Hey girl, your body is awesome!

I recently spoke with a friend who is pregnant with her second child, and she shared with me some of her experiences of having a baby and being a mom. One comparison she used stood out to me: giving birth to a child is like running a marathon. It’s hard, and you put a lot of stress on your body in the process, but the end result is very rewarding. But the language we use about pregnancy rarely takes that tone.

When I’ve talked about pregnancy with other people, the conversation tends to go in two directions: either we’ll focus on the flowery romance of having a new sweet baby to love and cuddle, or we’ll talk about the misery of hormone changes, uncomfortable sleep, and the horrible pain of delivery. Neither one of these trends lends itself to addressing pregnancy and delivery as a challenge, an accomplishment, of women. Even in medical language, “morning sickness” and “baby blues” are rather sweet-sounding phrases to describe very challenging side effects of pregnancy. In these conversational tropes, women are denied the right to celebrate in their physical accomplishments– the wonderful things their bodies can do and have done.

I see the negative impact this perspective has also had on non-pregnant women, in the forms of body image struggles. What would it look like if we celebrated women for how their bodies work instead of how their bodies look? What if, instead of complaining how are stomachs are too round and soft, we celebrated how we’re able to digest food–and even grow a little human being inside of there? What if, instead of being hard on ourselves for the size and shape of our thighs, we were filled with awe in our ability to run and walk and work and play? What if, instead of noticing how our faces deviates from our culture’s standard of beauty, we gloried in our ability to see and taste and smell and hear?

I want to stop calling bad what God made good, and in the process, give Him the glory.

Why Christians Should Care About Global Climate Change

My family always violates the “don’t discuss religion or politics” rule whenever we get together. Today, we hit both topics with one stone when we addressed the Christian response to global climate change. Through this conversation, I discovered just how much I care about this topic and how much I’ve learned, so I decided to share my thoughts here.

First of all, THERE IS NO DEBATE IF THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING BECAUSE OF HUMAN ACTIONS. The climate is changing. We humans have done this. There is effectively no disagreement from these facts among scientists, and even more so among scientists who specialize in climate. In fact, the climate has already changed; the rate of severe and extreme weather is unprecedented, and it’s only going to get worse. We’re now getting storms every 5 or 10 years that used to happen every 100 (or so) years. The globe is experiencing more drought, flooding, hurricanes, and severe storms than we have experienced in the past; this has already started to happen and is well documented. Essentially, as human pollutants are continually released, we are prematurely ending the stable climate that we’ve been experiencing for the last 10,000 years. Scientists have actually started releasing papers that express these points with an unusually strong wording in order to better convey this point. However, the media hasn’t really picked up on this. Why not?

Because, secondly, THE DEBATE IS MANUFACTURED BY ECONOMIC INTERESTS AND THE DESIRES OF BIG OIL COMPANIES. Big oil has deep pockets, and deep pockets influence politicians, and politicians influence the national discourse. Of course people are confused when intelligent, influential people create controversy where none would otherwise exist. I don’t even think that all climate-change deniers are seeking the ill of the nation for their own amusement; rather, they are focusing on the short-term disruption that would be caused by the changes necessary to impact our collective carbon footprint. There would be no way to effectively address global climate change without causing economic disruption, and I acknowledge that this is a real, difficult issue. So does that mean it’s better to deal with climate change in order to preserve financial stability? How bad could it really get, anyway?

It could get really bad. If someone 300 years into the future came back to tell us cataclysmic stories of famine, destruction, and civilization collapse, I would be sad–but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Global climate change has already lead to drought (California) and famine (Syria), among other issues. How much of a hit can the global ecosystem take before collapsing? If our coastal cities are flooded (which many people think they will be) and if our crop systems are destabilized (which has already started to happen), then will our modern infrastructures even be able to survive? The timescale of global climate change isn’t totally certain, and neither are the exact events well-predicted. But, something is going to happen, and it’s not going to be good. The longer we delay decisive action, the worse it’s going to be for us and for future generations.

But why should Christians care about this issue? We believe that Jesus is going to come back and put all things to rights; shouldn’t that be good enough? While this is true, and this is honestly how I am still able to sleep at night after I get worked up about global climate change, this does not excuse us of engaging with the world. God is always capable of miraculous intervention to accomplish His plans, and yet He chooses to use us in His grand work in the world. Humans are supremely honored to be called since creation to work alongside the Creator, using our wisdom and efforts and desire to create culture and care for the world. We have failed this task, and we should strive to put things to rights. Christians, more than anyone else, should feel motivated to care for the earth because we know that God made the world good, that He is upholding and sustaining it, that He sent his son to redeem it, and that he has a final plan of restoration for all things.

