The Choices We Make
Nov 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

This subject has become extremely volatile lately.  It’s been bandied about in classrooms, blogs, pubs, buses … everywhere (in fact) that two or more are gathered.  Just the other day, a good friend of mine and I were catching up on the phone and she exasperatedly said, “Well, I’m voting pro-life, and that’s that.” She quickly moved to another topic, and left me to wonder, “what does that even mean any more?”  I’m not sure I know what “pro-choice” means either, for that matter.  So I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and thinking.

Scot McKnight put up a question about the issue of abortion and pro-life vs. pro-choice at Jesus Creed one day a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t often comment in a thread there and I have not started a conversation based upon one of his since the early days of my blog.  But this one is personal.  I’ve spent a long time thinking this one through, for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is that LightGirl now reads my blog and I wanted to have the chance to talk to her before I posted this.

I’ve seen Obama referred to more than one place as a “pro-abortion zealot” and in other places as simply “pro-abortion.”  I’ve seen other folks say that they cannot possibly vote for a president who is not pro-life, or who will “kill the innocent.”  And I’m genuinely confused by the rhetoric.  You see, I have something in common with candidate that gives me a unique perspective on this subject.  Both of us are the products of a marriage brought about by our mothers’ pregnancies with us.  His parents’ marriage ended in divorce, my parents are still married.

When you know that your mother got married because she was pregnant with you, it challenges any settled conclusion you think you might come to on the issue of abortion.  Every time you get to one place or another, you remember your mom and her particular set of circumstances.  What if …

Among many things, it decidedly does not make one a “pro-abortion zealot.”  I cannot speak for the candidate personally because I do not know him.  I can, however, speak for myself.  I know that I see the issue as incredibly nuanced and far more filled with shades of gray than with the black or white that most true zealots would like us to believe.  In my heart of hearts I have occasionally wondered what might have happened to me, had abortion been legally available to my mother when she discovered her pregnancy in the fall of 1960.  But as she is fond of saying to me, “Stop playing the what if game.” 😉  It was not available, and now I’m here … for better or worse (my words, never my mother’s).

This argument, this issue has become incredibly divisive and words have become bombs that are thrown at one another.  Witness the exchange between the candidates during the last presidential debate.  As Senator Obama reminded us, “no one is pro-abortion.”  Even those who are the most ardent supporters of “pro-choice” secretly hope they never have to take advantage of that choice.  I would hope that we can all at least agree on that.

I’ve lived on both sides in this war.  I marched in one of the largest pro-choice rallies in Washington back in 1989 and carried an ancient “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.  My mother, husband and several cousins walked too.  I’ve been pro-life as a member of an evangelical church for fourteen years … and written letters to politicians, etc.  I’ve supported our local Crisis Pregnancy Center with donations and prayers.  But after all of it … I think they’re all wrong.

I want to begin with a reveal of sorts.  I have had an abortion.

I could tell you it was the lowest point in my life and I’d been raped or something horrible like that.  But it would be a lie.  I was engaged to LightHusband and the baby was due about a month after our scheduled wedding.  The truth is, I had terrible anger issues at the time.  We had no money.  There was no money for child care and no money for me to stop working.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had a baby then I was certain to abuse the child.  I was terrified.  Horrified.  Guilty if I did and guilty if I didn’t.

That all sounds weak and thready now.  But at the time, we (LightHusband and I) were in a deep hole with no way out, no one to talk to and nowhere to go.  As ridiculous as it sounds, out of wedlock pregnancy is still a stigma in our culture.  It is a gross and abject failure of huge proportions for women on so many levels that one cannot bear to acknowledge it.

Many of my friends (regardless of their faith) have had abortions.  Others have given up babies for adoption.  Some have had the horrible fate to have done both (some as the result of unmarried sex, others as the result of rape or incest).  All have gone on to raise families.

My oldest cousin is a woman now in her sixties.  When she was in her thirties, she was a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in her town.  She had two daughters about my age (early teens at the time) and found herself pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy.   It was the source of many uproarious jokes in my family and still is.  However, she went on to have that baby, who is now a wonderful woman in her own right.

My point in all of this is that when we engage in the abortion debate, we forget that it’s not about theology, or exegesis or theory … it’s about individual women and men, as well as the babies that everyone wants to hang their hat on.  Individual women (and men) who, in a very dark hour, are making a Hobbes choice.  There is rarely a good outcome; only frightening and intolerable.  Abortion and adoption have long running ramifications that leave scars.  Getting married and raising the baby at a young age is a risky choice that only rarely works out well (my parents are a rare exception to that rule).  And we all know how well unwed motherhood works.  We can wave the Bible around all we want, but until we’re ready to show individual women that they indeed have another way out, it’s all just so much hot air.  Or as Paul might have said, a clanging gong.

I’ve changed as the years have gone by.  There is too much at stake to use a hatchet, when a scalpel is called for.  Or perhaps analogies of cutting implements are insensitive in this instance.  Perhaps when all is said and done, we should not be putting our hope in the law.  I’ve often thought (as have others much smarter than I) that the law cannot change hearts.  Sure, say those of a more conservative bent, but it draws boundaries around behavior.  Yep, I agree.  However, I began think about about a deeper law and a deeper magic.  I began to think about it in terms like this:  Jesus said things like “I have come to fulfill the Law.”  and “Perfect love drives out fear.”

