Thursday, September 29, 2011

who needs stones when you have the American court system?

I can't tell you how many times I have received emails or seen Facebook posts from people pleading for others to sign a petition to save the life of a Middle Eastern woman from being stoned to death because she was raped and is now considered an adulteress. People look on these types of situations with horror and say, "well, thank God I'm an American and things like this just don't happen here," or, "we would never stand for such injustice in America!"

Really? Are you sure about that?

I'm sure some of you have heard of the case of Jamie Leigh Jones vs. KBR. If not, I'll give you the gist. She was a contractor for them in Iraq. She alleges that while there, she was drugged, raped and then locked in a storage container for 24 hours without food and water. She sought medical treatment after the incident and doctors confirm that she was, indeed, beaten. A rape kit was administered but "mysteriously" lost and when it was finally recovered two years later, crucial pieces of the kit were, again, "mysteriously" missing. Jones' alleged attacker was not sentenced and furthermore she lost her case against KBR, seeking $145 million in damages. KBR, being the classy company they clearly are, countersued Jones to reimburse the court costs they incurred while going through trial. She has now been ordered to pay KBR $145,000.

Well, bravo, American court system.

I also read an article today talking about a case in Missouri where a school aged, special needs girl was raped in school. Her rapist plead guilty in the court system, but the school she attended expelled the girl for "indecent public affection" and made her write an apology to her accused. The girl and her parents are now suing the school. Why does this girl deserve to be punished when she's already been raped? The rapist plead guilty and that's not good enough for this school? They won't admit that a boy did something wrong and instead insist on shaming and punishing the victim of this horrible crime? What the hell is wrong with these people?

It seems interesting to me that generally when a woman goes into a court room with pictures of bruising, etc and alleges that she was beaten by her husband/boyfriend/whoever, she is typically believed. However, as soon as a sexual element to the crime is introduced, the woman is no longer considered credible. A woman practically has to have a video tape of the crime taking place to a get a conviction of rape, and yet the only thing a man needs is his word to be considered innocent. I will admit that, yes, false accusations of rape do occur. The difference is, when no rape happens... there is no evidence. When a woman is badly beaten and has samples of the accused's DNA all over her body, is clearly in distress and comes forward with an accusation... why do we feel such a strong need to doubt her? Rape defense attorneys make it common practice to slander the accuser's name at trial, basically saying, "hey, everybody knows she's a slut, she's slept with everyone, she wouldn't say no. Ever." The argument is always that "she was asking for it," or, "it was consensual." Yes, because I know so many women who have a fantasy of being drugged, beaten to a pulp and locked up without food or water. Give me a break.

The fact of the matter is this: rape is common. Very common, alarmingly common. For some reason a lot of people still have this picture in their minds of rape being when a strange man jumps out of the bushes and attacks a woman, but the fact of the matter is, most rapists are people with which the victim is acquainted. Additionally, it has been posited (with years of research in support) that this type of rapist (date/acquaintance rapists) are pathological--they serially rape women/victims. They know what to look for, they know what type of women are vulnerable. Women with a psychological disorder, mental handicap or a shall we say "colorful" sexual history are the least likely to be believed.

If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what they thought of rape, the majority of people would say it is one the most heinous crimes a person could commit and yet, in our court and justice system, we rarely prosecute or convict anyone accused of rape or sexual assault. I understand because it is considered such a horrible crime, that people want to be sure that they are convicting a guilty person, but the level of hesitation in our system is insulting to the credibility of women everywhere. It is estimated that only about 5% of rapists see a day of jail time for their crimes. Many victims never come forward and the few who do are often discouraged from pressing charges because law officers know how difficult a conviction is to come by.

Is this really the best we can do? Are we really so much better than those countries we love to look down upon? The punishment is different, the sentiment is the same--if you are raped, we are not on your side and you will face punishment, shaming and blaming. As a Christian woman, this sentiment is rage-inducing. This is not God's heart. This is not God's desire. God's heart is broken for the victimized and abused, He seeks to comfort and protect them, not punish them. I take some comfort in the fact that vengeance belongs to the Lord, but when we fail to punish in the earthly realm, we allow dangerous people to walk free and harm others. This is simply unacceptable.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Everyone's favorite subject

Before I begin tackling this topic, let me preface by saying this:

I do not expect someone who is not a Christian to live as if they are a Christian. I cannot expect someone who does not have the same convictions or beliefs to live by the same set of standards that I hold for myself. It simply doesn't make any sense and I don't think it helps the cause of the gospel, to be quite honest. I know a lot of Christians who DO hold non-Christians to the same level of accountability as their Christian friends and I feel like all this does is distance Christians even further from people who need our love and need to see Christ through us.

All that said, this post is for Christians and it is about sex.

I am not squeamish about the subject of sex. I think it was made by God and I think it can be a wonderful, beautiful thing that should be enjoyed. While I do believe in modesty, I am not ashamed of my body or its part and I don't find any of them shameful or dirty. They are natural and handmade by God. Unfortunately, I have known many who do not feel the same way.

As I'm sure I have mentioned before, I attended a pretty conservative religious institution for my Bachelor's degree. Students are strongly encouraged to marry, and marry they do. And young. Some of them, in fact, get married just so they can have sex (that's a whole other blog!). But, I remember clearly girls getting married and then single girls inquiring about sex and what it's like. I heard things like, "I don't like it," and "it makes me feel dirty." This is horrible. No woman should feel dirty having sex with her own husband. There is something wrong about the way the church is teaching us about sex (or at least certain sects of the church). My cousin went to the same school and pursued the same degree I did, only three years behind me. One of the classes he took (which I also took) started a discussion one day about sexuality. The professor posed the question, "when is it right and good for a Christian to have sex?" My cousin, without flinching responded that sex was entirely appropriate when done within the confines of marriage. I think this is a pretty standard answer and you'd think a lot of college students raised in the church would answer this way. You'd think. Instead, my cousin spent the rest of the class period debating classmates who insisted you should only have sex within marriage when attempting to produce offspring. This is absolutely not supported by scripture (check out 1 Corintians 7:5!), but for my cousin's beliefs he was basically treated like a pervert for the rest of the day.

Christians, THIS IS RIDICULOUS. We should not be so terrified of something that God created to join a husband and wife together on a deep level and for us to enjoy physically. All that said, we need to be careful not to swing too far the other direction.

Now, let me state for the record. I will be 26 years old this month and I am still a virgin. This does not mean that I am perfect. Nor does it mean that I am without temptation or desire or that I have never failed in some way that I regret. I have failed, and I do regret. But to be totally honest with you, all of the temptations and failures have done nothing but strengthen my resolve and convictions about sexual purity and Christian sexuality. Taking a "walk on the wild side" so to speak, has only served to prove to me that going against what I believe scripture dictates as appropriate is SO NOT what I want for my life.

I believe sex outside of marriage is not what God desires of us. Period.

13 "Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods," but God will do away with both of them. The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 God raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ? (D)So should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Absolutely not! 16 Do you not know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says, The two will become one flesh. 17 But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

18 Flee from sexual immorality! "Every sin a person can commit is outside the body," but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:13-18 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

This passage certainly makes sexual immorality seem like something God definitely doesn't approve of. Let me state, that I certainly believe in reading scripture within its context (both historical and otherwise), however, I don't think there's any way to "side step" this verse so to speak. I feel it's pretty clear: God does not approve of sexual immorality. The thing that I think is interesting is how it states that sexual sin is a sin committed against one's own body. I think a lot of Christians use the excuse of "I'm not hurting anyone," to justify having sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Ok, you're not hurting someone like you hurt someone when you lie, but you are certainly hurting yourself, and you are sinning against God. Some translations translate the words "sexual immorality" as "fornication." However, the immorality specifically mentioned in this passage is prostitution. This does not mean that fornication is not also considered immoral:

8 I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. 9 But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Better to marry than to burn with desire. Hm. I don't think he's talking about the burning desire to buy china, where a white dress or shove wedding cake in someone's mouth. I think it's sex, you guys.

