Wednesday, August 03, 2011

dear Donald Miller...

*** UPDATE, 8/12: This morning, Don took down these two blog posts, and issued a very graceful apology. I'm grateful for that, and also regret the snark I used in my initial response. I could have been more graceful, myself.

Donald Miller, evangelical author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, has never been on my top ten list. A guy in seminary that I just couldn't seem to get along with LOVED Donald Miller, claimed him as the instrument of his salvation. I could never bring myself to wade into the autobiographical books of a guy who exerted such influence over someone I disagreed with on just about every single thing we talked about.

But when a curriculum project I was working on ended up shaping itself around Miller's tale of finding his vocation through story, I gave in, read the books, and began to appreciate his authenticity and enthusiasm. Since then, I've used his writing and speaking to draw out deep insights into vocation and discernment with hundreds of young adult volunteers. Let's just say, I have some respect for Donald Miller. But lately, he's taken to blogging about things like love and sex and gender, and I just can't stomach it. See his most recent posts, How to Live a Great Love Story: for the "girls" and for the "guys." So, because I'm a bit fed up with him, and because I have some free time on my hands and not many avenues for expression of late, a response (which was also posted on the most recent post on his blog):

Don,

I always appreciate your writing and the authenticity with which you do it. In my work with young adults, I’ve used several of your books to draw out great insight and discernment about faith and vocation. But I have to say, these last two posts have been both inauthentic and offensive. You’ve used your own personal experience and expanded it to claim norms and dispense advice for the entire population. Not only do you disregard intentional singleness (the chosen relationship status of Jesus, and the highest advice of both Jesus and Paul), you ignore those sisters and brothers who find great love stories with someone of the same sex.

That narrowness aside, these gender norms and roles that you’re describing as “biblical” and “Christian”** have actually proven hurtful, oppressive, and violent over the last several centuries. Who’s to say a woman can’t be a strong protector? And why shouldn’t men hear the advice to guard their hearts?

I take huge issue with the ways you assume that women ought to wait around and practice being pure while men should make a plan and “lead” a woman into a great love story. That story is a fairytale. Women mentioned in the bible (Ruth, Naomi, Lydia, Miriam, Mary, Deborah) were certainly not submissive, passive, or even necessarily sexually “pure” or virginal. The “don’t be a slut” love advice is old, tired, oppressive, and worst of all, unbiblical. God uses whomever God pleases, and it’s usually someone far from pure. And the Spirit works within and between us, creating relationship and breathing life into love stories, without regard to presupposed, culturally-inculcated femininity and masculinity.

I honestly thought you knew better, Don.

- Dana

**Update: Don replied on twitter with a correction: he doesn't use either "biblical" or "Christian" in his blog posts. That was me reading too many similar "religiously"-grounded relationship theories into his writing.

2 comments:

Jake said...

Um, yeah, sexist and insulting all around. The worst part: he used Humphrey Bogart photos in the guys post! Bogart was a . . . well, I'll keep it PG. Thanks Dana for your honesty.

moonchild11 said...

"God uses whomever God pleases, and it’s usually someone far from pure."

Ah, so true! And so refreshing. Miller's posts disappointed me. And some of his curt responses to people on twitter are disappointing me further (but, I mean, it's hard to respond gracefully on twitter so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt).