Sometimes an idea for writing comes to me out of a conviction of sin. Months ago, at the beginning of primary season, I didn't know anyone who supported Trump. My first reaction to his presidential bid was bewildered amusement, then as he gained in the poles, fear. I thought, "Who are these Trump voters?" I realized that there was huge demographic of Americans who I am profoundly out of touch with. I began hearing stats in the early primaries about how Trump voters were more likely to be poor, have less formal education, and attend church rarely. I realized I don't know Trump supporters because I surround myself with (mostly) urban, educated people. Poorer whites were a demographic off my radar and, the more I thought about it, I realized that it was a demographic overlooked by a lot of urban evangelicals and mainline churches. So I called a pastor friend and we talked this over. By the time I got off the phone an hour later, I knew I had to write on this topic. To me, it wasn't about Trump anymore; it was about the way that our own urban biases and (sometimes) city snobbery can impede our ministry as a church. I have read more articles/books, interviewed more folks, and wrote more drafts for this piece than anything I've ever published (besides my book...although I didn't do interviews for my book so that was unique to this piece.) I learned a lot. Anyway, read it here: I Overlooked the Rural Poor...Then Trump Came Along. It is published in this month's CT print magazine as The America I Forgot.
Then, check out Tony and Jen Holmes Curran's church's site: here! And watch their video (above). I interviewed Jen as I was researching this piece and got to know her a bit. She is wise, passionate, and loves her church family! If you resonate with my piece, one response would be to donate to their church! They are doing vital and beautiful work! You can donate here.
Another response would be to talk to leaders in your denomination about the need for a network/support system for rural pastors and churches. In my interview, the # 1 thing I found among all rural pastors was a sense of loneliness. Alongside of needed efforts to reach urban areas, we need denominations intentionally connecting, supporting, and nurturing rural pastors and churches.
Lastly, one of the pastors I interviewed and another lay person I interviewed called rural poverty "silent poverty" and "invisible poverty" (which sadly had to be cut due to word count). Compared to urban poverty, the rural poor are more geographically spread out-- a struggling family may live down a gravel road that no one ever drives down in a house that no one ever passes. Consequently, it can be hard to see rural poverty and it is therefore easy to overlook. Let us begin to pray, think, and dream about how we can holistically care for these communities. Even us urban Christians.
This election can serve as a wake up call to call us back to the "least of these" we have too long ignored.
Friends, I have said several times here that this isn't a blog, but is instead a place to simply hang out a shingle, to update those folks who want updates when I write, to have a way that people can contact me, and to gather in one place the things I write and scatter to the winds.
Well, even by those standards, I have failed to update the site in awhile! Since April, I've published several pieces, a lot of interviews, went to Festival of Faith and Writing, and had a really good, chill summer. Also, I finished my book.
But part of that writing and living and book-finishing and chilling has been, unfortunately, not updating this site.
So, I can't get to everything that I woulda/coulda/shoulda posted in the last 4 ish months (but check out the writing section to see the interviews/essays you missed), but here are some highlights:
First, Andy Crouch, a writer, speaker, and leader who I respect and admire, wrote a beautiful foreword to my book. It is a great addition to the book and the best beginning to it that I could imagine. See his name on the top of that cover? How exciting is that? The answer is very. Very exciting. I am so grateful to and for Andy Crouch. You can pre-order the book here.
Second, Englewood Review of Books named my book one of the 25 most anticipated books of the fall. If you don't know about Englewood, check them out. They love books, which is a very great quality.
Third, I am so happy to be part of the Renovare book club this year. What an honor to have my book with such great ones. Check out the book club here and join for great reading and discussion! It is a spiritual formation focused online interactive book club. This will be good.
Fourth, I am very grateful to my support team (and by that I mean my husband Jonathan and friend Rebekka) for adding new features to this site, including a book page. A book page! That's cool! And a speaking schedule. In general, they updated and spruced the place up. Look around. If I'm speaking near you or if you want to fly on over, please join us! (More on the Anglican Family Conference in September here!)
Lastly, I have a new piece coming up in the print edition of Christianity Today. I want to tell you a little bit about the "behind the scenes," but that'll have to be tomorrow...
A lovely cover. Big thanks to InterVarsity Press (IVP)!
This releases in December...why don't you go ahead and plan on getting it for everyone for Christmas. With a jar of jam. To match the lovely cover.
This began as a really long facebook post and (since really long facebook post are annoying) turned into a post for The Well. This is about why I believe the gospel in spite of my propensity toward doubt.
Check it out here.
Here's a piece I wrote for her.meneutics: The Gender Conversation We Aren't Having
I've been kicking around the ideas in this piece for a while, dissatisfied by a lot of the conversation I find about gender in evangelicalism.
I felt like any talk about women devolved immediately into arguments about Greek verbs--everyone smugly secure in their own theological position. Meanwhile, no one was talking about sexism as a reality, as a sin. In fact, arguing theology could actually be a way to avoid the messier, truer, more vulnerable conversations about privilege, shame, bias, and gender that we need to be having.
I also felt like sometimes these egalitarian-complementarian arguments could make us stay in our silos and not deal with realities that the church can (and must) lead in--like seeking healthy marriages and legal protections for women.
I shared drafts of this piece with more people than I normally do and got feedback from those on both "sides"-- a process that helped me think this through and challenged me. As I heard from others, I became more and more convinced that this is a conversation the church needs to have.
One friend told me that members of her church find these labels completely out-of-touch, almost a relic, useless to help them live faithfully as followers of Jesus. And, last week, at a conference with clergy and the thinkers from all over the country, we sat in a circle and talked about these issues (and this piece)-- some of the clergy were from denominations that oppose the ordination of women (with vehemence); others were for the ordination of women. But as we talked about our marriages, ministry, sexism, and flourishing of women, we couldn't even come up with a definition for these words. I'd describe my marriage and a purportedly complementarian pastor would say, "I actually completely agree with your points there and would say the same thing about my marriage." Or a complementarian would talk about the importance of gender differences and a female head pastor would say, "I totally agree with what you are saying." And these were smart, theologically robust leaders. Who sat around and mostly agreed with each other and really liked each other. It made me wonder how much good would come from leaders and church members having these kinds of nuanced conversations, seeking together the flourishing of women wherever we are....so I hope for more.
The flourishing of women has always been a tell-tale sign of the gospel coming to a community--may it be true of the church today!
Hello to you faithful friends or strangers who happen on this site!
So in November, I finished the first draft of my first book (Woohoo!) and then, quite intentionally, took a break from writing for a bit. And also, quite unintentionally, didn't update this site at all.
So a lot was published in the meantime.
First, interviews. The amazing Andie Roeder Moody interviewed me for Christianity Today about pluralism and writing for Christianity Today. You can read that interview (which was very fun to do because Andie is great and asks great questions) here.
Oh, also, in this interview I talked for the first time publicly about my upcoming book so check that out!
Then, I interviewed some other people.
First, I talked with friends of mine from the band Rain for Roots about their project Waiting Songs and helping kids in to Lent. See that here at the Anglican Pastor: Tish's interview with Rain for Roots.
Then, I talked to my friend Laura Waters Hinson on her newest documentary on the life of Lilias Trotter, Many Beautiful Things. Check it out here at the Well: Tish's interview with Laura Waters Hinson.
Also, somewhere in there, I wrote a piece about migraines and my struggle with chronic pain. Interestingly, I got more letters and feedback on this piece than almost any I've written. A lot of folks out there either struggle deeply with chronic pain or want to offer remedies to those who do. If you wrote me about this piece and I haven't yet responded, I am sorry! There was a lot of emails. I do appreciate the notes though! See the piece, here.
CT is featuring my piece today, which looks at how we grapple with evil in history (in our families, nation, and church) and how we--both progressives and conservatives--fail to do so well. It is unlocked for non-subscribers. Check it out on the CT site.
I am grateful to be in Christianity Today this month. This piece emerged during the controversy over flying the confederate flag (which I argued should be taken down). But it deals with a larger question: How do we contend with evil in history--in our families, culture, and in the church? How can we be honest, gracious, humble, and repentant together? How do we avoid pitfalls of traditionalism (on one hand) and progressivism (on the other)?
Check it out here. And tell me your thoughts.
(Also, I must gush that the print version's graphic design is gorgeous. Those CT graphic designers captured the tone of the piece beautifully and creatively. Thank God for good graphic designers, right? They are amazing).
Also, this piece is locked for now and only open to subscribers. When I crack the code (which is not hard except for Luddites like me), I'll post an unlocked version.
Lastly, in my bio in this piece there is announcement: I'm writing a book. It will be published with IVP. It will be out sometime next year or possibly early 2017. There is more to say (and I will, in fact, say more) on that but for now, "HEY GUYS, I have a book coming out." I hope you read it. (I hope I finish writing it :-)). More to come...
I've not updated this space much this summer.