Now, why do I bring all this up? Why bother with this post? A couple of reasons. First, I have posted quite a bit on here about marriage and about marriage being a symbol of Christ's love for the Church. I think sex is a really important part of that symbol. And as I said, we shouldn't go messing with a symbol that God has established as a way of teaching us about Himself. When God gives instruction on marriage, we should follow that instruction, just like ancient Israelites followed laws about sacrifice. It's a symbol that is pointing to something important, it shouldn't be tampered with.

Secondly, I read an article yesterday about a new book coming out. The book is called Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire. This book is written by Dr. Jennifer Wright Knust, a religion professor and ordained minister. I am all in favor of Christians being less uptight about sex and being more able to speak about it honestly. However, I am a little concerned with some of the things mentioned about this book. The main thing being her saying that the Bible contradicts itself. When Christians start saying and believing that the Bible contradicts itself, it gives us license to pick and choose what we want to accept or believe and leave the rest. It holds us accountable to basically nothing. Knust's main point (it seems) is that while the Bible makes commandments about sexual morality, the narrative portions about such people as David, Solomon, Ruth... seem to contradict these commandments. As my pastor often states, narrative portions of scripture are DESCRIPTIVE and not necessarily PRESCRIPTIVE. True, some of these stories tell us about people doing very noble things, things we should admire and aspire to. However, some of them are cautionary tales!! Some of them, I think, are there to say, "this is why this is a bad idea!" And some are merely a testament to the fact that God is a God of forgiveness and redemption and a God who chooses the most unlikely people to carry out His plan.
Do I think we should be legalistic and condemn all of those who may falter in the category of sexual purity? No. Of course not. But, we should certainly not throw out all of scripture and deny that we are given commandments by God. Commandments that are there to keep us out of trouble and give us a good quality of life. I read a lot of secular feminist blogs and over and over again sexual purity is insulted and tagged as another way to "confine" women and keep them from expressing their sexuality. For me, God defines my sexuality, and not anyone else. I am still a sexual being despite being abstinent and I feel complete control over my sexuality BECAUSE of my choice to remain abstinent. I feel FREEDOM in the laws God has given. I may not get to act on every desire or whim, but I feel security and am assured that God will care for me when I follow His ways. And THAT makes me feel FREE.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You're killing me, Lifetime!!

As many of my friends now know, I have been studying to become a certified labor doula. I have always had a very strong interest in childbirth and now that some of my friends are thinking of having babies, my best friend strongly encouraged me to get my certification, telling me it would mean a lot to her to have me there at her birth. So, here I am... studying up on all things birth related. The more I study, the more I realize that birth is a HUGE feminist issue. Particularly in the United States. We spend more on health care than any other country in the world, yet the World Health Organization has called our infant and maternal mortality rates appalling. They are the highest in the developed world. There are several factors to these rates including poor prenatal care for women of poorer backgrounds, maternal obesity and the rising rate of c-sections. According to the WHO c-section rates should be around 10-15%, but in the US they are now around 35% with some parts of the country having rates as high as 80%.
For me, the big issue is information. Many American women are entirely uninformed about the stages of birth, the risks associated with common interventions and c-sections and even the risks involved with choosing not to breastfeed. (I will elaborate more on these things in a later post.)
However, another HUGE issue is the way our culture (particularly pop culture) portrays childbirth as something to be feared. Enter Lifetime Television