Before He came, the Jewish law was convoluted and nearly impossible to fill perfectly.  Our way to the Father was blocked at almost every turn by jots and tittles.  So He sent His Son to fill them all.  To make the way straight and give us a way in.  His perfect love would straighten things out and we would not have to be afraid anymore of not knowing.  And this morning ASBO Jesus posted this which perfectly demonstrates, for me, this issue:

Sand/Rock - ASBO Jesus

The whole issue is complex, complicated and far too delicate to be left to lawyers and politicians. Nor is it something that can be abolished with laws. Unplanned pregnancies within and without marriage are part of the imperfectness of this world that we live in. We cannot make them stop happening by virtue of changing laws, but our response to them can change through one avenue … love. We can only respond to each of them within the context of an individual relationship. Going after them with the hatchet of the law can only breed contempt, fear and anger. For the life of me, I can’t find those in the Gospel of Jesus. So … mark me, pro-human and pro-relationship. I’ll leave the debate to the zealots.

Dear Sarah
Sep 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Unbelievable.  I scarcely know where to begin.  I should be glad, you see, that a woman is running for Vice President.  I want to support you.  You are, after all, a woman.  You are my age.  You have children the age of my children.  We even share the same moniker … Hockey Mom.  We are both Hockey Moms.  I’ll bet you even managed your kid’s team, the way I do.  Well, then again, maybe not the way I do, but we’ll get to that later.

Here’s the deal.  I can’t support you.  You don’t even know me, so this won’t matter at all to you.  But that’s okay.  I’m just using this letter format as a cute form within which to express my ideas.

There was very little chance that I would have ever voted for your ticket in the first place because of your running mate’s slavish adherence to the disastrous war in Iraq.  But I was hoping that Senator McCain would choose someone with experience, strength, wisdom and stability to bring to the ticket that I could give serious consideration to.  Instead, we are presented with … um … well … you.  You represent none of those things.  You may have that facade, but you  are like the movie set of a fictitious western Gold Rush town … all fizz and no bang.

Your candidacy is offensive to me and many other women.  It is patently obvious that it is an attempt to manipulate us into voting for someone we may not otherwise vote for, simply because you have breasts and ovaries.  I did not vote for Hillary Clinton on that basis and I won’t vote for you on that basis either.  I don’t know who is making the decisions in the Republican party, but it is insulting and offensive that they think so little of women voters.  Most of us would rather see a person in office who is carrying out decisions that we are interested in, than someone who looks like us.  As a woman, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a historian.  You seem to have no sense of the office or of your place in history.  Several months ago you candidly admitted you do not know what the Vice President does.  Yet, here you are putting your family on the line and in the spotlight for what can only be seen as personal gain, if you have no understanding of the office.  The office of president and vice president should never be sought for personal gain … read what George Washington had to say on this matter.  Or John Adams.  Or Abraham Lincoln.  Or John Kennedy.  Or even Ronald Reagan.  I would suggest, dear Sarah, that you take some time to study the difference between being smart and being wise.  It takes very little to be smart, most anyone can do it; especially if one has a good speech writer and the chutzpah to deliver as you seem to.  But it takes some time and study and dedication to become wise.  This is what we need in the Vice Presidency, wisdom.  You are smart, and you proved at the convention that you can be a smartass, but you are not wise.  As a historian, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a citizen and as a political watchwoman.  From looking at your history in government, you seem to have little sense that the primary role of a mayor, or a governor or a Vice President is to be a civil servant; with emphasis on the word servant.  This hearkens back to your lack of understanding of history, Sarah.  My guess is that you eschewed history classes as an undergraduate and just partied.  Here is a very short course.  What seems ubiquitous and unremarkable in 2008, was radical and unorthodox in 1776.  It was this … that the nature of government is to serve the needs of the people rather than the reverse.  It was this unlikely sentiment that got Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and all of our other founding fathers into such hot water with England.  You seem to have forgotten that ideal and believe that being in government is to serve the needs of those in government.  Hence, you left your tiny town of Wasilla in state of outlandish debt, you clearly have no idea how to run the state of Alaska (evidenced by the line item vetos which make little sense) and I shudder to think what would happen if you were given the keys to office of the Vice Presidency.  As a citizen, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a Christian.   You understand so little of what our government is intended to be that I scarcely know where to begin.  But I’ll begin with scripture, Sarah.  With the Gospel of John and your acceptance speech.  In the Gospel of John chapter 13, we find Jesus saying this, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  My dear Sarah, as a Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ, would you please point me to the place in Scripture where Jesus is shown making fun of people for their choice of citizen action?  Where He makes jests at the expense of another person for any reason?  I’ve studied the Scriptures fairly intently and I can’t find it anywhere.  But I will acknowledge that I may have missed something.  I would also like to bring the following to your attention:  the two Great Commandments as Jesus spoke of them in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22 ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In what fashion may it be considered loving of your neighbor, to call him a racial epithet?  How is it loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your  mind, to stand before a convention hall filled people and lead them chants the way you did the other night?  In many ways that you might not have forseen you have become an icon for the Christian way in this country.  You must bear that mantle with wisdom and respect.  Or we will see more articles written like this:

Democrats are not the enemy of course, but even if they are, I saw no expressions of Christian love for them.  I saw plenty of sarcasm, put-downs, mocking, and bitterness.  Palin mocked Obama’s decision to serve others as a community organizer.  Giuliani, a very wealthy and cosmopolitan man himself, made fun of Democratic elites.  I heard misleading statements and flat-out lies.  Palin falsely suggested that Obama wants to read a captured Bin Laden his rights–of course, this is preposterous and Obama has never said this, but it didn’t stop Palin from spreading misinformation.  On a more mundane level, she also suggested she had sold an expensive government plane on eBay–it didn’t actually sell on eBay, but McCain is now falsely claiming that it did sell on eBay–at a profit (also not true).  Of course, McCain is no stickler when it comes to the facts–he falsely claimed in his own speech that Obama will raise your taxes, leaving out the important caveat that 95% of Americans get tax cuts under Obama’s plan.  Mike Huckabee fired off a zinger about Palin winning more votes in her mayoral election than Biden garnered as a presidential candidate.  Sounds great–unfortunately, it’s a lie.  I am no theologian, but I vaguely remember there being a commandment inveighing against this kind of thing.

