The Covenant

Let me begin my being really clear on who this post is for: These words are for people who consider them Christians and are committed to the tumultuous and risky calling of discipleship. If you’re in the midst of figuring, or oftentimes refiguring, faith out, these words are not for you. These words are also for the people who have taken the time to grieve. If you haven’t, take a wander through the Book of Job. Meditate and chew on it. I have a series on suffering, and a playlist for lament if you’re looking for further resources.

When I was thinking and praying about what to speak into this moment, what kind of answer can even be given in the midst of yet another mass shooting, yet more innocent little children killed, yet another trans person who is the shooter, at a time of already unimaginable grief and tragedy for the queer community as bill after bill after bill limits trans individual’s ability to exist, I needed some time and some inspiration. What can be said, accurately and honestly, in the midst of all of this complex tragedy?

The word that God put in my mouth was not an immediately helpful one. It was the end of Joshua 24:15:

… but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:13 NRSVue

This verse comes towards the end of Joshua, a semi-historical book documenting Israel’s conquering of Canaan, with the help of their leader Joshua and the hand of God. Chapter 24 comes at the end of a warning Joshua, in his old age, gives to the Israelites. He urges them to preserve the purity of the people of God and to preserve the Hebrew God as the only God worthy of their adoration. He reminds the Israelites that the land of Canaan has been given to them, not earned, an important distinction to keep the Israelites humble and obedient. Then, in an act of obedience, Joshua holds a covenanting ceremony to renew the people’s promise to God, and in turn, God’s promise to the people. In chapter 24, Joshua begins by retelling the story so far:

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst, and afterward I brought you out.

Joshua 24:5 NRSVue

The story of IAM setting God’s people free has become a frequent source of comfort and challenge for me since July of last year. It began as a testament: God can do impossible things. Then, it changed into a celebratory reminder: there is nothing a tyrant can do but grasp at earthly power.

How do we respond to life under tyranny? First, we should give the tyrant an opportunity to free us on his own accord. In Exodus 5, Moses and his brother Aaron give Pharaoh the first of God’s message to him: Let my people go. In response, Pharaoh not only refuses, he makes the enslavement of God’s people harsher.

That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will pay attention to it and not to deceptive words.'”

Exodus 5:7-9 NRSVue

Don’t miss this first lesson, friends; when the tyrant tightens the reigns, freedom is imminent. But it’s also important to note here that asking the tyrant for freedom is acceptable in the sight of God. By all means, call your representatives and demand a more just world. With hope and humility, they will relent. But we also shouldn’t be surprised if the heart of a tyrant hardens into repeated refusal.

After numerous plagues, the Israelites flee Egypt. In a last-ditch power grab, Pharaoh and his men pursue the fleeing Israelites. The Israelites turn on Moses, enraged that they’ve escaped just to die in the wilderness. But Moses replies:

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today, for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

Exodus 14:13-14 NRSVue

Friends, I am as sure as I have ever been that God is a firm foundation to build your life on. I am as confident in the shadow of the tyrant as I was in the Promised Land: God frees and God conquers enemies. All we have to do is suppress everything our brains tell us not to do: be still, rest in the assured deliverance of God. Pslam 27 reminds us of the same war tactic: we become brave by being still. We are children of the Almighty God; we do not need the weapons of the world to conquer. Our victory is assured.

The issue with politicians and Pharaohs is that they earnestly believe their earthly power is enough to make us afraid. Maybe they’re right, maybe you are afraid.

I am.

Some person in a suit genuinely believes they know your body better than you do. They are passing laws to sentence people to death, to force people to come out, to stop taking life-giving medication, to stop being who God has called you to be. Just like the Israelites, we find ourselves backed up to the edge of impossible water, watching our captors pursue us, certain we are going to be slaughtered in an unfamiliar land, or even worse perhaps, an unfamiliar body. This is a death and a violence worth being afraid of.

