Health Care and Contraceptives: Who gets to play the “religion card”?

Among my friends and co-workers, I have formed some wonderful friendships with Roman Catholics. Over the years, we have learned to “agree to disagree” over issues such as church polity, the ordination of women, and so on. I have even been polite in my conversations about birth control.

In a recent article on the EEWC Viewpoints page, I wrote:

I have no problem with devout Catholics following the teachings of the Church. But when I am required to live by those teachings, even if I do not agree with them, I am annoyed. The choice of an individual to use contraception (or not) is an intensely personal choice. To be denied that right because of the religious beliefs of the owner is unfair.

The imposition of another’s religious beliefs on their employees reminded me of an event from my own employment history.

Read more here…

Dear Mrs. Hall: We need to chat

Hey friends…
I don’t usually get involved in these “my thoughts on your post” kind of things. But since I happen to have two lovely young adult daughters, I kinda took this post personally. You may disagree with me… but I wanted to share my heart on this.

Dear Mrs. Hall:

I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Friends of mine with young sons posted the link to your blog post. I read it. Said, “huh, well I think she’s wrong. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to, let’s move on.”

Except that friends have been posting it all day and cheering you on. And I said, “Huh. Well, I get that moms want their boys to make good decisions. And to help them make good decisions, sometimes they get a little over-protective. Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to. Whatevs.”

But then it continued to bother me, and I figured out why. I realized that I was a little put off by your post chastising young women for their social media pictures. The photos you described were ones that you discovered while you looked at their social media accounts — something you do regularly with your kids — perusing the pictures and videos that are posted by their friends online. You noted:

“We have teenage sons, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you lovely ladies to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer! Your bedrooms are so cute! Our eight-year-old daughter brought this to our attention, because with three older brothers who have rooms that smell like stinky cheese, she notices girly details like that.

I think the boys notice other things. For one, it appears that you are not wearing a bra.

I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout.”

Ah yes. Duck lips, I believe we call it. But really – going braless was an issue? Was it because you could see her nipples? Maybe she needs a thicker bra. Or a warmer room. Sultry poses? Goofing off and being silly, perhaps? Are you sure she was trying to be a siren and cause your sons to crash on the rocks?

One of the standards that you mentioned in your blog post was this:

Girls shouldn’t post pictures in poses which are provocative.

That’s fair. But what is “provocative” might I ask? I think it is in the eye of the beholder. You put up a picture of your four, lovely children in their bathing suits. The young men’s suits were all below their navels. Well below their navels. In fact, you could see their tan lines. Isn’t that a little too sexy for a post on purity? And they were making “muscle” poses – yes, in fun. I get that. However, based on the blog comments, I wasn’t alone in thinking that perhaps you missed the point that what is “sexaaay” for the goose is “sexaaaay” for the gander.

You said,

“Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”

Do you think the picture of your boys in their bathing suits will just be deleted from their female schoolmates’ minds? That once they walk into school in their uniforms or their Tshirts and jeans, that they won’t remember pictures from this summer? And for the record, I think this is a bit over-stated. What I think you are suggesting that only males are titillated by the visual. I would suggest that you are wrong. If not, then why would females spend so much time pouring over pictures in magazines? Why do they notice when someone is hawt?

You don’t give room for teens and young adults to grow up.

There’s no room for grace. Jeff VanVonderen in his book Families Where Grace is the Place talks about the need for learning the difference between our job and God’s job. He says,

“God’s job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace… God and you can build anew with the people you love, relationships that let in fresh air and light.”

He goes on to talk about premarital sex, which I think is what you are worried about by your hard and fast rules…

“When a teenager becomes involved in premarital sex, is it just because of raging hormones? Is it simply a matter of ignoring the rules? Or could it be an attempt to feel loved and accepted, important, or not alone? I think so. …They need to be reminded that they are unconditionally loved.”

You wrote:

And so, in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.

I see. In doing so, you remove any possibility of being able to speak into these young women’s lives. You put them in the category of “forbidden secret.” You mark them as “undesirable” or as “forbidden fruit.”

Do you not remember your own teen years? Forbidding something does not mean that it is going to make it go away. Just because your children can’t see these photos or videos on their devices, those which you deem objectionable, doesn’t mean they can’t see them on their friend’s computers/smart phones.

If your children are friends with these young women, I would assume that you could possibly live in the same general area as their parents. Have you talked to their mothers? Have you sent them an email? Have you called them? While many parents do not have a social media review as your family does on a regular basis, there is something about parenting “in the village” that is very, very helpful. If you are pro-active instead of re-active, you can offer more than one chance.

It may be that you have been rejected for being “too strict” but by making things so iron-clad, you have shut down what could be an ongoing, healthy conversation.