With follow on comments such as this:

 Try to make a list of 5 great things that religion has done to significantly increase the happiness and well-being of humanity. Now make a list of 10 terrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. Which list was easier to make? The Republicans suddenly make a lot more sense if you stop assuming Christianity has anything to do with love. Christianity is nothing more than the sum of the actions of all Christians. (emphasis mine)

Dear Sarah, remember that little bit I dragged out of the gospel of John … they will know us by our love.  I don’t care what you want, or what you think, or what you love.  You are vastly unimportant to me, because I do not know you at all.  Except for this.  I do know that for millions of people now, you represent Jesus.  What kind of Jesus will you be?   Getting laughs, applause, and/or votes by telling lies (no matter how small), and belittling others is unacceptable for those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.   Thus far, as a Christian, I am offended.

So, we come to the end of this small exercise.  To say I am disappointed in your selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate would be a gross understatement.  I am offended by the misogyny and manipulation that the Republican National Committee is attempting with your selection.  I am terrified by the betrayal of our historic national values that is at stake.   We are indeed at a turning point in the history of our country; I wonder how many people really understand this.  How many will look back and say, “I wish I had …?”

Respectfully yours, Sonja

Girls’ Got Game
Jun 15th, 2008 by Sonja

Happy Father’s Day.

It’s one that will surely survive in our collective memory as a family.

It began early; as in 5:30 a.m. One last early rink time for the season. We all went. LightBoy’s game was on one sheet at 7:20; LightGirl’s on the other at 7:30. I ran through the golden arches for a delicious, nutritious breakfast. Yum. LightBoy lost. LightGirl tied. But none of that is memorable.

LightGirl has had a crush on a teammate for a while now. About a week ago she got some intel which suggested that he was more LightBoy’s age. This was completely embarassing. Humiliating. Horrifying. In her words, she felt like a pedophile. Ewweth. This morning before the game I discovered she had bad intel. Her crush was her age. I passed this information along after the game.

So what do you think she did? Well, what would you do? Given that you definitely wouldn’t be seeing the guy again til September and maybe not very much even then.

Has she ever been on a date? No.

Has she ever had a boyfriend? No.

Has she ever been in any kind of relationship of any sort other than friends with a boy? No.

Has she ever spoken more than say fifteen words in a row to this kid? Uhhh … no.

So, of course, it goes without saying … ask him out. Ask him, where? Just … you know … out. On a date. Sometimes the mom is stoo-pid.

It’s helpful too, to have a friend by your side who will act as your voice when you and the guy stand there staring at each other. So, her friend did the actual, you know, asking. She said, “So … LightGirl wants to know if you’d go to the movies or something?” He said, “Sure.” and they both stood there and looked at each other … stunned. So GirlFriend spoke up again and said, “Now it would be good if you exchanged phone numbers.” So they did that too.

Then she came flying around the corner to tell me all about it. Grinning from ear to ear.

She spent the next half an hour texting him. Now she is firmly, giddily ensconced on the phone and computer with her peeps giggling and reliving the event. Imagining what will come next. And ad finitum. It is quintessential adolescence.

And just like that LightHusband and I have crossed a rubicon. It came upon us and we were across it before we even realized that it was there. I never even heard the echo of my feet on wood as the footsteps bounced back from water.

We are lucky, I suppose. She’s very confident. The young man in question is kind, upright, and a decent hockey player. We now have decisions of heavy consequence to make. Where should they go? What should they do? Now that the question has been asked and answered, will the “date” actually even take place?

On another hand, our fortunes run much deeper than that. Our definition of what is quintessentially adolescent is light and air. It involves words like, “giddy” and “peeps.” She will (Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise) complete her secondary education and go on to get a college level education of some sort. There are many, many parents in the 2/3’s world who never even begin to think these words, never mind associate them with children in their family. Yet most families in our world … our 1/3 world, that is the industrialized, civilized, mechanized, and importantly educated, world do have the opportunity to associate words like, “giddy” and “adolescence” and “grin” and “date” and “secondary education” and “college education” with our daughters. Not only do we have that opportunity, we make the assumption that it is the right and natural course of things.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsAccording to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being secure in our bodily needs allows us to become more secure with our friendships, family and relational intimacy. This in turn builds self-esteem, confidence, etc. It makes sense in a way. One cannot build relational intimacy, when one is deeply hungry for days and months on end. Or living in a place where the water is not reliable. It is simply not feasible. So most Westerner’s (we of the 1/3’s world) would tend to think of education as necessary yet expendable. After all, an education will not build security. It will not fill stomachs or healthily hydrate starving bodies. It will not keep peace among warring neighbors.

Or … will it?

What we are coming to find now is that the key to world peace might just be …

… our daughters. Our collective daughters. The brown ones, and tan ones and yellow ones and pink ones. It’s not that they need to rule the world. Far from it. They just need an education. It is having an education that gives them self-esteem and self-esteem begets relational intimacy which then allows for safety and security and then they can help their families fill their stomachs and hydrate their bodies. It seems that Maslow works for us, but it may just be upside down in other parts of the world.

Give these girls some time … time to be giddy and grow up. Time to learn. Time to be girls, then time to be women. Time to read. Time to calculate. Time to have a date or maybe two. Time to giggle. Time to achieve. Time to gain confidence in their righteous state as children of the Creator. Time to earn respect. Time to bestow respect. They need our time, so that they may have a little more time. And in so doing it is our collective daughters who may just change the world … one village at a time.

