I’m a Georgia Voter, but I have a higher calling as a Citizen

Today I exercised my right as a citizen of our country, and I cast my vote for the next President of the United States. I, like the rest of the nation and Facebook, have many opinions on both of the parties vying to be the next boss of our homeland.

Throughout this whole process, I have both posted and read many passionate statements and articles arguing with deep conviction why one person is more suited than the other. I have even read arguments that portray one candidate as the more “godly” vote than the other, while I do not agree with that statement, the conviction behind these posts is usually genuine, so much so that people feel compelled to share and share…and share. The question I have been asking myself today is why. Why do I feel like it is my duty share and to vote? Because I want my citizenship to count. I want to be actively engaged in voicing the change I hope to see, and because I think it matters.

As my American pride began to swell in my chest, I immediately felt a sense of conviction in my heart. Which citizenship do I hold more dear and valuable? Which citizenship am I more excited to participate and have a voice in, my American one or the one that ties me to the global and eternal body of Christ? It’s not that holding my American heritage near and dear to me is wrong, but it’s not all that there is to hope in–if it is, I think we might have a problem!

Christians, as citizens of the real and better country, we ought to be spending just as much or even more time advocating for the true President and King as we do for the human and visibly fallible candidates that we have before us. This might sound cheesy but our voice and action matters here. I think it is time for us as believers to get as passionate about the commands of God as we are about our rights as Americans, because let’s be real, God cares more about you fulfilling the great commission in your neighborhoods and communities than he does about who you voted for or if you voted at all. These are the commands of God that you have a right and obligation to participate in as a Christian: loving God, your neighbor, your enemies. Serving the poor, fatherless, and widows (haha shameless plug). Giving to the local and global church. Regularly fellowshipping with a body of believers. And most importantly sharing the good news of Christ daily with passion, excitement, and urgency.

As the election season thankfully comes to an end, I want to be constantly reminding myself that doing what God commands is good, not only for those who believe but for those who don’t. Today many of us will choose from a list of candidates that we don’t actually trust and who bring heavy amounts of uncertainty to our country, it is not so with Christ. Choosing him daily and obeying the commands that he has set before us, will only bring more hope and certainty to you and those around you.

So my fellow citizens, let us go to the polls and let us vote with the hope and desire to make this country a more beautiful place for all, but let us not forget that we have a higher citizenship and calling that no moth, dust, slander, or corruption can destroy. Be not mistaken, it is not only our right but our duty as citizens to usher that King and his kingdom in here and now because in so doing, we will have a more beautiful country for all.

Telling yet another election story,

Alex Ritchey

From Marriage’s First Kiss to Final Breath

Psalm 123:1 “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!”

Imagine it’s a Friday afternoon, you just got off work and you’re making a b-line for those plans you’ve been looking forward to all week. You click on the radio and your favorite song is just starting, so naturally you turn it up, roll down the window (assume it is fall if you’re in Georgia), stick your hand out, and cruise down the highway making waves in the air as it weaves up and down over your fingers. Pause there in your mind. It’s bliss. Beside the inevitable Friday traffic, all seems right with the world. Have you had moments or seasons of life like that? Where things are going good, I mean really really good, so much so that you pause and look to heaven to say, “Why me?” or “God, I don’t deserve this…but I accept!” Those moments are meant to be celebrated, and I think they teach us something about our God and his economy.

JM and I looked to heaven a lot together over the years of our relationship. Sometimes in confusion and sometimes in praise, but (mostly) always in awe that we had a God who gave us such good gifts. From the time I met him at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters camp, l remember looking to heaven and saying, “God why am I so attracted to this weirdo guy?” and he looking up with a  completely different response, “This girl is smoking hot, God, and there is no way I am on her level.” (His words, not mine). We spent that summer sneakily flirting, dropping humble brags about how we were killing it with our campers, and shouting Ephesians 4:29 at each other from all over camp, because I guess that’s how Christians flirt… I still laugh when I think about JM looking to heaven and begging God not to let me friend zone him because of the many nights I spent putting make-up on him for a dumb British Rock Star character that he insisted on playing every Thursday night at rodeo. And thankfully enough for him, he found out that God was enthroned and in the details because I didn’t even know what the friend zone was.

