Orange Prince: Fair Use or Communal Creation? A Theological Perspective

I have listened to two separate news podcasts about the Andy Warhol “Orange Prince” case. If you don’t know about it, I’ll link a news article to this post so I don’t have to recap the story.

As you can see he altered a photo and used it in his professional work believing this would qualify as Fair Use. The Supreme Court voted against that, and I was intrigued by both sides, for and against, if this qualified as Fair Use.

I’m going to respond as a theologian and soccer spouse. I know it is a weird combo, but I have an angle on doing work and giving credit where credit is due from both angles.

For me, none of this is about the law. I’m glad laws are in place bc they should uphold a baseline of acceptable behavior in our society bc people are not reliable on their own. None of us are. We need to know the expectations. And they should be CLEAR—NOT GOTCHA! That’s terror. The beauty of a functioning democracy is we can challenge and make changes to laws, or revisit what they mean. That’s what happened here with the Supreme Court. This is the first time I’ve listened to our justices sound like people who care about the law, not their ideologies. A sign of hope. And this convo was fantastic, I think.

As a writer, I know that what I do is like art: nothing is created from nothing. I must give credit where credit is due. It doesn’t diminish my work or erase what I built by crediting the person’s work who inspired mine. As a theologian, I see this as the beauty of a community building together. Not a competition.

I do have to be discerning, though. When is what I write changed enough that I don’t really need to cite their work? It has been transformed enough into my own creation—even though it came from something. God created from something too. (I don’t think God creating from nothing (ex nihilo) is theologically sound). I guess this is a question of if God needs to credit the water 💦 😉

As a soccer wife who just witnessed an incredible season by a team my partner built for 18 years and this year was the first year without him, I had some concerns about my spouse being properly cited for his work. This had nothing to do with pride, mind you; it had everything to do with remembering whose work built that foundation. It doesn’t take away from the one who continues to build off that work and give it a fresh new lens. That’s the beauty of art, and maybe we should consider that we are all artists in our own right.

Artists and writers care about these questions, for good reason, and it made me realize we might not ask these questions enough in sports. Maybe at the highest level, but there’s certainly no law making sure the work of those who came before gets cited. Should it be?

To me, this really has nothing to do with legality. I see the legal system just as a protection from those who seek to erase the work of others. As a theologian, what’s at stake for me is actually not about credit as much as it is about remembering. Remember whose shoulders we all stand on. Remember whose work made your work possible. It’s a communal act. And that’s beautiful.

You are an artist, even when citing others who made your work possible.

Nothing comes from nothing
nothing ever could.

(Something Good lyrics from Sound of Music).

Achievement Season: A Word

Here is something I wrote on Facebook this morning and wanted to share with a wider audience.

Because it is graduation, banquet and academic achievement time, I want to send a word of encouragement to everyone—whether you won and award or not, had an impeccable sports season or not, whether your band did well or not, whether your kid’s academic achievement excelled or not.

I am sharing this because I had no idea how much my identity was tied up in all these achievements until last year happened. When what I needed most was not my achievements or my family’s achievements—I needed friends; we needed friends. We needed fathers, mothers, siblings, and anything/one that would circle around us and remind us of our name: Beloved. So, this is my attempt to be the person I needed for you, right now—whether you are in crisis mode or not. If I am on the front end of your crisis, b/c the day of crisis will come (it comes for everybody), I hope you read this and know you can call me and I will come running if you need me. I do not care what you did or did not do. My presence is unconditional. We are all human beings and it is complicated being human. My pain has grown my compassion to encompass the whole universe.

I am not typically a person who wins awards, and I am okay with that. I am not motivated by awards (what I am good at does not get an award), but I have been extremely motivated by grades and being loved by everyone. These pursuits can also get in the way of you knowing yourself—it did for me. This happy-go-lucky woman (the real Lindsay) who entered seminary with so much joy and anticipation, became a ball of stress and anxiety when it came time for grades. I took it personally and felt like a failure or a joke if these grades were not up to my idea of a high standard. My friends seemed to be having no problem excelling (I know that is not true. It just felt true). I had literal panic attacks over grades. A lot of pent-up trauma in my body came out and revealed itself through grades.

Two people at Perkins, one a professor and the other a jack-of-all trades at Perkins, said some important things to me that I want to share with you. Their words came from seeing and knowing me (what I am motivated by) and were able to calm me down when my panic was high. Their words also came from their wisdom seeing which students make it in the field once they graduated. These two people loved me well, even when I was stressing out and not myself. They cared about me, no matter what state I was in. This is what I remember most about them. I know they have won many awards and have achieved a lot in life, but I cannot tell you a thing about their achievements. What I can tell you is how they treated me—even when I was being unreasonable. There is a quote about this.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Can confirm.

Here is what was said to me.

From my professor: Lindsay, I know your grades are not at the top of the class, but I still see you as a top student. You are the one I see as ready to take off and live what you are learning. I cannot teach that.

From my dearest Perkins friend: (This is also proven through studies) Lindsay, the people who get straight As in school are also often the people who burn out first once they leave the academic setting.

