Happy Church

Welcome to Happy Church: We exists to preserve the happiness of the happy so we can all be happy.

Take a bulletin from a smiling person.

In the bulletin you’ll see we are going to play a happy song, followed by some happy announcements. Then we’ll have a happy offering. Give an amount that makes you happy. After that, we’ll play two other happy songs. Then we’ll have a happy sermon, filled with humor and inspiration. After that, we’ll have another happy song. And feel free to stay after for the happy fellowship.

At Happy Church, we have only one rule. Be happy. Of course you can be sad, but leave that at home. We’ll be glad to rejoice with you, but we confine all weeping to the pastor’s office.

Her story: How I changed my views on abortion after being raped

My friend wishes to remain anonymous, so I will not name her. But I will say this. She is a gift to the world and she is a gift to God’s Church. 

Hello Friends.

I am not Patrick. Let’s start there. And I am a feminist. I even studied Women’s Studies in college. I was asked by Patrick to write about an experience from my life that’s pretty sensitive. Honestly some of the things I told Patrick I hadn’t told anyone before, other parts I had never told a man outside of my own family. So, I just hope you will take this with that in mind, and understand this is just one woman’s experience.

Before I start I do want to say that if you are uncomfortable with reading about the graphic nature of illegal abortions or sexual assault, please stop reading. I would hate to bring anyone who has experienced those things or are sensitive to them to be triggered by my words.

Today I am going to talk about my journey from 3rd generation radical Pro-Choice advocate to pro-life. And maybe if I get ambitious I will even comment on how modern feminism needs to include pro-life women.

3rd Generation. My grandmother and my mother were/are vocal pro-choice advocates. Neither are Christian and both are liberal in their political beliefs. My grandmother passed when I was only thirteen, but I spent a lot of time with her as a child and she definitely shaped my original set of political ideals.

When I was only ten or eleven years old, George W. Bush proclaimed his intention to overturn Roe V. Wade. As we know now, he was unable to do so. But my grandmother was concerned and she wanted me to know why it was important that Roe v. Wade should stand.

On a drive in the lake country of Minnesota, she explained to me what life was like for women that sought abortions before 1973. She told me of women she personally knew that died from the horrendous back door procedures. Metal coat hangers and fish hooks used to remove fetuses which gave women infections which would kill them in the process. She informed me that women would find a way to have abortions either way, so we as a people needed to provide a safe way for them to do so. I was traumatized at the idea of young women dying of infection. I didn’t think of the pregnancy that was ended, and the life there. I was taught that it wasn’t a life until it can survive outside of the womb on its own. Before the second trimester so many pregnancies end from natural reasons (miscarriages) that I was taught it wasn’t really a baby until after that point. Life started the moment you were born and took your first breath.

And that’s the problem with the debate between pro-choice and pro-life. Both would agree that murder is wrong, but disagree on what constitutes life. Also the pro-choice movement looks to the pro-life movement and sees hypocrisy without seeing it in themselves. It’s a clear example of trying to remove the speck in your brother’s eyes while you have a plank in your own. If you are pro-life, how can you be pro-war, a pro-choice advocate would say. Is not an adult human’s life as valuable as these babies in the womb? They say this while denying that there is life inside the womb. Until we are using the same definition of life, and understanding that all life has dignity and value, child and adult, we are never going to find a place to agree.

Anyway, back to my story. This is the realm of thought that I was in throughout high school. On my purse I even had a pro-choice pin of my mother’s that read, ‘Against Abortion, don’t have one.’ I believed that with proper sex education and affordable and accessible options, not many women would choose abortion, and those that did would have their reasons for doing so. They were too young to be a parent, they didn’t have proper financial or emotional support, or I naively assumed that most, if not all abortions were pregnancies that were the result of rape.

I became a Christian in the fall of 2009, my freshman year in college. And as far as my social policy beliefs stood, nothing really changed when I added Christ to this. I still didn’t believe that an unborn child was alive. I was still adamantly pro-choice but I also started to see that that women needed to know all the other options out there. Accessible birth control and a way to see how the adoption process might go was crucial to providing safe options alongside abortion to women.

