In 1873, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court's decision prohibiting a woman from practicing law. The Chicago woman, Myra Bradwell, had applied for a license to practice law, the first woman in Illinois to do so. However, both courts agreed that she was not guaranteed this right under the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court found that a woman did not have the right to engage in any and every profession, occupation, or employment in civil life.
Justice Bradley, in his concurring opinion, decided to elaborate why women are so unfit to practice law:
[C]ivil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.
Justice Bradley emphasized that women properly belong to the domestic sphere, to the domain and functions of womanhood. The family institution itself is at risk if a woman adopts a distinct and independent career from that of her husband. Justice Bradley made sure to point out that English law, upon which U.S. law is based, held that a woman had no legal existence separate from her husband.
In fact, in 1873, a woman was still prohibited from making contracts without her husband's consent. Therefore, women--especially married women--were considered incapable of becoming attorneys.
Thankfully, the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have changed course over the last 140 years (while, oddly enough, a wing of the evangelical church still espouses these gender roles...).
Today I receive my oath of office from the Supreme Court of Illinois. It is a privilege, and I'm indebted to the women who fought tirelessly to have the right simply to pursue a profession of one's choosing.
I am also indebted to my family. It is incredible to think that I, a great-granddaughter of a peanut farmer in rural Oklahoma, somehow ended up practicing law in a thirty-story courthouse with a Picasso sculpture in its plaza! My parents and grandparents ensured that I would have more opportunity than they ever dreamed of -- regardless of my gender. They never led me to believe I was limited in any way. I can't adequately express how thankful I am for their love and support.
And of course, I can't leave out my longsuffering husband! My diploma arrived last week, and I told him his name belonged on it alongside mine. A "thank you" just isn't enough.
There are many more people who have been wonderful support along the way. Much love and gratitude to you all!
I hadn't gone to church in awhile, much less read my Bible. I was done with gatekeepers decreeing who was in and who was out. But last year, with John Piper's proclamation bidding "Farewell" to Rob Bell, I jumped back into the fray. Perhaps it was Bell's courage to question the evangelical establishment, or his critics' shrill response, but I no longer wanted to give up on my faith. I found an amazing online community of Christian bloggers, who shared my struggle with the contemporary North American evangelical church. I even found a local church and joined the community there.
One of the most grace-filled, honest, and articulate bloggers I found during this time was...you! You're deftly able to communicate what many of us spiritual refugees and internally displaced persons feel. You've amassed a much-deserved readership because your writing resonates so well with a lot of people's experiences. I often find myself remarking, "Me too!" in response to your posts.
Growing up as a young woman in the Southern Baptist church, I too experienced the Bible being used as a weapon against me and my calling. I too have been accused of being a “bitter, angry woman” intent on destroying the Church with my “radical feminist agenda.” And I know I'm not alone. That's why your writing has been such a valuable ministry to women like me (and men, too) who have been wounded by the church and whose questions have been shot down with appeals to concepts such as "inerrancy" and "complementarianism." I'm sure I'm not the only wanderer who's been encouraged to return, and who joins the chorus of "Me too!"
Like so many evangelical women, I've faced hurtful accusations when I push back against the status quo. Sometimes I don't have the words or the grace-under-pressure to articulate what I believe. And many other people in the church who are not white straight men fight a similar battle. Thankfully, you do have the ability to speak so clearly when others are still tending to their wounds and can only offer a quiet "Me too."
What a great example you've served to those of us who get frustrated, and who often fight the urge to respond with biting sarcasm. You've lived out how a gentle answer turns away wrath, avoiding harsh words that stir up anger.
At one time or another, I've faced criticism too. Mine is nowhere near as public, but it stings nonetheless. And I've faced the assumption that we women don't know what we're talking about. That's why I want to offer encouragement, and who better to borrow from than St. Paul?
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
Fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Fight the good fight; finish the race; keep the faith.
Read more from people sharing how Rachel has influenced their thinking or writing, or link up your own post at love is what you do.
