How I came to need feminism

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I owe a great deal of my understanding of feminism to my alma mater, Mississippi University for Women. With its rich history of educating and empowering women, this gem of a school stands tall in my world and in my identity as a woman.

I enrolled as a product of contemporary Christian culture, surrounded by media and resources that were more interested in taking the Bible’s English translations literally than in making room for the questions of an ever-shifting cultural understanding of the world and of God. Like most everyone who transitions from your safe and predictable faith understanding¬†and enters through the doors of liberal education, I felt a clash between what I had always thought and what was being presented to me, and it wasn’t long before I had to ask myself: why hadn’t I thought of that before?

It really began in the spring of my sophomore year when I took Western Women’s Roles in Religion as a way to dip my toe in religious studies as a minor. But I was immersed in a whole new realm of questions and ideas and thoughts. Looking at the lives and stories of women in Judaism and Christianity opened so many doors for new ways of looking at things, and I can’t imagine how I was once without this knowledge.

I very quickly began to grow cynical of how certain church traditions were never questioned because “the Bible says this,” and I began to realize that “the Bible says this” can mean exactly whatever you want it to mean when you don’t dig any further, when you ignore the fact that cultural applications can’t be understood the same way they were thousands of years ago for specific instances that aren’t happening now or with specific instances that are happening now that weren’t happening then.

My ideas are always growing, and much of what I believed as an adolescent has shifted dramatically regarding many things in my faith – namely feminism. And at this point, I can now say what I believe about women and the church, and women and the Bible.

I do not believe women are less qualified than men for church leadership whether that be in the form of a pastor, and elder, a worship leader, or a children’s director. Women are named in the beginning of Luke 8 among Jesus’ disciples. Jesus stood up for Mary as taking the place of a student at her rabbi’s feet when Martha wanted to scold her for not doing housework in Luke 10. Paul commended women in ministry in Romans 16. Women were among the first of church leaders as the early church met in homes, and who was running those homes and opening them to their community?

I do not believe in hierarchy in the home upon further understanding of how the household codes in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 were culturally conditioned and because of reading beyond those verses to find that Christians are called to submit to one another, and because I have realized that Paul’s instructions for how husbands should treat wives vs.¬†how wives should treat husbands are basically the same instructions using different words that mean the same thing. One thing that has really began to irk me is that so many people want to look at the verses and claim – See! That’s how it’s written! That’s how it’s supposed to be! And I want to squint my eyes and look a bit closer and ponder¬†. . . just because that’s how it was then doesn’t mean that it was God’s ideal. We have to understand that just because the husband is referred to in many of these Scriptures as the sole head of the household, doesn’t mean that that’s how God wanted it. Here’s a thought – perhaps the writer was simply acknowledging the way things already were, and within that, slowly working towards a better way of doing things. Perhaps the writer was instructing husbands to take the lead in bringing this new way of doing things¬†because they already had the cultural power to lead. If Christians are to submit to one another, it has to be 100% both ways. We do not live under the curse anymore with men having the power and women having to manipulate to get what they want in order to bypass¬†that power. We live in a world redeemed by Jesus where we are no longer bound by the old ways of one trying to get power over the other, but we are free to submit and lift the other above ourselves.¬†There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.

And people always want to say – Well, what about when push comes to shove? What happens when someone has to take the lead because there’s no agreement between the two who are in joint leadership? And to that I say – If push has come to shove, then something has already gone wrong. If someone had to take the lead, then things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. I don’t understand why equal leadership has to be a threat to a home or a family.

It is a concern to me that my home church has no women in its executive leadership, and I do know that it has more to do with the fact that we are small and the opportunity for women in some of those roles has not arrived, but it does make me question how active we are in pursuing this equality that we profess to believe in. It is important to me to be a part of a community where women and men share equal roles in the work of the church. And yet, when I sit here and talk and talk and write and write, it is hard for me to feel that I’ve done anything active to put flesh on my words. What can I do to promote this message?

In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

Equally a representation of God, equally a bearer of God’s image, equally a partner in God’s mission to bring the world to himself. And we are getting there. I do believe it. Cultural consciousness does not shift overnight. The Kingdom of God is slow, grows from a tiny seed, and then before we know it, has overtaken all that is in our world and overshadows all the other injustices that once ran rampant.

I am grateful to the strong women in my life who demonstrate the diversity and strength that is to be found in lives and choices that honor God. My mother, grandmothers, and teachers all walked their paths faithfully as women who defined themselves not by a career, a family, or a message, but by the love they felt for a Savior who redeems us all from the bonds of curses and oppression and by the love they felt for a world so much in need of the gifts they had to offer.

 

This post is my contribution to the Faith Feminisms synchroblog which you can read more about here.

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Empire and Immigration

Of The Empire

by Mary Oliver

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many. We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of
the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

(emphasis added)

I didn’t want to write on this issue. Not yet. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough research, I don’t feel like I know enough about what’s going on, and I don’t know the laws all that well.

I also don’t know how to begin to describe how utterly disgusted I am at people’s greed and ignorance, and I absolutely cannot find a way to express how deeply it wounds my heart that human beings are viewed only through the lens of our very flawed, soon-to-collapse-just-like-all-empires-before-us (looking-a-little-too-much-like-the-last-days-of-rome) empire. Empire cares nothing for individuals. Empire cares for power and money.

They say we have an immigration problem. I say that’s nothing new (as Jon Stewart says, we’re a nation of immigrants who hate the newer immigrants)¬†They say they’ll take our jobs. I say they already¬†got¬†your jobs when your business was outsourced because money. They say “not our kids, not our problem,” and this is where I can’t think clearly about¬†what I want to say because Jesus’ words are too loud: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, …. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”¬†

I like to think that this is enough reason for Christians to respond to such current issues with love for our neighbor, hospitality to the stranger, and generosity to anyone in need. When I hear of protests to those crossing “our” borders for safety, when I hear of the outrage against human beings seeking protection from threats to their lives and daily well-being on “our” land, and when I hear statements and remarks from my own home-state’s governor dripping¬†with disdain for people who just want a chance to live and see their children live, I am filled with grief. Grief that our politics matters more than our gospel.

A few things to keep in mind for those individuals:

1) Most of Americans today are here because of immigration or slavery.¬†And I don’t recall the first settlers requesting citizenship by the laws of the natives then. I also would like to call into question how much the law has to do with the justice of the circumstance anyway – crossing the border undocumented is illegal, yet bringing thousands and thousands of slave workers against their will was at one time legal?

2) We¬†¬†think we¬†belong here and they don’t in this “great nation” when the reason this nation exists as it is today¬†is because of our¬†ancestors’¬†genocide of one entire people group and the mass enslavement of another? (p.s.¬†Don’t tell me this nation was founded on Christian principles)

3) We¬†haven’t been in their shoes. We’ve¬†never had to go through the immigration process. We’ve¬†never experienced such fearful circumstances in our¬†own nation. We’ve¬†no right to make judgments on their lives and their well-being.

4) I don’t recall any references in our Bible to strangers and aliens that do not include instructions to welcome and offer hospitality to them. If we¬†fear what it will cost us¬†as individuals or as a nation to provide that to those who need it, we¬†need to find another model to follow besides Jesus, because as far as I understand, the path that follows him requires extensive sacrifice on our part as we put the “other” above ourselves. This national attitude is unfortunately an accurate reflection of us as individuals as we hoard and store¬†and put away, never to share with those who really need it because what if we may need it later? Us first. What about storing treasures in heaven? What good will it do you when it all rotted away and someone needed it all along? Someone that wasn’t you because you already had plenty for the present? WHY DO I HAVE SEVEN COATS WHEN TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE NONE?

5) And finally, here’s a¬†thought which you will hear again if you watch the trailer below: in regards¬†to them taking our jobs, they already have our jobs. They’re already growing our food¬†and mining our minerals and sewing our clothes. Wouldn’t we¬†rather it be in the safety of our borders under our supervision in circumstances and environments we can control? I don’t wish this to be an¬†excuse for injustices on our part, and I know there’s already unjust work situations on our land as we utilize undocumented immigrants for cheap labor, but I also believe it to be a testament to how these individuals are willing to do anything and how far they are willing to go to provide better opportunities for their families. It is a step forward from child labor in Honduras or Indonesia.

I am far too concerned with me and mine at the expense of others. I don’t want to be remembered as a nation that denied safety and opportunity to others. And I know some¬†want to say but there’s a right way to do it! Just come over legally! It’s not that hard!¬†But I also know that the majority of people I hear that from have never gone through that bureaucratic process of paying thousands of dollars (if they could afford it), waiting months and months at a time, and then¬†being rejected for any number of reasons. Yes, I agree, there is a right way to do it, but clearly the way we have available is not it if it’s not working. We always want to point fingers and talk about what they’re doing wrong and how it’s everyone else, immigrants from every other nation, even though we’re the only common factor. Again I say, clearly this process is faulted.

This trailer below documents this very issue¬†from a faith perspective. I haven’t seen it yet, but will have my hands on a copy soon. I encourage us all to question our opinions on a regular basis. We all like to think we have it right. But what harm is it to consider another way?¬† I would never have believed I would be saying these things five years ago. But the more I learn and the more I understand of my scriptures, the more I expand my understanding of God and this world, and I realize that both are far bigger than I or the knowledge I attain will ever comprehend.