The more I grew in my faith, the more I believed that for me personally, abortion was not a choice that I could ever make. It was one that if a friend or family member came to talk to me about I would try and steer them away from. But I still didn’t stand by policy change and I still was unsure about when life really began. And then there was the concept of God’s eternal plan, He would know that those fetuses would be aborted, so He must have a redemption plan for them as well. Honestly, I just tried to avoid the subject at all costs.

But I still at my core didn’t believe that the fetuses that were taken from the womb through abortion were real lives. They didn’t have humanity for me, so there really wasn’t anything to mourn. It was the possibility of life that was lost, not a life itself.

That all changed for me very quickly in the fall of 2012. I was studying in Manchester, England and for the first time since my conversion was without Christian community. I wanted to show my American friends that I was a ‘cool’ Christian, that I was just a normal person like them. I just also believed in God. I did this through a variety of sinful acts that were considered normal for a college student in normal society. This mostly included drinking alcohol excessively, and dressing and dancing provocatively to gain the sexual attention of men.

For the most part I was able to do this without crossing my self-imposed ‘boundaries’. I never blacked out, though there were times that were a bit harder to remember all the facts to, and I never engaged in any overtly sexual acts with the people that I was dancing with in the clubs. (other than the dancing itself)

One night I was past the point of drunkenness, but could still catch my bearings. I knew where I was, how to catch a cab home, and the basic outline of the night. Then I saw a guy with a shirt that I really liked, it was a geeky shirt that I found funny, so I told him so. He offered to buy me a drink, and then another and another. He kissed me and I liked that he wanted me in that way. That was still something new and exciting to me. Another drink and he had me in a cab and was taking me back to my dorm room.

I was raped. I woke up the next morning and had some vague recollections of what had happened once we entered the cab. I remember asking why his accent didn’t match where he said he came from, why he had a hard time remembering his own name. Why he didn’t seem that drunk and I didn’t see him have a drink while we were together.

In the morning I knew what had happened, but I thought that I consented to it. Assumed that he also was drunk and it was just a mistake of too much to drink. It wasn’t until much later that I started to get the sinking feeling that something about it wasn’t right. That I wouldn’t have consented if I was even just a bit less drunk than I was.

About a month later, I started to worry about it more. I was a week late for my period and that was very unusual for me, each day I grew more and more anxious. What would I do if I was pregnant? Where could I even go to get tested? I started looking at women’s clinics and started considering my options.

I always said I would never get an abortion myself, but here it was staring me in the face. Could I go home to the US in a month and tell my friends and family that I was pregnant? That I didn’t know the name of the man who did this, although I think his first name was Nick? I knew I couldn’t raise a kid, I was 21, not finished with school and honestly could barely take care of myself. Some people are mature enough to parent at 21, I was not. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a mom.

I would lie in my little dorm bed and think about this, a never ending soundtrack to my days. I’d go to class, even church and the campus ministry but it was always at the back of my mind. The question that loomed over my head the most, that kept me from saying the obvious choice I wanted to make (adoption) was, “What would my Christian friends think?” I heard their voices in my head telling me all the things that I already was believing about my situation. They would condemn me for being drunk, for having sex outside of marriage, for even going to the club in the first place. They would wonder why I couldn’t fight off the temptation of male attention and just stay home on a Saturday night to go to church in the morning. They would tell me I was of the world, not in the world. They would judge me. They would look at me and see my sin. Because it was my fault that I was raped.

I know now that it was not my fault. I understand that but it was hard to really feel that in my heart. I just saw all my own choices and failures that night. Not the sin that was committed against me.

Could I have an abortion to avoid their judgment? I looked into women’s clinics in the UK that would take US insurance.

Then I remembered an amazing couple I knew back home that were desiring to parent but were unable to conceive. I thought of how they were looking into adoption, hoping that one day a young woman would allow them to raise a child when she couldn’t. I looked at my own flat stomach and thought about my ‘baby’ for the first time. My baby. If I was pregnant, this was a baby. A baby that was wanted by someone out there, even if that person wasn’t me.

It was a baby. That was the moment that the definition of life changed for me.

Now, I wasn’t pregnant. 12 days of misery, probably made worse by the fact that I was stressed out and freaking out about it. (Which for the men out there…  stress can postpone your period)

But something dramatically changed. I was now pro-life.

But my version of pro-life looks different than the mainstream. I prefer to say I am somewhere in the grey area. I believe that we need to do everything that we can to prevent women from ever getting to the point that this is a decision they might have to make. That means sex education at a young age, because I had classmates pregnant at 12. And it means access to birth control. Because if they don’t get pregnant in the first place, they can’t have an abortion. Now you might believe that birth control is a form of abortion, but I can’t sit in that camp. If there is no fertilization and implantation, there is no life. Abstinence is still the easiest and most obvious answer (Abstinence plus education is the school of thought I am in, if you want to do more research) but there needs to be relatively easy access for women to seek options if they do have sex. Once they are pregnant, they can’t just be faced with the question, “Well, are you going to abort it or not?” which is too commonly the question in America. The question needs to be reframed to just ask if the mother is willing and able to raise the child. If the answer is no, she needs to be shown what adoption options are available to her. There are great organizations out there that provide these services, such as New Life Family Services here in Minneapolis. I have known people on both sides of the adoption process with them (biological and adoptive parents) and have seen how they are committed to helping women see that they aren’t trapped in a pregnancy into motherhood. And that motherhood can have many different appearances. The woman I know that’s a bio mom has an open adoption, but chooses for her own sake not to see much of the child (it’s too painful). Her daughter still sees her biological grandparents and gives and receives gifts with her entire biological family. She is being raised knowing that her bio mom is out there, and loves her, and that it was her love that made her make the decision to have another couple raise her.

I want this to be the story that’s so normal it’s not even really considered unique. That adoption is such a widespread option for people that abortion is not even considered other than life and death circumstances.

And that happens through education.

I still consider myself more on the liberal (hence the birth control) and I still consider myself an advocate for women’s rights and feminism (rape culture sucks y’all). But I am pro-life.

Politically speaking what should the government do? Right now? Nothing. We can’t eliminate abortion without first reframing the situation entirely. Until our culture shifts to see adoption and birth control as primary options, we can’t end abortion here in America. As my grandmother taught me at ten years old, “Women are going to get abortions whether it’s legal or not, so we need them to be safe.”

Until we can get women to not want abortions, we will never succeed in ending it.

Why I am Not a Feminist

When I was a junior in high school, all the men in my grade were told to sign up for Selective Service System. There was no parent signature required. Of course, we didn’t have to sign up. But we were told it would be very hard to get a job or get into college if we didn’t.
Speaking of school, the public school system is set up to serve the needs of young girls. Boys have been misunderstood for a century. They are told they are being disobedient when they squirm. If boys don’t get in line and start acting like girls, they will often be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
For most of elementary school through high school, students (almost exclusively) read fiction. Generally speaking, boys and men enjoy non-fiction more than fiction, while girls and women prefer fiction. Because many boys are not interested in fiction, the school system makes them feel stupid. So if you send your son to a mainstream public school, there’s a great chance he’ll feel both rebellious and stupid by the time he’s ten. Maybe this is why women are more likely to finish college.(1)
In 2015, more men than women were victims of intimate partner violence. Men (like many women) often leave this violence unreported. When the violence is reported, police often laugh it off or simply give the woman a slap on the wrist. (2)
Of course I haven’t even brought up the gender gap yet. No, not the great lie of the 72/100 gender pay gap. I am talking about the gender gap in prison. Men are sentenced to longer prison terms than women for the same crimes. “…men receive sentences that are 63 percent higher, on average, than their female counterparts.” (3) 
Every time I tell people I am not a feminist, I am told feminism is simply the philosophy that men and women are equal. If that is true, why are feminists (in general) so quiet on these issues? This is where Men’s Rights Advocates come in. I met a group of Men’s Rights Advocates once. I was at the Global Market in South Minneapolis when I met them. They were spreading the word for similar issues that I just wrote about. I was excited to meet them, until I started talking to them. They were the most bitter men I have ever met.
I have no interest in feminism or the Men’s Rights Movement. I believe both are a delight to the devil. Feminism delights the devil because 1) it is built on half truths (like the gender wage gap, and 2) it is a pro-choice platform. People will read this and say, “No, feminism is simply the belief that men and women are equal.” I get this a lot from feminists. Here’s how conversations typically go with feminists:
“Are you a feminist.”
“No.”
“Why? All feminism is is the belief that men and women are equal.”
“Oh sweet, I’m a feminist. I’d love to go to the rally on Saturday and declare that both men and women are equal. May I bring my pro-life sign that says ‘All men and women are equal, even women in the womb?”
“No. If you want to be a feminists, you have to be pro-choice.”
“Oh, I guess I am not a feminist.”
“So you don’t think men and women are equal?”
So no, I am not a feminist. I am not a feminist because I believe feminism is a trap. I am a Christian though. I believe that men and women are equal. I believe we are all image bearers of God, uniquely designed to show the world what He is like. I love my wife. Her femininity and strength have shown me a fuller picture of the character of God. I love my female-friends. I love how they are all unique. I love how they challenge me, and pray for me, and force me to see the world through a different lens. I pray God gives me a daughter who I can raise to be a lover of God and people, in the ways she has been uniquely designed for.
Please understand that this post has been clothed in a few years of conversation with feminists, Men’s Rights Advocates, and many others. I have many friends that call themselves feminists (see footnote 4). Folks who take on the label of “feminism” are incredibly diverse. I would encourage anyone who liked this post, to not judge all feminists by their label. It’s better to know individuals, than to simply know categories of people. 
(1) Source
(2) Source
(3) Source
(4) Hear me out though. I do not disregard all feminists. When a person tells me they are a feminist, I ask, “How do you define feminism?” If they tell me they define it as the belief that men and women are equal, I typically just leave it at that. I do not want to define people by their terms. 

Why did Obama get a pass on drones?

For the last eight years, U.S. citizens have been silent as President Obama has killed innocent children, civilians, and American citizens with drones. I hope Democrats get excited about peace again when it’s Trump controlling the drone program. But for the last eight years I’ve been shocked at the silence of so many on President Obama’s unconstitutional drone policy. I have seen President Obama do and say good things, but I have never been able to forget this conversation between a journalist and former press secretary Robert Gibbs, after one of the Obama administration’s drones killed the 16-year-old-son of an al Queda terrorist (the son was an American citizen):

Journalist: It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.

Gibbs: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.(1) 

Did you hear that? There was no apology, no sign of regret. Gibbs simply said the 16-year-old-American-citizen should have a better father. Sadly, that’s not something you can control. But the Obama administration did have control over a drone policy that targets underaged American citizens without due process. And for eight years, liberals were silent. Now President Trump will inherit this drone program. Let that sink in.

(1) Source

The Big City Bubble

Five years ago, I moved from Springville, Iowa to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Springville is a town of 1,100 people. Minneapolis is not a giant city, but it is a big city. When I moved to Minneapolis, I expected to gain a more diverse social circle. This didn’t happen though. On the contrary, I found that most social circles are much less ideologically diverse than social circles in small towns. Why is this?

In Springville, almost all my neighbors were white. As I got prepared to move to Minneapolis, I learned that’s it’s an incredibly diverse city, in terms of race and religion. In the Phillips Neighborhood alone, there are over 100 languages spoken. There are practicing Christians (of all denominations), Muslims, Pantheists, Buddhists, and Witches (just to name a handful) in Minneapolis. With all this diversity, it would make sense that ideological social circles would be larger. But for the most part, this isn’t true. The bubble of big cities is much, much smaller than the bubble of Springville, Iowa.

In the last year, I have realized G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, “The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world…. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us.”