London-based teacher and writer Kester Brewin recently released a quirky little gem of a book, called Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates, and How They Can Save Us. In only 165 pages, Brewin fits in medieval fiefdom, the colonization of the so-called "New World," Marxism, modern-day Somali pirates, copyright law, punk music, Jungian psychology, and Greek mythology. I didn't always agree with Brewin's take on the world, but his creativity and ability to translate sweeping topics into more easily understandable prose was impressive.
Today, pirates have turned into a kitschy birthday party theme, but Brewin notes that an actual 18th-century pirate would be "shocked at the way in which his rebellion and revolt against and oppressive and wealth-hungry Empire had been castrated into spineless, meaningless nursery pap."
The first mid-Atlantic pirates emerged in the 18th century in response to European monarchies' monopoly that blocked access to the "riches of the New World to any but the most privileged," and Brewin argues that pirates, in any shape or form, emerge at any time when economies become "blocked." Sailors who were forced to work for a pittance, then cast aside when they became disabled by the very work the monarchs charged them to do, joined forces to wreak havoc on the monarchies' work, threatening the imperial order. As a result, sailors-turned-pirates created egalitarian communities that offered fair wages and didn't simply cast aside the disabled or "other".
Piracy arises when a structure becomes unjust, "because it has taken something that should be the 'common property' of all people and locked it behind a pay-wall," and "refuses to share the spoils of wealth with those who have laboured so hard to create it." Pirates offer an alternative that speaks to our desire, our "human ache," for justice. Pirates threaten those in power, petrifying them, "because the laws that they have so carefully constructed to keep everyone in their right place fall utterly flat." And those who don't choose mutiny? Perhaps they believe the "narrative of their oppressors: that remaining law-abiding and dutiful would see them rewarded in heaven."
What can pirates teach us about following Jesus? Brewin argues that we must play pirate to religion. Pirates are heroes who break the law, because "the law needs breaking if it is to be remade more justly." Jesus was, according to the law of his day,
a revolutionary heretic who was quite rightly prosecuted by religious authorities. The law had been broken, and law-breakers needed to face punishment if society was to hold together. But, quite explicitly, Jesus broke Jewish law in order to expose the fact that Jewish law was, in the hands of the Pharisees, broken.
The early church can be viewed as a community who declared mutiny against the religious powers, departing from Jewish orthodoxy. Early Christians entered the heretical waters of a faith that shared all things in common. But, Christianity transformed into the "religion of empire, and quickly settled in the easy throne of fattened calves, of comfortable robes and jewelry."
Brewin challenges us to ask: "what would it mean now to play pirate with the life that I have in the culture I am a part of, among the community I live in and within the power structures and working practices that I am embedded in?"
I don't agree with Brewin's characterization of the "New World," as it ignores and erases the existence of native peoples. Along those same lines, Brewin occasionally praised the U.S. "Founding Fathers," who in reality only played pirate on behalf of white, male landowners against the English. Overall, however, Mutiny! is a creative, dense little book that may spur you to mutiny, to "unblock" power structures, and to seek a more equitable way.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
The Church Relevance blog recently compiled a list of the "Top 200 Church Blogs," which raised concerns over the overwhelmingly white, straight, and male nature of the list. The mechanics behind the creation of the rankings are a great illustration of systems and privilege.
Critical race theory does an excellent job of exposing racism in social systems and groups. This field's most basic tenet is that race is an integral part of social organizations, and racism is an institutionalized, ingrained feature of social systems. Critical race theory holds that everyone in a social system furthers that system through social practices, reproducing the power and prestige of the system. Those with the most power and prestige are the most privileged, which means they have the most advantage over others, even if this advantage was passed down through generations. (For more on privilege, check out Dianna Anderson's great series, starting here.)
Systems (including religious, legal, and academic systems--and even the blogosphere) tend to be affected by inertia. Most systems, by their very design, are resistant to changes to their usual state. This means it is exceedingly difficult to push against the norms inside the system. The system itself does the work for the privileged individual.