Almost exactly one year later, we went on our first date. I am sure we both spent many nights leading up to this date looking up to heaven for guidance as we got to know each other from long distance phone calls and texts. When the night came, we literally looked to heaven for the first time together as the small red and yellow biplane left the runway, headed for the sky. As we held hands for the first time watching the summer sun melt into the trees behind Kennesaw Mountain, we were both reassured that God was indeed the author of more than our story, but the great story that all creation was telling. Thankful we got to participate in that is an understatement.

I remember one night in particular, September 9, 2012. I was terrified as JM asked me to take the adventure with him in becoming his girlfriend. I rattled off my list of excuses as to why I wouldn’t make a good girlfriend, and he wasn’t even phased by one of them. He had spent countless hours that summer knocking on heaven’s door to receive guidance from a God that gives to those who ask. Again that night JM lead my eyes to heaven, and although we realized that it was risky business to trust in a God who is a sovereign mystery, JM reminded me that it was the best place we could be. So I said yes, yes to a journey that terrified me in all the right ways.  We had no idea the path that lay before us, but hoped in a King who promised to lead his people.

Oh, and the night he proposed, a night that was so close to perfection, I still wonder if it was reality. There were so many moments between September 9, 2012 and that crisp November day that made me fall deeply in love with him and the God we were following. How fitting that for our final date as boyfriend and girlfriend JM would again lead us skyward. The helicopter blades whipped through Atlanta’s night sky as I sat next to him asking God how in the world I got this guy to like me. Little did I know that JM, sporting the hottest outfit I have ever seen by the way, was looking at more than the beautiful skyscrapers towering into the blackness above but looking to his God to calm his nerves, for in moments he would be bending his knee and asking the girl next to him to spend forever by his side. About 30 minutes later, I had a ring on my finger and we both looked to heaven rejoicing in the fact that we got the gift of each other.

Or how about the time we looked to heaven because we had both finished college and were about to get married! We were broke, in desperate need of jobs and money, and so many other things, but boy were we content with the love that we had and the life we were making with God. We turned to God like needy kids and hoped that like all the others times along our journey that he would provide. What do you know, he did!

Then this day came, July 13, 2014, the day JM and I said I do and vowed before God to love and serve each other until death do us part. We had no idea the commitment that we were actually making, and honestly, it’s probably best that we didn’t! On this day and in this momenritcheywedding20140713_1665.jpgt in particular I remember looking to heaven with him. We had just finished our vows, placed the rings on each other’s fingers, and were singing In Christ Alone, only the kiss was left to seal the deal. In those last moments we gazed skyward. My eyes were closed and JM’s were staring up at God, both of us praying a very similar prayer, “Christ, be our light and our song on days when loving comes easy and be our solid ground when the fiercest droughts and storms come rolling in.” Gosh, I can see it so clearly in our faces, his blissful glance and my sweet contentment as we accepted the greatest gift God had ever given us. We didn’t know what joys and what sorrows lay ahead on our path, but we knew that God was commanding our destiny, from marriage’s first kiss to final breath.

The very next day the hard work began. Marriage was fun, but it wasn’t easy, we would be the first to admit that! We looked to heaven several times a day and sometimes several times an hour asking God how to love each other better. We were selfish and clueless, but at the end of the day no matter how it had unfolded, we would look to God together before our heads sunk deep into our pillows. Even though our eyes were closed, and mine sometimes half asleep, our hearts were pointed towards the throne. We needed sanctification and grace and mercy. God came through, every time.

