Please read carefreely

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Me: Do you like it here?
Ethiopian cab driver: I like America very much. But Las Vegas? No. Vegasians, they are not like other people in Boston or Kansas City. A doctor is supposed to be a doctor—he gets his first degree, he goes back to school for five, six, seven years, he gets his MD. Here, they ask me to take urine and blood tests for this job. When I was in Virginia, I give urine, I give blood, they send the results to the company. Here, I go in to the doctor’s office, he says, “Did you pay the girl at the front desk?” I say, “Yes,” he says, “Does your back hurt? Anything else?” I say, “No.” He writes down the”results” on a piece of paper and tells me to leave. 
Me: He didn’t take your blood or anything?
ECD: No. Nobody cares here.
Me: It is sad to see homeless people in all of this, uh, stuff. And the looks on the faces of the girls serving drinks in the casino pits… 
ECD: This city: it does not exist anywhere else, and it is the Kingdom of the Devil.

Me: Do you like it here?

Ethiopian cab driver: I like America very much. But Las Vegas? No. Vegasians, they are not like other people in Boston or Kansas City. A doctor is supposed to be a doctor—he gets his first degree, he goes back to school for five, six, seven years, he gets his MD. Here, they ask me to take urine and blood tests for this job. When I was in Virginia, I give urine, I give blood, they send the results to the company. Here, I go in to the doctor’s office, he says, “Did you pay the girl at the front desk?” I say, “Yes,” he says, “Does your back hurt? Anything else?” I say, “No.” He writes down the”results” on a piece of paper and tells me to leave. 

Me: He didn’t take your blood or anything?

ECD: No. Nobody cares here.

Me: It is sad to see homeless people in all of this, uh, stuff. And the looks on the faces of the girls serving drinks in the casino pits…

ECD: This city: it does not exist anywhere else, and it is the Kingdom of the Devil.

(Source: andanotherthingtoo)

Filed under Las Vegas capitalism drug testing Satan

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Some Things the Free Market Will Bear


1. The three youngest strawberry pickers at the farm in Burlington speak only Spanish, and only to each other. They are sisters: six, seven, and nine. One day a thirty-one-year-old man, who has paced them for half a mile on an empty stretch between the farm and the suburb where their mother is cleaning someone else’s house, walks up behind them and takes the nine-year-old by the arm, quietly, but not quietly enough. The six-year-old and the seven-year-old are on him like rabid dogs, sinking teeth and nails into his fatty calves under the hem of his cargo shorts and hitting him in the crotch with their whole weight behind closed fists. They do not waste time with body blows and when he falls to the ground like a huge tree, they kick him several more times in soft places and the face. They have had to do this many times before.

2. It’s the third report he’s read today. Each one has been in a different business section in a different national newspaper. Each one lists different injuries to different people. He feels sick. He told his supervisor the plans to streamline the ignition switch so that the supply chain didn’t lean as heavily on Korean parts had problems. He was asked to submit the report again and clean it up, and he refused. He got transferred to a different division and now basically just enters data, day after day, hour after hour. His new supervisor is lazy and occasionally inserts mistakes and then blames those mistakes on him. He can’t quit. He has nowhere to go. He reads the story again. He goes into the bathroom and throws up.

3. She just stopped having sex with her husband, eventually. He tries romancing her halfheartedly every now and then, but he gets it. Sometimes they just kiss for a few minutes after the kids are in bed but she can tell it’s frustrating being like a scared teenager who can’t get pregnant, or else, again. He’s allergic to latex and hormones make her depressed. More depressed. IUDs are out of the question. If she gets pregnant again, she’ll lose six week’s wages and the family’s ten percent discount at the store, which they depend upon for groceries, diapers and soap.

4. Thursday afternoon her mother died. She heard details, a lot of details, from her boyfriend, who was grinning the entire time. She doesn’t like her boyfriend at all, but if this city is a bad place for women, it is a worse place for single women, and so she keeps her boyfriend the way you would keep a badly-made gun under your bed. He loves to tell her he will kill anyone who hurts her, and so she had better be good to him. Her brother, who lives far away now, is involved in some kind of a socialist group of nerds who read too many comic books and break into government computers for fun; this time they found the name of a cop who has protection on this side of the border, and so a message needed to be sent, so that the little white bags are moved smoothly and without interruption, and a woman was murdered publicly and in a shameful way. It is regrettable but neither the American courts nor the Mexican courts regulate this kind of commerce so the threat of violence is the only effective deterrent. She is very careful to think always in the passive voice.

