Author Archive

Adventures in Churchland: Book Review

Elizabeth Chapin ~ ChapinChick

You can’t put Dan Kimball in a box. He is a true non-conformist. Sure, some might say his pompadour is evidence of some sort of conformity, but they would be wrong. Dan just doesn’t fit into anyone’s box. He loves Rockabilly, but he doesn’t fit the Rockabilly fan stereotype. He’s a Pastor, but he doesn’t fit the Pastor stereotype either! While Dan has wrestled with feeling like a misfit at times, his tendency to nonconformity has been an encouragement and inspiration to many. In his latest book, Adventures in Churchland, Dan recounts his early experiences with the Church, the pressure to conform to a Christian sub-culture that just didn’t fit with what he was reading in the Bible, and his subsequent wrestling over many years with what it means to be the Church Jesus envisions.

In Part One, Dan describes his entry into Churchland and his struggles with feeling…

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November 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

Elizabeth Chapin ~ ChapinChick

“It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label. To identify is to control, to limit. To love is to call by name and so open the wide gates of creativity. But we forget names and turn to labels.” –Madeline L’Engle

LGBTQ is the latest in a long list of labels used to identify people with sexual orientations that differ from the heterosexual norm. I can never quite remember the right order – or even the right list, so I looked it up. LGBTQ is an initialism that represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning. And questioning is exactly what Jenell Williams Paris does so well in The End of Sexual Identity. As a professor of anthropology, Paris understands culture. As an evangelical who was “carried in utero to Sunday morning worship and Wednesday evening…

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October 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Gospel Coalition, Rachel Held Evans and the Missionary Position

He asked me to give a toast at the wedding. While I wasn’t the one who introduced them, I got to play a big part in their early dating days. After all, they were young adult leaders in a youth ministry I was leading for a year. I got to see their love bloom and grow up close and personal, and I was often asked to give advice in the midst of some of the struggles that are part of parcel of learning to love. I’m excited to celebrate with them at their wedding today.

Grandpa Simpson: “In my day, women didn’t make a sound!”

I haven’t given a toast in a long time and weddings have changed quite a bit since I got married 20 years ago. Everybody wants to do something different. So, I asked a few more questions about what was expected of me. We’ve had our share of conversations about sex, so, I warned, “Maybe I’ll make a toast to your sex life in explicit detail…” He responded, “may we not be limited to the missionary position…” He always knows how to make me laugh.

I couldn’t help thinking about this as I interacted with readers on the Rachel Held Evans blog as Rachel responded to Jared Wilson’s blog which included talk about sex and submission (the original blog post has since been taken down as our friend Scot McKnight and others requested).

Why do we call sexual intercourse with the man on top and the woman on bottom the missionary position?

I’ve done some writing on this blog about the missional church and the shift from a Christendom-conquering-colonizing view of mission to a more relational-incarnational view of mission. I’ve also written on how important our use of language is in effecting cultural change.

One of the most disturbing parts of Jared Wilson’s post quoting Doug Wilson’s Fidelity is the use of the following description of sex as: A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

Rachel Held Evans was one of the loudest voices in response. After I read her response, I wondered if my friend Jim Henderson had been talking with her.

One of Jim’s favorite maxims is, “It’s not about sex, it’s about power.”  He writes in his latest book, The Resignation of Eve, “People who have power often don’t think about it, but people who don’t have power think about it all the time.”  And as we’re told from the media, men think about sex all the time. And they are often the ones with the power. So, we should not be surprised when men post such things and fail to realize how powerful their words are – and how powerfully they may hurt others.

I wonder, what if we decided to reform our thinking around sex in the relational-incarnational ways that we are changing our thinking around mission? No more conquering and colonizing. But relating to one another in ways that seek understanding and empower one another to be fully human.

There has been so much violence done in the name of mission and submission over the years when mission was primarily viewed in the conquering and colonizing way. Is it any wonder that when we use such language in relation to sexual intercourse that those being conquered and colonized would feel violated? Jesus rejected the conquering and colonizing structures of his day when he refused to be the King in the way the people wanted him to be king. A Jesus kind of power is not a power over, but a giving up and giving away kind of power.

It’s not about sex. It’s about power.

I hope we can learn together how to better steward our power even in the most intimate of spaces – the marriage bed.