Missonal Synchroblog
Jun 14th, 2008 by Sonja

Blind Beggar (Rick Meigs) has put out a call for a synchroblog on Monday, June 23 to discuss the idea, the topic, the notion of missional. The word is losing it’s boundaries and becoming a catch-all word that people use because they think it’s the latest cool ministry word to throw around.

I’m going to add to his invitation here because he just posted the list of potential bloggers. As of now, there are 18 (eighteen). Seventeen men and me. Ladies, I’m feeling very lonely and sort of overwhelmed. Now, you know most of the men are going to post treatises that are wonderful (but long and, ahem, boring 😉 ) on definitions and complaints and they will “fix the problem.” We need to bring some balance to this mix. Some of our wonderful right-brain thinking. How do women view the concept of missional? It is a highly relational term. Hello!! This is our ballpark, jump in and write your thoughts on that concept. If you want to use poetry, or story or have a video … all the sweeter.

So, my girl friends, please either visit Rick’s blog to sign up and let him know you are participating or let me know in the comments and I will keep a list here for him.

Modest?
May 12th, 2008 by Sonja

Fellow Scriber Wess wrote a post the other day about dress codes in church for women. He is a new dad with a tiny LightGirl of his own so these issues are largely theoretical for him, but do loom in his future. His post sparked a discussion about how women dress in church and in our culture. This sparked some discussion about whether or not women are responsible for the thought life of men.

Makeesha wrote a great summation of current modesty codes and some of their effects in the comments:

… we promote modesty from the wrong angle. It becomes about the man instead of being about the woman. It becomes about acceptance from God based on what a woman wears. In other words, I should dress modestly because my body creates some sort of temptation. My body isn’t about me, my body is about the man, about society. It’s an object to be controlled and preached about from the pulpit. My body is scary and shameful because it causes others to sin. My breasts aren’t beautiful creations that have 2 purposes of sexual pleasure and providing food and bonding for my progeny – they are temptations. My shape is to be veiled because it’s bad, because it causes my brothers to stumble. I am the object. I am the sin. I am the receiver. These are the messages the church sends when dealing with this issue. Regardless of the intent, this is what many many women hear – for some, it creates shame that causes the woman to hide away, to cover, to follow the rules – for others it creates a shame that causes the woman to seek validation by uncovering.

The rest of the conversation is well worth reading … and towards the end Wess challenged some of us to write further on the issue. So here I go.

It is currently fashionable for many in the church to hold women responsible for how men think, by suggesting that women dress more conservatively in order to “help” men keep their thoughts under control. There are nearly as many women who subscribe to this theory as men. The primary verse that is quoted to substantiate this is 1Timothy 2:9 – “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, …”

So I looked that verse up in many different versions and found that the word “modesty” is in virtually all of them. This is unusual to say the least, so it began to stick out and I began to wonder what that word was in the original text. What was it that Paul was trying to say to Timothy here?

First I wanted to verify for myself what it is that we mean in our current cultural context when we say the word “modest” or “modesty.” So I looked it up on dictionary.com and here is a summary of the definitions:

adjective
1. marked by simplicity; having a humble opinion of yourself; “a modest apartment”; “too modest to wear his medals” [ant: immodest]
2. not large but sufficient in size or amount; “a modest salary”; “modest inflation”; “helped in my own small way”
3. free from pomp or affectation; “comfortable but modest cottages”; “a simple rectangular brick building”; “a simple man with simple tastes”
4. not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance [ant: immodest]
5. low or inferior in station or quality; “a humble cottage”; “a lowly parish priest”; “a modest man of the people”; “small beginnings” [syn: humble]
6. humble in spirit or manner; suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness; “meek and self-effacing” [syn: meek]
7. limited in size or scope; “a small business”; “a newspaper with a modest circulation”; “small-scale plans”; “a pocket-size country” [syn: minor]

So to our ears, when we hear … “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, …” what that says to us is “I want women to dress modestly [marked by simplicity, free from pomp or affectation, and not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance, humble in spirit or manner suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness], with decency and propriety…” Given the context of the remainder of chapter 2, that appears to make sense. Given the current atmosphere in the western church in which we seem to have a morbid fixation on sex and sexual issues, it also seems to make sense. But was that really what Paul was saying?

I looked up the Greek word that is translated here as modest in our Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ed by F.W. Danker (a large, heavy and imposing book). The word is only used one time in the whole New Testament and if I were smarter, I’d figure out how to type it here so you could see it. But I’m lazy. In any case, I found the word and the definition:

This term expresses the opposite of considering or treating something in a common or ordinary manner; a respect for convention. A term of reverence or respect.

Then as I was looking through all the different versions of the verses (I looked at it in the context of the whole chapter), I began to notice some footnotes that linked to it. One was for a similar verse in 1 Peter … so, okay. But there were two others that were particularly interesting. One for Revelation and the other for Isaiah. The thing I love about BibleGateway is that instead of bumbling my way through paper pages, I can just click and be there. So I did. Here are the scriptures:

The Letter to Laodicea
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

“The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. 21 The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Isaiah 3

13The LORD has taken his place to contend;
he stands to judge peoples.
14The LORD will enter into judgment
with the elders and princes of his people:
“It is you who have devoured[f] the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?”

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

16The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty
and walk with outstretched necks,
glancing wantonly with their eyes,
mincing along as they go,
tinkling with their feet,
17therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.

18In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21the signet rings and nose rings; 22the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;
and instead of a belt, a rope;
and instead of well-set hair, baldness;
and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;
and branding instead of beauty.
25Your men shall fall by the sword
and your mighty men in battle.
26And her gates shall lament and mourn;
empty, she shall sit on the ground.

When I read those in context with Timothy and the idea that modesty is about reverence or respect … I get a whole new picture of how women should dress and more importantly … why. Once again, it’s a heart issue. It has to do with the women and, interestingly, nothing to do with men.

As I said on Wess’ post, men … get past yourselves. If you find the way a woman dresses too distracting, find something else to look at. That is your responsibility. You are in control of where you put your eyes. You. And only you. It is the man who lusts in his heart who is the adulterer, not the woman.

A woman needs to dress according to her heart. Where does her heart stand with God. Look in the letter to Laodicea. And in the prophecy to Jerusalem. God is not so concerned about sex. He seems to be very concerned about how we treat the poor. How do the rich treat the poor. Are we proud of our riches and flaunt them? Do we grind the face of the poor into the ground?

It’s very easy to create a set of rules and standards. How far is that skirt from the ground? No pants. Dresses must be made from this pattern. Etc. Etc. It’s easy to tell who’s in and who’s out by those standards. If a woman comes in wearing pants … she’s out. The problem is … what if she’s wearing pants, but her heart is right? How would you know? Is it our right to judge? Why do we think those arbitrary rules are so important?

All Things Crash Together For Good
May 5th, 2008 by Sonja

Sometimes things crash together in my life. They make a big messy pile and I stand to one side looking at the pile and wonder about it. The smoke and debris rise, then settle. I may cough a time or two. I often get fairly emotional and wave my arms in the air a lot. Then I get to dig through the rubble to find out what is there. What I can recycle out of the mess.

It’s happening right now. In seemingly unrelated sphere’s of my life similar events are crashing, raising dust and debris.

We had a meeting last Wednesday evening to wrap up last season and look forward to next for my daughter’s hockey team. It was a two hour meeting. For the first hour and a half the TravelTeamDirector told us parents about how the club is in trouble. Nationally youth hockey is growing at about 3% per year and girls hockey is growing at about 10-12% per year, but our club is not seeing those growth rates. We are stagnant or declining. Hmmmm. He asked for our help over and over and over again. Talked about how much the Executive Board valued including parents. Talked about how necessary we are to the health and well-being of the club. Then he brought up the last item on his list (not on the published agenda, btw). Next year’s HeadCoach. The Board would like to install a man who’s daughter is supposed to move up to the next level because of her age. But they would like to apply for a waiver for her to continue to “play down” on our team. There is only one problem with this. It makes our team ineligible for league playoffs and tournaments because we are playing with an athlete who is too old. So, in essence, we are playing “for the fun of it.” It takes all the competitiveness out of it.

Several of us expressed our lack of support for this plan in no uncertain terms. We were ignored. Our very real concerns for the long term effects this would have on our girls team and program were ignored. The fact that a proposal of this nature would never, ever in a million years be presented to a boys team (else the presenters be laughed out of the room) was dismissed out of hand.

I’ve known for some time that to play girls hockey in this club is a backwater team. Parents of female athletes are not known by other parents in the same fashion that parents of male athletes are. As in any organization, it’s “who ya know.”

I’ve continued to process this information and at the same time out in the corners of the blogosphere that I frequent there has been a renewed discussion about how male-centric the church in general is and whether or not it should change. If the emerging stream is changing that and how is it doing that. Jenell Paris wrote Cacklings From an Emerging Crone and Grace wrote When “Sorry” Isn’t Enough. You can also find some excellent words on power sharing by Makeesha here and here and Change, Power, Access by Rose Madrid-Swetman. I think Kathy Escobar may have started it all with Auntie Kathy, Are You Sure It’s Not Wrong For You To Be A Pastor? in which she shares e-mail exchanges with her 14 year old niece about her call to be a pastor and her passion for equality:

you see, the “we don’t really value your voice” message goes far beyond just whether or not women preach or teach. it’s the subtle ways women don’t have equal power, leadership, value, or voice, where entire generations of misogyny are built upon a few passages of scripture and the liberating message of Jesus gets lost. i am well aware many women have no desire to be a loudmouth like me. but i know they are strong and powerful in different ways and won’t get the chance to step into it ”unless it directly benefits the system somehow and it will only be to a point that the men in power feel comfortable with.” women will stay in churches year after year after year after year that subtly or even directly keeps them stuck, limited. …..

Jesus is a restorer, a rebuilder, a redeemer. but i believe sometimes we need to actively participate in his redemption. to me, i think it requires speaking out with more than just words against the subtle and direct ways we are silencing and devaluing 1/2 of the population. please, God, redeem this mess we’ve made.

You see among many things, I’m an observer of patterns. I watch the way people behave and see patterns. Sometimes it’s in individual relationships, sometimes it’s in larger group dynamics. Among the patterns I’ve observed is that power acts like drug on the mind. Exercise it and it will grab more of your mind, like endorphins. Power over others makes us feel … um … powerful in the moment. How it was used and whether or not we are mentally healthy will later determine our sense of dis-ease with a misuse of power.

One of my favorite scenes in a movie ever, is the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts has come back to the hotel without any new clothes because none of the Rodeo Drive boutiques will serve her. So Richard Gere took her back to one, flashed his cash or credit cards (I forget which) and said, “We require a lot of sucking up.” When the manager of store started to fawn all over him, Richard re-directed the guy to Julia very dismissively. It’s hilarious and so overdone. And yet. That is the economics of all relationships … overdone, overexposed, gross in it’s ineptitude. We all require sucking up and we all suck up to each other on some level or another. In our marriages we love each other, so we suck up to each other as a natural consequence of that love. The payback is not financial, it’s emotional. In our friendships (depending on the level of friendship) a similar thing occurs. Once the circle moves out to acquaintances, sports/team relationships, business relationships and church relationships the transaction is more ritualized and the sucking up is more apparent. The hierarchy is more transparent as well.

