Another long email from me please respect my privacy at this time.
|Nov 12||Public post|| 6|
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Welcome back, frangers. Thank you so much to everyone who filled out the survey from last month. It was invaluable and I learned so much about what you like and don’t like. Based on the feedback, just a few tweaks here and there:
I won’t be including Instagram links in the newsletter anymore. It was almost universal that people skip over them, since they are already following along on Instagram.
I’ll replace this with a little favorites section, just for Lil Swipes.
You guys were split on keeping it monthly versus doing something on a more frequent basis. I think for now, I’ll keep it monthly.
You love the audio (some of you didn’t even know the audio version existed, so what a fun discovery for you), and we’ll definitely keep that. There is a way to load that audio content so it gets sent to your podcast app of choice like any other podcast: you can learn how to do that here. Technology is truly magical.
Reading the survey was a delight because some of you are hilarious. Proof:
“I don’t read your long, religious essays. Please don’t be mad, Jesus.”
“Sometimes I cry when I see how long your newsletter is.”
“Thanks for remembering you have single followers.”
“You are a bright spot in an inbox that gets crowded with what feels like millions of Bath and Body emails.”
“I sit down and read this with popcorn and wine.”
“Would love more book recs, but maybe you don’t read that much…?”
“Don’t listen to anything anyone says in this survey. You are the Henry Ford of newsletters.”
“I would love more riddles.”
“I usually cringe when people talk about Jesus on the internet, but I don’t with you so GOOD JOB.”
“I would love a way to meet the other Lil Swipes who I assume are just as hilarious and weird as I am.”
“I shouldn’t answer this survey because of my period…”
“I love your newsletter, Erin, but it’s a lot to take in at once.”
So anyway, thank you for taking the time to fill it out and give your feedback. And the winner of the gift card is Mena Orso, so Mena, shoot me a DM or an email and we’ll get this train moving. Thank you, Lil Swipes!
P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘
P.P.S. As a reminder, there are affiliate links in this post.👌
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“I follow someone who is blatantly copying another Instagrammer, and I know for a fact that she’s taking tweets and memes, placing them in her own template, and passing them off as her own, even adding her name to the bottom like she came up with them. This person has an audience and is using content created by other people to build her follower count. It infuriates me. Can you please address this? Lol sorry this wouldn’t fit in the Question box.” — Anonymous
Friends, I can’t believe this must be said in the year of our Lord 2019, but stop stealing content. Tag original sources. Cease sneak-following other content producers, not telling your people about them, and using their idea and acting like you’re the genius who came with it. Stop lifting the text from hilarious tweets and putting them into templates like you said it. Also, we’re all absorbing content all day, and I’m sure that I’ve been the villian in someone else’s story when I accidentally stole a joke format from someone else and didn’t credit them. I did this once: I wrote a script for a video that parroted a lot of the work of a peer I greatly respected. I was young and didn’t have enough original thought, so I figured I could fudge some of her ideas and pass them off as my own. She did the absolute best thing for me: she called me out. I was so embarrassed because she was right. I did steal it. It helped me pay attention to everything I did after that. Of course, all of us are products of what we consume; the idea is to give credit where credit is due.
I know sometimes this is an accident. I do. It’s not like we’re all so original that our magnificent jokes can’t be replicated. But this blatant, post-truth mishmash where Rachel Hollis is giving a cute text treatment to quotes from the Dali Lama and slapping her name on them, it ain’t okay. Just tag the original creator. Your people will not love you less for pointing them in the direction of other good creators. I follow an Instagrammer (I’m not going to put her name because it feels weird, but I mention her often on Stories, so you know who it is), and while she’s 100xs wittier and smarter than I, I know we could have some adjacent content. But I know the whole reason I found her was because I had a lot of people tell me how amazing she is (AND SHE IS), so I know we have some overlapping Venn diagrams. I want to be so careful not to steal content from her that I’ve actually deleted a story because it felt icky; like I lifted her content and made it my own. And it was an accident. It’s also okay to add to conversations while giving the original source a hat tip. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, friends. If you think this anonymous question is about you, it might actually be about you. 🤷♀️
“Should I ask people before putting their kids on my insta-story or do people care?” — @ayyowhitwhit
Yes. It’s best to assume people do care and ask. Then if they don’t, it’s no bigs.
“Does your family “do” Santa at Christmas? As our baby gets older, we are rethinking this”. — @faithntaylor
I grew up with Santa in my house and have no memory of figuring out the actual deal, but Gwennie (my mom, if you’re new) used to say: “If you do not believe, you do not receive.” Which meant: Don’t squeal to the younger kids, also if you make a public profession of not believing in Santa, guess who’s not going to get presents from Santa? (You.) I have a friend who felt so betrayed by their parents when they found out the truth about Santa, they brought it up in therapy.
So it’s complicated.
Holland used to be VERY ANTI-SANTA, to the point where she wrote Santa a letter, asking if Rudolph could please be the one to deliver gifts. She hated Santa so much that she would rather have a full-grown, magical flying reindeer in our living room, chewing up cookies, pooping in our fireplace and whatnot. But this is what she looked like when she pled the blood, so we did whatever she wanted:
A couple of years ago, she point-blank asked us if Santa was real. Ben and I decided that we would tell her the truth, and let her in on the game for Marlo (and later Cy). “Okay, so Santa is just a fun tradition we do. It’s really mom and dad putting out presents. But now, you get to be in on it with us.” We sneak her out of her bedroom after the littles fall asleep and let her help set their Santa spread up. She hypes Santa in December. She gets to secretly whisper “thank you” on Christmas morning in our ear and she is living. She’s in on the magic and she loves it. (The same rules apply to inner sanctum Santa knowledge as to puberty talks: this is a family conversation. Please do not talk about tampons or Santa’s sleigh with your friends.)
We also want to be careful that Santa isn’t bringing our kids some crazy expensive, outlandish gift, but Santa DOESN’T give other kids in a different tax bracket nice gifts.
Put some respect on Santa’s name and don’t make him a butthole. At the Lunar Module, Santa does small, fun things in your stocking, but mom and dad bought the train table. We also don’t use Santa (or GOD FORBID ELF ON THE SHELF Jesus be a raindrop) as a behavioral tool because I don’t have the energy to change an elf’s location every day, nor do I have the strength to create a vignette where the elf has gotten into some kind of mischief that I must then clean up? In the words of Amy Poehler: “great for them, not for me.” I don’t love the Santa storyline that he’s watching you and knows when you do bad things and will, therefore, smite you with a lack of presents. Santa’s fake: I get to choose his narrative. He’s just a nice, casual guy who comes into your house in the middle of the night and eats your cookies and leaves you some things in a sock you’ve hung up on the fireplace.
Lots of parents do Christmas a LOT of different ways. I know some families who don’t do Christmas presents at all: it’s Jesus’s birthday (Bible scholar note: it’s not, but whatever), do you get presents at other people’s birthdays (that felt like a possessive punctuation minefield, I am almost positive I did it incorrectly)? My precious friend Liza has a “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus” party every year and it is truly the delight of my soul. We eat cake and have a huge indoor fake snowball fight. She makes us sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus. It is the purest thing on this earth. PROTECT LIZA.
The best plan of action is to decide what you want to do before your kid is old enough to verbally process the concept of Santa. If you choose not to do the Santa thing, I think that’s cool, but just tell your kid that some families do it, and we don’t romp on anyone’s Christmas/winter/holiday ding-dong.
So I mentioned that many of you were cooled on repurposing links from Instagram here, which is awesome because that was the second-hardest thing to do. Now, Links for the Month will be repurposed into just fun things I like this month.
🎙 30-50 Feral Hogs from Reply All - I love Reply All (especially an episode with just PJ, sorry Alex), and this delightfully nuanced look at the (really troubling) feral hog problem in the US was excellent.
🎙 Wil Gafney - Womanist Midrash from The Bible for Normal People - Dr. Wilda Gafney is one of my favorite theologians and she absolutely kills this interview.
🎙 Trailer Blazers - My husband and his friend Nick started a podcast to chat about movie trailers, video game trailers, and other things trailer-adjacent. I am sleeping with half this podcast, but I am into it. If you are into trailers or getting a glimpse of Ben Moon’s big, beautiful brain, check it out!
📧 From the survey, I know that most of you are already subscribed to Knox McCoy’s Sectional Healing newsletter, but if you’re not: please go ye therefore and sign up. His take on the whole *gestures vaguely* John Crist thing is solid and well-thought-out. A small sampling:
“Christian culture and art has been broadly irrelevant because in most circumstances it is inherently illegitimate. WHY? Because it mostly exists to comment upon / reinforce itself and in this way, Christian art is a bit like a fart giving an interview about its own smell. It is redundant and reductive precisely because it is a closed loop of inspiration and execution.”
🕯I heard Sophie and Melanie talk about this candle on The Big Boo Cast, and while it IS a bougie candle, it smells like an Anthropologie. ALSO this is my newsletter so I will tell you that my friend Tara-Leigh Cobble told me the trick to getting candles to burn evenly is to make sure the wax melts to the edge of the container every time. No tunneling, no wasted wax. CANDLE TIPS WE ARE TRULY WILDIN OUT HERE.
👗 I bought this dress for our Colorado trip and it was so comfy and cute. And tons of colors to choose from. It was true to my normal size and POCKETS. I got the dark green color. S’cute.
🧥 I already posted about my faux leather jacket from Target in Stories, but this jacket really enhances my bad attitude but in like, a cool way.
🕶 New (cheap!) sunglasses I bought from a screenshot Jamie sent me from an unknown influencer. They are so big and make my head look petite.
🎄I told you I would have suggestions for Advent readings and suggestions, and LO I DO:
Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas - this has writing by Uncle Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Philip Yancey, Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, and more.
O Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp
The Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent by Amy-Jill Levine
Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr
Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent by Walter Brueggemann
The Giving Manger: An Advent & Christmas Tradition for Families from Sacred Ordinary Days
Which Machine Shall We Rage Against?
Note: I find that I often don’t know what I think until I write it out (h/t to Flannery O’Connor), and I am also a very slow processor. I had no intentions to write about this, but here we are. If you’re not Christian-adjacent, take heart that I’m going to begin this essay by talking about the whole John B. Crist thing, but really it evolved into a look at power in a broader sense. Just FYI.
Another note: I understand that this perspective is from a place of privilege (and therefore version of power). I want to always acknowledge that.
As a person who spent many hours of her life backstage at Christian events, exactly zero percent of the JBC story surprises me. Power, in any form, can be corrosive and toxic to your soul. The systems that kept this particular scandal (which was uncovered at least two years ago) from coming to light are the same systems that enable pastors to abuse and manipulate within the church walls for years. The same systems that allow for abuses of power to flourish in the halls of government and education.
I don’t really want to spend a lot of time here talking about John (whom I do not know). My sincere hope for him is that he gets real, transformative help. As someone who knows addition (particularly sexual) well, it is a beast in our day and age. This world, for someone who has a sex addiction, is the equivalent of an alcoholic living in a bar. Although I don’t think his addition absolves him of the way he allegedly used it to manipulate the women around him, I hope he gets help.
Equally, I hope the women who have been thrust into this light are being cared for and getting the help they need.
I don’t really want to use the (self) implosion of another person’s life for content, but as I read reactions to this news, I kept thinking about how many times we’ve repeated this narrative. It’s not about John Crist — it’s bigger than that.
In the Charisma article outlining the accusations against Crist, one of the women says that at one point she thought,
“Hey this is kind of weird…it’s OK. He’s a Christian. He won’t do anything inappropriate.”
This is how the system flourishes. In religion, in government, in schools: these leaders are banking on the fact that because the institution has a reputation of being good, you will not question their motives, because they are adjacently good. I’m not blaming this woman. She’s not wrong for trusting someone who has publically confessed to being aligned with Christianity. That makes sense. Power residing in something like the Christian culture is intoxicating. When you’re powerful in this arena, you can hide behind the facade of good, behind God. The people who abuse their power within these structures do a great job masking their intentions with one simple tool: trust.
I watched The Family on Netflix earlier this year and I have not stopped thinking about a scene from Episode 1 (if you have Netflix, this scene is about two minutes long and it starts at about 28:00). That one Mitt Romney guy walks into the house and the conversation centers around all the bad things King David did: murder, rape, etc. But how “God likes this guy.” He asks the young men what was different about David. One answers, “he was chosen.” The older man throws him the football and says, “Yeah. Chosen. Interesting set of rules, isn’t it?”
The thesis shaping this scene is clear: When you’re chosen, you can do anything you want, and it’s correct and good by virtue of being your own decision, as someone who has God on their side. The chosen get to choose.
This is the system that protects abusers, specifically in the church. We trust that because a person has been given power, that because God holds the story, that they will do the right thing, the godly thing. A chosen leader wouldn’t take advantage of a person underneath them in the power dynamic. A chosen leader would never steal or manipulate. And to be fair, some do not. Some men and women use their power for good. But it’s the ones who use it for their own gain that I want to talk about. The chosen leaders who either wield your sense of trust as a weapon to get what they want or ostracize you for pushing back.