They have a new show "One Born Every Minute," and naturally, they promote it with pictures of women, sweating in hospital beds, terrified out of their minds. (bonus: the dads on the commercials are DOOFUSES and the moms are total nags!! hurray sitcom-esque gender roles!!)
On top of that, a clip from a recent episode was brought to my attention today via CLICK HERE to see the clip. Basically, it uses editing and bed music, to make a couple who has chosen to have a natural birth (assisted by a doula) look like weird crazies who are ignoring medical advice willy-nilly and putting their baby at risk. The nurse is suggesting that the mother agree to have an internal monitor. Internal monitors are wires placed inside the woman... and onto the baby's scalp. This can lead to infections, Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) and other complications which can lead to further interventions, fetal distress and/or a c-section. Internal monitors are fairly routine, but if a mother is trying to have a labor in which harm to baby and chance of c-section is reduced, it is entirely reasonable to refuse internal monitoring. Especially considering many birthing professionals don't find it to be more accurate than external monitoring of fetal heart tones. Patients are always allowed to refuse, but the nurse flat out insinuates that the couple is insane for resisting her suggestion.
Lifetime is supposed to be a network for women. They put out movies telling stories of victims of abuse, breast cancer survivors, moms who fight to protect their children... and yet they seek to mock women's birth choices. This is not acceptable. If a network wants to devote themselves to women and their empowerment, they cannot caricature a woman as foolish or weird if she chooses a less conventional birth plan.
I went to Lifetime's website and was unable to find an email address where I could send an email. I did, however find a physical address and phone number:

Lifetime Television

309 W. 49th Street

New York, NY 10019

(212) 424-7293

Feel free to join me in contacting them and letting them know that openly mocking women who choose natural birthing methods is WRONG.

Friday, April 2, 2010

well, since you brought it up... let's talk about this word "choice", shall we?

i wasn't planning on having multiple posts concerning the issue of abortion, but seeing as that seems to be all certain feminist blogs want to talk about... why not?

in all of the reading i've done in a handful of popular feminist blogs in the past few months, there are a few points that really irk me tremendously... many of them having to do with abortion. first, i suppose i should define where i stand with this argument. as discussed in my last post, i believe that abortion is simply a symptom of a greater problem: our society doesn't properly care for it's women. this is a stance that was held by first wave feminists and i must say i agree with them. i don't think the answer to abortion is making it illegal OR fighting tooth and nail to keep it legal without addressing the actual problems. firstly, men and women alike have a right to know how their bodies work, how pregnancy happens, and how to prevent pregnancy. i am not one of those Christians who is so foolish to believe that someone who does not have the same moral convictions i do, is going to act and make the same life choices that i do. people are going to have sex. period. and if you don't want them to have abortions, teach them COMPLETE sex education. while i believe abstinence is the best choice and is the choice i have made for myself, i do not expect everyone to make that choice, even if it is the only choice presented to them. people who think that abstinence-only education leads to abstinence-only teens, are excessively naive. therefore, people need to know how to protect themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancies. in addition, if a woman were truly supported by society, motherhood would be a much easier choice. now, i'm not saying that motherhood is easy by any means, particularly single-motherhood... however, many women make the choice of having an abortion because having a child would mean dropping out of school because their school doesn't provide family housing or day care options (which is also a burden for non-single mothers). One in four abortions is performed on a university student. I wonder how many of those women would have made a different choice, had more support been offered to them. plus the high cost of pre-natal care, making life a difficult choice for poorer women. not to mention all of the stigma attached to being a single mother, or even a mother with partner who is not a spouse. many attached to the pro-life movement make it a bit of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. either you're a murderer or you're a whore. talk about choices! those are great ones, huh?
i believe abortion is wrong because i believe life does being at conception and that all life is sacred. (and before any pro-choicers who may read this try to go all crazy on me and assume me a hypocrite--i am also anti-death penalty, anti-torture and anti-war). but i am not here to condemn anyone else. even Christ didn't come to do that (John 3:16-17). i can't make anyone else's choices for them. we are creatures of free will.
now, all that said and laid out on the table, here's my issue: on these blogs, i have read attacks on women who have chosen abstinence, attacks on women who chose to put a baby up for adoption and attacks on pretty much any woman who made a choice involving her sexuality or pregnancy that didn't involve having an abortion. there are MULTIPLE articles to be found criticizing the movie Juno. one claiming that adoption is a horrible choice and many women regret it (and no one regrets having an abortion?) and one that even flat out said of the movie, "why not just have an abortion and be done with it?" these blogs and articles all call themselves pro-choice while calling pro-lifers "anti-choice" constantly. it seems to me, ladies, that the majority of "anti-choicers" are only anti one choice. you seem to be anti a lot more choices. now i read this little gem of an article, criticizing Lilith Fair for including Crisis Pregnancy Centers in their "Choose Your Charity" campaign. there was much outrage to be had concerning this, and now all of the CPCs have been pulled from the list. just because there have been CPCs who have been guilty of preventing women from obtaining contraceptive and using scare tactics to keep them from having abortions doesn't mean that every CPC does these things. Believe it or not, some women in a crisis pregnancy situation WANT to keep their baby and CPCs provide them the support they need to do that. How is that anti-woman? please, tell me. And it's not like abortion providers are totally free from controversy or scandal. isn't generalizing an entire group because of a few exactly the kind of behavior feminism seeks to eradicate? my favorite part of the article is in one of the first comments, "I wasn't aware we were using the term "abortion mill" now, but thanks for comparing babies to puppies, pro-life America!" oh wait, now it's a baby? i thought it was a non-viable, non-living fetus. isn't puppy a step up? funny how you feel free to refer to it as a baby when it's convenient for you and your argument, but deny it's inherent life value the rest of the time.
i don't have a big issue with a woman being pro-choice. i have no problem agreeing to disagree, but i expect the same kind of respect and rationale in return. don't paint all pro-lifers as anti-woman clinic bombers who sit in their bunkers waiting for Christ to return. ok? thanks. and i would also appreciate it if pro-choice sites, blogs and articles would stop trying to shame women who have made a choice different from their own. don't call me a foolish prude because i have made the (educated) decision not to have sex. don't claim that a woman giving her child to a loving family is done only because a woman feels societal pressure or was somehow blocked from an abortion and that the woman will inevitably feel deep grief over her choice. with EVERY particular choice there is SOMEONE who regrets it. people regret having sex, people regret not having sex. people regret giving their child up for adoption, but people also deeply regret their abortions (i've MET them). disagree with me all you like, but no matter the issue i do not tolerate people only telling part of the facts, outright lying or trying to scare or pressure people into a certain belief. some pro-lifers are guilty of these things but so are some pro-choicers. there are two sides to every coin.

Monday, February 8, 2010

i still don't see the big deal. sorry, ladies.

so, there has been much controversy and anger surrounding the now infamous pam and tim tebow ad that aired during the super bowl last night. i watched it, waiting for the offensive part... but after the 30 seconds were over all i could think was THAT'S IT? THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SO MAD ABOUT?

so, a few points you should know:

1. CBS lifted a policy that banned such ads and decided to air this one, even though in the past they have refused to air ads by other organizations. people are angry because they feel like CBS is supporting one issue over others.

Newsflash. we live in America. we have free speech and television networks get to choose what they do and do not air. CBS has every right, as a company who's objective is PROFIT, to air an ad they want to air or refuse to air an ad that they feel would be offensive to their particular demographic. No network is going to commit ratings suicide over the issue of "fairness." you can not like it until you're blue in the face, but forcing CBS to air an ad they don't want to, or keeping them from airing an ad that they do want to air is taking away their liberties.

2. In case you didn't see it (you can watch it on Hulu) the ad was very vague and, in fact, said nothing of abortion or Pam Tebow's choice to keep her child. It simply talked about how she worried about him during her pregnancy and even worries about him now. Many feminists are now saying that they feel like Focus on the Family "played them" to get more media attention.

Well, yes, you did kind of shoot yourselves in the foot here, didn't you? Maybe that was the plan... but I doubt it. Rather, I think they decided to purchase an ad, announced it, and then CBS required them to be vague... and you got all upset about basically nothing.

3. Planned Parenthood filmed an ad countering the Tebow ad, featuring two football players talking about how they "respect their daughters" and would "respect their choices." Many feminists constantly harp on the fact that they are not "pro-abortion" but rather "pro-choice" and do not want any of a woman's options taken from her and think that people should respect a woman's choice no matter what it is... and yet i have seen some incredibly disrespectful comments coming out of feminist columns and blogs in regards to Mrs. Tebow's choice. Saying things like they want to "punch her in the face" and "sure it was easy for you to choose to have your baby, you middle classed white lady!"

First of all, violence? really? wow. that's classy of you. Secondly, didn't the doctors tell her that her health was also at stake? so... does class really come into that? Oh hey, i've got money and i'm white, so it's ok for me to risk my life. i'm less likely to die because of all my money and whiteness, so really it's easy for me to carry this risky pregnancy to term.

All i want to say is: there are much bigger fish to fry where feminism is concerned. shut up about it already. as Mattie Brinkerhoff so eloquently put it way back in 1869, "When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society - so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged." Abortion is a symptom of a bigger problem: women are not equals in society, society is not educating us about sex and our bodies. So, how about both sides agree to quit bickering about the legality of abortion, etc, etc and instead start talking about preventing unwanted pregnancies and making life easier for single mothers? Pro-lifers: admit that people are going to have sex and there really isn't a thing you can do about it. So, at least agree that people should be taught how to properly prevent pregnancies and diseases. You also need to realize that law or no law, women are going to have abortions. If you are thoroughly pro-life, you would also want to protect the life of a woman who may die of an illegal, botched abortion. Furthermore, if you want a single and/or young woman to keep her child, how about not calling her a whore when she does choose to do so? Pro-choicers: how about you start really respecting every choice a woman makes? I have read many pro-choice stance blogs that have looked down upon women who choose to raise their child or give it up for adoption. They speak as if the women only make this choice because they feel "pressured to." No, believe it or not, some women have serious moral issues with having an abortion. And you can talk all you want about how you had your abortion(s) and you're darn proud, but you need to admit that many women regret their abortions as well. Everybody: let's work on things like affordable health care for pregnant women, affordable child care for women who are in school or work. Let's not make it harder to say no to life, let's make it easier to say yes to it. THAT is the real issue at hand. Can we stop covering it up with all our bickering? And can we stop wasting time complaining about overly vague 30 second ads that will likely do absolutely NOTHING to change ANYONE'S mind?

Monday, January 25, 2010

why it matters: part 2; not everybody loves raymond

ok. i admit it. i don't love raymond. i have a bit of trouble appreciating a show that tells us that women are unreasonable nags and men are horny doofuses.

but you see, it's not just raymond. it's everywhere. every show, movie and advertisement telling us "the way things are" and who we all are as people according to our gender, race and economic standing.

little girls watch movies like cinderella and we dream of a handsome man coming to rescue us and we instantly fall in love (because how COULDN'T we? he's a prince!) and then we get married and live happily ever after. and then little girls grow up and we watch romantic comedies and we dream of a handsome (rich!) man coming to rescue us from our ho-hum life and he's probably totally wrong for us, but daggumit, he's cute and we want him and he makes things exciting and we want him and we want to spend the rest of our life with him! oh, and you deserve that perfect, expensive wedding! you deserve the plaza, the roses, the fondant cake and you have the right to say, "if anyone gets in my way, i will cut you! cus it's MY DAY!"

and little boys are told that if they want to be a man they have to eat big hamburgers and hunt things and play violent video games and contact sports and go sow those wild oats, boys! and some day when some crazy women with visions of wedding gowns dancing in her head finally wears you down, well, then it's best to succumb to that ball and chain and just settle down and make some kids.

well, gosh... why isn't that working out?

women see marriage as an object, a thing to be obtained because it will equal fulfillment, purpose and happiness. men see it as an obligation and burden that they must some day face. and then women have kids and get older and wonder where the wide-eyed dreamer went. and men give it all they got, because being a husband is about providing things and so they work those long hours and in the process rob their families of the things they really need.

i'm sure this all sounds like stereotype to you. and it is. but it is stereotype vehemently reinforced by the media around us. and yes, i do believe life imitates art. we watch the sitcoms on TV and we are made to think these unbalanced, unfair family dynamics are funny. and we laugh and say, "oh gosh! that's so true! women are so crazy like that! men are so stupid like that!" and we never stop to question the gravity---the danger of that situation, played out in our actual lives. we merely accept it as fate, both biological and social, and move on.

Now, I go back to marriage as a symbol, and again I ask you, is this how you want Our Christ portrayed? is this how you want your children raised? is this the life you want for yourself?

Can't we start portraying men as people of integrity? Men who protect their family, love and devote themselves to them? to spending TIME with them not just money ON them? Can't we think of and portray women as the respected, industrious, level-headed and virtuous people that scriptures like Proverbs 31 tell us they should be?

How much of our society would change if we started portraying everyone fairly? What if every child were able to grow up and watch a person on television that looks like them and talks like them but isn't simply some sort of caricature? Wouldn't we start seeing ourselves differently? I have read of and seen documentaries about the studies that show communities that didn't have television being introduced to American television suddenly have huge jumps in instances of eating disorders. This isn't just some theory, this is empirical data. What we watch effects us. It shows us a work of fiction and causes us to believe it is the standard and the norm. It isn't... and it is destroying us.

Now, I'm not saying throw out your TVs and stop watching movies. Just watch with your eyes truly open. Be aware of the subtle messages that are being sent to you. Identify them, reject them and embrace truth.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

why it matters: part 1

God is my Father. Christ is my Brother. Christ is the Groom. The Church is the Bride.

How often do we say or hear these things in our churches? We all know it to be true, but what does this really mean to us? The longer I live, the more strongly I believe that God uses the relationships we have on this earth to reveal truths about Himself. Particularly our families.

The Evangelical Church is quick to champion the cause of the family, of marriage. It's on a quest (typically through the vehicle of the Republican party--but that's a whole other blog) to preserve what is held dear and is viewed as godly. I so often hear people harping on the family, family is so important, marriage is sacred, etc. But I never hear any reasons why other than, "God wants it that way/established it that way."

Now, don't get me wrong. I think family is extremely important. I think the sanctity of marriage is extremely important. But I think we've all forgotten why. How can Christians have an impact on the world if even we don't know the reasons behind what we do and what we believe?

In the Old Testament, God established the sacrificial system and gave the Israelites very specific instructions as to which sacrifices were acceptable and how these sacrifices were to be carried out. Now, as someone who lives post Christ's birth, death and resurrection, I understand that this system was set into place to point towards the coming of Christ and the sacrifice that He would make to make a way for me to have my sins forgiven. I think most Christians would be on board with this. However, I can't help but think that those who lived before Christ must have questioned some of the instructions God gave regarding sacrifices, but I can see how God didn't make these instructions just for the heck of it---it all pointed to Christ. A male lamb, without blemish-Christ without sin. Even John points out for us that much like the lamb was not to have his bones broken, Christ's legs were not broken during His crucifixion (a common practice to bring about death sooner):

32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. (John 19:32-33)

36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN." (John 19:36)

So, all along these seemingly strange instructions would all prove to be prophecies of their own, telling us, proving to us that Jesus was who He said.

Ok, so where am I going with this?

In the New Testament, over and over again, parallels and parables are made based around the likening of Christ's relationship to the Church to a husband's relationship to his wife. We are also given instruction as to what a marriage should be and what it should look like and the role each partner should play. I don't think this should be taken lightly. I think a godly marriage not only teaches us about our relationship to Christ, but also makes us look forward to Christ's return. Again, I say that I strongly believe that God uses the relationships we have on this earth to teach us things about His character. Furthermore, it comes as no surprise to me that the two ways God chooses to describe Himself (Father, Groom) are the two most broken down relationships in our society today (fatherhood, marriage). This is no mistake. This is a cleverly devised attack. It makes us unable to understand God the way we should, and keeps us from demonstrating to ourselves and other's what Christ's love really looks like.

So, what does this have to do with Christian Feminism? Good question. As a child, I grew up in a Conservative Southern Baptist environment and went on to a Conservative Southern Baptist University. In this upbringing and education, I was taught things like women must submit to men, men are the head of the church and the household, women can't be ministers or have any sort of spiritual authority over a man. In college I was even pressured again and again to get married as soon as possible and one of the speakers brought to our University even told us that good Christians should homeschool their children. The next day a friend of mine dropped out of the pre-med program she was in because a "good Christian mother" can't be a doctor AND homeschool her children. Give me a break.