With discrimination, for example, an institution can be raced and gendered in ways in which the institution appears to be race- and gender-neutral, but in reality is dominated almost exclusively by white men or other groups who enjoy privilege. The system works in such a way that the institution discriminates on behalf of its individual members against women, LGBTQ people, and people of color, while favoring white, straight men. The individuals themselves do not have to be racist or sexist in order to perpetuate inequality. In fact, most participants in a system would vehemently deny that they intend to focus exclusively on white, straight men. They are nice people for crying out loud!
For instance, when Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance describes his efforts to compile a list of "top 200 church blogs," he points to seemingly objective measures, such as Alexa Rank and Google Page Rank. While Shaffer acknowledges that his criteria are flawed and subjective, the mechanics behind creating the list reveal that those who have power and prestige will continue to have power and prestige. The "system" reinforces, reproduces, and perpetuates itself, the "system" here being networking and influence of white, straight, Christian men. Claiming to look at the blog-world in a purportedly "neutral" way, using traffic and subscription numbers, masks the fact that one group of people holds the most power and prestige in Christian blogging. One does not have to be a blatant racist, sexist, or homophobe to create a list consisting almost exclusively of white, straight, Christian men - the system works it out for you.
To fight this inertia, I hope one realization that results from rankings like these is that people with the most power and prestige must make a conscious effort to ensure that the voices of women, LGBTQ people, and people of color are heard. If you are a white, straight, Christian man, please take a look at the blogs you read and the people you follow on Twitter. Do they look like you? Take a look at the books you read on theology and ministry. Do their authors look like you? If so, would you be willing to join with me and fight the inertia?
One of the more intriguing news items this week is the discovery of a fourth-century papyrus fragment that suggests that Jesus had a wife, or at least that some early Christians believed that Jesus had a wife. The fragment also suggests the existence of a woman disciple.
When I listened to NPR's segment on this exciting revelation, I got the first hint of conservative Christians' reaction to the suggestion that Jesus may have had a wife and a woman disciple. Barbara Bradley Hagerty pointed out that "the reference to a female disciple goes to the heart of a worldwide debate about the role of women in the church." Darrell Bock, New Testament scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary, made sure to minimize this new finding:
It's a small, extremely fringe, light text with no context, and so to think about doing something about a tradition simply on the basis of, of that kind of a text, it's making a change on the basis of an asterisk.
Cue Southern Baptist Archbishop Albert Mohler. Even before clicking over to his article on the fragment, I could already tell on Twitter that Mohler was on the defensive:
The real agenda behind "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife." It is the rejection of normative biblical Christianity. http://ow.ly/dQVOm
In Mohler's panicked post, which exhibits a characteristic fear of non-evangelical scholars, he accuses Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King of "over-reaching." Delicious irony, indeed. Mohler himself seems to be over-reaching--and overreacting--to minimize the notion that Jesus could have had a wife or a woman disciple.
Brian LePort rounded up some reactions to this discovery (including Bock's reaction), and no one seemed as riled up about it as Mohler. So why does Mohler use such dramatic language, like "sensationalism," "heterodoxy," and even calling King's work "an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith"? I am intrigued that Mohler feels so threatened by this tiny piece of papyrus, which is nowhere near conclusive proof that Jesus was married or had called a woman disciple.
Perhaps I found the answer in Mohler's characterization of the "ambitions" that drive so-called heretic scholars' efforts to study ancient texts:
Feminists have sought to use the Nag Hammadi texts to argue that women have been sidelined by the orthodox tradition, and that these Gnostic texts prove that women were central to the leadership of the early church, perhaps even superior to the men.
Professor King, along with Princeton’s Elaine Pagels, has argued that the politically powerful leaders who established what became orthodox Christianity silenced other voices, but that these voices now speak through the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic writings. Writing together, King and Pagels argue that “the traditional history of Christianity is written almost solely from the viewpoint of the side that won, which was remarkably successful in silencing or distorting other voices, destroying their writings, and suppressing any who disagreed with them as dangerous and obstinate ‘heretics.’”
Although the evidence weighs heavily in favor of Jesus not having had a wife, Mohler's fearful reaction is telling. The suggestion that a woman disciple may have existed is threatening to Mohler's carefully-constructed "biblical, orthodox Christianity." Even if the evidence is scant, it seems Mohler feels he has a duty to dismiss an alternative theory of Jesus' life and ministry. It comes across as offensive to Mohler that a woman would be central to the leadership of the early church, perhaps even superior to men.
