Category Archives: Feminist

A feminist in the bathroom (and everywhere else)

doyourthing

This is the bathroom I want to use.   Gender Neutral Restroom Sign – Baby Wale Restaurant DC – Freely downloadable from http://babywaledc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/restroomdoor.pdf

A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine stated, in regards to the current discussion over trans people and bathrooms, he is baffled “that any true feminist who rightly opposes rape culture could in good conscience agree to such a gaping loophole.” I spun this round and round in my head and knew that I would take up a whole lot of space on his feed if I answered there, so I will answer here.

To begin, feminism is the idea that all people are equal and, as such, the main commitment of feminism is to destroy patriarchy. Patriarchy dictates that there are roles for men and roles for women and whoever steps out of those boxes does not fit. Moreover, patriarchy is a system in which men hold the power. And not just any men, but men who fit into the box of how patriarchy has traditionally defined manhood. Patriarchy has no space for men who cry, who have more “feminine” physical traits, for men who sew, who stay at home with their kids, who are quiet or afraid. Patriarchy does not allow for the full spectrum of what it means to be a man, only for a narrow definition of manhood. Patriarchy also does not allow for women to exhibit more “masculine” traits. Women are not allowed (under patriarchy) to show anger (when we do we are bitches or much be on our periods), to be in charge and be directive (lest we be called “bossy”). Conversely, when we do traditionally “feminine” things like cry or show fear or any perceived weakness, we are told that we cannot handle being in the workplace (or whatever situation we are in that has made us cry). The system of patriarchy is bad for everyone. It denies all of us — men, women and those who do not fit into the binary system of male and female — our full humanity. As a feminist, I object just as much to commercials that purport that men can’t talk about anything but sports (looking at you, terrible fantasy football commercials) or do anything around the home with some level of competence as I do to commercials that show women as pieces of meat (looking at you, seeming 90% of commercials ever). Feminists want all people to be able to just be themselves in their own unique way and to have power allowed to all people to do just that.

One of the problems with patriarchy as it relates to transgender folk is that it contributes heavily to the idea that there is one way to do gender and that sex is binary. In patriarchy, men are men and women are women. In reality, sex and gender are much more complex. There are at least 6 genetic sexes that people can be born with, and people can be born with female sex organs and a male brain and vice-versa. There are also people with body dysmorphia, gender dysmorphia, and people who just feel like they were born in the wrong body. But in patriarchy, there is no space for these people. Humans are one or the other, and if you don’t fit in either of those boxes, there is no space for you. This is incredibly harmful to those who don’t fit in our boxes of sex and gender, leading to an astronomically high suicide attempt rate (41%) for members of the trans community as well as ridiculously high rates of violence perpetrated against members of the trans community — trans women (especially trans women of color) being the most statistically endangered people in our society.

There is sexism in our national outrage over transgender people. The anger that arises when someone who has always seemed to be a man starts dressing as a woman and stating that he is, in fact, a she, is rooted in sexism. It is rooted in the belief that men should be a certain way and women should be a certain way. And few things seem to get a segment of the cisgender, hetero population heated more quickly than a (perceived) man “acting” like a woman. It is seen as somehow beneath a man to “want” to be a woman. This is sexism. This is patriarchy. This is what feminists fight against.

As a woman and as a feminist, I see it as my job to stand up for my sisters and brothers who are being taken down by patriarchy and to work with those who wish to dismantle it. Feminists are called to work with and for those who struggle just to live their lives free from abuse and fear because they don’t fit into a box or as they struggle to be someone they are not so they fit in the box and are safe (until they are discovered or can’t do it anymore and harm themselves).

Forcing a person who identifies as female (and may even have had reassignment surgery but has not been able to get a change on her birth certificate) to go into a men’s bathroom is declaring open season on our sisters. There is no safety in that. Forcing a person who identifies as male to do the same opens not only trans men but more “masculine” women to harassment (as we have seen many times in recent weeks as more masculine looking/acting women have been harassed in restrooms in the name of safety). I can think of few things that make me feel less safe than having people bursting in to the bathroom to make sure I have a vagina).

