Petraeus, Sex, and Sin as a Spectator Sport

Photo credit: 2009 Jon-Phillip Sheridan/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

The extramarital affair of former CIA Director General David Petraeus is making headlines across the nation as you already knew. Some reports are examining what the development suggests about our government’s intelligence apparatus, but most of the coverage spends its time zeroing in on the salacious details. Perhaps it has always been true, that public intrigue follows personal stories of drama and decline. What I find unique about this moment in history is our nation’s unquenchable appetite for human weakness coupled with distribution geared to maximize consumption. This is an age of sensationalism on demand, where vice is a commodity and the line between news and entertainment disappears before our eyes. Not unlike pornography and the more mean-spirited forms of reality TV, we can sit down to watch national scandals unfold, and fail to realize the harm that our participation does to the players and the audience. By using stories like the Petraeus affair as an occasion to gawk or denigrate those involved, Christians risk elevating the significance of misdirected sexuality while downplaying other sins closer to home.

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The Labor of Life and the Courage of God

My wife Lauren and our son Stellan. 

Mothers and fathers often feel strongly about how they want to deliver their child into the world. Birthing plans and complications vary from one couple to the next. What follows is personal feelings about our birthing process; it is not a commentary on yours which belongs entirely to you.

This post includes a story about my wife and I on the day she gave birth to our son. I share it with her consent.

It was important to my wife Lauren that she have a natural birth. This meant going through the process with midwives and avoiding an epidural and IV medicine. The day of delivery came in late July. 18 hours later, Lauren reached 10 centimeters of dilation- or the “push phase” in laymen’s terms- without medicine, but there was almost nothing left of her energy and stamina. The marathon (between the final two centimeters in particular) had exhausted her completely, and she was losing control of the pain in a hurry. Seeing her suffer, I was starting to lose it too.

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When Past Hurt Threatens the Joy of Current Blessings

Photo Credit: Flickr/chicagophotogirl . Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

Well, the time has come to announce that I’m 6 months pregnant.  We are expecting a little girl on January 19th of 2013.  I’ve waited to write about it.  I’ve waited to be excited about it.  My past has haunted me this entire pregnancy and it has threatened to steal every ounce of joy out of this miraculous moment. I’ll tell you why.

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What the Green River Killer Has to Do With My Unexpected Lesson in Forgiveness

Gary Ridgway and Jesus. Photo credit: 2010 liquidnight/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

Since I was a little girl, I have always known uttering the words “I forgive you” meant something special.  It was something that had to be asked for after an apology, it was something that had to be meant in your heart when you said it, and it was something that wiped your slate clean when you heard it. But I didn’t know how much power that phrase packed until I watched a documentary on Gary Ridgway, AKA The Green River Killer.

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The Death and Resurrection of Dreams and Expectations

Photo credit: 2011 Steve Hoefer/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

“You have exhausted me.”

Sitting in a theater with my parents in 1992, I saw ‘Patriot Games’ for the first time. It was the moment when I knew I wanted to make movies.

Now it was early 2006, and I was headed back to visit Los Angeles, a city that I loved and had visited several times to see relatives as a child, and several times again in my early 20s, usually as a film critic for a media company based in Santa Monica. This time I was invited to stay in the perfectly clean guest house of a produced screenwriter for a few days, to meet in person and to work on our project. I mention that it was perfectly clean to acknowledge the irrationality of the thought that I was sure a black widow spider was going to aggressively hunt me while I slept.

This writer had signed me into a contract to develop a film script around an idea of his, after I pitched him my fourth screenplay, which he liked but thought would be a tough sale. Up until this trip, I thought the creative process was going great.

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Anti-Gay Marriage Legislation is an Example of An Overextended Church in Decline

Photo credit: 2006 cbamber85/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

No longer content to govern itself, the church has spread out to rule the culture through legislative force, attempting to use the tools of government to order the lives of consenting adults. Like an empire, the church finds itself on patrol beyond its rightful territory, which is shocking when one considers how much space the church has been given, by God first and this country second.

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Interview with Author Donald Miller and Director Steve Taylor: On the ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Production Process, On-Set Surprises, and Misunderstanding God

Donald Miller (left) and Steve Taylor. Photo credit: 2012 Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

My conversation continues and concludes with screenwriter Donald Miller and director Steve Taylor about their new film adaptation of Miller’s New York Times bestselling book ‘Blue Like Jazz.’ The film opens in theaters April 13th. If you missed it, click here for the first part of this interview.

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My Own Religious Frailty, and Common Ground with Atheists and Agnostics

Photo credit: 2005 Maura Johnston/flickr.

If someone asked me to describe my faith, like giving a State of the Union for the soul, I’d say “don’t call it a State of the Union for the soul because that sounds like you’re elevating the government to a god-like position,” and when the person realized that I was making a dumb joke on purpose, I’d finally answer. Sorry, I’m a little wary to get into this post when it’s all about my own religious doubts. But I’m going to share them because I have a feeling that many of these doubts are universal.

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Religious Doubt is Imminent, But It Can Be Navigated

Photo credit: flickr/racineur. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

It begins at a young age. We are trained to hide our doubts. As we grow, this is reinforced by the adoption of labels- Christian, agnostic, atheist, for example. Comfort can be found on both sides of the religious fence. We’re told to keep things simple for ourselves. We’re told to not peek through the hole in the fence at our neighbor’s party, lest we catch a glimpse of his opposing views and be overcome like the incredible melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But doubts persist. Whether as the result of cruelty that crashes into life changing everything in unwelcome ways, questions and desires unanswered, the wear and tear of painful relationships, or consequences from personal mistakes, we doubt ourselves, we doubt God, or spend years trying to figure out who is to blame; questions that float on the rising tide of resentment. While religious doubt varies by the individual, it is a transformative and often grueling process that cannot be solved with a formula, but all is not lost. There is a way through it; a path that can even be nourishing.

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Mars Hill Seattle, and the Problem of Insulated Churches

Photo credit: flickr/Mars Hill Church

You may have heard the recent story of a Mars Hill member named Andrew and the experience he had with church leadership following his voluntary confession of sexual sin, which focused around the fact that he had cheated on his fiance. “I take responsibility for my actions. I messed up,” he said. Andrew encountered name-calling from various leaders, not to mention several meetings and text messages. Despite his remorse and participation including tearful confessionals, things were just getting started. Next came a discipline contract printed on church letterhead outlining numerous steps to full reconciliation, pressure and intimidation when he announced he would not sign and would instead be leaving the church, and most remarkably- a document naming Andrew and his sin and detailing how members were to handle him socially (when to include and exclude him, and even how to answer), published on the Mars Hill community forum without Andrew’s consent. For details, here is the full expose on Matthew Paul Turner’s site: Part 1 and 2.

Mars Hill issued a recent response to this fiasco, which I will also focus on in this post.

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