I am not sharing this to downgrade people who win lots of awards and are getting straight As. But do take this to heart. I have another Patch Adams example:

Philip Seymour Hoffman (may his memory be a blessing) played the role of Mitch in Patch Adams. He was the overachieving medical student and was Patch Adams (Robin Williams, may his memory be a blessing) roommate. He was not impressed with Patch Adams playfulness all throughout school. He felt he was making a joke out of something serious and did not like him for it. I loved Patch’s response. You think you have to be a prick to achieve anything, and you think that is a new idea.

The day came Mitch could not help a patient who refused to eat. He told Patch that he can outdo and outdiagnose him, but he cannot make her eat. (Patch was leaving the medical field at this point). He asked him to stay. What Patch does can’t be taught—it can only be lived.

Here is the actual quote at the end of the movie that has guided my life ever since I watched this movie when I was in college the first time:

You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.

“At what point in history did a doctor become something more than a trusted and learned friend who visited and treated the ill?”

These quotes apply to any and all professions. If we know this deep in our bones, what we win or don’t win won’t really matter. We will have what is truest: Friendship.

Congrats to everyone whether you achieved the most or not. Your existence is a miracle and will heal what needs mending when you live into your truth.

The pace of God is slow. Here is a pic of a turtle. Reminds me of Mr. Rogers having us watch a turtle walk across the room and calling it a miracle. This was while the rest of the world was going too fast and denigrating human dignity.

It’s Time to Talk about Guns

Dear Friends,

I’ve waited to weigh in on the latest TX shooting. This one really hit home bc I went to the Allen outlets quite a bit and two of the children killed attended an ELEMENTARY school several of my friends’ kids went to in Wylie.

As someone who just escaped TX bc of a system that is unwell, I was already well-aware and closely-acquainted with the ever-present violence that is everywhere in TX. Dealing with people right now in a human way is extremely dangerous. Too many are disconnected from themselves and living out of their trauma and transmitting it on everybody. (This is why I made the point about Kimbo’s coach having a well-regulated nervous system. We know he’s safe).

It’s in Oklahoma too, but as Pantsuit Politics brought up today on their podcast: Texas is special (not in the good way) when it comes to gun violence. These mass shootings are happening at a higher rate than all the others bc it’s the state with the highest gun ownership and some of the laxest gun laws.

Oklahoma, do you want to revisit the Jon Stewart convo with Senator Nathan Dahm? Bc we need to. What he has done is what TX has done. And all it has done is create terror. No one feels safe. Not even with the people nearest to them! Is that how we really want to live?!

Texas is more afraid of teachers than they are of guns.

Let that sink in.

It’s time to lay all the guns down. Turn them into ploughshares. People are hungry and our land needs loving attention.

It’s time to listen to teachers. They are seeing what is happening in public life in a way few of us can see or possibly begin to understand. They are our first responders, bc they are the proactive responders. They are on the front end! Not the responders after a tragedy happens. Teachers are victims of many of these gun-violence tragedies that happen every damn day.

It’s amazing to me we allow people to create laws for us when they are so disconnected from the lived reality of the people they are supposed to be serving. Creating laws in their glass castle where they have protection from guns and healthcare paid for by us!!

I’m over it. I’ve got different ideas and I’m finding my people.

I’m looking at you lawmakers

May 3: A Day filled with trauma memories

I am going to speak up on something b/c Ryan Walters has forced my hand and Attorney General Gentner Drummond has offset with kindness.

Y’all, there is good news in this post. AG Drummond is coming alive and making me believe there are better days coming for Oklahoma—and he is a Republican, friends!

Listen, I search for what is true about people. What you label yourself as will never define you for me. It will always be your actions that will inform me if you are safe to be around or not. But I will always love you—no matter what. I will always work for a world where you can thrive and feel the love we all deserve to feel. We were created for love. Labels are just an attempt to define someone or something. They will never ever come close to actually defining something or someone. I also know that we are all survivors.

Ryan Walters has forced my hand because today is the day one year ago that turned my family’s life upside down. It was as violent of an intrusion spiritually as the F5 tornado was for Oklahoma physically on this same day in 1999. May 3 is a turbulent day for me. I have survived both days. But May 3 is also my Papa’s birthday. My Papa was not always the most sensitive or easy person for me to be around as a child because he had been through a lot of pain. But, I was with him the day before he died—and none of us knew he was going to die—and he kissed me when they dropped me off at home. He had never done that before. Not in my memory, at least. There is something about this memory coming up today, on May 3, that feels like God speaking to me—or maybe it is my Papa (same thing). This is a day that does not feel like a tender or life giving day for me right now. But the man who wasn’t always sensitive and often scared me as a kid was born this day, and he left me with a kiss. Remembering that kiss is overpowering this angst I am feeling today. May all the May 3s I am blessed enough to receive going forward be overpowered with the “moisture from a kiss” to quote Garth Brooks’ song “The Change.” A song he wrote after the OKC bombing.