As you may or may not recall, I don't think of this as (or treat this as) a blog but more of a semi-static place that people can come to find more of what I've written. And a place for those who follow my work (and if you do, thank you, I'm grateful to you) to hear when I've published something somewhere.
But that being said, I've published twice and haven't updated you here. It's been a weird summer. Family in the hospital. Traveling. Floods in Texas. House repair. Weird. And busy.
I am still working on a longer project that I'm looking forward to posting about soon.
But, in the meantime, in June, I wrote a piece for The Well that laid down ground rules for discussion after the Supreme Court decision on Gay Marriage. After the Court's decision, as a writer, I felt a kind of pressure to write on it-- it was such a monumental moment for the church and the culture. Yet, the rush to speak made me uncomfortable. This was my attempt to back up, slow down, and engage more deliberately in the conversation. I am so grateful for the feedback I received on this piece--from people across the political and ideological spectrum. You can read it here.
I was really privileged to take part in a poetry project this summer called Lament for the Dead, where poets and writers joined together to write a poem for each person killed by police and each law officer killed in the line of duty this summer. You can read more about the project here. I was assigned a name on July 6 and had to turn in a poem by that evening. It was an intense and moving experience for me. The man I was assigned, a young man in his twenties who apparently suffered from mental illness, lived near me and I still think of him often. We were assigned subjects at random so it was remarkable that I was paired with someone around me. Remarkable and unforgettable. You can read it here.
I wrote a post on facebook to my friends there that got passed around the internet more than I'd planned, so I put it here. Then, it got picked up by Blog con Queso, so it has moved there. Here's the beginning:
I haven't weighed in on the whole Confederate flag debate because, honestly, I can't believe it's even a debate. But, look, I like the South. I like deep porches and macaroni-and-cheese as a vegetable and Live Oak trees and biscuits and mint juleps and slow-talkers. Of course, the South is more than slavery. But though it is more than that, it includes, always, a history of slavery, racism, and systemic brutality.
For the rest, check it out here con Queso.
I'll add here that taking down a flag cannot end racism. Doing so is mostly a symbolic gesture. Symbolic gestures, like symbols themselves, matter, but removing the flag is a baby step. I hope this collective momentum would cause America, particularly white America, to find other, more productive ways of addressing our history and current reality of systemic injustice. We must start by listening to voices of brothers and sisters of color.
And right now, many of those voices are asking that we, together as a society, "Take down that flag."
There are times when I'm tempted to write as one who has things figured out, who has things pretty much together. But my friends at Art House America (have I mentioned that I love them. Read the whole site!) asked me to write and, soon after, followed weeks of upheaval, fear, and feelings of profound vulnerability. So what came as I sat down to write was a from-the-gut groaning for a Rescuer and Redeemer. Read it here.
It's been a crazy few weeks here. Since this piece was written, Texas had major flooding. (Read more on that at my sister's site, here). And my Dad has had major surgery. Please be in prayer for him.
In the South, in Texas, there can be a cultural mandate to be strong, to be "Texas tough." But I increasingly think that it's bogus. We are weak and vulnerable. We are needy for help and grace. Admitting such is to admit reality. And reality is where we need to live, even if it hurts, even if we need to groan sometimes because of it, even if it's embarrassing. So, check out my piece. And check out Art House. It was an honor to get to write for them.
It is raining like crazy here. Flooding is everywhere in Central Texas, including the family home I love most in the world (not my own house, mind you). I am taking this moment where we're all shut in with batten down hatches to update my (long overdue to be updated) site. In the past few months, I've been busy with a longer project that I'll tell you about someday soon.
But in the meantime, I've also written a piece wrestling with race---specifically about how, as a white woman, it is hard to know how to enter the conversation well, when to speak and when to remain silent. This is a hard subject for me to write about and this piece actually began months ago during the Ferguson protests. I ended up just sitting on it and not publishing it for a while, but 4 friends of mine who are all people of color encouraged me to publish it, so after the Baltimore riots, I returned to this piece and began working on it again. Check out the results here. I could not have written this (and would not have written this) without help from a number of editors, especially friends who are African-Americans who gave encouragement along the way. I am very grateful for them and their generosity to me.
Then, I wrote a piece for her.meneutics on maternal imagery for the church, which was a piece for and about Pentecost and a bit of a conflicted love letter to the church. Read it here.
I should go because the rain storm is raging, and I'd hate to miss the opportunity to stare at it. But I can't sign off without acknowledging that while I write here, many in my community have lost their homes and have had severe property damage. Some of these are people who I know and love. Please consider donating to Central Texas Flood Relief. You can do so, right here.