You state that “We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

Iron-clad, no-exceptions means that if someone grows and changes, you won’t know. You won’t be around to encourage them, to remind them. You won’t be among the trusted women who can talk frankly with them about their wardrobe choices.

You are obsessing on the exterior and are not giving your sons practice at living with integrity.

They will be heading to college soon. Very soon. Sooner than you can possibly imagine. Even if they go to the most restrictive Christian college, there is still temptation and sexual tension. By not helping them wrestle with it — while they are in your home — you are going to set them up for some hard days when they are on their own. Perhaps you are a family who does not send your children away to college. Even if they are on a community college campus, they will meet up with men and women who are very different from the standards they are learning from you. And instead of being comfortable talking to them and gaining an understanding, you have a hard wall of NO.

Life does not work this way.

Even if you clean out every objectionable image in their social media files, the world has many more staring them down. I used to take my children through the “no candy, no tabloids” aisle at the grocery store when I checked out. And then I discovered that the magazines (non-tabloids) had low-cut, sexily-posed models on the front. I realized how low-cut when one daughter said, “Mommy, is that a nursing top?”

The images of misused sexuality are everywhere. To teach our children good judgement and a “strong moral compass,” we have to teach them to first see the men and women around them as human beings who are sexual, not sexual beings who are human. You can’t do that if you try to install electronic blinders on them.

What is the best way to encourage the personal character of our teens and young adults?

Is it by judging them? Ignoring them? Refusing them entry into our Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram lives? I don’t think so. You’re removing yourself from the conversation.

Here’s what I would love for you to reinforce to my daughters, actually to any mother’s daughters:

You are made in the image of God. You were created to make a difference. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are bright and caring and have much to offer this world. You are more than the clothes you wear or the make-up you put on your face. You are more than a test score, a percentile or an athletic achievement. The number of pounds on the scale mean nothing. You are loved by your parents, but even more by God. Go chase down the dreams you have on your heart. And don’t let comments about your outside make you think there’s nothing inside.

One last thought. Talk to your sons about outward images and inner self-control. Make them own their sexuality and their choices. Do not blame or suggest that any mistakes they make are because of how the women around them dress themselves. Teach them that clothing is not a “message” — it is a cultural trapping. It is not an “invitation” to do anything other than respect and respond in accordance with their own personal guidelines. This is a shared responsibility. One that young men AND women should take seriously.

I’m glad we had this little chat. To be honest, I almost didn’t post this essay. After all, it is easy enough to just roll my eyes and move on. I’m not even ‘outraged’ or ‘mad’. I am frankly a little sad. Because you are missing an opportunity to become a mentor and surrogate mom to young men and women who would otherwise never cross your path. And they are missing out on getting to know you and to understand your point of view.



ADDENDUM: Friday, September 6, 2013:

Mrs. Hall took out all of the pictures of her boys on the beach (really) because of comments from readers and bloggers. So you can disregard my comments about boy tan-lines etc. But the rest I still hold as true…

Here’s her comment on her blog update and changed photographs:

“Readers, two days ago I wrote this post for my normal audience, which is usually very small. That said, I included recent pictures of my kids at the beach, and many new readers found that to be a grave lack of discernment, considering the topic.  I agree, and have replaced them with different photos than the original post. Thank you for your counsel.”

Falwell’s passing

Jerry Falwell passed away today, May 15th, after being found unresponsive in his office at Liberty University.

While I know he was beloved and cared for by many, including his family, church, students and supporters, I have always felt he was a mixed bag of blessing and embarrassment for evangelicals.

Like any person who stands in a position of leadership, it is easy to take potshots at him. He stood out in a crowd of televangelists and Baptist preachers. He was unashamedly Republican, and a conservative one at that. He seemed to join Pat Robertson in the “GWB foot-in-mouth club” for his amazingly inept public statements. Yet at some level he was likeable and personable, like some grandfatherly relative who bumbled along and you could tolerate because it was “just how he was.”

Even his ghostwriter, Mel White, who came out of the closet and later founded Soulforce, admitted in an NPR interview:

“Jerry Falwell is a person you like immediately, up close and personal,” White says. “He doesn’t take himself seriously. He enjoys life. And even while he says some of the meanest things, it’s hard to not like him.”

As I ponder Falwell and people like him (such as the Chancellor of a certain Mideast seminary,) I truly don’t know what to think. Initially I either want to scream or throw water balloons at them…

But then I ponder and pray, and have a variety of emotions and thoughts…

As a woman called to the pastorate, they annoy me tremendously for their stuck-in-their-ways values and narrow views of ordination.

