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. 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.