Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



My Methodist Take

The United Methodist Church had a big meeting for the last 4 days (Special Session of the General Conference) and on the final day, the Traditional Plan (TP) prevailed over 3 others.

The other plans were all preferable to me. The Connectional Plan (CP) was a region-by-region approach. The One Church Plan (OCP) was my favorite and it allowed us to ‘agree to disagree’ but remain in unity. The Simple Plan (SP) was simply to remove language about homosexuality and simply free us to do as God leads.

If this topic seems raw – please forgive us – it was a difficult 4 days.

Here is my take as someone who transferred into the UMC 8 years ago from an evangelical denomination (C&MA) after being raised Free Methodist.

Here are my 4 thoughts – with explanations below:

  1. 11 years ago I believed in the Traditional Plan (TP) that passed today. So there is lots of room for conversation and lots of room for growth with us ALL.
  2. For all intents and purposes, the traditional plan that passed today is basically the Book of Discipline (BoD) that we have been under for the past decades.
  3. We have really good people thinking about this. So I am sure that they are going to find a way forward.
  4. The One Church Plan (OCP) was announced at the end of today’s session as the plan for the Western Jurisdiction.  Aka: nothing changes for us


1) 11 years ago I believed in the Traditional Plan (TP) that passed today. So there is lots of room for conversation and lots of room for growth with us ALL.

I have been working to find ways to unClobber the Bible [Unclobber_One_Page_Cheat_Sheets.] I even wrote an map for my evangelical friends [An Evangelical Support for Same Sex Marriage]

2) For all intents and purposes, the traditional plan that passed today is basically the Book of Discipline (BoD) that we have been under for the past decades.

As difficult as today was … and it was difficult … we knew that some folks think that Christianity is conservative. It is not.

3) We have really good people thinking about this. So I am sure that they are going to find a way forward.

This might be the most important this I ever say: I left my former denomination over the Ordination of Women.  I was working on an internal and Biblical conviction, but it turns out that I was right! The Ordination of Women opens up life and faith for both women and men. My experience and ministry were both incomplete without my sisters in ministry.

I don’t know the way forward. But I know who I will follow forward:

My Bishop Rev. Elaine Stanovsky
My Dist. Superintendent Rev. Erin Martin
My Commission Leader Rev. Donna Pritchard
My teammates:
Rev. Beth Estock
Rev. Julia Nielsen
Rev. Karen Shimer
Rev. Eilidh Lowery
Rev. Becca Farrester
Rev. Karen Ward
Rev. Christy Dirren
Rev. Linda Tucker
Rev. Courtney McHill
Rev. Taylor Gould
Rev. Heather Riggs
Rev. Michelle McKinnon-Young

This is my tribe. These are my people. They will show the way that we should go.

4) The One Church Plan (OCP) was announced at the end of today’s session as the plan for the Western Jurisdiction.  Aka: nothing changes for us

At the 2019 Special Called Session of the General Conference, Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team made this statement on behalf of Western Jurisdiction Leadership:

“We have long appreciated the richness of the global diversity of our United Methodist Church and have embraced opportunities to join with you all in the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Image 2-26-19 at 6.07 PM

“We also understand the purpose of the Church to be in mission and ministry. Consequently, we in the West have been functioning for years as One Church committed to full inclusion, seeking to be a home for all God’s people.

“Today we acknowledge the fracture of this body, yet we worship a God who tells us that the body of Christ has many parts, all equally valued. Rooted in Wesleyan tradition, grounded in Scripture and committed to mission and ministry, the Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children, across the theological and social spectrum.

We know from experience we are stronger when we live together as progressives, traditionalists and centrists in our Church. Many times during this Conference we have sung or prayed or blessed each other with the reminder that we need each other.”

May the spirit of the living God guide us as we walk forward in faith.

Response to The (Non)Wesleyan (Non)Quadrilateral

Please read this is the “I’m having fun talking about something I love” voice.

A very good post was put up called: Once Again The Wesleyan Quad

I will now call it the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Should Not Be Allow To Use ‘Butter’ Blog”

The author and I have a lot in common: both United Methodist, both from Ohio, both academic.

The Butter Blog is right on so many points.

  • The Wesleyan Quad was not explicitly used by John Wesley in the 1700’s
  • Wesley looked to scripture first (Prima Scriptura) unlike other Reformed folks who claimed ‘Sola Scriptura
  • The Quad is not an symmetrical cube but a 4-part sequence which many of us have pointed out.

The Butter Blog is missing a couple of things:

  • Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are found in Wesley and easily retrofitted as ‘the Quad’
  • This is the same impulse that developed the canon of scripture because of it’s common use centuries after the founders.
  • The Quad was born out of the cultural need of the 1970’s and answered a question that was being asked in that context.

In my mind there are (at least) two vital reasons for the element of experience being added:

First, since 1906 the Pentecostal (and charismatic) movement has place primary importance on the experiential nature of Christian expression. I don’t think that we can afford to (or want to) poo-poo on the largest and fastest growing branch of Christianity globally.

Second, locating ‘experience’ as a site of theological reflection gives validity to the experience of those who have not had a chance to contribute to scripture, the tradition, or ‘reason’ (aka European philosophy) in the way that they may have wanted.

In this way: perspectives of women, people of color, and non-European contributions  are included and valued.


So when the Butter Blog argues that:

“Moreover, what too often happens in UM circles is that when the quadrilateral is employed, it is most of the time used for the purpose of pitting one of the four “principal factors” against the others (usually to pit experience against Scripture)”

Well, sort of … not against scripture … but to compliment the scripture and compensate for the lack in scripture …

I hate to be the white guy who has to point out that every person quoted in this Butter Blog seems to have something in common: Kevin Watson, Randy Maddox, Andrew Thompson, and N.T. (Tom) Wright.

As far as the quote:

“The problem, as Thompson rightly notes, is that we Methodists tend to be more American than Methodist.”

That is like saying that International Harvester tends to be more ‘harvester’ than international. Most Methodist (even in Ohio where the articles’ author is from) can’t even tell you what the ‘methods’ are.


I would like to point you in 3 other directions:


I have 50 other thoughts tonight but unfortunately it is late, and I have a 6am online session to teach for my East-coast seminary class.


BTW: I have an entire session in that seminary class about ‘the migration of meaning’ where we talk about everything from universities in Texas  – TCU (the ‘C’ being Christian) and SMU (the ‘M’ being Methodist) – to Emergent (from scientific thought to a ‘brand’ of post-evangelical hipsters).

Commissioned Together as Sons and Daughters

I love the ‘great co/mission’ in Matthew 28. We humans are invited into a co/mission with God and we are commissioned. What an amazing gift and grace we have been given. We partner not only with God, following that model of Christ, but we are giving Holy Spirit power to do so! This is incredible.

In Acts 2 (calling back to the words of Joel 2) when Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, we, as sons and daughters, speak the words of God (prophesy) for all humanity – and indeed all creation.


My former tribe (Evangelicals) are having a tough time right now. They are getting blasted from without over their extreme support for the current President. They are wrestling within over issues of race and domestic violence.

Then last week, one of their most visible leader-author-pastors, Beth Moore, released a sincere and devastating letter that has been sent to me numerous times by friends who thought I would be interested.

‘Women in ministry’ was my first and most consequential break with my former denomination. They voted to not ordain women but to instead consecrate them. I petitioned to have my ordination moved to a consecration since :
A) consecration is ‘biblical’ and ordination is not.
B) because I am convinced that we should be moving to greater levels of inclusion and empowerment … not regressing.

I read Beth Moore’s words with great concern. She is right and that it heartbreaking.


What makes the situation even more troubling for me is the contrast with my current ministry situation.

When I moved to Southern California for school, I attended a UMC school where my PhD Advisor and the Pastor at my church were both ordained women. I then got job at a UMC church where both my District Superintendent and my Bishop were ordained women.

Last year I joined the UMC again, this time in the Pacific NW, and again my new Bishop and my District Superintendent are ordained women. In fact, my church growth coach, my ordination mentor, my ordination coach, my area coordinator and my education  point person are all ordained women.

Every other month I sit in a multiplying ministry workshop where more than half of my peers are ordained women.