5. She lives in a small bedroom with no windows in a house in Queens. She speaks only Russian. She has access to food, and water, and makeup, and some lacy clothes. She has no idea whether it is nighttime or daytime.

6. The cat hasn’t been fed anything besides bread in more than a week, and there are birds and maybe some field mice outside. It’s never been outside, but she can’t bear to bring it to the shelter, which kills the animals after two weeks. Sometimes less. She used to volunteer there, before the accident. She wheels herself over and opens the door and lets it out and pretends not to hear it asking to be let back in, confused.

7. The whole block is being demolished to make room for the stadium. The barber shop was his dad’s before him. They had a huge party to close the place down, and he told his friends he’d catch up with them next week. Everybody’s stumbling home. He’s just sitting there now, drunk, in the dark, with his scissors.

8. He knows 13 people in the cell block from his high school class. On the front of the building is a picture of the world.

—SBT, Sept. 1 (Labor Day), 2014

Illustration: La Era (The Threshing Floor), Diego Rivera, 1904.

Filed under Labor Day workers better red than dead

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A Transcript of This Afternoon’s Events

Gentleman: Come over here and let me eat you, baby.
Lady: Fuck you.
Gentleman: I’ll let you kiss it.
Lady [upset]: Fuck you!
Gentleman: I’ll crack that ass wide open.
Me: Hey. Don’t be an asshole.
Gentleman: Come on, baby.
Person on the phone with me: Who are you talking to?
Me: Some guy is being a huge asshole to this girl.
Gentleman: I heard that.
Me: Good. Don’t be an asshole.
Gentleman: Titty-boy! Titty-boy! You so fat. You fucking disgusting.
Me: There’s a cop right down there.
Gentleman: Oh my god, you fucking disgusting.
Me: Now he’s following me, because he doesn’t have anything better to do.
POTPWM: Are you all right?
Me: I’m heartbroken. He’s the editor of the New York Times Book Review and I really value his opinion.
Gentleman: Aw, you are disgusting. You a *cunt.* You are SO FAT.
Me [pulling up my shirt to expose the hairy magnitude of my navel as my wife gives him the bird]: Hey, man!
Gentleman [stymied]: Disgusting.

New York is a magical place.

Filed under great minds high literature catcalling feminism rapier wit

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Please Shut Up Forever About Celebrities Kiling Themselves

So, basically, what happens is you can’t stop thinking about something. Let’s say you’re ashamed. Let’s say you feel like you’ve done something terrible. So you’re, for example, just incredibly afraid someone will find out about it. It haunts you. The idea that you might end up revealed as a terrible, unlovable, irredeemable person just dogs your every step. So you tell someone; maybe a therapist and maybe a friend and maybe your wife or your husband or your boy- or girlfriend. And sometimes people, especially people who know you well, really will speak to you lovingly and tell you they think you’re a good person or that you didn’t do anything wrong at all, that you’re being too hard on yourself, and that doesn’t actually help, which comes as a shock, because you kind of expected it to snap you out of whatever this is. Sometimes, too, you will talk to somebody who feels like it is his or her job to “hold you accountable” or score points for Jesus or something and they’ll say, “You did a really bad thing. That is horrible. You should ask God for forgiveness.” And, unfairly, that actually really does make things much worse, even though the kind people don’t make anything better. There’s a part of you that really wants to hear anything bad anyone has to say about you, because it will feel right. You just lust after condemnation and hatred. You really want to be despised.

