Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church

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To Rachel Held Evans

Dear Rachel,

I discovered your blog around the time that I was starting to rethink a lot of my long-held assumptions about life and faith. I think I discovered you through Preston Yancey, though it could have been Jonathan Guenther. At the time that I found you, I didn’t think we would agree on much. I added you to my regular reading list, mostly because I wanted to know what someone that I disagreed with thought.

Little did I know what the future held.

As I’ve read your blog (and your books) over the past year or so, you have asked so many questions, confronted many difficult issues head-on, and done all of this with a sense of grace and love that turned my paradigms inside-out. For the first time I can remember, questions swimming around in my subconscious came to the surface, and I felt empowered to ask them and explore the answers. I found the courage to question beliefs that I thought unquestionable. And then something else happened I didn’t expect. I found God in the questions.

Of course, it wasn’t just you that brought me to that point. So many people played roles in bringing me to a place of humility and grace. But you were the catalyst for the questions I was asking.

I still disagree with you on a lot. But I’ve learned that love can cover a multitude of disagreements.

You and I don’t have much of a personal relationship. I can claim you as a follower on Twitter (and will confess that I was excited enough when you followed me that I texted my boyfriend about it), but other than a few short tweets, we don’t really know each other. But I can claim you as a sister in Christ, and I do so proudly. I know that you are cheering for me, just as I am cheering for you. I hope that someday we get the chance to connect on a more personal level, but even if we don’t, I am thankful to God for the role that you have played in my life.

It breaks my heart to see so many Christians immediately dismiss you and label you as “dangerous” or a “heretic.” I can’t help but wonder if they have spent any time actually listening to you and not just reacting to you. And I admit, this woman who has on more than one occasion been described as a “protective mother” type would like nothing more than to type up a post pointing out the multiple logical fallacies in some harsher reviews of your book, along with a good dose of lecturing on how Jesus said we would be known by our love, not by our doctrinal accuracy. But I know that it wouldn’t be helpful.

So instead, I pray. I pray that you would be encouraged in the midst of the criticism, and that God would bless you for the blessing you have been to others, including me. I pray that God would show all of us when to stand our ground, and when to allow room for disagreement. I pray that the church would become more unified. And I pray that more and more, God’s people would come to be known by their love.

So thank you, Rachel Held Evans. May God bless you, may He bless Team Dan and Rachel, and may He bless your ministry. I look forward to continuing the journey of faith with you as fellow bloggers and as sisters in Christ.

Eshet Chayil, Rachel. Woman of Valor.

Shaney Lee

This post is part of a synchroblog dedicated to Rachel Held Evans. Today is the release of her second book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”  


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Silence and Prayer (or, Taking the Weekend Off)

The idea of be still and wait are common in the Bible.

Stillness and patience do not come easily to me. I react easily, and I tend to be opinionated and outspoken. On top of that, it’s election season. On top of that, one of my favorite bloggers released a controversial book. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with some negative reactions to my writing.

It’s been a lot to deal with.

I’ve never been good at practicing the spiritual disciplines of silence and meditation. Mostly because I’ve never tried. I’ve realized this week, though, that it’s very important to unplug, to take time to remove myself from the busyness of life, to take time to rest and rejuvenate. It’s important to regularly take time to remove distractions and just sit quietly with the Lord.

So, here’s two ways I’m going to put this into practice.

1. I’m removing myself from the internet from when I get off work today until I go back to work Tuesday morning.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no blogs. Just checking e-mail and (maybe) using Google if I need information. My boyfriend is coming in for the weekend from Chicago, so it works out well. As the internet has been getting increasingly hostile lately, I need a few days away, time to pray and to spend time with those I love.

Since I work for a web-based company, this will be strange. But I anticipate that it will be good and healthy.

2. I’m taking a weekend trip to a Monastery in November.

Specifically, I’m going to St. Scholastica Monastery in Boerne, TX, home of the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne.

St. Scholastica Monastery

I’m not sure exactly when I’m going, but I hope to go the weekend of November 17. My goals are to get away from technology, sit silently, write, read the Bible, and pray, hopefully coming back rejuvenated and better equipped to reflect the virtues of gentleness and patience in my everyday life.

