Archive | Current Events RSS for this section

GO Canada!

ml1eQ2OHave I mentioned that I’m on sabbatical?!? It’s true. On June 5, I started a 6-month ministry sabbatical. The focus? Rest, recovery, renewal, and…

…Soccer. Lots of soccer.

You see, it’s been so good of the Lord to host not one, but two, international soccer tournaments here to kick off sabbatical. I’ve been watching 3, 4, sometimes 5 matches a day!

Which means I’ve watched a lot of national anthems. And there are some beautiful ones out there. I love the Russian anthem. The Mexican anthem is strong. And my Welsh blood was pumping on Thursday morning after a rousing rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau!

But the thing that grabs me at the beginning of each match is the gusto with which the players and fans sing their anthem. Because at an international tournament, it’s not really about a paycheck, or sponsors, or the club you represent, or even your personal notoriety.

It’s about your country. So, sing on lads!

As it turns out, most national anthems are pretty old. The German anthem dates to 1922. The Guatemalan anthem was selected in 1896 from a government competition. And England’s God Save the Queen (or King, depending on who’s on the throne) dates all the way back to 1745.

And because they are old, they can sometimes use some tweaking, which is exactly what is happening with Canada’s anthem. The update?

Gender inclusive language.

According to this article, on Wednesday the Canadian House of Commons voted 225 to 74 to alter the anthem’s third line to reflect an inclusive term that captures both men and women. Soon, the Canadian Senate is expected to join the House in approving the change.

Now, I know you’re all trying to recall the Canadian anthem, perhaps from the last hockey broadcast you watched. Let me help. The 1908 version reads as follows:

O Canada
Our home and native land!
True patriot’s love in all thy sons command…

Now, the updated lyrics read like this:

O Canada
Our home and native land!
True patriot’s love in all of us command…

And there you have it. Two changed words and, all of a sudden, all Canadians are included in the anthem. From the article:

The status of women minister, Patty Hajdu, speaking before the vote, said the change was an important step toward ensuring inclusivity in Canada’s cultural symbols.

“I think it’s really important as a very strong symbol of our commitment to gender equality in this country,” she told reporters.

Props to you Canada. It’s not easy to change things like this. In fact, an effort to change the lyrics in 2010 met with failure.

But, as I’ve said before, language matters. And so as disruptive as changing the lyrics to a 108 year old national anthem might be, it is worth the effort. I agree with Minister Hajdu; changing the words makes a strong statement.

Now, to get some other countries to follow suit. Remember that line above about my Welsh blood?

Turns out it’s time to get my people in line.

The Welsh anthem’s title, after all, translates to “Old Land of My Fathers…”

Where the Streets Have (Different) Names

oKbJ2kCOur family lives on a street named “Shirley.”

In the 10+ years we’ve lived here, I’ve never once wondered about the significance of that name. Are we talking about Shirley Temple? Or Shirley MacLaine? Or, with a nod to my wife’s literary brain, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables?

Or could Shirley the name of our track developer’s daughter? Or wife? Or mother-in-law? Or, given the fact that the next street over is “Dennis,” perhaps we’re talking about some 1970s era Clovis, CA power couple?

Who knows?!?

I’ve never wondered about our street name’s significance until I read this article.

It tells the story of a group of subversive Parisian feminists who spent a recent night renaming 60 streets in Paris after notable French women. Yep, evidently they printed up some signs, downed some espresso, called up Google maps and did some city (re)planning.

From the article:

In visual protest of the fact that only 2.6 percent of the streets in Paris, the capital of France, are named after notable women, French feminist group Osez le Féminisme pulled off a covert stunt that left almost all of the street signs on the Île de la Cité with new names yesterday morning. Overnight, they managed to cover around 60 real street signs on the historic island in the Seine with new ones boasting the names of women who made “incredible contributions” to France’s history.

I love it!

Wondering about this group’s motivation? Here you go:

Aurelia, a spokeswoman for the organization, explained the motivation behind their guerrilla marketing campaign, which coincides with the 45th anniversary of the women’s liberation movement, to The Local. “Little kids walking around Paris will subconsciously be taking in the history of France through things like street signs. They’ll think that France was built by great men – but it’s important they know about the important women too.”

Interesting. I wonder if one of the streets they renamed was the “Rue de Tertullian?”