Or let’s say you’re sick. You don’t know what’s wrong. You’ve been to like seven doctors and the medical bills are starting to pile up and you just start to see in your partner’s eyes not that he or she is going to leave you or abandon you or even resent you, but that this person you love more than anything else is going to just quietly chop off a little more of him or herself to make it okay for you to be alive. And you are just filled, utterly, with horror. And it just punches you in the balls how unworthy you are of that kind of sacrifice, how much better off someone you personally love would be without you. And maybe you’re actually able to express that to this person and you hear back, no, of course I would not be better off, I love you, I want to keep on being with you, it doesn’t matter how sick you are I will always prefer a world with you in it. And you think, God, no. You are lovable. You are worth everything. You will be really happy when I am gone after a very brief period of grieving and I know all the stories about people who cheat on their dying spouses and I know we all agree those people are shits but now I kind of understand what would drive them to that because I’m going to turn into a weird, soul-eating death monster before I finally kick off and I refuse to do that to you.

And then, after a little while, whether you’re ashamed or ill or whatever else, you kind of start to feel like maybe you should just die. Like, you feel bad all the time, you’re afraid and when you’re not afraid you’re disgusted with yourself. You hate being here. It feels awful. You feel like the people who love you are just totally wrong and deceived and so you try, experimentally, to see if you can make them hate you as much as you deserve. This rarely works.

Then you start to fantasize, and think, hey, what if I jumped off a bridge. What if I cut open my wrists. Then you start to get organized about it, not really on purpose, more like you’re picking at a scab or something. Maybe I shouldn’t cut open my wrists at home—maybe what I should do is put the paring knife from the kitchen drawer in my backpack, creep out of my house at night, go to a nice chain hotel, pay for a room in cash, put a note on the door telling room service to call the police and not to go in the bathroom, leave a nice note telling my wife or husband that I love her or him so, so much and hope you are able to move on quickly, please forgive me, and then run a hot bath AND THEN IF YOU ARE VERY, VERY LUCKY, YOU WILL SAY TO YOURSELF, HOLY FUCK, I SHOULD NOT BE THINKING THIS WAY.

I’m going to take a moment and stop here and say: if you are thinking this way, or have thought this way in the recent past, and have not told a medical professional about it, you should go do that right now, before the end of the day, even if that means calling 800-273-8255 in the dead of night, and you should be as truthful as possible about how likely you are to do it, because you are a child of God who is fearfully and wonderfully made and you should not take your own life. It’s not yours. It was given to you, and you should take care of it.

Sometimes, if you are not too far gone and if you have a broad enough network of other people who love you and think that getting therapy or taking psych meds are valid and reasonable choices for a normal person, or, even less likely, you fail at a really honest attempt to do yourself in, you might actually get to a place, with therapy and possibly the addition of an SSRI or an SNRI or a really hardcore drug like an MAOI, where you are able to feel happy again. Maybe you are forgiven, or able to forgive yourself. Maybe you are not sick anymore, or your symptoms go away and the doctors shrug and go, “miracle, whaddayado,” and you move on with your life, feeling vaguely insulted at how blase everyone is being about the second chance you really didn’t honestly think you were going to get for a while there. And maybe you can eventually get off your drug and discover that you’re still with your partner, or a new partner, and your loved ones still love you, or maybe you have new loved ones, and you’re at peace for a bit.

What I’m saying is, this is like a broken arm, or a deep cut, and it heals but it doesn’t go back the way it was. And if you are off meds and out of therapy and just happily living your successful life, sometimes somebody really famous and well-known and beloved goes to a black place where there is no hope and it seems like there’s no way out but down and that’s the way they go. And then all the coverage has nasty, horrible things that you don’t want to think about in it! Really repulsive, gross details that seem to make everyone else shake their heads and say “aww” and actually what it does to you is make you feel much, much worse, and you say, “Why is everyone else insane? Why don’t people fear and hate these awful news stories? Why am I clicking on them?”

And it’s because once you’ve been to that place, you know the way back there, and you can feel the undertow, the awful weight on the broken arm, and you want to get away from it, but it is ubiquitous. It’s no use pleading with the news media to stop. They won’t. People like death. It makes them feel alive. You could, if you wanted, write a letter to the news outlet of your choice begging the editors or producers to stop publishing suicide-themed news, but they probably will file it with letters about Freemason conspiracies and immigration (I’ve worked at several newspapers; there’s a lot of that stuff around).