Perhaps King is right. The powerful have silenced those voices on the margin. In immediately and strongly dismissing the suggestion that Jesus may have had a woman disciple, Mohler places himself squarely on the side of the powerful, the side that won.
Just wanted to send a quick update. I graduated from law school a couple of weeks ago!
I am so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my family. My poor husband and mom had to listen to my whines for four whole years! :) It got pretty ugly at times, to be honest. I am so glad it's over.
Although the formal schooling part is complete, I still have to take a bar exam prep course, which began the day after graduation. The two-day bar exam is at the end of July, at which time I will be tested on what I learned over the last four years. I will be taking leave from work, but still won't be able to blog until after the exam. Believe me, I have a lot I would love to write about now! I'll receive the results from the bar exam at the end of September, and will be sworn in, licensed, and ready to practice law in November. I hope everyone has a great summer!
Encouraging things are happening within U.S. evangelicalism. No longer solely aligned with Religious Right politicians, six-day creationists, anti-gay movements, and other conservative-leaning groups, many evangelicals are questioning the status quo. We're concerned about the environment and poverty, and have moved away from a premilennial dispensationalism that disregards the now. Rather than dish out condemnation, we've learned to be more willing to extend grace.
Various labels describe these movements: emergent, missional, progressive. Frank Viola chose the name "beyond evangelical." I'm conflating several different strains here, but the general direction has been away from the evangelicalism that emerged in opposition to modernism.
While these developments are encouraging, I've noticed most progressive evangelicals are no different from their predecessors when it comes to race. The heavy-hitters in these movements are white, and the privilege that comes with being white remains even in the new evangelical streams.
Efrem Smith often points this out, and I've shared how evangelicalism's growth was spurred by corresponding growth of white suburbia and its racist underpinnings. If you follow Anthony Bradley on Twitter, he also provides great critiques of evangelicalism's whiteness, and Lisa Sharon Harper discusses the black-white divide here.
What most determines what progressive evangelicals believe or what they feel worth promoting is not their faith. The dividing line is actually race.
A great illustration of this color line is the death penalty. Attorneys have meticulously researched the psychology behind jury selection. Researchers have found that "similar religious beliefs can lead to completely opposite policy preferences among respondents of different racial backgrounds." Black evangelicals are more inclined to oppose the death penalty than white evangelicals, who are more likely to support it.1
Although it's fair to say that most of these new kinds of white evangelicals have reconsidered their stance on the death penalty, to have a more consistent pro-life ethic, another illustration of the color line between white evangelicals, including the more progessive ones, and Christians of color is happening right now.
Such a color line in my timeline re: Trayvon Martin. Who do you think is tweeting about his murder, who do you think has made barely a peep?Yes, Twitter is anecdotal and unscientific. But the radio silence from white evangelicals - even the more progressive ones - is disappointing. White evangelicals yield a lot of influence, politically, economically, and in the media, enjoying massive amounts of privilege. Invisible Children's recent "Kony 2012" campaign demonstrated that earnest, well-meaning, young evangelicals are capable of spurring world leaders to action and causing 100 million hits on a YouTube video.
Blacks [...] support the death penalty less than any other major social group (about fifty-eight percent in the 1998 election survey), largely because they are keenly aware of the way in which capital sentencing values the lives of black victims and offenders less than those of their white counterparts. More white conservative Christians would be likely to appreciate this flaw at the heart of the system if they interacted more with their black brothers and sisters.
[M]any black leaders are skeptical of [white evangelicals' efforts to add black members to their churches]. In their view, such contacts have gone on for years, are largely symbolic, and have not increased white suburban evangelicals' concern about the situation of racial minorities or the needs of the inner cities. Black leaders remark that whites want to form individual friendships with blacks, but that they balk at confronting social and political issues such as inequality in the economy and racism in the criminal justice system.2
Trayvon Martin's murder is a major issue in the African-American community. It must hurt deeply to see a group as influential as white evangelicals not take initiative to spread the word, despite taking very energetic initiative recently to "make Kony famous."
