Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Please Insert your logical explanation.

I walked out onto the sky-walk.  the network of bridges connection the 2nd and 3rd stories of PSU's main buildings.  In the distance was someone yelling.  I pass the sign that prohibits painting on the sky-walk.  Is that a thing?  Following the sound to the intersection I see another section of the bridge parallel to me at the next light.  The adjunct teachers are demonstrating.  There are rumors about a strike.  The tenured teachers are supposedly behind them, roomers about a bigger strike.  The student union is also involved.  I'm a part of the union.  *Smile for the NSA.*

The air is brilliantly vibrating.  With finals, foreign tongues, and people trying to change things.  It's the kind of thing that makes the idealist crazy.  Contract season for teachers is like mating season for jumping gazelle.  A frenzy of want.  As if this week, of all weeks, the culmination of injustice leading us here could all stop soon.

The skeptic wants for hope.  But in a school of single mothers, two job holders, and foreign exchange, who has time to haggle tuition?  The teacher's union will demand fair pay, the administrative staff will demand bonuses, and the students won't show up to the rally, too busy paying for child care and your mothers SSI.

The Occupy-brand-name students will call and scream and refuse to shower. While others will borrow money from their parents to dye deep blue hair.  The rest will simply live in struggle.  They will not sleep until Christmas.  Their finals will count for only one small portion of life on the agenda.  All too well they know the world will not end.  Like a bike gear shifting up wards their legs will again buckle, they will stand to the peddle, to the hill, to the mountain.  They will go onward.  There's is indeed not to wonder why.  "Why" is a privilege for kids with free time.  There's is but to do, in ever onward hope for something better than today.

It's cold.  I retrace my steps.  From a window near by is a set of signs reading, "Please Insert Your Logical Explanation."  I follow it inside.  The room is bare with a few small art installations.  Some interesting techniques lacking difficulty.  All plain and seen and done before. I hear a banging sound from a small room adjacent to the room.  A TV plays on loop as the only item in the dim lit little space.  A man stands a moment on the film.  He, stark naked, begins hitting the walls and floor of the concrete room he abides with a giant bar of twisted mettle. Over and over and over.

Please Insert your logical explanation.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I think I might be done with talking about feminism.

 This week Redemption Pictures posted a blog satirically describing how feminism hurts men.  As a great internet person once said, 'to be convinced of the need for feminism one should look at the comments of a feminist blog post.'  And look we all did.  The startling group of people who thought that the post was serious was concerning but the miraculous numbers of people who felt it some calling to explain to Micheal Murray that men are oppressed too, was the real show piece.  It's frustrating because it really isn't about the poor oppressed men of the world, it's a rejecting of any responsibility and to own up to a system of power that we currently live in.

First take out the oppression men get along side their women and children, you know, shitty work conditions, discrimination because of race, or religious intolerance, and homophobia.  That should pair down most of the oppression experienced by men.  Oppression for just being a man and you're looking at 1. Higher car insurance, and 2. Feminist thinking you're a pig.  It's frustrating that these arguments get so much traction when it's simple inability to deduce clear conclusions.  Like algebra, social science looks at all the variables going on and tries to eliminate the universal experience to reveal the experience of some that is different from others.

This is frustrating.  because we're not even discussing anything.  I'm just trying to get to a baseline in which to have a coherent conversation.

In other news, apparently there's a big ol' theological leadership conference going on now which, out of 120 speakers, only 4 are female.  Rachel Held Evans made a comment on twitter and got this response.  It sucks, but does make one point.  At a certain level should we assume that people will not change their minds about women in church?  Should we then start to focus on having something to say to those who will listen?  I mean, is this the point I start revisiting Trinitarianism so I have something to say?  Because it looks as though I'm never going to get a fair fight over feminism, but under a pen name I'm likely to get a real conversation about missional theological ethics...

I don't know, I just don't know.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rage Against Modesty Salesmen...Rape Culture for the Laymen Evangelical

"By saying "avert your eyes lest ye stumble", they taught me to fear the female body and in fear objectify it. I reduced women to nothing but a sexual trap. This is a reality, but it is a LEARNED REALITY and something that should be unlearned NOT ACCOMMODATED."  Micah J. Murray

And now it gets interesting...  Awesome chain of blogs here I want to walk through and talk about some of the comments.  As a person once said "proof that 'rape culture' exists is made evident not in what feminists write but what the comments reply."  So skim through these and we'll use them for references.