I’ve said it many times before, but male privilege can be extraordinarily subtle. As subtle as a major international city with a mere 2.6% of its streets named after women.

Closer to home, we’ve got a bit of Paris here in our town. Our city’s name, Clovis, honors our founder, Clovis Cole. So there’s a Clovis Ave., and, for good measure, not only is there a Cole Ave., there’s also a Cole Elementary.

But it doesn’t stop there. According to the Clovis wikipedia page, “the original townsite featured streets named for the officers and principal investors of the railroad: (Benjamin) Woodworth, (Marcus) Pollasky, Fulton (Berry), (Thomas) Hughes, (Gerald) Osmun, and (O. D.) Baron.”

You got it. All guys.

Perhaps I need to gather a band of Clovis feminists and start making some signs…

Changing Tide

mg1Wq0KAs a campus minister with InterVarsity, I’m always curious about shifting trends in higher education. And when it’s about gender trends, even better. So this article caught my eye this morning.

It turns out that women are beginning to significantly outnumber men on university campuses around the world.

From the piece:

Girls’ educational dominance persists after school. Until a few decades ago men were in a clear majority at university almost everywhere (see chart below), particularly in advanced courses and in science and engineering. But as higher education has boomed worldwide, women’s enrolment has increased almost twice as fast as men’s. In the OECD (a French think tank) women now make up 56% of students enrolled, up from 46% in 1985. By 2025 that may rise to 58%.

Here’s what it looks like visually:


Among other things, this changing reality underscores the importance of conversations about power, partnership and reconciliation on campus.

It’s also points to a looming crisis. We’re going to need more men on campus! This quote from the article struck me: “In just a couple of generations, one gender gap has closed, only for another to open up.”

And, of course, it will be fascinating to see what happens in the broader culture as more and more women graduate and begin to seek vocational avenues where they can put into practice what they learned on campus.

Welcome, Bishop Lane

mhOnBt8Every once in awhile, I read a gender equality-related story and I think, “wow, I’ve been blogging for a long time.”

Case in point. I’ve blogged before (here, and here) about the journey that the Church of England has been on regarding gender equality. In fact, I seem to post about said journey every year at this time.

And so I’m happy to report that yesterday was another milestone on their way, as Rev. Libby Lane was named as the first female Bishop in the 500 year history of the denomination.

Find the full story here.

I’ll just mark this latest (and greatest) chapter of the Church of England’s story with the new Bishop’s gracious and humble acknowledgment of the moment:

“On this historic day, as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all, I am thankful to God.”

Me too. Amen.

Gender Roles and Tumbleweeds

oosxoyaDon’t know if you saw it the other day, but now the Washington Post is wondering about ol’ Tertullian.

Citing the recent, high-profile events involving Mark Driscoll and Mike Fariss, in tandem with an evangelical youth movement trending towards an egalitarian theological position alongside an increasing ideological polarity, the Post posits this notion:

“The heart of U.S. evangelicalism may be heading for a gender showdown.”

A showdown!

Now, if you ask me, a “showdown” seems a bit hyperbolic. What, are we going to draw Bibles in the street while tumbleweeds blow in off the plains?!?

But I get the idea. The writer is suggesting that two ideas are colliding, and, with it, the people that hold those ideas are in unprecedented tension. Or, if I may, I think the tension has been there all along; it’s the public aspect of the “showdown” that’s novel.

In the piece, the writer quotes Tim Fariss, the prominent leader of the national home-school movement, who recently publicly advocated for an egalitarian position. About Fariss, she writes:

“In sum, ‘patriarchy’ teaches that women in general should be subject to men in general. The Bible teaches no such thing,” he wrote.

In an interview Tuesday, Farris said dramatic social change has left more Americans pushing for explicit answers to the questions: How do I run my marriage? How do I raise my children so they turn out well? The more conservative part of evangelicalism has pushed to the right, he said.

“The patriarchal view has moved dramatically such that men in general should be dominant over women in general,” he said. “That’s neither Biblical nor wise. What the Bible says about general roles is more modest.”

I don’t know about you, but I say, “bring it on.” Let’s talk, or start talking.

Women are overdue for these conversations.
Men are overdue for these conversations.
Marriages are overdue for these conversations.
Our churches are overdue for these conversations.
The culture is overdue for these conversations.