I’m continuing last week’s book offerings for my summer #freebookgiveaway. Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm.

This week’s choices are:

This week’s choices are:

The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone? by Jim Henderson The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson

Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher

July 21, 2012 at 9:18 am 5 comments

Giving Up on Organized Religion?

The Huffington Post reports, “American Confidence In Organized Religion At All Time Low” today. And I am not surprised. My friends Dan Kimball and David Kinnaman have been writing books about this general topic for a while. They Like Jesus But Not The Church, unChristian, You Lost Me, and Adventures in Churchland all broach this topic – offering helpful criticism of the church from within. I’m about two thirds of the way through Dan Kimball’s latest book and find his insights into the mess of organized religion encouraging. Dan writes:

Some of the negative press about the church is understandable, but what is often missing is reporting that communicates all the good things the church has organized to accomplish for the good of others. And that sometimes gets forgotten when people criticize the church. Without downplaying the wrongs that have been done by the church, we also need to acknowledge the many things that the church has done right.

Dan goes on to note some of the things he’s experienced that the church is doing right.

It’s easy for us to rail on all the things the church has done wrong. In my research on talking to girls about sex, I’m finding more than enough to be critical of. But I don’t want to forget the good that the church has done and is doing. There have been days when I have wanted to give up on organized religion. But like Dan, I continue to be committed to the church. While there are things that I have been concerned with even in my own local church, the good that the church is doing helps to keep me hanging on. My recent trip to Thailand to work to stop sex trafficking is because my local church, Overlake Christian Church (OCC), has been working there for over ten years giving birth to Global Breakthrough – an organization committed to bringing hope, dignity and quality of life to the oppressed of the world. The Student Ministries at OCC has been a great place for my teens to participate in God’s mission and wrestle with honest questions about their faith and sees hundreds of young people serve the world both locally and globally each year. My friends at Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline are actively involved in strengthening at-risk youth and families in the region through their partnership with Turning Point Seattle. I could mention many more, but you get the idea. There’s a lot of good going on even here in one of the least religious states in the country.

We can’t ignore the wrongs that have been done or are being done by the church, but let us not forget the good. And let us participate in the good. We are invited to be cooperative friends of Jesus living lives of creative goodness in the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of others. What are you and your churches doing for the sake of others?

One of the ways I hope to participate in creative goodness this summer is by giving away books that inspire conversation around the topics of church and sexuality. Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm. Here’s a list of the books I have offered so far in my summer #freebookgiveaway:

This week’s choices are:

The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone? by Jim Henderson The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson

Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher

Last week’s choices were:

Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of  Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide

Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion by Dan Kimball Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion by Dan Kimball

The first week’s choices were:

Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Communityby Andrew Marin

The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are by Jenell Williams Paris The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are by Jenell Williams Paris

I’m not giving up on organized religion today. Instead, I’m hoping to help reorganize the religious organizations I participate in to be more in alignment with God’s Kingdom. And I’m praying with the church through the ages, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

July 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm 5 comments

“Love is an Orientation” Book Review and #freebookgiveaway

Each week this summer I am giving away books and offering a choice of two titles – one written by a man and one by a woman. Just to be fair.

Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm.


This week’s choices are:

The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone? by Jim Henderson The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson

Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher

The first week of the #freebookgiveaway I offered Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. I have not finished reading it yet, but my friend Peter Benedict recommends the book and sent me his review.

Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin

Love Is an Orientation Book Review by Peter Benedict

Love Is an Orientation is on of the most important books on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) issues that any follower of Jesus could read. Andrew Marin’s story lends power to his writing. His life and work give him authority to challenge those of us who have looked at gays as somehow “less than” straight people.

My faith community (a Vineyard church, somewhere in the vicinity of the conservative evangelical stream) didn’t discuss homosexuality much. When we did, I was given the chance to preach two “truths:” 1) Homosexual acts violate the Bible’s teaching, and 2) The greatest truth of the Bible for most of us on this issue is that Christians must love gays as much as anyone else.

These were safe truths. No one confronted me about them. I had one friend who was trying, in her words, to use our weekly 12 step recovery meeting to deal with “an unwanted gayness.” She was one of our best servant leaders.

Then that same friend reported that God had, during a sermon in which we were teaching about the various reasons divorce might be acceptable, told her that she was beautiful just as she is, and that she could date women. I told her that I loved her, and that I trusted her to hear God in the coming weeks and months. I also began to consider my stance: Was she necessarily deceived or wrong? Could this have been the voice of God?

