial platforms to host their work... Any site that's for profit and dependent on advertisers is very rarely going to stick its neck out for users in the face of advertiser pressure."

Many of us have, over the years, seen beloved works disappear in purges. With the OTW, there is no pressure from anyone to remove content to be more attractive to advertisers. This allows the OTW to give our undivided loyalty to our users.

While not having advertising is brilliant, it means that we need your help to function and maintain our awesomeness. Your donation of US$10 or more allows the OTW to continue to provide you with the ad-free sites that you know and love. Help preserve our freedom and our works! Please donate today. The goal of this fundraiser is to raise $70,000 for the OTW. We are well on our way! Please help us meet our goal today.


Learn how to use my hands, not just my head

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 02:42 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

One of the main Muzak loops they play at the store (overnight, all night, the music never stops at the Big Box) includes a couple of Indigo Girls songs. “Watershed” is lovely, and so is “Power of Two.” No complaint about either of those, and after hearing them both a couple of times a night for a couple of weeks, I’ve even got the harmony parts down pretty well.

But the Big Box is a hardware store. It’s kind of bewildering that a hardware store would play two Indigo Girls songs every four hours without either of them being this one:

Click here to view the embedded video.

It’s even weirder because every 10 minutes or so, the PA interrupts whatever song is playing for one of the store’s in-house ads. “Let’s get out there and get building,” the ad says, touting a sale on hammers and nails before cutting back to “Power of Two.”

HammerNail(I recently learned that there’s a name for the annoying presumed intimacy of that “let’s” construction. It’s apparently called “forced teaming.” I’ve always just thought of such presumptuous first-person-plural rhetoric in terms of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke — “What do you mean ‘we,’ kemosabe?”)

The Muzak channel that plays the Indigos is full of mellow, acoustic folkie pop. A little Norah Jones, some Sarah MacLachlan, Jonatha Brooke, Shawn Colvin and the like. All quite lovely in the right setting, but not exactly the kind of thing to keep one awake and energized at four in the morning.

The ’70s music channel that sometimes plays instead is better for that. Say what you will about disco, but those beats-per-minute do keep your heart-rate up. Plus it can be a fun reminder of some of the great music I don’t always think of as “1970s” stuff — old Bowie or Springsteen or Dolly Parton. But then it also includes some songs that are even more 1970s than I might have thought possible — like “Float On” from The Floaters, a song so utterly whatever it is that I’m a little bit in awe of it.

The other weird Muzak channel is a decent mix of ’80s and ’90s pop. Some oddly wonderful choices in that playlist, but the strangest thing to me is the Simple Minds. There are five Simple Minds songs in that tape loop — five!

These are songs I don’t ever remember hearing on the radio. I think the only reason I know them is because I forgot to send in that Columbia House Record Club card once in college and wound up owing them like $28 for the Live in the City of Light double album.

So in case anyone was wondering what Jim Kerr was up to these days, now you know. He’s working for Muzak, programming the overnight playlists of Big Box hardware chain stores. (Not actually true — according to Wikipedia the former Simple Minds frontman is actually running a hotel in Sicily. No, really.)

Anyway, if you’re awaiting the point to this post, there is none. But there’s a No Prize for anybody in comments who can guess all five Simple Minds songs.

Quick hit: A good example of how to handle trolls

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 03:00 pm
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Posted by Tim Chevalier

With his permission, I’m reposting this blog comment from Marco Rogers, in a reply to an anti-feminist comment on a blog post about women in tech that he wrote 2 1/2 years ago. Although the post is that old, the comment is from a few days ago, because even years later, anti-feminist trolls are stumbling across Marco’s blog post and feeling the need to express their displeasure with it.

I’m reposting Marco’s comment because I think it’s a good example about how to respond to a troll. I would love to see more men let their anti-feminist peers know that uninformed anti-feminist wankery is a waste of time. And I would love to do that more often myself, rather than engaging with it.

Hi [REDACTED]. I thought a long time about whether to let this comment stand or delete it. I do listen to input from different perspectives. I read this entire thing. And I’m sorry to say it was a waste of my time.

I’m afraid this reply won’t be very constructive. I had to chose whether to waste further time dismantling your false logic, and I had to take into account whether it would make any difference to you or anyone reading. I don’t think it will. In my experience, it’s very difficult to educate men who think like you do.

I’ll admit it also annoys me that you would come and write a small novel in my blog comments but not say anything new or original. Men have been making this argument that their long history of sexism is somehow the natural order of things since the beginning of time. It’s not revelatory, it’s not some profound wisdom that people haven’t heard, it’s boring. The feminist/womanist movement grew in direct opposition to all the nonsense you spouted above. There is a ton of literature that debunks and rejects every single point you are poorly trying to make. The least you can do is educate yourself on the system you’re up against, so you can sound more cogent and have an actual chance of convincing anyone.

The question remains of whether I let your comment stay up. I think I will. Not because I feel compelled to represent multiple viewpoints here. This is my blog and I choose what goes here. But I’ll leave it because I’m no longer afraid of letting people read tripe like this. You’re losing. We WILL create a world where the mentality of men like you is a minority and women get to exist as themselves without fear. You can’t stop it. Stay mad bro. Thanks for dropping by.

Going the Distance: A Reflection on Perseverance

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 01:28 pm
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Posted by Steve Norman | OnFaith Voices

I am not a runner. I don’t particularly enjoy it, and I’m not exactly skilled at it. Nevertheless, I run. On Sunday, I had the privilege of running the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank International Half-Marathon with an amazing group of people from our church. About 1,400 people ran with Team Kensington for the Hope Water Project, an initiative created to provide clean water to the roughly one million people of the Pokot tribe in northwest Kenya.

Some of my most spiritual experiences are out on the race course, in the giving and receiving of encouragement to fellow runners, in the awe of a breathtaking sunrise over the Detroit River, in the quietness of my own thoughts, and yes, in the desperate prayers for stamina as the miles go by. There are more stories from Sunday’s event to recount here, but three snapshots stand out to me.

“We belong to a pack, even if they are unseen”

The Detroit course in unique in that runners cross a bridge into Windsor, Canada at mile three and return to the U.S. via an underwater tunnel a few miles later. About halfway through the tunnel, I noticed a woman running in front of me with a fluorescent yellow shirt. The back of it read something like, “You’re never alone when you’re part of a pack.” It’s true, of course. The irony in this case was that her pack was nowhere to be seen in that particular moment. It’s often true of life, isn’t it? Sometimes I feel horribly alone as I negotiate some of the tunnels in my personal spiritual journey. But I rarely want to talk about it.

The novelist Douglas Coupland wrote ” . . . loneliness is the most taboo subject in the world. Forget sex or politics or religion. Or even failure. Loneliness is what clears out a room.” Another author, the writer of the biblical book of Hebrews, however, reminds us that were never as alone as we sometimes believe we are. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” There’s some debate about who comprises this cloud, but if it exists, it serves as motivation to run as if our race matters — somebody out there notices and our effort matters to them.

Perhaps the most damning lie we could buy into is the one telling us we are utterly and hopelessly alone. The lone woman in the tunnel believes, at least at some level, she’s part of pack. And her pack is with her and for her, even if their physical presence isn’t readily apparent. Sometimes in the grind of life, we feel like lone runners. It’s ok though. If the author of Hebrews is right, we belong to a pack, even if they are unseen.

“There’s value in living our lives for an audience of One”

The courses of the half-marathon and the actual marathon merge just before the finish line. As I turned the corner to the final straightaway and saw the finish line in the distance, I had an extra burst of adrenaline. Mind you, I wasn’t nearly as fast as I felt I was, but I was trying to find my “extra gear” to finish strong. About 100 yards away from the end of the race, the cheers from the spectators grew louder. I looked to my right at the fans in their aluminum bleachers and was flattered that perfect strangers would support me with such passion. I basked in the glory of the applause until the race announcer’s voice shocked me out of my moment. I turned to my left and, over my shoulder, I saw a women barreling towards the finish and then pass me in a blur. The voice on the speaker announced her as 23 year-old Courtney Brewis who happened to be completing (and winning the women’s division of) the 26.2 mile race just as I was wrapping up my 13.1 miles.

Not only was the crowd not really cheering for me, it was reminding me that no matter how hard I work, there will always be someone who’s twice as fast as I am. Again, some of the more disappointing moments in life occur when you realize that person you thought was your fan was never really pulling for you. That boyfriend who pledged his undying love was fickle, the friend who promised to have your back was unreliable, that supervisor believed in everyone on the team except for you. It’s a delicate line we walk; we crave the support of others, but can’t always count on it.

Sometimes you’ll discover the roar of the crowd is for someone else. It’s ok. I think it’s a gentle reminder to check our motives. Am I only giving my best because I need someone to notice? Or is it because it’s the right thing to do and this task is worth my best? I know it’s contrived, but I’m still convinced there’s value in living our lives for an audience of One. What might tomorrow look like if I focused less on how others perceived my actions and more on doing the right things, the right way for the right reasons?

“Fix your gaze straight ahead and move. Just. Keep. Moving.”

There was one part of this race that was particularly meaningful to me: my parents did it, too. There were two half-marathons on Sunday, with two different courses at two different times. I did the first one; they did in the second. My dad turned 78 less than two weeks ago and my mother will celebrate her 75th birthday this week. But they’re always up for a challenge and an adventure and trained to walk in this event together. There’s one catch in walking the race: it’s a race against time. Race officials close the course after four hours. They even have an individual designated to be the last-chance pacer. In this case, a bald gentleman played the part with gusto. He carried a sign that read “4:00 pace” on one side and “18:19/mile” on the other. And on the back of his head, in black marker, were the words “The End.”

So, Mom and Dad began their long-distance power walk, mindful of the fact that their primary task was to stay ahead of this walker. I called them periodically over the course of the race to see how they were doing and how they felt. My dad would say, “We’re still ahead of the guy. Just barely, but we’re beating him.” But later in the race, I couldn’t get through when I called. So I went to the finish line just as they were preparing to close the course. In the distance, there they were. And about 30 yards behind them, was the guy with the sign. Later my dad told me they had affectionately nicknamed him “The Grim Reaper.” He just kept following them, steadily and relentlessly. And they just kept pushing, one deliberate and unfaltering step at a time. And they won. I’m immensely proud of them both.

Some of us are struggling through a difficult season now. And when we look over our shoulder, we see him there — that guy with the sign. You know the one. The one that reads “Despair.” No matter how hard we struggle we can seem to widen the gap between him and us, he just keeps coming. But persevering doesn’t mean we have to outrun our demons by a mile, just a single step. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” So no matter what fears, insecurities, or threats you perceive when you look behind you, fix your gaze straight ahead and move. Just. Keep. Moving.

The post Going the Distance: A Reflection on Perseverance appeared first on OnFaith.

4 Reasons It’s Okay to Lose Your Faith

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 01:12 pm
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Posted by Kathy Escobar

How could that be right? Aren’t we supposed to be increasing our faith, not losing it? What would possibly be good about losing faith?

Faith Shift_cvr.inddAs a pastor and spiritual director, it seems ironic and contradictory to be telling people that it’s okay to lose their faith. It can appear that way on the surface. But when we understand what’s going on underneath a maturing faith, we discover that losing faith as we knew it can actually lead to more life in the end.

Years ago, I was a “good” evangelical Christian. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, but when I turned my life over to Jesus, I turned it over big. I was hungry for anything related to the Bible and church. I was eager to learn, to serve, to be part of a church family. It was an extremely inspiring and transforming season in my life; I was faithful, dedicated, committed.

However, over the years I began to notice a shift in my heart related to church and God, too. What once seemed certain and clear became fuzzy. I started noticing how few places of true honesty and relational vulnerability were available in church. I had new reservations about the inerrancy of the scriptures, and began questioning what I had been taught about hell and homosexuality. I began to doubt much of what I had been trained as a conservative Christian to never question. After a significantly painful experience as part of a mega-church staff, what began as a small rumble of doubts and questions intensified and became a huge landslide.

Almost everything I once believed came into question. As I started talking to others both in real life and online who were experiencing similar disorienting feelings, I discovered there were a lot of us — once faithful, dedicated Christians now in the middle of a radical faith shift and unsure where to turn.

At that time, I didn’t have very many good guides for the journey, but I was fortunate to have a few friends limping along beside me — losing their once familiar faith, too — who provided hope that I wasn’t crazy or alone. Over the years I continue to meet men and women of all denominations, faith experiences, and circumstances who share a similar story and are wrestling with what happens when all they once believed begins to unravel.

Navigating the messy, difficult process of a faith shift usually always feels scary. One of the reasons is we have few guides or tools on how to survive shedding beliefs or move out of once-comfortable faith systems. It often helps to receive permission from others to lean into the truth of what we’re experiencing instead of run from it. To embrace what’s happening in our soul with honesty and integrity, even when leaders or family members may not understand. To bravely allow ourselves to lose a once certain faith and not know exactly what it might look like in the end.

I believe that the way toward something new is to embrace that losing faith doesn’t mean losing everything. In fact, losing faith is okay.

Here’s why:

1. There’s a big difference between losing beliefs and losing faith.

Often we confuse the two. Many of us grew up in rigid faith systems with a long list of doctrinal statements and tenets we needed to believe to belong. In the scriptures, Jesus seemed to have a pretty short list of what was needed; in fact, most who followed him believed very little and it seemed to be enough. Most of the men and women I know don’t want to give up faith completely. The part they want to lose is the religiosity, hypocrisy, and rigidity that has outlasted its usefulness and is squeezing out a deeper, freer faith.

2. “As we knew it” is a better description to what we lose.

It’s easy to be drastic and say that we’ve lost our faith completely (and sometimes that does, indeed, happen). But much more likely is losing faith/God/Jesus/church as we knew it. The former ways don’t work, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways that will emerge over time, even though they will probably look radically different.

3. Faith can evolve past the systems it started in.

Systems have a tendency to thrive on homogeneity because it keeps things predictable, comfortable, and efficient. This is why churches often struggle with people shifting in their faith. Consciously or unconsciously, churches are built upon a fairly static model of belief and service. They often don’t take into account that as people’s faith matures, they outgrow the values of certainty, conformity, and affiliation of their early faith and begin to long for greater mystery, freedom, and diversity. This is a sign of growth and maturity, yet it’s often not perceived that way by churches because it threatens the status quo.

4. A little faith goes a long way.

Jesus said that the “faith of a mustard seed could move mountains” (Matthew 17:20). There are many ways to interpret that, but I think it’s a beautiful reminder that a little faith goes a long way. I often ask people who are shifting in their faith, “What’s one thing you still believe despite how much you’ve lost?” The answers are usually incredibly powerful, simple, and diverse. Deep truths supersede a long list of doctrinal beliefs, and a little faith goes a long way.

I love what Father Richard Rohr says about faith and freedom:

“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. . . . Then, when you can get little enough, naked enough, and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect from other people. That place is called . . . freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God.”

Losing faith doesn’t have to mean losing it all.

In fact, losing faith can actually bring true freedom.

Image courtesy of Parker Gibbs.

The post 4 Reasons It’s Okay to Lose Your Faith appeared first on OnFaith.

Who Is a Jew? What Is a Christian?

Monday, 20 October 2014 06:35 pm
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Posted by Herb Silverman

Who is a Jew? While I’m often asked how I can be both a Jew and an atheist, this question hardly ever comes from Jews. According to all branches of Judaism, a person is Jewish if born to a Jewish mother. Since my mother was Jewish, so am I. End of story. But it isn’t.

Jews argue about everything, including who is a Jew. Disagreements usually develop along sectarian lines. Reform Jews are willing to accept into the tribe someone with a Jewish father and a gentile mother, but Orthodox Jews are not. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis won’t even accept a child as Jewish when born to a devout Jewish mother from a donated gentile egg. All branches of Judaism allow for converts, but Orthodox Jews don’t recognize conversion of gentiles to Judaism unless that conversion is approved by a three-judge religious court comprised of three Orthodox men (usually rabbis), ritual immersion in a mikvah, and a commitment to perform all the Torah’s commandments according to Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law.

Gentiles are often surprised to hear that there is no religious belief requirement to be a Jew. Well-known Jews with no belief in God include intellectuals like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Karl Marx, as well as comedians like Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart, and Sarah Silverman (no relation, unfortunately). In fact, these Jews openly criticize or make fun of religion.

I am hard-pressed to name a pious Jew, dead or alive, who is a household name worldwide — except for Jesus.

A Pew survey shows that 62 percent of American Jews say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15 percent say it’s a matter of religion. Secular Jews, atheist Jews, and agnostic Jews comprise the largest constituency of Jews. I am hard-pressed to name a pious Jew, dead or alive, who is a household name worldwide — except for Jesus. Which brings us to . . .

What’s a Christian? I think it’s more difficult to define a Christian than a Jew. Christians believe that Jesus was/is a very special person with important teachings. But Christians differ on countless significant issues: whether Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, whether he was born of a virgin, whether he was resurrected bodily, whether he died for your sins, whether everything in the New Testament is literally true, whether and when he will be returning, and whether such beliefs will be the difference between going to heaven or hell.

What all Christians, whether liberal or conservative, seem to have in common is a belief that many who claim to be Christian are not real Christians. Personally, I prefer letting people self-identify, though this appears not to be the “Christian thing” to do.

I’m not a Christian by any definition, but if I were, I’d be a liberal one. I periodically receive emails from a liberal Christian group addressed to “Faithful American,” requesting I sign a petition. Recent examples include a petition against Georgia state judge Michael Boggs, who is under consideration for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, for his shameless efforts to exploit the Christian faith by condemning homosexuality and advancing an extremist right-wing agenda and a petition denouncing Sarah Palin for equating Holy Baptism with torture, since she wants to baptize terrorists by waterboarding them. I almost always agree with this group’s positions, but never sign them because I’m a faithless American.

Most of these petitions criticize so-called Christians for not being true Christians. Yes, they are. I would never call “unchristian” people who are motivated by their interpretations of Christian biblical principles. I just don’t think all such biblical principles or Christians are admirable.

What all religions have in common is that they contain atheists.

Now for the cross (pun intended) between Jews and Christians — Messianic Jews (Jews for Jesus). Most Jews want nothing to do with them, even if they have Jewish mothers, believing that their primary goal is to convert Jews to Christianity. That might be true, but ultra-Orthodox Jews have more religious beliefs in common with Messianic Jews than with atheist Jews like me. Both sects believe that a Messiah is coming, though they differ on whether it will be his first or second trip to earth.

There have been dozens of Jewish Messiah claimants over the centuries. Some in the Lubavitcher Chassidic sect are still expecting the imminent return of Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994. I’m as confident of Schneerson’s return as I am of Jesus’ return. Jesus purportedly said about 2,000 years ago that he would return before his own generation passed, and that clock is still ticking.

So Jews are generally fine with Jews who don’t believe in God, but are concerned and embarrassed by Jews who believe that God has a son.

What all religions have in common is that they contain atheists, though percentages vary considerably. Religion is often more about family, culture, and community than about religious belief. Of the three so-called monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), I “thank God” that I was born into the one where it’s easy to be an open atheist.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The post Who Is a Jew? What Is a Christian? appeared first on OnFaith.

Your iPhone Might Be Making You Less Religious

Monday, 20 October 2014 03:01 pm
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Posted by Patton Dodd

When Guy Kawasaki became Apple Computer’s chief evangelist in 1983, he didn’t mess around with the evangelism part. He even attended the Billy Graham School of Evangelism to learn the tricks of the persuasion trade from the greatest religion persuader of modern times.

Today, “evangelist” is a commonplace term in the business world, and it’s just one small aspect of the ways big business and consumer culture are intersecting with religion. Psychologists, social scientists, and business scholars are taking this intersection more and more seriously — and with little of the nonchalance of a young Kawasaki looking for a marketing edge among the fire-and-brimstone brethren.

Previous academic studies have found that faithful Protestants are more likely to shop for deals versus brands, that “brand evangelists” actually do function a lot like Christian missionaries, and that the whole “church of Apple” thing is not just a joke or a useful metaphor — the obsessive Apple fan community really does exhibit many features of a religious community.


Steve Jobs and one of his religious icons.

Likewise, a new paper titled “Finding Brands and Losing Your Religion” (pdf) in the Journal of Experimental Psychology opens with some lines you might not expect to find in a business journal: “What leads individuals to turn their backs on an omnipresent God? Another omnipresent force may be a viable culprit: brand name products.” The four authors hail from some of the top business schools in the world — Keisha M. Cutright at Wharton, Tülin Erdem at Stern, Gavan J. Fitzsimons at Fuqua, and Ron Shachar at Arison (in Israel). In recent years, these scholars have been examining what the religion and business intersection mean for people who practice either or both.

In this latest study, the scholars posit that lifestyle brands like Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Harley-Davidson — brands that are “highly salient” — may lead people to disassociate from their religious faith. To test the hypothesis, they conducted three different tests designed to measure levels of commitment to religion. “We were trying to figure out whether people expressing themselves with brands [has] any impact on how committed they are to religious activities and behaviors,” says Cutright.

She says it’s become a popular truism that “branding is overriding people’s religious beliefs,” so she and her colleagues wanted “to see if we could see that in the data.” And sure enough: “When people are using brands to say something about their identity, then they tell us that they are less religious.”

Why might this be?

Brands help you express who you are — so religion doesn’t have to

“Style” is something more substantive than we normally give it credit for. Lifestyle brands like Nike, Burton, and Apple — as opposed to functional brands like Dell and Hoover — help us express who we are, or who we aspire to be. As a 2010 study in the journal Marketing Science puts it, “brands allow people to express that they are meaningful, worthwhile beings, and deserving of good things in their lives.”

Of course, religion is about more than self expression, but people do use religion to tell themselves and the world who they are or want to be. Religious belief is not just an inward feeling; it’s a projection of the self onto the world. So religious identity and personal style are linked.

“Religious identity is a little less stable than we would like for it to be,” says Cuthright. The results of this current study “suggest we have to be more careful about the things we’re using to express ourselves to make sure it’s not replacing important things that are supposed to be sacred to us.”

People want to be honest about the problem of materialism

While “Finding Brands and Losing Your Religion” does not address this issue directly, Cutright says that one insight she gleaned is that “people want to feel as if they are very consistent” — they intuit that being religious and being stylish are in conflict, so they’ll indicate a decline of religious affiliation in light of their embrace of name brands.

“When they are using Apple or Nike to express who they are, it feels more self-oriented or materialistic,” says Cutright. “So they don’t simultaneously say, ‘Hey, I’m a big brand person, and I’m also religious.'” People aren’t fooling themselves — they know here’s an inherent tension between materialism and faith.

Cutright acknowledges that the audience she and her colleagues studied are “lower in terms of levels of religiosity” than, say, you’re average megachurch attendee. “It would be nice to get results from a large group of very religious people, who may look at these brands and not even consider them to be relevant ways in terms of how they express themselves.” On the other hand, says Cutright, “we may see even more movement from highly religious folks, just because they have more room to move.”

The post Your iPhone Might Be Making You Less Religious appeared first on OnFaith.

5 Facts About Depression Christians Need to Face

Monday, 20 October 2014 02:17 pm
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Posted by Andrew Arndt

I’ve dealt with depression off and on since I was in high school. I can remember the warmth of summer giving way to the darkness and chill of fall, and the same darkness and chill would settle over my mind and heart. With rare exceptions — occasional days filled with hope — I would spend the next five to six months severely depressed.

I was never suicidal, nor did I ever receive a formal diagnosis for my depression. But I now recognize the experience as depression. I was chronically tired. I went out of my way to avoid people. I ate too much (or, at other times, exercised too much — and sometimes both). I walked around in a cloud of confusion and vague anxiety.

Those were horrible, dark days.

I’m 33 now. As I’ve grown older, deeper, and more self-aware, I’ve come to a handful of insights on what depression is and how it functions and what I can do to stay emotionally healthy. My periods of depression are now much, much fewer and further between. But I still get clobbered with them here and there, and after one such recent “clobbering,” I wanted to share how I approach the issue and what I am doing to stay healthy.