Today as I stare unendingly at the heavens where not only my God lives, but my JM, too, I cannot help but think back on all those “Friday post-work drive” moments I got to have with JM. There may have been traffic, but the song was just right and the wind was so fun to play in, that it didn’t matter how long it would take us to get to where we were going. That’s what I am declaring over my life today and what I pray you declare over yours. The idea is this: that we would lift our eyes to a God who gives us these beautiful, bliss filled moments to give us a small taste of what heaven will be like. There will be stops, bumps, and maybe a few tickets along your crazy ride, but rejoice in that fact that no matter how long it takes you to get to that final destination, you will indeed get there, and it will be more awesome than any weekend plan you have ever dreamed up!

Happy two year anniversary, my dearest friend. I love our story even on hard days like today. Soon we will be together again, but this time we will be face to face with the God who is so rightfully enthroned in the heavens.

Tell a good story,

Alex Ritchey

Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

BODY–A POEM OF THANKS

I see the body

Broken

Silent

Departed

I see the gap

Gaping

Dark

Alone

I see the Body

Rebuilding

Hoping

Together

 

To all who continue to suffer along with my family and me,

Your labor of love has not been in vain nor will it ever be forgotten. Each hug given, meal cooked, joke made, tear shed, dollar donated, call made, text sent, prayer said, sleepover had, shower neglected, trip taken, hour of sleep lost, gas used, email sent, gift given and memory shared was not in vain. The hole that the entire Ritchey family feels in the wake of this loss is immeasurable. There will never be another like our John-Michael, and we all know that, but you have made it possible to stand—thank you.

With Love,

The Ritchey’s

If this is a bad story, why are you still reading?

Good Story 1

(Thoughts from Alex Ritchey, widow of John-Michael Ritchey)

We were writing a good story, it had all the crucial ingredients: real characters with real emotions, pure adventure, deep love, and its share of conflict (usually quickly resolved due to the fierce humility of one of the characters…I will let you guess which one). We liked writing this story, but we weren’t naive, we knew that even though it bore the title Our Story, that God was the true author who had graciously lent us his pen, and so we wrote, merging our lives together for three glorious years.

There was no one in this world that loved me more than John-Michael Ritchey. He spent every minute and consequently every dollar over the last three years making sure I knew that. Day one he let me know that he was all in, and if I would be willing to “take the adventure” with him, he would make it his life’s goal to lead and love me well. From plane rides over mountains, oceans, and cities to goofy nights at home where we would do anything humanly possible to make each other laugh, he did just that, led and loved me well. And boy, were we good at making each other laugh! One night sticks out in particular…I had just gotten home from a long day at work, wanting nothing more than to slip quietly into bed to sleep away my frustrations, but JM had other plans to cheer me up that evening. For the next 45 minutes, he pranced around the edge of our bed changing characters and costumes vowing that his mission would not be complete until I smiled. Let me just say, I have never known someone who could create such creepy yet captivating characters in my life (if you know him, you are laughing right now). But our love was much more than our fancy adventures and inside jokes; it was a deep friendship that left me feeling safe, confident and cared for. I was his Queen, and I really did feel like royalty.

On September 19, 2015, God took his pen and wrote a new and unexpected chapter in Our Story – the tragic death of one of the main characters, the man I love. Sitting on the side of the mountain that day, I wanted to throw the book down, cursing it and its author, swearing to never again read another chapter. I felt betrayed. I felt scared. I felt alone, but God kept writing, insisting that the story wasn’t over.

I won’t lie; these last two months have been hell. I cry a lot, I scream, and I beg God to give me my friend back. I have learned what it means to truly mourn and to feel completely empty while standing in the rubble of thousands of shattered dreams. This suffering has shown me depths of heartache that I never knew were possible, and at the end of the day, I just want my normal back. I want to come home from work, cook dinner together while singing jingles that we created, and fall softly asleep as he prays for me. But in the heartache, God continues to write.

