The Church: When it Leads People to Suicide

We are all equal as living, breathing humans. We are all of us, equally, God’s children. The gospel – which preaches humility and loving the outcast and not judging – is a castle made of sand if it is causing harm. And the gospel has led plenty of mentally ill and LGBT folks to suicide even.

St. Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How sad it is that people who do not conform to the ways of the “world” learn to hate themselves for it, and often through the church and the body of Christ.

People who do not conform to this world and who suffer teach all of us, especially Christians who are eager to fit in, a good deal. Because they remind us of the fate of Jesus. Because they resemble him as outcasts crucified for bringing into the world an inconvenient truth: the reality of their existence.

I have learned a great deal about living with a stigmatizing illness that cannot be cured from my LGBT friends, who over the years have expressed that, though it was not their choice to be LGBT, people often treated them as if it had been. For my Christian LGBT friends, they become immoral in the eyes of fellow Christians for living out the way that God created them, and they suffer accordingly for it.

We do well to do as my friends do who understand their persecutors with compassion rather feeling shame or anger. I personally try to remember that before I began to suffer with mental ill health I thought that mentally ill people were either dangerous, half-human, homeless, or other things that are unflattering. And my LGBT friends who grew up in the conservative church often prayed every hour that God would make them straight. If they had not experienced the profound pain and isolation of being gay in a conservative church, they would have judged gay people very harshly themselves.

If you are LGBT and in a dark place, don’t hurt yourself; instead get help, and consider clicking on the following link to the “It Gets Better” website for more resources:

On Mental Illness among Grad Students: The Secular Humanities’ Undoing of the Mind of God. And its Scattering of His Children.

I get it that people no longer agree about who God is/if there is a God/if he should be called she, etc.. But making students or their teachers God is not the answer. In this essay I explain why.

If an author is a creator, a creator of books, plays, articles, analyses or case studies, then we could say that this creator acts like God when he writes about people. She is creating, and God creates. This is a natural connection between God and human creators, or what we call artists and authors.

In the case of really good creators, the work of art points to God and teaches us about ourselves in the process. And 19th century Russian literature, in my opinion, does this the best. I love 19th century Russian literature. But let’s not forget that God does not create mere characters – authors do. We are more than characters to God. We are His children.

I studied one famous creator, the author and poet named Dante, who wrote something called The Divine Comedy, where he describes the suffering and joys of human life and the afterlife. A man, Dante, wrote this. But in school we acted like he was God. God would never call his creation a comedy (even though “comedy” meant a different thing back then, that is beside the point). But by studying The Divine Comedy in the 21st Century, it is likely that the student will come to think of themselves as little more than a character in the book of life, a character who will not be forgiven by an unmoved God.

There is another work I will mention. The work called Ion of ancient Greek literature, where the artist is described as being closest to God. His followers (readers or students) are beneath him – on down a chain to the most insignificant people. Who cares about them!

The tragedy: people who love literature and art and would seek God through it… Who want to better understand themselves through it… at least in the United States… think that by becoming professors they will learn still more about their nature as children of God. No, they would never frame it that way to themselves or others – that would be a sin for the secular graduate student. But this is often the case. There is this deep feeling that becoming an academic will get us closer to God.

I once overheard a prideful professor share with a colleague about his undergraduate students: “they worship me like a God!” Little do the college students know that they will be trained to think they are God as they learn to dissect the human story as if they were no longer human.

The cost of this: their faith, their humility, and, as was almost the case with me, their very lives. Let alone the well-being of their souls.

Some people who are forced to leave academia mourn the loss the rest of their lives, and those who are victorious risk forgetting that they are still not God. They are merely critics. This is overgeneralizing and not always true, but my experience speaks to this and therefore I ask you to consider it alongside the voices of others.

Here is an article that gave me hope about why we should probably not pursue graduate school in the humanities. To an outsider it seems like sour grapes, but really, I mean really, I now know that it is a blessing that I did not become an academic.

I would like to thank Parker Palmer, who, in one of his books – I think it was The Courage to Teach -, alerts us to the reality that we teach students not to use “I” in their schoolwork and how, over time, this gives students the sense that they are reality rather than subjective interpreters of reality. Pair that with God being treated as an idea and you get the dangerous over-confidence that we see in the secular humanities every day.