I realized, over the coming days, that this needed to be discussed in community, so I got her permission and brought up the situation with my fellow staff members. We realized, in a few short weeks, that we represented very nearly the complete range of views on GLBT issues in the church. We had one staff member who was completely affirming; one who was mostly affirming; one who described himself as “somewhere in the middle;” one who was welcoming but not affirming; and one whose primary concern was that we get the person in question out of leadership as soon as possible.

Once we realized the disparity in our positions, we knew we needed to dive into the issue if we wanted to move forward with anything like unity. There was a lot of pain among us, as we considered whether or not we could stay together. For some of us, this was an issue of a Christian being prevented from service because of prejudice. For others, this was an issue of Biblical integrity.

We decided to read Love Is an Orientation and discuss it together. We couldn’t possibly have made a better choice. The book’s greatest strength is also its most frustrating characteristic: it doesn’t discuss whether or not gay lifestyle is sinful. In retrospect, that helped us more than anything else. We read lots of articles and books, and those on the affirming side promoted the affirming material, while those on the welcoming-but-not-affirming side promoted material that supported their position. Only one of us changed perspectives – God moved me to become affirming, but not as a result of any material proposed among us. That’s a story for another time.

What we needed was a way to move forward in love for one another, while still disagreeing (strongly!) about the theology and practice of GLBT lifestyles.

Marin’s book, which is at turns transparent, sensitive, confrontational, challenging, troubling, moving, and humbling, provided us a framework to get where we are today: still in disagreement, but able to be together, with our gay friend still among us. We didn’t come up with a solution that makes any of us particularly happy (and as a result, sharing it wouldn’t help anyone else… each person, family, church community, etc. needs to do their own work), but we found a way forward that works for us.

Marin’s use of scripture is challenging; I didn’t always think he was playing fairly, but he made a good number of Bible-based arguments that challenged me to consider how I can love others. In the end, though, it was his story, the story of a genuine homophobe learning to love gay people, that disarmed us.

I owe a portion of my love for my community and for my place within it to Andrew Marin. I’ve passed his book to conservative, liberal, and gay friends, with generally glowing and positive reviews.

Please give it a read, and weigh in with what you think.

If you want to contact Peter to hear more of his story, you can connect with him on Facebook. Peter will also be checking the comments here and joining in on the conversation.

July 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

You Make Me Wanna Be BRAVE!

Karen and Merida featured in OCC Student Ministries “The Paper”, October 2011 Edition

She has the most beautiful wild-and-wonderful curly red hair! When I was young, I wanted curly red hair just like hers. No, I’m not talking about Merida,  firstborn of the Clan DunBroch from Pixar’s latest animated movie Brave – I’m talking about my own firstborn daughter, Karen Chapin. Our youth pastor was the first to let us know of her striking resemblance with the latest Disney princess when he reported on it in the youth ministry newspaper!

Karen Chapin, Senior Portrait 2011

Seriously, my daughter Karen’s hair is just as beautiful as Merida’s – no, it’s more beautiful, because it’s real. Merida is a made-up character on the movie screen – my Karen is a real, living, breathing, brave young woman who has had to face her own “my mom is a bear” moments. We’ve been anticipating the release of the movie for months and it came out just in time – the weekend after my birthday. We dragged our four daughters out of bed last Saturday morning for a matinee with the family and our closest friends. We enjoyed the wild adventures of Merida, firstborn of Clan Dunbroch, especially the way the movie broke with common fairytale gender roles and happily ever afters.

Since my girls are all teenagers now, I didn’t have to read a “Parent’s Guide to Brave” (though for parents of younger kids, I highly recommend this one). I heard the movie was supposed to be a “Feminist Bet” – flipping on the traditional fairytale script by refusing to feature a prince charming. Some have already written on their disappointment with the way the men are portrayed in the movie, but I thought the story was brilliant on many fronts.