There is absolutely no evidence that allowing trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender precipitates an increase in violence. This is an instance of perceived danger vs. actual danger, and the actual danger simply does not exist. As far as the perceived dangers of allowing everyone to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender, how, does forcing trans men to go into the women’s restroom make women safer? A cisgender man always could dress like a woman and use the womans bathroom. Now a cisgender man can either come in and say he is biologically a woman or he is just checking to make sure no trans people are there, like a white knight of bigotry.  Either way, if a creeper wants to come into the women’s restroom, said creeper can do so. In reality, a creeper has always had access to women’s bathrooms and never needed an excuse around gender to gain access. 

Moreover, if a person wants to rape someone, they will. If not in the bathroom, in the parking garage, in the alleyway or in the park. Or, more likely, in the apartment, dorm room, or home, as stranger rape is a small percentage of the rapes that take place in these United States. Most people who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone they know — so the perpetrator is more likely a friend, family member or coach than a transperson or random person in the bathroom you have never met. Maybe we should keep all of those people out of the bathroom? Private bathrooms for everyone!!!

I do not believe this is remotely about my safety or the safety of women and children, just as the fear of black mean raping white women in the civil rights era (and before and since) is not about protecting women. If those vociferously objecting to trans bathroom access actually cared about sexual assault, they would be funding sexual assault prevention (and just plain sex ed, but that’s another issue). They would be raising their voices loudly when a man is found not guilty of rape even though he had sex with a young woman who was unconscious. They would be objecting every time a victim is asked what he or she wore, if he or she was drunk, or if he or she led the assailant on. If people were actually concerned about rape, they would be pressing to have all of the rape kits backlogged in police stations all across the US to be run so that predators could be caught. They would be teaching their children about consent and autonomy, that only yes means yes and that no one ever owes anyone sex. Rape is not about sex, it is about power. It is about wanting something that isn’t yours and taking it, making someone feel small and humiliated and powerless. If the people out there who are so concerned about who is peeing where were actually concerned about rape, they would be working to empower those who have little power, not to continue to concentrate power in the hands of cisgender, straight, white men. They would want to destroy the patriarchy, just like I do. But all I see are people who want to reinforce gender roles, to force people into a gender binary that doesn’t exist, and to perpetuate patriarchy  so that they can keep the power that they have held for thousands of years, all in the name of safety.

And that, as far as I am concerned, is bullshit.

So far as it concerns me as a Christian and a pastor, I will simply say that we are all created in God’s image, we are all immeasurably loved, and God calls on us to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized. The end.

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If churches want to be more diverse — maybe we should start with worship

I was just listening to a fascinating episode of Radiolab that took a look at race and racism in the world of debate. In short, they talked to black debaters about the ways the language and norms of the debate world excluded black people. The main subject of the show shared a story of walking into a national debate competition in high school and having everyone in a large cafeteria stop talking and stare at the black students who just walked into the room. Then he participated in a debate with a partner who instead of arguing the topic at hand, she argued that the debate itself did not allow for black voices, black culture, black ways of being and speaking. She argued that the basic setup of debate set up a ton of obstacles that kept black students from not only winning, but participating. It’s a fascinating episode and you should check it out.

This got me thinking about how we in the mainline protestant church, particularly in my home denomination, the ELCA, tells people of color, women, people with disabilities and the LGBT community (among others) that they do not belong in our pews through the norms of our worship. As we worry about how to become a more diverse denomination, we cling to what might be the main thing that keeps us inaccessible to people from so many other places on the margins. Our worship norms, our language, our music — our frozen chosen style — may create so many barriers to entry it is no wonder we are so damned white (96%, if you are wondering). The way we worship and the way we react to different styles of worship, music changes, etc (either protesting or tokenizing) reinforce white supremacy and keep people who are not a part of the dominant culture (or who don’t speak/have an affinity for the language of the dominant culture) away.

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Most of our ELCA churches still look like this, only the clothes are way less cool.  (1902 Confirmation photo, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Fremont, OH)

 

This is not new information to me. But I had mostly looked at it from the point of view of including other white people — white women, white people with disabilities, white members of the LGBT community. I hadn’t thought enough about how the very language we use may be a reason that people of color stay away.

