Anatomy of My Vote: November 2016

mail_johnsonI just cast my vote for the Tuesday, November 8th election via mail. While this blog isn’t about politics (and even my columns at The Hill should shift more to religion over politics once this election is over), I thought I would share who I voted for and why.

Voting by mail at all is new for me this year. From 2012 to 2015, I served as an election judge for the Republican party and generally took advantage of early voting so I could remain at my polling station. However, I left the Republican party earlier this year due to Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee telling us that if we weren’t going to support Donald Trump, we should just leave the party (k. bye!). I now consider myself an independent and a “conservatarian.” You have to declare one party or the other to serve as an election judge in Illinois, so I opted not to serve anymore.

Prior to becoming an election judge, I enjoyed going to the polls. However, with my lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this year, I have no desire to be anywhere near the polls on election day. As an Illinois government employee, November 8th will be a paid holiday for me, so I am going to enjoy the day off with my kids and try not to think about this horrible election.

Without further ado, here is how I voted:


Review: Undaunted

Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking
Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking

Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do by Christine Caine [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2012; Zondervan audiobook read by Tess Masters, 2012]

I first heard Christine Caine deliver a sermon at Willow Creek Community Church the weekend of April 17, 2016. Her sermon was so good, I made up my mind on the spot to read every book she has written; sadly, I was rather slow to fulfill that promise until I figured out how to fit audiobooks into my life more regularly. I think I settled in on Undaunted among all of her other books because it was the one my local library had, though I didn’t finish the paper copy in May as planned. Now, armed with the audiobook copy on Hoopla Digital, I was finally able to “read” it.

Undaunted is a thoroughly enjoyable, at times painful, almost semi-autobiographical book that details how Caine founded the A21 Campaign to abolish human trafficking. The book begins with a very daunting bit of theodicy wherein a group of recently freed sex trafficking victims question how God could be real after everything they had been through and why someone like Christine Caine hadn’t shown up to help them sooner (her answer, a very honest, “I don’t know, but I’m here now”). The narrative then segues into different events in Caine’s life and the lessons about God that Caine drew from each, with the overarching message being that we should not be daunted in doing what God calls us to do.


Review: After You Believe

After You Believe -- N. T. WrightAfter You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N. T. Wright [New York, N. Y.: HarperOne, 2010; HarperAudio audiobook read by Anthony Ferguson, 2010]

If C. S. Lewis had been in favor of women’s ordination and a Bible scholar (two things which naturally belong together ;-)), he would have been N. T. Wright. They were/are both Anglican, English, taught at Oxford, and have/had a preponderance of fondness for being known by their initials. Wright also, like Lewis, possesses a keen ability to reason from the Scriptures in a simple yet logical manner and a creative command of useful metaphors and analogies to bring his points to life. His Simply Christian (which I haven’t read) has been compared to Lewis’s Mere Christianity, with obvious similarities in the titles. No word on whether or not Wright shares in Lewis’s fondness for cigars, but I digress.

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters is a sequel to Simply Christian, but I can attest that you don’t have to read the first to understand and be edified by the second. As the subtitle suggests, After You Believe is about the development of character and what that means, a call for Christians to return to the pursuit of virtue. Central to Wright’s message is a breakdown of what the “Royal Priesthood” is: that Christians are meant to be both rulers and priests, and that this life is but the small opening part of a much longer existence (there are echoes of deification in this theology, although Wright does not use that term). The pursuit of virtue is not a matter of salvation, Wright is clear, but something we should seek earnestly in anticipation of and preparation for what God means for us to be. Wright makes the case that virtue is not something we are automatically given by the indwelling of the Spirit, but something that we must make a conscious effort to build up and pursue—with the Spirit’s help, of course.


Finding healing in walking away

DepressionIn college I was intense. I don’t believe I ever took less than 16 credits, and usually took closer to 18. I was enrolled in three foreign languages at once, an officer in several clubs, and an enthusiastic participant in martial arts, self-defense, flexibility, and dance classes. I played guitar (though probably not very well) and sang in my church’s choir. I was as close to a Renaissance woman as I was ever going to be. The worst grade I got in anything was a B-; I had a 4.0 GPA or nearly a 4.0 GPA on a number of semesters. I had not started school with any academic scholarships, but began receiving them every year after my first full year at BYU.

Two things happened in 2003. I got married, and I decided to cram in a second minor in history in preparation for pursuing an American history master’s degree. It was too late to switch my major or add a second major and still graduate by 2005, but the minor would be enough to curry favor with graduate schools and show that I was serious about history.

My marriage became my undoing. I don’t want to go into all of the reasons why; let’s just say that duties and responsibilities that are supposed to be jointly shared within a marriage fell heavily and disproportionately on me. There was very little partnership. Instead, I found myself almost exclusively responsible for the well-being of two adult lives instead of one, to my exhaustion. Things got worse when my then-husband suddenly asked for a divorce in 2004, less than a year after our wedding. There had been no warning, and he did not want to even try to do therapy or work things out. He told me I was such a horrible person that I didn’t deserve any kind of a second chance with him, that he just wanted out of the marriage and away from me as soon as possible. Though we eventually reconciled, his gaslighting had an immeasurable impact on my psyche. I spent years walking on eggshells, believing that I had done something mysterious and terrible to drive him away in 2004. After our divorce in 2014, my former college roommates approached me to say he had been cheating on me shortly after we got married and they hadn’t known how to break it to me. The sudden and earnest request for divorce back in 2004 suddenly made sense. I believe he only reconciled with me because the Other Woman broke up with him.

With all of this going on, I finally lost my intensity. For the first time since high school, I began failing classes. (more…)

On Hope

Harley with a Funko POP of her namesake, age 10
Harley with a Funko POP of her namesake, age 10

Last Friday I recorded a podcast on the theology of hope with Dan Wotherspoon for Mormon Matters (available now). The other guests were Brian Hauglid of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and Patrick Q. Mason of Claremont. Though the podcast was by Mormons for Mormons, I had a lot to say about traditional Christian views on hope and eschatology.

Dan asked us at the end of the podcast if we could answer the call of 1 Peter 3:15 and “give a reason for the hope that is within [us].” I have given a personal testimony here, but I wanted to repeat here what I said on the podcast:

My daughter was born in 2006 at the end of a healthy pregnancy in which I’d had every reason to expect a healthy baby. As I looked down at her resting in my arms for the first time, a horrible thought came into my head. I felt like I was being silly, but in that moment my fear and dread were all-consuming. I had to say it. “Does my baby have a cleft palate?”

The doctor and the nurse exchanged confused glances and looked at me like I was CrazyMom. I thrust my daughter back at them, made the nurse take her to check her palate. I’m sure she was expecting to say, “No, CrazyMom, your baby does not have a cleft palate. Please stop acting crazy now.” Instead, she called out, “Actually, doctor, can you come and take a look at this? I think there’s something here…”

It was the beginning. (more…)