(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, what follows may reveal more details than you are ready for…)

The Power of Story

One of the functions of fairytales is to expand our imagination, and Brave does a beautiful job of this. As Madeline L’Engle writes in Walking on Water, “it was through story that I was able to make some small sense of the confusions and complications of life. … Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” Brave invites us to live life creatively instead of fearfully – even when we are faced with uncertainty for the future,  unpredictability in the moment, and unfortunate pain from the past. Brave invites us to hold onto our heritage and learn from our cultural past without being trapped in tradition. Brave invites us to imagine a world where we make better choices than those who have come before us. “This ability to make choices, to help write our own story, is what makes us human, even when we make wrong choices, abusing our freedom and the freedom of others. The weary and war-torn world around us bears witness to the wrongness of many of our choices” reminds L’Engle.

The ferocious bear Mor’du is an example of the wrongness of many of our choices. Her father’s retelling of the fateful day when he lost his leg to the fearsome bear becomes the woof of the fabric of Merida’s imagination as she finishes her father’s tale for him around the dinner table. Perhaps it’s his fear of the powerful bear from his cultural legends that inspires him to give Merida a bow and arrow as a young lass, for even princesses need to learn to fight. His encounter with Mor’du that fateful day only serves to reinforce his choice to arm his daughter with the skills necessary to protect herself from the horrors of the world.

The traditions passed on to Merida through her mother’s storytelling of the warring clans become the warp in the fabric of her imagination. These stories keep the reality of our propensity for wearying ourselves through fighting and war in the forefront of her mind – and it’s her mother’s fear of war among the clans that motivate her to uphold the cultural tradition of arranging marriages to keep the peace. After all, that was the life she chose and it worked out well for her. But her fear limited her imagination.

The Power of Tradition

Tradition has many functions. When held onto out of fear it can suck the life out of us. But, when listened to as story, tradition can make us wise and even help to expand our imagination. Elinor holds onto the tradition of arranged marriage for her daughter out of fear of war breaking out in the kingdom. Merida grows up listening to the stories of her cultural history and the warring clans, but initially rejects them because they were tied to the confining tradition of arranged marriage. Yet, in the midst of rejecting the tradition of arranged marriages, Brave challenges our imagination about arranged marriages by showing us the obvious bond of love between Queen Elinor and King Fergus – whose marriage was also arranged. Arranged marriages often serve as a way for families, tribes, clans, cultures and kingdoms to live in cooperation with one another. When people are bonded by marriage (and hopefully love) the odds are they will learn to live well together.

Queen Elinor is a strong leader, which is apparent as the leaders of the clan look to her for final decisions. She chose to exercise her leadership role within the confines of tradition and the artificial societal restraints imposed on her and she expected her daughter to do the same. But Merida wants to make a different choice – she wants to change her fate. Her father seems uncertain about the cultural traditions as he encourages Merida to develop skills that were traditionally inappropriate for women, but he’s not quite ready to go up against his wife and challenge the tradition of arranged marriage. So, Merida, who listens well to the stories and rules of tradition, chooses to challenge tradition in her own way.

In accordance with our laws, only the firstborn may compete for the hand of the fair maiden. -Queen Elinor

I am Merida, firstborn descendant of Clan DunBroch, and I’ll be shooting for my own hand!

Powerful Women

While Brave is filled with images of strong women, some have criticized the portrayal of the men in the movie as upholding negative stereotypes of men being weak buffoons. The men are the one’s making the jokes and flipping their kilts to moon one another. But I wonder what’s so wrong with a bit of humor? After all, laughter is the best medicine. My husband uses humor to process new ideas and to deal with his discomfort with change. Humor is also a defense mechanism and a way of processing pain. Humor bypasses our logical and analytical faculties, sneaks around our fears and our pain, and allows truth to seep in through our emotions. King Fergus had experienced significant pain and fear in his encounter with Mor’du. Should we be surprised that his character is the one to provide the comic relief? I wonder if sometimes using humor is one of the bravest things we can do when faced with the uncomfortable and unmanageable realities of life?

I’m not sure I agree that the men are portrayed as weak. Are we calling King Fergus weak because Queen Elinor’s strength is in diplomacy? King Fergus was strong enough to survive a bear attack – is that not good enough? And the clan leaders are celebrated for their cooperative friendship that served to keep the peace for many years – is that not a strength worth noting? When I first started dating my husband he was a brand-new Christian. I was asked by one of my pastors if he would be able to be a strong spiritual leader. My husband is a very strong man in many ways – and spiritual too! But, his strength and spirituality are expressed differently than patriarchal Christian gender norms prescribe. Does that make him any less of a spiritual leader? His strength is in his serving and giving and providing, as well as his dry sense of humor, not in teaching or leading or diplomacy. He sacrifices so much for our family, and I can guarantee you that if a bear attacked, he’d give his right leg to defend us. If we want to make room for strong women leaders in society, perhaps we need to make room for weak men – or at least for men to be strong in a variety of ways that don’t always conform to church or cultural gender norms. We don’t all need to be strong or be the leader in the same ways at the same times.