And yet, in the midst of our fear, we hear the whisper of Moses, the whisper of David’s song, the whisper of our very God: Keep still, hide in his shelter, Know that I Am God.

As you move through these next few weeks and months and years of increased transphobia, gun violence, and chaos, rest assured that the God who created you is also fighting for you. The tyrant doesn’t win.

Let us also cast our minds to Easter: death itself doesn’t win. What fear can these feeble, power-hungry men offer us, especially in the end:

Then comes the end, when he (Christ) hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and very authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:24-26 NRSVue

Point #1: How do we respond in this moment of overwhelming grief and anger? We remember that the authority of death and of ruler hold no true power over us, just power that is tangible.

After Joshua reminds the people of the power and faithfulness of God, he instructs them to revere and serve God:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:14 NRSVue

If you’re struggling to embody the first point, friends, it’s about to get a lot harder. I’m not preaching to you; I’m preaching to myself and hoping some of this self-talk is useful to someone besides me. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, offers some thoughts on how we as Christians can respond faithfully to persecution, how we can sincerely and faithfully serve the L-RD.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly, do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the LORD.’ Instead, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 13:14-21 NRSVue

As I read this passage over and over again, I want the way of Jesus less than ever. To be a disciple of Christ is going to cost us everything. Every intuition, every comfort, every morsel of food and drink and sense of fairness. To put this back in terms Joshua could understand, we have to put away the gods of our ancestors. We have to choose a different path than vengeance. We have to want peace more than we want justice, because we know that true justice flows out of peace. Again, I say: I want the way of this Jesus less than ever.

And yet I am simultaneously convicted of little else in this moment than that the world needs more Jesus. We need more of his gentleness, more of his submission to suffering, more of his counter-cultural peacemaking.

If we want to sincerely and faithfully serve our God, we have to feed our enemies. There isn’t another path. We have to overcome the vast and deep and profound evil in our world and faith communities by viciously committing ourselves to self-sacrificial good.

Here is another thing I am convinced of in this moment of profound suffering: I do not have control over very much. I can’t solve gun violence. I can’t cure transphobia. I can’t eradicate suffering in all of its forms from the face of the earth. Joshua acknowledged the limitations of his ability to commit the tribes of Israel to the covenant of the L-RD:

Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living…

Joshua 24:13 NRSVue

As I picture this scene play out in our modern context, I can hear Joshua name different gods: social media, guns, mental illness, {political party}. You can choose, right now, to serve that god. If the fight is too difficult, if the thought of feeding a gunman or a politician is too much for you to stomach, go find a different god worthy of your worship. I can’t make that choice for you, or for my senator, or my president, or my pastor.

But as for me, and as for my future house and family, queer and complicated and beautiful, we will serve the L-RD.

We’re going to do some rejoicing in the midst of celebration, and we are going to mourn alongside those who mourn.

We’re going to try to not repay evil with evil. We’re going to try to make peace and live peaceably even with the tyrants who live above us.

We’re going to heap some burning coal on the heads of some people.

Come, Lord Jesus, and make a way for us in this barren wilderness. Give us our daily bread, that we might remember our place and have the tools to be peacemakers in this wild world.

Point #2: How do we respond in this moment of overwhelming grief and anger? We decide that whatever god our nation and our neighbor is serving, we will serve the LORD.

Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition Bible, copyright © 1989; 2021 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America and are used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

The Ideology

There’s a man, there’s been many men, standing on a stage calling for an extermination of people. Then, a clarification: eradicating an ideology.

How does one eradicate an ideology? What steps can one take?

Erasing history books is a start, but a fruitless one. Stories are not only told through the vessels published by the majority. They’ve been told for centuries in locker rooms and on graffiti stained walls. Oral histories are spun from throats in bunkers and published in subtext. You cannot kill an ideology. You cannot erase every trace of it.

I think of Marsha, discarded dead in a river. I imagine you imaging this scene, breathlessly whispering your D-list movie star line about it being good, breathless and ecstatic and the thought of death. What image, though, comes most readily to your mind when you think of her? Is it her dead, lifeless and shredded in a river? Or is it her smiling? Made up? Flowered and wigged?

That is an ideology, no longer a person. You can’t kill it. It rises from the river in full color. You cannot erase every trace of us.

You cannot kill an ideology.

Of course, you also cannot kill an ideology. I think then of the worst one, the unmatched horror of atrocity. I think of a man who shoots himself in a bunker. I think of a trial on the world stage, an agreement that Never Again. I think of the men in white sheets burning crosses in yards. I think of a failed coup to honor an ousted president. I think of a salute and a march with faux torches from men afraid of fire.

No, you cannot kill an ideology. You cannot exterminate it. You cannot erase every trace of it.

Belief is an unstoppable force. Immovable from the minds of the devout, even the devout to come. Ideology reincarnates. People come back to life.

So if neither ideology can die, if love and hatred perseverate, what then? A stalemate? Futility? Should we give up? Sing kumbaya with the murderers and the murdered?

A better question than survival is worship. If both are immortal, which is worth your devotion? Our choice has to be made based on something more than survival.

I think now of Sisyphus and his damn boulder. I imagine hatred as the sisyphean ideology. Its only goal is to eradicate. To kill. To eliminate. But as we’ve discussed, ideology cannot die. People cannot be killed in a way that is meaningful. The ideology of eradication is futile. You are dedicated to an eternal thing, sure, but it is a torturous one. Something that can never be accomplished.

Consider then, us. The worship of an eternal ideology whose only goal is to exist. To live. To perseverate. Survive. To do, in essence, what an ideology does. To be what life is.

Both will survive; The choice is not survival. Both will exist. But only one, by its very nature, can succeed. And I am not a masochist.

Must just be me though.


Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

God Bless America

Shaky Kingdom: A Tiny Series on Christian Nationalism | Day 4

The last lie from Christian nationalists that we will discuss is the lie that America is the principal interest of God. From its inception, America the empire has confused itself with the empire of God. Manifest Density was the belief that God ordained the colonists to overtake and civilize the indigenous peoples, to claim their land as some twisted version of the promised land. When we speak of America like this – that it is God’s nation, that America is a Christian nation, that God is concerned with American First policies, that God should bless America over its adversaries, is to say that all of America, present, past, and future, is analogous with God.

Some of this might be true. America is founded (though not necessarily executed) on the idea that all people are free. In the same way, the Gospel is concerned with the elimination of societal definitions of inclusion so that all people might benefit from the love and grace of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28). America has programs (though not necessarily effective) designed to come alongside widows and orphans (James 1:27). America has acres of natural beauty that testifies to the glory of God (Job 12:7-10). It is undeniable that some of America’s goals as an empire overlap with the goals of Christ’s Kingdom.

And yet, the nationalists are convinced that God is only concerned with the interests of America, and that any enemy of America is an enemy of God. In the same way that it is true that America is concerned with the elimination of disparate social groups, it is true that America is deeply concerned with the preservation of certain social groups, and the elimination of others. White women did not gain equal participation in the empire of America until over a century after its founding. People who were not White did not gain equal participation in the empire of America until almost two centuries into its existence. America has served widows and orphans, but it has also created them in the genociding of people groups and the bombing of countries in the pursuit of democracy. America has learned from the beauty of the nature within it, and desecrated it to earn money and claim its dominion.

When this world passes away, and the new creation is wrought (Isaiah 65:17), we will not see only English-speaking Americans tilling the soil. Indeed, there will be people from all nations, speaking in all tongues (Revelation 7:9). Whoever America hates – Iraqis and Russians and Chinese – and whoever Nationalists hate – teachers and democrats and police officers – will inhabit heaven alongside whoever it loves. God is in the interest of reconciling all the descendants of Adam, not just the ones we like or who serve our same interests.

