About Josh Pease

I like to write and speak about God-related stuff. On good days, I get paid for said writing and speaking.

Uber Uncomfortable: when I first began to understand misogyny

I have dozens of strange stories from my Uber driving days. There was the guy who 3 minutes in to the ride told me “not gonna lie to you my man … I’m a gangbanger.” Or the passed-out-drunk off-duty police officer I literally had to help carry from my car to his door at 3 a.m. Or the Bel-Air dude bros who chucked a beer bottle out my car window in the middle of a very crowded Hollywood street. Most of these stories are just good conversation pieces, stories I enjoy telling because they’re funny, but there’s one that isn’t funny at all, and it radically changed how I view sexism, misogyny, assault, and the day-to-day life of women.

***

Saying the two guys in my backseat were drunk is like someone saying “those NBA players are tall.” Well … yeah. It’s the not-tall ones that are the outliers. And while it doesn’t so much matter that the two guys were gay, the story doesn’t make much sense if I don’t mention that that sexual dynamic was obvious right away. What matters about this story is it was the only time in my life that someone’s behavior felt sexually invasive.

One of the guys in the backseat, shirt ripped for reasons I never understood, started off nicely enough, but it then turned a corner into him lightly but obviously hitting on me. I think I just ignored that it happened and moved on – I certainly didn’t freak out or anything. But the guy realized I wasn’t interested in him, and that’s when things got strange. This guy, who just a minute prior had been friendly, suddenly got very sarcastic and dismissive. Then he ignored me altogether and started criticizing me to his friend in the backseat knowing I could hear. He talked about me in an obvious, sexual way, making it clear he was attracted to me, but that “I was one of those types who thinks he’s too good for people.” And I sat in the front seat and felt weirdly powerless.

When you’re an Uber driving your rating matters, and because I’m me I was more neurotic than most about wanting my Uber rating to be as high as possible (don’t wanna brag guys, but at one point I was a 4.94 outta 5 so yeah, I was a pretty big deal). All that to say is in that moment I felt like I had to put up with this behavior that was creeping me out. I mean, I didn’t, and had an option not to, but I didn’t want to make things worse by calling this guy out, I didn’t want him to get even more hostile, I thought maybe I was making too big a deal out of this, I’ll just get to their place as soon as possible and move on.

Of course those guys gave me a super low rating and nasty comment.

***

I always feel weird telling this story because it makes me feel weak or overly sensitive. But what really makes me reluctant to share it is because of what I realized two minutes after that ride ended: women go through this every single day of their lives, only they often have less power, are more physically threatened, and have been trained by life just to accept it as a part of their existence.

Again, this is literally the only time in my life I’ve had a casual social interaction turn sexually uncomfortable, and it’s something half the human population has to deal with all the time on a far worse scale. Which is why I’m thankful I had that really uncomfortable Uber moment, because it helped me finally get it, just a tiny bit. It helps me understand stories like the Harvey Weinstein stuff better. It makes me more outraged about “locker room talk” coming from our president’s mouth. It’s why I’ve told every single host at the restaurant I work at that I know our work environment can be a hard place for women to be, and if they ever need someone to have their back I’m there.

It’s not much, but it’s what I can do.

And in case you’re wondering, my Uber rating was just fine after those guys gave me a bad review. People like that never have as much power as they think they do.

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How Yesterday Helped Me Love the National Anthem

The Chiefs game was everything I thought it would be, a raucous, brain-rattlingly loud Monday Night Football extravaganza against our hated rivals, the Denver Broncos. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and Chiefs tickets were expensive, but someone had given us two tickets and my dad and I were ready to watch Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and the Chiefs defense dominate that dang horse-faced John Elway (who yes, is one of the best quarterbacks ever, and also someone I will always hate because he tore my heart out too many times).

In the 90s Arrowhead Stadium had a reputation for being the loudest stadium in the NFL, an unofficial title the fans wore as a badge of honor. When you went to a Chiefs game you were an active participant, and there was a liturgical progression you went through before the game started that began with tailgating in the parking lot and culminated in the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up blaring up to kickoff.

And in between, of course, was the nation anthem, when the entire crowd proudly bellowed out the words, ending it with and the hooooome, of the CHIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEFFFSSSSSSSSSSS.”

***

I don’t find much meaning in repetition. I admire and respect my high church brothers and sisters who repeat the same words each week, and I wish I could find the same satisfaction in allowing phrases to marinate deep in your soul until they’re part of you.

I just get bored.

I consider this a character flaw by the way. Unless you convince my brain that something new or unexpected is happening, I zone out, which isn’t ideal when interacting with – you know – people. There are moments – especially when I’m stressed or caffeinated – when I have to fight really hard to be engaged in the moment. Which is why the national anthem usually isn’t a moving experience for me. For the first couple lines I’m engaged and then I find my mind drifting to other things like who is the best Marvel movie villain so far? (Kurt Russell) Again, I’m not proud of this, it’s just how my mind works. It’s the same with communion at church, I have to put forth a lot of effort to be in the moment and not just go through the motions.

Maybe I’m wrong but it seems like this describes how most people treated the anthem until recently, with a sense of obligatory respect barely concealing a vibe of “okay yeah this is important but let’s get to the good stuff.”

Of course I’ve always known people who weren’t like this, who every time treated the national anthem with dignity, who found it a moving reminder, but they always seemed the minority to me.

Most people were just waiting to bellow CHIIIIIIIEEEEEFFFFFFSSSSSSS and then hear the sweet sounds of Mick Jagger.

***

Like most Americans the national anthem became particularly poignant in the months after 9/11. It was impossible for it to be just a song, or a routine. Current events imbued it with a visceral emotional power. Another one of those moments happened yesterday.

Prior to kickoff some players, coaches, and in a couple cases owners kneeled together or locked arms during the anthem. In some stadiums people booed. NASCAR made it very clear no such protests would be happening during their events, something our president proudly tweeted about. And of course there’s been about a zillion think pieces, and angry talking heads, and facebook screeds explaining what a disgrace this all is.

I doubt this post will change the minds of people who are offended by these protests. If that’s you, you probably see a bunch of millionaires “going political” during a sporting event in a way dishonoring to the men and women who have sacrificed for our country’s freedom. I get your point of view, I think, and understand why these protests bother you.

It doesn’t matter to you when people say “they’re protesting police brutality or racial inequality not the flag” because, for you, there’s just no getting around the visceral impact of watching people refuse to stand. For you it’s yet another example of a generation failing to respect what this country is about, and I get it seems that way.

If it matters to you at all, I want you to hear how it affected me, someone who is possibly part of that younger generation that struggles to really engage in patriotic moments. When I saw those players protesting on TV yesterday, it fell on the short list of moments when the anthem had a profoundly emotional impact. As my two kids ran around wanting my attention I sat in silence on my couch and observed what – to me – was a reverent, symbolic moment of what our country both wants and doesn’t want to be about: the belief all men are created equal.

As I watched those players kneel I thought about how great it is that our country allows these sort of protests, I reflected on our nation’s progress toward racial equality, and how far we have to go. I thought about how difficult it is to sustain a republic, and the responsibility I have in helping.

In other words, for the first time in a long time I deeply reflected on what our flag, anthem, and country are about. I have been at dozens of sporting events with dozens of anthem performances. I have never felt more in love with my country during one than I did while watching those players on TV yesterday.

I know you probably don’t feel the same way, and that’s okay. I’m just wanting to help you see that the “other side” of this anthem issue can be patriotic too, even if it’s in a way you find objectionable.

We want to make America great too, we just differ with you on the “how.” And isn’t that what our troops fought and died for as well?

What “Submitting to Authority” Really Means

submit

 

I do a lot of writing these days, sometimes to church leaders, sometimes to married people, and sometimes to … well whoever is reading articles about the persecuted church.

Because our current society is what it is many of these articles touch (hit, pound) on how the evangelical church in America engages with politics. Shockingly (he said, tongue-in-cheekily), I sometimes imply in these articles that our current president and his policies aren’t compatible with the path of Jesus. The response to these articles are all over the place, but the most common “Biblical” response I’ve gotten lately has been “we’re supposed to submit to the governing authorities like Paul says in Romans 13.”

My first thought when I get this response is to wonder how often this commenter made this claims under 8 years of Obama. My second is to presume they (like me) probably don’t feel that abortion, though the law of the land, is something we as Christians should be super stoked about.

But this is about my third response, which is how out-of-context these commenters are taking that Scripture in the first place. SO, this is my brief attempt to explain what I think Paul is saying in Rom. 13 and how it applies now.

***

I believe the theme of Romans is “unity.” We are united in sin (chps. 1-3), united in the solution (4-5), united in the new life available in Christ (6-8), and united in how undeserving we are of all this (9-11). If I’m getting this right Paul is writing to a church that could be easily divided by ethnicity, religious background, socioeconomic status or gender and saying “guys, we’re all on this together.”

After 11 chapters of laying his theological bedrock, Paul moves to his “so now what?” section. Chapter 12 is about the unity of the body of believers and the need for everyone to play their role in that body. He then moves toward those who persecute believers, telling the church to love them, not fight back against them, and to pray for them.

Then we have chapter 13 and the “submit to authority” stuff. Paul is talking to a church trapped and persecuted by an unjust government. They are surrounded  by discontents whispering about revolts. The church itself is likely divided between the Roman citizen “haves” who like the current state of things and the “have nots” (non-Romans, Jews, slaves, women, etc.) who feel oppressed by it.

To this Paul says “submit to the authority,” and this is certainly a challenging and relevant word for us today. No matter how dissatisfied we are with our leaders its good to remember that God’s kingdom is unstoppable, that our hope is in something beyond this world, and that the early church exploded in spite of not having political power.

BUT …

When Paul tells Christians with the church to submit to each other he’s not saying “let everyone do whatever they want to you.” As a matter of fact Paul spends quite a bit of time in other letters talking about appropriate behavior, and how sometimes you might even have to remove someone from the community if they aren’t being obedient to Christ. In other words submission isn’t synonymous with abdication.

So, since we have the gift of living in a free country with democratically elected leaders, and since the OT is FILLED with example, after example, after example of God’s prophets speaking uncomfortable truth to power (read Amos, for more on that), I don’t think submitting to the authorities in our case means “never criticize your elected leader.” Instead it means “live recognizing that God is sovereign over politics and our hope lies elsewhere.” And it also means “within whatever role of God-given role of influence you’ve been given in the political reality stand firmly for the values of God’s kingdom as found in Scripture.”

 

The 1 Wrong Belief That’s Destroying Everything

I don’t know why the moment affected me so much.

A Facebook friend shared an article about a controversial topic. In the comments someone posted a Snopes link proving the article false. The original poster replied “oh, thanks for sharing but you know I still believe that article’s overall point because …” etc.

Pretty unremarkable. Identical to a million other Facebook conversations, right?

It shook me. I have thought about for days. To my Facebook friend it didn’t matter that the article was false – she believed what she believed and that’s all there was to it.

The same thing happened recently when I made the mistake of getting in a long, heated debate with someone about our current president. When I would quote facts, statistics, or articles that disproved certain points the person responded with two words. You can probably guess them: “fake news.”

“But … but … if all news is fake news where do you get your news from?” I asked.

“Oh, Breitbart and Drudge Report. Sometimes Fox News but I don’t trust them as much anymore” she replied. “They’ve been more critical of Trump lately.”

A quick disclaimer. This isn’t a post about politics.

It’s not about fake news or whether your political views are correct/incorrect or how people disagree with me are close-minded.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is why we – all of us, humanity – believe what we believe, and how resistant we are to anything suggesting we’re wrong. Continue reading

Deandre

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This summer I had the opportunity to spend a week with foster kids at a camp called Royal Family Kids Camp. 30+ kids who normally don’t get childhoods were given a week of unconditional love, fun, & hearing about God. This is just one story, of one these kids. The name has been changed to protect his anonymity.  

 

“You’re burning it! Josh you’re BURNING IT! JOSH YOU’RE BURNING IT!!!” Deandre screamed.

The truth is I wasn’t burning the marshmallows, I more had burnt them. Past tense. I’d drifted the marshmallow too close to the fire, then quickly blew the ensuing blaze out, hoping the s’more was still salvageable. Deandre had said he wanted his marshamallow “toasted, not burned.” I was hoping this would be okay.

“JOSH YOU’RE BURNING IT, YOU’RE BURNING IT!!!”

I was in this situation because Daniel, Deandre’s counselor for the week, was taking care of Deandre’s recently-skinned knee. Each kid’s counselor at the camp was making a s’more so I offered to step in. As I brought the s’more back toward the crew of campers sitting in the amphitheater, I assumed Deandre would get over the singed marshmallow and all would be well.

“Why did you do that?!? You BURNED it!!” Deandre yelled. His eyes were brimming with tears, his face angry. This was going south quickly.

I hadn’t expected this at all. I had expected him to be appreciative of me getting him a s’more in the first place. I expected him to remember that I was one of the guys who had played with him in the pool and who had let him look at the soundboard and showed him how it worked. And when he didn’t, I let a little “wait, seriously?” smile creep across my face.

“IT’S NOT FUNNY!!!!!!” Deandre screamed, and then he started sobbing. At this point the other 35 foster kids sitting in the amphitheater were staring as their 20+ counselors pretended not to.

I’d just inadvertently caused the Marsh-pocalypse. Continue reading

Riley

A fair warning up front: this isn’t going to be a happy story, because Riley’s* life isn’t a happy life. When Riley was 8 years old his parents checked him and his younger brother into a hotel room in Florida, walked out the door, and never came back. He now lives with his grandma and uncle in California. He hasn’t seen his mom since.

*not his real name

Riley was in cabin 2, the cabin I was a counselor for and the unofficial war zone of this year’s Royal Family Kids Camp. At a scrawny 5’-nothing Riley was far from a fighter, but he knew how to run his mouth. He would sit in his top bunk, looking down on the action, antagonizing the people below him. He was like those two cranky old guys from The Muppet Show, who in real life would be no fun at all.

Riley was a loner. One of the optional activities was crawdad fishing, and one afternoon Riley spent 2 hours sitting by the creek with a stick, string and raw bacon dangling in a mossy lagoon. He caught easily the biggest crawdad of the day. We called for a bucket but as I brought it over I accidentally hit the crawdad and knocked it in the water. This is not my favorite memory from camp.  Continue reading

Gerardo

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me …

Gerardo* was a legend at Royal Family Kids’ Camp, but being a legend at a camp for foster kids isn’t always a good thing. It takes real dedication to excellence to dysfunctionally stand above 100 abused, abandoned or displaced kids, but Gerardo had been up to the challenge last year. He then spent the time between camps training, polishing his skills, and gearing up for year two. In other words, Gerardo brought his A-game in 2013.

*not his real name

All told Gerardo punched 8 DIFFERENT people in 5 days, and that’s not counting repeat incidents with the same person. The situation was almost always the same – Gerardo would verbally antagonize kids around him, the kids would say something back, and since Gerardo is actually, secretly a very sensitive soul he would be deeply hurt.

For Gerardo, being hurt, attacked, embarrassed or even lightly teased all feels more or less the same: an overwhelming negative emotion he is incapable of processing. All humans have these moments – tidal waves of emotion that surge over the walls we’ve built to hold them back. Gerardo feels this every 10 minutes or so.

And so he punches. Hard. He punched a fellow cabin-mate who also had severe anger issues. He punched a cabin counselor too authoritarian for his liking. He punched his personal counselor Adam, even though he knew Adam was almost his only friend at camp. He punched a lifeguard too, although if you knew Gerardo the guy almost, but not quite, had it coming. Continue reading