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.