Why are You Writing About the Bible if You’re a Woman?!? Answer: Women Have Always Been Ministers!

Women have been ministers as long as there have been ministers. And while there has been much discussion of the ordination of women as a whole, most recently in the question of whether Catholic women should be allowed to become priests, consider the question through the lens of Ecclesiastes:

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been, in the ages before us.”

I am suggesting that the question of women in ministry, should women serve as ministers?, is moot. As long as there has been Christian ministry, there have been female ministers. And there always will be so long as there are Christian women on the face of the earth. Women, before they could minister to men, ministered to each other in the face of oppressive patriarchy as sisters in Christ and servants of the religion, and as men were to love their wives, so women, in serving their husbands, ministered to them. Minister comes from the Latin, meaning inferior, meaning servant. If women haven’t been looked at as inferior in the history of humankind, I don’t know who has!

“Just because I am a woman, must I therefore believe that I must not tell you about the goodness of God, when I saw at the same time both his goodness and his wish that it should be known?” – Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

True Christian visionaries, like Julian of Norwich, ministered to men and women alike, but we shouldn’t forget that some of the earliest Christian martyrs were women, and that they were the seeds of the early faith. As St. Francis supported the ministry of St. Clare, so there have been men who were aware of the spiritual gifts of women through the centuries. Women have been recognized for their spiritual gifts and canonized for ages as models for male and female religious devotion alike.

So where’s the rub? Ecclesiastes enlightens us: “The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.” To which I would add, especially the women! 

History for centuries was recorded by men, for men. Think of all the women in ministry who have gone before us unrecognized by the male historical frame but crucial to the Christian life that men and women and all genders in-between share to this day, in part, because of the women who supported early Christianity in its initial blossoming!

Christianity may have been interpreted and dictated by a male dominated society for a male dominated, but Christianity itself is bigger than patriarchy. It must be. St. Paul himself motions toward such a move in Galatians 3:28 when he writes that “there is no longer male and female.”

In I Corinthians 11:11, St. Paul states that “in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman.” As humans we are in this together. We minister to each other.

Women have been ministers as long as men have been ministers, the only difference is that in some contexts, even women can be ordained. For centuries, however, before it could be made official, this was their livelihood and function. Women being ordained is still, in the scheme of the revolution that is the incarnation and the resurrection, nothing new under the sun.

(The above is a pic of my brother with me. He is one of those men who supports women in everything and I love him very much.)

Can Peace Studies meet Ethnic Studies…and When?

Can we teach ethnic studies and not bring about a revolution?

What does critical pedagogy look like in a world that desperately needs peace? Can we teach ethnic studies and peace studies simultaneously? Can the two be merged? Peace studies does violence when not paired with critical eyes and a social justice heart. We see this in the reality of the higher incidence of mental health issues in populations who are under extreme stress.

Leadership from Below: Sharing Stories from “Below” Strengthens All

There are different types of leadership in every community and leading as an everyday community member is an increasing imperative for our society.

We need leaders who can model authenticity, vulnerability and stamina, in their relationships with fellow citizens. But we and our fellow citizens need to embody these traits as well. Otherwise peoples’ mental health will continue to suffer as oppressive power dynamics take hold.

Not only is it possible to be a powerful leader without being in an official leadership position, leadership from below allows for the freedom and grace to influence people on a daily basis in ways that shape the interpersonal structure of a community or a country rather than merely dictate to it. Put simply, leaders from below have more wriggle room. That’s why, rather than becoming a professor or a therapist I prefer to lead from below, with my own story alongside others like me who humbly share their stories.

What I am talking about is mentorship, a mentorship that emerges when people mentor one another as equals. One might say that this isn’t mentorship then, by definition. But I disagree. Every individual has strengths that a fellow human being can learn from. This everyday leadership, this is what best serves our elderly as well as our children. As individuals we are all stewards of our humanity and of humanity at large. The cohesion of groups and organizations and nations comes from our ability to support one another rather than compete with one another, and it is essential in all times. And so I renew a call to all to be leaders, even in the midst of political disagreement. Our children deserve the beloved community.