For example: When I go to churches that have a ton of Father God talk, I get tense. I get annoyed. When I see a large amount of masculine language included in prayers, I get irritated. I want to see myself in worship; I want to hear that my LGBTQ community is included and that those who don’t identify with male or female gendered language have a space in worship. But I don’t consider how the worship might be exclusive to those for whom our the language of the dominant culture doesn’t make sense. I use music in worship that is accessible to people who like predominantly-white hipster music, but I don’t work to include much music that might be accessible to non-white people (which is some ways is because I don’t have those skills). I mean, I use some of the stuff from This Far by Faith, my denominations African-American liturgy, but that’s as far as it goes (also, I would highly doubt that anyone would have any idea that was what I was doing. In fact, I actually quit the gospel choir in my seminary because of the constant drone of masculine language in gospel hymns, preferring my comfort over the comfort of others who experience far more oppression than I do as a white woman.

The language, music and style of our worship services are, in general, that of the dominant culture. With the exception of the non-white Lutheran congregations out there, we all do the same thing in the same way (to one degree or another). Even when we are doing something “different” we are using the language of the dominant culture whether we know it (admit it) or not.  When we tell people of color that their songs aren’t Lutheran enough, when we exclude the possibility of including non-hymn music in worship, when we stick to the script, we reenforce whiteness on a grand scale. Some people in oppressed groups like our theology and our community enough to stick with it, but most will just walk away.

Last week, the ELCA clergy Facebook group did an experiment. All white clergy were asked to step back and listen to provide space for voices that are generally marginalized on the page. While there were many postings that caught my eye and tugged at my heart and my social justice bones, there was one I saw that pertained to this writing. One woman pastor of color posted a gospel hymn with the words, “It’s nice to post a non-Lutheran song here without worrying that it will be completely dissected for its non-Lutheran message. We can simply enjoy the song and singer. Also, realize that this is typical of the music that many of those not in church listen to and which inspires them.” This is what we white pastors have a horrible tendency to do: we explain away all of the reasons something doesn’t fit into our culture when it is incredibly meaningful for someone and make assumptions about whether the person who loves the songs understand the theology behind it. This is a shining example of how we, in the church, reinforce white supremacy and keep other cultures out of our pews and our lives, whether we mean to or not. We whites plain to others (or straightsplain or mansplain) why their language does not belong, and by doing so, we claim the space as “ours.” We tell other people that they do not belong, that they do not matter, and that our cultural preferences win. Every. Time.

There are exceptions to our (Lutheran) tendency to adhere to the cultural norms that are rooted in our European heritage, and I believe that whenever possible we (rostered and lay people) should get outside of our comfort zones and experience the worship of communities different from our own. When I was a student at LSTC, I attended a predominantly black church in Harvey, IL. What I experienced there blew my mind. I cannot express how uncomfortable I was at first. People would (gasp!) speak during worship, uttering “Amen” and “Praise the Lord!” during sermons, prayers, etc. Everyone would hug during the passing of the peace. There was a hip-hop liturgical dance troop, and the music was far more along the lines of Kirk Franklin than Martin Luther. But the members of that community went out of their way to make me feel at home. Every week I would try to escape before the passing of the peace, avoiding the barrage of hugs (I grew up in a shake hands with the people in front of and behind you church). One week, this little old woman stood in front of me as I moved to leave. I told her I had to go to the bathroom. She said to me, “No you don’t. I see you every week. you’re passing the peace today!” Then she hugged me. In that hug, she shattered 24 years of frozen chosen-ness inside of me. I began to enjoy that people were so into worship that they would vocally respond to things that resonated with them, to look forward to the gospel songs (I always liked the hip-hop liturgical dance troop and think that should happen everywhere). I had to make a cultural commute to be there, but the people helped me along. Making it easier was that the words for the liturgy were, by and large, the words I knew in my heart, so we were really meeting each other halfway. What can we do in our predominantly white spaces that meet people who aren’t of European descent halfway? How can we open up our spaces so that there is something for everyone?