 

What I’ve learned from living with the person I’m married to

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I’m going to borrow from¬†Noelle’s post¬†on new things learned from living alone in order to discuss things I’ve learned since being married, although, it’s more about things I’ve learned since living with someone I’m married to. I’m always enamored with the idea of seasons, and while I wouldn’t call marriage itself merely a “season,” there are seasons through which to be lived within that. Namely, the season of being newlyweds or the season of not having children. And at the same time, one of us will die (many, many years from now) leaving marriage to be not-as-permanent perhaps making it more of a really really long season. But we don’t have to discuss that.

I’ve never officially lived alone, though I’ve had a period of months in college when my roommate had returned home for the summer or the winter holidays, and I had many weekends with the apartment all to myself. Let me tell you, I loved my roommate. And I loved having the apartment to myself. There is the core of my being, which is introverted, and it will always find its most fulfilling of refreshment in solitude. Perhaps it worked in both our favors for me to marry a musician who is in and out at odd hours¬†and for him to marry an introvert who doesn’t mind so much spending a few hours alone. And even when that isn’t the case, I treasure my moments alone, such as right now eating Oreos and milk for breakfast because it’s Saturday and I’m a grown woman I do what I want. But I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my potential for growth as a human being since living with this other person I’m legally bound to.

I always resort to the worst-case-scenario. I’ve always been this way with everyone I’ve cared about. But now it’s worse. When you tell me that you’re done recording and he’s firing up the grill, so you’ll stay for maybe one brat, but then you decide to cut one more song and I don’t know that and it’s two hours later, and I know it¬†doesn’t take two hours to eat one bratwurst, and I call and you can’t answer because recording, then I’m going to logically assume that you’re dead in a ¬†ditch since you haven’t answered my eight calls in the last ten minutes and I’m hyperventilating because I just know now that I’m a widow before I’ve even turned 25. I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning to all this that may have some slight connection to my urge to control all circumstances and whatnot, but after the voice in my head (usually my mother – does this happen to anyone else?) tells me to breathe, I have to remind myself that this is real life with a musician. Sometimes recording and playing takes longer than expected and you should enjoy one more movie on Netflix that you love and know he’ll hate.

Sometimes I’m a little bit lazy. There are too many times in our life together where I’ve come to him with a techie problem I can’t figure out (my iCloud storage is full, I can’t figure this thing out on my phone, etc.) usually doing whatever the adult version of whining is, and he Googles the answer to the problem. I could have done that myself, and he always reminds me of that, but he’s smarter than me in many ways, and I just KNOW that he’ll understand the Google instructions far better than I could, so you see, it’s much better for him to take the lead in my problems related to anything with buttons or wires or whatever is in this thing I’m writing on cased in/made of metals very likely mined in unjust circumstances. And also, I get very mad when I’m making dinner and he’s sitting on the couch tired from work, all the while trying to remind myself of all the times he is making a great meal for me when I return from work and feel no guilt whatsoever just laying on the couch until it’s time to eat. And I have my excuses there as well. You see, he’s also far better at cooking than I pretend to be, and when I’m in there, I have no idea what I’m doing. Getting mad is my mature way of saying HELP ME I DON’T KNOW WHAT ANY OF THIS IS. Which he would be happy to do. If I would ask for help. But anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t do that well either.

I’m a closet cuddler (don’t tell Lacy).¬†Until I’m ready to go to sleep, but outside of that time, I sometimes like the snuggles. I still very much like my space, but I like hugs and nuzzles. This is getting too mushy for me now, so I’m moving on. You get the point. But as a classic introvert, I have always needed my space – mentally, physically, and emotionally (definitely emotionally). Sometimes it only takes that one person to break you out of that. The right person. GAH MUSHY STOP IT. Moving on.

This season is one for growing, learning, and becoming better, as all seasons are. People always say marriage is hard, and I always want to say, “compared to what?” as if single people or people in relationships but are not married don’t have hardships. It is no harder than any other season of life, but it’s different. And there’s always someone working for a good life with you, working for the same things, the same dreams, for the same purposes. I treasure these moments, but I treasured all my life’s moments even before it was attached to another’s because my life was precious then as it is now.

And today, we go to the Farmer’s Market to hopefully find some fresh blackberries and eggplant, because no matter how many times I’ve wanted to be left alone in my life, no matter how many times I’ve enjoyed being alone, shopping alone, walking alone, I would much rather¬†go to the market with him than with myself.