Monthly Archives: May 2019

On Vulnerability and Becoming a Grief Sage

My sisters and I recorded a podcast a few days ago in which we discussed grief and emotional vulnerability.  The conversation actually started the Sunday before we recorded, when my dad preached a sermon about using discernment when we’re online because we’re absolutely bombarded by pretty-sounding lies:

5.21.19 You are Perfect

So I wanted to ask my sisters whether they agreed with me about the group of individuals who tend to be the MOST likely to accept and then repeat Pretty Lies: people who are grieving.

Specifically, we talked about Grieving Mothers.

Now, I need to stop here, just like we did in the podcast, and list my “credentials.”  I have experienced deep, life-altering pain.  I don’t have a vendetta against grieving mothers, because I have been a grieving mother.  And I have spent countless hours talking with my two sisters while they were traveling through the rawest parts of their own grief–whether it was the torture of imagined tragedies conjured up by postpartum depression, or the real-life loss of two babies, we are no strangers to significant grief.

But what worries me is the way our culture tends to elevate and revere people who are suffering, WHILE THEY ARE IN THE THICK OF IT.  Conventional “wisdom” says we must listen–never questioning–whenever a grieving person comes to a Big Conclusion.

5.21.19 Grief Poem

When I see stuff like this being passed around, it worries me. I see a trend with the types of people who are absorbing and practicing this stuff, and it doesn’t seem to make the world a better place.

Many of these Grievers are getting exactly what they’re asking for: “Don’t ask me how I’m doing.” “Don’t say that time is a healer.”  “Don’t say it was God’s Will…”  etc, etc. They are getting all of the “support” they claim they need, and yet those individuals tend to become more demanding and more unlikable as time marches on…

Eventually we should ask ourselves if the “wisdom” we’re being taught by those who are still in the middle of their grief isn’t actually helping…?

My sisters agreed with the idea that grief doesn’t have a timeline, and sometimes it crops up years later when you’re not expecting it. I told them I understand , and I don’t expect anyone to “get over” the loss of a loved one.

But, my frustration comes from the power we give those who want to use their suffering as a Teaching License.  I’m fine with letting a person feel their emotions as long as necessary–but let’s notice the difference between asking “is this God’s will?” and declaring, “This didn’t happen for the best.”

Let’s not put hurting people in our cultural drivers’ seats, while they’re at their most vulnerable. Let’s not fail to recognize all the ways their suffering makes them susceptible to Pretty Lies. Let’s not defer to them, as the ones who know best what sort of counseling or advice they should be getting:

5.21.19 Things to Avoid

Now, at this point in the podcast recording, my dad said he actually AGREED that counselors are often too quick to provide answers, and it’s okay to just be with a person while they cry

He admitted that he didn’t know how to help while I was grappling with postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts, so he just listened...  

But, again, I had to point out that there’s a subtle difference between someone who is asking for help–and someone who wants you to get in line while they tell you everything their grief has taught them. (“Period.” “Full stop.” “No, I will not be taking questions, because I’m the Sad One, and what I say goes.”)

If the person grieving is still in the question-asking stage of their journey, it’s not necessary to “help” them do anything. They’re already processing things, exactly as they should be.  In fact, if you encourage them to KEEP asking questions, they will get around to questioning the Pretty Lies as well.  That’s a good thing!

But, when a person demands the final word because she believes that suffering gives her the right to construct her own Truth, she is in a dangerous place. 

A person who has been leveled by pain and is humbly questioning their old beliefs about God has a very different spirit from the one who bossily insists, “Don’t say this or this or this or that.”

When someone switches from questions about grief  to sweeping declarations about grief (like, “This wasn’t God’s Will”), they are looking for agreement.  When they start sharing lists of things they expect others to say and do, they are revealing that they want to be the Teacher…and they’re testing the loyalty of their Disciples.

We should not allow this to happen.  We need to understand that doubting and questioning serves a good purpose–but while a person is doubting and questioning, she isn’t in a position to teach.