Me and Oklahoma. We know grief all too well. But we both still keep believing we can take on that fire with the moisture from a kiss too. And it is true. I remember my Papa’s kiss most of all now. I want May 3 to be taken over in my memory with a simple act of love that can and will tame any fire seeking to destroy what is good.

I have taken this morning to breathe and let the pain of this day move through my body. It is just temporary. I am at peace. We are on the other side now. We also are now well-aware these situations are not one-offs. This is intentional public abuse that is endorsed by our public officials. Here is why Ryan Walters forced my hand to speak today.

Did you know that Ryan Walters called teachers’ unions “terrorist organizations” just the other day?

The teachers’ union saved my family’s life. So you can imagine how Ryan’s words have affected me—and today is not the day you want to mess with me, Ryan.

Do y’all understand when a leader talks like this it has real implications on peoples’ lives? Trump and Kirk Cameron calling teachers groomers too.

It also completely unprofessional and has no place in public office. It is public abuse, and it is giving people who love them permission to act likewise. Leaders’ words should be treated the same as actions b/c people are listening and reacting. It is making the lives of people working in public education less safe and also why kids feel like they can treat teachers however they want. Leaders should be held accountable immediately. Public office should not be given to the most hateful people! It should be the least forgiving place for intentional public cruelty.

But here is where I find the “moisture from a kiss” moment on this day. Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day. There was no word from Gov. Stitt thanking teachers or Walters backing down on his violent rhetoric, but Attorney General Gentner Drummond sent a word of appreciation to our teachers. He is also trying to intercede to save the life of Richard Glossip.

There is someone in office who sees. And his label does not matter. He is still connected to his humanity and we are all safer b/c he is there.

That is what is giving me hope on this day. My first May 3 post-traumatic event. And I am still believing in that “moisture from a kiss” miracle.

Courage is the ability to Trust

KJ Ramsey is an enneagram 4 like me. She is also an author, poet, and a licensed Somatic+Trauma-informed therapist. Her latest interview with Suzanne Stabile on The Enneagram Journey is excellent. I highly recommend.

This past year I have had to tap into this courage. To stand up to abuse and say I (we) are worthy of love and respect, will get you in trouble. To say “I matter” makes people and systems raging mad at you. It is a visceral response; they are not aware they are doing this most of the time. They were taught this same toxic message of self denial. Systems want people to be disconnected from themselves and easily shamed so they can be controlled. When I look closely at how most churches are run and how it is part of dominant culture, I can pinpoint how the church is a big part of the problem in what happened. There is so much more I want to say, but now is not the time. I most likely will be writing a book. My seminary training and my own healing work (prior to needing to heal again!) addressed everything that happened, and now I have a message to promote healing to help end this cycle of abuse. And I can help people reconstruct their faith so they do not have to leave it, if they so desire.

One thing I heard in the podcast is Enneagram 4s demand to be listened to. 🙂 I have no idea who would describe me this way. LOL! But there is something really important about that. KJ Ramsey is a 4 who is married to a 9–so am I. Nines are a bit different. Glennon Doyle, another 4, said it best: the only reason this world has any stability going on at all is because 9s exist. She is right! But 9s also struggle to believe they can assert themselves. This is where a 4 is beneficial. No problem there.

For all the stereotypes about enneagram numbers, which really drives me bananas because it devalues the strength the person carries within them, I would like to highlight how this is not a bad quality of the 4. The demand to be listened to is not a weakness. Of course it can be. Everything good can be a weakness. But what we fail to mention enough is this: Fours remember . Fours will stop when the time calls for stopping. It is because we are self-reflectors by nature.

When 9/11 happened, I knew nothing about the enneagram. But now that I know, it makes sense when I remember my response: Why are we moving on so quickly? We should stop.

I also lived through the Oklahoma City bombing. At that time we sort of did stop for tragedies. I remember we drove with our car lights on in solidarity for a while. I love symbols when they bring us together, especially when the grief is more than we can process at that moment. I will never forget we did that. I felt this same feeling when we wore masks during Covid. Whether you believed masks were effective or not (they were!), they were a symbol of solidarity during a traumatic time. To me they represented more than safety. They were a symbol of “we are in this terrible situation together.” That is what unity means to me. Not fake agreement between two sides.

Back to Oklahoma. Maybe it is because the 4/19 attack was closer to home for us that caused us to have a slightly more tender response toward one another. But it is wild how we rarely talk about it being domestic terrorism—our first instinct was outside terror. We were quick to name it when the terrorism was not with 9/11–and to even name these countries the “axis of evil.” Um, no! Unless we all want to be labeled that way. But all-in-all, we were not as hardened after 4/19 as we were 9/11.

Neither response to these attacks would I recommend again, though. The killing of Timothy McVeigh was the wrong response, because the problem was bigger than one person. We were quick to eliminate one person and not dig deeper into the roots of what drove him and others to plot this attack. The Iraq War and the Waco bombing had a lot to do with it. Post-9/11: we have killed more black and brown bodies post-terror attack than we lost in the actual terrorist attack. Also, I worked with people in New York at the time. The people in New York were calling for mercy, and several worked in the World Trade Center! The people in Oklahoma mostly were not calling for mercy. The people in New York were closer to the situation. They knew violence does not bring peace to a situation like this. They were right. We all should have listened.