I’m a little nervous, but mostly I’m excited. I honestly can’t remember the last time I fully unplugged. I can’t wait to see what God does as I practice the spiritual disciplines of stillness and silence.

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Defensiveness Is Not A Virtue

The Modern age has been good to Christians.

Modernity has, for the most part, been very hospitable to Christianity. It emphasized things like the scientific method, objectivity, logic, and absolute truth. Christianity has a lot to offer a world that thinks this way. Apologists from C.S. Lewis to Josh McDowell have used these concepts to argue for the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the uniqueness of Christianity. Many Christians have been equipped through the works of these and others to be able to defend their faith if they should ever be called on to do so.

My generation was born and raised as society was going through a shift from modernism to postmodernism. Our teachers and parents, concerned about the rejection of absolute truth, taught us apologetics from an early age. We know how to respond to the toughest of questions, what the weaknesses are in postmodern thinking, and why atheism takes more faith than Christianity.

In many ways, this is good. I’m certainly not speaking against studying, against logic, or against using our brain. But it has now caused a different problem in the church: We’ve become a church full of defensive people.

1 Peter 3:15 is often cited to prove why it is “necessary” for every Christian to know what, and why, they believe and be ready to give “a defense” for their faith. While it was never said explicitly (at least not to me as I grew up), it was implied that those who didn’t study and prepare to defend their faith were disobeying God.

We have acted as if our faith is on trial in a courtroom, and we are all defense lawyers.

We act like the Bible is on trialHere’s the main problem: 1 Peter 3:15 is not talking about giving intellectual or legal arguments for Christian beliefs. 1 Peter was written to a group of Christians that was going through intense persecution by Nero. By saying “Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you,” Peter wasn’t saying “Be ready to give evidence for why Christianity is true.” He was saying, “Be ready to let people know why you still have hope and joy in the midst of persecution!”

By focusing on on defending propositions about faith instead of sharing why our faith gives us hope, we have created a culture of Christians who are always on guard and easily offended by what they perceive to be attacks on truth. Perhaps I see this more as a blogger (certainly, the internet seems to magnify what are sometimes smaller flaws in culture), but I think that it’s something we all need to be careful of.

God does not need us to be His defense lawyers.

And when we act like He does, we inadvertently cause pain and harm to the Body of Christ. We try to explain away the concerns of those who are asking genuine questions without being willing to sit with them in the tension.

Sometimes “I don’t know” is the best answer.

We hurt Christian unity when we automatically assume that anyone who has a different perspective from us is promoting dangerous ideas, without first being willing to ask questions and have a conversation.

Jesus said we would be known by our love.

We do the world a great disservice when we act like Christianity has nothing to offer a postmodern generation. Sometimes winning a person over to Christ is not done by explaining the truth (or defending the concept of truth), but showing the truth through our works of faith.

Defensiveness is not a virtue.

I speak to myself as much as you. As a former competitive debater, I know how to use logic to rip others’ arguments to shreds. But the Jesus I find in the Bible didn’t do that. Jesus was humble, not defensive. And according to 1 Peter 3:15, that’s the attitude we need to have when we share the reason for our hope–with gentleness and respect.

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What Do Women Deserve?

Last week, Lauren DeMoss wrote a post titled, Purity is Not Just Physical:Um…What About Him? She made many strong points, especially about the importance of purity of the mind. I did have some disagreements with things she said, but the overall message was good. There was one line, though, that made me pause:

If I am keeping my body covered and saved for only my future spouse and not tempting other men with it, then I most certainly deserve a man who has saved his eyes and mind for only me.

This is, from what I’ve seen, a pretty common attitude in Christian circles. Thing is, though, it’s not supported by the Bible. In fact, it reflects a worldly attitude more than it reflects a Christlike one.

The problem is that it supports (Whether Lauren intended it to or not) an attitude of seeing relationships as a series of transactions. I did this for you, so you need to do this for me. The sacrificial nature of true, Christ-honoring relationships is lost in this attitude. This includes one’s relationship with God: “I’ve obeyed you, God, so now you’re obligated to give me a spouse who has also obeyed you.”