Prayer: God of the multitude, help us destroy the idols of language and nation so that we may devote ourselves more fully toward the Kingdom of God instead of the Kingdom of Man. Break our expectations of the limits of grace. Lead us to places we consider too foreign, so that we might see your mercy and creative spark is limited only by our capacity to experience it.

Further learning:   

Flags on Sunday

Anabaptist Perspectives Episode 174: How Empire and Colonialism Perverted Missions


The Real Response to Persecution

Shaky Kingdom: A Tiny Series on Christian Nationalism | Day 3

As I mentioned in the first day of this tiny series, Christian Nationalists operate on the power of fear, particularly on the fear of persecution. Christian values, and Christians by extension, are under attack in this country. This is shocking, wrong, and in desperate need of fixing. Or, is it? Today, we take a look at how the Bible, not Nationalists, respond to persecution.


Expectation versus Surprise

Christian Nationalists try to shock you into believing that persecution is surprising. You need to be very alarmed and scandalized that Christianity is under attack, which is interesting given the Bible’s frequent prediction of Christian persecution.

Paul in his second letter to Timothy writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2:12-13 NIRV). Jesus himself forewarned his followers of their impending persecution: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:19-20). 

The truth is that you have never been promised an easy life as a believer in Jesus. You should expect to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Anyone who wants to coax you into shock at a little adversity wants something from you.

Joy versus Anger

Christian Nationalists want you to be angry and dismayed by your supposed persecution. They want to mobilize your anger to elect them into office and arm yourselves to complete acts of violence against image bearers.

In Jesus’ most famous sermon, he gives you the true reaction to actual persecution: “Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Blessed are you when people make fun of you and hurt you because of me. You are also blessed when they tell all kinds of evil about you because of me. Be joyful and glad. Your reward in heaven is great. In the same way, people hurt the prophets who lived long ago.”

Anyone who is trying to convince you to fear or be angry about your persecution is focused on the weight of what this world can do. Do not fear for such fickle, temporary things. A person of real faith, a person you should listen to, will tell you to focus on what happens when you arrive home. Rejoice and be glad in any ill that comes your way because of the gospel of Christ. Keep your eyes focused on the kingdom and let the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, and peace) replace the fruits of the nationalists (hatred, anger, and anxiety).

Strength versus Weakness

Christian Nationalists want you to think about your strengths and your power. They want you to put them in positions of influence and power. They want control and authority. They want to boast in their strength.

Paul discourages the church of Corinth from such ideas: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So I am very happy to brag about how weak I am. Then Christ’s power can rest on me. Because of how I suffered for Christ, I’m glad that I am weak. I am glad in hard times. I am glad when people say mean things about me. I am glad when things are difficult. And I am glad when people make me suffer. When I am weak, I am strong.”

The voices you should be listening to will be bragging about their positions in prisons, not palaces. The more suffering you endure, the less room you take up of yourself. When you have nothing, you make room for the One who has everything to enter in.

Prayer: Make me tiny, Lord, so that you might be visible to those around me. Make me weak, Lord, so that you are my only source of strength. Jail me, Lord, so that I may know where freedom comes from.

A Tiny Introduction to the Great Lie

Shaky Kingdom: A Tiny Series on Christian Nationalism | Day 1

The principle lie of Christian nationalism is that right now, you need to be very, very afraid.

In most churches around this country, there are people doing everything they can to convince fellow congregates that the government is stealing their rights as Christians away. In place of the spirited, testifying tongues detailed in the Acts 2 account of Pentecost, many Christians today are deeply concerned with exceptionally earthly matters. Regardless of what issue or issues that are of primary concern for them, Christian Nationalists want you to be deeply afraid.

They want you to be angry, to be shocked and surprised. And, as an antidote to this overwhelming fear, anger, shock, and surprise, they want you to reclaim power. By taking power, you reestablish yourself as a leader over that which fears you. By chopping off the head of your adversary, you quench your anger. By taking back control, you shift the unequal distribution of power so that you now hold the element of surprise.   