The reason I am sharing this is because when we are disconnected from a situation and are on the outside looking in, it is easy to think we have the answers—both good and bad. In times of trauma, when we respond with violence, we make the situation worse than it was to begin with. Especially when there are people close to the situation (or people who understand situations like this) crying out and asking to be listened to, and they are not. What would the world be like if we actually listened to the people closer to the situation who know a lot more about what is going on?

This is why I do the work I do. The same is true for individuals. When we are not going deep inside ourselves and learning our own stories, doing our own healing, and living our own truth—we will transmit our pain. We will also listen to outside sources tell us who we are and what is happening to us. That will never be true. Outsiders can only tell you what they see on the outside looking in; it may not be anywhere close to what is true. We will then project what is going on inside us onto others and cause deeper damage for all of us as a community, and healing is delayed. It is never about one person.

That is what Jesus life shows me as well.

courage #healingjourney #loveistheonlyway #hatecannotdriveouthate #endpunitivesystems #enactsystemsofaccountabilityandhealing #repentandrepair

“Doubt”—Station 8: Stations of the Resurrection

Once again this week, Scott Erickson is showing up as my teacher at this moment in my life. His Stations of the Resurrection series is fantastic and is helping me see what I am going through in a different light. Transforming my despair into hope.

This past week, the trauma we went through almost a year ago came back with a vengeance due to both amazing and horrific memories at the same time. Good memories—The Sachse soccer team doing so well in the playoffs and reconnecting with our friends we have missed so much. Bad memory: the hospital bill (FROM SACHSE-like, what the hell?!) that came right after paying taxes, which made me angry for various reasons. But it most of all reminded me of what caused the ache. Despite my best efforts to just let it be using the tools I have learned from my spiritual training—I still relived the trauma; and now, damn it, I am recovering again. The intense feelings of both joy and sadness at the same time were a lot for my body, and it sent me into a PTSD attack. Yesterday, on my walk, I had to sit down halfway through the walk b/c I am not strong enough to complete the walks I have been doing. Trauma is no joke, friends. I also want us to take that more seriously. It affects our bodies. Unseen wounds are wounds.

I am considering alternative ways to handle my trauma. Because even with all the tools I have in my toolbox, I still went through intense pain again. But I write this post for a larger purpose than to share how I am going to treat my trauma; what I really want is systemic change. Me considering an alternative source of healing is a great solution for me, but it will not be necessary for others if we work on healing our systems.

Ram Dass, who reminds me all the time to be at peace, even when what comes to me is negative, because what I will learn from the suffering will end up being a source of grace. I can testify he is right. He learned this from having a stroke. His stroke was not the means of grace; what he learned from the suffering was grace. It led him to a quieter life and deeper connection with people than he had before traveling all over the place speaking to people. But he also says we must challenge systems. The pain and trauma I endured is not be continued indefinitely just for the sake of the gift of grace people may gain from the suffering. Makes me think of Paul when he says: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! (Paul was a mystic, don’t you know.).

Listen, I know what it is like to be reactionary. Seven years before our most recent trauma, there was another trauma. It was different, but also the same. We were warning about this very issue, and no one listened. The danger was not in one person; it was in the whole system and how we justify just about anything. So, wouldn’t you know the work I have done the last seven years would turn on me and my family?! It is an unreal and wild turn of events that I never in a million years imagined would happen. But, this event did make me look back at that time and consider if maybe I was too punitive. I, too, was reactionary and trying to make a quick fix before we really understood what was going on. I still stand by what I was warning back then, because I saw with my own eyes it was true—but, what I did not know was how we as a culture do not understand the signs. (Now the gospel of John is in my head) We either ignore it, or everybody becomes suspect. Neither position brings us to a better and more healing future.

I realize now that a punitive mindset only brings weeping and gnashing of teeth for everybody, and it will come for everybody. Jesus went through serious anxiety wanting God to take away his need to keep going by the way of Love in a culture of death. He was sweating blood, and his disciples fell asleep in their grief (Luke 22). I understand this a lot better now. It is hard. And when the culture is not set up for healing and learning, we will continue to inflict trauma that will never allow us to grow and learn. And the one fighting for love will die.

In my family, my body was hit the hardest. If you know me at all, you know I was the one fighting the hardest with my whole body—because I could. I was going to public offices and calling people to account, emailing everyone who I felt should be standing up and taking responsibility with us, and just trying to get anyone to care and take a damn stand on our behalf. That knocked me out. I became the advocate I so desperately desire for me too.

But I needed to learn when to surrender sooner. Just like right now. What I did took a toll on me in a way that is hard to recover from, and I am getting tired again. I know what I have learned is vital for the work ahead, and I need to rest again so I can prepare for it—b/c I am more than ready to get in the game of life. But not yet. Already (all ready), and not yet has never felt so real to me. Sometimes the best thing to do is let it play out, and then we learn, TOGETHER, before we do better.