Rape Culture 101:
So the major theme through the comment thread is, "how is this rape culture?"  Much to my dismay, most of the people who know what they're talking about don't explain the phrase.  The term is a short hand for several pervasive thoughts that can be identified in the original blog post and in our culture.  The short hand term "rape culture" does not encapsulate the argument it refers to the writings and understandings a lot of people have put tons of time into.  Let me sum it up.  Rape culture is the idea women a responsibility to not get raped.  i.e. the court cases were people have argued that, "she was asking for it," based on how she was dressed or because she was in a sketchy part of town.  Here's a MAJOR problem. This SHOULD disturb you.  

Some people say well, she's increasing her statistical likeliness.  
Statistically  most rape occurs between people who know each other.  Not the "stranger in the bushes" scenario movies sensationalize.  Further more it's not a 'class thing.' Rich or poor rape and sexual harassment actually transcend social classes. So being on the street at night or born in red-neck-land is not increasing your statistical likeliness of getting raped by much.  At any rate people don't get to pick what class they're born into so how was she "asking for it" by having no control over her statistical placement?

Some people say, "she was dressed provocatively," 
This is also a little slippery.  What's provocative at church isn't at a club.  Further more if she didn't want to have sex, indicated by not saying that she wanted sex, there was no communication of her wanting sex.  The dress code is a terrible indicator because there are so many variables.  What if her shirt looks fine, but then it rained and looks sexy?  What if her skirt rips?  What if she's borrowing a friends clothes and they're too tight?  All of these things have nothing to do with sex or the desire of the woman to have sex.

BOTH of these arguments are often made to blame a woman for why she was raped instead of the rapist who violated another person's free will.  It is the belief that men can't control themselves and women are endangering themselves by being looked at by another person.  In other words, "boys will be boys."  As another blogger put it, "the underlying message of modesty culture is, Women’s bodies are sexual and must be hidden from men, or it will make the men have sex thoughts and that is bad. The message is, If a woman is showing skin/bedroom/evidence of her own embodiment or (gasp!) sexuality, she is being sexy AT men." This is were the male-egocentric comes into why I have a problem with "modesty" as the church calls it.  It really isn't about women.  Women are always sexy 100% of the time and must hide it with their clothes.  They're like the minor characters in a book that only shows a  glimpse of the person to the reader because they're not as important as the main characters.  Like the bad guys in cartoons, we don't usually hear about the villain's family, emotional state, love life, hobbies, or personal feelings of any kind.  The only time they are on screen is when they are talking about, thinking about, or acting with, the main character.  In the same way women's bodies are just sexy and made for men.  They're always sexy and have to be covered and made less visible *for a future husband and the other men who might stumble*.  Men act as main characters in this line of thought which means that they exist with a sex drive, an ability to have sex, sexual preferences, be sexy to women, and have a personal sexual identity but also have bodies that can used their strength for sports, building things, and playing.  But a woman's body is only one thing, sexy for men. I.e. "sexy tennis player--fierce" "sexy pose on a ladder building something--tough girl." Men can be shirtless for fun, the weather, or sports, but it is assumed that women wear bikinis to be sexy for men (not the nasty sand that gets in a one-piece--yuck!).

Don't believe me.  Here's a prominent church leader in Portland telling wives, "not to let themselves go," and stay pretty for their husbands.  But encouraging women to "see yourself through his eyes."  Why?  because he's the multidimensional character that we have built our theology around.  Women play the supporting role in providing someone beautiful.  Because of this Ryan, the first blogger, assumes that women are the property of their multifaceted future husband, completely ignoring the people who stay single.  In this we see how little assumptions that don't seem like a big deal are like angles in geometry that are only hairs away when they start out but are revealed as time goes on.  45 degrees in a one inch square, sounds like "what will your future spouse think of you if you do X," but further down the line that thought is a mile away from anything Christian with Ryan's very twisted sense of spousal ownership.  There is no submission to a person who owns you.  There's no glory in being enslaved, that's why we have Jesus and choices, and all the free will Christianity has been singing about for centuries.

Here's the thing no one is going to like, I don't think we should continue teaching "modesty" or "purity," at all.  I think we should tell youth group kids what marriage could look like.  How monogamy is awesome.  How God is glorified in life long partnership in marriage.  I think kids should be taught about how anti-gospel it is for Christians to engage in the American rape culture we live in.  That women are not always trying to look sexy because they're not just Sexy covered up with clothes or Sexy who needs to put more clothes on.  I think sex should be treated as sacred not scary.  

