Woman, Christian, and the “F” Word

I read a recent article that asserted, quite vehemently, that Christian women do not need to use the “F” word.

A few months ago, upon visiting my mom’s church, I heard to a sermon about Luke, the writer of the Gospel and a physician.  The minister listed all of the many ways Luke, and Jesus himself, were fair to women.  All the ways women were included in the ministry of Jesus.  All the kindnesses that were shown to women.

But the minister was sure to point out that Luke was not…the “F” word.

feminism

After all, according to some, the “F” word is responsible for driving a wedge between husbands and wives, between mothers and children, and the unhinged slaughter of innocent babies.  How could a Christian ascribe to such a philosophy?

I’ll tell you why I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, AND the “F” word.

In the church I grew up in, the first argument against almost any activity was, “Think of what it could lead to.”  Drinking one glass of wine could lead to drunkenness, so you better not drink alcohol ever.  Dancing a slow dance with a boy could lead him to lust, which could lead to sex…so you better not take that 6-week ballroom dancing class.

And apparently, somehow, believing that women have equal intelligence and equal rights under the law and before God leads to broken homes and dead babies.  So, you better not give womb bearers equal rights under the law because you never know what they might use that freedom to do!  Because we all know that if men could bear children, no man would EVER use his freedom to end an unborn child’s life.  Right.

Using the “what could it lead to” argument is false logic, and is only applied when it is convenient.

I’ve never heard anyone in my church warn that using pharmaceutical drugs could lead to drug addiction, so better not go to the doctor or have surgery.  Even though, every year, more people initiate abuse of prescription drugs than any other drug.

The second argument used in my church against getting involved in an activities is “guilt by association.”  They like to use that old adage, “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” Or even that warning about “causing your brother to stumble,” (which is also handy with the slow dancing argument, above).

Unfortunately, that was also the argument used by the Pharisees when they accused Jesus of wrongdoing.  “If you knew what kind of woman she was,” they spat at Our Lord, “You wouldn’t let her touch you!”  They blasted him for “eating with sinners and tax collectors.”  They wanted to stop his miracles because he dared to heal on the Sabbath!

They claim that if we (the ones who claim the “F” word) only understood how much damage it has done in the world…how many broken homes…how many dead babies…in the name of the “F” word, then we would never associate with it.

I could say the same for Christianity.

In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to call myself a Christian when I think of how many injustices I and my children have suffered alone in the name of Christianity.  And then when I compound that by how many lives and families and futures that have been literally destroyed in the name of Christianity worldwide and throughout history, then I feel like I can make the same argument.  Why claim to be a Christian when you understand just how much human suffering has happened as a result!

I’m sorry, but your arguments are false.

The “F” word has a place in modern Christianity and with modern women.

Only a person who has never experienced racism would ever claim that because the Civil Rights Movement accomplished many of its goals to end legalized racism and segregation that racism no longer exists, and there is no need for a Christian to also be a Civil Rights Activist.

And it also follows that only a person who has never experienced sexism would ever claim that because the Feminist Movement accomplished many of its goals to afford equal rights for women that sexism no longer exists, and there is no need for a Christian to also be a Feminist.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the original suffragettes, said that “the Bible and the church have been the greatest stumbling block in the way of women’s liberation.”  And that has been my experience, too. 

It was in church that I was taught that women, by executive order of God himself (re I Cor. 14: 34), are “to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak…and if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for a women to speak in church.”

It was in church that I was told that women are not allowed to preach, teach, or otherwise have authority over a man.  It was in church that I was taught that God’s equal regard for men and women (Galatians 3:28) does not mean equal roles, equal consideration, nor equal rights.

And it was when I stepped outside of church that I learned that so much of what I learned inside my church regarding God’s will for women were LIES.

Yes, Feminism is still needed.  And it is needed in our churches.

I regret and am saddened by the harm has been done in its name, but that does not mean that the movement itself is without merit or worth.

Just as those who do horrendous acts in God’s name don’t represent the true God and His will, women who use the “F” word to justify bashing men or leaving their families or even making abhorrent choices, do not represent what Feminism really is.  Unfortunately, their acts have made Feminism the “F” word to many Christians.

So yes, I am a Woman, A Christian, and A Feminist.

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They Gave Me a Box – From The Junia Project

I really like The Junia Project blog.  Today, they published this poem that really spoke to me.  I often describe my former church as being in a box, and this is an apt and artistic description.

Click here to see original: The Junia Project

THEY GAVE ME A BOX

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I grew up learning about you
I saw you in the love shared by everyone around me
I heard about you in the sermons and sang about you in the songs
I read about you and thought about you

And so I came to you, and you met me
You loved and cared for me
You grew me and taught me
You fashioned me and called me

And I took what you had given me and went back to the place I had first heard about you
I was filled with anticipation – what would they have me do? You had given me so many gifts

Perhaps I could speak about you
Perhaps I could teach others to follow you
Perhaps I could spread your message to the world
Perhaps I could invite others to your table, to take part in your supper

For they had always prayed for you to raise up people of my generation
They had always said how desperately your Kingdom needed more voices, more hearts, more hands, and more feet

So, with anticipation I presented myself to them
Only to be confused by their response

For when I offered them this voice that you had given me
When I offered them these hands that you had strengthened
When I offered them these feet that you had guided

They gave me a box

They gave me a box in which to keep my passion
They gave me a box in which to store my wisdom
They gave me a box in which to put my words
They gave me a box to hold my hands and my feet

They gave me a box and they told me it was your “will” for me as a woman

When I asked if they had a box that fit a bit better, they told me to be happy with what you had given me
When I told them you had given me things that wouldn’t fit inside the box, they told me I must be mistaken
When I asked if there was anything else they could offer, they told me the box was a perfect place to keep my questions

And so I come to you

Me, and everything you have given me
Me, and everything you have created me to be
Me, and everything you have called me to

And the box

I’m a bit bruised from trying to fit inside of it
And now that I’m standing in front of you, I realize that you don’t want me to

And I see that I have a choice

I can keep this box they have given me and throw out all the things that don’t fit
I can ignore the time I spent with you, the gifts you have given me, the calling you gave me
I can dismember my soul in order to fit into the dimensions of the box
I can live for them and let their box define me

Or

I can trust the way you made me, the way you prepared me, the way you called me
I can lean on you for guidance and walk in the footsteps of brave women who’ve gone before me
I can live fully alive in you and trust that you are a God who is bigger than the box
I can set the box down and walk away
I can live for you and let you define me

They gave me a box – and called it yours
You offer me freedom – and call it mine

So I take the box
And put it on a shelf
And label it history

Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box

Kate Wallace

is a co-founder of The Junia Project, Operations Manager for the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, coordinator for the WHC Freedom Network, and an adjunct professor in political science. She is a committed Christian and millennial feminist who enjoys studying the intersection of politics, religion, & gender. Her favorite theologian is Gilbert Bilezikian, and she loves chocolate, dogs, hiking, J.K Rowling, theatre, and political theory. She holds a Master of Science from London School of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts from Azusa Pacific University.

 

Grappling with Christian Community

friends foreverAt church on Sunday the preacher handed out little slips of paper to everyone with these words…”Christian Community is so important to me because…”

I felt my tongue turn to sandpaper and miniature droplets blurred my vision.  How could I conjure up a succinct, yet complete, response?

You see, I’m “in a relationship” with a new church.  Its official…I even posted it on my Facebook status.

It’s both scary and hopeful for me.

Scary because I’ve been hurt so often and lost so much.  Nearly two years ago I officially withdrew my name from membership from the church I joined when I was 16.  My mom and dad had not raised me in that church…I chose it myself.

30 years later,  I was done with church.  No, I was not done with God…not done with Christianity…just THAT church.  But the question remained…Why, when being a part of a Christian community had ruined my life could I want to be a part of another one…EVER?

Yet hopeful because I know what I WANT Christian community to mean to me.  I believe what it CAN mean.

I certainly don’t expect perfection or platitudes or even for the community to have all of the “answers to life, the Universe and Everything.”  But I do want it to mean connection…authenticity…challenge…growth…purpose.  I want to feel like I am a part of what God is doing…to be God’s hands and feet here on Earth.  I want to use my talents for teaching and writing and compassion and empathy and spiritual discernment for the Kingdom of God.  Here I am, Lord, send me.

But getting close enough to connect and challenge…to be real enough to stop pretending that I’m grappling with so many aspects of life…to be open enough to allow myself to stretch and grow and follow and agonize and love…to be foolish enough to reveal my dreams and wishes and fears and my million, billion flaws and ideas…and my humanness.

To risk being rejected (again), shunned (again), ignored (again), underestimated (again), used (again), and abused (again) seems impossible, actually inscrutable.  Why would I submit to such a thing?  Richelle E. Goodrich says, “Forgive and forget is a divine ideal.  Grappling with hurt while biting you tongue and struggling to refuse justifiable vengeance – that’s closer to human reality.”

That’s closer to my reality.

But I actually like this quote even better…

 “Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolick, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
Alysha Speer

So THIS is the answer I couldn’t write on my paper last week.  Here are the words it has taken me a week of tears and prayer and reading and meditating to realize:

Christian community is so important to me because…I want to laugh, smile, cry, sing, trust, twirl, frolic, learn, worship, serve, love, and experience God and this life, with God’s people.  And because of the crap that has happened to me, I am a lot better at all of those things than before.  And I now have strength, and insight, and compassion, and knowledge that I can contribute to a community, as we become more and more willing and able and bold enough to allow God to shape and mold us more and more into the likeness of His Son.

To read more about this topic, check out Why Do I Still Go to Church?

What Christians Get Wrong about Sexual Abuse

About 2 years ago, I left my church. I had many, many reasons but the proverbial “last straw” was seeing how the leaders of my church treated a 17-year-old rape victim while protecting the perpetrator. I feel that this article written by Samantha Fields is right on the money. I couldn’t have said it better.

Ending Conversations

This week I had one of those conversations.  You know the ones.  The one that isn’t the last one…it isn’t the big one that finally ends the relationship forever…but one of the ending conversations.

When things just aren’t working out.  A relationship, a job, a marriage isn’t over yet…but its a foregone conclusion.  Both parties know where we are going but aren’t ready to say the words.

Not “I don’t think we should see each other anymore,” but “I’m just going to say in tonight. I’m tired.”

Not “Your fired,” but “I wonder if this job is a good fit for you?”

Not “I want a divorce,” but “I’m not happy with where our marriage is going.”

I had a lot of those conversations the last year I was married to my ex-husband.  He complained a lot about my inability to keep the house clean enough, or my inconsistency with the children, or my lack of driving skills, or ineptitude in a plethora of activities.  In those conversations, I always vowed to do better, to be better, to make it better.  I never could.  No matter how much I worked or how hard I tried, it just wasn’t enough to make him satisfied.

Then one afternoon, I’d had enough.  Enough of promises.  Enough of pleading for one more chance to prove that I was enough.  And I sat him down and had an ending conversation.

I said, “You complain about the house, the kids, my weaknesses, and my ineptitude at just about everything.  And I realized that your problem isn’t with any of those things.  Your problem is with me.  You don’t want to be with me.”

“Because I know that if you DID want to be with me, that none of those other things would matter.  You would overlook them, you would help me with them, you would love me in spite of them.”

“And I also know that even if I was perfect at all of those things you complain about now, all you would have is just a perfect version of me.  Its just me.  All you are left with is me, and me isn’t who you want.”

I don’t remember how that conversation proceeded.  I know it wasn’t the “I want a divorce” conversation.  It wasn’t the big one that ended the relationship forever.  But it was an ending conversation.

It did turn out that soon afterwards we did have that final conversation where the word ‘divorce’ was finally used.  That one was very ugly and sad and remember that both of us spent time crying most of the night.

Those conversations are hard to have, but I guess they are part of the terrain of relationships with other human beings.  In the end, all you have left is unique individual human beings.  And if it isn’t me you want, then we have no other choice but to part ways.

 

 

 

5 Things NOT to Say to Someone in Crisis (Or How Not To Be a Friend of Job)

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One of the most painful things that I have experienced in my time of crisis has been the insensitivity of others.  I truely believe that people usually mean well.  Maybe they don’t know what to say and they feel like a dolt if they don’t say anything, so the most random and well, I’ll just say it…stupid things come out of their mouths instead.

I am reminded of Job’s friends.  You may remember the story of Job.  Job was a healthy, wealthy land owner and father of 10 children.  Then God allowed Satan to take everything from him except his life.  So Job lost all of his children, all of his wealth, and even became terribly ill.  When his friends heard of his misfortune and agony, they came to comfort him.  But instead of comfort, they heaped accusations, blame, and even insinuated that God was punishing him for some sin in his life. 

Oh, don’t we do the same?  When we see someone suffering in any way, don’t we rush to accuse?  Don’t we consider that “they made their bed, so they must lie in it?”  Somehow we have a cause and effect paradigm.  Doing good = blessings and doing bad = cursing.  Therefore when something bad happens, we are looking for what the “sinner” did wrong to deserve their treatment.

Here are 5 things NOT to say to people in crisis:

1. “Why do you keep talking (or crying) about this?  You need to grow up and move on.”  People who have gone through the crisis of divorce are going through the total rejection of the person they are by the very person who promised to love and care for them for the rest of their lives.  By insinuating that they should be “over it” you are rejecting them as well.  You are telling them that their pain and burdens are not worth your time or attention, either.  

2. “Sometimes these things happen.”  This phrase randomizes the crisis that they are going through.  You are telling them that their pain and suffering has no purpose, and in that phrase, they feel THEY have no value or purpose, either.  The other problem with this phrase is that it is empty.  The person saying it doesn’t even believe that the crisis is a random event such as a hurricane or a thunderstorm, but most possibly the crisis was self-inflicted, but they are too polite to say so.

3. “Count Your Blessings” or any variation of tired sayings.  When a person is in the midst of crisis, any crisis, about 85% of their energy is emotional energy.  Don’t trivialize what they are going through with empty cliches and platitudes.  Don’t use the Bible as a weapon to further damage their soul and spirit. 

4. “There are Two People in Every Marriage”  This one really boils my skin!  This is that His Needs, Her Needs hogwash.  Its the misplaced idea that if he leaves her, its because she didn’t meet his needs (or vice versa).  This is pure rubbish and IMHO a lie straight from the pit of Satan.  How many marriages break up because one partner becomes mentally ill or falls into addiction?  How can the innocent spouse, who many times faithfully stands beside their partner through many dark years, be told he/she didn’t meet their spouses needs?  How can a woman who flees an abusive husband be blamed for not meeting his needs?  Men or women who have affairs do so because they consider their own desires more important than the needs of their family or spouse.  We have such a “blame the victim” mentality in our society.  We are certainly no better than Job’s friends when we say things such as this.

5. “I’m praying for you.”  Now, this one can go either way, and it does depend on the context and the person saying it.  Certainly, this can be said in all sincerity.  It has been said to me by some of my dearest friends and I have appreciated it so much.  However, it has also been said in a way that meant, “I’m siking GOD on you.”  When I started dating after my divorce, I was told this phrase often and I knew they were saying it as a rebuke, not an actual intercession.

Actually, the first week, Job’s friends did okay.  They just came.  They just comforted and listened and served.  But when they started talking…well…they added to Job’s misery and suffering and pain instead of consoling and comforting their friend.  And the worst part is…they were WRONG!  Their determination that Job was the guilty one and that he deserved his suffering somehow was WRONG!! 

Job’s friends were afraid!  They were afraid that if there was no direct cause and effect, that the bad thing that had happened to Job could just as easily happen to them.  And out of their fear came accusations and the false pride of men (human).  Trust God.  See and Listen and Accept your friends who are suffering.

Don’t be a Friend of Job.

The Cocoon of Becoming (Part 1)

 

When my first marriage ended 6 years ago, I honestly thought my life was over.  I planned my suicide.  I bought enough pills and alcohol to do the job.  I planned the time of day and location where I wouldn’t be found immediately.  I programmed the whole act very methodically in my mind…all the way down to who would find my body.

But then The Holy Spirit gave me a vision of what really would happen if I carried out my plan.  He told me that my 14 years old daughter, Savanna, would be the one who would find me and that seeing my dead body would mar her life forever.  That she would then have to go and live with the father who had just abandoned her and she would be separated from her siblings who were both over 18 and would choose NOT to live with him.

Then He gave me a new vision.  It was more of a physical experience in the HOLY than a vision. (Please understand that my former church believed that visions and physical experiences such as these were not possible) I had been sitting on the floor of my bedroom with the pills and alcohol in my lap when I received the first vision.  So from that position, the Holy Spirit had me to push those items away from me under the bed and lay down in the fetal position on the floor.

Then I felt a chord begin to wrap around and around me, enclosing my body, holding me tightly.  I became warm and comfortable as the silver chord continued to swaddle my body.  The chord continued to wrap me until I was completely enclosed in a cocoon of pure love.  And I lay there just knowing, just feeling, just being LOVED.  My Father God was not rejecting me just because my husband of 21 years was.  He was telling me that I would not always feel sad, or lonely, or rejected, or alone.  That I and my children were going to be okay.  He knew that we were not okay right now, but we would be again, and that He was not leaving us or giving up on us as we traveled through this journey of pain and darkness.

And then I heard these words.  I don’t know if they were audible or if they were just spoken straight to my heart and soul, but the words were, “You are in the cocoon of becoming.”
butterfly tulipMy Abba Father was telling me in that moment that He was doing something new in my life, something I could not anticipate, something I could not foresee. I would become something that I was not now nor have been; something different…someone different.