It’s fine to be caught without an answer. But it’s not fine to stand up on a soapbox, pontificating about your Big Doubts, as if your questions themselves are Important Lessons you’ve been called to pass on to others.

Experiencing a change of perspective doesn’t automatically make someone a Wise Teacher with Divine things to say, as the rest of us gather around in rapt attention. Why do we LISTEN to those who admit they’re reeling and confused? Why do we raise them up like Enlightened Sages, instead of shielding them from the Pretty Lies, and gently guiding them as Seekers, which their tragedy has forced them to become?…

I mean, I think I know why. It’s because the people who are reeling and confused are most likely to screech, “YOU’RE SUPPORTING ME WRONG! DO IT THIS WAY INSTEAD!” and we don’t want to deal with that.

But this gives the Grief Sages the potential to become the most dangerous Lie-Spreaders in the culture.

Agree or disagree?

To Progressive Christians, About Abortion

(*A response to Seth Woods. Original Post here, and linked again at the bottom.)

Oh man. Here we go…

I need to talk to my Progressive-Christian friends and family for a minute. About abortion.

First: if you hold the personal belief or conviction that abortion is a private decision–that it isn’t wrong, or a sin, or against God’s will… Then take a step back and repeat after me, “My opinions are worthless. My feelings about an issue don’t determine right/wrong.”

Your beliefs about the moral/ethical merits of abortion are yours to have, to cherish, to speak about, to share. They are your human rights and your constitutional rights in our country. But they have NO impact on what’s true or false.

Whatsoever.

Second: America is not a “Secular” nation. It is not a nation for the Irreverant or Irrelgious. It is a nation for all, including those who stand against violence toward tiny, innocent humans. I know this can be genuinely hard to accept. I grew up in the “Tolerant,” but Anti-Church climate of the last few decades as well. We are sold this idea of Separation between Church and State. But we have a nation founded on the idea of liberty and equality, with the men drafting the documents having the amazing foresight to make the language broader than their own beliefs about equality. Thank God! They gave us room to grow in our understanding of equality and freedom and mutual cooperation.

And so all faiths are welcome here. And that is beautiful. I’m encouraged that we are continuing to grow in our understanding of equality and freedom, as we learn to Co-exist with our pre-born offspring.

Third: Knowing and hopefully accepting that, we can recognize that there are large portions of our fellow Americans who are ready to abolish Abortion–including a large and growing movement of Secular Pro-Life activists. Imagine explaining to those NON-CHRISTIANS why you think saving fetuses is only a “Christian” thing? Why do you compare laws against MURDER with laws about circumsicion and praying? If you were an Atheist, you would be very understandably upset over someone suggesting that basic human compassion is only for religious people.

Four: Your politicians are using you. They are using your desperate need to look “neutral” and “open-minded” to justify the biggest human rights violation of the century. The men pushing abortion are concerned with power, not with the physical and emotional state of the women and children being victimized. There are documented cases of Pro-Choice politicians talking about LEAVING NEWBORN INFANTS TO DIE in the cases of failed abortions. For you, this issue is about appearing fair and balanced. But, for many many of the politicians, it is about feeding their own personal agendas and increasing their power. YOU GIVE THEM THAT POWER.

Please stop letting them use you to control people.

And, also, remember that you’ll be much harder to control when you’re less worried about your own image. (You should have grown a spine sometime in the middle of your very first trimester… Feel free to use it.)

Five: this is pretty core, and I’m not sure how to say it. But, if you want to see a world with free choice, you need to demonstrate you’re capable of making free choices without harming others. If you can’t be trusted to have empathy for the world’s smallest and most innocent beings, you don’t have empathy at all.

People who lack empathy are DANGEROUS when they have “choice.” People who lack empathy need laws and governments to keep them in check.

You cannot legislate morality. You can, however, show people what is expected and then punish those who behave immorally. That’s literally the point of EVERY law that exists.

I love that you talk about freedom. I love that you have a heart for helping people see the other side of an issue. Please have a heart for pre-born babies and their allies as well. Please be TRULY open-minded, instead of using that word just to buy an opening, so you can preach your Utilitarian sermons with less resistance. (Utilitarianism says, “People will be bad, so right and wrong should change accordingly.” …I don’t have time to go into it except to say morality doesn’t come from statistics.)

You are NEVER going to get close to having a world where people think they have gotten enough help from Christians. TRUST ME. That will never happen. You absolutely can take care of people and help educate and love people, but you will never, ever convince a selfish person that she doesn’t “need” an abortion if she’s convinced that violence will solve her particular problem. How do I know? Because Pro-Lifers are already the most drastically pro-Family, pro-Education, pro-Foster/Adoption group in the country, and people like you are still wagging fingers at them… You don’t give Pro-Lifers any credit for the ways they live out their values every, single day, because you think if they just gave MORE money and resources, there would be “enough” to convince all humans to make moral choices.

It will never be enough.

Do you want a world where murder is legal? Or do you want a world where we recognize that people make Bad Choices, no matter how many self-perceived “needs” you try to meet? How about a world where we’re not allowed to cause harm to other members of society?

And look, I havent even brought up the very very troubling issue of rape, incest, abuse.

Have you considered that your anti-law, pro-Choice view means not forcing your perspective on those criminals? Every, single point you’ve made can be applied to rape/incest, and abuse. Seriously, watch this:

  1. NOT EVERYONE SHARES YOUR MORALITY!
  2. YOU CANNOT LEGISLATE MORALITY!
  3. INSTEAD OF OUTLAWING RAPE, WHY NOT MAKE IT SO PEOPLE DON’T “NEED” TO RAPE ANYMORE?

And real quick on that: a person who has been abused needs to have his/her abuser brought to justice. Your “listening ears” are worthless if you’re also defending the abuser’s so-called right to choose violence without being judged.

There’s so much more. So much. But here’s how I want to end: WE NEED YOU. We have become so divided from each other, and so much of that is because we rely on our intermediaries: the media, the politicians, the social media algorithms. But we are never going to move forward unless we come together. No matter what you say you believe on this issue, the truth is obvious from your actions…

And so I am saying to you, my Progressive christian Abortion-Defending friends: we need you to stop letting your politicians use you. We need you to JOIN US in being the body of Christ to people. Please challenge the powerful. Don’t just lecture Conservatives about “judgment” while simultaneously judging them… don’t just repeat ridiculous talking points about “investigating miscarriages,” when that has never happened. (And, by the way, take a second and ask yourself why we want women to have space to recover from miscarriages…? Why are they vulnerable? Why do we hate the idea of a detective asking questions of a woman who “lost a pregnancy?” …is it JUST because she’s bleeding heavily, or is it because something deeper and more sacred happened? Perhaps women shouldn’t be hounded by detectives while they are GRIEVING THE LOSS OF A CHILD? Welcome to the pro-Life perspective!)

We are never going to believe all the same things. But we do not have to be enemies. I get that this sounds crazy, but we need to work together to build that world where people OF ALL SIZES are loved and safe….where humans have freedom to make choices because their lives weren’t taken from them just weeks after they started…

Thanks for reading this. It was written out of respect and love and with an open heart.

-Amanda McKinney

P.S. Those who read the original post from Seth Woods may have noticed I took out the part about “If you are reading this, it is because I love you”–and a few glowing remarks about ALL women being “powerful” and “inspiring” because it felt like a bunch of sunshine-blowing garbage. Even for the sake of a consistent response, I couldn’t bring myself to use such over-the-top compliments for entire categories of people. I know it’s supposed to sound friendly. And, as a woman, I’m supposed to think, “Wow! He’s such a respectful guy!” But it comes across as sugary to the point of slime–much like a canned speech from one of those politicians we’re not supposed to be influenced by. Yuck. :/

5.18.19 Seth Woods on Abortion