We've got to bury the 1980's d-day mentality.  The hysteria that started with shunning Disney movies and democrats and ended with purity balls and bad christian pop music.  This is not an example of "not being of this world," this is theological suicide.  Why don't we worry about why our kids don't know that the book of Amos exists, or that most church members can't answer to why we don't follow the rules of Leviticus.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Normal. Ordinary. Grand.

Life in community is, Normal.  It is the exceedingly plain, the 'good mornings,' 'good evenings,' and 'whatcha' doing today...'

It is in the Ordinary that we find something about ourselves.  We grow closer until the space between us disappears and with think, 'my God, I love these people."

There's nothing more glorious, more grand than the communion of believer, met with belief and doubt, peace and chaos.  God is seen in community.

I can't decide if relationships are the antidote of binaries or the antithesis.  If the tensions and the joys are locked some sort of cosmic battle or in progressing glory. In a way the fondness and closeness seems inseparable to the agonizing months, the days crying, the weeks angry.  Something bad is what shapes the good.  Like plaster molds shaping porcelain only to be crushed and flaked away.  A worthless, and broken thing, doomed to be broken and ripped away is crucial to making what we know as community.  I don't want to be a community member leaning in one direction or the other in order to counteract something, at the cost of furthering a culture of reaction rather than reality.

So what is it? Is it normal or extraordinary? Is it grand or grotesque?

For those who've experienced the transcendence of community most eventually shrug and just say it just was.  Because 'it' was so many things.  The people they know best and who know them best are most detailed with faults.  That something so great in its whole consists of a bunch of stories about stomach flues, watching movies on laptops, lonely Christmases and fights about doing dishes.  But when it happens it happens, and something catches your eye when you realize 'this is it,'

and maybe 'this' is love.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The memories of a woman.

If you're going to read blogs about the church you find a few basic themes.  You have the nice folks who say nice things about Jesus and the bible and what they're learning lately.  You have the political types who want to talk about who is doing something Christian or anti-Christian.  You have the dooms-dayers who want to talk about the next up and coming anti-Christ.  You have the social justice folks who have a new cause or a new tidbit of info on how we're furthering injustice.  And then you have the peculiar strand of people who don't go to church, don’t like to call themselves Christian, and disagree with 87% of everything anyone says about God, but still have blogs on Christian websites like Patheos and Christianity Today.

More and more I'm finding these self-proclaimed emergents are rather odd facet of Christian writing.  Firstly because I can't see what their motive in writing is to begin with.  

Let’s say you hate knitting.  You hate the cattiness of all the knitting clubs you used to be a part of.  You think that the sweaters your parents made you wear were constricting.  You think wool is out of fashion and irrelevant.  You think that the process of knitting is tedious and the anger and frustration of not knitting well enough is unhealthy for your emotional state.  Now imagine you then decide to create a blog centered around critiquing knitting patterns.

In the same way I'd like to ask, what's it to you? As someone in the knitting club, wouldn't it be a little justified to get a few feathers rumpled about an entire online community devoted to thinking about what a terrible group of people the knitters are?

Then realize for a moment that the church discussing community is not in some sort of Oceans 13 where these anti-knitters will sneak into the cassino-knitting-club-church and get the "bad guys."  Because the Bad Guys don't exist, your misinformed aunt, abused pastor, and financially struggling family, are not the conniving crooks of emergent fetish.

 I'm personally becoming so fed up with what I read about the church.  In the end there is no such thing as ivory tower sharp shooters.  No one relevant to the discussion is reading a scathing blog post and thinking "oh wow, that's so true, I am a terrible person."  I don’t want to write to people who agree and yet draw their personal experiences of when they visited a church 15 years ago.  I get the pain I get the frustration, but I refuse to make a straw-man of my past experiences.  As C.S. Lewis reminisced about the passing of his wife and what "still having her memory" meant, "A corpse, a memory, and (in some versions) a ghost. All mockeries or horrors. Three more ways of spelling the word dead. It was H. I loved. As if I wanted to fall in love with my memory of her, an image in my own mind! It would be a sort of incest."