White "beyond evangelicals:" if you haven't tweeted, blogged, signed a petition, or otherwise promoted the unjust circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin's murder, I'm interested to know why. As you can tell from the absence here on my blog, I've been busy, so I understand many simply don't have time to react to every current event. But many are online all day, and many have smartphones.
I also have a broader question: do you know any people of color? If not, why not? Do you actively make efforts to read or listen to perspectives from Christians of color? If not, why not?
I'm curious about the general silence from my fellow white Christians with regard to Trayvon Martin. This silence should give us pause. Let's examine whether our whiteness is the most important factor in our lives, rather than our faith in a subversive Christ. And to white evangelicals who push against the status quo: let's keep pushing.
1 Melynda J. Price, Performing Discretion or Performing Discrimination: Race, Ritual, and Peremptory Challenges in Capital Jury Selection. 15 Mich. J. Race & L. 57, 87-8 (Fall 2009).
2 Thomas C. Berg, Religious Conservative and the Death Penalty. 9 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 31, 58 (2000).
The Gospel Coalition blog recently rounded up some evangelical leaders' calls for civil disobedience. Requiring religious employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception (regardless of who actually pays for it), is effectively forcing pro-life Christians to violate their conscience. These evangelicals claim that some of the drugs to be covered are abortifacients.
Such violation of religious liberty will not stand. These men, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are so concerned about human life that they will not tolerate even the most remote connection to birth control that results in the ending of even the most basic forms of human life. Innocent, defenseless lives are at stake here.
Chuck Colson says he loves his country, "but I love my God more . . . I've made up my mind---sober as that decision would have to be---that I will stand for the Lord regardless of what my state tells me."
Rick Warren so bravely proclaimed, "I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a govement mandate that violates what God commands us to do."
Richard Land and Barrett Duke wrote an impassioned call to Christians to oppose this measure, which is an "affront to all people who are pro-life" (emphasis added).
I'm in my last semester of law school, and have been trained to impeach witnesses up on the stand because of a little something called a "prior inconsistent statement." Our justice system is so concerned with the credibility of witnesses that we have carved out an exception to hearsay rules, which normally prohibit out-of-court statements, so that those words can be used against witnesses if they make previous inconsistent statements. Once the witness is confronted with the inconsistency, she is impeached and her word is no longer credible.
To me, Colson, Warren, and Land have lost credibility based on their prior inconsistent statements about their support of innocent, defenseless human lives and whether they would put the state before their faith in God.
In 2003, when the Bush administration was preparing to pre-emptively invade another country, many evangelical leaders offered their support, or at least helped justify, this military action, which resulted in over 100,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths. When allegations later surfaced that the U.S. military was using an especially heinous form of torture on prisoners of war, some evangelical leaders again stepped up to help justify torture.
Chuck Colson reasoned that "if a competent authority honestly believed that [torture] was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified." Yes, this is the same Chuck Colson that you just read about above, who proclaimed that while he does love his country, he wouldn't let his state get in the way of his stand for the Lord.
Rick Warren, in 2008, performed some post-hoc rationalization for the Iraq invasion, despite the Bush administration's later-disproved reasons for invading in the first place: "whether or not they found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is beside the point." Yes, this is the same Rick Warren who valiantly rails against a government who makes us violate God's commands.
Richard Land stated in 2006 that the Iraq war "was just; I think it was one of the more noble things we've done." Yes, the same Richard Land who, as we saw above, so passionately protested against government action that is an affront to people who are pro-life.
None of these men offered such an unequivocal statement in support of innocent, defenseless human lives when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq and later sanction torture. No one called for civil disobedience when reports started pouring in of civilian deaths, or of the U.S.'s best and brightest being blown up by roadside bombs, or of those same best and brightest being driven to suicide once they're home, or of the estimated 900,000 Iraqi women who are now widows.
Such duplicity disgusts me. I know no one is perfect and that stances change, and I'm certainly not claiming to be perfect. But such pompous calls for civil disobedience simply make my stomach turn. I can't help but think of the death and destruction in Iraq that was abetted by some U.S. evangelicals. The juxtaposition doesn't sit well with me, and I have a feeling it doesn't sit well with many other people in my generation.