In short, let’s talk. Let’s debate. Let’s seek the Lord.

And, together, let’s watch out for those tumbleweeds…

Tour de Kabul (re-post)

Note: As you read this, I’m in Costa Rica leading a team of college students on a 2 week service project. So enjoy this flashback post; it’s the #3 most shared post of all time on Challenging Tertullian. 

nsr2itoAfghanistan is not an easy place to be a woman.

Indeed, though the situation is changing as the nation emerges from the Taliban era, today only 15% of women in Afghanistan are literate and only 37% of the nation’s grade school students are girls. Further, patriarchy is entrenched by laws that dictate that husbands can divorce their wives without her voice being heard and, of course, the cultural practice of women wearing burqas when out in public.  To put it mildly:

Male privilege dominates Afghan culture.

Which makes the story of the Afghan women’s national cycling team all the more incredible. Enjoy the the story, excerpted from this article:

Challenging the long- held cultural belief that a woman cycling is offensive, these dedicated young athletes are standing up to social norms and becoming vehicles of change.

“Daily in Afghanistan, girls risk their lives to go to school, women risk their lives to work in government, the police forces, and even the army.  Women activists march in the streets to fight for their rights, knowing that they are making themselves targets,” says Shannon Galpin, currently producing a documentary film about the team.  “The women cyclists are doing something very simple that we take for granted, but making a huge statement in a country that doesn’t allow their women to ride bikes.”

In Afghanistan, it is very rare to see a woman on a bike other than sitting sidesaddle behind a man.  According to Mountain2Mountain, there are currently only about 60 to 70 women cyclists in the entire country.  However, the newly created women’s team has around 12 members who are passionate about their sport and about changing the lives of women in their country.

Currently, the women on the team train once a week, due to safety concerns. Riding at the risk of their own lives, members of the team train in the back roads and highways outside Kabul.  They ride borrowed, donated, and scrapped-together road and sport bikes.  Their gear is mostly donated.  Their lone sponsor helps pay for their jerseys.  Despite opposition and social taboo, however, these women ride their bicycles as a statement of freedom.

In 1896, Susan B. Anthony, iconic American reformer said: ““The bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Thankfully, step by step, this vision is becoming true in today’s Afghanistan.

In an NBC News piece here Shannon Galpin is quoted as saying: “If they are willing to take the risk, then the least we can do is support them.”Indeed. Let’s celebrate their story, and if you’d like to contribute to the cause you can do so here and here.

An Olympian Challenge

2dRX5fIWhat’s your favorite Olympic sport?

Personally, I like the luge, though I don’t think I could summon the courage to wear that suit. I also love the bobsleigh. Sign me up for that one. And who doesn’t love Olympic hockey? Blend normal, NHL-level hockey intensity with the jingoistic fervor of national pride, and you’ve got quite the spectacle. I can’t wait for the medal rounds.

But of all the great sports out there, how about ski jumping?

A skier, hurtling down a ramp at more than 60 mph, bursting into the air and into a drop of more than 14 stories. It’s mind-blowing.

It’s also been male only. At least until this year.

Yep, this is the first Olympics where women will be able to put on the skis and soar through the air. After 90 years of male domination, in Sochi women will attain gender parity in the sport of ski jumping.

Here’s the story, from this article:

“After decades of campaigning and a full 90 years since the first men’s competition, women will finally compete in Olympic ski jumping at the Sochi 2014 Games.

Despite the fact that men’s Olympic ski jumping has been around since the 1924 games, women have spent the last few decades campaigning for inclusion. This year, the first ever U.S. women’s ski jumping team will include Lindsay Van, 29, Jessica Jerome, 27, and reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson, who is just 19 years old.

Although the reasons women were prevented from participating in the Olympic sport were mainly logistical, barring women from specific sports is rooted in gender bias — particularly the dusty old notion that rigorous physical activity is dangerous to women’s reproductive organs.”

To be clear, the news is not all good.

According to the official Sochi site, women will compete in the normal hill only, while men will compete in both the normal and large hills, and there is a team competition for the men. So that’s one competition for the women and three for the men.

Still, it’s a start.

Perhaps you’ve seen the VISA commercial celebrating this milestone and featuring Sarah Hendrickson. If not, here you go.

As the article notes, other Winter Olympic sports have led the way in gender parity. So, props to sports like cross country skiing, speed skating, curling, hockey and bobsleigh.