Christians are missing a powerful opportunity to witness God’s love for all of the world by resisting the call of creation care through minimizing our carbon footprint. Who do we serve: the creator of the world, or economic stability? God, or money?

There’s no place like home for the holidays

Let me be frank with you: I dread going home to spend the holidays with my parents, where I grew up. Very little will have changed there, and yet I have changed so much. The chasm between my present, experienced reality and my parent’s conceptions of my life is growing ever wider: a giant, insurmountable wall blocking almost all meaningful communication.

Going home, for me, is folding myself into a little box–as though I myself am to be one of the presents to be put under the tree. I will be asked lots of questions that I don’t want to answer, about my love life (non-existent still, thank you SOO much for asking) my politics (you can stop worrying, Mom and Dad, I’m already a stone’s throw left of your political comfort zone and how much worse can it really get from here?) and my beliefs (do you REALLY want to have a theology argument with me right now, Mom and Dad? You know that I have enough education and debate skills that I can ‘win’ this conversation regardless of the veracity of my opinions, right?). I’ll try to demonstrate who I am now, and that will inevitably lead to conflict with SOMEBODY as I step out of my expected family role. I’ll have lots of moments where I’ll feel like fifth-wheel to the double-date of my parents and my sister and brother-in-law, and I’ll have a few moments where that feeling is justified. Someone will have an emotional melt-down (cuz family is hard on all of us) and I’ll step in to smooth the waters and provide more support than I have free to give, simply because that is the deep pattern that I’ve established with my family and desire alone is not sufficient to break free of this deeply-tread path of action.

In short, I do NOT want to go home. Part of me would rather be anyplace else.

I know as a matter of fact that my experience is far from abnormal, unfortunately for all of us. As it turns out, being an adult and having parents is HARD. (I’ve also heard that being an adult and having lost or been estranged from your parents is also hard. This is a no-win scenario, guys.)

I feel really conflicted about all of this. After all, I was born into great privilege. My family is financially stable; well-educated; white; supported by the community. I was well taken care of, and was giving many opportunities for success. My parents provided for me all the way through college, and even now, they still help out with a few niceties. How is my level of frustration justified? Shouldn’t I feel grateful? Why am I so much more likely to dwell on the criticisms that I have of my parents as compared to their many parental successes?

I don’t have any answers, except to continually confess my self-centered perspective of family and intentionally remind myself of the good things my parents did model for me–including diligence, stability, Christianity, commitment to core values, fulfilling personal responsibility, besides the financial support.

If any of you are farther along on this journey than me, I would love to hear your insights.

Word-based communication is basically telepathy!

GET THIS: Using this weird organ in my throat, I can vibrate air that moves little hairs in your ears that somehow magically can be turned into meaning. OR, EVEN WEIRDER: I can move my fingers over this fancy electronic box and cause little lights to turn on and off in given patterns that you can detect through this little pinhole in your eyes, associate with particular wave patters you’ve previously experienced by the hairs in your ears, WHICH IS SOMEHOW MAGICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH MEANING.

RIGHT NOW, I AM BASICALLY PUTTING THOUGHTS FROM MY BRAIN INTO YOUR BRAIN. Tell me, how is that NOT telepathy?? Telepathy has already been invented, guys. It’s called: WORDS!

It blows my mind that words are an effective communication tool. We can say SO MUCH with them. We have words for SELF-REFERENCE, for IMPLICIT self-reference. This might not yet blow your mind; if it doesn’t, then you NEED to read Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. The fact that I can think thoughts, translate those thoughts into words, and express those words through various physical media is pretty crazy all on its own. But that’s not all I can do! I can also perceive the changes in the world around me caused by other people, interpret those actions as words, and translate those words into ideas! And sure, it’s probably not the EXACT SAME IDEA that’s being shared. But it’s SO CLOSE! And the better you know a person, and the more you talk with them, the closer you can come to replicating their ideas inside your own brain!!

The real conclusion here is that one- and two-year-olds are the most impressive creatures that have ever existed. They are somehow, INDEPENDENTLY, figuring out how to participate in this mass telepathy project we are all constantly engaged in. And NO ONE HAS TO EXPLAIN THE TECHNOLOGY TO THEM! They just figure it out!! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?! I mean, I know that they are strongly motivated by a desire to connect with their caretakers; that this is an advantage to them to make sure that their caretakers continue to care about and engage with them; that this helps them thrive. But STILL. It’s totally crazy to think how often this happens, and we just go along taking it for granted.

Clearly, this is something common that completely amazes me. What common, everyday occurrences do you find fascinating?

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

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.