Instead, just turn it all off. Read a comic book. Go to the movies. Listen to Queen. But unplug, and find something else to do, because the world isn’t really going to magically start understanding depression; you actually have to take serious measures to protect yourself, because you’re not crazy if you feel this way. I feel it, too. It’s the dread of something real, but it is something you and I know and understand and can defeat.

Also, watch this, it’s hilarious and both of the people in it are alive and happy today.

That’s it.

Filed under suicide robin williams depression experience comedy

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No Talking

Ponder the person who pauses, a word
for the fellow whose phrases disincline to herd:
Though his diction is dim, often his causes
are noble indeed, though badly obscured.
His phonemes are fleeting but his mind thoroughbred;
He keeps regular quiet but in fact the fact is
though he isn’t bleating—he’s assumed to be dead—
and at causing a riot he is out of practice
(a good thing, too, for the communicator
who yells down a banshee and outshouts a train
is pretty much never that seldom tomater,
a stirring orator with full use of his brain)
the ponderous person, we’ve noticed, the blight
on the landscape in which we’re conversin’—he might
cause an air of festivity slowly to worsen,
but sometimes he’s also conceivably right.

—SBT 2014

Filed under poetry rhetoric rhyme ripping off nabokov

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Q&A With Dan Harmon

This is my interview with Harmon, another guy whose work nearly always appeals to me; I even bought a collection of Scud: The Disposable Assassin comics because he’d written some of them (they’re okay. Not great, but okay). I condensed it for this Q&A and wish I hadn’t had to, but alas, we can only afford so much paper each week. Harmon is a brilliant, funny, interesting guy and he’s awkward in a way I find fascinating. He’s not shy, though, and as you can see, I ask only a few questions and he just talks nonstop. I love both of his shows; I loved Community so much I was afraid it’d turn out to be a fluke and he wouldn’t be able to carry it off again, but I like Rick & Morty, if anything, better. The start of that show was the occasion of this interview. This was just after Harmon had gotten his job as Community showrunner back, but before it had been canceled.

So how did this all begin?

Justin [Roiland, co-creator of Rick & Morty] had always been sort of playing around with these very intense, strange characters through the Channel 101 sandbox. They started off as a kind of punk rock, sneering immolation of a relationship we all grew up on, which is the one between Doc Brown and Marty McFly (the characters were originally called Doc and Mharti), and they kind of evolved from there. I think there was something about this insane, sociopathic, gruff character who keeps burping while he’s talking and this kid who keeps asking these questions, the answers to which are, “I don’t have time to answer that question.”

Like everything on Adult Swim, Rick & Morty has a really distinctive look. How much input do you have into that?

If somebody puts something in front of me and asks for an opinion, I’ll give them one, but I’m not the person whose eyeball one should be deferring to, especially not with Justin. His eyeballs are very specific and very passionate. What I can provide for him is, if he says, “Well, I want there to be a giant testicle monster with testicles hanging off of it, and it has a vagina in the middle of it,” what I can provide is OK, how does that feel? What kind of story might make use of that? Does the testicle monster come in on page one, and what are we learning on page five?

It’s kind of dark, man.

It’s from the opposite corner to Community—the character who makes everything happen is a scientist and an ingenious one, who, like a lot of smart people, is burdened with the knowledge that a lot of what you think matters doesn’t matter. He knows that there are different timelines, and that there’s a universe where Hitler won World War II, and just as many as there are where Hitler lost World War II, and people who live there feel like their universe is the normal universe.

But you’re also saying that the stories are specifically different from Community stories.

Community starts with the idea that we are all people, and part of some family, and then usually, in a Community story, the call to adventure is the insinuation that there’s a system or ideology that’s more important than people, and it causes chaos. And they eventually come to the conclusion that when they got out of bed that morning, they were as good as they were going to get and they need to give themselves permission to be who they are. Rick & Morty is an inversion of that: science rules supreme, marriages are on the rocks, and things get so chaotic that it does boil down to the petty, emotional issues of humanity. And when you come back into the third act of a Rick & Morty story, the moral is that let’s not forget we’re all pretty insignificant.