As we walk through this brief series together, I want to ask you to ignore and actively refute this great lie overtaking your siblings and thriving in your churches. I want you to take refuge in the gifts of Christ and to lead the lost among your congregation to the yoke that is easy. I’m asking you to reject what Paul calls the spirit of fear and timidness (2 Timothy 1:7).

In 2 Timothy, Paul also encourages us to receive the gift of power, but I want you to pay attention to the difference between how Paul conceptualizes power and how Christian Nationalists conceptualize power.


For the Nationalist, power comes through political overtaking. In order to “restore” Christ to power, we need to elect a certain politician, pass a particular policy, or destroy a widespread ideology. This power is, by its very nature, humanly defined. In order to receive or establish power, you need to take action. You need to vote or give money or sign petitions or raise awareness. The emphasis is on you and the mechanism by which you attain power is on earth.

The power Paul describes in 2 Timothy 1:7 is gifted to us by way of the Spirit, and it does not come alone. The power Paul conceptualizes is coupled with love and self-control. It is not the hatred of another that motivates power-taking, it is the love of others that facilitates power-receiving. It is not an active power-taking, in which you need to rise against an exterior force. Instead, power is coupled with the act of self-restraint, in which the entity you rebel against is your own human desire and tendencies.

Over the next few days, we’ll discuss what it might look like to be a people genuinely concerned with the rot in our own communities and began to cast a vision for a countercultural liberation movement characterized by love, vulnerability, quietness, and self-restraint. This is branded as a tiny series because the problem of Christian Nationalism is generational and gigantic in its scope. I won’t have all the answers on how we solve this overwhelming and dangerous trend, but my hope is that the Spirit might be fed by your attention to this issue, and that you might be encouraged to combat it each time it rears its head.

Prayer: Give me doubt against the fear from my misguided impressions of the world. Give me the courage to trust that a holy war is waged with surrender. Give me an accurate vision of myself that I might repent for what I have done and better align myself with the vision you have of me in your world.


Stumbling Blindly Toward The Light

Photo by Ross Stephenson on Unsplash

Spoilers for Frozen II

There has not been a time in recent memory where being an American was as terrifying as it is on this election day. With over 232,000 COVID deaths, LGBTQ rights on the precipice of being gutted, Black men being gunned down in the middle of the road, uterus-owners continuing to be the occupants but not owners of their bodies, children parentless in cages, and stark political divisions pitting neighbor against neighbor, I find myself feeling marooned in my American identity. Whatever happens tonight or, more likely, in the days and weeks to come, I fear we will still be left in the remnants of the Disunited States for months and years to come. There is a deep and vast hopelessness I feel in the very pit of me while writing this.

A few weeks ago, in a Facebook conversation on COVID, a Christian I went to church with flippantly suggested that I simply have more faith in God. I know it was flippant because she included that emoji of a woman flipping her hair after she said “Have more faith in God.” This is another example of the Christian-ese we speak with dripping tongues when we face something scary. Hear me say, I’m a staunch believer that faith is important, having trust in something greater is the only thing that drags me, kicking and screaming, through the darkness of each day. But it’s a little empty when your ability to exist as a human is threatened like so many people stand poised to now. It’s a little daunting when you’re standing in a desert for forty years waiting for some miraculous promised land to appear.


I am also a believer that truth does not come only from sources with the Church’s broad stamp of approval. We can find little miracles of grace, overwhelming calls to justice, and broad evidence of God in anything the Creator had a finger in making, which if you believe in any form of Genesis, is everything we experience. I want to pull today from the book of 2nd Frozen.

