Racists are Lazy Thinkers.

Hi Joel,

I’m sure that this could be a regularly column around here, but, at the risk of stating the obvious: racists are lazy, lazy thinkers.

Like, by the time you make a racist conclusion, you’ve had to renounce reason, defy logic, distort data, and ignore (and/or) fabricate facts. It’s one of the reasons why I argue that college campuses, even public ones, have no obligation to cede anything other than the sidewalk (so, no need to rent rooms for meetings or invite speakers using student government money) to racists, misogynists, and other haters. College is a place where you learn to think critically, and, at the risk of making a No True Scotsman argument, no good thinking ever leads to a hateful conclusion.

Anyway, here is today’s entry in my Racists are Lazy Thinkers log:

In September, Spirit Boeing Aerosystems employee Munir Zanial threw a party to celebrate Malaysian Independence Day and, possibly (see Update below), Eid el-Adha.  He rented the company’s lakeside property for the event, as employees are allowed to do. Party-goers took photos of themselves with the Malaysian flag.

He was promptly reported by a co-worker for throwing a party in which people work “Muslim garb” and showed “an American flag desecrated with ISIS symbols.”

Can you imagine it! A Malaysian immigrant with an engineering degree, throwing a pro-ISIS party right out there in the open! What audacity! (Also, what terribly inept terrorists!)

Now, that should have been the little tattle-tales first clue that their complaint had no merit. What are the chances that Wichita, Kansas has an ISIS sleeper cell that gathers together to play cornhole and throw Frisbees?

See the source imageAbove, the US flag. Below, the Malaysian flag. The blue of the Malaysian flag is a nod to the Union Jack, as Malaysia was a British protectorate. The stripes and points on the star represent the 13 states and capitol city. Guess what, Spirit Boeing Aerosystem Good Citizen? The US doesn’t own the patent on putting stripes of a flag. And a crescent isn’t a “symbol of ISIS.” In fact, the flag most often associated with ISIS doesn’t even include a crescent. 

See the source image

The complaint went to the FBI, which closed the case (with eyes rolled, I hope) in October.

But Zanial found in January that his membership to the employee association has been “restricted” due to September’s events. His case has been taken up by the ACLU, which is arguing that he has faced discrimination because of his religion. I hope he wins enough money to retire.

I want to be clear that I’m not discouraging anyone who sees something concerning from saying something. But maybe start with a simple google search of what the Malaysian and ISIS flags look like? Just, like, for your own peace of mind?


PS. Zanial is a Malaysian national who has lived in the US since 2011. Spirit Boeing Aerosystems, by the way, operates a plant in Malaysia that, after this spring’s expansion, will employee 1000 people. It looks to me like we’re wiling to accept the lowered cost of building planes when that work is done by Malaysians but not willing to make space for them here. Way to go, America.


Update: Thanks to my friend DRS for noting that an earlier version of this post, relying on incorrect information that still appears in the link to the Wichita Eaglesaid that Zanial’s party was to celebrate the end of Ramadan. That is incorrect. Ramadan was in May in 2017. Hari Merdeka (Malaysian Independence Day) is August 31. Eid el-Adha, a commemoration of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, was observed at the same time. I should have caught the error. 

Also, thanks to JH for noting that Zanial was an employee of Spirit Boeing Aerosystems, not Spirit Airlines. 

Side note: I have a lot of smart, attentive friends, and I’m so grateful for you!

Iraq, 15 years later.


So: Today marks 15 years since the invasion of Iraq.

It was knowably a bad decision at the time. It became a worse decision when we realized that Saddam Hussein didn’t really command an arsenal of WMDs after all. There was never going to be a good end after that — how do you “win” a war initiated on false premises? — and so far there hasn’t been.

I was a couple of weeks short of 30 when the invasion. I turn 45 this April. I’ve gone from relative youth to middle age in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Since that day, we’ve learned a lot more about what Americans will tolerate: Torture. Mass surveillance. And a persistent belief that we can get everything to go our way, evidence be damned, with the application of little more force. Every failure to destroy our enemies brings forth new calls to summon the will, to summon the mother of all bombs, to kill more, and then to kill more than that, an so forth.

MLK has a famous quote: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I don’t know if I believe that. It’s pretty to think so.

What I think is true is this: The arc of the universe is long, and the fight for justice never-ending. So are the setbacks.

George W. Bush begat Barack Obama begat Donald Trump. The invasion ended Saddam, gave birth to a new generation of militants, and eventually gave way to ISIS. Everything we’ve done to make things better has proven temporary, illusory —or even made things worse.

It’s easy to despair in the face of that. But too much despair allows injustice to take root. So we keep fighting.

