MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Baby, you're a firework

A little over two years ago I started this blog.  I had started writing a religious column for the local paper and I wanted to share those posts with people outside of Southeast Texas.  Over time I began to add my sermons in audio form and even write more article that were only ever published on this site.  Every once and a while someone would comment or like my post which was nice but it was for my own edification and sharing my understanding of the faith I hold so dear.  I loved hearing from people (even people who disagreed with me); it was a good outlet for me.

In March 2013, evandolive.com got a little busier when my open letter to Victoria’s Secret went viral (to the tune of 4 million+ people).   It was during this time that I had the idea for a book.  I began thinking about how in all of marketing there is an element of fantasy and perfection and somewhere along the line society began to blur the two together. Don’t believe me? Try to find a Middle School aged boy who does not think that Axe Body Spray will attract the opposite sex.  Why?  Because this is the core of their marketing campaign. On top of that, how do people of faith respond when the image of God is being distorted to only encapsulate one body type or the so called “ideal body type”?

After working on a proposal, a detailed outline, numerous sample pages and various edits, I am happy to announce that I have entered into a contract with the Pilgrim Press, the publishing house for the United Church of Christ, to publish my first book!

I am very happy, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.

As of now, the working title is The Distortion of the Imago Dei.

I have been busy getting my idea down on paper (via Google Drive) trying to synthesize it all.

I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown me over this past year; if my letter had not gone viral I am not sure I would be making this announcement today.

Thank you for all your support as I embark on this new journey!

Stay tuned for more updates!

OK… back to writing… I have a deadline to keep.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Baby You’re A Firework: Fireworks at Disneyland, Anaheim, California” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License 2.0

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

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.

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

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

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!

6 Objections of the Church from “They Like Jesus But Not The Church”

I am currently reading “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” by Dan Kimball.  It is an interesting book on how the church is seen by those in the “emerging generations.”  The author does not hold back in calling out followers of Christ on both sides of the theological spectrum. In the book he list six objections people have to the church (they are listed below)

What do you think about these six?  Would you add or take any way?


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.

Join The Conspiracy!

Think about Christmas differently this year! Turn your Christmas upside down!

When Intolerance/Difference of Theological Belief Leads To Unemployment

For starters, this post is not about me. I am not losing my job, but it is about a fellow minister who is currently in this unfortunate boat.

A minister colleague of mine posted on Facebook that his church had made the decision that they were going to withdraw from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. On top of that, the governing body of the church had the right to terminate the minister, no congregational vote or anything.

The beginning of all of this started when the Kentucky Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at their last assembly voted to remove the restriction that stated that open homosexuals could not be ordained in the Region.  The measure passed by a wide margin and even church in the region had an opportunity to cast a vote and speak on the issue.   For my colleague’s church this was not enough.  They disagreed with the measure and thus have taken action.

The thing that I do not understand is that in the Disciples of Christ denomination, one our main tenets is the freedom of belief and the priesthood of all believers.  Under the notion of the freedom of belief, there are not hard and fast interpretations of the Bible broad casted from on high at some national office.  Each person is supposed to be lead by the Spirit to come up with an interpretation of themselves.  Now this does not mean that they are devoid of conversation with others or that they can not draw upon the knowledge of ministers and leaders, but it does mean that the conversation can not be had.  The Disciples are big proponents of local church authority and autonomy.  It is so the church can find an expression of faith that fits the congregation at hand.  No two Disciples churches look a like and that is a great thing.  The Bible is meant to expressed in a different ways to different people.  Gone are the days of cookie cutter religion and hello a place where questions are welcomed and discussions can be had.

Does this mean you can believe whatever you want?  In a sense yes and no… I mean you believed God was a water buffalo, you have missed the point of the gospel.  But for the most part, theologies are constantly in flux, they are growing and shaping over a course of a life time.  This does not mean that once you chose one particular way of believing or understanding the Bible that you are stuck with it forever.  This is where I believe this congregation might have jumped the gun.  What is wrong with having differing theological opinions   What is wrong with having a good discussion based on and around the notion that in the end we are still welcome and able to come around the Table of Grace under the common bond of Jesus Christ.  I hate to tell this congregation but even though they differ on this issue, there are still people within the remnant that do not see eye to eye on every piece of theology, its quite impossible for that to happen.

I am saddened for my friend and colleague and pray that he will find a church that will accept him and his understanding of the gospel.

 

May it be so.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Favorite Bible Passage (For Today)

As a minister I get asked a lot of questions.  These questions range from “Where did Cain’s wife come from?” to “How can I forgive someone when I am hurting so bad?” and everything in between.  A question that I get a lot is “what is your favorite Bible verse?”  The Bible is a big book so as you can imagine I have a lot to choose from.  The problem with answering this question is that the answer is never same day to day, month to month, year to year.  Why?  Well, things happen in our lives that change the way that we approach the scriptures.  For example, my daughter and first child Violet was born on February 1.  Before her birth, passages in the Bible that referred to a parent/child relationship or even the notion that God is a parent didn’t really mean much to me.  But after her birth, those passages took on a whole new meaning.  It was because my context had changed.  My outlook on life and what was important to me was different.  Those passages were something that I could relate to because I was a parent now.

Having a favorite Bible passage is something that evokes for us memories of a time when we felt close to God or maybe someone.  For me today my favorite passage is 1 John 4:19- “We love because God first loved us.” (Common English Bible, 2011).  This passage sums up my understanding of God, the ultimate source of all love.  The only reason we have the capacity to love another human being is because God loved us first.  I believe that this passage calls on all of the followers of Christ to remember the free gift of love and to share it willingly with others, just like it was given to us.

Does this mean that tomorrow I might change my mind?  Maybe, the fact remains that our relationship with God and the Bible is a growing relationship, not a static one.  I once heard pastor and author Brian McLaren once say that we should stop going to the Bible to only reinforce what we already know about God.  If we heed these words, then we will have a mountain of favorite passages throughout our lives.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan M. Dolive