I have a new post up at Her.meneutics on the TV show Parks and Recreation: The Prophetic Voice of Leslie Knope. It was really fun to write this piece because I'm a fan of the show (and I will miss it). And it's kind of Leslie Knope meets Wendell Berry meets Jesus. I got to think about Catholic social thought and Li'l Sebastian in the same piece. When does that happen?
My husband and I rarely have shows we enjoy together (I'm more into beautiful people talking and he's into zombies killing everyone), but we have loved watching this show together. And we have also loved bouncing ideas off of each other about concrete localism and human-scaled social action and Christian witness. So this is a bit of a post-valentine shout out to him.
Check it out and tell me what you think.
A lot of writing has happened in the past couple months but also a lot of life so this page hasn't been updated. I'm working on a longer project so hopefully, I can tell you more about that soonish, but, in the short-term (and the short essay) realm, I had a piece come out in Her.meneutics about the politics of advent. Here it is. Isn't the church calendar helpful and challenging? (Note: In this piece, I also make fun of liturgical calendar addicts like me).
I also had a piece come out on the Christ and Pop Culture blog. This is the first I've written for them, but I've wanted to for months because the quality of thinking and writing over there has impressed me. Did you see Alan Noble's piece on Ferguson and Race? It is powerful.
Anyway, I wrote about the French terrorists, sin, me, and total depravity. Or, if you hate the term total depravity (which you really need not), I wrote about terrorism and the will-turned-in-on-itself. Anyway, I wrote this. Check it out. And I'm grateful to get to be part of the Christ and Pop Culture blog.
Okay, I'll try to keep ya more updated.
And Happy Epiphany to you.
I said I wouldn't write on this often--only when there's a bit of writing news--and, so far, that's indeed been the case. So... long time, no update. Hey, I forgot to mention that I had a post on All Saint's Day over on the InterVarsity blog. My employer asking me to write an intro to All Saints is a bit like being paid to eat chocolate cake with a good, steaming latte. So, that was fun. You can see it here.
Also, I'm excited to share that a post I wrote called Courage in the Ordinary is quoted at length in Michael Horton's new book, Ordinary. Prof. Horton was kind enough to send me a copy of his book and I really recommend it. It's a solid, clear, and grounded reminder of the call to ordinary discipleship that is much needed in today's evangelical conversation. I'm honored to be in the book and encourage you to pick it up. Mine is thoroughly underlined and dog-eared.
You can also hear a conversation that I had with Michael Horton on The White Horse Inn here.
I've been laying low this month working on some slower, longer, murkier potential writing projects, but took a wee break from that when a facebook post of mine turned into a challenge from a friend to write more on the topic of fear. So, here we go: Even Still, Fear Not. I discuss a culture of fear and wonder if believers have forgotten than living without fear is, in fact, a mark of discipleship and something we do well to struggle together toward. This one hits near my heart as a mom and as someone who needs freedom from fear.
My piece for Christianity Today, The Wrong Kind of Christian, sparked some conversation out there on the interwebs. I have written some responses to the responses to my original article and share them here in case you're interested:
Rod Dreher, who blogs at The American Conservative, wrote a post about my article and had a few questions about it, which I addressed in an email to him, which he posted here. In it, I address some of the nuts and bolts of why many religious people would be unable to comply with Vanderbilt's student org policy. Rod is a great writer and I appreciate his encouragement and response to the CT piece!
Matthew Lee Anderson, who blogs at Mere Orthodoxy, wrote a thoughtful post expanding some of the ideas I touched on in my article and was kind to post my response to him, which you can read: here. (In it, I talk about giant coffee cups from the 90's and the Narnian kings and queens...) Being in this online dialogue with Matthew really helped me think more intentionally about joy. It was a gift to get to talk with him and learn from him.
Hi all! The response to my article, The Wrong Kind of Christian, which is now on CT's main page without a paywall (read it here) has been much, much bigger than I anticipated. I am very grateful for the huge number of people who have read and shared the piece and also for those who've contacted me about it. However, because of the large amount of messages I've received about the piece, I am very behind in responding to them. Please know that if you have sent me a message or left me a comment and I have not yet responded, I am not ignoring you (at least not intentionally). This is a busy time of year for us--even without an essay going viral--school is starting and campus ministry is ramping up, so I hope to respond to your messages and comments, but it may take a few weeks. I'll also be slow in posting comments on my personal page. This site itself is new and, thus far, I use it more to update people when I publish a new piece and not as a blog, so I do not maintain it daily. I'm sorry that I cannot respond more promptly. I really appreciate your interest in the piece! I'd invite you see my last post with a few (of many) things to do in response. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment but I ask for patience as you wait for a response.
Peace to you, Tish
My new piece, The Wrong Kind of Christian, is in this month's issue of Christianity Today. Read it here. Right now, you have to subscribe to see the whole thing. But you really should subscribe anyway because it's a great magazine and what are you waiting for?
(Update: The good people at Christianity Today gave me a link to share so non-subscribers can see the whole piece. Here it is. You can view and share this link with non-subscribers. But you should still subscribe.)
During my time at Vanderbilt, I wrote a ton about pluralism and creeds and faith in response to the university's new policy which forbids campus religious groups from having creedal requirements for their leadership. At the end of that year, I intentionally took a long time off from writing about the university or pluralism. Then, last year, more or less as a spiritual exercise, I began to write about Vanderbilt's campus conflict again. I needed to process what had happened that year on campus and writing is how I do that.
Much of what I wrote was heady, philosophical meanderings on the meaning of pluralism. A reporter who I became friends with during the conflict on campus said to me one day, "That's not the interesting part of this story." He told me that he wants to hear my story, what I felt and experienced and wrestled with during that year on campus. So I began to write and this piece slowly emerged. When I finished it, I closed my computer and just wept. It was the closure on that tough, beautiful year. And then it sat on my desktop for months. Eventually, I showed it to the good folks at Christianity Today and lots of editing later, here we are. It is certainly not the final word on the situation at Vanderbilt, it is simply a little bit of one person's story. But I'm very grateful to be able to share it. Huge thanks to Christianity Today and to my colleagues at InterVarsity!
If you read this article and think "I want to do something in response, but what can I do?" (This is what I feel after I read almost anything).
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Donate to campus ministry efforts at Vanderbilt. Ministry expenses are often higher for those groups who lost their registration status. Some have to pay for space off campus, advertising one's group is trickier and often more expensive, and, on campus or off, ministry requires funding. Please consider donating to InterVarsity in Nashville (they are around Vanderbilt but they can't legally use the V-word) here for InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship or here for InterVarsity Asian American Christian Fellowship or here for InterVarsity Medical Christian Fellowship. (Also, I get none of this money so there's no hidden agenda here.)
And/Or you could donate to other partner ministries of ours who also lost their on-campus status: Cru, Navigators, FCA, University Catholic, the BCM, or others. Contact me (through my contact section) for more information about how to donate to these groups .
2. Learn about the role of creeds and think well about pluralism. If I could have had 500 more words, I'd have written more about the role of creeds and more about the need for Christians to recover a language of and vision for pluralism and to lead in seeking pluralism, not just for believers but for all religious and non-religious minorities. To that end, I'd point you to this little gem, an On Being podcast where Krista Tippet discusses the role of creeds with the late Jarislav Pelikan (and they also touch on pluralism). And I would recommend this article by John D. Inazu who says much of what I'd want to say about pluralism (but does a better job than I could). I mostly want to say what he says so very well here:
Pluralism does not entail relativism. Living well in a pluralist world does not mean a never-ending openness to any possible claim. Every one of us holds deeply entrenched beliefs that others find unpersuasive, inconsistent, or downright loopy. More pointed, every one of us holds beliefs that others find morally reprehensible. Pluralism does not impose the fiction of assuming that all ideas are equally valid or morally benign. It does mean respecting people, aiming for fair discussion, and allowing for the right to differ about serious matters...
The argument for pluralism and the aspirations of tolerance, humility, and patience are fully consistent with a faithful Christian witness. And in this age, they are also far likelier to resonate than arguments for religious exceptionalism. The claim of religious exceptionalism is that only believers should benefit from special protections, and often at the cost of those who don't share their faith commitments. The claim of pluralism is that all members of society should benefit from its protections.
3. Share this article. Begin a careful and respectful conversation about faith, higher education, and pluralism.
4. Pray. Please pray for my colleagues who are still laboring at Vanderbilt. Pray for reconciliation between ousted religious groups and the University. Pray for the gospel to go forward there through all religious groups and for Christian students to continue to be encouraged and cared for there as they seek the common good of the university. Pray that faculty and university administrators across America will recover an understanding of and commitment to religious pluralism. Pray for God's kingdom to come through and in the academy. Here is a link to InterVarsity's campus access page for more information about what is happening on certain campuses across America.