So how could this be a good story? Don’t get me wrong what happened to JM that day was not good. My friends and I witnessed firsthand what Paul was talking about in Romans 8:20 when he says the creation was subjected to futility. Creation failed that day and because of it, we suffer. If you are anything like me you’ve boycotted this story at times, asking why in the world a good author would allow the main character to be killed. He loved people so well, he had unmatched talents, and he was telling a dang good story. But turn with me to The Great Story, and behold, the author didn’t spare the main character of his story either, his own son. Why? Jesus loved people so well, he had unmatched talents and was telling a much better story than anyone else—ever. Why? Why? Why? He had a plan for glorious good. That day on the cross Jesus felt betrayed, scared, and alone, but thank God the story didn’t end there. On the third day, he rose again, had effectively conquered death, and flung wide the door of hope for all of the humanity—out of the darkest moment in the entire human history comes the brightest most glorious salvation for a people who didn’t even know they needed it!

 Our Story didn’t end on that mountain. It changed, yes. It took a turn no one expected, yes, but the author keeps writing because he has a plan for glorious good. As we hiked out of the mountain that day, singing hymns and praying, God let us taste a bit of the good that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:28 when he says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” This is how the story can be good because we know that for those who love the author all things work out for good. I can’t yet tell you what the next chapter of my story looks like, but because of this scripture and many others, I can tell you that there are new joys to be experienced. The author hasn’t forsaken me, no good author does. So I trust that the new joys will come and that they will be made even brighter because I have seen the darkness of the valley. So tonight I tell myself again, “Be patient dear soul and wait for the page to turn. Behold, a new morning will come and the sun will rise over a new chapter, one more beautiful than any earthly pen has ever written. Our God writes good stories.”

In the words of my dearest friend and love, King Ritchey, “Let’s keep pressing on because we have a story to tell the world about God. And the world has no greater need than a good story, especially the true story about a God who is perfect in perseverance, who is coming after even the most unlikely of us, even now.”

So, my friends, I will persevere. I will keep the faith. And I will reach the prize for which this story is being written, Jesus, the author of Our Story.

Tell a good story.

Alex Ritchey

The List-Driven Threat To Christian Education

*This article was originally published at Canon and Culture, a project of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision (http://www.canonandculture.com/the-list-driven-threat-to-christian-education/)

As a teacher at a Christian school I believe there’s a far greater threat facing our students than secular culture. I don’t think their greatest threat is public education. I don’t think it’s a racy scene on The Walking Dead. And I certainly don’t think it’s the word “damn” in Hemingway. Instead, the greatest threat to our students is the homogenized, list-driven, rehashed Pharisaism that we’re unwittingly peddling to the young adults in our care. We’re not exposing them to the richness and depth of biblical Christianity; we’re hawking a cheap alternative.

Recently, I came across the application for a Christian writing competition, which contained an extensive list of “questionable material” that would be denied entry if it made an appearance in any of my students’ submissions. One list was summarized by the following content: “witchcraft, ghosts, etc.” Another contained things like “bathroom humor.” If this is what we want to market to our students, then so be it; but we best be prepared to say goodbye to any hope of inspiring the next Dostoevsky, the next Flannery O’Connor, the next C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, and—more startling still—I think we’ll find that even Jesus will ultimately be barred from our “safe for the whole family” contests. My chief problem with this kind of approach to Christian education is that we’re missing an opportunity to demonstrate the complexity and beauty of Christianity, and we’re settling for the propagation of a simplistic moralism.

Any approach to teaching young Christians the craft of writing that blushes and waves a dismissive hand at the works of Shakespeare should give us pause. I’m startled by the message it sends to my students to spend a month on The Tragedy of Macbeth and then offer them an opportunity to write with the addendum, “Just make sure your writing is nothing like Shakespeare’s!” If we applied the same moralistic standards that we often expect of our students to the stories that fill our curriculum, we would lose the opportunity to introduce our students to the murderous Macbeth and his three bearded friends. They wouldn’t just be losing the enjoyment of a good story, but the chance to grapple with fate and free-will, to self-examine their own ambitious hearts, to have the eye-opening experience of identifying with a man who buckles under the pressure of an apple too enticing to say, “No.”