So, the question is does power belong in a church in the first place? We talk about it belonging to the men, or being shared or being given up to women? But … does it even belong in a church in the first place? We talk about hierarchy, power and all the trappings as if they belong … creating assumptions that are not necessarily true. When I read the Gospels, I see a Jesus who questioned those assumptions and lived outside of them. He did not participate in the sucking up transactions. He did not participate in the hierarchy. He put aside all use of power, though all the power in the universe was at his disposal. What does the church do?

We look like a mirror image of my daughter’s hockey team. Somehow … I thought we were supposed to be different.

UPDATE: As I follow the ongoing conversation at Jenell Paris’ place this comment was made by Lara and it provides a beautiful picture of what equality in the church could look like and it is dramatically different from the dog-eat-dog equality we see in the rest of the world.

Biblical equality is not really about leadership, once we get down to the nitty-gritty. It requires a complete revisiting of the idea of leadership. We reject the worldly views of leadership and recognize that everything in the church is really about service. We are all servants, we are all to sacrifice for one another, none of us is to lift ourselves over the other. Instead of viewing Biblical equality as an efort for women to climb to the top, it is better to see it as all of us becoming more humble and willing to serve one another.

That leads me to the other point. Because Biblical equality is really about submission instead of leadership, nobody has to tell egalitarian women to submit. We already do, as do our beloved egalitarian brothers and our traditionalist sisters. The people who really have major issues with submitting to others are traditionalist men who believe that the sexual hierarchy exempts them from the clear Scriptural command to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Who? Me?
Apr 23rd, 2008 by Sonja

You know how you’re reading in your reader … just browsing through the blogs, lazily looking at all the juicy writing, sipping your morning coffee (or other beverage of choice) … when all of a sudden you see your name on someone else’s blog and it just blows your mind? Yeah … it doesn’t happen too often to me either. Like maybe twice a year, three times when Bro M is telling jokes.

Well, the other day my fellow Scriber Jeremy Bouma surprised me, but good. He nominated me for a Subversive Blogger award. Thanks Jeremy!

Subversive Blogger Award

Subversive bloggers are unsatisfied with the status quo, whether in church, politics, economics or any other power-laden institution, and they are searching for (and blogging about) what is new (or a “return to”) – even though it may be labeled as sacrilege, dangerous, or subversive.

Wow … yep, I’m unsatisfied with the status quo of just about all of those things. But like a few of the other bloggers (including Jeremy) nominated, I’ve been a little dry of late, and feeling as though it just doesn’t matter, my words are flying off into space with no effect. They likely are. But perhaps they will one day blossom into plants which will seed. So I shall write on … and there are others who should as well.

So I get to pass on the linky love and nominate subversive bloggers of my own … here are my nominations:

Adventures in Mercy by Molly

Quirky Grace by Jemila

The Virtual Abbess by Peggy

Eternal Echoes by Sally

Ravens by Patrick

The rules of participation are pretty straightforward:

  1. If you are tagged, write a post with links to five subversive blogs.
  2. Link back to this post on JakeBouma.com so people can easily find the origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the “Subversive Blogger Award” somewhere on your blog (image above) with a link to the post that you wrote.

And as Jake says, the award is meant to be encouragement to keep blogging, so I hope this will encourage these five to keep on keepin’ on, because their photo is next to the definition of Subversive Blogger (if there is one somewhere)!

We’re Cruising Now
Apr 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

My in-laws visited for a few days recently. They are snowbirds. That is, they spend several winter months in Florida in their motorhome and then return to Vermont for the remainder of the year. So they were visiting on their way back north. My mother-in-law (LightMIL) recently marked her 70th birthday, so we had a celebration with her while they were here.

We did this by taking her on a lunch cruise of the Potomac River to see the cherry blossoms.

at the lunch table

The boat docks at a pier in southwest DC. There’s only a very tiny little bit of DC that is southwest and this pier is in it. So is Fort McNair … the location of the National War College. It takes about an hour to get there from here, no matter how you cut it. We spent a fair portion of that hour in some heavy traffic going and coming. I entertain myself by reading bumperstickers and vanity plates when I’m in traffic. Especially here in the DC area, where I’m familiar with the surroundings (i.e. there’s not much interesting to look at).

I saw the usual number of intolerant bumper stickers. Things like “You can’t be both Catholic and Pro-life.” “Put the Christ back in Christmas.” “Man’s way leads to a hopeless end! God’s way leads to an endless hope!” I reflected, as I often do when I see these bumper stickers, with no little resentment and aggravation, what do the drivers of such cars hope to gain by bearing these stickers? To me (and it is possible that I’m wrong) these stickers seem arrogant, harsh, and hubristic. I don’t mean to pick on the Catholic stance on abortion in this instance, because there are many anti-abortion stickers out there. But all of them suppose that the bearer has thought through the issue most thoroughly, and you, dear reader of the bumper, have not. If you would simply accept the veracity of the sound-bite on the bumper you will be issued into a new level of truth and righteousness.

They also make me think of the nearly constant refrain that this is a “Christian nation.” Keep “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance … it’s very important. We must institute or keep prayer in our public schools; letting it go has been the downfall of our whole way of life. Or has it? Are we really a Christian nation? What would that really look like? Who would decide which brand of Christianity we would follow as a so-called Christian nation?