At the end of the movie, we see Princess Anna curled in a ball inside a dark cave after the death of both her sister Elsa and her best friend Olaf. She utters the heartbreaking refrain “Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb.” I’m writing to you now from beside her. I feel hopeless, and not just about the election, but about the state of life itself, that so much of my ability to exist in the world depends on other people. That so much happiness can be sourced from another person; that so much pain and heartbreak can too. I feel overwhelmed at the currents I find myself drowning beneath, and the future that I am not yet in. How much longer do I have to walk through a desert before I can taste the sweetness of honey? How many more callouses must I bloody my souls with before I’m allowed to sit and rest?

Anna does not lay there forever, though. Her first act of resistance is to stand, and I love the way she lays out how we can keep going when everything is telling us to succomb:

I won’t look too far ahead

It’s too much for me to take

But break it down to this next breath, this next step

This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night

Stumbling blindly toward the light

And do the next right thing

 Kristen Anderson-Lopez / Robert Lopez copyright Walt Disney Music Company

This is my election night message to you, America. No matter your aisle, no matter your identity, no matter war, unrest, or peace, when you are presented with your next opportunity, make the right choice. Do what is loving, seek what is just.

There is immense power that other people have over you. You can be fired from your job, broken up with, cheated on. You can have your marriage invalidated, your body erased, your autonomy decimated. You can be robbed and beaten, threatened. You can be killed. But you can always choose the next right thing.

You can wake up and get dressed. You can be as kind as possible to your classmates, your spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors. You can choose to cling to that tiny and fierce hope in making a better world. You can cry and embrace your fear. You can love.

Stumble, eyes open or shut, unsure or certain, bloody or intact, towards that great light which calls us to make Heaven here on Earth. I believe that presidents and congressional members matter. I believe that they have the power to make my life a living and dying hell. I also believe in my power to make the world one degree better each day I refuse to give up, to open doors for those shut out, to gasp with my dying breath into the leathered boot of oppression stepping into my neck.

And no man can take that away from me.

Bryce Van Vleet is the author of Tired Pages which can be purchased here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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But You Have to Pick One

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day Two: But You Have to Pick One

So many issues, so little time.

Pick a contemporary American issue. Heck, pick a classical political issue. It can, and almost always is or has been, reduced to two diametrically opposed opposites. Women’s suffrage – for or against. Emancipation – for or against. Blue lives matter or Black ones do. Pro-choice or pro-life.

There’s no nuance, which leads to the black-and-white generalizations of others we discussed yesterday. You have to pick a side. The only time we allow for any amount of nuance is from our candidates in or around an election year. Even then, though, it all stems through two lenses. You may disagree on what education should be funded by the government – two year college, kindergarten, or full four year college – but you either think the government should fund some parts of education or should not fund any.

We’re going to explore this concept through two popular political facets, revealing what options we have in the popular, and why these issues don’t have as easy of answers as we think they do or should.


It could just be me, but I’m actually asked quite frequently if I’m pro-choice or pro-life. It’s an impossible question for me to answer. I’m very adamantly neither. There’s nuance, more and more every day to this question, but it ultimately boils down to those two options. Even the nuance we offer, is a condtion of our stance on those two options. Pro-life except in cases of rape or incest. Pro-choice except after the third trimester.

When we’re arguing about abortion, we’re very rarely talking about the actual issue. Women are left out of health-care conversations with their own bodies, a by-product of encouraging more men than women to get into the medical field, and a product of the generational decisions to diagnose women with hysteria over actually listening to their health concerns. The decision over pregnancy is one area that women can assert legal control. Trans* men and gender-queer individuals who have uteri are given even less autonomy over their bodies and healthcare. A federal ruling on abortion gives them a tiny amount of protection back, even if it’s often only symbolic than actual.