That is my work right now. This post by Scott Erickson about doubt and wondering if love is worth the risk again is on point. Since Elsa is my prophet, the song “Into the Unknown” is playing for me right now.

Thanks for listening. I am off to rest.

Our Story is not the cautionary tale; the System’s Story is

This morning I was talking to my dearest friend Teri King. This is a friend I met through Twitter in 2016/7 who says I saved her life through my LGBTQIA+ advocacy work. We met for the first time in person in Washington DC at an Alliance of Baptists conference in 2019, and our friendship has only grown stronger and more vibrant through the years—even though we have only been together in person once.

I can also say she has saved my life. She was a professional pastor for forty years through the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention). She also had to resign when she finally could no longer go on living a false life. So now she is in an unofficial role as a pastor dedicating her retired life to helping young/mid-age women grow in their gifts as a minister. She says this is her best ministry yet. I am one of the people she is guiding through the process. She mentored me through seminary and has written me incredible poems, both for me personally and when I have asked for poems to help with Bible classes I taught at church. Her gifts are incredible, and I cannot believe for such a time as this I get a Teri in my life. This is why I will not ever give up on believing there is a place for me in ministry as I am. I also will not give up on fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights and their full inclusion as friends in both the church and in our society.

This morning we talked about many things, but one subject in particular came from the gospel of Mark in chapter 9–“The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit.” This passage has come back to me in light of the ridiculous “thoughts and prayers” (Ts and Ps as the Bible Bing calls it) response from both conservative faith and political leaders who are using it to avoid any meaningful change in our gun legislation—even though our kids are dying in schools! And they dare call themselves pro-life. Bullshit.

This morning, Teri was intrigued by my interpretation of the Mark 9 passage and how it speaks into a current and pressing situation in our culture—guns. I am happy to come to your church/group/institution/etc to present my interpretation, if you are interested. I have gone to school to learn how to interpret scripture and I would love to use it. I am here and available. I also promise it will be open for dialogue too; it is not a lecture. I use scripture to figure out how to create much-needed and often difficult conversations, because it is a common source we have to dialogue together when our lived realities are different. We can tell our own stories both culturally and personally through scripture. This is how the word still breathes life today. If used the way I use it, it can teach us how to struggle and figure out where we think God and our ancestors’ stories can help us in our day and age in order to bring life in a culture of death. You might call it a pro-life approach.

The truth belongs to each generation. Scripture is a resource. It is not an answer book because it was all figured out in the past. It was not. And we are still killing Jesus systematically.

In our discussion, Teri asked if any other gospel tells the Mark 9 story too. So I pulled out my Gospel Parallels book from seminary for an easier reference. I know you can do this online, but I love books still. And I like how I can see the different wording side by side in this book. Matthew 17 and Luke 9 also tell this story. There are similarities and there are differences. Mark gives more details than the other two, but what they all have in common is Jesus’ words here: You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?

Teri noticed what is actually being said by Jesus—How much longer do I have to put up with this shit?

Ha! It is true. Solidarity, Jesus. And by the way, cussing is in scripture. Paul cusses. Not sure where people think cussing is a worse offense than causing harm to people in the multitude of ways we do it, and also seem to never have to apologize for it either. Just pay money and no reparation work is needed (Fox News is a prime example of a real cultural and systemic problem—systemic narcissism is a public health crisis). And they try to use scripture for their justification. Well, friends, for such a time as this I was placed upon this earth.

Systemic narcissism is what happened to my family. See my last two blog posts. This one in particular. We did not get a money settlement either, only public shame—and it was allowed. That is what frustrates me and is causing me to speak up.

I am over the incident that should have never happened to my family. It was a shadow, and it taught me/us a lot about suffering—which has turned into grace. Our ego, which is only a dream, is dying and we are connecting to our soul—the only thing that is real. I would not go back and fix the past, even if it were possible. I would not do it now that I have done the healing work necessary giving me a different perspective. But, it does make me adamant the system needs to change. What is infuriating is watching the system move on like we are some acceptable loss who should have lived a less connected life and hated ourselves for not understanding the system. We are not the cautionary tale; the system is.

So with that said, I want to end this post with the reason I wrote it. What I wrote before is to show you how real scripture is to me in doing the repair work that is necessary to create a better future and a new order that will be more inclusive. It will also include repentance. High-trust systems have on thing in common: repentance is a spiritual practice.

I told Teri how the tentacles of the past tried to invade our lives again just recently. Of course this was going to happen. I am having to ground again and remember that is not where I belong anymore. But, that same system is in Oklahoma too. What I learned back there is guiding me now. The principality needs to be spoken to and here is what I want to say to my friends and family in light of what happened to us:

When a system abuses you, or someone you know was unjustly abused by it, do not sit idly by and believe this is how it is. And do not use the victim’s story as the cautionary tale. They are not the problem. The abusive system is the problem. And the system is more fragile than you may realize. A reactionary system is not a confident or grounded system. This is why it gets rid of the good people it believes to be naive first. Or if it sees a good trouble maker in its midst who is easier to discard because they will not fight back because they are typically self sacrificial. How we tell the Jesus story matters.