I can’t stress how big of difference it makes being in a denomination where women are empowered and equal. In fact, every time I share my basic lesson-learned on this topic a very bizarre thing happens:

  • People who are previously initiated let me know that my take-aways are obvious and that these ‘lessons’ should be a bare-minimum. They are right.
  • People who are not in an empowering environment stare at me amazed, or get tears in their eyes, or shake their head in disbelief. Their follow-up questions are profound.


I would share some of my lessons-learned but I fear they will be distracting to my larger point.

Here is what I really want to say:

  1. Do not settle for anything less than an environment of total acceptance, empowerment, and full ordination. The synergy is too rich for half-measures and compromises. Ministry is so valuable and so rewarding when everyone’s gifts are recognized.
  2. Do not tolerate complementarian views of marriage even in the name of not being divisive. It is does not bear the fruit of unity and peace that you are hoping for. Just agree to disagree and move on – but do not abide that verbiage or behavior in your congregations or educational institutions (no matter how badly you need the money).

I say all of this as a flawed product of a patriarchal system. I fall short at nearly every turn. I am trying and I am learning.

My encouragement to you is simply this: you can’t imagine how much better it is when everyone’s full personhood is recognized and affirmed. It changes so many aspects of spirituality, community, planning and dreaming, networking, accountability, gifting, and so many other aspects of religious life and sacred practice.

It is perfect? No. It’s human. AND that is the beauty of it!  It recognizes each person’s humanity and God’s divine purpose in and for that humanity.

If you haven’t read her letter, please go and do so.  I just wanted to chime in that there is a different and better way.[1] I am grateful for my sisters-in-Christ and partner-pastors who help me see a fuller picture of God and the divine work to which we have all been called.



[1] My favorite part of Moore’s letter is, “Many churches quick to teach submission are often slow to point out that women were also among the followers of Christ (Luke 8), that the first recorded word out of His resurrected mouth was “woman” (John 20:15) and that same woman was the first evangelist. Many churches wholly devoted to teaching the household codes are slow to also point out the numerous women with whom the Apostle Paul served and for whom he possessed obvious esteem. We are fully capable of grappling with the tension the two spectrums create and we must if we’re truly devoted to the whole counsel of God’s Word.”


Be A Better White Male

Last week I was a part of conversation about privilege and racism/sexism/oppression. I was asked about some simple starting points and this is the list that I came up with.  I know that it is flawed and limited but it might be a good start.RoadPortraitSunsetD&B

I would love hear your additions.

I will venture to get this started – the suggestions are going to be provisional at best and will need to be supplemented (heavily) by others.

  1. Assume that you are definitely part of the problem and only possibly part of the solution.
  2. Put yourself under the leadership/care of someone or a group that is not like you in race-gender-sexuality. So … if you go to George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland and it is time for you write your Master’s thesis, ask Randy Woodley, Roger Nam or Mary Kate Morse to be your adviser.
  3. Listen to them. Just listen.
  4. Resist the temptation to ask questions that have numbers in them. Like don’t ask “how hot does a sweat-lodge get and how many rocks are used?” or “what percentage of people would be X ?”  White guys love numbers – it’s a european enlightenment thing I think.
  5. Listen some more and do not discredit any of it – don’t allow yourself to think ‘that seems over the top’ or ‘it couldn’t have been that bad / blatant’. Don’t do it. You will want to. Don’t.
  6. Buy books by people that are not like you in a greater percentage than ones by white males. Start with Randy Woodley’s Shalom and the Community of Creation and Mary Kate Morse’s Making Room for Leadership.  You will not be sorry.
  7. and most importantly! – do what they tell you. No… Do what they DO … if you can. If they say ‘Don’t go to that conference’ cancel your plans. Even if you like the topic and you will lose money. If they say ‘This group could use some volunteers’, ask them if that is something you could do. If they tell you that they are doing something next Saturday, ask if that is something you could come to. Cancel the other thing you were going to do. Someone else will probably do that other thing.
  8. Assume that you are definitely part of the problem and only possibly part of the solution. You will make mistakes. It’s ok – we all do. The problem is so large and so seemingly insurmountable that we can not afford to get dis-couraged or to entertain allusions of grandeur.
  9. This is gunna take a while. Pace yourself. Embrace your spirituality in a new way – you will need it for the long haul. Don’t chuck it like so many do when they figure out how shitty the world is.
  10. Listen to the Smiley & West podcast every week.
  11. Whenever you are in a group do not use your whole percentage of air-time. If you are in a discussion with 3 other people – don’t talk 25% of the time (let alone 50). Use less than your percentage. I’m not saying ‘don’t talk or ask questions’. We don’t need to be silent … just use less than your 25% allotment.