I think about those things. Because some versions of Christianity have a lot of rules. Some have much fewer. Who would decide? Typically the many rules version of a religion is the one that takes charge in a country, when there is a country ruled by religion. There was a time (back when I was in college studying anthropology) when I could tell you the reason for this. Now, I simply understand that it happens and grieve it. I was thinking about this as well the other night as I read toward the end of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini. (warning … spoiler alert)

A main character has killed her abusive husband. He had raped her, beaten her, withheld food and water, thrown her around like a rag doll and treated her worse than most of us treat our household pets for nearly 20 years. She killed him as he throttled her best and only friend. Killing her husband was an act in defense of another human being’s life, albeit a woman. What follows here is her sentencing by a Taliban court in Kabul:

“It does not frighten me to leave this life that my only son left five years ago, this life that insists we bear sorrow upon sorrow long after we can bear no more. No, I believe I shall gladly take my leave when the time comes.”

“What frightens me, hamshira, is the day God summons me before Him and asks, Why did you not do as I said, Mullah? Why did you not obey my laws? How shall I explain to Him, hamshira? What will be my defense for not heeding His commands? All I can do all any of us can do, in the time we are granted, is to go on abiding by the lsaws He has set for us. The clearer I see my end, hamshira, nearer I am to my day of reckoning, the more determined I grow to carry out His word. However painful it may prove.”

He shifted on his cushion and winced.

“I believe you when you say that your husband was a man of disagreeable temperament,” he resumed, fixing Mariam with his bespectacled eyes, his gaze both stern and compassionate. “But I cannot help but be disturbed by the brutality of your action, hamshira. I am troubled by what you have done; I am troubled that his little boy was crying for him upstairs when you did it.

“I am tired and dying, and I want to be merciful. I want to forgive you. But when God summons me and says, But it wasn’t for you to forgive, Mullah, what shall I say?”

His companions [2 other judges] nodded and looked at him with admiration.

“Something tells me you are not a wicked woman, hamshira. But you have done a wicked thing. And you must pay for this thing you have done. Shari’a is not vague on this matter. It says I must send you where I will soon join you myself.

“Do you understand, hamshira?”

Mariam looked down at her hands. She said she did.

I know a lot of people will read this and think things like well … that’s the Muslims … we Christians aren’t like that. We have grace, after all. Do we? How do you think this situation might have played out in a Christian court? I’m not certain it would have looked any different.

I ‘m glad we don’t live in a “Christian nation” but one that is guided by our First Amendment. A nation where Jews and Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Flying Spaghetti Monsters are all equal under the law. The idea of becoming a Christian nation frightens me, quite frankly. While I want to know that those who lead us have thought through their personal issues of faith, I also want them to be open and welcoming to members of other faiths. Thinking that one has all the answers to questions that haven’t been asked has no place in the government of an empire.

That Gender Thing (Again)
Mar 31st, 2008 by Sonja

Married To The Sea

marriedtothesea.com

Well … that’s pretty damn offensive, isn’t it?  Grabs you right by the lapels, shakes you up … and screams in your face.  But it doesn’t happen in the Protestant Church, so it’s meaningless for us … right?  We can laugh at it and go home.  Those foolish Catholics … if only they’d let their priests get married, they wouldn’t abuse children anymore … they could have sex when they wanted to.

I’ve got some news for you.  It’s not about whether or not the priests get married.  Child molesting is almost always about power.  It’s about institutions.  It’s about turf wars.  We have the same problems painted in different colors here in Protestant-land.

Keeping women out of the priesthood, out of teaching, fighting these gender wars … it’s about power.  It’s about institutions and it’s about turf wars.  You can layer the color on as thick as you want, but the base problem is that the men who are in power do not want to share.  For them it has become a zero-sum game and when women win, they lose.  They cannot see any other outcome.

Most of the battles currently being fought in the Church are ultimately about control.  They are about who will control the information.  Who will control the people.  Who will control access to God.  What a mind-rape.  It’s offensive and bears the mark of being against God, if I’m not mistaken.

God does not manipulate.  She is not overbearing.  He does not beat us up.  God is love … anything else is a clanging gong (have you ever heard one?  It will bend you double in pain).  God is love.

Are Women Human? (Celebrating International Women’s Day)
Mar 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Well … it sorta depends.

It depends on who you ask. It depends on the period of history into which you were born.

Then there are a whole category of men who think that women are definitely human, they are just not quite as good as men. Or they are as good as men, but not quite as advanced … sort of overgrown children. Why is this? Oh, because the men are afraid of the women. Now, the men have lots of very elegant reasoning … but the bottom line is … they are afraid. Men frequently establish second class status to things they are frightened of.

Lemme ‘splain that a little bit. I’m no Biblical scholar. However, I play one on television.

Hah … as if. I wonder what a Biblical scholar would look like on television! All sarcasm aside, I’m no Biblical scholar, television or not. However, I’ve studied the question about women’s standing before God from a Biblical standpoint fairly extensively. I’ve read many pertinent books and studies. I’ve read all the pertinent scriptures in the original languages and with all the different interpretations you can imagine. In short, I’ve been there done that. Do I definitively know God’s heart on the issue? No. I do not. But I have what I think is a pretty good idea. Alot of people disagree with me. That’s fine. They’re allowed. I think they will be called to judgement for the damage that their misguided opinions are doing (otherwise known as sin). But that’s between them and God. It’s not my call.

Here’s my theory … if you go all the way back to Genesis 1 you find this:

26Then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Here we see the very first indication of people … created together. At the same time. Both given dominion over the earth and everything in it. Both given equal stake in creation. Both as equal beings. Two peas in a pod as it were. Yin and yang, male and female. Equal in being, status, everything … all the way down the line.