Yes, we have an African-American liturgy and a Latino Liturgy, but for the most part they stand alone or are only included for theme times like Black History Month (and, honestly, I am probably just being hopeful here about what we do) or Pentecost. Pentecost — the one Sunday a year when we all welcome other languages to be spoken in our space. What would it look like if we used pieces of these liturgies every week? If we intentionally brought the languages (liturgical style, music, structure, tone, etc) communities that we don’t think of as “traditionally Lutheran” into our spaces. What if we examined our norms to think about the kinds of barriers they might put in the way of people seeking community in Christ? What if we occasionally used our bell choirs for a little hip-hop or meringue, or we got in the habit of using a more call and response style of liturgy? Or if we taught our congregations that it is okay to speak when the spirit moves you (there is no side eye like the side eye given to someone who Amen’s through a sermon at a predominantly white church). How can we remove barriers to not only white women and white queer folk, but to errybody? What would an intersectional* worship look like?

I don’t know if this would have a huge effect on our abysmal diversity statistics. But It seems like a really good place to focus some attention.

Friends who are not of the dominant culture: what do you think? How can we as a church become intersectional in worship? Would it matter?

 

BTW, I am not remotely saying that there aren’t people of all races who enjoy hymns or that classical music is a white thing. But I am saying that these are things that our white culture is most comfortable with and it might behoove us to look at the ways these things might be creating barriers for people who aren’t Scandinavian/German Lutherans.

 

*Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. So, by intersectional worship, I mean a worship that allows people to see their whole selves, all of their identities, reflected in the worship service. This definition is from Wikipedia 😉


On my own

The view from my campsite on Lake Diablo in The North Cascades. It was a-ma-zing.

The view from my campsite on Lake Diablo in The North Cascades. It was a-ma-zing.

The other day I was grousing to a friend about all of the things I need to re-learn now that I am single. There are many, many things (did you know there are rules to texting? There are). Quite a few are simply the rules to navigating socially as a single person (specifically a 35-year-old single female almost pastor), and many of those things I’m learning for the first time (some because I didn’t learn them well the first time). Other things, however, are pieces of knowledge I once had, but somehow lost by virtue of being married to someone who was better at certain things than I was. For example, I used to be really good at hooking up electronic equipment. I recently bought some new pieces for my stereo and it took me for freaking ever to get it put together. I used to feel like I was smart about cars, I could fix basic broken things around my house. Somehow, by virtue of having a man around (and, let’s be honest, some of these things he was better at, some, not so much) I forgot how to be self-sufficient.

I remember fighting it at first, insisting to do things on my own. Then it just became easier to let him do it (with computers it really was easier. I do miss having my own personal IT guy). In doing so, I lost some of the strength that came along with being able to do things myself. Without realizing it, I gave away some of my power and became dependent on the presence of another to get through parts of my daily life.

This became glaringly apparent to me this weekend. I went on my first solo camping trip without my dog. That’s where the problem begins. I kept thinking it was my first solo camping trip. I had totally forgotten that I had gone camping with Rocky a bunch before meeting my husband.

Camping is one of the many things that is a harder to do alone if you are a woman — or at least that is the perception most women have. We (women) are so acutely aware of the dangers in our world that we often fear things that we don’t really need to fear (like camping). I was hiking solo a few weeks ago and there was a guy hiking by himself behind me. I was afraid the whole damn time he was behind me. I finally stopped so he would get in front of me. I spent 20 minutes of my hike totally stressed out about getting attacked. Ugh. We spend so much time learning about how not to be raped (because that is apparently more important than teaching men to, you know, not rape), learning about statistics about violence against women, and, likely, watching too damn many crime shows (SVU, Criminal Minds…) that we freak ourselves out. It is hard to balance a reasonable wariness of the world with the desire to explore and do new things. Plus, I’m kind of afraid of the dark. For reals.  Add this to my love for shows like Ghost Hunters, and you’ve got one nervous first-time-solo-camper.

Then I realized that it is really rare to hear a story about someone getting raped or killed while camping. In fact, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. So I started thinking about perceived danger versus actual danger and realized that much of my fear was of perceived danger, not actual danger. This doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen while camping, but the changes are better that the bad thing is something stupid I’m going to do to myself (which I am just as likely to do at home) than something someone else is going to do to me. According to this article, of the 273 million visitors to the national parks in 2006, there were 11 violent deaths. That percentage is so small it’s barely a number.

I took precautions. I picked a spot next to some nice women who I think were professors, I listed my campsite as having two people, and I slept with my knife next to me (I’m kind of amazed I didn’t stab myself with it while searching for my headlamp. That was probably a not-safe precaution). I told a few friends where I would be.