Back in Springville, I was placed in a high school of 100 people. I didn’t have an option to choose my social circle based on politics and religious beliefs. As a result, I had close relationships with people of other faiths (including those who had no faith at all). One of my closer school-friends was a pro-choice-liberal-atheist, who attended a Unitarian church. If we were just looking at our beliefs on paper, we never would have chosen to be friends. Fortunately, we were forced together.

In Minneapolis, if I want to join a dinner club of evangelical-libertarians who like basketball, I can. In Minneapolis, social circles are based around similar beliefs and interests. In Springville, social circles are based on geography. If you’re neighbors, you better be friends. If you don’t make friends with those you live around, you’ll be lonely.

This is one reason I scoff when I hear city-dwellers mock small-town Americans for living in a bubble. It is true, to some extent. There is a social bubble in Springville. But it’s not nearly as small as the social bubble in Minneapolis.

Things are not beyond repair. If you want to expand your social circle, it’s quite simple. All you need to do is put down your arrogance and pride, as you extend a hand to those outside your ideological comfort zone.

If Christians are pro-life why don’t they adopt?

Almost every time there is a debate about abortion, advocates for legal abortion say, “If Christians are anti-abortion, why don’t they adopt and why don’t they give financially to the poor?” This is a false rebuttal. Practicing Christians adopt at twice the rate as non-Christians. Both Jews and Christians give more to charity (even non-religious charities) than those who practice other religions or those who have no religion.
Instead of resorting to false ad hominems, advocates for legal abortion should recognize the science of fetal development and respond with compassion to the unborn.

Monogamy doesn’t work for anybody

The Economist shared an article online titled, “What’s Wrong With Infidelity?” I saw it while scrolling through twitter, and decided to see some of the comments. One of the comments said monogamy is an excellent ideal, but “it won’t work for everybody.”

The commenter was wrong. Monogamy won’t work for anybody. People need to work for monogamy. If a society is going to truly thrive, it requires that individuals commit to marriage. A society cannot prosper (for more than a generation or two) without a commitment to marriage.

I am not saying it’s wrong to be celibate. Some of the best members of my community are celibate men and women. Celibacy is not the problem. Promiscuity, cohabitation, adultery, and divorce are the problems. All of these things are bad for society.

The black poverty rate in the U.S. is 27%. The poverty rate for black single mothers is 37%. The poverty rate for black married couples is 8%.

The poverty rate for white, hispanic, asian, and all other ethnicities follows suit. Communities cannot and do not thrive without marriage.

I live in North Minneapolis. There are a lot of great organizations, and well intentioned social programs here. But the best weapon against disfunction and poverty is marriage. The children of married couples in my neighborhood, (generally speaking) have an aura of confident-humility. I’m not sure how to articulate what I see in their eyes, but there’s a difference. Children of married parents tend to be more emotionally and intellectually stable than those whose parents are not married.

My purpose in this post is not to repeat all the statistics you could find in other journals and articles. Neither is my purpose to raise up guilt for single mothers, or people who have divorced. My purpose is to challenge the assumption that monogamy needs to work for you. Monogamy does not work for you. You work for monogamy.

Men (in our sinful state) do not seem to be wired for monogamy. Men (in our sinful state) seem to be wired for multiple sexual partners. Monogamy does not work for men. But men must work for monogamy.

My faithfulness to my wife (and her faithfulness to me) is not only a gift to God and to her. If that was the purpose of my commitment, faithfulness would still be worth it. But the purpose of commitment is even greater. We commit to monogamy to honor God and to honor our (current or eventual) spouse. But we also commit to monogamy as a gift to our children and as a gift to our neighbors.

Promiscuity, cohabitation, adultery, and divorce are all bad for your neighbors and for your children. Study after study is showing this to be true. We need to recover a sense of duty. The sexual revolution tells us we have the power to do whatever we want with our bodies. But we also have the power to create disfunction and poverty with what we do with our bodies.

God has given us the responsibility of caring for our children and our neighbors. We can make good decisions with our bodies that will positively affect current and future generations.

If you are intrigued by this post, I strongly recommend further reading on the subject of marriage and community. A good start would be “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” by Wendell Berry.