King Fergus was known for his physical strength – he is the Bear King, but it isn’t his physical strength that saves that day. After all, one of the morals of this fairytale has to do with the legend of Mor’Du and how his desire for power through physical strength is his undoing and leads to war in the kingdom. While Elinor and Merida need healing in their relationship, Fergus and the Prince trapped in the bear body of Mor’Du (which means death) need healing and deliverance as well. Fergus is bent on revenge and the Prince is trapped in a living death by his prideful choice of seeking power over others. Death and revenge are not good places to dwell in life. Just as Merida and Elinor are blind to their own versions of pride, Fergus and the Prince are blinded by their pride as well. And what is the remedy? The power of a mother bear’s love.

Merida and Elinor

Merida and Elinor

Some argue that Brave is simply a mother-daughter tale and may not have lasting appeal among the boys and men in our society. I hope they are wrong. While the conflict between Merida and her mother certainly feature prominently in the story line, there is enough adventure and complexity in Brave to inspire us all and expand our imaginations. We need more good stories to help expand our imagination. We are living in a highly anxious society that is, like some of the characters in Brave, fearful of the worst case scenarios for our future. We live in a world where many of our personal decisions, societal laws and religious activities are borne out of fear. When all we can imagine is the worst case scenario, we stop imagining and start escaping.

The Power of Memory

Remembering our past rightly is a difficult task and Brave shows us the complexity of this task. Merida’s parents only tell her part of the story – and these memories and stories are uses to control and protect, and define their existence in so many ways. Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World notes, “By distorting our memories of wrongs committed or suffered, we insulate ourselves from unpleasant truths about ourselves.” As Merida follows the Will-O-Wisps into the beautiful and dangerous mystical forest, the truth is revealed about her cultural history and the true identity of Mor’du. Her father’s memories of the wrongs done to him by Mor’du shape his identity, defining himself as The Bear King. But equally so, his identity is chained to the injuries he suffered and shapes the way he reacts to others – including his wife-turned-mamabear! Remembering rightly is a critical feature of healing for broken relationships. We must learn to live with the past without it’s wounds being kept open by the blade of memory. We must find ways to be reconciled to our past so we will not be chained to the pain and blinded into reacting without thinking.

Mor’Du from Disney Pixar’s Brave

The frightening deliverance scene in the majestic forest, while scary and intense, is magical in so many ways. But, some Christians criticize the use of magic in fairytales and fear that exposing our children to make-believe magicians will lead them to rebellion. After all, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sam. 15:23) But don’t we all want the easy way out sometimes? We want someone else to do the work for us, we want to find a system of belief (magic, religion, politics) to set things right for us. We want the power to be great leaders or the power to change our fate – but we look for that power in the wrong places. That’s not how God created the world to work. God created us for relationship and it’s in the context of healing broken relationships on the individual level and the societal level that we will set things right and find healing for the world. God invites us to be cooperative friends in this healing process. While I do believe witchcraft in general is not good, even God uses our turning to witches for good purposes – to show us where our faith has gone awry, to turn us to depend on the one power that is strong enough to overcome all evil – the power of love. And God is love.

The Power of Love

King Fergus and Queen Elinor give us an imagination for a cooperative relationship of love where gender roles don’t have to be strictly adhered to. When love overcomes our fears, we can find a way to live together in peace and imagine new ways to live lives of creative goodness for the sake of others. We identify with the characters in fairytales when they reflect our reality – even the reality that sometimes men are buffoons. But they also call us into a new reality and expand our imagination for new ways of thinking and being.

In the end we see Merida is just like her mother in many ways, but she is also just like her father. She turns out to be quite the skillful diplomat as well as a fierce warrior. I wonder, will movies like Brave help us make room for more generous expressions of what it means to be male and female? Can we be OK with “weak” men? Can we give up our traditions and our desires for power and revenge imagine new ways to change the world for the better?

Some are concerned about the scary bears and rightfully so. Parents of young children should be cautious about taking them to see this movie. Parents are the best judge of when their own children can handle the intense themes and imagery of Brave. We love the bears in Brave and I wouldn’t change a thing about how they are portrayed in the movie and the part they play in the story. After all, isn’t there a scary bear living inside of each of us?

Brave helps me want to face the beastly bear that lives inside of me, to recognize any harm I’ve done to my girls when I’ve forgotten who I am and given in to my less-than-human nature. Brave inspires me to work with my family to repair the brokenness in our relationships, to seek healing from our wounds from our families of origin, and be better human beings.  Brave encourages me to give my girls a voice and an imagination for new ways of cooperation in the Kingdom and new ways of loving.

Thank you, Disney Pixar, you make me wanna be Brave.

You don’t have to know how to wield a sword or shoot a bow and arrow to be Brave. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is lay down our pride and mend our broken relationships.


In honor of two brave friends who tell stories well and help expand our imagination about what it means to be cooperative friends of Jesus, I’m giving away two more books this week to six people who sign up to receive monthly updates. I will select six winners who have signed up to receive monthly updates and contact them via email to make their book selection. I will also be posting book reviews of these books. If you are selected as a winner and want to submit your own book review, I will post your book review here as well. Here are the choices:

Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of  Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide

Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion by Dan Kimball Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religionby Dan Kimball

July 1, 2012 at 8:56 am 6 comments

Are Ladyboys Gay? + #freebookgiveaway

Her white hair stood out in the sea of gray-haired dirty old men. I know, I’m stereotyping – not all the men in Pattaya were dirty and old. Some were dirty and young. Some were middle-aged and mostly clean looking – though who knows what was going on in their heads. It’s hard not to stereotype when you are people watching. I did plenty of people watching on Walking Street in Pattaya, along with my friend Carol and her white hair.

Carol is a very well-put-together woman with many grandchildren. She works and travels with Prisoners for Christ and has seen her share of the darker side of life. This was her first time seeing up close and personal the profession she’s only heard about from inside a jail. She was shocked. If her hair hadn’t already been white, I wonder if it would have turned white after our first night on Walking Street. She didn’t want to go back.

The things we saw in Pattaya are more than I could describe in a simple blog post, especially on Walking Street (the infamous and elaborate Red Light District in Pattaya). But, I will try to give you a few snapshots of some of the things we experienced.

The Men

  • Dirty Old Men: Yes, there were many gray-haired older men. I’m sure some of them were sweet old men just looking for companionship. But I’m also sure there was a fair share of dirty old men who’ve been coming to Pattaya year after year for a good time.
  • Dorks: Another demographic was the awkward middle-aged man. There was just something about him that indicated his lack of social prowess – maybe it was the large-rimmed glasses, the pants belted a little too high, or the stuttering and stammering. They usually traveled alone.
  • Wolves: They travel in packs and the packs come in various shapes and sizes. The bachelor party pack, the business junket pack, the Middle-Eastern macho-man pack. I’ve heard these “packs” often share – 1 or 2 females hired for the whole group.
  • Neophyte: These were the really young ones. Some didn’t even look old enough to drink legally. There were a few father-son teams – probably on “coming of age” trips.
  • Tomcats: Sometimes solo, sometimes with a friend, these guys were aggressive and often tattooed and flat-topped. They had muscle, and you could tell they weren’t afraid to use it.
  • Pimps: The dealers standing in the middle of the road hawking the wares, showing off lists of “menu items” for the Go Go and other places that were a few steps off the beaten path. The were undiscriminating, shoving the list in everyone’s face including mine.

The focus of our trip was not on the men – though we couldn’t really avoid them. Case in point: on our last day on Walking Street, a large and very drunk man tried to buy one of the ladies on our team. At first he wouldn’t take no for an answer, but after two of us rushed to shoo him away he finally gave up.

The Women

The women on Walking Street were an entirely different story. I was surprised by how many tourists of all shapes and sizes filled Walking Street. We even saw some family groups with young children strolling along! While the streets were filled with all sorts of people, the bar stools were usually occupied by men, with occasional women scattered here and there. We were some of those scattered women. And as I noted in last week’s post – we weren’t there for the sex.