In a sense it is the same with the church.  Those who have loved and those who love still the memory does only a small service.  It is not the church now or even the church then as nostalgia has had its way in all of our minds.  The church is not a building or a specific denomination, though it is both experientially.  I'm not against experiential wisdom, only the complete disconnect to what is and what was and the assumed right to criticize after divorce.  In a word, your ex-wife doesn't care if you think she looks good or not when you meet her on the street.  She is all a combination of your past memories, your past fights, your present distance, and your new standards of womanhood--as she exists in a grid of your understanding, as everyone in our lives does--but she is not your wife.  And the divide, be in in humiliation, heartbreak, or freedom, must be observed as a concrete fact within the relationship.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Faith of Marred Beauty and the Irony of Faith and Justice

I want to talk about how we talk when we talk about Christians.

 No body wants to be a "main-liner" and as such if you're reading this blog and favor yourself a culturally relevant Christian, emergent, millennial, or simply as a thoughtful person, I have a feeling you know what I mean.  If you're reading this as a person part of the blogsphere of Christian thinkers, proudly daring, excitingly new, expressive of your opinions on gender neutral language and inclusive church building, I know you've done this too.  Within the circle that the medium of blogging self selects we are often the violent reactions to a faith of marred beauty.  We are striving to change the traditions and abuses our predecessors of two thousand years have left for us.  We are translating the beauty and mysticism handed down to new nations and generations.  We are challenging our brethren to leave the city of Jerusalem "to go out to all the nations."

But we are reactionary
and this is no way to build a community.

I've been thinking a lot about community.  The craigslist ad. is posted, interviews in progress.  We are about to fill our home.  To stretch out of our introverted tenancies to practice Jesus just a little more.  In that the shocking discovery is the 'me' about to be necessary in 'community.'  The rhythm and words that set the atmosphere, and with that, what do I say?

In a world of binaries and relativism what do I say?  Like the words of Solomon I find myself talking out of both sides of my mouth.  There is a time for weeping, and a time for dancing.  There is a time to question God and a time to be faithful.  There is a time--

Far too often I've observed well meant Christians living like blog posts, in argument and opposition to a facet of injustice in an all or nothing demand.  Like the woman I read about today who had decided to not breastfeed because it furthers the gender labor inequality.  Life with all of its facets is ignored in the pursuit of righting one wrong.

We do this again and again with words trying to find new words for ones that have been wasted in hypocrisy, we hate "Christianese" words like faith, hope, the flesh, and selflessness.  How many times have we heard, "father is a bad word for God because of those with bad fathers."  But I'd argue that 'father' is an imperfect word for anyone from male semen, for any father who's made mistakes, any father who was abusive, any father who was absent, and any father who was awesome but was also human and therefore not God.  Father is a word and words seem to be inherently flawed, full of our perceptions and definitions.

****In all of this we tailspin in to a blogshpere of asterisks, endless explanations, and politically correct forewarning that do nothing but require a higher standard of social manors and petty communication patterns.***

Often I've observed that one's heart is in the right place to receive a new thought when the first words in response to a blog post are not "balancing words."  The "yes, but remember," or "just think about," all keeping the message of the article muted in a sea of social context which competes for our attention.  We live within context and so the addition of "contextual information" is a guise of "me too!"  It is the rejection of healthy confrontation of things that are unjust for the feel good feeling of everyone being the victim.

Within the exchange of reader and writer, the confrontation of new ideas is within the context of the relationship.  The knowledge one has of the writer and the subject matter in its whole is a context for criticism.  Within this is a vibrant conversation of other minds taking the context and argument presented.  Ignoring this truth is a remarkably slippery-slope into the troll-fest of today.  The disbelief in something because of personal experience is circular, and I see it all the time.

"I shouldn't be objectified in my pj's, I'm covered from head to toe in flannel, I am a person."
"You just don't know how men are wired...we have a really hard time..."

Your flu is no worse than anyone else's, and neither is your stubbed toe. The experience of someone else is not nullified by your experienced, that's just your inner narcissist speaking...

So instead of telling women its just the way the world (which men control) works and to get over it.  I kindly suggest we start thinking about how both experiences might be a problem.  Because being objectified and being susceptible to objectifying are both problems, perhaps the same problem (rape culture anyone?)

On an even large note within Christianity, the emergent church must end the battle to be more holy *politically correct* than thou. The war is getting old.

We are, 
kicking and screaming, 
joyfully and tearfully, 

We are a religion with thousands of years of history.  We are a people who speak the language of the people, but are not understood infacto to our language.  We own both the creation of the hospital and all of the crusades. And we're a damn large part of the worlds religion pie chart.  We exist in context, conflict and consecration.  We take up space, leave our mark on the world.  We do a lot of good and a lot of evil.