After setting up I went for a spectacular solo hike. At one point I was so overcome by the beauty surrounding me I just stopped and got on my knees to give thanks. No joke. Then I hugged some trees (yeah, I’m a hippie, what of it?). I hiked partway back in the twilight (sadly, no sexy sparkly vampires), cooked with my camping stove and then sat on a tree trunk in the lake and watched the meteor shower. All by my damn self. All of it.

Sitting on that tree in the lake I started to remember all the things I can do by myself. The love of God overwhelmed me. I realized that I have a partner in God. I don’t need a romantic partner to do things. I don’t need to be made whole by another person, I am whole on my own. I am enough. It is nice to have someone to compliment me, and there were points when I really wish I could have expressed my appreciation for the beauty surrounding me to another person, but all in all it was pretty awesome doing it alone.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m saying I can get through life alone. That’s crap. I absolutely could not have gotten through the past four months without the amazing cloud of witnesses with which God has blessed me. I need love, I need hugs, and I don’t think I will ever stop hoping for that spark that happens when two people are well matched (or just think the other one is pretty neat), but I can do this on my own, with the help of my friends and family. That was an amazing thing to remember.


An apology

I was blessed to be raised in a very healthy, supportive, loving Christian environment. Many have not been so fortunate. I have long been aware of the damage done by Christians (mis)using the name of Christ and the cover of the church. Recently, however, I have been reading more and more about the scars left by spiritual abuse, by excommunication, exclusion, slut shaming, sin shaming, church sanctioned homophobia, sexual abuse and more. I’m kind of overwhelmed by it. It makes my heart-sick to read so very many accounts of pain and suffering caused by those who call themselves “Christians” (or Jesus followers or whatever was trendy that month). It pains me beyond words that so many Christian leaders are more interested in personal power and glory than in spreading Christ’s love to the world. So many stumbling blocks have been placed in the way of God’s people by individuals and institutions. So many have been hurt.

I just want to say, as a born and raised Christian, and a leader in the ELCA, I’m sorry.

I may not be the right person to say it. I am just one person, and I’m not the person who hurt you (or, rather I hope I’m not). But I am all too often driven to apology by the acts of other Christians in the name of God/Jesus/Church. I apologize to friends, to God, to the air around me. But I want to put it out to a wider audience, if possible.

I am sorry.

I am sorry that you were taught that you must be quiet, obedient and submissive in order to be a good female child of God, in order for God to love you, in order to be a good wife, mother, daughter, and woman. I am sorry that you were taught that men’s desires, thoughts and needs were and are more important than yours. God has called so many strong women into ministry in life and in the church (Deborah, Priscilla, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, the woman at the well, Phoebe). You are not called to silence. Your desires are no less important in marriage, church or life than those of men.

I am sorry that message of submissiveness has told you to stay in abusive relationships and has led confused children to be stuck in abusive situations out of a misplaced and damaging call to respect authority. This is wrong. God does not call anyone to be abused or to be a victim of violence. God offers shelter and love to the outcast, the forgotten, the imprisoned. Christians should too.

I am sorry that Christian leaders use their power, influence, charisma, position and perceived relationship with God to prey on you. I am sorry that you have been sexually abused/assaulted by Christian leaders. This is completely unacceptable, and violates quite a few commandments (as well as modern-day laws that are there for a reason).

I am sorry that you have been kicked out of their homes, families, faith communities, schools, circles of friends and other relationships because of their sexual orientation and/or gender. I am sorry that we have failed you, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, in times of crisis and need as well as joy and celebration. Love and sexuality are gifts from God, and when love exists in an environment of mutual love, respect and power, God rejoices. Those quotes people have thrown at you from Leviticus are part of purity codes we long ago stopped living, Sodom and Gomorrah is about lack of hospitality/ welcome to strangers, and Paul’s writings use a word for homosexual that can’t be found anywhere else in ancient Greek texts — so we don’t know what he is referring to (for sure). What we do know is that Jesus never said anything about it, and certainly never excluded anyone from his ministry (find some great resources on homosexuality and the Bible/Church/Christianity here).

I am sorry you have been made to feel like God doesn’t love you because of who you are, who you love, what you look like, what you believe. I am sorry you have been made to feel like a failure at faith because you have questions or doubts.  God created you, God knew you before you were born and God wants to be in relationship with you. Every relationship has questions and doubts (especially with an entity that is invisible and is represented by broken people). Doubt is the seed of faith.

