Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church


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Links for Learning, October 13th

One of my goals for this blog is to be a place where people, including me, can learn. Because of this blog, I am pushing myself to read books and articles, to learn more about issues affecting the church and the world. So once a week, I’m going to post links to blog articles that I’ve found thought-provoking, and I think my readers might as well.

A few disclaimers:
  • Just because I post a link doesn’t mean I agree with the article 100%. Just that I think it’s good food for thought.
  • I read a lot of good posts in any given week. There’s a lot of stuff that I find edifying or helpful that I don’t post here. This post is specifically for thought-provoking and educational links about issues I care about or I think my readers would be interested in.
  • In the future, I’ll limit myself to posts from the past week. Since today is my first go at this, I’m being a little looser with that.
  • Not really a disclaimer: Feel free to recommend links in the comments. ūüôā

And now for the links!

And to wrap up, the most popular post on my blog this past week:

Which of these links to you find most helpful or thought-provoking?

What links would you recommend? 

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On Having Platforms

(Warning: There are references to sex and rape in this post, though neither is the main point of this post. Please use discretion.)

First, I’d like to offer up a disclaimer: In this post, I’m going to make frequent references to one particular debate going on in the blogosphere. However, my intention is not to write a post full of commentary on the debate itself (though there will be a lot of that). Neither is it meant to make any arguments for the side I think is correct (though it will probably be pretty apparent who I agree with). I do not wish for this post to begin any arguments, or even discussions, regarding this particular internet debate (if you wish to discuss it, I’m willing, but please send me a private message). If you want to research this particular debate, feel free to do so, but since the debate itself is not the point of this note, I’m going to be eliminating a lot of details that I believe are unnecessary to what I’m trying to say.¬†

The Internet Has Changed the Game

The internet, and even more specifically, blogging, has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. It used to be that if you wanted to write something for the masses to read, you had to spend a lot of time writing and editing, then finding someone to publish your book. Along the way you had many people, both editors and laypeople, read your book and provide feedback. If people misunderstood what you were trying to say in a certain passage, you went back and rewrote it. Writing was a long process, a hassle, so only those who felt the process was worth it wrote books.

Nowadays, with the rise of blogs, it is possible for anyone who wants to share their thoughts to do so and skip the whole process. No more long hours of writing full chapters, no more editors proofreading your work, no need for anyone but you to see the work before publishing the final product.

In many ways, this is good. In a lot of ways, this opens up the possibility for all sorts of bad things, including but not limited to poor writing, hurt feelings, slander, etc.

I have a lot of friends who aspire to write books, to go to seminary and become pastors, to blog on a regular basis, to speak in front of crowds, etc. I have some friends who are already doing these things. Many of you will build platforms for yourselves, and in today’s world, it’s highly likely to include a blog. While what I’m about to ask of you applies to all of your work, blogging is where this need for discernment seems to be the most lacking these days.

When blogging goes horribly wrong

A couple days ago, a popular Christian blog hosted a post in which one of the contributors posted an excerpt from a book that another author wrote in order to provide some commentary on the “50 Shades of Gray” book series. In the excerpt, the author used words like “conquers,” “colonizes,” and “plants,” to describe the man’s role during sex, and words like “receives,” “surrenders,” and “accepts,” to describe the woman’s role during sex.

Quite understandably, many people became upset, commenting that this view of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman promotes a view of sex that is closer to the mindset of rapists than to the kind of sexual relationship Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7. As someone who has friends who have been raped, I share in this concern. Reaction was strong. Many people called for the post to be taken down. Another popular (female) blogger wrote a very strong rebuke to the blog post. Both the author of the blog post, and the author of the excerpt, wrote posts defending the original blog post that many felt were condescending towards those that disagreed, and certainly were not apologies in any way, shape, or form. Instead, both authors claim that all the hoopla is a result of people’s lack of reading comprehension, with one of them even saying that people need to go back to ESL class. Despite people posting the very plain dictionary definitions of the words that were used, the authors continue to argue, based on a sloppy exegesis of the Song of Solomon, that those words do indeed describe the proper sexual relationship between a man and a woman, and that everyone who disagrees needs to quit ascribing “their interpretation,” but rather understand that the correct interpretation is always what the author meant, and if they don’t understand what the author meant, it’s their fault for their lack of comprehension skills.

I find this incredibly frustrating, because to me the correct thing to do seems so obvious: Acknowledge that the choice of words was not working, apologize, and remove the post. Instead, the authors seem intent on degrading everyone that disagrees with them and insisting that because they meant X, it doesn’t matter that the literal interpretation of the words used means Y.

So to my friends who either have platforms or will have platforms, I ask for you to use them wisely and responsibly. Specifically, I’d like to ask that you keep the following things in mind:

1. You are not an expert on everything (so listen to other people’s critiques)¬†

The fact that the author who used these words originally even thought that using them was okay shows a lack of understanding of how to relate to rape victims. The blog author finally put up a disclaimer at the beginning of his post that basically said, “I can’t see why this disclaimer is necessary, but apparently it is.” This is an incredibly arrogant attitude that has no place in Christian writing. It shows a lack of respect for those who actually have expertise in handling rape and relating to rape victims.

If someone tells you your writing is upsetting to rape victims, your reaction should be to say, “I’m so sorry! How can I be more sensitive?” Any other reaction is arrogant.

This is especially important when dealing with difficult subjects like rape, but it applies to any subject. If someone tells you that your writing is insensitive to a certain group, or contains errors regarding a certain subject matter, or even that it’s just poor writing, your reaction should not be defensive. Rather, your job is to listen and grow. Likely, you are not an expert on the subject matter. If you aren’t a counselor to victims of sexual abuse, you are not an expert on rape. If you are not a linguist, you are not an expert on words. If you are ¬†not a theologian, you are not an expert on theology (and even if you are, you likely have your areas where you don’t know as much and should respect those who have studied that area more than you have.)

2. Conversation is a two-way street 

It is true that just because someone interpreted what you wrote to mean X, doesn’t mean it actually means X. But if you actually meant Y and many people are interpreting it to mean X, you probably need to work on the way you are communicating what you are trying to say. Contrary to what the original blog post author believes, “authorial intent” is not the final authority on what a piece of writing means. As an author, it is possible for you to choose the wrong words, use words in the wrong order, use poor analogies, etc. If you are finding yourself saying, “But I meant Y!” as your main defense, you probably need to work on how you say Y.

3. Above all, be humble, and be willing to learn and grow 

Probably the most disappointing thing I’m seeing in this blog debate is a lack of humility from the authors. Instead of being characterized by words like grace, humility, gentleness, and understanding, their rhetoric can be characterized by words like arrogant, stubborn, and condescending. Frankly, no one cares if you’re right if you can’t be kind and sensitive.

I know that a lot of you have brilliant minds and can use words really well. After all, many of you were former competitors of mine in speech and debate. ūüôā However, as you go into the world and use these talents, I ask that you remember that having a platform is a privilege that needs to be used with grace and humility. Please be willing to acknowledge when you aren’t an expert, have communicated poorly, and be willing to show lots of humility and grace.


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Something I’m passionate about: “Doing” pro-life

I feel like I should introduce myself, seeing as how this is my first post…but you can find out what you need to know from my profile. So, instead, I’m just going to jump right in with a post about something I’m passionate about. I originally wrote this as a facebook note:

Adoption is a great way for pro-life people to put their money where their mouth is”-my Child and Family Advocacy and Policy professor

I am 100% pro-life. As are, I’m guessing, the majority of my friends. I have only ever voted for pro-life candidates and have marched in Austin’s March for Life twice. Over the last few years, I’ve seen the pro-life movement take great strides. The 40 Days for Life movement started and is still growing strong. There are many thriving pro-life organizations. Some pro-life legislation has been passed, both at the federal and state levels. Though the fight is far from over, this is good. And we need to continue doing these things. We need to continue to elect pro-life candidates, educate the public on the truth about abortion, pray outside abortion clinics, work to get such clinics shut down, and fight for the rights of unborn children.

But I think we also need to go a step further.

Because in my experience, the argument of “It’s only a fetus,” hardly ever comes up anymore. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say (except maybe a Planned Parenthood worker) that an unborn child doesn’t have life that’s worth protecting. Maybe this is just how it is in my circle, but it seems that even those who are pro-choice are willing to admit that there an unborn baby possesses actual human life.

The more common arguments I hear against pro-life views these days are more likely to be more “humanitarian” arguments:

What if the mom can’t afford the baby? Isn’t it more compassionate to kill it than to let a child grow up in poverty?

Isn’t it better to kill a child than for it to grow up in a home where it’s unwanted?

What if a mother is shunned because of her pregnancy? What if her family shuts her out, her boyfriend doesn’t want her? Should she really have to suffer like that?

Obviously, these are only a handful of objections to the pro-life position. But I think these questions clearly showcase the next step we need to take. We’ve been fighting a battle of politics and science, and I believe we are winning. But the battle is now shifting. It is no longer just about politics and science.

