Before listening to the latest episode of Radio Lab over the weekend, I’d never heard of Gary Hart. Poor guy might have been president if the American public and media hadn’t suddenly taken an interest in his sex life. Sorry buddy. That was terrible timing for you.
As hosts Jad and Robert point out early on in the show, we’ve become accustomed to having front-row seats to politicians’ sexual exploits. Apparently this hasn’t always been the case: they revisit Hart’s story as a key turning point in our political history.
Curiously, in this episode is they point out that the media was, in many ways, just catching up with the general public. Politicians have been having affairs for as long as we’ve had politicians, but the media wasn’t reporting on it because of unwritten rules about privacy and assumptions about relevancy. The number one factor cited in this podcast for the turning point is Watergate: what we all remember as a very good reason to challenge how the moral character of a person impacts their ability to do their job. I’d say we were spot on with that one. (Honestly, Nixon. You’re such an embarrassment.)
What no one interviewed in this story mentioned was the turning tide of sexual politics concurrent with these other events. A couple of political commentators mentioned the role of women in media and their willingness to expose Hart’s womanizing ways, but that’s as close as they got to what I would deem a hugely significant factor. In her book, Delirium, Nancy L. Cohen documents the sexual counterrevolution in the United States over the last several decades. This is the time period in which we see major, major backlash against feminism and women, against abortion and Planned Parenthood, and the rise of the ultra-conservative religious right as embodied in groups like Focus on the Family and in cultural phenomena like the purity movement (embodied, for example, in True Love Waits).
It’s never just one thing or another, of course. It’s all of these factors and more. But it’s no coincidence that that the political and social tide was turning in the 70s, 80s and that Hart’s downfall was specifically sexual in nature.
What are your thoughts? Give it a listen and let me know!
A Narrative of the Holy Trinity’s Posture Toward Humanity
Jehovah stood on the Mount of Olives, gazing out over the city below, tears streaming down his face. He turned to Sophia as he heard her quiet footsteps on the path behind him and choked on a sob as he took in the sight of her: the exposed skin of her arms, chest, neck, and face swollen and bruised. “What have we done?” he breathed.
“We have to bring her back. It’s useless,” Sophia said. She was beyond tears, in shock from the violence she’d just witnessed in the city and exhausted by the beatings her own body felt vicariously through the physical violence done to Joanna.
Together, Sophia and Jehovah entered Jerusalem, stepping in and amongst the crowds in the streets, unseen and apparently unfelt by those around them. Jehovah whispered blessings under his breath as he passed, letting his fingers brush against the robes of those around him. Sophia felt her anger welling up anew at this undeserved act of grace and spun around to face him: “What are you doing?” she spat—literally. “They are killing us and you would bless them. Do you not hear Joanna’s screams? Do you not feel the rocks cracking her bones?” Now Sophia was screaming, her face red, eyes wet. “She is your child!”
Jehovah’s heart was broken and so was Sophia’s. They stood staring at each other, her bruises spreading and darkening before his eyes. Her gift was also her curse: she was not only spiritually connected to Joanna and himself as they were with each other, but also had a physical connection with the two of them. Their pleasure was her pleasure; their wounds were her wounds. As the wisdom arm of the Holy Trinity, Sophia spirited through the earth with a grace and agility he could only marvel at. But the past season had taken its toll on her. She was toughened and angry by the deep-seated grief she felt for their people.
Since even before they set about their work of creation, the Three had been head-over-heels in love with it. The dreaming and then speaking into existence of their most beloved earth and the culmination of their work in humanity was the labor of an intense love for which no word exists in all the universe. They were happy then. And even though their people had not remained faithful, the Three loved and cared for them, cried and cheered for them. They were proud of the freedom they’d bestowed in love and reveled in the full complexity of the human race and all its members.
It had been Joanna’s wish to join humankind in embodied form. They had known from before the beginning that some would choose to use their freedom for evil and ultimately Joanna understood it as her purpose to be with and among their people to bless and love them in their own particular, human way. “We’ve never been away from them and yet they’ve never known what it is to be truly with us,” she’d always said. She was—is—the very face of God. Up close. Intimately. And now it had cost her greatly.
“They are my children too,” Jehovah finally responded.
“They have gone too far this time,” Sophia seethed and, turning on her heel, she swept through the throng.
Reaching a broad opening in the crowd, Jehovah’s breath caught and he knew in his heart that there were not enough tears in creation or beyond to capture the depth of his sadness. The assailants had departed just ahead of their arrival, leaving a ring of on-lookers keeping their distance from his daughter, the savior of the world, lying crumpled on the ground. Mary, a young woman who had attached herself to Joanna early on, knelt with Joanna’s head in her lap, bent over her nearly lifeless body, sobbing.
Sophia flew to Joanna and held her as Jehovah knelt before Mary. Taking her face in his hands, he brushed her tears away. She gazed into his eyes and asked, “Why?”
Jehovah closed his eyes and exhaled. Why, indeed. Finally he answered, “Sin. Sin is real, and it is a powerful force.” He felt her dissatisfaction, as it was one with his own. “You have done well, my faithful servant. You are the first disciple of the Christ, and you will be rewarded in this life and the next.”
As if suddenly noticing their shameful voyeurism, the gawkers began to avert their gazes and slowly disperse, pretending they’d been on the way to some place all along, not watching the violent stoning of a young woman. Jehovah helped Mary to her feet and blessed her again and then one more time. Sophia stood and embraced Mary fiercely, saying, “Thank you. Thank you.”
“But I didn’t do anything,” Mary sobbed in protest. “I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t stop them. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Sophia looked deeply into Mary’s eyes and said, “You knew her. You recognized her when no one else would, and that is everything, Mary.”
A Narrative of the Holy Trinity’s Posture Toward Humanity
Emotionally frayed, the Three entered the garden and Sophia and Jehovah gently laid Joanna down on a plush chaise longue in her favorite shady grove. Sophia waited only a beat before turning on Jehovah once again, shoving him hard and yelling, “You knew! You knew this would happen and you still let her go. How could you?!”
Crying, always crying now, Jehovah responded, “Sophia, please—you knew this too. You saw it from before the beginning.”
“No, not like this,” she gasped, clutching her chest and doubling over. The physical pain was too much to bear and she felt she would be split down the middle. “I never knew it would be like this,” she spoke more softly now. “Why didn’t you stop her? You should have stopped her. You should have kept her here. And when you didn’t stop her, I should have stopped her,” she trailed off, breath heaving.
“There’s no way I could keep her here against her will. And neither could you. The pull on her heart is too strong. Her desire is to be with our people and nothing would get in her way. You know that. You know her. You feel it too.” He wrapped his arms around her and she leaned against his chest, exhausted to her core.
A Narrative of the Holy Trinity’s Posture Toward Humanity
As the two stood holding one another, Joanna’s voice rose next to them, softly and clearly, “I’m going back.”
Sophia and Jehovah turned slowly toward her. “You can’t be serious,” Jehovah said while Sophia’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
“Of course I’m serious,” Joanna replied. “I didn’t accomplish what I went to do. I need to go back and finish what I started.”
“Yes, well, absolutely,” Jehovah replied, flustered. “I know there’s work to be done, but not now. They’re not ready. Wait. Later generations will be better equipped. They’ll be able to receive you.”
“Ready?” Joanna blinked. “Ready? No, of course they’re not ready. That’s the point. If someone were ready for redemption they wouldn’t need to be redeemed. If I wait, the time will never come. No, the time is now. Right now.”
Sophia and Jehovah stood silently. They looked from Joanna to each other and back. As much as they wanted to, they couldn’t disagree. Joanna’s presence in the world changed the very fabric of it in a way that their presences never had or would. But she hadn’t gone to change the world as such; she had gone to change what it meant to live a human life. Without being recognized for the prophet-savior she was, and without a community to carry on the Spirit after Joanna’s time on earth, humanity’s sin remained unredeemed.
As the hard truth of Joanna’s words washed over Sophia, she slowly sank to the ground weeping. The toll on her was enormous, and it showed. If Jehovah was Joanna’s father, Sophia was her twin sister, and the pain she felt was crippling. Joanna rose from the bed, her bruises already fading more quickly than Sophia’s, and knelt next to her, drawing her into an embrace.
“It won’t work,” Sophia argued through her tears. “It won’t get better for them, look ahead, Joanna. There will still be war, sickness, death, destruction. Your being human won’t annihilate Satan. It won’t work.”
“Look farther ahead, Sophia,” Joanna said gently, patiently. “Our work will not be fulfilled until the end of story, and—you know this—the end will not begin until I start it.
“The violence of sin is too great for humanity to survive it,” Joanna continued. “They need me to show them divine justice, mercy, and healing. It’s the only way out of where they’ve found themselves.”
“They will kill you,” Jehovah said softly, a statement of fact.
“They will kill my human body, but then I will show them the power of resurrection. Let them kill me so that I can defeat death for their benefit.”
Joanna and Jehovah looked to Sophia, who shook her head, tears streaming. “What did we do wrong?”
Jehovah and Joanna knew that Sophia, the very soul of creation, blamed herself for the violent state of the world. It was this sense of guilt that had hardened her as she witnessed generation after generation self-destruct in greed and jealousy. From before the beginning, the Three had been bursting with such joy at the works of their hearts, but it had been Sophia with her deeply felt intuition and unique intimacy with creation who had been the first to experience the agony of loss as, one by one, their children turned away. The bruises on her body only obscured the deep scars she bore.
The seer, Jehovah knew that Joanna’s sacrifice really would finally tear Sophia asunder. He also knew that is what it meant for God’s power to be greatest in humanity’s weakness, for what cost Sophia the most was not in fact her sister’s pain, but the hearts of the people who perpetrated it. However, it would be this final rending of herself that would loose her presence in the earth in a new, more powerful way. It would be tandem to Joanna’s initial salvific work and change the course of humanity.
“We loved them well,” Jehovah said tenderly. He shared in her grief and he longed for wholeness for their own sakes as well as for humanity’s, and yet he was certain he didn’t regret their decision to gift humans with free will. “We loved them well,” he repeated after a moment of quiet; then continued, “we gave them freedom, and they have embraced it with all their might. Our beautiful children, so filled to bursting with life in all they do, good and bad. Onto whom would we lavish our love without them?”
After sitting quietly together for some time, Jehovah asked Joanna, “What would you like to do next?”
“I want live a fuller human life on earth. I want to start out as an infant and grow up—with siblings, neighbors, schoolmates.” Sophia and Jehovah nodded, listening. “And I need to go as a man this time.”
Sophia looked skeptical. “Joanna,” she said. “Be realistic. Do you honestly think that’s going to make a difference in people’s ability to receive a message of radical revolution? It’s the content that makes people angry, not the packaging.”
“No, the packaging does matter—I had no social clout as a woman. As a boy I’ll be able to go to school and interact with religious teachers. It will be a more effective route than entering society as an unknown adult—or as a baby girl.”
The Three were quiet for some time as they reflected on the acute pain they were about to enter into once again. Jehovah mourned the loss of true partnership and community in the early days of creation. Sophia felt the ache of her muscles and bones and looked down at her bare arms, lightly running her fingers over her bruises and the scars beneath. Joanna was scared and defiant at the same time; unlike her partners, she had experienced oppression firsthand. She gazed at the horizon and knew she would never be the same.
The very air surrounding them crackled with the intensity of their emotions and they were finally of an accord, ready to act. Sophia spoke for all of them, calling the angel Gabriel. He appeared opposite her and, nervous in the highly charged space, remained silent and expectant.
Sophia made eye contact first with Joanna and then with Jehovah for their final assent. They each nodded in turn and Sophia, eyes moist, looked at Gabriel and said, “We have a message to deliver to the first disciple. Go to Mary and tell her that she will give birth to a baby,” she paused. “And his name will be Jesus.”
The time has come once again for a year-end update! Much has happened so far in 2015, and I could write you volumes! That sounds extreme, though, and I thought—if I’m going to be extreme, I should do it in a way that requires minimal work on my part. So I limited myself to 100 words. 100 words to cover all the important stuff from the past twelve months. 100 words to tell you that I quit my job to focus on school! 100 words to describe my travels and the classes I’ve taken. 100 words to…
Oh dear, I’m already past my limit. It’s a good thing I gave myself this handy loophole: Unlimited creative expression via this doozy of a conversation-starter: a 2015-by-the-numbers graphic. Enjoy!
In all seriousness, it was a pleasure to spend another year with so many of you. I hope this finds you well and enjoying a delightful holiday season wherever you are! Would love to hear what you’ve been up to as well, so please be in touch!
Camp Spalding, Newport, WA
Bell Bay Campground, Harrison, ID
Malad City, ID*
Los Angeles, CA
Santa Rosa, CA
Prairie Creek State Park, CA
Orcas Island, WA
Phoenix Sky Harbor
Friends/family visited on the Big July Road Trip
Barbara,* Ed,* Kara, Major, John, Linnea, David, Professor Hovsepian, Jenna, Nathan, Catherine, Lily, Herman, Shem, Monty, Michelle, Dave,* Elaine,* Noelle, Laura, Camille, the smallest Vergeer-Cresap, and everyone at Family Camp: Katie, Mom, Dad, Marilyn, Jim, Allison, Eric, Aiden, Caleb, Heather, Matt, Owen, Braylen, Naomi.
*indicates repeat visits.
We say God is grandmother and they say God is father.
You say God is dove and she says God is goose.
He says God is superhero and I agree.
I want God to hold me, and God can.
You want God to free you, and God does.
They want God to fight for them, and God will.
They need to know that God is for them, and so in God they find an advocate.
She needs to know that she is made in God’s image, and so she draws God as woman.
I need to know that God is with me, and so I see God’s face everywhere I look.
May we bring our images of God to a common table and dump them out like so many costumes. May we enter the fray, elbow deep, to find a garment that comforts, one that delights, and another that disturbs. May we try on the various images for size, with respect for the one who brings it as well as love for the One who inspires it. May we receive one another’s offerings as an invitation to a fuller image of who God is—and who our neighbor is that holds such surprising and provocative images of our shared Creator, Savior, and Friend.
May we celebrate that God is all we imagine. May we be grateful that God is so much more.
There’s a modern legend of a young girl attending a Sunday school class. After the lesson, the girl sits down and begins furiously drawing a picture. Her teacher approaches and asks what she’s working on.
“I’m drawing a picture of God,” she says.
Charmed (and might I say a little smug), her teacher replies, “But nobody knows what God looks like.”
Sincerely and patiently, the little girl points out, “That’s because I’m not finished yet.”
Story adapted from Peter Gomes, as described by Rev. Michael W Hopkins.
- Sponsor me! My goal is to raise $750. You can track my progress and make a donation through my personal fundraising page.
- Join me! Grab your tennies and run (ahem, power walk) the 5k with me. We can form a team or compete against each other. There will be fabulous raffle prizes and nifty New Horizons bracelets (!!) for folks who raise funds. All the details are on theNew Hoz website.
- NEW option: sponsor a young person! A handful of our clients would like to participate. You can pitch in $40 to help us cover their race registration fee.
- Pray for our young people! The three I mentioned above are in our six-month job training program. One will be graduating in a couple weeks and the other two are halfway through. Please pray for them in this season of learning, growing, and exploring.
Thanks, thanks, thanks!
Sitting around the dining room table with friends, a bottle of wine, a communal plate of brownies, and Settlers of Catan spread before us. A lot of really great news has been shared at that table: Getting into graduate school. Deciding not to move to Minnesota. Putting an offer on a house for the first time.
If I do my best to look at this objectively, most of this news probably doesn’t sound all that great to most people: Literally billions of people decide every day not to move to Minnesota. It’s not even news. But for someone who would be heartsick to lose two dear friends to the Great White North, I was ecstatic. It’s good because it’s personal.
OK so personal news is good, and it’s easy to share exciting life developments with people I like. What about the Good News? I mean, that’s tricky, right? Really, who am I to say my news is better than yours? Probably safer not to say anything at all. George Hunter, however, in his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, paints a different picture—one of a ministry of hospitality that makes the notion take on a more palatable flavor. Evangelism? No, thanks. Friendship? Yeah, probably.
If I imagine my home as the monastery Hunter describes and guests as people who just need a break from the daily grind—much like I myself need—it actually seems quite natural. Greeting people warmly on their way into my home (or into my life) simply requires a different level of intentionality. It’s actually just bringing to the surface what I already believe: that Jesus is in them and they are worth my full attention. Hunter even says that if the abbot of a monastery is fasting, he will stop to enjoy a meal with a guest.That’s the kind of relational priority that I’d like to achieve one day.
I imagine I have a plate of brownies. The moment when I realize I want each of my companions to have a brownie as much as I want one for myself is when I know I’ve come to recognize God in each of the faces around the table. It’s a bigger-picture view that goes beyond myself. A little different from my natural inclination, but very, very good when I’m there.
That said, I have zero percent success rate as an evangelist—at least as an evangelist for Jesus; I’m pretty sure I’ve sold at least a couple people on vacationing in Iceland. I love the people at my table. I want to be a good friend to them. I doubt I’ll panic if they never become part of a church or pray a prayer asking Jesus to reside in their heart for always. In short, I don’t feel a sense of urgency with regard to the state of their souls.
While there was one specific time when I first prayed that special prayer with my Sunday school teacher in the early ‘90s, I’ve prayed it a million times since, a thousand different ways. The grappling with what I actually believe started long after that date and there is no end in sight. In fact, my best grappling occurs around tables with friends who grapple too. The gathering and grappling feels like it most resembles what Jesus spent his time doing anyway (as long as there’s food—that guy was always eating).
I pray that my friends experience the grace, hope, love, and peace that I find in God. For me, this prayer is a natural expression of my love for them. If they ever pray, I hope they pray for me too. Either way, I’m blessed by their presence in my life; for welcoming me to their table and allowing me to welcome them at mine. Whatever comes of that—for any one of us—is in God’s hands.