An Open Letter to High-Waisted Pants

Dear High-Waisted Pants,

You are my new favorite article of clothing. You have a lot of fine qualities to admire, but the combination of them is something to truly be praised.

First of all, I appreciate how you are so good at staying up instead of sliding down all day long. Sitting or standing, you stay exactly where I put you in the morning: high around my waist, going down to my ankles, and not dragging on the floor. When I am wearing you, I can forgo the awkward pants-hike motion. I can bend over and feel secure that you’ll not slide downwards in the process. I don’t even need to wear a belt to keep you in place!

Secondly, you do a fantastic job of keeping my love-handles in line. You are not ashamed of the squishy region above my hips, but instead hug them nicely all day long. When I am wearing you, my muffin-top is no muffin-top at all, but rather a smooth line connecting my hips to my waist. I can feel secure that any of my tops will look flattering when I am wearing you, no matter where (or how snugly) the hem-line hits.

Finally, you are simply a comfortable clothing item. You give me both the room to move about and the security to do so with confidence. You never dig into my stomach when I’m sitting down and you keep my curves contained when I am standing. I also love your pockets. Since they have more space higher up to live in, they can hold my phone in a very comfortable spot that doesn’t bang into my femur.

High-Waisted Pants, you may be remembering that time in high school when I thought you were uncool and silly-looking. I’m sorry about that. I can only assure you that I was young and stupid. I was a slave to the whims of fashion instead of those of common sense. I’ve changed my ways, and I have no intention of going back.

With love and appreciation,

a scientific christian

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Jesus is my dictator.

A common refrain in some Christian circles is “Jesus is Lord”, or the similar “Jesus is King”. I like these images, and they are certainly Biblical. Jesus accepted both of those titles when used in reference to himself. However, the average US believer has little to no first-hand experience with lords and kings. For me, the word “king” evokes a fatherly figure in a fairy tale, or else some litany of historical figures from the middle ages whose names I should know but likely don’t. The caricature of this amalgam of images is someone gentle and kind, old with a beard, rather befuddled and backwards, probably self-aggrandizing and out-of-touch with reality. This is a person who is good at diplomacy, makes compromises, suffers from anxiety at the poor state of his kingdom, and serves mostly as a figurehead. I believe that this image is far from what the authors of the Bible were envisioning when they used Kingly metaphors.

In the ancient near east, kings had power. In Israel’s case, kings served as military conquerors who judged the pagan nations and ushered in the blessings of God. Think of Saul, who defeated the Philistines (with the help of David’s sling against the mighty Goliath). Kings were a strong source of centralized power; checks and balanced didn’t exist. If a king said something, then it was so. This of course lead to all sorts of abuses against the common people and failures in leadership–so it makes sense that God would send his prophets the message that he would bring a Messiah, a wise and good king like David, to his people Israel. This was a person of power who would provide hope for the nations.

The best picture of a centralized power figure in modern times is a dictator. A dictator’s subjects are to be, well, subjected to his every whim, whether it be fair or foul. In a world of bad dictators, a good dictator would be a dream come true! And that is who Jesus is: he is the good dictator. Although this might grate against modern ears, it has the potential to jolt us into a better understanding of the full weight of the power of God.

It is not the task of a Christian to understand all of the motivations of their dictator Christ, but to follow even when it makes no sense. And since Jesus is a GOOD dictator, he does not ask us to follow blindly, but instead leads us after him gently, and towards rest and peace. Jesus’ burden is easy, and his path is light, so it is in our best interest to follow.

To paraphrase John 6:68, if I don’t follow Jesus, where else could I go? What other way leads to eternal life?

Speak the Truth to Power

In my prayers, the phrase “speak the truth to power” has found deep resonance. As I talk to God, this idea–this picture of a calling–has been floating around and around, picking up new meaning in its ceaseless journey through mind. Speak. the Truth. to Power.

First of all, Speak. This involves the words that I use, my mouth, my hands typing on a keyboard. The Bible tells us that our words are full of power; by this rudder we control the motion of a whole ship. God spoke–and there was something instead of the empty void of nothing. We, as image bearers of God, live out an impression of that initial divine creation as we participate in the smaller act of culture creation–using our spoken words as our tools. What is spoken is not merely internal. It is shared with others, it is given wings to fly in the world–to be accepted or rejected, to soar or to be shot down. The act of speaking is an act of risk-taking. I am being called to take risks.

Secondly, the truth. What I say matters. I am not being called to say anything I want to, but rather what is true, what is honest and reflects reality. There is a fundamental layer of presuppositions here: that there is a truth, that that truth is knowable, and that that truth can be communicated verbally. This is an incredibly counter-cultural idea. Yet, the truth will set you free. Every culture needs truth, and mine is no exception. In order for the culture to attain its fundamental value of freedom, the truth needs to be upheld and respected. The truth is not my agenda, or my boss’s agenda, or my political party’s agenda, or my religion’s agenda. It is what is supported by the facts, by rationality, by history, by philosophy. I am being called to speak in a way that will likely not serve my own ends, but will further the cause of the truth.

Finally, to power. This world is full of power disparities of all sorts. In comparison to some, I am in a position full of power; I belong to my culture’s majority ethnic group, my upbringing was middle-to-upper middle class, I am well-educated. But in comparison to others, I lack power; I do not employed into a position of authority, I am a woman, I am not among the top 1%. I am being called to use my power to address those with more power for the sake of those who have less power. I am being called to be a voice for the voiceless. I am being called to speak the truth even to those who have the ability to impact my future.

Speak the truth to power. As I reflect back upon my own past, it seems that some of the hardest times could have been preparing me for this future call. I often turned to books and the written word to populate my internal world with companions when I had few friends in my external reality–and this has given me a measure of articulateness that allows me to speak and be understood. Times of emotional turmoil have sent me to counseling and opened my eyes to see into myself and others in new ways–enabling me to be aware of what is true in a more fundamental sense. I relied upon diplomacy in my home life–and this is certainly a needed skill for offering constructive criticism to powerful people.

I don’t know what the rest of my journey will look like, and I am still learning to trust God along the way. Yet I am beginning to see the shapes and shadows of an outline, and I am excited for the possibilities ahead of me.