¬†We need to make sure that we pro-lifers, especially those of us who are pro-life because we are Christians, don’t think that the battle ends when we’ve convinced someone that abortion is wrong. That is not the only battle we’re fighting.¬†We could win that battle and still lose the war.

So today, I’m issuing a call for all pro-lifers to take the next step. We need to recognize that we can’t just say, “We hold the right position,” and leave it at that. We need to follow the battle all the way through. What do I mean?

I’m saying that we pro-lifers, and especially the church, need to step up and fight not just for the lives of unborn children, but we need to fight for the children who need help, fight for the women who are suffering, and fight for the families who are struggling.

I’m calling for the Church to not just BE pro-life, but LIVE pro-life.

“In the United States, there are approximately 116,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. That means a judge has either severed the rights of the original parents or the parents have voluntarily signed their children over to the government.

To put this into perspective, we might compare the number of American orphans to the purported 16 million Southern Baptists who attend more than 42,000 churches nationwide. Quick math reveals that there are roughly 138 Southern Baptists for every child in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted. To say it another way, this single denomination has an enormous opportunity to eradicate the orphan crisis in America.”

The above quote is from a CNN opinion piece called “On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up,” and I think the author has a good point. Notice that he is only talking about the Southern Baptist denomination. One single denomination in the United States could make sure every foster child was permanently adopted into a loving home. Say what you want about how the statistics might be skewed…we still have enormous power. This doesn’t even take into account other Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, non-denominationals, Evangelical Free, etc. Imagine what we could do if we all banded together.

Just the other day in class, my Family and Child Advocacy and Policy teacher told a story about how one church in Denver banded together to advocate for children in Denver’s foster care system. Through the work of that one church, they cut the number of kids in the foster care system of Denver by 50%!

Now someone tell me, how many churches are in Denver?

Individuals and churches across America, and across the world, need to band together to make a difference. We need to show that not only do we hold very strongly to the idea that all life is valuable, we hold to that conviction and DO stuff because of it.

So, what can you do? Most of you reading this are probably not in a stage of life where you can adopt a child. But there is so much we can do no matter what stage of life you’re in. Below are just a few suggestions (and I haven’t even touched on taking our pro-life stand international, such as through sponsoring a child through Compassion International).

1. If you are in an appropriate stage of life, adopt or become a foster parent.Obviously, not all families will be in a position to do this. But so many are, but just never take the steps to actually do it. Statistics show that about 40% of American adults have considered adoption, while less than 10% have actually adopted.

2. Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. You can do many things through your local center, such as counseling women considering abortion and teaching sex ed in public schools (including abstinence!).

3. Volunteer at a local children’s home.¬†You may not be able to take an orphan into your home full-time, but with just a few hours a week, you could still make a difference in the life of a child who needs love.

4. Start a collection drive at your church for items to donate to a local organizationWhether its baby supplies for a pregnancy center or toys for CASA.

5. Become a court appointed special advocate (CASA)¬†This is what I’m doing right now, and I love it. Anyone at least 21 years old can be trained to advocate for foster care children in the courtroom. It’s incredibly easy and not that time-consuming. For more information, talk to me or check out http://www.casaforchildren.org

6. Become an informed citizen-write to your elected officials to push for legislation that strengthens families Familyimpactseminars.org has a lot of good resources on how to determine whether legislation helps or hurts families, as well as lots of information on specific legislation.

7. Volunteer at an organization like Mission Waco or Mission Arlington 

8. Become an advocate in your church. Encourage other church members to get on board and find their way to “do pro-life”.¬†

And this just scratches the surface of what you can do. If you have more ideas, please leave them in the comment section!

The Church needs to rise up and show that we are dedicated to fighting for life, and not just in the legislation. Not just to make sure it’s illegal to terminate a pregnancy. We have the responsibility to create an environment where pregnant women can feel safe and secure carrying their babies to term. If they feel that they will be shunned from the church…if they don’t know they have anywhere to turn for help…if they are afraid of raising their children in poverty or other difficult circumstances, all the arguments in the world won’t do any good. We need to send a clear, compassionate message.

Who will raise my baby if I can’t afford it?

We will.

What if I’m 16 and my family kicked me out?

We’ll take you in and care for you.

Who is advocating for the orphans and foster care children in America right now?

We are.

The battle in the courtrooms, the legislative sessions, the science labs, and the news media is still incredibly important, and we need to not let up in that fight. But neither can we afford to not follow the war where it is going. If we win the battle in the courtroom but lose the battle for the children, we will lose the war. We cannot afford to drop the ball.

In you the orphan finds mercy. Hosea 14:3

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:17

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8-9

¬†Let’s send a message. We don’t just say we’re pro-life, we are pro-life.