This attitude is quite common, unfortunately, in Christian circles. I’ve seen it. It leads to frustration, as men and women who may go for years unmarried start to question why they’re still single, while other people (including those people who didn’t save themselves) are getting married (and to godly people). After all, if I’m the one who waited, don’t I deserve a godly spouse? Then the frustration turns to anger, and the anger turns to bitterness.

Hopefully, you get where I’m going with this. A spouse is not a right, a spouse is a blessing from God. A blessing that is not dependent upon whether or not you’ve managed to stay completely pure your entire life.

In the same way, a spouse that has also saved themselves for marriage is a blessing from God. It’s not something to be assumed or expected.

Now, I don’t think that Lauren DeMoss meant to imply all these negative things in saying what she did. I think she had good intentions, intentions to point out that purity is just as important for men as it is for women. So, instead of focusing on the negative, I’d like to present what I believe are three things that women DO deserve.

What Women Deserve

PhotoBucket via

1. Women deserve to be treated respectfully, as equal image bearers of God

Whether married or in a relationship, attached or single, whether it’s with a significant other, family member, or friend–women ALWAYS deserve to be treated with respect, because as women and as human beings, women bear the image of God.

This means women deserve to be free of physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. Under no circumstances do women ever deserve to be abused.

This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, there are some people out there who would claim that women should submit to abuse because “the Bible calls women to submit to men,” or that a woman has brought “judgement” upon herself because of her own sin.

Absolutely not.

Women, just like men, deserve to be respected because they bear the image of God.

2. Women deserve to be protected

I originally titled this section “Women deserve to be protected by the men in their life,” but I took out the part about men because women deserve to be protected by anyone in their life who has the capacity to do so.

This means that women have a right to be protected by their family, by their church leaders, by their friends. They should never be put in a situation that compromises their safety.

This means that a female boss should fire an employee who makes unwelcome advances, that church leaders should be prepared to issue church discipline to an abusive parent or spouse (and turn that person over to the authorities), and that a male friend should walk his female friend back to her car (and if he doesn’t offer to, ladies you have every right to ask him to do so).

3. A woman whom God blesses with a mate deserves a mate that will help her grow spiritually

Not all women will be blessed with a boyfriend or husband. But for those that do, they deserve a man who will be a help, not a hindrance, to their walk with the Lord. Yes, it would be nice to marry a man who had also saved himself, but his past mistakes don’t necessarily point to his current spiritual state (I’ve sure made some mistakes I don’t want my boyfriend judging me on!).

I think that what Lauren was trying to say is that if a woman is striving for purity, any mate she may consider should also be striving for purity. That is absolutely true. A woman deserves a man who is following the Lord and will help her in her walk with the Lord.

But it’s also possible that God will bring a man who has a past, who has not saved himself. I hope that if he has truly repented and is following the Lord, that no woman would reject him based on his past.

One quick side point: Some may try to argue against this point by pointing to the prophet Hosea, whom God commanded to marry a prostitute who left him several times. Hopefully we can take care of this pretty quickly: You are not Hosea. The story of Hosea does not directly apply to you. 2 Corinthians 6:14 does.

I believe that this is what a woman deserves: To be respected as an image-bearer of God, to be protected from those who would abuse her, and, if God should so bless her with a mate, a to have a mate that will help her, not hinder her, in her walk with the Lord.

What do you think of this list? Is there anything you would add?

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Links for Learning, October 20

Christianity Today‘s list of the Top 50 Women Shaping Evangelical Culture is finally available online.

[Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault] Dianna Anderson talks about rape culture and how sadly commonplace it is. Rape Culture: The Monster You Can’t See

Emily Maynard talks about street harassment, what it is, and how to respond in His Words Burned Into My Skin

Preston Yancey speaks up about carelessly interpreting the Bible in Stop Saying Stupid S— About Scripture

Rachel Held Evans explains why differing interpretations of the Bible should cause us to come closer, not drive us apart, in When Our Interpretations Differ. 

The most popular post on my blog this week:

Because “I’m Not Pretty” Came Too Easily

Which links did you find most helpful? What links would you add to this list?