Thursday, June 29, 2006

Spiritual Vertigo

UPI column

Hi all.

I'll be out of town for the next two weeks starting Sat. I hope to get two more columns in to my editor before then so feel free to check in on Thursdays using this link. It takes you to my list of columns and new ones appear at the top.

For those curious, I haven't fainted now for several years. I seem able to feel the spells coming on and can avoid them by sitting down and lowering my head until the dizziness goes away.

Feel free to comment here, though, even if I'm not around. :)


Monday, June 26, 2006

Here's a photo of Dave and his wife

in our backyard. Good times.

A Gathering of the Heterodox

And we lived to tell the tale!

Jon and I hosted a BBQ for Dave and his wife, Julie, who were in town for a wedding this weekend. We also included Brian and his family, and Chuck and his wife, Deb.

Jon, kids and I literally slaved away all weekend getting ready. The Wallpapering and Painting Ordeal behind us, I had about a million bags of trash to take out and the requisite scouring of wood floors, mopping of dust and moving of furniture to complete. Jon leveled an assault on our overgrown backyard. The net effect? Clean, neat house and groomed yard. Worth it.

One of the funnies about this configuration of friends: I am on the email list that Dave hosts called pomoxian (lots of debate about how that word is pronounced!). I have known Dave for at least four years. Chuck found my blog through and we realized we were both in Cincinnati. Chuck discovered Dave through my blog and joined the pomoxian email list. Chuck then invited Brian, local friend, to join the pomoxian email list. As Brian posted, it slowly became clear to me that I already knew his wife! Tywana and I are a part of the same homeschool co-op and our daughters are friends.

Ah cyber space.

So I invited the whole gang over including kids for a little pomoxian reunion of sorts. Julie made a killer salsa dip, Tywana brought a tasty fruit salad, Deb offered yummy dessert baklava and Jon (my main squeeze) rotisseried pork loin and chicken on his Weber grill. Yummy!

Lots of Coronas with lime and a couple of bottles of wine later, we were all fast friends with loose tongues (spewing heresies right, left and center...).

We covered a lot of ground - universalism and the dangers of admitting it outloud to people, sermons by pastors who don't know theology, how to appreciate Brian McLaren's contribution to his evangelical fan base, papal infallibility (shout out to Beth for teaching me that not every word out of the Pope's mouth needs to be considered infallible), the future of Christianity, the nature of God, the Jesus Seminar, our journeys out of evangelical churches, how the Internet is like God... to name a few.

Dave (fellow ENFP) is the founder of the feast. Years ago when I posted on a little list that discussed A New Kind of Christian, I noticed Dave's irenic style and his in-depth treatment of most topics. I found his thoughtfulness on any subject relevant to my journey. When he started his own list (pomoxian), I jumped on it and might have been the first to sign on! Since then, he and I have a joke between us - more often than not, he speaks my mind or I speak his... a little theological synergy happening there. However, there is one major difference between us: he remains aloof to pop culture, while I, I must confess, remain a pop culture whore. :) Survivor, American Idol, pop radio, So You Think You Can Dance... yep. Total slut.

My mission: to suck others into the pop culture vortex. Come on Dave, you can do it - watch Survivor... it's a must for all serious pomoxians. Even Brian and Chuck watch!

Lucky for me, Brian, Chuck and Deb are talking about continuing these in-person theological tangoes and I hope to attend. Nice to finally have some local friends to discuss with. Sorry Dave can't make it (he hails from Grand Rapids, after all...).

Thanks to all of you for making last night a beautiful evening!

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Great (Theology and Wallpaper) Ripoff

Here we go again: UPI Column

I'm frustrated this morning about everything. I get cranky like this several times a year. Between too much work, getting ready to go to California next week, painting and de-wallpapering, and some online conversations where my thinking is about as clear as the goop on my walls, I feel like one mango short of a brain smoothie. My column probably expresses some of that frustration pretty accurately (though I really don't want to keep writing the same song, second and third verse). Change is coming...

What I really wanted to post about is not my frustration in my own pitiful little world, however, but rather... did you see Dwayne Wade? I mean, Damn, he's good! I was rooting for Pat Riley and the Heat. Great to see Gary Payton get a ring, finally. Indeed. Shaq warmed my heart.

On the golf front—my heart goes out to Tiger for his first ever sympathy applause at the US Open.

And my stomach cringes for Phil Mickelson. He must be having that recurring nightmare of slicing into the trees.

More soon! (After all this wretched wallpaper is really gone and the paint has dried...)

Monday, June 19, 2006

American Episcopalians elect woman bishop

NYTimes article

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 18 — The Episcopal Church elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as its presiding bishop on Sunday, making her the first woman to lead a church in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Many Episcopalians gathered here for the church's triennial general convention cheered the largely unexpected choice of Bishop Jefferts Schori, 52, the lone woman and one of the youngest of the seven candidates for the job. Her election was a milestone for the Episcopal Church, which began ordaining women only in 1976.

She takes on her new responsibilities at a particularly fraught moment in the history of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, the world's third-largest church body, with 77 million members. She was elected to succeed Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, who will retire in November when his nine-year term ends.