And that’s a lot more palatable for the younger audience on Adult Swim than it would be to, say, NBC.

Even if they are older, they’re watching animation—the young part of your brain is kind of the revolutionary part. It’s fun. The Adult Swim audience is going to be more amenable to this—it’s the god they’re worshipping when they’re out there skateboards trying to break their legs.

So how do you run two shows with two totally opposing worldviews?

You be absolutely mentally ill. When it’s prevalent, we call it diagnosable. When you can observe two diametrically opposite things and just perceive them as coexisting—well, if you work in a bank you’ll probably get fired. If you work on a TV show, you assign each part of that circle to a different character. This universe is gigantic and there’s no way that either of us can be any more significant than a grain of salt, but at the same time it’s unhealthy to not go with the instinctive emotional feeling that everything is so important. Nothing could be more important than what’s happening to you right now. Every breath you take is another story. What could be a bigger crime than ignoring that that time is passing? That’s the triumph of this naked ape that we are over the awareness that we’ve jailed ourselves in. But you have to be just as enthusiastic about how insignificant we are.

With that kind of darkness, did you ever think about working with Dino Stamatopoulos, who worked with you on Community and has a couple of shows at Adult Swim already? Seems like you guys are pretty close.

Dino is above me, in a certain sense. He’s older than me and has been working longer. I’m more comfortable collaborating with someone younger than me. I wouldn’t want to give Dino notes on anything, ever. It’s something about the inherent hierarchy among creatives—there’s more at risk there than there is with a writer ten years younger than you who’s passionate about things you’re not passionate at all about. Justin loves to pay attention to these beautiful backgrounds that you’re describing, and he looks at me as a person who’s always right on the things that he doesn’t have any opinions about. There’s no Gaza strip there where two people think they’re both supposed to be calling the shots. We get to be ourselves, and they help so much. I will collaborate with Dino for sure, but we’re partners on so many projects.

What was it like doing an animated show for the first time?

It’s catastrophically different from [what I thought it would be like]—what you call post-production in television you call pre-production in animation. In live action you end up with a rough cut that can be twice as long as what you end up with in runtime. You can decide what the final product will be in the edit bay; in animation you’ve got to edit down to the second. You can’t just lift out swaths of it and call it sculpture. If I’d known all the different things you have to care about in animation, my knees would have trembled. My weird laziness combined with my naivete and impulsiveness… something brought me to Justin, who is one of the best producers you could ever ask for. This is stuff that he’s absolutely compelled to dwell on. He’s an artist himself. He has no problem dwelling among these cubicles and making the character designers’ lives a living hell, because he cares about every background and every pixel. He works hand in hand with Mike Mandel, the line producer. Like an idiot, I was thinking, oh, now I’ll have full control! I’ll have a show like The Simpsons! I could not have been further off the mark.

What’s it like to be back on Community? 

It’s fantastic to be back. It’s very humbling, because we got started so late. Sony made the decision to do 13 episodes so late and to put [fellow Community writer Chris] McKenna and I in charge of them. It’s like an underdog sports movie: everybody had been snatched up by Parks & Rec or somewhere else. It’s not that there’s been a shortage of good people, it’s that you’ve had to work very hard to find them. We’ve got a lot of really good new faces in there who are just zealously professional, and they’ve read the stories about the supposedly horrible hours a writer has to work on Community, and they’re in there because they think it’s good. Being among people like that can make you kind of nervous. I was kind of always the guy who had to tap his glass with a fork in the middle of a conversation and say how much more important it was than they thought; I was the crazy Howard Hughes guy who had to lock himself in a room and do the story while a board waited to see it. The people who are able to write it, they find you and you find them. I’m in a position for the first time in my career where I struggle with a position of unworthiness relative to the people who are underneath me. I feel like the reason I have to go work hard is not because of the audience first and foremost, but because of these kids who think this is the best thing in the world to work on. I don’t have bad guys lurking over me. I’m not surrounded by ungrateful people. Self-loathing and combating all the people around you can be a luxury. If you screw up, it’s your fault now. If season 5 of Community sucks, it’ll be because I suck.

It’s funny—you describe Rick as this kind of troubled guy whose perspective is so macro that other people don’t understand him. That sounds a lot like Abed to me. Why have such similar characters in such different shows?

I gravitate toward these characters for self-serving reasons. Either through nature or nurture I have decided that what makes me likable is not whether or not you like me when I’m talking to your face but whether or not you like what I do. So I love stories about guys… not guys you love to hate—”oh he’s so bad he’s good!”—but guys like Mark Zuckerberg or Howard Hughes or Temple Grandin. People who are discounted for reasons that are fundamental to human nature and so have to answer to a higher power. The Steve Jobs mythology. It’s hard to talk about this without sounding like “Oh, I think I’m one of these people!” It’s not that. I put all my eggs in my writing basket and for better or for worse I just decided that if what I make is good, I’m good, and if what I make is bad, then I’m bad, and we live in a world where everybody agrees that that’s not true! Somebody’ll do something good and everyone will say “Oh, but he’s a bad person.” I like examining that conflict between the people who don’t fit in but are consumed with the contribution to these people who kind of don’t like them. Self-loathing and self-worship are kind of both the same side of narcissism. It’s kind of like, “Jesus Christ, get over yourself.” [It’s like] the scene in the Aviator where Howard Hughes is trying to perfect some kind of aspect of an aircraft and he starts saying uncontrollably “Show me all the blueprints!” and can’t stop saying it, and you have that amazing moment where you feel sorry for someone who has so much power, because they have this relationship with some kind of God above them; even if that God is just mental illness. The Rick character is just the absurd expression of that. It’s very much like Doctor Who and Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Willy Wonka. They just don’t have time to interface with the people around them in a way that makes anybody comfortable. I think the answer over time is that you’ll come to believe that he’s a real person. I think even by the end of these first ten episodes, we’ve figured out that the more hours you log with this guy, he never really jumps the shark in terms of revealing that he loves all the people around him, or crying and saying “oh, it’s so hard to be this big a prick,” but you get it, or you get that you don’t get it. It made me so excited that this character could possibly live for a long time. I’m looking forward.

How do you make Rick resonate like that?

Dimensionalizing him means bringing the audience more and more into this infinitely-sized multiverse. By the end of the first ten episodes, we don’t really reveal that there’s some big enchilada like Fox Mulder’s sister getting abducted; we don’t reveal that he’s been trying to bring his ex-wife back to life, but we do realize how vast the universe he lives in compared to ours is, and how existentially exhausting that has to be. Morty basically has to have it beaten out of him. If you bring your hangups into a world of infinite adventures, you’re gonna die or you’re going to let them go.

Filed under Dan Harmon Community Rick & Morty Adult Swim NBC

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Some Thoughts on Women and Church Leadership

Last week a Christianity Today blog called, hilariously, Leadership Journal, published a hair-raising confessional by a child predator who’d written the piece from behind bars. The structure of the article was probably the worst thing about it, although you’re spoilt for choice in the “worst” category: he described what he called “an extra-marital relationship” with “a friend” who turned out to be, you guessed it, one of his students, someone he’d known since she was in middle school. He was in his thirties.

"The ‘friendship’ continued to develop," the author, who is eligible for parole in 2015, wrote. "Talking and texting turned flirtatious. Flirting led to a physical relationship. It was all very slow and gradual, but it was constantly escalating. We were both riddled with guilt and tried to end things, but the allure of sin was strong. We had given the devil far more than a foothold and had quenched the Holy Spirit’s prodding so many times, there was little­ to ­no willpower left. We tried to end our involvement with each other many times, but it never lasted. How many smokers have quit smoking only to cave in at the next opportunity for a cigarette? We quit so many times, but the temptation of ‘one more time’ proved too strong. Like David, my selfishness led to infidelity. Then, to destruction."

Eventually, after several days of angry pressure from the social justice Twitter crowd, the piece was taken down and the site’s editors posted an apology that would ring a lot truer if it had come a lot sooner.

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” widely considered one of the best-written novels in English, is narrated by a predator and contains a confession worth considering: “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” And so you can: Note the repeated use of “we,” the passive voice when the author (name withheld, naturally) talks about his “constantly escalating” proximity to this child. Note the comparison the author makes between himself and King David. Note the characterization of statutory rape—and he must know it’s rape, because he’s in prison on two felony counts—as “infidelity.” He blames his wife elsewhere in the article, though if you look at it only briefly, he appears to merely be put-upon and henpecked. Look at this tangle of thorns.

I wish I could stop here, but I don’t feel like I can. Last week, Kevin William Reed, a 35-year-old youth minister, was arrested on one count of sexual battery for allegedly molesting a 17-year-old in the church kitchen and on rides in his car to and from church. Reed used to be the mayor of Camden, Ohio starting a term in 2011 that was marked by accusations of fraud, embezzlement and theft. But for some reason, Higher Heights Church in Camden decided he was worthy of a second chance—not as a child of God, not as a fellow fallen brother in Christ, but as a leader. I came up with this case by searching for the phrase “youth pastor indicted” on Google News. The same week a cardinal in St. Louis went so far as to say that he wasn’t sure raping children was a crime (it is).

Feminism does not have a strong enough foothold in the church, and without it, men do not understand the way rape polices women’s lives. The experiences of women, sexual minorities and people of color (particularly Asian Christians, who have close ties with majority-white churches and are frequently the victims of surprising racism) are parallel to, not in communion with, those of the straight white men who occupy, without meaningful exception, every single place of leadership in the evangelical church. Not a couple but several women of my personal acquaintance have been abused within the walls of a church, and this is in large part because men do not understand what threats to women look like.

Men say things to each other and themselves like, “I’ve heard Bill’s testimony about chasing tail in college; nobody who likes tits that much could be into little kids;” sometimes they talk about children who are “old enough.” It’s a culture that dismisses pedophiles as creepy perverts and in truth, many of these dudes probably aren’t into little kids. They’re into kids who are maturing physically, not because they have some kind of deviant attraction to sexually immature people, but because they’re complete psychos who feel entitled to whatever arouses them. Boz Tchividjian, a former prosecutor and blogger for Religion News Service, quotes a child protection expert in a recent post who said, “it’s not the guy sitting alone at the party that we should be most concerned about, it’s the one hosting the party,” and he’s right. People who crave attention, people who love giving orders, people who exude charisma: these are the absolute last people who should be in positions of leadership anywhere, least of all the body of Christ.

A close friend who recently graduated from a prestigious seminary confided in me that he’d encountered, with awful frequency, incidents of infidelity and plain old cruelty and narcissism among his fellow students, and (a family man himself), he no longer wanted to go into the ministry where a culture of tolerance and generosity toward that kind of sin was nurtured and encouraged. Meanwhile, any notion that homosexual Christians are our brothers and sisters is rejected out of hand—less, I think, because of some kind of fundamental objection to homosexuality, than because of its affront to masculinity.

There just aren’t enough women leading the church, especially not when the majority of parishioners are female. Evangelical culture still privileges men, and worse, specific kinds of men over others. It worships charisma. It cheers on big bags of shit like Mark Driscoll when they talk smack about gay people. It turns a blind eye to gossip and stigmatizes single mothers to such a degree that abortion becomes the only reasonable alternative to shame for many young women. And it offers wicked men opportunity after opportunity, not to be forgiven, but to hurt their fellow Christians, sometimes by causing them to stumble, and sometimes by brutally and remorselessly assaulting their sisters in Christ, because it puts them in positions of authority.

I guess I’m writing this to say to the women I know in the evangelical church, please step up. If you are organized and thoughtful and know how to talk to people and don’t much enjoy public debate or office politics, I’m sorry to report that you are the ideal candidate for church leadership. If you are already in church leadership, may every blessing be on you and your family and may God raise up a hundred others like you. Let us know how to support you. Men, support them. If you see someone in authority who does not appear to have much of a working conscience when it comes to his personal life or his dealings with other people, shout him down. Do it with love in your heart, but by all means do it. Misogyny is a wicked trap for everyone, not just women, and the people it gives a voice and a platform are the people whom Christ himself said would be better off with a millstone tied around their necks and cast into the sea.

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