People with sperm who do not have a uterus are often left out of the conversation around abortion, typically explicitly with being told their opinion doesn’t matter. These people cannot have biological children of their own without the help of someone with a uterus. Yes, there are ways to acquire one, such as through surrogacy or artificial insemination, but these aren’t nearly as free as impregnating someone else naturally. In fairness, the cost of not being able to biologically carry children has the benefit of… not having to carry children. No morning sickness, no risk of preeclampsia, no labor pains. No periods for decades and all that accompanies it. But it is a concern. Legally, fathers are responsible for the offspring after it’s born, yet isn’t considered in the potential termination of it. That said, over $100 billion dollars are owed in child support, 82% of which are women, so clearly the legal burden rarely translates to actuality and mothers and taxpayers are often the ones that pay.

Foster care and adoption services are often posed as the alternative to getting an abortion. Babies stand good chances of being adopted by willing families. But for the average-aged eight-year-olds in foster care, and 60% spend between 2 and 5 years in care. 2% of American families actually adopt. These statistics show that adoption may not be that viable of an alternative, or at least one that carries human cost. It also disregards those who can even medically carry a fetus to term without risking their own lives.

As for the option listed above – pro-life except in cases of rape or abortion, one has to laugh (it’s a sad laugh. But it’s a laugh.) 95.4% of rapists never go to prison. Hundred of thousands of rape kits are currently untested, sitting in warehouses or destroyed by police stations. To think that this country cares about victims of rape is ludicrous. To think abortion would somehow be able to revolutionize this system without adding another layer of legal victimization is laughable. You can read more of my thoughts on this topic here.

These are just some of the complexities that surround abortion. The easy answer – to legalize or criminalize, lies outside the realm of reality.


Similarly, as an avid fan of the Live-PD franchise, and a race relations researcher, the issue of Black vs. Blue lives mattering is something I’ve long-since been fascinated with.

This argument centers less around an opposite – few people say cops should die or Black people die (emphasis on “few” is key. A.C.A.B and plenty of racially motivated hatred exists. I don’t want to pretend either of those don’t) – but rather, the disagreement often lies with which life matters most.

Police officers risk their lives every day. They run into the places people are running out. They take victims of mass shooting in their own cars to hospitals, risking their own jobs by forgoing protocols. They witness and investigate the spots of personal traumas – drug addition, murders, domestic abuse, gun violence – day in and out. They can’t investigate crimes to the full extent they wish to due to limited human and financial resources. They respond when they’re called, no matter the hour or day.

They also, inadvertently or purposely, participate in institutionalized racism; supply the economic system with the goods that replaced slavery; and are forced, like all of us, to rely on racial micro-judgements that, unlike most of us, often result in death. (Wait, what are racial micro-judgments? We’ll explore this tomorrow when we talk about “But I’m Not Racist).

So, are police local heroes or legal hate crimes? Is it possible that it’s… both? It’s a harder answer, but a necessary one. We can critique and admire, appreciate and condemn. It’s a paradox of existence that Black vs. Blue lives can’t capture.

Easy answers are plentiful. What easy answers come to find for you? Are there situations in this world you refuse to see the other side of? You don’t want to fight through to get to the difficult answer – the, could I say, right answer?

But They’re On the Other Side of Me

PD: A forest and mountain scene lie in the background. Words in the foreground read “Easy answers (and other mythical creatures that live in the forest).

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day One: But They’re On the Other Side of Me


It’s no secret that America is more divided than ever before. The racist right versus the triggered left. Socialist AOC versus Nazi Donald Trump.

It’s easy to label people. It helps us know who we’re for and who we’re against. Where our friends are and what we hate. It gives the world a sense of order and justice. And we can’t see our ideological others as equals, at least, not without raising some eyebrows.

They’re on the other side of me. They’re wicked and un-American. We paint them in broad strokes, selecting a few key, dramatic examples that illustrate everything that’s wrong with “them.” People want to change Santa’s gender identity – look at these triggered little liberals always wanting to change something. People want to shoot “illegals” at point blank range for walking down the street – look at these vile conservatives always using their guns instead of their hearts.

It’s an easy answer. This person is conservative and thinks this. This person is liberal and thinks that. They’re racist and homophobic and all wrapped up in caution tape and offendedness.