At the last general convention, in 2003, the church consented to the election of an openly gay man, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. The decision deeply offended some Episcopalians in the United States and many Anglican primates abroad, who saw it as blatant disregard of Scripture.

Since then, some United States congregations have left the Episcopal Church, and primates overseas have threatened schism. Bishop Jefferts Schori supported Bishop Robinson's election in 2003, and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada permits the blessing of same-sex unions. Moreover, that Bishop Jefferts Schori is a woman could further strain relations with three dioceses in the United States and many Anglican provinces that refuse to ordain women as priests and bishops, critics of the vote said Sunday....

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Wanted to alert you all to Bilbo's posts about Gnosticism (scroll down a bit for parts one and two). He's got some good thoughts going there and I noticed Kansas Bob is weighing in with some of his own thoughts. :)


So this is what it's come to...

Does your spouse read your blog? Do you read your significant other's?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Conversion's Fine Print

UPI Column

This week's column continues last week's journey - how my conversion experience occurred and the subsequent adoption of theology without enough reflection.

Thanks for all your comments. And for the record, my kind editor has changed last week's title based on all your comments and my request! For the moment, it reads: "My due diligence failure" and may change again. But at least for now, it's not the previous one. If you have a title idea that uses the "smart girl" theme, I'm all ears. We have a character limit so my original title was too long.

Anyway, fun chatting with all of you regulars and newbies too!


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Overheard: Shakespeare Camp

Johannah is a counselor at our city's Shakespeare camp this summer. She heads up a little pod of kids 11-13.

At lunch, she overheard the following conversation:

Kid one: Renaissance art kicks Modern art's butt.

Kid Two: Totally.

Kid Three: Modern art doesn't even have a butt!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Rush of Blood to the Head

(not the CD, but my own very head!)

I took my kids to a rock climbing gym today. Yes, I climbed. I bouldered, belayed the two of them and climbed up several of the main faces. Noah has old shoes that fit me like a glove and a harness so I saved a few shekels on gear.

Jacob and Liam are like spiders - they just move all over the hand and foot holds without fear, and with lots of flexibility and youthful strength.

I mostly fell off the bouldering walls. :)

But what I am very proud of is the fact that I am extremely flexible for my age. I can rock climb! I can do it. And I enjoyed it so much, I came home on this endorphin high (not unlike what I feel after running). I had forgotten how good it feels to burn your muscles, to strain to reach a bit higher, to stretch my legs across a wall reaching for the tiny toe hold and then _ bam! got it.

I had this little epiphany up there.

Lots of people do this stuff all the time and instead of religion. It felt strangely freeing to focus all my attention on reaching the next purple crater with my three middle fingers rather than wondering what can be done about crazy 21st century Christianity.

My head cleared and I came home bouyant.

I want to run or climb or stretch into yogic poses every day. Let my body do the praying for awhile.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Commenting on Dave's comments

The discussion of this week's column has sent my head spinning in lots of directions. I want to discuss a comment Dave made that I found especially spot on:
What you're hitting on is the sometimes irrational nature of belief itself - what we believe, and why we believe it, often has little if anything to do with "evidence that demands a verdict." Surely, evidence is often compiled and presented as a means of persuading or defending particular beliefs, but religious and community affiliations have much more to do with social relationship needs and psychological temperaments that we each bring to the situation.
This is really the heart of my UPI column from last week. I used my AM Talk Radio voice, but in truth, as I move forward in describing my journey, this is what I want to discuss and emphasize. The evangelical community is so attractive, so filled with good people who love to love each other, so filled with mission and purpose and an aliveness expressed in their desire to make a difference, that beliefs like Adam and Eve are almost unimportant.

I remember explaining to someone that I really didn't care whether God created the world in six days or six billion years. Neither of them would change my faith because the point of my faith was to save people for an eternity of heaven. Eternity far outweighed my thinking about six 24 hour days or six "aeons" of creation.

Insofar as my faith grew in the context of loving people who made it their business to offer other people hope and help, community and caring, prayer and purpose, my interest in examining the historical veracity or scientific likelihood of miraculous events was a low priority. I accepted the Bible's inerrancy because the words of the Bible gave me life... every day. And as long as that perspective sustained me, I believed.

I liked this comment that Dave wrote right after the above:
Beyond those "mundane" considerations, I also harbor enough "faith in God" to believe that there are times when we are drawn in by circumstances larger than our own minds, plans and ambitions to fulfill larger purposes, or to put it more piously, "conform to God's plan for our lives."
One of the most powerful benefits to my early conversion in college was that my desire for "lived truth" (moral clarity and commitment) helped me to avoid a slew of consequences that attended both my roommate and my siblings who also experienced parents divorcing at that pivotal time in our lives but who never turned to religion for help.

I didn't use drugs, sex, or alcohol, I didn't develop eating disorders nor did I drop out of school... I busied myself with the highest of ideals: becoming a better person, caring about others, giving my free time to helping friends grow in their understanding of prayer, the Bible, how to be a kinder, gentler person, how to forgive others who hurt you, how to get over anorexia, developing a sensitivity to all nations of the world, and more.

I was unsuccessful in many ways. I, myself, was overbearing at times, I didn't know how to be gentle when one of my disciples came into the sorority house after a party drunk, I shared my faith without invitation too many times, I didn't always walk what I talked. But my intentions were in the right place. I wanted ultimate purpose. I wanted people to be happy and to live fulfilling lives. I wanted to be committed to something bigger than money and a nice southern California lifestyle.

When I read Dave's comment, it occurred to me (as I even said to Jon last night) that I am very glad I was a missionary in a Muslim country in my early twenties. I'm equally glad that I served in Central Africa for a summer. These two experiences have done more to impact my worldview later in life than any others. I have a global perspective I couldn't buy, read about or study to acquire. And living in those contexts as a fully committed Christian was key to the development of the worldview I have today.

I lived the contrast of one worldview and faith against another. I lived it. It changed me. It informs how I think about global politics, economies and religious traditions.

Over the years at Xavier, I've come to the place that I do appreciate the power of religious faith and how important it is to study it, to take it apart and to examine its impact on culture. Religion, images of God, holy texts are as powerful as peace treaties or nuclear bombs. And so, I'm glad I have been a Christian because I can be a part of determining what role our faith plays on the world stage.

So Dave may be right - my parents' divorce brought me into a lifelong relationship with Christianity that is for better or for worse. Amazingly, in spite of my critiques, I have Campus Crusade to thank. :)

I want to end with a question for you: How do you feel that your Christian faith has benefitted you in the past and in what ways has it changed its role in your life?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Check Your Brain at the Door, Please

UPI Column

I have a few words of caution as you read today's column. First, I didn't pick the title. My original title was too long and it read: What's a Smart Girl Like You Doing in a Belief Like That? The new title is a bit stronger than I intended.

Evangelicalism gets a black eye in today's column. I felt the need to expose the unnerving experience of losing confidence in my faith... My anger and frustration and even embarassment are a lot more common than many of the "still faithful" would like to believe.

My goal in the next several columns is to take an unflinching look at how evangelicalism creates a loyal following even while expecting adherence to outrageous beliefs. There are brilliant people who are evangelicals. I'm not saying that evangelical Christians aren't smart. I am also not saying that all evangelicals hold identical views about the stories recorded in the Bible (not all evangelicals believe in six day creationism, for instance).

On the other hand, most evangelicals are pressed to adopt beliefs after conversion in order to retain "membership" in their communities. These beliefs do not develop through personal discovery, but through systematic teaching combined with powerful community. In the end, this combination leads to unreflective belief-ism rather than thoughtful evaluation of doctrines. This is the key weakness in evangelical conversion and subsequent discipleship, in my humble opinion.

It is this tendency to expect adherence to doctrines without the natural process of inquiry which leads to later-in-life rejection of faith and consequent anger by most ex-evangelicals. Their leave-taking of the faith is usually dismissed as anger at individuals or at church politics or God rather than accepting that the ex-evangelical is angry at a system that coerced her into beliefs that she never seriously evaluated in the first place.

All that to say: read ahead with caution if you still hold fond feelings towards your evangelical heritage.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Perfect Summer Day

Yesterday we had incredible weather - the kind that I took for granted in southern California. I never take it for granted here in Ohio.

My 9 year old daughter had a best friend spending the day and night with us. All I kept thinking as I watched them flit from activity to activity was: this is how it is supposed to be when you're nine or ten. This is what you're supposed to do and remember from your childhood.

I felt this enormous swell of accomplishment thinking that Jon and I have managed to provide a childhood to our kids, an organic one, not the pre-packaged kind and organized in Y camps.

Here's how Caitrin and Sarah spent the day (don't you miss days like this for yourself?):

  • Painted with watercolors on the deck under the shade of big tree limbs

  • Made clay figures and baked them in the oven

  • Played badminton laughing at how few times the birdie got over the net

  • Bounced on the trampoline

  • Raced the dog around the yard

  • Made a lemonade stand

  • Sold lemonade

  • Sold lemonade door-to-door to increase sales (it worked!)

  • Sold lemonade to the ice cream truck driver!

  • Bought ice cream from the same truck driver

  • Made up cheers and performed them

  • Flipped through magazines of girls in prom dresses

  • Played cards

  • Helped start a fire

  • Made s'mores and got sticky marshmallow all over their sweet faces

  • Snuggled up on the couch and watched "Space Balls" until they fell asleep

I peeked through windows, tiptoed outside to watch from behind trees, and provided the refreshments.

The sky stayed blue, the sun shone gently, and the air wasn't the least bit humid.

It was a perfect day to be nine in an Ohio summer.

By the end of the day, I realized that I loved living in Ohio. And I meant it.

Best Kiss - We knew that!

MTV got it right when the Oscars didn't

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal won the Best Kiss award at the MTV ceremony last weekend. Looks like the younger generation has no problem with enjoying the kiss that seems to have put off scores of middle-aged hetero males from viewing the film.

The twenty-somethings apparently thought the kiss steamy and hot. I agree.

Sealed with a Best Kiss (

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bearing the Image of God

UPI column

Part Two of last week's column, but certainly far from the end of the conversation. :)