And it’s not only Shakespeare (who some would reject since he many not have been a believer). A closer look at the kinds of restrictive lists we often compile reveals that even some of the most influential Christian artists of all time should get the boot from our classrooms. If, for instance, we consider the common prohibition of stories with “magic” in many Christian circles, then C.S. Lewis should be next on the chopping block. Say goodbye to The Chronicles of Narnia, a story that not only contains a witch, but also contains forces for good that use “magic” as well. Barring Narnia forces us to say goodbye to one of the most vivid and beautiful depictions of the gospel that the fantasy genre has ever seen. Lewis’ drinking buddy, Tolkien, has to hit the road as well. Our beloved wizard Gandalf, the one who taught us what it means to cling to hope, risk our lives in the fight against evil, and see the strength in the “least of these” is just another outlaw on many of our moralistic lists.

It’s not just the focus on making lists that’s so problematic—although we’ll return to that in a moment—but even the things we’ve chosen to fill the lists with. This fear of fictitious “witchcraft,” for example, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Bible means when it condemns witchcraft and magic in the first place. The Christian Research Journal does a superb job correcting our ignorance of the Bible’s teaching and its connection to the fantastical stories we love:

“The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter series are works of fantasy. In both, the authors create multidimensional worlds peopled with various creatures, many of whom use magical powers to affect physical changes in their world. Some of these creatures are bad and use their powers for evil, and some of these creatures are good and use their powers to battle evil. The “magical” powers are “natural” attributes of the respective fantasy worlds in which they operate. In this sense the magic is more akin to the ability of animals to speak and wear clothes in children’s literature such as The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh. Within the context of the world of the story, clothed talking animals are not supernatural, occult aberrations but the normal state of affairs. In other words, the magic is mechanistic, not occult: the make-believe laws that govern their use in these make-believe worlds are physical laws, not spiritual or moral laws. These practices are not the same as the occult-based wizardry and sorcery practiced in the real world by real people and condemned in the Bible (which illumines the real world).”[1]

When we kick Tolkien, Lewis, and even Rowling out of our classrooms, when we send the message to our students that their works are incoherent with our faith, we’re losing the opportunity to use stories “such as those in the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series as vehicles to show these youths what they really want and need — a place of love, courage, friendship, belonging, and a chance to lay down their lives in a cause greater than themselves.”[2] In other words, we lose the opportunity to bring them the very fabric that weaves together the story of the gospel.

Herein lies the heart of the problem: we run away from encountering Jesus because people are complex. People are impossible to fit on a list. The person of Jesus can’t be contained, controlled, or homogenized, and Jesus was constantly frustrating the list-makers in his day. Have we forgotten about the incidents concerning Jesus and the Sabbath? He demonstrated for us that the things on God’s lists existed for a greater purpose, and that the moment the list is incongruent with the story of redemption, we’ve misunderstood the entire point of our faith altogether. (e.g. Mark 3:1-6). We must remember how the religious leaders scoffed at his drinking and the company he kept, two more things Jesus did that violated the lists of people trying to be more pious than God. (e.g. Matthew 9:10-11; Matthew 11:19). Jesus wasn’t rebelling against lists to be trendy or provocative. He was trying to teach us something invaluable about the nature of Christianity: the lists in Scripture don’t exist as ends in themselves; they exist to show us something of the nature of God, the helplessness of man, and the desperate need for rescue. The Bible’s lists are about the story. The story is about a Person. The Person is what should be driving us and forming every decision we make—especially in our art.