Please let me know any additions or adjustments that you would like to see.   -Bo

Critical Questions: part 3 “Is the Internet for Women & Gays?”

This is part 3 of a series of critical questions. You can find part 1 and part 2 here.

“Is the internet for women and gays?” may seem like at odd question at first – but there is a story behind it. I am coming at the question as a researcher.  I am doing research design at UCLA right now in preparation for my dissertation next year. One of the research questions is in relation to technology, the community of users interacts with the technology, and possible issues related to who conceived of and  designed the technology. recycle-resized-600

An interesting case study is found in the Grindr social network community.  Grindr is a widely popular mobile, GPS-enabled hook-up app for gays. The folks at Grindr  had the idea to launch a ‘straight’ version called Blendr, and it has been massive failure. [You can read about why it failed here and here and here ]

One of the theories is that Grindr was conceived of and designed by gays. A hypothesis we were testing is that embedded in the ‘DNA’ of the technology was something inherently ‘gay’ that resonated with its users but was lost in translation when the conversion to Blendr was attempted.

During this research I have also become aware of a growing problem of cyber-bullying, particularly of women and LBGT persons. It shows up on Facebook, Xbox chat rooms during multi-player games, and blogs.

One article about women bloggers contained two different women’s experience.

“The death threat was pretty scary,” says HollaBack! cofounder Emily May. “And there have been several rape threats. But it’s mostly ‘I want to rape you’ or ‘Somebody should rape you.’ Most are not physical threats–they’re more about how ugly I am, how nobody would bother raping me because I’m so fat and hideous. Once, after reading all these posts, I just sat in my living room and bawled like a 12-year-old.”

Jennifer Pozner agrees. “Very rarely have I gotten negative feedback that doesn’t include either a rape threat or calling me ugly and fat. Or sometimes they tell me I’m hot, but they hate what I’m saying– they’d rather watch me on TV with the mute on.” Pozner’s threats have not been limited to online: One man left a letter at her door saying he’d “find you and your mom and rape you both.”

Ponzer says “It’s about the policing of women … using threats to keep us silent.”

It is clear that many of the same oppressive behaviors, patriarchal attitudes and hurtful rhetoric that plague us in the ‘real world’ show up in cyberspace. Is a matter for concern? Is this a surprising reality? Does this need to be addressed?

The question “Is the internet for women and gays?” seems to have 3 initial answers that each expose some significant underlying assumptions.

  • The first possible answer is “Of course it is! In fact, it is a powerful leveler of the social hierarchies and power structures that dominate our inherited cultural history” . The internet is seen to be a democratic space that allows for harmful elements to be exposed and for the community to vocalize and govern in ways that are newly empowering. It allows us the possibility to combat bullies and shame those who are hurtful to others.
  • The second possible answer relates to the idea that embedded in the DNA of technology  are the values and priorities (as well a biases) of it’s designer. In this case, it would make sense that many of the same problems in Western culture are carried over into the technologies that are conceived of and designed by folks from the culture. It is the same shit by different means. Same prejudice – different medium.
  • A third possible answer is that technology is an empty vessel when it comes to values and we, as users, supply it with meaning and content. So a message board, Facebook page, blog and XBox chat room are just spaces that we utilize. They are neutral and can be used in socially positive (welcoming) or negative (aggressive or discriminatory) ways.

Why am I concerned about this? 

This issues concerns me in two ways:

1) I am deeply troubled to read of women bloggers being threatened and intimidated – even virtually. I am concerned about stories I hear from the girls in my youth group about their Facebook experiences. My wife has worked in both Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Counseling while I have been in youth ministry. Issues related intimidation, violence and  oppression-suppression are serious and deeply impact the quality of someone’s life, their mental and emotional health and their capacity to participate in family, church and society.

2) Technology seems to be a good test case for a much larger concern that I have regarding leadership and community development in the next generation. This particular issue gives me great hesitation about getting too excited regarding this potential new era of open-mindedness, equality, acceptance and freedom.  The issue is simply this:
We who have been trained, groomed, shaped, and socialized into the old forms – bring with us into the new forms, our patterns, values, ideas, permissions and prejudices. 

It’s like whenever someone complains about a perceived shortcoming in the Emerging Church, I find myself saying

“yes … but part of that has to do with that which we are emerging from. These are inherited patterns because we are all embedded in systems that contain inherent values. It will take a while to entirely emerge out of that.”

To take this back to our initial question about technology. Technology isn’t the solution to the problems that haunt us. They may be helpful for bringing about the solution – but simply have an open room – Facebook, Xbox chat or blog – is not a fix in itself. The prejudices and issues of power that are ‘outside’ the room are brought in with the people who come in to use the space.

This seems to me to be an import issue to vocalize. My hope is that in simply naming it to raise awareness that technology is not inherently neutral, safe, or equal. There is more going on in our use of Facebook, Xbox chats and blogs than just our use of those technologies. They are not absent of the values, patterns, prejudices and social power dynamics of the world and culture that made them.

We need to be vigilant to address hurtful and harmful material in our technologies. Technology is not neutral – it is embedded with meaning and value.

Critical Questions: part 2

Originally published as ‘The Silent White Guy and Invisible Black Women’. beyonce-super-bowl1

I am glad that people liked the idea of Critical Theory (from part 1) and the structure of the questions that I put forward.

 I did notice 2 places where the conversation trickled to an drip. 

  • One is the issue of what white guys are allowed to talk about.
  • Two is the way to talk about the role of black women in our society without picking on Beyonce.

Let me give those some background:

My friend Hollie Baker-Lutz tweeted  a sentiment that I hear quite frequently

“Uh oh, overheard in the university cafe: “and I can’t say anything in that class cuz I’m a white male, which is the worst thing u can be.”

I get this all the time from guys young and old alike.  I think something may be missing from that equation however.
Here are two things it would be helpful to add to the mix:

  1. an acknowledgement that the world is changing.
  2. a familiarity of the word hegemony.

If you add those 2 things, it has been my experience that people are generally open to hear what you have to say. People are quite interested.

What they are not interested in is the hegemonic refrain.  See, here is the problem: because that is the dominant cultural narrative … they have already heard it. They know it well. They may know it better than you because they have had to deal with it –  whereas you have only assumed it and benefited uncritically from it.

The second issue came from my friend Janisha when she wrote in response to part 1 post:

I appreciate your article and your attempt to think deeply. I don’t think anyone except for black women can truly determine what are primary and secondary issues.
The place of black women in society as a primary issue has with it endless complications, including “taking back one’s physicality in the face of generations of oppression and marginalization.”
My place in this culture is directly linked to taking back my physicality, because my black womanhood is my physicality. They aren’t different. they cannot be separated. I will argue again, that this conversation is difficult to have unless you are a black woman, because who else can fully understand the implications of Beyonce?

MP responded: 

I get what you (Janisha) are saying about the black woman conversation and I don’t want to butt into it, white man that I am. But that conversation would be about actual black womanhood, whereas this one is about public spectacle, one created and much enjoyed by white men. So there’s a white man conversation to be had about why we (white men) have created a category of “black women” who occupy this particular place in our spectacle. 

… Bo, I wonder how to tackle the issue of “what place black women hold in our culture” without picking apart actual cases like Beyonce’s half-time show??

MP makes 2 excellent points!  

The first situation I would compare to ‘reader response’ approaches to text. We have the author-text-reader.
In this case we have Beyonce-Performance-Viewer.

So each of us viewers is related to the performance differently so ‘white men’ and ‘black women’ may be relating to the performance differently.

In the second I just think that we need to be VERY clear the difference between an example and an anecdote.  Focusing in one example can be illustrative or it can be problematic.

I would hesitate to use this performance by Beyonce as an example – she is not the only one who dances like this. Lots of performers do. Also white women (like Christina and Britney) do.   So it is not unprecedented.

NFL Cheerleading squads do many of the same moves in much the same outfits … the difference is that
A) they don’t have a microphone  and
B) we don’t know their name.

Which is a HUGE difference.
If we want to talk about male sexuality and football we should have the Cheerleader conversation. That is every team – every week.  Women walking

If we want to have the ‘place that black women hold in our society’ conversation, then we would ask a different set of questions. Like ‘where were the other black women during the 5 hour broadcast of America’s largest TV event of the year?’  Since it is a commercial event … maybe we would even take a look at the commercials and ask how black women were represented.

Either way – isolating the one performance by Beyonce is not our best starting point.

Critical Questions: part 1

Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime ShowOriginally published as ‘Beyoncé and the Bigger Question’.

Over the last 2 weeks I have watched  the blowback over the Beyoncé SuperBowl Half-Time Show with great interest. I have read several interesting articles – both in support and in criticism – of the spectacle.

This is a part of what is becoming a theme for me. I will link to part 2 and 3 as I post them today.

I get why people want to talk about her outfit, her moves, and her assembled cast of all females – about modesty, sexuality, and female empowerment. I get why those are conversation points.

What is becoming a trend, however, is that I have little interest in that conversation – not until we have a more significant conversation first.

I think that it is time I lay all my cards on the table.

While I was in seminary, my mentor Randy Woodley, showed me how to look at bigger systems and structures than I was used to. I have continued down that road and during my time at Claremont have been in dialogue with a school of thought called ‘Critical Theory’.

Critical Theory has taught me to ask 3 initial questions in order to examine an issue:

  1. Is there a pattern visible?
  2. Is there something behind the main thing?
  3. Is there any issue of power differential?

The Critical part is that we are going beyond the initial perceptions, the popular approach and the cultural conversation. The Theory part is that we are going to see if we might offer an explanation about the deeper issue.

SO let’s ask our 3 questions about the SuperBowl Half-Time hullaballoo.

  • Is there a pattern visible?  

I would argue that there is. I noticed it just before kickoff – during the Nation Anthem to be specific. Alecia Keys was introduced, Jennifer Hudson had just sang with the kids from Sandy Hook … and I knew that Beyoncé was the halftime show.

I thought to myself:

“It’s odd that the only 3 black women involved in this TV spectacular are all singers.” Pam oliver

I noticed that CBS didn’t even have a black female sideline reporter like Pam Oliver (on FOX) for its NFL broadcasts. I watched the rest of the festivities – including all the military stuff – and was struck by the noticeable lack of black women associated with the event. Walter Payton’s daughter presented Jason Witten with the NFL Man of the Year award … but that was about it.  None of the coaches or commentators … not even many of the commercials involved black women.  This seemed significant since so many of the on-screen TV personalities, coaches and players are black.

  • Is there something behind the main thing? 

It is easy to see the answer to this one. The answer is consumerism. While the game itself is ‘the main event’ the commercial aspect of the SuperBowl has become at-least or almost as big. Commercials this year sold for a reported 4 million dollars a piece. Like the controversy we covered earlier in the ‘So God Made a Farmer’, commercialism-capitalism-consumerism is the unspoken thing.

It might be hard to see in a short blog post like this but Beyoncé isn’t the telling controversy. The more telling one was the criticism of Alicia Keys’ soulful rendition of the national anthem. People criticized her not just for sitting at a piano (!) but for altering the tried and true version of the song.

In CT when something is assumed – even if unstated – as a dominant form, it is called hegemony. It is a type of power or influence that may or may not be overtly communicated. If one were to look at just the first half of the SuperBowl broadcast, it might be possible to say that the major narrative when it comes black women is twofold:

  • you can sing – we like that.
  • but make sure you do it our way. Don’t do anything too much or too … you know… that’s not why you are here.
  • Is there any issue of power differential?

This is the one that we never get around to talking about. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to or don’t have frameworks for it.  There is a question that needs to be asked though: who decided that Jennifer Hudson, Alecia Keys and Beyoncé would sing? What did that committee look like?  Who are in those seats of power?

Did the group that decided who would sing look like Jennifer Hudson, Alecia Keys, and Beyoncé?

I don’t know, I’m asking an honest question. It’s the tough question that no one wants to ask. Who has the resources? Who has the influence? Who makes the decisions? Who sits in the seats of power?

Now you can see why I am not interested in talking about whether Beyoncé should have had more clothes on, should have gyrated less or is a model for taking back one’s physicality in the face of generations of oppression and marginalization. 

Those are all secondary conversations.

The primary conversation is about what place black women hold in our culture.

It is a much bigger conversation with much deeper consequences than if Beyonce’s hips and wardrobe were appropriate for a Half-Time show.

Women: Images & Identity

Last week I read a fantastic post by Julie Clawson. I wrote a post asking her some questions. She responded and so did Carol Howard Merritt.  Then Rachel Held Evans gave it ‘Conversation of the Week’ in the coveted Sunday Superlatives!   These 3 women great authors and speakers. I feel privilege to have them as dialogue partners! Here are some highlights:

Background: I love going to the movies. As a student, I usually only go the theatre on Summer break (blockbuster action films + air-conditioning = awesome) and on Winter break (tired brain + Christmas money = fantastic).

Last week I saw two movies and was quite intrigued by a pattern that I noticed during the trailers: women being tough guys. The three trailers were for Underworld: Awakening with Kate Beckinsdale, Haywire with Gina Carano (both action films) and The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher.

I have read enough feminist literature to know that there is a principle (which Thatcher made famous) that “In a man’s world …” a women often has to out ‘man’ the guys in order to break into the boys club and be taken seriously.

In a system where we have been socially conditioned to see certain behaviors and attributes as ‘leadership’ or ‘strength’ – or in the church as ‘anointing’ – then women must over-do it in order to overcome the intrinsic biases and gain credibility in a system geared to evaluate by masculine expectations. (people point to Joyce Meyer as a Christian example)

This is a real problem.

THEN I was reading your blog this week and you bring up the Lego Ads making their way around Facebook and tie it into both modesty and obesity. As a youth pastor I have read everything from Reviving Ophelia to Queen Bees and Wannabes ,that explains why girls treat each other the way that they do, and I recognize that there are deep underlying issues. Let’s be honest, these deep issues will not be solved by quoting some Bible verses or ‘going back to the way things were in the Bible’.

So here are my questions: 

1. What do we do with the karate-chopping drop-kicking gun-shooting heroines of violence on the silver screen these days? On one hand, it is nice to women getting these big-deal leading roles in major films… on the other hand, are they real portrayals of women-ness or is it the bad kind of mimicry –  like ‘Girls Gone Wild’ as a picture of sexual liberation or power.


2. Are there any resources that you can point me to for Image and Identity? Your blog post on the Lego issue is really sticking with me.

3. As a youth pastor, how would you suggest I navigate the (rapidly) developing sexuality without repression while steering clear of moral permissiveness?  Any thoughts?

Julie Clawson:  Bo brings up some really good questions to which there are no easy cut and dry answers. I ranted/blogged about this general topic a few years ago, but the issues still exist, and perhaps are even intensified. On one hand, I would start by pointing out that just because a woman is an action hero, tough as nails, or possess traditional leadership qualities doesn’t mean she is acting like a man. That could simply be just who she is and she should be given space to be herself without being judged. But at the same time, I agree that it is a widespread cultural issue that women often feel like they must put on the persona of men in order to succeed. Our culture doesn’t know how to handle women who are strong, intelligent, and assertive.  Continue reading “Women: Images & Identity”

Humans: nipples, bellybuttons and the imago dei

3 themes continually emerge in my conversations these days – these 3 things about humans I have become convinced of:

Humans are mammals. The nipples and bellybuttons give it away. Some people will want to say that we are more than mammals, but we are not less than mammals. One can argue that we are exceptional mammals – but we are not exceptions to mammals.

Humans are social creatures. If biologically we are mammals then sociologically we are communal. We naturally break into families, clans, and tribes.

Humans are meaning making beings.  We have an inherent propensity to take any number of events or variables and assign them a narrative framework. Our minds long for reasons and explanation to tie together our experiences.

These three confessions have several deep implications. Continue reading “Humans: nipples, bellybuttons and the imago dei”

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