We’ve all heard the quote from John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Or maybe you know it from Star Trek:
As a side note, young William Shatner can get it.
This isn’t a pithy saying: it’s from a letter to one of Dalberg-Acton’s friends, the Anglican bishop Mandall Creighton. Reading on in the letter, Dalberg-Acton continues:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”
This really speaks to me in several ways. 1) Because a favorite phrase of Ben Moon’s when it comes out that yet another person is garbage is “There are no great men.” 2) I think the use of the word “influence” here is almost prophetic. Today, having power and having influence over someone is almost one in the same. That’s where we’ve conflated celebrity with leadership. That is why we have this particular president.
Of course, there are an equal amount of powerful people who use their power for good. The older I get, the more in awe (OBVIOUSLY TO MY DETRIMENT) I am by men and women in positions of power who do not allow it to define them. Power wielded well is the rarest of jewels in this world.
I saw a lot of takes lamenting how they “couldn’t believe” Crist “would do something like this.” It is hard to be wrong. We view the idea of changing our minds or being wrong as a character flaw (see “flip-flopping”). It is hard for us to reconcile David as someone who is “a man after God’s own heart” with the idea that he used his position of ultimate power and influence to rape Bathsheba and murder Uriah.
There is nothing more unmooring than being wrong. I remember when I was in college, I was working at a summer camp. One of the men who came to speak at my camp one week was my own pastor: a powerful, kind man who knew my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s family well (let’s call him Tony). When Ben’s high school best friend was killed in a car accident, Tony was the one who called Ben, who comforted him. Tony was deeply embedded in my community and I’d never heard a word spoken against him. I watched him care for people in a way that almost doesn’t exist at a large church anymore: the sheer number of people times hours in the day prevents pastors from actively pastoring a lot of their flock. That’s not a criticism of them: it’s a commendation to him. He was honorable in public, and he was honorable in private. When he turned his (benign, almost grandfatherly) attention to you, you felt important. When Tony took me to lunch one afternoon, I thrilled in his deep questions, almost not believing this man of such power and influence wanted to spend time with me, to talk to me about my dating relationship and what I wanted to do with my life. I remember there was a guest book at the restaurant we went to, and he jokingly signed my not-yet-name in it: “Erin Moon.”
This part of the story ends with him praying for me and dropping me back off at the college dorm where the camp staff was staying. Absolutely zero percent of our time was shady or weird. Although I look back at that afternoon and almost can’t believe it happened: 36-year-old Erin is like, baby…what we’re you thinking? But this was pre-#MeToo, pre-#ChurchToo. There was no expectation (at least for me) for a leader in power to do anything untoward. Seems crazy now, but it wasn’t then. I don’t think.
But I never felt unsafe. I never felt like anything would happen because I trusted Tony so completely. We had history! He was one of the most stand-up men I knew. And he would never take advantage of me.
But even the king of the smallest kingdom sits at a crossroads. Tony retired from our church a couple of years later when he developed brain cancer and we all rallied behind him. Then, several years after our lunch, several years after he’d written “Erin Moon” for the first time anyone had ever written it, it all comes out: He’s been cheating on his wife with a woman in Texas for over twenty years and used his travels as a preacher and chaplain to meet with her.
I cannot begin to express my immediate sense of anger. How desperately I wanted this to be wrong. How I wanted this woman to be some kind of liar. Because I loved this man. He’d preached some of the best sermons I’d ever heard. I was pastored by Tony. He was so kind. This could not be true because I could not be such a bad judge of character. Because the people who put him into power could not be so enabling. Had Twitter existed as a rage documentation app, I would have become Thor of 140 Characters. I would have bet it all on the fact that this was a lie.
But there it was: a complete confession from the man himself.
The anger was still there, but then I felt betrayed. Used. I felt taken advantage of, emotionally and spiritually. I felt stupid.
As I am writing this, it’s been over ten years since those sins were brought into the light. I’ve seen Tony once since then: he did a stint on the Golf Shopping Channel and I threw up immediately after watching it. Since then, it’s been like dominoes with all the powerful men around me from that time.
Tony is a pastor at a different church now. I have mixed feelings about it (although no one really asked me). Do I think if he truly underwent a transformation in his heart, that his story might minister to someone else? I do. Do I think God is only using men and women who are perfect? I do not. But do I also have a bad taste in my mouth when I see him back in the same position that allowed him to manipulate and lie? Yes. Yes very much so. Does someone else have a bad taste in their mouth when they see me yakking it up about God? Probably.
We do not like to be wrong about the men and women we throw our support and love behind. It reflects poorly on us as people. So we want to deflect and look for ways to minimize the sin or the misappropriation of power. We dig our heels in. We pretend they didn’t leave a wake of destruction behind them, or that the wake was just as responsible as they were. Or we want to move on quickly, throwing out a cheap grace that leaves the system that enabled this problem still intact. But the greater problem is not solved in any way. We must kill it at the root. There’s a reason the phrase is “drunk with power.” What power offers is intoxicating, both for the powerful and the people who hold up the powerful.
I know it’s easy for me to say all of this, as I am not powerful and therefore may rail against it. It’s also easy for me to talk about this because I have not had a sin revealed so publicly. No one is writing internet articles about me and my pride, or my jealousy, or my vanity. But rest assured, you totally could.
I do not mean to shame anyone for putting someone up on a pedestal, because often we don’t realize we’ve done it. If Lin-Manuel Miranda ever cheats on his wife, please release me from this mortal coil. It wasn’t my fault that I connected with my former pastor. It wasn’t my fault that he didn’t live up to the image he portrayed. It’s not your fault you found someone funny who turned out to send sexually explicit videos to women without their permission. Bill Cosby was a good TV dad, his entertainment formed the basis of fond memories in my childhood, and you’re telling me that while I was dreaming about finding a man like that, he was drugging and raping women? What the actual hell? It’s a dissonance that’s hard to come to grips with, sliding easily into bitter resentment.
I used to want to start a ministry that enabled millennials to unplug the cable boxes that fed cable news into the homes of our parents, in the hopes that the noxious fumes from these shows would dissipate, allowing everyone to think a little more clearly.
In the same way, I often wish for a palate cleanser to the trappings of power, especially in the Church. Why does it take fifty tries for the abused to be heard? Why do men and women around the power protect it? Why gain the world and lose your soul?
John Crist wasn’t powerful in a way that allowed him to influence denominational by-laws, or pass meaningful legislation. No one (hopefully) was going to Crist for spiritual guidance based on his comedy routine. But he wielded influence and with influence (today) comes power. The question of “what will you do with it” is important, but just as important is “how will you wield it?”
I think a lot about that John McArthur clip where he drags Sister Beth and how he claims that feminism is not about equality, it’s about power. “These women want power.” The fear in his voice struck me. What would it be like to be powerful due to a glitch in the Matrix (being born white and male), and then feel equality looming like a darkness. That would feel like a loss. What’s that phrase: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression.” That someone who believes in Jesus and what he said would cling to power is truly wild to me. My pretend friend, Kaitlyn Schiess tweeted:
We either believe Jesus or not. We either use the institution of the church or the school or the government as our own personal power source or we ask Jesus to rip us away from this false source of power and save our souls.
The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4) should give us all the pause: how Satan offered him “all these things” — the love of the crowds, leadership as the political Messiah, to walk through the halls of power as the decision-maker. George Barrett calls this the:
“…old but ever new temptation to do evil that good may come; to justify the illegitimacy of the means by the greatness of the end.”
And that the next chapter in Matthew is The Sermon on the Mount, which begins with a blessing for those who are powerless?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
That’s why I think it’s so troubling that we have a Christian culture built on power and influence, power that allows for a lack of accountability, power that uses trust as a weapon. Jesus preached against it. The Beatitudes are a blessing; does that mean the opposite is a curse? Was Jesus not coming for the men in religious power who abused it? Why do we want to play that role in our modern lives? Those are the places he is directing his wrath.
I’ve tried to land this plane for hours now, but I just keep coming back to these questions: How DO we wield power and influence? Who does it well? Why is it so hard to be a person of power and influence, and remain untouched by it? That’s not a satisfying, mic-drop ending, but I’m not sure the answer can be reduced to a mic-drop.
I tend to be the most vocal on Instagram, but hot dang if I don’t love some Twitter. This new section is just a best of my Twitter feed. Some of these tweets have PG-13 language FYI. I promise not to share a tweet that isn’t totally worth you having to look at the s-word.
As always, you can email me at erin(dot)hicks(dot)moon(at)gmail(dot)com to continue the conversation, offer feedback, or just say hi! Have a great rest of the month, and I’ll see you back here soon! Take care of each other, and take care of yourself. - ehm