I’m sorry for all of the times Christians have used the Bible to back up their prejudices, for every time you have been the victim of verbal, physical, spiritual or sexual violence because of your race, nationality or religion. Jesus called everyone to the table, preached a gospel of love and never violence. Christians are called to do the same. We fail a lot. I’m sorry.

I am sorry for the times you have been called out for your sin in ways that were judgmental, inappropriate, unhelpful, and painful (or just plain wrong). We are all broken, we all mess up, make bad decisions, hurt others and ourselves. When the people were about to stone a woman for her sins, Jesus had her back and convicted those who wanted to stone her at the same time. Someone should have done that for you.

I am sorry you have been threatened with hell and damnation. No one has the right to do that to you. I really wish everyone would realize that threatening people with hell is not a conversion tactic. Nobody likes it. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been told I’m going to hell many, many times, so at least we’ll have each other. Fortunately, I believe in a God of grace who asks for faith, not works, so I feel pretty good about my access to the kingdom of God.

I am sorry for any and all of the ways you have been injured by the church. God does not call Christians to judge people, God calls Christians to love radically and sacrificially (part of that sacrifice is suspending judgement, I think). While many of us have succeeded, many of us have failed.

And for that, I am so, so, so very sorry.

Lots of Christians are sorry for the injury done in the name of Christ. Missiongathering Christian church in San Diego put up this billboard in Cali in response to prop 8 and in NC in response to prop 1.

Lots of Christians are sorry for the injury done in the name of Christ. Missiongathering Christian church in San Diego put up this billboard in Cali in response to prop 8 and in NC in response to prop 1.


Slut shaming (Jesus says don’t do it)

Slut shaming. It’s the new thing. Well, it’s not new at all, really. It’s at least as old at the prophets, who repeatedly refer to Israel as a whore and a prostitute (two different things, mind you) for being untrue to God. Over and over again, Biblical imagery paints Israel as a woman who is verbally and physically abused by YHWH (God) for being unfaithful, for straying to other Gods. It is really painful to read this. It would be even more painful if I read these words as God’s words and not the expression of a community of faith trying to come to grips with horrific suffering. These are the scriptures of my faith. This is my holy book. And, at times, the things it has to say about women are pretty ugly*. Sadly, things haven’t changes much in the past 2500 years.

Clearly some things have, at least in the wealthier nations. It’s pretty uncommon to sell your daughters or to kill women who aren’t virgins when they get married, at least in the United States. These things are also illegal here. However, as mouthpieces as diverse as Rush Limbaugh and Bill Mahr have recently demonstrated, it’s still okay make women less than due to their sexuality. As it has been true throughout history, a pretty quick and easy way to take down a woman is to call her a slut, whore, hussy, tramp, prostitute, or bimbo. Call a woman’s sexual activity into question and she’s done. This is even more clear when we examine how quick everyone is to say that the woman Limbaugh insulted, Sandra Fluke, is NOT a slut, she is NOT promiscuous, she was just standing up or a friend who needed birth control for medical reasons. What if she did sleep with a ton of people? Would that have somehow made Limbaugh’s take down of her okay? Would it have been totally reasonable to disregard her testimony because she was *gasp* having a lot of sex?
This is tricky territory as a female Christian leader. I don’t want to strap women in chastity belts or conscribe us to lives of submission, nor do I want to make anyone feel dirty or ashamed of sex or their bodies. However, I don’t want to glorify having a lot of sex with random people. It is my observation that women tend to have random sex to fulfill other needs — the need for emotional connection, self-esteem, or approval — and usually end up not only not fulfilling these needs but usually feel worse afterwards. I also fully believe that sex is best had within a loving, committed relationship. This is where emotional and physical needs can be met (even spiritual needs), where you can talk about what you like and what you don’t like, where you can experiment, where you can cry during sex without being a total weird-o, and where you will (in theory) both be physically safe from disease and (also in theory) where you will be better prepared if a life is created from your coital joy. However, there’s something else I believe.
I believe that when Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he meant it. He said this to a crowd that was about to stone a woman who had been caught in adultery. He took on an angry crowd that was about to kill a woman for having sex by drawing a line in the sand and challenging the status quo. He stood up for the sluts of the world. When all the men went away, he asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” I love this part. He takes the time to point out to her that no one has any room to judge her, freeing her from her internal voices of judgement. “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus replies. “Now go and sin no more.” So, he’s not saying, “Have at it sister!” But he’s saying she’s alright, but she might want to change her ways. He doesn’t lecture her, doesn’t demean her, doesn’t take away any of her humanity. He loves her. He implores her to fix her brokenness. At no point does he judge her. And, as he is Jesus (and therefore God), if anyone gets to judge, it’s him.
So, in conclusion, STFU, angry mob of slut-shamers. Jesus said so.
*I’m still working on the roles of women in the prophetic texts. If anyone has words that will make me feel better about the whole God raping the woman Israel thing, I’m all ears. Or, in this case, eyes.

Because I’m a woman

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I vividly remember the first time the Bible was used to tell me I couldn’t do something because of my gender. I was 20 and in my first semester at my second college. Hanging out in the cafe talking to this really cute Christian boy (likely the only one at Warren Wilson College that year), I mentioned that I felt a really strong call to ordained ministry. He informed me, without so much as a pause, that I must be misinterpreting this call, as God would never call a woman to such a position. Then he started quoting Paul. Off the top of his head. This was all new to me. I had never been proof texted before, and I sure as hell had never had the Bible used to tell me I couldn’t do something.
Being told I was less than because of my possession of tits and a vagina was nothing new to me (or most women). Especially as I am crap at things that require hand-eye coordination. My mom and dad taught me to shake that off because I could do and be anything I wanted to, and my inability to play tee ball was not about my gender. But I had never been told that I couldnt do something because God said so. I didn’t have the defenses for that.
I left the cafe almost in tears. As soon as I got to my dorm room, I found my Bible and looked for these verses. There they were, plain as day (or so I thought). God told Paul that I couldn’t lead a congregation, couldn’t be an equal partner in my relationships with men, and generally should just shut my pie hole. Crying, I threw my Bible against the wall and cursed God and the apostle Paul.
Fortunately, we had some amazing religious leaders on campus. Dr. Sommers walked me through the importance of audience and context when reading Paul’s letters. Paul wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to a specific people at a specific time in history with specific issues. And he had some issues of his own. He also had female leaders in his group of gospel spreaders.
In the years since this experience I have heard again and again that a woman’s role is to have babies and care for the family and submit to the rule of her husband, through whom God speaks. Every time I hear this, it breaks my heart. And the voices peddling his crap seem to be getting louder. Purity balls, a creepy ritual in which young women pledge their purity to their fathers and fathers pledge to care for it, are an actual thing. Mark Driscoll and many like him are teaching that women should be submissive and feminine all the while treating that “sacred” and “blessed” role as an abomination if men want to take it on. And my sisters are buying it. Women are struggling with obeying what men are telling them God says and the different message they hear the Holy Spirit whispering to their hearts.
Now this battle to re-domesticate women has moved from churches to the government. Too many have heard the words of Christ as words of liberation, too many know that we are created in God’s image, male, female and somewhere between. The Holy Spirit has revealed to faithful men and women that women CAN lead, can preach and teach and administer the sacrament and lead households. And many Americans are so sick of the hate and prejudice spewed by the religious right that they aren’t listening to the church anymore. Now, those who want to keep women powerless have to force it upon us through legislation. Want to keep women out of the public sphere? Make birth control illegal so that they have to keep pumping out babies. Force them to be vaginally violated by the government if they decide that they don’t want to carry their pregnancy to term. Make sure women know their opinion is irrelevant by not allowing them in on the conversation.
Unfortunately for those go wish to make sure women’s voices are silenced, God created us to be badasses. Blood doesn’t scare us; we bleed every month. Pain? We were created to push watermelons out of a hole the size of a lime. Intelligence? We invent, we create, we write. Strong and fast? We win sports championships. Church cred? We become bishops. We reform the church. We push through your glass ceilings even while being harassed and put down; we do it in uncomfortable shoes and an itchy bra. We love radically and fiercely. This is how God created us. And, as long as God has our back, your efforts to keep us silent and subservient are going to lose.

An anthem for this post: