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Category Archives: Culture

Last night, Jamie announced via a bulletin on MySpace that a few shirts from To Write Love On Her Arms which have previously been available only online are now being sold in Hot Topic. Jamie hasn’t written the “official” announcement of it, however, so we haven’t heard the full story…like, what’s the plan, why exactly they decided to take this route, etc. So, it goes without saying, I think, that the reaction has been mixed so far, according many of the 500+ comments so far. They range from angry cries of “sell out” and worries that people will just wear them to be trendy without regard to the meaning, to excitement at the new opportunities and literally (from a few) shouts of joy that they can finally have these shirts since they can’t/don’t like to order things from online stores.

My response to the bulletin is below…it was too long to post on MySpace, so I’m putting it here:

So…yeah…this is gonna be loooong…..

I really appreciate everyone’s comments on this, even the upset comments that are little more than words expressing anger. I have to admit that I’m quite conflicted about this, as I see both the ups and downs. At first, it seems it’s at once needed and undesirable. But, reflecting on this brought a quote by C.S. Lewis to mind.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

I think this fits here, because the purpose of TWLOHA _is_ to spread the idea of love and hope to everyone, not just a select few. And, what better outlet than HT, since so many supportive bands sell merch through HT? (Paramore, Boys Like Girls, Jonzetta, Gym Class Heroes, Panic! at the Disco, Bayside, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights…) And, honestly…when was the last time any of you saw anything that so plainly spoke of love or promised hope at Hot Topic?

The hard thing about Love is that it must be shared; otherwise, it isn’t love. But, in sharing it, you open yourself up to that same love being misused, misunderstood, ignored, or even rejected. Surely, all of these things might happen to the message of TWLOHA with some people who buy the shirts. But, a) that’s not TWLOHA’s fault, and b) you can’t change that, because it’s bound to happen eventually if this movement is to penetrate further into the public eye. But, though this is certainly a risky thing to do, riskier still is to hold onto this love and keep it for ourselves. For, if we do that, as Lewis so eloquently points out, the love becomes dead and useless.

So, in the end, I have to trust that, as they’ve shown in the past, Jamie and the staff at TWLOHA have approached this very carefully and are planning every step of the way to the best of their ability. I doubt they would intentionally do anything to damage the image or effectiveness of their organization, so I think it’s pretty fair to trust them. And I do.

Remember that this movement started with one girl’s story, and it continues every day with our stories. If you see people with the shirts on, kindly start conversation with them about it, whether they know about it or not. If they don’t care, you can’t help that. And there will be those who don’t and won’t no matter what. But, let that encourage you (and me) to be even more bold and honest with the sharing of your story (or your friend’s, or Renées, or whoever’s) with those who will listen, and to even more humbly love and serve those who feel the most unloved.

I hope all is well. Take care.


Here is a link to the audio of mine and Tiffany’s interview with Tia Graham to discuss To Write Love On Her Arms and the issue of self injury.

The interview was cut short due to technical difficulties we were beginning to experience on our end. But, there’s still plenty to chew on and to spark interest. Also, it serves as great evidence for my ADD and lack of ability to properly explain things when I’m under the gun. 😉

On a personal note, I have to give credit to Tiff for being brave and discussing her own problems with SI.  If you ask me, it’s pretty gutsy to do that when society says that these things should be swept under the rug.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions…

Profound Despair

Last night, my girlfriend Tiffany counseled a friend of hers who is undergoing a massive personal and emotional crisis.  I won’t go into details.  But, the situation reminded me that many students have been through situations that I can’t imagine bearing.  And it brought to mind this passage from one of my favorite books.

May God have mercy on all those who suffer tonight.

I want other people to be happy. I tell my friends who are religious or spiritual but haven’t yet found anything like this to wait, to pray, to meditate, to try to clear their minds of whatever is blocking them from their own happiness. Often, it’s stress—school, with its homework keeping us up till 3 AM, or people, relationships, parents. And to older people, it all sounds so trivial! Here we are, comfortable, affluent, well-fed, even bored, and we couldn’t be more miserable. Do adults understand this? I like to think that they at least wonder about it, whatever answers they come up with. Most adults seem surprised, even shocked by the depth of emotion that people my age experience. We’re not always eloquent, but we get across the message in scars and suicide attempts and overdoses.

A Tiny Step Away From Deepest Faith: A Teenager’s Search For Meaning by Marjorie Corbman

One of the results of a liberal arts education is that you end up reading a lot of stuff that either makes you mad, makes you think outside your normal paradigm, or bores you to death. The following, from the book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser (which I am reading for a sociology class), falls in the second category.

On the whole, conservative Republicans have been more willing than liberal Democrats to criticize the war on marijuana. In addition to former secretary of state George Shultz, economist Milton Friedman, and editor William F. Buckley, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, has called for decriminalization. “Drug problems are health problems, not criminal justice problems.” Johnson told an audience at the Yale Law School in November, 2001. “The war on drugs is an absolute failure.” An opinion poll taken around the same time found that 67 percent of the American people opposed denying marijuana for medical use; 61 percent opposed the arrest and imprisonment of nonviolent pot smokers. The new public mood has greatly minimized the importance of providing a solemn or contrite answer to the key political question of the 1990s. When asked if he’d ever smoked pot, Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York City, replied: “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.”

Although President George W. Bush has acknowledged his own struggles with alcohol, he’s refused to discuss whether he ever smoked marijuana. Much like the previous baby-boomer who occupied the White House, Bush has taken great care to appear “tough” on drugs. His attorney general, John Ashcroft, has vowed to “escalate the war on drugs.” His drug czar John Walters, previously called for stiffening the criminal penalties for marijuana and has attacked drug treatment in words that bring to mind the late Harry J. Anslinger. Providing treatment to drug users, Walters argued, is “the latest manifestation of the liberals’ commitmet to a ‘therapeutic state in which government serves s the agent of personal rehabilitation.” Instead of expanding drug treatment, the Bush administration plans to expand drug testing. The education bill passed in 2001 provides funds for the widespread testing of schoolchildren. President Bush’s choice to head the DEA, former congressman Asa Hutchinson, was one of the House managers of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Hutchinson vehemently opposes the medicinal use of marijuana because “it would send the wrong message to children.” In October of 2001 the DEA decided to ban food products containing hem, even though none of them can get you high. The ban was justified on the grounds that health food products such as Hemp Nuggets may contain minute traces of delta-9-THC. “many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant,” Hutchinson explained. The DEA has thus far made no effort to ban poppyseed bagels, which contain minute traces of opium.


Thanks to my friend Mary for the link to this interview with Jamie of TWLOHA. It’s short, but he said some things that really cut to the core. Here are a couple of highlights:

TWLOHA isn’t technically a Christian organization. How do think the Church’s response to the issue has been, and why are you guys taking a different approach (reaching outside the Church)?

I think the Church, for the most part, is no better than the rest of society in terms of how we respond to these issues. I say “we” because I consider myself part of the Church … Often times, the Church oversimplifies and looks only at the spiritual. In most cases, there is more to these battles than, “I’ll be praying for you.” If your friend had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just pray. You would take them to the hospital to get the bone fixed. These are complex problems and often times, they require complex solutions. I believe God’s given us wisdom, education and medicine, for a reason, and those things are part of the equation. The Church is quick with its answers but slow to embrace people living with enormous questions. And a lot of times that’s the first step, simply meeting people where they are, showing we’re not afraid of their pain, showing we’re willing to walk with them.

We don’t call ourselves a Christian organization because I believe the word has been abused to the point it now means some terrible things to a lot of people, so we’re trying to use a new language, and more than anything, we’re trying to meet people where they are. We would probably not be welcome on Warped Tour or be sitting in meetings at MySpace, if we showed up under the banner of “Christian organization,” but by doing things the way we have, we’re seeing some amazing doors open. In short, we do more ministry by not using the word “ministry.”

It seems like depression and self-injury are kind of “secret issues” that people dealing with them don’t like to talk about. How can we bring it more into the open so people feel comfortable seeking help?
I think a lot of people doing the sort of work we’re doing, especially when it comes to awareness, they tend to focus on the negative. We’re trying to be honest about these things, but we’re also trying to focus on and celebrate the hope and help that exists in the face of this stuff.

And community is essential. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true. When we get in the habit of living honest lives and doing life with people, talking to people, it makes it so much easier to navigate these storms. And I think part of a life lived in community, and the idea of freedom in Christ, is that there’s nothing we can’t talk about, no dark place we can’t bring light to.

This is an excerpt from Natural High 3, which you can find out more about by going to Video via