June 22, 2023

I know, intellectually, that there is a lot to love about Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren’s recent New York Times opinion piece, You Can’t Protect Some Life and Not Others. But I found my blood boiling as I read it.  Because any true “consistent ethic of life” would include concern for women’s lives. And in her piece, I found nothing of the sort. Busting Up the Two-Party System I’m in agreement with Warren on so many things. I join her,... Read more

June 14, 2023

As I watched the recent docu-series The Secrets of Hillsong, I found myself thinking: It’s not just Hillsong. Hillsong is only one example. Yes, Hillsong was particularly massive—and massively influential. But it is not unique. Really, Hillsong is just one especially dramatic and egregious example of all the authority issues I’ve been reflecting on here. Mixing Religious Authority With God’s Authority For one thing, I’ve written about how important it is to remember that religious authority figures are not God—and... Read more

June 7, 2023

One of the key ways my thinking on religious leadership has changed is this: I’ve moved from looking for Answer Givers to looking for People Who Try Stuff. (Related to, but not quite the same as, getters-of-stuff-done.) The Answer Givers Many of us have found ourselves drawn to the kinds of religious leaders who seem to have all the answers. After all, most of us have questions. We have difficult questions.  Often we haven’t quite come across answers yet that... Read more

May 26, 2023

I’ve been thinking about the threat of being asked to leave a church or other religious organization—and the power these threats can have over us. I would like to break the power of those threats, explicit or implied. In other words, I’d like to say this: Let them kick you out, if they really want to.  I want more and more of us to find the courage to face that threat head-on. And to know that, if what we fear... Read more

May 19, 2023

Sometimes I feel the urge to try to prove my “good”ness. Many times, I resist this urge and choose not to try. Other times, I do try, but I’m not very good at it.  It’s a self-defeating endeavor. Because, really, what’s a good person, anyway? It tends to be about how we are seen, more than who we are. It’s often an attempt to earn others’ love, attention, or approval. An effort to merit belonging. (Which, as I reflected on... Read more

May 11, 2023

Maybe you’ve been in a group of people when the conversation takes a turn. Someone says something a little unexpected. A little personal. A little vulnerable. And the rest of the group has a decision to make: Will we meet the person who chose to be vulnerable in that place? Or will we leave them hanging? Will we move right on to talk about something that seems more comfortable—or even mock or shame them for what they shared? Vulnerability Was... Read more

May 3, 2023

People often associate religion in general—and Christianity in particular—with shame, and for good reasons.  Recently I’ve been exploring religion and shame from a couple different angles (saying “no” to religious shame and what religion can look like when it doesn’t shame).  Today I’d like to take a third angle: exploring ways religion can dispel shame in our lives. In other words, to use Brené Brown’s language, exploring spirituality as shame resilience. From Fake Psychology Studies to Real-World Shame When I... Read more

April 27, 2023

Last week I wrote about learning to say “no” to religious shame, as part of what it takes to build our “no” muscles in general. I think it’s worth digging deeper into the idea of religious shame. In particular: What might religion that doesn’t shame look like? Switching Out the “Why”s When I worked for a college campus ministry organization, I was taught to reconsider some of the questions I might ask students.  One example stuck with me: We were... Read more

April 21, 2023

When we talk about religious authority, we need to talk about how to resist that authority when necessary. This includes avoiding casually authoritarian language in church, recognizing that religious authorities are not God, learning to “authorize” ourselves, and, simply, learning to say “no.” One of the problems, though, with learning to say “no,” is that sometimes it comes with a side helping of shame. This shame might be mostly in our own minds. Or it might be something others are... Read more

April 12, 2023

A couple years back, when I was still pretty new at my current church, my pastor called me up and asked if I wanted to lead a short-term small group. I said I’d think about it. I thought about it. And it seemed pretty clear that the answer should be “no, thanks.”  I’ve led lots of small groups before, and I’ve often enjoyed it. But I just didn’t have the energy for it at that time. The responsibility felt more... Read more

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