This week, we’re looking at how to dismantle these simple binary explanations of the multifaceted reality. Many sides jammed into two. A two that has been demonized and generalized until the thing we think we hate is just a shadowy concoction of the reality we occupy.

It’s a mythical creature we need to banish back into the forest.

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Disagree, Denounce, Divide

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day Three: Disagree, Denounce, Divide

To continue our conversation from yesterday on being right, there are a two key ways to assert our correctness to those around us. We can debate or we can discuss. The key difference between the two has to do with the motivation. With a debate, someone has to win. With discussions, you get to assert an opinion and listen to one without needing to object. You get to ask questions and understand a point of view that’s different than yours.

I’m not ignorant. There are a host of issues that you, even on your best behavior, you can’t listen to an opposite opinion of. Maybe you’ve survived something and aren’t quite ready to hear a dismissal of something personal. Maybe your existence is wrapped up in it. Maybe you just like to fan the flames a little bit and feel some heat. Regardless, we can’t always discuss when we have the urge to debate. Something triggers us into a knee-jerk reaction and we say some things we might, but probably won’t, regret. I’ve been there (on more than one occasion). This is a blog series about humanness. Your mess-ups and rough edges are celebrated here.


I do wonder, though, how many times we debate when we’d be fine discussing. Posting angry comments on public stories and private friends statuses. Ranting and carrying on. Looking for ways to be offended and offensive.

I stopped debating (most of the time…) when I realized no one cared about what I had to say. I would spend hours crafting a perfect, bulletproof argument full of wisdom and heart, and then I’d get a response like “Okay liberal” and then a two sentence argument that had nothing to do with what I was talking about. Why, I asked, was I going through all this effort for nothing? Obviously, they were too stupid to interact with me. And I hated feeling like that, giving up on someone else’s perspective and asserting my own way of doing things.

I started entering into more conversations with friends who thought differently than I. After the 2016 election, I had a multiple weeks long conversation with an old friend. She shared that she felt fear, anxiety, nausea, when Obama was declared the winner – the same feelings I felt when Trump was declared. Every part of me wanted me to reject everything she was saying. She was ludicrous, annoying, baiting me. But as soon I stepped back and listened to what she was telling me, I started to understand it.

And let me be clear: I didn’t suddenly hate Obama and love Trump. I wasn’t grateful for Trump’s presidency over night. I’m still not. I still think it’s silly to think Trump is a good President or a good man. Discussion doesn’t lead to conversion. When I say I understood, I mean I didn’t lose faith in humanity. I didn’t “get” her perspective, but I started to understand why she thought the way she did, and began to see the humanity that still lived in her.

I’ve lost several readers in saying that – saying that I saw the humanity in a Trump supporter. But I did and I do. When you have conversations with people, and not conversions, when you have discussions and not debates, the heavy weight of being right starts to fall away. You allow people to be silly and stupid, ignorant and hateful but you show up and listen to them anyway. And slowly, overtime, you start to understand that no one is one thing. That people’s experiences shape them into the people they are and the things they say.

The world only looks insane if you’re trying to conquer it. When you step back and exist in it, I promise things will make a little more sense. It won’t make it less frustrating or more digestible, but you will begin to unpack the reasons the world functions the way it does. You’ll start to reject the easy answer and hold the paradox of existence more capably.

Few people are interested in discussing. I’ve learned that after countless typings of “I’m not debating you” or “I’m not arguing – I genuinely want to know more about you and why you think this way.” But for the few people who you can break through, I promise the both of you will have powerful, life changing experiences.

My least favorite saying is don’t talk about religion or politics with friends. We’re heading into Thanksgiving, a holiday famous for family feuds about politics and hatred. Would those conversations look differently if your uncle wasn’t trying to win? If you all agreed no one’s opinion would be changed?

There’s profundity in being human with humans. It only comes when we’re courageous enough to be a bit uncomfortable and to put ourselves in a position to be wrong.


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