If you want to make valiant, impassioned, public calls to put your faith in God before your obedience to the government, at least be consistent. Because if not, even an inexperienced law student would have you impeached on the stand in a heartbeat.
It wasn't until my senior year at Wheaton, in 2005, that my friends and I signed up for Facebook. "Status updates" weren't yet an option. Twitter wasn't even launched until after I graduated from Wheaton. This means that my peers and I didn't have an instant social media forum to share our opinions.
Even in our oh-so-ancient pre-Twitter era, we still found a way to communicate, converse, and share opinions on campus, but I bet the advent of smartphones and easily-accessible social media has dramatically changed how information flows in such a tight-knit community. One such change is students tweeting during chapel services, using the #chapeltweets hashtag.
Each February, usually in honor of black history month, Wheaton has a chapel dubbed "Rhythm and Praise," in which students (of all backgrounds, but the majority are black) lead a "gospel-style" worship service. Keep in mind that the college is overwhelmingly white, with very few students of color. Last Friday, some white students sent out a series of racially insensitive and derisive tweets during this particular chapel. Noah Toly, an urban studies professor and director of the Urban Studies Program, summarized the tweets here.
My heart is heavy for the students who led worship that day. I can't imagine how painful it must be to know that your fellow Christians take your worship style lightly, or wish for a return to business-as-usual.
As I'm no longer on campus, I don't want to portray the events incorrectly. However, I did want to comment on many white students' and alumni's responses I've seen online. What may seem like an isolated incident at a Christian college reveals, to me, a bigger issue within white evangelicalism as a whole. One white professor thinks we should be quiet about the incident, because "talking it out" sometimes piles on to the hurt. One presumably white alum sees nothing wrong with stating a preference toward "traditional" worship styles.
White evangelicals have a complicated, uncomfortable history with our black neighbors, and we don't come to a historically-neutral table. Christian Smith has asked believers to "stop excluding, dismissing, discounting, and ignoring other Christians" who don't belong to their own "in-group." Speaking of in-groups, many white evangelicals have created an "insider" culture, with our own unwritten grammar of conduct and nuances of cultural idiom.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a preference for a European or white U.S. American style of worship. But when we white evangelicals convince ourselves that our worship services, music, preaching style, and other aspects of church life are simply "neutral" or "traditional," we effectively shut out Christians of color, even if excluding others is not our intent. When Christians of color point out how hurtful it can be to "joke around" about a particular worship style--even when the comment was made with no harm intended--a defensive response only makes the wound grow deeper.
Anthropology professor Brian Howell, who was extremely influential during my own time at Wheaton, explains that a seemingly neutral statement or preference can still perpetuate hurtful racism, even if the person who makes such a statement or has such a preference isn't a racist:
When someone listens to gospel music and declares it "disorganized," (true example from #chapeltweets), he may just be intending to say that he doesn't know where to look; there's a lot going on; he is confused. At the level of intention and reference, nothing racial there. But indexically there are some layers here. Mind you, the performance in question did not involve people forgetting the lyrics, bumping into each other, or not knowing who should step up to the mic. At that level it was orderly. But it was more complex than some other (European based) forms of music. To call it "disorderly" is to make a comparison. To what? To "orderly" worship. To "normal" worship. To "white" worship.
On a broader scale, I wonder what white evangelicals could learn from this teachable moment. Perhaps we could realize that worship styles and church services are not race-neutral. Worship and the theology that underlies it are rooted in a specific context, which includes race. White evangelicals may not think our views about church or worship have a racial influence. We instead consider them race-neutral. Only allowing space or only legitimizing white, suburban, middle-class preferences, then, can speak volumes.
When it comes to worship, one of the most vulnerable times in the practice of one's faith, perhaps we should unpack our preferences and question our assumptions, as Dr. Howell mentioned. What seems completely natural to one group of believers may have a different meaning for another. At the foot of the cross, why would we make value judgments or insist that one's preferences are somehow neutral?