I’ll be the first to admit: there isn’t an easy alternative to limiting our students’ writing with moralistic lists; however, there is a better one. The writing that we should be inspiring, that our culture so desperately needs, is writing that works from an understanding of the gospel. We don’t need safe, unrealistic, black-and-white depictions of the moral life. We need young writers who honestly wrestle with the reality of biting the apple, the struggle of humanity, the sweetness of redemption, and the hope of returning to Eden. The need of the hour is for gospel-driven writers, not moralistic ones. We need more storytellers, not more list-makers.

[1] Mark Ryan and Carole Hausmann Ryan. “Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.” This article first appeared in the News Watch department of the Christian Research Journal, volume 24, number 4 (2002)
[2] Ibid

An Open Letter to Representative John Lewis

John Lewis in SelmaRepresentative Lewis,

I am writing to you in regards to the recent undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress concerning the shocking practices of Planned Parenthood.

I am not writing to you as a partisan Republican; I’m actually a registered Independent. I’m writing to you as someone who deeply admires you and the courageous work you did in Alabama so many years ago. I’m writing to you as a fellow human being who is terrified at the state of our country’s conscience and terrified for the millions of unborn babies who have yet to be “crushed.”

I am convinced that posterity will look back on these times with the same bewilderment that we look back on the civil-rights era, and worse, the antebellum south. I tread lightly here; I am a young white man who has little room to talk about the kind of horrors your people have faced. But I am convinced that these babies are no more “fetal tissue” than black men and women were “property.” Even the notion that we should debate whether these unborn children are human beings seems as offensiveto me as the notion that we should have, so many years ago, debated whether black Americans were equal in humanity with their white neighbors. Is not the size of our bodies as arbitrary of an excuse for dehumanization as the color of our skin? God help us for repeating the same evil rationalizations of so many of our ancestors.

Please do not let these precious, innocent babies down. 55 million dead is 55 million too many. Will you please stand up courageously once more, just like you did in Selma, to defend these innocent human beings made in the image of God, just like you and I? Could you be courageous enough to stand up against your party?

Might I even suggest that you could be an invaluable partner to your Republican colleagues at this time by ensuring that any legislation to defund Planned Parenthood would be infinitely more valuable if it also included measures to help women who are facing crisis pregnancies by resourcing pregnancy centers that help both the mother and the child. Perhaps even legislation could be aimed at helping repair the broken adoption system so that murdering a child no longer seems like a viable alternative.

The time is now. I urge you not to delay, not to play politics, and not to put on a show. Please help rescue these children and bring to justice those who would profit from their bodies.

Praying for you as you lead us through these important times,

John-Michael Ritchey

Planned Parenthood: The New Antebellum South

This will be a short post, born more out of outrage than anything else.

The modern abortion movement is eerily similar to antebellum slavery.

Don’t miss the connection: both movements invented terminology to dehumanize their victims, be it “property” or “tissue.”

Both movements framed their argument in terms of “choice,” and not necessarily support of the act itself. A strategic move, as “choice” and throwing off the tyrannical removal of choice is deeply woven into the American narrative.

Both movements trumpeted “rights” while blatantly ignoring the rights of the innocent and the suffering they were using and destroying.

‪And just like the antebellum south, Planned Parenthood‬ is the rich benefactor that doesn’t want the institution to die.

This isn’t about politics. It’s a human rights issue. ‪Planned Parenthood murders babies and then auctions off their body parts, and it’s time for them to go.

Here is a helpful resource for those who share my outrage: Click Here

Lessons From My Students

“If Christ had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as strong as death, he would have turned from me long ago.” –Charles Spurgeon

This weekend I watched some of my impressive students play soccer. What really struck me though, wasn’t their talent, although they’re some incredibly talented young men and women. What struck me was their perseverance. Even when they were behind by a few goals, while there was only 30 seconds left on the clock, I saw them push hard and refuse to quit.

Have you ever considered why perseverance is so striking? Why do we love to watch movies about determined people who refuse to give up, even when all odds seem against them? I think it’s because our perseverance tells an eternal story.