The church has worked hard and has perhaps played the biggest part in establishing our society's rigid gender roles. Is this what scripture really intended? Is this how we want to portray Our Christ? A man who rules with an iron fist, has no consideration for the gifts His bride possesses or the desires she has in her heart? True, the scripture instructs women to "submit" to their husbands... but only after it gives the same instruction to all Christians to all submit to one another, putting other's needs ahead of their own, and before it calls men to love their wives so much that they would sacrifice anything (including their lives) for her. Now, I can recall hearing an awful lot about wives submitting to and obeying their husbands growing up... but I remember very little about husbands being instructed from the pulpit to serve their wives, even if it means their earthly demise. This is also not what I saw in many of the marriages around me. Rather, I saw a man who married a woman who bore him children and then dedicated her life to raising them, keeping his home and making it possible for him to pursue his dreams while totally abandoning her own, and often feeling like she had no way or no right to pursue them. And we wonder why more than 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce. We have added so many things onto the instruction for marriage that never actually exist in scripture. That's dangerous. Thank God among all of these examples, I had the example of my father, who left his job as a pastor and moved to a new state and worked as a waiter to allow my mother to pursue her dreams in publishing. My mom had put in her time as a stay-at-home mom and had worked years to support him and his dreams. She had an opportunity to pursue hers and my dad simply said, "you've sacrificed so much for me, now I will sacrifice for you." As an adult, looking back, I consider this to be the greatest thing my dad ever did. His pride took a major hit going from well-respected pastor to waiter. But he loved my mother. Of all the mistakes he made both as father and husband... he showed me that a man can put his wife first, even if it's hard for a little while. By the way, they've been married over 30 years and they have their problems, but their love is quite evident as well.

The challenge I would like to offer to the reader (whomever you are) would be to stop thinking of marriage in terms of who's in charge, who makes more money, who raises the kids, who washes the dishes, this is my job, that's your job and start thinking of it in terms of how each partner loves the other and what they are willing to do to remain true to that love and make life better for the other person.

A marriage must be a union of equals. If one partner is always striving to assert his (or her) power and authority over the other, someone is always going to be unhappy. Christ may be my leader, I am devoted to Him and I follow Him, but He would never ask me to be something other than what He created me to be, He would never want to see me live my life in a way that does not put the gifts HE GAVE ME into full use, nor would He ever call me to do something that would be harmful to my psyche or spirit. A man can lead his family while still respecting the wishes, dreams, giftings, opinions and well-being of his wife. And a wife can follow a Christ-following man only when he understands that being a leader does not make him greater or more important than those who follow him, but ultimately makes him a servant to them. The notion that one role is greater than the other, or is an excuse for one to become power hungry has led to the destruction of many a marriage, many a church and many other institutions both religious and secular.

I am 25 years old. I am not married, nor have I ever been. Recently, while talking to a married friend of mine about relationships she asked me the question, "Of all the male friends that you have, are their any of them that see you as an equal, as a true peer?" I had never thought about this question before and I stopped to think and realized that of all of the men I know... there were few, maybe even only one or two that I could say really saw me this way, without question or doubt. To be honest, as a woman who works with all men and who is friends dominantly with males... even among colleagues and friends I often feel that my opinion about something is worth less or less reliable because of my gender. I often feel that sort of "pat-on-the-head-isn't-that-cute-she-has-an-opinion" attitude. It's quite subtle, but it's there and I feel it. I have a great desire to be married, but I have no desire to join my life with a man who sees me this way. It's unfortunate that in a group of people who believe we are all made in God's image and we are all fearfully and wonderfully made to further a purpose God has chosen for us that there would still be this sentiment floating in the air like a poison. No wonder marriages are falling apart all over the place.

This matters. Equality matters. If we want to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and as husbands and wives in such a way that demonstrates to the world the crazy, amazing, life-changing love that Christ has for us we have to stop thinking of ourselves in terms of labels, stereotypes, assumptions and rigid roles and start thinking of ourselves as equals, selfless partners and mutual servants.

to be continued...