What else can we do?

Parental rights v. Armed Teachers

Hi Joel,

Here was are, a month out of the Parkland, Florida shooting and so, I think, a time for check-in: Are we parenting any differently? Being a different kind of stakeholder for our local public schools?

I’ve spoken before about the ways that on-campus threats have shaped my teaching.  K-12 school shootings are increasingly shaping my parenting.


I was sick early last week, so my husband had to do the early morning shift on his own one day. At 7:59, our oldest was already in first period at junior high when my husband woke me. He had a phone in one hand and was telling me, “G— has an emergency at school.” In a single motion, I grabbed the phone while heading to the front door, still in my pajamas, to get to the school. “Are you okay? Is everyone okay?” I asked my son, trying not to shout into the phone.

“I forgot my concert dress clothes, and we have an orchestra performance today,” my 8th grader explained.

The keys were already in my hand, to get to the school. I started crying with relief and then anger.

“Mom? Mom?” he asked. “The thing is, our concert is at 8:15. I’m so sorry. Can you bring me a white shirt, dress pants, black socks, and my dress shoes right away? I’m so sorry, Mom. I just totally forgot.”

“It’s okay, bud. I’ll be right there.”

“Are you crying?”

“Yeah, sorry, baby. I am. Not your fault. I mean, forgetting your clothes is your fault. But not my crying. Don’t worry about it, okay?”

“Thanks for saving me on this one, Mom.”

“Of course. We all need it sometimes.”


On Thursday, I was solo parenting while my husband was out of town for work. Just before lunch, I got a call from the elementary school. My heart plunged. When I answered it, there was nothing but sobbing on the other end. I couldn’t make out anything except “Mom” and “blood” and “broken.”

“M–!” I tried to interrupt my 10-year-old daughter. “I need to you to take a breath and tell me: Has something bad happened at school? Are other people hurt, too?”

She took one of those quivery breaths you take when you want to cry but have to speak. “I fell from the monkey bars. I can’t find my glasses, and I have a big cut on my head and there is still gravel in my eye and I landed in a puddle of water that was at least six inches deep and now I’m soaking wet–” Her voice rose as she continued her list of injuries. I realized I’d stopped breathing as soon as I’d picked up the phone and let out a huge sigh of relief. Stitches, broken glasses, ruined clothes, a mild concussion–I can work with those.


If you don’t have children, it might be hard to understand what this fear of school is like. The poet Ann E. Wallace, a friend of mine, explains it in Tuck Magazine.:

Each email, each text

unexpected, opened with panic

and dread, as dear parents hold

their children in their breath and

in the beat of their hearts


(Please, go read the whole of “Dear Parents.”)


This week, we rearranged my older son’s schedule because one of his teachers, who likely conceals and carries, demonstrated that he was untrustworthy to speak respectfully about guns or gun violence. An older white man, he decided, without any preparation, that the students should have a “debate” about gun control. He is known as a bully toward students, selecting one or two in each section to belittle in front of the group. After an incident two years ago in which he used a racial epithet in class (He defended himself by saying that he was showing a film clip with the word in it, so he needed to explain it to the students.), most students just try to stay out of his way.

Can you freely debate gun control in a class in which you have every reason to think your teacher is carrying a gun? Can you lead a group of students, some of whom have direct experience with gun violence, with no preparation or parental heads-up? There are certainly children in that classroom who have seen their mother’s boyfriend pull a gun on her. They have lost loved ones to suicide by gun. They have been trained by their parents to keep their hands visible whenever near a police officer. They have lost loved ones in the Las Vegas shooting or in a hunting accident  or in a convenience stick-up or in a gang-related shooting. They don’t need a teacher telling them that when he was a kid, you could store your rifle in your locker so you could go out shooting after school.  That, he says, is the evidence that guns aren’t the problem–kids nowadays are.

And guns don’t need to be locked up, he told them. He just puts his guns up high, so his toddler-aged grandkids can’t reach them.

It would take on, maybe two, of the larger boys in that class to knock this teacher over and take his gun. That’s it.


It can be hard to unravel cause and effect, but people who are police officers are often violent in their personal lives. Research indicates that more than 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence–much more than the general population. It could be that people prone toward violence seek careers in policing, and it could be that police work contributes to interpersonal violence.

In any case, do we want to make teaching a career that is attractive to people who want to work with guns?


We also removed my daughter from DARE this week. After the first week of DARE, I let the teacher know I didn’t think it was a good fit for M–. I tried to be diplomatic. Given the officer’s disparaging remarks about immigrants (which sparked their first conflict), his declaration that Donald Trump is a terrific president (their second), and his demands that the children respect his inherent authority as a police officer (their third, in the same day), I suggested that she might be too distracted by the poor relationship they’d already established to learn much, which means she was more likely going to be distracting other kids. (Subtext: This is only going to get worse. Do you want her radicalizing the other 5th graders?) We agreed to try again.

But she is distracted by his gun.

“What if another kid grabs it? L– is kind of a jerk. I could see him trying to do that.” She has started thinking of her classmates as future criminals. “Not to hurt anyone, but just to be funny.” She thinks for a moment. “Though I’m not sure about the kids in Mrs. S–‘s class. There are some kinds in their with Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” Oh, great, I think, she’s started profiling based on special ed labels. I worry about her ability to empathize being undermined.

She is not wrong to be concerned. Officers in schools discharge their weapons by accident sometimes. There is no reason to think her DARE officer is better trained or smarter or more in control of his weapon than those other officers–including two who did so just last week. 

I will pick her up early today, so she can avoid the program.


Image result for guns in school

A sign outside a Texas school warns intruders that staff may be armed and “may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.” An armed teacher policy signals to students that facts and statistics about gun safety (like the fact that you are at increased danger if a gun is near you) are irrelevant and that decision-making does not need to be informed by data. It also lets them know that they are seeking to hurt others, they don’t need to sneak guns in–they just have to grab them once they get there. 

While it is true schools are relatively rare, I find little comfort in the claim that “[s]chools are just about the safest place in the world for kids to be,” as Garen Wintemute, an emergency room physician who works with on gun research at, UC Davis says. That just tells us how ubiquitous guns are everywhere else.

Children should be safe from guns everywhere. At a minimum, those of us who wish to reduce our risk of death by gun should be able to do so by choosing not to be around guns. As a parent, I already do a lot to protect them from the risks of gun violence, including not allowing them into homes where guns are unsecured and not engaging in-person with anyone I know or suspect to be concealing and carrying.  Yes, that hurts some people’s feelings. I’m happy to do it in exchange for a lessened chance of my child being hurt by a gun.

My child isn’t more likely to be killed by a gun in the home than at school because a gun never enters our home. My child is not more likely to be killed by a friend with a gun because they are not permitted to be friends with people whose parents own unsecured guns. I recognize that, as a white person of relative means, I have a lot of power to keep my child safe, power that not every parent gets to exercise.

And yet, every day, the state of Utah asks me to send my children into a classroom where there are likely to be guns–and neither the school administrator nor I are permitted to know if a gun is present.

I see this as  fundamental violation of my rights as a parent to keep my child safe. Children are endangered when guns enter the scene, and yet I’m unable to prevent guns from being in the place, outside of our home, where they spend the bulk of their day.  It’s frustrating, and it’s increasingly frustrating as gun advocates press for more guns in more places.


“Modest is Hottest”

Hi Joel,

I’ve been thinking about Melanie Springer Mock’s post this week about the unsurprising result of the mixed messages we (US culture broadly and conservative Christian culture in particular) send to girls.  I think that, if you don’t witness it first hand (like, if it’s not targeted at you), it can be hard to see. Like, what’s wrong with requiring your child to wear shorts that are bigger than her underpants or saying no eye makeup during elementary school?

Then, you see this stuff. I found it on an endcap at a CAMPING AND MILITARY SURPLUS STORE. So not at a Christian bookstore or homeschooling supply store.

The photo picture (sorry for the fuzziness!) is of a set of six stickers. Each is a T-shirt. Half of them say “I [heart] Modest Girls!” and the others say “Modest Girls are the Hottest Girls!”

No automatic alt text available.

Who these are for isn’t quite clear to me. The “I [heart] Modest Girls!” t-shirts are in yellow, baby blue, and pink, and it’s the pink, in particular (and the heart, too) that makes me think they might be for girls. It could be that modest girls love other modest girls.

The “Modest Girls are the Hottest Girls!” t-shirts are in red, lime green, and white. Nothing gendered about those colors, so they could be for girls or boys. But who describes girls as “hot”? Boys, right? And this division would mean that each sticker set has stickers aimed at boys and ones aimed at girls–perfect for use in a mixed-gender children’s Sunday School classroom.

It’s that “Modest Girls are the Hottest Girls!” that is (at least part of) the reason why Christian girls can’t catch a break. They have to be modest. But also hot. They have to have self-confidence, but that self-confidence is based on the approval of others (especially boys).

And what does that sticker say about boys? That they are here to judge girls.

As a parent of both sons and a daughter, I feel pretty sensitive to these messages, but I’m not sure I would see them if I were parenting ONLY boys. And that’s because I don’t see them appear very often in situations where boys are the focus.

Parents of boys–do you see them? Parents of girls–how do you counter them?


The profanity of American Evangelicals*


If you want a sense of what’s gone wrong with American Evangelicals, you might start with this piece at Trump-loving American Greatness, a response to The Atlantic’s cover story about (natch) what’s gone wrong with American Evangelicals.

What matters here and now is securing a president who will achieve positive results, regardless of his personal foibles. If President Trump is achieving goals evangelicals find desirable (and that conservatives should find desirable), why ought they to care overmuch about his personal failings, whatever they be? Trump was elected president of the United States—not pope or saint-in-chief.


In addition, Trump has gone to work dismantling Leviathan: the administrative state. And his administration has achieved much else besides. What more could a conservative—or evangelical, for that matter—ask for?

Read the whole piece, and then ask yourself this question:

Does it reflect, at all, the notion that Evangelical Christians worship an eternal God?

While you’re reflecting on that, check out the final paragraph of the post:

Evangelicals have latched onto Christ’s command to be “as shrewd”—and one might add “as tough” or “as ruthless”—“as snakes” with good reason. Whether such a move ultimately cashes out in their favor remains to be seen.

This is what Matthew 10:16 actually says:

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Feels different, eh?

Listen: I know liberal Christians can also substitute temporal goals for eternal ones: It’s a bipartisan problem. But this piece treats American Evangelicals as merely another political interest group; any notion of God or of having higher — or even different — standards than what exists in American politics is non-existent. And in American politics, the only real value is winning.

The AmGreatness piece is, in the most literal sense, profane.

*Apologies to my friend Robb, yes, it’s an overbroad, messy term. 

What If We REALLY Learned to Value Women—and their Bodies—During Women’s History Month?


We are fortunate today at Sixoh6 to have Melanie Springer Mock join us as a guest blogger. Dr. Springer Mock is Professor of English at George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon. In 2009, she won the GFU Undergraduate Faculty of the Year award, and in 2015, she won the GFU Undergraduate Scholar of the Year award. She is the author or co-author of five books, including most recently Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else (Herald Press, April 2018). Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Nation, Christian Feminism Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Christianity Today, and Mennonite World Review, among other places. She lives in Dundee, Ore., with her husband and two sons. Here, she challenges us to think deeply about the consequences of teachings about “modesty” for women.


Almost every spring, a large group of conservative Christians descend on the university campus where I teach; they are here for a regional conference and, so far as I know, are renting the university’s facilities for a week. I realize they have arrived because I see young women everywhere, not wearing the usual outfit favored in springtime by a majority of my students (shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops), but rather long skirts and dresses, described at length in the group’s guidelines as modest and “an image of Christian discretion.”

The conference includes athletic competitions, for which the girls and their coaches are instructed to wear culottes or skits that hang below the knee. The clothes should not be white. Shoulders cannot be bare. When I see these young women playing sports in long skirts, while their male companions compete in shorts, a quiet rage simmers inside me, and I want to go liberate all these girls from the weight of fabric and expectation that keeps them fettered. Instead, in an act of (passive aggressive) protest, I make sure my own workouts take me within sight of this conservative Christian crowd, my tank-top and shorts a repudiation of their oppressive ways. I doubt they even notice.

When I read in Christianity Today this weekend about a study showing that Christian men have significant higher body esteem than do Christian women, my first thought was a very uncharitable No Shit. And my second thought was of the conservative Christian young people who will be arriving on my campus soon, and who have grown up in a culture teaching them that women’s bodies are to be covered in cloth and hidden away. That women’s bodies are to be reviled because of their power to tempt. That it is women’s bodies—not men’s agency—that causes others to sin.

The study, published in last summer’s Journal of Psychology and Religion, examined the question of whether “faith buffer (s) a negative body image.” Researches Mary Inman and Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet of Hope College “wanted to understand body esteem in relationship to gender, conditions of self-worth, and people’s experience of their relationship with God,” they told Christianity Today. Their conclusion was that although women express a stronger sense of unconditional love from God than do men, these same men report having higher esteem about their bodies than do women.

To which I say again: No shit. 

After nearly 50 years of walking in this female form, I’ve been consistently told—and have consistently internalized—contradictory messages about what it means to have a body read as “female.” As with most Western women, I live with a persistent drumbeat of what my body should look like, and while fads and fashions have shifted over my lifetime (thank god for that!), I am daily reminded that my body does not live up to the expectations demanded of it by my culture: to be lithe and wrinkle-free and (a certain kind of) feminine and sexy and perfect.

See the source imageAbove, a reminder to Christian women and girls that God wants them to be modest. But, not, like, frumpy. Because they need to think about higher things than fashion. But they also need to be sexy for their husbands. But not for any one else, including themselves. It’s a delicate balance, and most of them fail. Also, no one likes a girl with low self-esteem. [Image: a navy and blue skirt that is at least “four slender fingers above the knee,” a white shirt with cap sleeves, to be layered under a yellow cardigan (because white can reveal undergarments), flats, and a gold necklace, because “modesty” doesn’t mean you can’t have some flair! But not in a tacky way. 

But mass media cannot be wholly—or even mostly—to blame for those who have grown up in Christian cultures that take expectations about women’s bodies and give them a biblical-flavored vibe. Complicated messages about women’s bodies are everywhere in Christian culture: in books and blogs; in Christian films and podcasts; in sermons and Bible studies. Which is why it’s little wonder that many Christian women express a sense of God’s unconditional love, but then also reject a belief that their bodies are unconditionally lovable, just as they are.

After all, women learn that their bodies have great power, and that a flash of bare shoulder is enough to make men stumble into sexual sin. Rather than suggesting men might have agency, and might make the choice to see women as more than their shoulders, legs, or chest, we are told that it is our job to keep men safe from sin, and that our bodies should be covered, an “image of Christian discretion.”

Covered until marriage, that is. Because our bodies are to remain pure and undefiled until we marry the One God has planned for us (God always has a plan, and there is always the One). At that point, our bodies can be viewed as sexy and alluring, to our husbands alone, who retain rights to what is now his. Ephesians 5:22 says that wives are to submit in all things, don’t you know. Some evangelical leaders have, in recent years, gone so far to say if a woman lets herself go—if she gains weight, or is no longer “attractive”—her spouse has license to look elsewhere. “Men have a tendency to wander,” Pat Roberson famously said to a viewer in 2013, worried about her unfaithful husband. “You have to fix yourself up, look pretty.”

And, while some Christians will contend they are edifying women’s bodies by keeping them holy and pure, too often, when women’s bodies are assaulted, the institutional church chooses to stand with the men who assaulted them. In late 2017, a megachurch congregation gave its pastor a standing ovation when he admitted to a “sexual incident” twenty years earlier, and asked the congregation for forgiveness. Never mind that the girl with whom he had the “incident” was a teen; never mind that the incident was assault; never mind that the victim’s name was not mentioned in his pseudo-apology. Women can go ahead and cover up their shoulders, because covering up seems to be something many Christians are good at , enabling men in power to abuse women’s bodies, again and again and again.

So I wonder: What would happen if we truly believed that women are image bearers of God? What would happen if the language we used to talk about God—and about gender—reflected that belief? What if the ways we acted, in our churches and community, let women know they were valued, beyond what their bodies can offer as sexual objects, mothers, wives? What if we truly believed we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, just as we are? What would happen if little girls could run freely, without the weight of expectation, allowing them to be who God created them to be?

Well, then, I imagine women might actually believe their bodies were created lovable, a reflection of their unconditionally loving Creator.



Readers, how do you engage and counter messages about the worth of your body? About modesty and desire? Do you recognize yourself in the story that Melanie shares? How can churches meet the challenge of teaching women to “actually believe their bodies were created lovable”? Share your ideas here, please!–RB-F

Happy Blogoversary, yourself

Dear Rebecca:

That’s a hell of a gift. I admit that I might’ve gotten teary-eyed reading it on the bus home from Kansas City this afternoon.

I’ve been absent lately, the self-induced victim of some despair about, yes, our inability to be civil with each other. I won’t get into how I understand that civility can be used to quash marginalized voices, except to say that my own goal for civility is that it go hand in hand with the pursuit of justice.

But sometimes we fail, and we lose loved ones along the way.

Mostly, I think we need to listen to each other. And I think we need to work extra hard in listening to people we think are wrong. I’ve discussed why during this first year of  the blog. I suspect I’ll deepen my own thinking in Year Two.

But, hey! A pretty good first year!

We’re still getting started. But I think we’ve gotten underway with a commitment to highlighting important voices in the church, and have offered a sharp critique of nationalistic Christian tribalism versus a faith that reaches out with Christ as our example.

When we started this a year ago, it was partly because I felt our Facebook interactions — about politics, faith, and more — were substantive, challenging, and worthy of further contemplation.

I think that’s proven true. You’ve brought evidence, passion, and deep thinking to this blog. I couldn’t ask for a better blogging partner. We haven’t always agreed completely, nor will we. But what’s the fun in that?

Hallelujah, amen.