The beauty of perseverance strikes us too deeply to simply be a matter of good character. I’m not implying that character is unimportant, but it does lack lasting importance if we treat it as an end in and of itself. Think about it: if there were no greater purpose for our perseverance, other than the fact that it may earn us some temporary benefits, would it really matter all that much? Sure, our perseverance might mean the difference between an “F” and an “A,” a minimum wage job and one with benefits, or a Hollywood marriage and one that actually lasts. But eventually, our shiny diplomas will collect dust, we’ll retire from our jobs, and let’s face it: we’re all a limited number of breaths away from being worm food in a dark casket beneath some dirt. So what then? What did our perseverance count for?

God offers us a better story.

Think about the story of the gospel: Jesus didn’t come after us when all the conditions were favorable. Satan seemed victorious, and our hearts were darker than the darkest night. What’s more, the cost was so high that only divine blood would be sufficient to snatch us back from the brink of hell. None of that was enough for Jesus to turn back and give up his pursuit. There was no obstacle too steep for him. His victory cry didn’t resound until the very darkest, bleakest, most hopeless moment in the history of humanity. He never once said, “they are too far gone, too darkened, too lost for me.” His perseverance, even to the point of death, is the hope of our salvation. It’s precisely because he came after us, no matter the cost, that we get to know the joy of his grace forever.

Now consider the moments when we witness perseverance that strikes us to the core: when our students refuse to give up in the last 30 seconds of a soccer game, even when it’s not going their way; when our friends attack their studies late into the night, even in that class they don’t care for; when we watch parents keep loving their wayward children, even when it seems like they’ll never see the reward; when we see a wife stay devoted to her husband, even when it seems like there’s good reason to throw in the towel—these are the moments when all of us get the chance to say something profound about the eternal story of the gospel. These are the moments that don’t have to stop preaching when our bodies get closed up in a casket. These are the moments that resound. 

So let’s keep persevering, and let’s keep cheering on others to do the same. Even in the smallest moments—the games that don’t seem all that important, the jobs that we’re moving on from soon anyway, the relationships that seem needless—let’s resolve not to hang our heads and cry, “defeat.” Let’s keep pressing on, because we have a story to tell the world about God. And the world has no greater need than a good story, especially the true story about a God who is perfect in perseverance, who is coming after even the most unlikely of us, even now.

Time To Sweat The Small Stuff

Have you ever considered how relatively “small” the very first sin was? The first pages of Genesis don’t offer us a story about Eve’s illicit sexual escapades or Adam’s hard-core drug addiction. The story makes no mention of spousal abuse or rape or murder. Instead, all our first parents did was eat a piece of fruit.

The sin that brought evil into the world, that wrecked paradise and welcomed pain and suffering was nothing more than Adam and Eve’s refusal to acknowledge God’s meal plan.

Perhaps the message we should walk away with is not that God is a stringent killjoy, but that God does in fact sweat the “small” stuff. The sins we see as a relatively small problem actually reveal a not-so-small problem rooted deep down in each one of our hearts.

A deeper issue is lurking behind our dismissal of Divine instructions for what apples to eat, whether or not we cheat on our homework, or even the way we blow off speed limits. Just like Adam and Eve, we laugh off the “small” stuff, and we do it because each one of us has a heart that refuses to acknowledge the rule and authority of God. We don’t strive for obedience in every area, because we’re not actually obeying from a heart that loves and trusts God. We obey when it’s convenient, when we decide it matters, when we think the consequences for disobedience might be too damning.

But no one obeys the “small” stuff, right? True. But maybe our response shouldn’t be to dismiss the significance of “minor” sins, just because we all fall short. Maybe we should use them as an opportunity to wake ourselves up to what’s really going on in our hearts. Maybe we should let them drive us to lament how very fallen we all are and how much we need a Savior who is risen.

