What A Difference 3.8 Million People Make

Two months ago today I clicked publish on a post about Victoria’s Secret Spring Break Collection called “Bright Young Things.”   The aim of the letter was to let Victoria’s Secret know (as well as whomever would listen) that I disliked their marketing to a younger demographics and how they set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

To date the letter has been read/viewed on this site nearly 3.8 million times from all around the world.  The letter is still be read today and shared over the internet.

To date the letter has been shared on Facebook over 765,000 times, on Twitter over 5100 times, almost 100 times on LinkedIn and over 550 times on Google Plus.

I want to take this time to say thank you for everything!

Because of the exposure I received, I have begun to contribute to a few websites- the Good Men Project, Sojourners and RadicalParents.com.  I am humbled and honored to contribute to these great sites.  I will try to post my articles here whenever I can.

I have been completely overwhelmed by all of this and I all of you to thank.  Without you sharing, liking, emailing and commenting- none of this would have ever happened.

I still have not had an official response from Victoria’s Secret (and I do not expect to), but another clothing company did.

About month ago Fruit of the Loom contacted me to let me know that they had seen my letter online.  They liked it and wanted to send my daughter “age appropriate” underwear.   They sent my daughter 10 pairs!  She was so excited to get them in the mail.

Fruit of the Loom

I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Fruit of the Loom.  Thank you for generosity and for thinking of my daughter! (The items pictured can be found here and here.)

Thank you again!  Keep reading, sharing and liking!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

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Disney Princesses, Merida’s Makeover, and Empowering Girls

My latest piece for Sojourners


Having a 3-year-old daughter opens your eyes to a world that you did not know existed, the world of princesses. Disney has cornered the princess market; there are currently 11 official Disney princesses, and if you are brave enough to travel to Disney World/Land or even a Disney store, you will soon find out that there is a plethora of accessories — dresses, placemats, and cups (just to name a few).

Disney has come under fire in the past for focusing only on Caucasian women — Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and others. But over time, non-white princesses were introduced, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Tiana.

Disney’s latest princess was Merida from the film Brave broke most of the Disney princess rules. She didn’t like pretty gowns, she liked to shoot bows and arrows, and her crowning glory was frizzy, wild red hair. Some people believed that Disney had finally broken the mold of the “damsel in distress” model of princesses that has been a dominant theme throughout many of the films. The trend actually started with Pocahontas and Mulan; maybe the theme of strong women role models would continue. Brave was a cute film with a wonderful message. Merida had a round face and was rough and tumble with her triplet brothers. She didn’t want fancy dresses or even want to be a princess; Merida just wanted to be Merida. She was the example of girls being girls, no matter how they look.

However, in a recent update, Disney decided to take the idea of Merida in Brave and throw it out the window. Merida, for her official induction into the Disney princess cohort, got a bit of a makeover. Merida 2.0 was taller, skinnier in the waist and had a slimmer face. Her famous bow-and-arrow set are missing, and her iconic wild hair has been tamed.

After the uproar that followed, Disney quietly pulled the newer version of Merida.

But my question for Disney stands: Why? What was so wrong with Merida that it warranted the change?

Disney made a statement with the creation of Merida, and it inspired girls around the world to live into who they wanted to be, not what society wanted them to be. Merida’s makeover told girls that, yes you can be who you want to be, but at some point you are going to have to fit in.

Brave’s director called the change “atrocious” in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal.

She continued: “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Girls today need characters and princesses that are strong and powerful and reflect the society of today. I know that no one princess or character on Disney will ever be 100 percent inclusive of all people, but Disney at least needs to try.

Maybe sexualized images are more marketable, but that is not the point — empowering our girls is. I’m pleased that Disney has reversed its decision to alter one of their best examples of an empowered girl. I hope the trend of strong princesses started by this character continues.

Film Review: For The Bible Tells Me So

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So - Co...

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So – Copyright 2007, First Run Features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most divisive topics that is dividing the Church today is the issue of homosexuality.  For decades (if not longer) this has been an issue (whether we like it or not) on the forefront of Church. Recently some denominations have had decisions and votes on whether or not to ordain open homosexuals; it has caused dissension, grief, hurt feelings and in some cases it has cost ministers their job. Many churches and even denominations have decided that in the interest of keeping everyone happy, they have not or will not broach the discussion at all.

In matters of church conflict or even church doctrine, the normal question to ask is “What does the Bible says regarding this issue?” It is a natural place to start.  However, there are varying ways on which the Bible can be interpreted and thus a problem can emerge.

The film, For The Bible Tells Me So, explores the issue of homosexuality as it relates to the Church and Christianity. This film tries to demystify the stigmas that have been placed on a certain group of people and tries to look at the issue from different angles.

Film Synopsis from forthebibletellsmeso.org:

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

This film dives into the Biblical text from a number of different perspectives trying to encapsulate the essence of the text as the original authors intended.  Scholars from many different denominations and faiths weigh in on this issue.

This film is presented in a way that brings in new ideas and understandings about homosexuality and how the Bible has been used and mis-used to subjugate a particular group of people. The interviewees do not hold back with their position and thought process when it comes to the controversial issue.  They are open about their feelings and in some cases have regret for the way that they treated their child when their child came out.

One of the positives of the film is that it does try to show different view points with regards to how different families  react to their children telling them they are homosexual– not all families reacted the same way then or even now.  For many it has been a journey that they have to take one day at a time.

I believe that this film is an excellent conversation starter no matter what side of the issue you are on; the key (as with many controversial topics) is that those watching must do so with open eyes, hearts and minds.  For many Christians this has become a hallmark issue; it has become the benchmark of righteousness and orthodoxy.  It is easy to hear something counter to your belief system and immediately get defensive and stop listening.  It is in those moments of struggle where we can learn and grow.  It is through difficult situations and conversations when we are able to open up to the possibilities of seeing a particular issue in a new light.

The website for the film also has two discussion guides (here and here) for further study and dialogue.

Overall, this film is well done and thought provoking.

I highly recommend it.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars
Film Website

Watch this film on Netflix

In Christ,

Rev. Evan
(Trailer Below)


Trailer

Review: “The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation”

One of the most talked about and polarizing texts in all of the canon of Scripture is the book of Revelation.  This book has been the subject of fiery debates, discussions, theological stances, studies and TV programs on TBN.

At first glance the book of Revelation doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the New Testament.  It’s style and language are different than anything else in the Bible.  Reformer Martin Luther (as well as others) wanted the book to be removed from the Bible.

When it comes to interpretation of this book there are several camps of thought but I will highlight two of them:

  1. Dispensationalism– a literal understanding of the book; the book portrays events in the future that marks the Second Coming of Christ into the world.  The book is a coded message that the faithful need to understand so they can be on the look out of the signs of the return of Jesus Christ. This method of understanding the book of Revelation was first postulated by John Darby in the late 19th Century.
  2. A message or story of hope and support for a persecuted community– The message of Revelation is one that encapsulates the pain and struggles of a community trying to live and survive in a society that did not like them.

The Rapture Exposed puts forth the thesis that the book of Revelation has been misunderstood for many years.   The author claims that the book was not meant to be a future predicting, dispensational text,where people are trying to connect events in the world to the ancient text.  The author believes that the message of Revelation is really a hopeful one.

The book looks into the nature of Dispensational theology and how the text does not support this idea; one of the most popular modern versions of the this theology is the Left Behind series.  This series has sold millions of books world wide and even spun off into three films (with a reported reboot coming soon starring Nicolas Cage).  The Left Behind series follows the life of people who have been left behind after the “rapture” of all Christians on the earth.  They have to battle the evil Anti Christ and try to get the message out about the salvation of God in Christ before God destroys the world and starts anew.

The author, Barbara Rossing, writes:

To understand the biblical basis for much of today’s end-times thinking we have to begin our story further back than the book of Revelation. In the view of Darby and other dispensationalists, God’s whole biblical plan for the end-times is already mapped out in the Old Testament. The entire end-times framework of Darby’s dispensationalist system is based on just three verses at the end of chapter 9 of Daniel! (page 25)

The problem according to Rossing is that the Book of Revelation has been distorted to fit the model of theology instead of the Book itself shaping a model of theology.  She points out that no where in the text does the word “Anti Christ” appear as well as there is no mention of the Anti Christ establishing a covenant with Israel and then breaking that covenant.  These items have been read into the pages of scripture and made to fit.

Rossing lays out well reasoned arguments on why the message of Revelation is one of hope and not World War III. The message of Revelation is one that is centered in the notion of God’s revealing and redemptive power now, not in some predetermined future date. She writes,

Like the visionary journeys of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Revelation’s vision of seals, trumpets, bowls, and other manifestations are meant to be a wake-up call. They unveil the urgency of God’s justice and judgment by taking us on terrifying journey, all with the goals of persuading us to ally ourselves with God’s vision for our world. The journeys are not intended as literal predictions of events that must; they are nightmarish warnings of what may happen– if we do not follow God’s nonviolent Lamb. (page 91)

The Book of Revelation has been used as a tool for right action and orthodoxy (correct belief). The mode of thinking is: one does not know when the end of the world will be so you better get right with God or you will witness the destruction of the world. The faithful of God, however, according to dispensational theology, will have a front row view of the end of the world and humanity from Heaven.

Revelation is not a book written to inspire fear or terror. But it is definitely written to increase a sense of urgency for our world. It is an apocalyptic wake-up call for each of us, precisely because there is hope for us and for our world. … Revelation teaches us a fierce, urgent, and wonderful hope– not an easy comfort, but a hope that knows the reality of terror and evil and still can testify to God’s love in the face of that terror. (page 170)

Overall I thought this text was a good overview of the pitfalls of a literal interpretation of Revelation and I believe that the message of hope as laid out in this text is a refreshing one, one that the church needs to hear more of. This type of hopeful theology is one that is not being promoted and propagated in the church today; if it is for may it is falling on deaf ears.

★★★★☆
4 out of 5 stars
Amazon Link

In Christ,
Rev. Evan

Sojo.net gets 10,000 signatures on Victoria’s Secret Petition

A ministry colleague emailed me and told me that Sojourners had online petition encouraging Limited Brands to stop targeting young women in their marketing campaign; they cited one of the many article written about my letter in their petition information. I was honored that they asked me to write a piece about my experiences and thought process behind writing the letter to Victoria’s Secret.

Sojourners has been petitioning Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying young girls; they have had about 10,000 people sign their online petition.  When some one signs it an email is send to Limited Brands.  According to a follow up piece on Sojo.net (see below), Victoria’s Secret has given them the same standard answers.  Catherine Woodiwiss, the author and Associate Web Editor of Sojourners, writes

This statement about “Bright Young Things” — what Sojourners has always made clear was a campaign, not a line — does not address Sojourners’ central concerns over reinforcing confusion about the value of young women, to young women. Over the action alert’s charges that oversexed objectification contributes to a culture of abuse, rape, and distorted worth, Victoria’s Secret gave no comment.

Please read the articles below and consider signing the petition.

Thanks for reading and supporting me.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


My article Link on sojo.net

Follow up article- 10,000 Emails, Victoria’s Secret Continues Business As Usual 

Consider signing the petition to tell Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying teen girls.

Sojourners’ Bright Young– What? Campaign (via Facebook)

Reflection on Boston and West

I was in Phoenix all of last week.  I was attending a retreat for young ministers.  The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all.  It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”

As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there.  As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow.  It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events.  Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.

So what can we learn from these events?

First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports.  News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.

Second, the human condition is alive and well.  Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another.  Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.

However, not all hope is lost. (see below)

Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.


As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)

For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.

Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.


May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.

Come Spirit Come.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

A Letter to Victoria’s Secret- Update Part V- “Finding Your Voice”

It has been a little over 2 weeks since I posted my letter to Victoria’s Secret and what a crazy two weeks it has been!  I have never spoken about  Victoria’s Secret underwear more in my entire life.  🙂

Again, I don’t think I can say it enough, but thank you so much for sharing my letter.

Over these past weeks I have received hundreds of emails, tweets and Facebook messages.  Throughout them all there was a common thread- people were telling me “thank you for sharing your voice.”

Many people wrote and stated that they shared my feelings but did not know how to articulate them or even think that they would be heard– to be honest I never thought my voice would be heard either.

I never expected to be on TV stating that women are not sex objects or  that Victoria’s Secret (and others) are setting up a standard that is unattainable for young girls.

My friend and ministry colleague, Rev. Traci Siegman, wrote a blog post about my letter and wrote these wonderful and meaningful words

Rev. Dolive exercised his prophetic voice. He spoke his mind and faced culture head on. Christians are called to be prophetic and live counter-culturally. We are called to give voice to those without the power to speak. It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to continue to name the ways in which people are still held captive.

We all have the potential to speak out for what we believe in and for what we want to stand for.  As my friend and ministry colleague, Rev. Laura Phillips, told me “speak even if your voice shakes.”  While I might be one person I sent a message; I spoke up for my daughter and every other young girl.  I wanted to express my feelings about the message of beauty and sexuality that one particular company was sending.

One thing I learned through this process is that your voice matters, your voice can be heard, your voice is important and powerful.

Because of the attention that my letter has received parents now have been given a voice; parents have written me and told me that they are using my letter to start important and meaningful conversations about sexuality, marketing and beauty.

Let’s continue to use our voice to speak up for those who can not, let’s use our voice to bring justice to those who desperately need it, let’s use our voice to proclaim the goodness of God’s grace and wonderment of Christ.

Let’s use our voice not to shame people, but to empower people.

Let’s use our voice…

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Starbucks Is Thought Provoking…

"my morning pick me up"

“my morning pick me up” via Instagram

Today I went out to run a couple of errands and more importantly to get a haircut. For the past few days I was starting to resemble Grizzly Adams or at least a distant cousin. After I dropped off my daughter at pre-school I made my way to get my hair cut at location near the church. I arrived at 9:30, but they did not open until 10am. Not a problem… why? Two stores down is a Starbucks.

I made my way into the establishment and purchased a Grande Tribute Blend and took a seat. I read emails and tweeted and like many High School girls I took a picture of my coffee and posted it to Instagram (see above). It was posted to Twitter and Facebook and I received a comment pretty quick on Facebook.

The comment was from a colleague in ministry in Indiana– Jay. He had an interesting experience at a Starbucks when he was getting his “morning pick me up.” He just recently started a blog and I thought his first post was quite thought provoking.

Here is a snippet of the post.

What I had just experienced is commonly called “Paying it Forward.”

It sounds like a really nice gesture, and it is. But as I was going through this experience, I was quickly thinking and processing my feelings. First was obvious, FREE COFFEE!!!! Then I thought, “How long has this been going on today?” I had seen a story on the local news about how one Starbucks in town had 50 some-odd people “paying it forward.” Then I thought, “I can’t be the guy who breaks this cycle and look like a total jerk. The social pressure to continue with this trend was very high. Then after I gave her my card, I thought, “Wait a minute, what if the person behind me just ordered a $10 coffee?!?!” I obviously did not have that kind of budget.

As I fell into the social pressure that was placed upon me by complete strangers, I pulled out of the parking lot, finally with my coffee, and I thought: ”WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!”

Jay took the experience of free coffee and the guilt associated with not “paying it forward” and views it in the lens of social justice and the Christian response.  This post is an excellent example of public theology and how Christians are called to be the light of Christ to all people at all times.  Good job Jay 🙂

I highly recommend that you read the entire blog post, click here to do so.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Review of “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”

It’s no secret, the church is in a decline.  Attendance and support for the Church has been in on a steady downturn for many, many years. A whole host of reasons have been given on why this is.  Some blame MTV and iPhones, others blame parents for not taking their children, while others blame extra-curricular activities and sports.  Whatever the problem might be, rarely does anyone blame the church itself and the people that are attending it.

Dan Kimball is a minister and author.  He noticed that when he met people and got to know them that there are a great number of people who like Jesus, but not the Church.

The book discusses what the Church has done to foster these views, and how to address them. Kimball encourages Christians to leave the “Christian bubble” and listen to what non-Christians are saying.

Through a series of interview Kimball articulates six objections that people have with the church. At first glance a person is who in the church and has a connection with God because of it might be defense and even dismissive. Therein lies the problem. Kimball argues that Christian live in a “Christian bubble” and therefore think they know and understand those who do attend church or even believe in God.

Here are the six objections

Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Kimball does a good job of showing both sides of the issues, expect for number four; on this particular issue he touches on the accepting side of the issue but still comes down (and pretty hard I might add) on the side of homosexuality is sin.

Selected quotes from the text:

“The more we focus on what we stand for instead of what we stand against, the more we will line up with Jesus and his teachings about the kingdom of God, and the more we will be seen as a people who will believe in truth and love.”

“We need to be open and honest about the difficult passages and odd stories in the Bible. It seems more people are doing their homework about the Bible outside the church than they are inside the church.”

“Our goal should not be to get people to ‘go to church.’ We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God, not merely inviting them to attend our worship services.”

Kimball’s book may not be the end all be all to Christian evangelism and prevalence  but I believe that this book is a good conversation starter. Kimball glosses over a few things here and there but for the most part drives home the point that the church has to do something to reach out to the emerging generations.

I think that this text would be good for the leaders of a church or even an evangelism committee. The point of reading this text is to start conversation, not to change minds… that takes time.

Link to Amazon

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Happy Reading!!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

God In Our Midst: Review of “The Guardian”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.   You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.  “The Guardian” is one of the films being shown.


“The Guardian” is a short film (15 minutes in length) written in 2010. The screenwriter was a sophomore at Pasadena High School when she won Houston’s Cross Wind Productions’ Teen Scriptwriter Contest.  The prize for her winning was to have her screenplay professionally produced. While most sophomore aged high school girls are worried about getting a date with the star quarterback, this screenwriter had her sights set on bigger things.

“The Guardian” is a wonderful film of finding God in our midst. The short film follows the life a young teenage girl who has lost her father and her way in life. Her home life is not the greatest and she is looking for someone. In a strange encounter, she befriends a homeless man who for some reason cares for her.  Through her interaction with this man (played by Houston’s own Wayne Dehart) she sees that God’s hand is active and alive.

While the film is short, the message is powerful.

3 out of 4 stars

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan


Update: We have received word that this film is a finalist at the Milan Film Festival in Milan, Italy. Congrats!