And now it’s your turn Nordic combined.

Note: cheer on the women ski jumpers as they compete on February 11th with the start of the normal hill competition. 

More Critique of American Sports Culture

2dQNkwjYesterday, I woke up thinking about sports.

It could well have been because of the amazing soccer match my girls played on Saturday, the one where we broke the will of our rival elementary school en route to a 2-0 win. Oh, and did I mention that both teams were undefeated coming into the match?!? Next up for us is a rematch versus that same school next Saturday in the championship game.

Yes, I’m a proud coach. Last week I offered two reasons why I love coaching girls soccer. Add a third one:

It’s fun to win.

And/or, it could have been because of this article from writer Marta Oti Sears. Similar in theme to my recent post on the topic, Sears offers an insightful critique of a sports culture that equates masculinity with success and femininity with weakness. Here’s a couple of excerpts, and I recommend the entire piece:

“As a coach and parent, I’ve become increasingly concerned about another form of injustice taking place in locker rooms, living rooms, and around water coolers across the country.

A frustrated middle school boys’ coach calls a time out and yells at his players, “You look like a bunch of girls out there! Come on ladies, get your heads in the game!” A dad says to his five-year-old son, “You’re throwing like a girl. Let me show you the right way to throw a baseball.” A high school football kicker misses a field goal that costs his team the game. The next day, he opens his locker and finds it full of tampons.

There’s a common message in all of these scenarios. Femaleness is equated with being weak, passive, and a loser. The accompanying message associates maleness with strength, aggression, and victory.

Sadly, kids and adults are as likely to hear this message at home and at the church picnic, as they are to hear it on the school playground or the local youth sports league. It’s the same kind of language we’ve heard for decades, kids calling each other “sissies” and men calling each other “pussies.” But in 2013, we can do better.”

And, later:

“If we want to raise boys and girls to become healthy, whole men and women who live and love like Jesus, we must release our gender stereotypes and embrace the complexity and paradox of being human. As image-bearers of God we are all strong and vulnerable; brave and fearful; aggressive and peacemaking.”


Thoughts on Dealing with Friction in the Church

mKlHzpaI love the word “kerfluffle.”

It’s an underused but interesting word, meaning “row or disturbance.” For me kerfluffle is sort of a hard word to say. Go ahead, try it out loud. See? In a way, it audibly represents the difficulties we often experience during conflict.

Two days ago, a bit of a kerfluffle erupted in the twitterverse, involving author/blogger Rachel Held Evans and Todd Rhoades, organizer of “The Nines,” a popular online church leadership conference backed by Leadership Network.

It began with Evans pointing out, on twitter, that of the 110 speakers featured at “The Nines,” only 4 were women.

Stop right there. 4 out of 110 is flat out ridiculous. It’s shameful. If you ever doubt that today’s version of Christendom bears Tertullian’s fingerprints, let this serve as a stark reminder. We’ve got to do better! Surely a conference with this kind of stature could field a speaking roster that is greater than 3.6% women?!?

But then the kerfluffle got worse as the tweeting continued. Take a look at Rachel Held Evans’ storify rendering here. For me the worst of the lot came from Rhoades, when he tweeted this:

“A female leader adds new perspective on important female specific topics such as pregnancy, abortion, and marriage.”

Huh? What’s going on here? Is this a joke? I mean, it’s difficult to read tone online, and when you’re dealing with twitter’s 140 character limit, it’s even tougher. But what does Rhoades mean? And does he really think this? In her storify retelling, Evans calls Rhoades’ tone  “patronizing.” I’m tempted to call it ignorant at best, sexist at worst.

But maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday, in this piece on CT, Rhoades defended the conference, blaming topic choice and an above average decline rate from female invitees for the lack of women on the roster. He wrote:

“We don’t pick speakers based on quotas, but we realize the importance. We’ve tried to do better, we need to do better, but we also don’t want to be misrepresented [as being against women leaders].”

If that’s the goal, there’s clearly work to be done.

Yesterday, I read this post, from Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service. Following the online kerfluffle, Merritt did an informal online survey of the major Christian leadership conferences, looking at plenary speaker gender proportions. The result? Only 159 out of 805 plenary speakers at the top 34 major Christian leadership conferences were women. Merritt writes:

“By my count, that’s around 19% female speaker representation at these major Christian conferences–presumably better than it was even a few years ago, but still lower than it should be. While I don’t think we can conclude that the Christian conference industry is downright sexist, we can say that most conferences have some serious work to do if they want their stage to look anything like the 21st century church.”


And this brings us to yesterday’s blog post from Evans. It’s perhaps my favorite piece she’s ever written. In the post, she laments how she’s experienced being slapped with the label “divisive” when she attempts to call the church to greater inclusiveness for women. In the post, she calls the church to become a place where we can have a frank, honest and, yes, public debate about these things:

“Maybe friction isn’t a sign of decay, but of growth. The world is certainly watching. But this doesn’t mean we hide our dirty laundry, slap on mechanical smiles, and gloss over all the injustices and abuses, conflicts and disagreements, diversity and denominationalism present within the Church;  it means we expose them. It means we talk about them boldly and with integrity, with passion and with love. I suspect that talking about our differences is better for our witness than supressing them, and I’m sure that exposing corruption and abuse is better for our witness than hiding them.”

In our marriage, Amy and I don’t fight much. Praise the Lord for that! But when we do, in most cases we are not opposed to arguing in front of our kids. Why? Because at the end of the day, we’d rather teach them to fight fair and well, as opposed to not fighting at all. We want to give them good models for dealing with conflict instead of teaching them that it doesn’t exist.

That’s what we need in the church. How great would it be if the world saw us wrestle honestly and fairly with issues like these, as opposed to sweeping them under the rug? What if the world saw us debate with grace and truth?

In fact, what if we showed the world how to thoughtfully and peacefully handle a kerfluffle?

Choosing to Hope for the Church

nZdCsq0I am someone who is ever trying to love the church.

I mean, if I’m honest, I can lean toward throwing the church under the bus, as the source of too much pain for too long to too many people. As a poor reflection of its leader. And as the ultimate tragic symbol of unfulfilled promise.

Because of this, a verse like Matthew 16:18 really presses me. To Peter, Jesus says,

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

A church so strong that hell itself can’t touch it. One hand-built by Jesus and therefore about God’s purposes on the earth. Victorious. Untouchable.

Now that’s a vision for the church that I can get behind!

Still, as I think about the church, I muddle back and forth, between hope and cynicism, between possibility and despair.

This has been a difficult week with regard to the church and issues of race. On Monday, megachurch pastor Rick Warren posted an image that was racially insensitive at best and blatantly offensive at worst. After the outcry, and after tragically defending his post for hours, he deleted the thread. If you’d like to engage the issues, I recommend this post by Kathy Khang. Kathy is someone whose perspective I really respect.

Anyhow, as the social media world blew up in response to Warren’s gaffe, I wondered this:

Instead of causing pain in the area of race, shouldn’t the church of Christ be leading the way in facilitating healing? After all, aren’t we the church of Galatians 3:26-29?

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

In this case, as with race, so too with gender.

Too many people associate the church with gender pain. With prohibition. With restriction. With abuse. With hypocrisy.

This week I started dabbling with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s provocative memoir Pastrix. About her experience in the church, she writes,

“Precociousness gave way to sarcasm as my ability to analyze the doctrine and social dynamics at church developed. The moment I was able to recognize the difference between what people said (all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is forbidden) and what they did (clandestine affairs with each other) and the difference between what they taught (women were inferior and subordinate to men) and the reality I experienced in the world (then why am I smarter than my Sunday school teacher?), I know that I had to get out. I was a strong, smart and smart-mouthed girl, and the church I was raised in had no place for that kind of thing even though they loved me.”

Shouldn’t it be that for women, the church of Christ is leading the way in promoting healing, peace, reconciliation and empowerment?

According to Laura Turner, it sure should. In her Christianity Today article “The Christian F-Word,” Turner challenges the church to agree with what she calls the core teaching of feminism, namely the equal standing of men and women. In the end, she conculdes:

“Christianity is most alive in us when we are alive in Jesus. And Jesus is most alive when the shackles of oppression are loosed, when there is no male nor female, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

May this vision for our church come to pass.

So with a deep breath, today I choose hope. More to the point, today I choose to believe that Jesus is enough to steer God’s church in a way that brings grace not pain, to people suffering from racial brokenness or gender brokenness or both.

Please join me in praying for Jesus’ church today.