I come from a religious background — Pentecostal Christian — in which depression was seen something to be remedied mainly by prayer. If that didn’t work, you might be in need of something called “biblical counseling” — a sort of therapy of learning “biblical truths” that are supposed to make you better. I’m grateful for much in my background, but such a limited and limiting frame of reference did not serve me well as I struggled to deal with depression. I’ve come to see that people of faith need better frames of reference in order to deal with the complexity of how our mind, body, and emotions work together.

Here are the five elements of my frame for depression today.

1. Depression is partly physiological. 

Because of the religious culture I was in, it took me forever to figure this out.

When I was younger, depression would roll in, and I would panic: “There’s something wrong with me!” I thought I was defective. But eventually I saw that if I had a broken leg, I wouldn’t say, “I am broken.” When my body and mind are feeling depressed, I do not need to say, “I am depressed.”

Accepting that depression is a physiological phenomenon allowed me to be able to say to myself, “You are not depressed; you are okay. Your body and mind are experiencing depression, and if you’ll stay steady, it will pass.” Christians have theological language for this already — I can make a distinction between the “me” that is, in St. Paul’s words, “hidden with Christ in God” and a “new creation in Christ,” and the “me” that is still “subject to decay.”

2. Being objective about depression helps me make healthy decisions when I am in a bout of depression.

Again with the broken leg: seeing my leg (and not myself) as broken allows me to make decisions that help the leg heal under its own powers. Similarly, seeing my mind and body as suffering from depression gives me the necessary “distance” to say, “Ok, what do I need to do here? How do I tend gently with my mind and heart and soul as they work through this?”

3. Hating myself for being depressed doesn’t help. Being gentle with myself does. 

When I am depressed, heaping condemnation on myself makes it worse. What helps is loving myself and tending to myself the way that God loves and tends to me.

I’ve learned to pay attention to what helps me find equilibrium and wholeness. So when I am down, I exercise consistently (even if I don’t feel like it); I eat good, whole food; I seek out experiences that lift my mind and heart; I pray more consistently but less panicky; I center myself in relationships of openness and honesty.

When I break the self-rejecting cycle of hating myself for feeling depressed, depression loses its foothold.

4. It helps to admit the feelings to the people closest to you.

Depression wants to get you alone. The impulse to run away can be overwhelming at times. And, the funny thing is, it seems like a good idea — in the same insane way that when a person at a dinner party starts choking, he will tend to want to leave the table so as not to disturb everyone. But “disturbing everyone” with choking is a small price to pay for avoiding the far greater disturbance of choking to death in some forgotten corner of the house.

For the longest time, I would keep my feelings of depression from my wife, Mandi. Maybe I didn’t want to drag her down too, but underneath that, I didn’t think I was worthy of love when my mind and body were not working as the should. Over the years, I have learned that when the feelings of disconnectedness and wanting to run and hide start to set in, I need to resist the impulse and instead find a way to get my confused, muddled, anxiety-filled feelings out in the open with Mandi and others who love me. That gives them permission to love me at my most vulnerable point.

You have every right to “disturb” those who love you with your depression. Don’t run away. Run to people.

5. There is also a “psychic” or “spiritual” dimension to depression.

There is no quick fix for depression. It is a “spiritual” problem in the sense that it has to do with the whole fabric of your life and your being. It requires not just medicine but honesty and living authentically with all of the people in your life.

One final thing I’ll say about all of this — I’ve often asked God to take away my experience of depression. It is uncomfortable and I hate it. But I’ve seen him use it in my work as a pastor and preacher. Some of my deepest insights into God and humanity and myself have come about through my “dark nights of the soul,” and have led me to a place of deep sympathy with the countless numbers of people who struggle with inner darkness.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The post 5 Facts About Depression Christians Need to Face appeared first on OnFaith.

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Posted by Roger E. Olson

Reading Is Fundamental (And Not Reading Is A Recipe for Failure)   The burden of this message is the importance of reading for success in life. Some years ago there was a public service campaign with the slogan “R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental).” The goal of the campaign was to raise awareness of the importance of [Read More...]
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