More than anything I'm again reminded of Kierkegaard's infamous quote, "Faith expects victory in one thing."

 Rather than the balance of many things, the disclaimers of everything, we should be of "one thing."  

May He be the balance, the justice we bring, the mercy we receive, the objectivity we muster.  
May we live in relationship with our God and with others, not above or below but beyond any law or regulation.  
May we see that past the good-bad east-west, right-left, moral-immoral--May we go from glory to glory.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hiking out of the Dark Valley.

I realized gender in the church was a bum deal.

When people started asking my if I liked being a girl.  I was in a ministry school, which advocated women in leadership, but everything I did seemed to indicate that I wanted to be a boy.  The questions always came out of the blue.  I wasn't trying to 'be a boy.'  I liked being me.  I also liked talking to men because it happened that the people around me interested in theology and capable of debating with out getting their feelings hurt  were (mostly) men.  I didn't mind watching people play video games in exchange for the lighthearted company I wasn't finding with the women I was around.  I liked that I wasn't competing to be pretty and affirming. I didn't feel like I needed to be anyone in the circle of men I became friends with.

Then there were was the gay question.  Realize this was like asking if I were The Satan in my church, but every once in a while it would happen.
"Weren't you and so-and-so-female like 'a thing'"
Um, no, we were like, friends, 
and she wore dresses and I liked pants.

And then there were men.  Men who made it clear it was my fault that they liked me. My fault that they wanted to be with me when "God said they couldn't."  Perhaps the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever heard/read was a facebook chat a stalker had with my friend about me.  Line by line dissecting my person, explaining thoughts that left me numb and scared.  Simpler, was the man who explained that I should take the passengers seat rather than stuff in the back of the compact car myself and 5 other guys were cramming into "so that it wouldn't be awkward."  How was rubbing elbows awkward? Did the 6' 7" guy need the leg room more than me?

Last the woman who spoke with tears in her eyes at our ministry schools "dating week," who asked why anyone would want to marry or be in a relationship in which men and women traded sex for love and intimacy for respect.  I wasn't the only one who thought the "great mystery of marriage" and becoming one flesh ought not resemble pilgrims trading with native Americans.

That was gender, that was the church.

Then there was the internet.

Yep...you didn't expect that turn.  Spend any amount of time with people who use the meem "the internets" and you realize a lot of things.  There are far more bad words than you imagined.  There are way more techy people in the world than the US government would like.  And, lust.  It was weird meeting people (men) who existed in the gap of the sexual-predatory-monster of what Christians expect of men and the friends and companions these people became in my life.  In a weird way I've witnessed every wretched thing an evangelical ever told me about the mind of a man, and "these people" became my best friends.

When faced with a similar dichotomy many Evangelical women simply shrugged and agreed as if to say, "they're horny, scary, monsters, but we love them, that's our lot in life."  The more I asked questions the weirder the responses. "It isn't too bad." "You'll love him any way."  "It's the way they're wired."

 It was all a little spooky.
Ok, no, it scared the pants off of me.

I mean, I obviously wasn't like everyone else, but I wasn't going to marry a rapist....

This is rape culture.  Or at least the significantly deep cultural beliefs about sexuality that feminists call "rape culture."  This is the culture of allowing men to believe in remarkably violent urges in a way that makes women responsible for being on a constant defensive.  Because, I might get raped in the dark on a side walk, turns to, I can't sit in the back of a full car, to "its your fault that I like you," to "this is what I want to do with you."

This, as Christians, is unacceptable.  It denies the existence of God's kingdom--but more so, it partners with sin to further the bondage it has on women. We can all readily agree on this.  

The question we need to be asking is how then should we live? 

In a world when female sexuality is feed into our cultural water like shark chum---- 
how do we paint a picture of a fuller female person and a balanced male person?
In a church without female sexual ethics---- 
can we surrender the false power of purity and sexual moral superiority to admit that lust is a road both sexes walk down?
In a culture written about men, by men, for men,----
 can we react without becoming apart of the reactionary gender war?

Modesty becomes a none issue when we realize the valley of darkness in which we exists.  We need not repair the fences of modesty and legalism when what we desperately need is to hike out of this place.  To leave the binaries and stigma behind.  To become co-hires we must leave behind the battle lines of old.  To move beyond the purity movement is lay our pride and control down to pick up a cross that we left everything for.  We must hike out of this place and begin a sexual ethic that doesn't look like it did in the valley.