I’m a Trinitarian Feminist

 

I’m a Trinitarian Feminist. Now if that intrigues you, allow me to explain.

Recently, I watched Emma Watson’s address to the UN on feminism and her new campaign called “HeForShe.”[1] I thought it was a good speech. I don’t think it was of the “I have a dream” caliber, but I admired her courage for addressing a crowd that intimidating, and I agreed with her on several key points. The most important point that elicited a hearty “here, here!” from me was that gender inequality exists, and it’s a problem.

But here is where I part ways with the traditional stream of feminism: while I do think gender inequality is a problem, I do not think we have settled on the right solutions.

Cue Trinitarianism.

I turn to Genesis for solutions, not because I expect everybody else to agree with me on the veracity of the book, but because I’m a Christian, and if my worldview is going to be consistent (which I think is incredibly important for all of us[2]), then I have to frequently reevaluate my opinions on issues like gender inequality in light of Christianity’s most foundational claims. As the book of origins, Genesis contains some of the most foundational claims of the Christian faith. If Genesis is actually true, if its claims about origins are correct, then I think it holds the answers for our never-ending issues with gender inequality.

Genesis teaches something about human beings that is radical and profound. The doctrine has come to be known by its Latin name, Imago Dei. In Genesis 1, Moses takes us on an explosive journey through the creation of time, space, matter, and energy, and then—almost without warning—he immediately brings us to a stop.

“Shhhh,” he says. “Listen.”

God’s usual monologue takes an unusual turn. He doesn’t just speak something into existence this time. God begins to ruminate on his next act of creation, and he gives a special pronouncement concerning this unique being-to-be. “Male and female,” Moses tells us, God will make human beings as “male and female,” which together will reflect the image of God.[3] 

And who is this God that each one of us is supposed to reflect? The Scriptures present him as Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. As the oldest of Christian creeds confirm, Orthodox Christians have always recognized that each member of the Trinity is distinct, and yet God remains one.[4]

Beyond the obvious baffling mystery of it all, the doctrine of the Trinity also offers a unique perspective on how the world, and especially the design of gender, was intended to work. According to Genesis’ conception of the universe, we are not all the result of a cosmic accident, an impersonal energy, or even some powerful, monotheistic deity. Instead, we are all the creation of a Trinitarian God, a God who is simultaneously unified and diverse. This great theme of unity and diversity is the very rhythm of the universe, and a failure to understand that rhythm is a failure with disastrous consequences.

And now we stumble on the real problem, and perhaps even a real solution. The real culprit responsible for gender inequality is not gender roles. The Christian worldview insists that men and women are distinct by nature. Genders are more than a mere construct. Discovering and embracing our different roles in life is not a futile task or even a destructive task, but a necessary one. Where oppression exists (and it absolutely exists), the solution is not to seek the elimination of differences, but see and embrace the God who models how to live absolutely unified, while never ceasing to remain diverse. Do societies construct roles for men and women that are often destructive and oppressive? Of course they do! Should we reevaluate those roles? Absolutely! But instead of eliminating gender roles completely, we should reevaluate them in light of the Trinity. The solution to our problem of inequality is not to eliminate diversity, but to embrace our Imago, to see the beauty that results from men and women who seek unity within their diversity—not by ignoring it.

[1] You can see that address here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE.
[2] When deciding whether or not your worldview is true, what you’re really looking for is consistency between that worldview’s truth claims and reality. Every worldview makes foundational claims, particularly about origins. One of the best tests for a worldview is to ask, “If my worldview’s claims about origins are really true, would reality be just as it is now?”
[3] Genesis 1:26-27; It should be noted that I think this “stop” in Genesis 1:26 is also the reason for what many claim is an inconsistent “second creation story” found in Genesis 2. I would insist, along with most Orthodox Christians, that this episode in Genesis 2 is merely a narrative expansion on God’s most central creative work in chapter 1.
[4] Refer to the Nicene Creed (https://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html) as one example of many.