We visited quite a few bars and encountered many very lovely women – or at least they all appeared to be women. But not all of them were born female – an those were the people who interested Carol the most – the ladyboys. We learned about them early in our trip and were taught how to pick them out in a crowd. I didn’t list them under the category of men, because, well, they are ladyboys and they are a common sight not only on Walking Street but in the stores in the malls, the restaurants on the streets, the hotel staff and other shops and businesses in Pattaya, Thailand. I’ve heard that many aspire to the most famous job a ladyboy could get – dancing at Tiffany’s and competing in the Miss Tiffany’s Universe Beauty Pageant.

Ladyboys are are born male, but most internally identify with the female gender. Some undergo hormone treatment starting at a young age – before they transition into manhood. They often opt for cosmetic surgery and many aspire to and obtain gender reassignment surgery. Ladyboys are becoming more accepted in Thai culture and are often called kathoey. According to The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality on Thailand, “Thai people mainly see the kathoey as either the ‘third gender,’ or a combination of the male and female genders.” But many ladyboys, especially those who have undergone complete gender reassignment surgery, consider themselves female. Even some who have yet to complete the gender reassignment see themselves as female and most refer to each other using feminine terms.

We visited Tiffany’s one night just after the show was letting out and were able to see some of the most popular ladyboys in town. The cabaret performers pose for pictures (and tips) with the patrons after the show. Many of the patrons are farang (foreigners) and are willing to pay a pretty penny to have their picture taken with these rare beauties. One of our new ladyboy friends came with us and was thrilled to have her photo taken with her role models. We tipped well. I was most interested in the shoes. My second daughter has been known to buy what my husband calls “Herman Munster” shoes. They are all the rage here in Thailand, especially with the ladyboys. I don’t quite understand why, since many of them are already six feet tall or taller!

The thing that surprised me the most about many of the ladyboys we met and those we saw in the pictures of Miss Tiffany’s Universe Pageant was how beautiful they are. I mean, seriously beautiful. I’ve met my share of transvestites when I lived in NY and these ladyboys were nothing like them. I think one of the biggest reasons for the differences is that many of the transvestites I met in the past had transitioned to manhood and then decided to cross-dress. I think I’ve only met one transgender woman in my life (before going to Pattaya) and she had transitioned after becoming an adult male. Perhaps one of the reasons the ladyboys are so successful at looking like females is that they transition while they are still boys. I imagine some of them transition later, and some transition in varying degrees. Our friend told us that by age 12 she knew she wanted to be a ladyboy and that by age 15 she started hormone treatments. She is a lovely person. She doesn’t consider herself gay – she considers herself a woman who likes men.

It’s amazing to see what medical science and a bit of creative make-up can do to transition a human born as a male to become a female in so many ways. This brings into question my beliefs about what it means to be male and female. I’ve already been wrestling with many questions about gender identity and how it is tied to our biological sex. This experience just adds a whole new layer of complexity. What if we could change our sex easily – would we and should we? What does it mean to be male or female – is it purely based on whether we have XX or XY chromosomes? What part do we play in determining our sexual identity? What role does society play? What role does science play? This leads me to a whole new set of questions about genetic engineering and intersexual conditions. If we could decide the sex of a baby before they were born, would we/should we? What do we do with the people who are born with intersex conditions (possibly 2%) – who decides what gender they should be? Should we wait until just before puberty to involve them in the decision? What about all the people who are born one sex but identify with the opposite sex’s gender identity? Are some people actually born gay? What is the role of gender identity in our understanding of what it means to be human and reflect the image of God? When we get our new bodies, those eternal bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-58), in the coming kingdom – will we be sexed? If we live forever in the coming kingdom, will there be any more need for sexual intercourse and reproduction?

I know, you’re probably not wondering about those things. But just in case you are, I’m inviting you to read some books with me this summer. And I’m giving away three copies of each to a few who are interested. Just sign up to receive monthly updates and I will select six winners to receive their book of choice. Here are the choices:

Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Communityby Andrew Marin

The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are by Jenell Williams Paris The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Areby Jenell Williams Paris

Next Friday I will select six winners who have signed up to receive monthly updates and contact them via email to make their book selection. I will also be posting book reviews of the books. If you are selected as a winner and want to submit your own book review, I will post your book review here as well. Thank you for choosing to read my musings about sex and sexuality. It’s much more fun to think about these things with others.

June 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm 8 comments

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