As a mother, I appreciate their concern for the rising statistics of teenage sexual experimentation, and their voice against literature and the arts which subjugate or devalue women and girls (call it porn, tweenerbopper music, or designer kiddie fashionistas, it ticks me off!)

Somehow, somewhere, I pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he had raised. A dialog of listening, writing and accepting that people can differ in their opinions and still respect each other. Without being cocky, self-righteous or overconfident that one is always right… that would most definitely be my desire… so the learning and the listening and the heart of prayer for God’s peace and right-ness starts with… ME!

The healing of the world does not begin in some far-off land that we must hasten to help, but in the geography of your own heart. There the sinner is washed in mercy and becomes thereby an instrument of mercy, not merely by his prayers, but in everything he does. For he is a vessel of grace. We cannot heal all the world’s problems, but we begin with our own heart if our help is to amount to anything.

— Fr. Matthew Kelty

I have not gotten this all figured out, but I know that I know I have much to learn…


peeling off a layer of tape…

This is the letter I wrote to the students who are meeting with Pat Robertson about the issue of commencement speaker selection…

Thanks for offering to field student thoughts on this issue.

I am not due to graduate for, oh, four years? But basically, I had already decided that I will just have my diploma mailed to me. A university’s commencement is not a political platform for the media. It is (traditionally) intended to encourage and challenge the graduates to go and do what they are trained to do. (And in the case of a Christian university, to do GOD’S work!)

I think that there are MANY inspiring speakers who are not political candidates, who are Christians who make a difference and who are not asked to speak at secular universities because they ARE Christians! I think of “acceptable” Christian writers like Max Lucado, or Andy Stanley, or perhaps “less acceptable” ones like Lauren Winner or Anne Lamott. (Yes, the last two would put some male graduates back on their heels — but they speak for the generation of leaders in America who are up and coming.) I think of men and women who have returned from Iraq. I think of teachers who make a difference dealing with truants in Newport News, or a social worker in DC who helps teens stay in school, or a public defender who offers the best defense that money can’t buy (literally). A Christian who is NOT a big name in the marketplace.

I’m just one voice. I recognize that. But I will not be a political pawn for a candidate I do not support. My diploma is not up for a vote, nor is it fodder for the 700 Club or the Nightly News.

Thanks for being willing to listen…

God bless you and I will be praying for your meeting!

In Christ alone-

To paraphrase Scripture, don’t muzzle the student while she’s writing… (grin)

Now I might get kicked out of school for this… but that’s where I stand…


So, like, where do you shop?

There is a trend I really really dislike among some teen girls, and it is probably one that many parents dislike. I keep reinforcing my distaste for it with my daughters. (And so far… so good… They hear me and agree!)

It is this idea that it is more important to be “cool” or “phat” which is judged by the way you dress, the amount of make-up you wear, how many boyfriends you have had, what you do with your hair, what kind of jewelry you wear, etc…

Have we really made so little of a change in a generation? It frustrates me to hear that my wonderful daughters are going through the same pysche junk that I did. I have too many memories of Patti and Cheryl and good-old-what’s-her-name who tormented me with their rude and truly nasty remarks when I was in high school. (The good news? They probably have cellulite now too! Time IS a great equalizer!)

I hurt for the adolescent girlie “nasties” that every female seems to have to experience… and yes, the Mama Bear in me wanted to get on the phone and give their parents a piece of my mind… but since I have so little to spare, I prayed instead. And hugged my girls. And told them I loved them.

However, this afternoon, as I read the paper in my after-service wind-down, I had to do a WHOOP and a happy dance over this op-ed piece!!!! It makes a Mama Bear really happy!

Hey Jessica? You rock!

SO, like, where do you shop?
Um… yeah. WhatEVER!


Young, Female and Taking a Stand Against Provocative Fashion

Washington Post, Sunday, March 25, 2007; Page B08

“Why am I not accepted by you?” I recall asking the beautiful, blonde future cheerleader as we walked toward our rural-suburban sixth-grade classroom in 1997.

“You don’t wear the right clothes, hang out with the right people, wear makeup or have a boyfriend,” I remember her responding thoughtfully.

At that moment, I faced a dilemma that would affect the rest of my life: Would I choose to abandon my friends and clothing and acquire a boyfriend and makeup skills to become popular, or would I stay on the course I was on?

My feminine heart longed to be accepted, to be considered pretty and fashionable. But what was I willing to sacrifice to obtain it? Even at 12, I sensed that if I took the advice implied by my classmate’s answer I would be allowing my identity to be dictated by others from then on. Everything within me rebelled at saying goodbye to who I was. So I made my choice: I wouldn’t pursue the criteria that would open the doors of popularity.