Here is a scripture story to maybe help you better understand what it is I am trying to say to my people in both Oklahoma and Texas.

Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Luke 22:39-46. This story comes as the plot to kill Jesus thickens in the Lukan narrative. Jesus is going to the Mount of Olives to pray. His disciples followed him, and he tells them he hopes they are not met with a time of trial before he withdraws from them to pray. His prayer is for God to remove this cup from him. It becomes so intense his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (That is serious anxiety and despair, friends. Jesus knows these intense emotions we feel, and he wanted out also!). When he finally surrenders to the will of God and goes back to the disciples, he finds them sleeping due to their own grief. (See, this is not new. This is hard. Our ancestors know this and are sharing their story with you about it. The amount of grief we are feeling is exhausting. The desire to check out is not unheard of—they experienced it too). Jesus wakes them up and once again says to pray they do not come into a time of trial.

As I read this passage again today, a lot of new things stand out to me. As I mentioned earlier, you can see it has always been hard for Jesus dealing with the extremely dangerous absurdity of their death-dealing culture. He understands this despair and the temptation to go to sleep because the grief is too much. But you do need to wake up. (Gives a whole new meaning to woke theology). If you do not, you may be met with the same trial too. The cautionary tale is not that being kind and helpful to people can get you killed; it is that a system is ready to crucify those who do. That is what we need to be aware of and realize we are part of that system. The system is people. Ask yourself how you are serving it and the ways you may also be allowing these things to happen because you are going to sleep in your grief.

You are not alone in this difficult struggle. Scripture, our cloud of witnesses, and people like my family are here to help you not feel alone. We all know it is hard and exhausting. There is joy, even with the scars, in the rising up and asking for a new order. We are saying it is better to go by the way of God. The way of what is good and holy. The way of love. Do not go by the way that leads to weeping and gnashing of teeth because the system makes you believe that is what will keep you safe. It will not.

Side note: I know this story comes right after the sword verse that gun-rights lobbyists use for their own agenda. I can refute that too, but not in this post. I just find it funny since I talked about guns in this post that it would line up that way. Spirit knows, and it is no accident. I mention this so you know I am aware. I am listening to the oppositions’ rhetoric and I can clap back.

Pulled out an oldie but a goodie from seminary today.

Being fully human is a threat to empire

I wrote this reflection after spending some time contemplating the interconnection of the three examples I gave in this blog post:

One of the reasons we went through, Jesus went through, Ralph Yarl went through, trauma is because we live/d in a culture that dissociates from its humanity. This is why I find it fascinating the gospels wrote about a God who became human. and he (it had to be a he for people to care. It’s not bc God is a He) lived a limited life, bc humans are limited. This happened when Rome was the biggest empire the world had ever known and was operating without limits. Jesus’ limited state as a human was powerful enough to scare the empire, and it got him killed.

It’s funny. We act like it’s the glory of God that’s too much for s person to take in. What if it’s our full humanity, wounds and all, that’s the most threatening. Very few do their inner work in our culture. The empire draws us outside ourselves. Faith is doing the same thing bc it’s captivated by empire.

A man who countered the narrative of Caesar by becoming vulnerable, a boy innocently riding his bike to pick up his siblings and despite all odds still believed in the goodness of life, and a teacher who cares about kids and will sacrifice their time to make sure they are safe and passing their classes—these things scare people who have disassociated from their humanity. These simple acts of human goodness scares those who are going by the way of empire that tells them everyone is an enemy, of a potential enemy.

This is a huge reason we are a lonely nation. We are scared of how deep it is to be human. We strive for some unknown perfected state, and we crucify people to hide our own failings bc we do not live in a world that welcomes growth, mistakes, or transformation. We don’t live in a world that allows us to say “I’m limited.” That’s not the way of empire. And it’s what’s killing the few who are remaining human enough to help. The ones who can look at pain and not run away. The ones who still innocently ride their bike and not think twice about going up to a house and ringing the doorbell.

I was listening to an actress on a talk show recently. She’s actually not a person of faith and she’s also quite fearful of what AI is going to do to our humanity. But she said something so wise about both faith and AI.

Actress (I don’t remember her name or I’d write it): I think faith and AI were both created to inspire curiosity and wonder about a world we cannot comprehend on our own. It’s an avenue for the imagination to go beyond what we can see. But instead, both have fallen into the same trap: they became about having all the answers and certainty about life. That’s dangerous.

She’s right.

When I graduated seminary, the preacher said the most important thing we can be doing right now at this place and time: we need to discover what it means to be human.