Things are clarified for us in Genesis 2:

18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper* fit for him. Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper* fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

*Briefly, the “helper” debate revolves around the idea that a helper must be in a subordinate position. I’m not going to get into a lengthy treatise here except to say that the Hebrew word (ezer – the root from which we get ebenezer, Israel and many other words, btw) which is used has many meanings which do not adequately translate into English. We have used a word which has very limited meaning to us … it might be asked why the translators chose that particular word and not another less loaded word? What cultural/societal needs were met by using this translation rather than another?

As you may or may not remember from Genesis 3 the male tendency would be towards domination. He must work to subdue the earth now … when we chose to be independent of our relationship with God, that was the evil that the male of the species would bring to the earth; dominance.

Here is the definition of dominance from Dictionary.com:

1. rule; control; authority; ascendancy.
2. the condition of being dominant.
3. the disposition of an individual to assert control in dealing with others.
4. high status in a social group, usually acquired as the result of aggression, that involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, as food, mates, or space.
5. the normal tendency for one side of the brain to be more important than the other in controlling certain functions, as speech and language.

However, if we read the first couple of lines of the “curse” on Adam we find something curiously interesting: “”Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ …” Recall for a moment, Adam’s response to God when questioned about how he knew of his own nakedness: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Ahhhhh … ha. Adam (and his descendants) have never quite gotten past the idea that it was all Eve’s fault. God is allowing him/them to live in that. “Because you have listened to voice of your wife …”

Now. What is the rest of that sentence? It’s not that she doesn’t have anything good to contribute the relationship. The rest of the sentence is “…. and disobeyed Me.” That’s fairly key to the whole operation. It’s not that Eve is really the terrible person here. Or that all advice from Eve is to be ignored. Or that Eve was less advanced and did not know what she was doing (after all she was also punished), but that Adam willfully and with eyes wide open, upon listening to his wife, chose to disobey His Creator. Listening to his wife wasn’t the bad horrible thing that he was being punished for. He was being punished for disobedience. Ultimately, he, and Eve, were being punished for the same thing that got Lucifer thrown out … pride. Hubris. Not unusual, since Lucifer (Satan, the serpent) was doing the tempting.

Large groups of men (entire civilizations that occupy large portions of our globe) have been operating under the fear that women will lead them astray ever since. Now whether or not this is a story/myth that is descriptive or prescriptive is of little importance to this post.

Now there have been whole civilizations that rose up and were quite successful where the men were not afraid of women. Native American cultures, ancient celtic cultures, African cultures to name a few. But the predominant culture that has consumed the globe is one in which the dominant men were afraid of women. I realize I’m speaking in generalizations and broad brushes. I realize that not *all* men are afraid of *all* women. But, generally speaking this is the case. In terms of our general rules and trends in Western culture which has spread throughout the globe at this point, men are afraid of, and feel the need to dominate women. They must demean them. They must overpower them and keep them in a position of powerlessness.

Here is some history for you. Jesus was the first feminist. Jesus was the first masculinist too, for that matter. Jesus taught that all human beings had worth and value. This was an earth shattering principle at the time. At the time only men had worth and value. Women and children were chattel. Do you know what that word – chattel – means? No, I mean do you *know* in your bones, what it means? I didn’t think so. It means that you have the approximate value of a sick mule. Children even less. Women were worth the labor and potential of the sons they could provide. Children were worth-less until they were of an age to provide labor. I want you to take a moment and imagine the life you might lead if your value were tied to how much work you could do and how many sons you could push out of your belly (especially since you have no control over that … and we now know this is a result of the sperm anyway). What happened to infertile women? Do you begin to understand why adultery was such a big deal? It was important to know who’s son your wife was carrying …

So, unless a woman could work and provide children, she was a liability to her husband. This process began at about age 14 or 15. LightGirl is 14. I shudder when I consider this possibility. Men did not speak to women in public settings. Men carried on their commerce separate from women. There were separate spaces for men and women in the Temple and synagogues. Men and women were separate and unequal. Jesus ignored all of that. I could say he changed it, but he really didn’t. He set a new example by ignoring it. He went about his business and talked to people. Now the people who most commonly listened to him were women … because they had the least to lose. But go into any church today and take a head count … you’ll still see more women than men. Women still understand that Jesus has come to redeem them. Women are far more open to hearing His message of self-sacrifice. Women can speak that message too. Who better than a woman to talk about how lay down your life for someone else? I’m sorry to say, but there are not many men who can speak to that with the same personal experience that the vast majority of women have.

In any case, Jesus ignored the cultural mores of the time and spoke to women. He healed women. He discipled women. He accepted support from women. Women were amongst his band of followers. This was unheard of. There were no other rabbis in the land who had done these things. No other rabbis who spoke to women. Or healed women. Or taught women. Or accepted support from women. Or had women in their band of followers. It’s not that Jesus elevated women above men. It’s that he accepted them as equal to men.

So to answer my own question. Yes, women are human. Yes, we are equal in all ways to men. Men have nothing to fear from us, IF they will choose to follow God’s voice when it’s important rather than ours. But then we also have to be discerning about their voices as well. All of us are responsible to discern the call of God on us from the cacophony of other humans in our lives. Ultimately, that is what we are each called to … a loving dance with the Creator Herself. And anyone who attempts to interfere in that is just asking for trouble.

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Read these other outstanding posts by women bloggers on women’s issues:

igniting the ember: emerging women finding their voice by Kathy Escobar
the world handicapped by half by Makeesha Fisher
The Voice by Makeesha Fisher
International Women’s Day by Julie Clawson
I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader by Kingdom Grace
Complementarianism Sucks: Telling Women to be Quiet in the name of Jesus by Pam Hogeweide
International Womens Day by Minnowspeaks

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