For the next seven years, until I graduated from high school, I watched as friends and classmates grew more obsessed with becoming what in the 1990s was called the “It” girl. We all knew — from magazines, TV and societal mores — that to be accepted one had to be hot. This meant wearing the latest fashions, designed for model-thin people and showcasing as many curves as possible. It meant going to parties where one rebelled, along with everyone else, against adult restrictions and where one hoped to be recognized by the girls as having “it” together and by the guys as being sexy. To attain this status, girls did the usual: starved themselves, dressed “fashionably” and gossiped incessantly to establish themselves and, with calculated innocence, to rip other girls to shreds.

I was reminded of all of this by an article in The Post’s Health section last month, “Goodbye to Girlhood; As Pop Culture Targets Ever Younger Girls, Psychologists Worry About a Premature Focus on Sex and Appearance.”

It is incredibly difficult for any girl or young woman to withstand the continual onslaught. I know it was for me. In the end, I was able not only to survive but to thrive in this environment because of my parents, my faith and my life experiences.

My parents’ love and support were unfailing. They were there when I came home in tears because the pressures of being a teenage girl were too much; they were there when I needed to share news of something wonderful.

My faith enabled me to ground my self-worth in who I was as a person, not in what I could do or become.

And I was fortunate to learn from several guys’ own lips that they valued modesty in women and admired those who had interior as well as exterior beauty. It took years, but eventually I internalized the reality that women’s clothes send a message to the world and that if we want to be treated as people and not as objects, our clothes and body language must project true beauty — dignity and quiet confidence accented, of course, by the latest clothing and accessories.

Now, as a twentysomething grad student at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at Catholic University, I still grapple with the issues raised by that childhood conversation, albeit with a more academic approach. Such studies have allowed me to realize how similar my experiences have been to those of many other women.

As a result, I have gotten involved with Pure Fashion DC, a nonprofit model-training program that seeks to inspire high-school-age girls to be role models as well as fashion models. We regularly meet with our 46 models, who hail from all over the Washington area, to discuss inner beauty (on, say, getaway weekend) and outer beauty (on salon day). Our time together will culminate in a three-hour fashion show April 29 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, where our models will showcase this year’s fashions with grace and modesty.

Whether it’s over coffee, at a Pure Fashion DC event, in a conference room or at a pajama party, I share my experiences with young women and girls to encourage them to send a message of true beauty with their bodies and their clothing.

— Jessica A. Dolezal

Silver Spring

The writer volunteers with Pure Fashion DC, a model-training program that stresses modesty.

Quote without comment…

Received a month ago and has been on my mind. However, it has NOT been in the public forum… SOooo… I post it here without comment…
Oh yes, I have an opinion…


Dear Regent Family:
It is the custom of most major universities to invite as their commencement speakers people of note in government, business, the arts, philanthropy, etc. By having prominent speakers at graduation, those in attendance have a chance to hear first-hand thinking from prominent individuals and, at the same time, media attention is directed to the institution as the remarks of the speaker are quoted widely. I remember a few years ago attending the graduation at Oral Roberts University where Bob Hope, a noted comedian, was the featured speaker. Last Spring, Liberty University asked John McCain, a presidential candidate, to be its graduation speaker.
This Spring, Regent University is pleased to be able to hear from two leading candidates for President of the United States, Rudy Giuliani and former Governor Mitt Romney. Gov. Romney is a distinguished businessman who founded Bain Capital, has been involved in multi-billion dollar mergers and acquisitions, and headed the Winter Olympics. Former Mayor Giuliani is distinguished by his leadership in New York City and his bravery during the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
Mayor Giuliani will speak on leadership and Gov. Romney will lay out his views on the future course of the political life of this nation.
Mayor Giuliani is not expected to speak about his personal life or the fact that he is a Roman Catholic. Gov. Romney is running for the post of Chief Executive Officer, not Chief Theologian, and is not expected to mention the fact that he is a Mormon or to discuss his Mormon beliefs.
As Regent University becomes more and more the center of international Christian learning, it should be appropriate that our faculty and student body are conversant with the major themes of public policy discourse in this nation and are, in turn, able to confront them intelligently.
I hope this answers some of the questions that have been raised about the choice of speakers at our school.
Pat Robertson
Regent University



Quoting without comment

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either. (Mark Driscoll)

See the whole post here…

Since I’m not (yet) a pastor, nor am I a pastor’s wife, I’ll not comment. Ooohhh, I’d like to. But I’ll practice biting my tongue and go reread James… HOWEVER — you, my friend, visiting this blog have a choice to comment with a personal (but Christ-filled) thought, so feel free…

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. [James 1:19-21, The Message]

From our home to yours…