Looking at our neighbors’ “Woundedness”

Scott Erickson (@scottthepainter),a Visual Curator for Spiritual Thought, just wrote a beautiful reflection on “Woundedness” in the Stations of the Resurrection series he has created. This reflection is Station 6 of the series. Many of my friends will know Scott Erickson from his Honest Advent work. I have several of his drawings framed in my living room from that series contemplating the vulnerability of the incarnation. They are stunning and inspire a renewed spiritual imagination from the stories in scripture many of us are possibly so familiar with we no longer know what they mean anymore. Or, dare to believe we can experience and believe differently about them in light of our lived experience.

After I read his post on “Woundedness,” which I will include in this blog post for you to read for yourselves because it is too good to summarize, I knew I had to write my own reflection or I would not be able to sleep tonight. There is a stirring within me that needs to be aired to my online community and in-person community. It is not for revenge or for pity; it is for healing. And this reflection gave me the spiritual imagination to tell my own story in such a way I will not be too triggered by sharing, or fall into the trap of over sharing details that are not for everybody. That is so easy to do for trauma survivors. It is because our trauma came from those who had no boundaries.

This post is also inspired by what has happened to a 16-year-old black high school junior, Ralph Yarl, who just survived being shot because he went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. I am not comparing our events as one and the same, but they are cut from the same cloth: the devastation that happens when you have no idea you landed in the hands of hate. And you were just trying to do what you were asked to do. The wrong people, the wrong location—these circumstances can change your life forever, for good or for worse.

I am not going to go into great detail on what happened to my family online. This is not the place for that and is largely what caused the problem in the first place. What I am going to do is attempt to reveal enough to show that when a powerful system harms you, there will be a scar(s) from that wounding—even after you are resurrected and living a life surrounded by those who love you the most now. My aim is to show you my wounds like Jesus did for his disciples. I like how Scott Erickson states that the resurrection is not he same thing as perfection, because perfection means without blemish. Jesus, too, had a scar from his brutal wounds inflicted by empire violence, even after his resurrection. Jesus was not the same after trauma. Ralph Yarl will never be the same. The Bruehls will never be the same.

One thing all three people/situations have in common: all were and are innocent but punished in some way anyway. It is because the system that guides our shared life together is corrupt. It does not mind when the innocent die—not all deaths are physical. The system is too busy protecting itself to care about the people who are dying at its’ hands because it does not want to die or look bad in public. Our inability to be wrong is also a pandemic! It is a systemic problem, too. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but a spade is a spade.

Here is a quick summary about my family.

This Easter, the whole weekend, was especially brutal for my family. A reminder of the worlds we once were an integral part of resurfaced. The event that changed our lives forever, which happened almost a year ago and took away one of our greatest passions, came to a head on Easter weekend this year. (I can write about how this is also a blessing, but not in this post). I do not look forward to May 3, 2023. That is the date our lives changed forever in 2022. I am quite certain it will be a dark day for me remembering the travesty, cruelty and abandonment that happened that day.

I want you to hear this and take it to heart. What we went through was brutal, and it is time to take the wounds we cannot see seriously. The black community has been asking us to do this for a very long time. They have been and are watching people from their own community die or brutally tortured at an astronomical rate at the hands of hate. And we still have political and faith leaders acting so atrociously by resisting our need to study racism and teach a more complete American history account in school. Also the resistance to Black Lives Matters is so revealing. Our political leaders are also preventing our ability to make any meaningful systemic change politically. That is also violence—even if they are not the one shooting the gun, hanging someone on a cross, or making the false accusation. Our stories are not complete if there are things we cannot talk about that are also part of the story. Hiding human evil done systematically does not prevent future systemic evil from happening; it guarantees it will happen again. And our systems allow it by design hoping to live another day by not being able to name it communally.

I was also unable to enter a church on Easter. I have never done that before, and I both grieve and do not regret it. I had to give up everything post-seminary because of what happened last May to my family. I still need some time to process this loss. I finally had one friend reach out and name what this cost me. I needed someone to see me and what it cost me too. I was probably too tired to move on to what I was going to do anyway, but this wounding has set me back quite a bit. I do not know how long this healing will take for me. I am a highly sensitive person and I see the fatal flaw in the system, so it is especially hard for me watching the system continue on as it were with no recourse.

Right now, I am looking for my people to address the fatal flaw in the system with me in a way that heals. Many are quoting Audre Lorde with Ralph Yarl’s case: The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. I know this is true. I will not use the same systems that brutalized my family to attempt to carry out justice on our behalf. That will only end up in more trauma for more people, just like it did in our case. This is not what God or anyone in my family wants.

The thing is, I saw the system. I not only saw it, but also experienced it. It does not care about the individuals it is supposedly set up to be taking care of; in reality, it cares about itself. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” logic Aristotle promoted is being used in a way that promotes terror instead of unity. I studied this in seminary too, before this travesty happened. This is not an unknown phenomenon by anyone who understands systems. There is also no one in any of our systems looking at/for the deeper root(s) to learn and understand the actual problems we are facing. Everything is done in reaction instead of being proactive. There is no funding or staffing being provided as a resource to make this a possibility either. So we punish, because that is easier than having hard conversations and admitting things are not black and white. But it is NOT more cost effective—I have data on that truth. We just really do not care who gets hurt as a community. We would rather trivialize or spiritualize than admit what we are doing is not only devastating individual lives but also the lives of whole communities. You never take out one person without affecting the whole community.

I know this pain is hard to look at and hard to hear. There are so few places we allow for public grief and lament. We are not used to this. Death has always been an exception to us culturally—not a reality. It makes us feel what we have been taught not to feel—pain. We were supposed to bypass pain—not go through it.

We need to look at the pain, or we cannot get to the healing or true joy. I believe this is why Jesus showed his scars. What we do to each other leaves a mark. We can survive it, and heal, but the scars will remain.

I hear people of faith quote this verse a lot: and He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin (Sin) and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Can Ralph Yarl and the Bruehl family, and everyone else who bears scars, seen and unseen, say the same thing?

Would you want to be spoken to that way?

There is this thing called slide tackling in soccer. It is when a player slides to take the ball away from you. It looks vicious and is a move that will easily hurt someone if you don’t do it correctly. It has to be all ball (your slide can only touch the ball) to be legal; if not, it is a foul. Being taken out by the ankles is no joke.

I have not always been as political as I am now. I, too, like many of you was raised thinking caring about that was of this world and not the world I was working for. I also used to say Jesus was not political. Oh, how wrong I was. I will re-share the post I wrote last week to show how deeply confused (can’t really say wrong b/c I was taught this and you can’t just pick up a Bible and know what I wrote) I was.

2016 felt like a slide tackle that was all body and no ball taking me out. 2022 it was a slide tackle that was not only illegal but it deeply injured my family. It needed a red card.

In the words of Justin Pearson: Would you want to be spoken to (about) that way? For helping chidlren!!!

Both of us fighting for justice and treated like we were children who needed to be scolded. Acting as if they are the ones fighting for kids. Wrong! What the system allowed to happen to my family was unconscionable. What happened to Justin Pearson was unconscionable. Now is our moment to speak.

Friends, I need you to hear me with love. Otis Moss III says people who experience unthinkable injustice heal not by themselves; it is when they are in a community that gazes upon them with love. That determines if this story turns into a movement of hope for humanity’s healing, or if the person harmed turns into a villain. He gave a powerful example of how the legal system creates these scenarios. It picks and chooses who gets a chance and who are thugs to be thrown away.

I think what Justin asked is the question of our time.

After what my family went through—which was a huge mistake to target us b/c they targeted a family who knows what they are talking about and knows about these issues. I have done the work the last seven years to address this very thing, only to see the system turn on us. Now I know why on that end too. The state watches justice movements and makes a joke out of them by design. So, no, systems of oppression, you cannot target us. I have done the work and your response is atrocious. I wish people could have heard how we were treated. And over nothing. And the systems knows it. Every single person in each system knew it was bullshit but acted like there was nothing they can do about it.

That was so traumatic. We did not matter at all. Individually, yes. Systematically, no. I want both.

I am here today to talk to you as someone who believes I have learned something from this atrocious experience to make our humanity better. But I need you to listen to me, not pity me. Friends, I can name five teachers in Norman alone who have quit before the school year ended this year. One was right from the start. A Mustang teacher was also publicly humiliated by our State Board of Education. Do you remember that? This is not not normal. This is how oppressive systems make it. You think this is just how it is.

Here is where I need conservatives and progressives to hear from me. Please listen with love and lay down your defenses. Had I not gone through what I just did, I would not know to tell you this. Experience matters.

People who are more conservative will hear us and will show empathy. But when it comes to saying this is the system and we need their help, they are out. Systemic injustice is not in their vocabulary. Everything is about the individual. The individual sin problem in our evangelical churches. (That is something I am addressing in the friendship movement). Even if it is not our sin, we are viewed as an unfortunate incident that just happens in life. What can you do about it?

People on the progressive end have no problem seeing this as a Sin of the system, but most tend to not want to come along side you while you heal. They call it giving you space.

Let me stop right here to let you know I am not saying this in anger. I am saying this because I want to help people understand that when someone is in agony and it is your friend, your job is to show up. If they need space, let them tell you they need space. Don’t assume that from the start without asking. Grief and trauma are already extremely lonely and isolating—presence is the most important thing we can do in someone’s healing process. It is not about getting anything right. No one even knows what that is. Pain does not make one stronger. If it does not kill them physically, the desire to isolate and cut yourself off as a helper becomes a real temptation. The resilience is formed in the repair work.

In the progressive world, the individual is not valued as much as the whole.

So, I will end with this, and then I am going to stop for a while because I have said so much and Dr. Thema is right, see quote below. I am glad there seems to be some consequences happening for Trump and Ryan Walters. I am also aware the same systems that traumatize so many unnecessarily are also handling this. Trump and Walters are individuals in a much bigger picture. Getting rid of them is not going to solve the problem. Making individuals pay for a bigger problem does not work.

But, please God, lets remove them from office at least. The people need to be free of them and then we address why the system formed them.