Showing posts from 2009


I don't typically play music obsessively....but lately I've latched onto Sting's If on a Winter's Night, perhaps because it's emphatically not Christmas music. I've rarely been running the heat...leaving as much of a chill in the apartment as is really possible in a South Carolina December. It somehow seems important to burrow into winter, to wrap the darkness and the damp around me. Which would be much easier with the quiet hush of snowfall.
My instincts are to slow down before Christmas....I have no shopping, wrapping, cardwriting impulses at this time of year. The whirl of school activity becomes draining and often I finish semesters dragging and exhausted. I used to think this made me horrible person, but lately, I've decided it's just that I have Advent built into me.

While I was in Belize, I learned that the Mayans didn't believe in endings, simply in new beginnings (particularly interesting and disturbing was that this was part of the rationa…

Why Contraception?

Since the question's been raised, and because contraception takes up significantly more of my time and energy than most peoples', we'll talk.

Because it should be said- I am fully aware that my ability to study, travel, write and advocate is contingent upon fact that I, as an educated western woman have complete and total control of my fertility and how my sexuality is expressed. I'm willing to acknowledge my bias and admit that if I lived in another place or time I might be a different person and feel differently, but I'm incredibly grateful to be a woman in the United States in the twenty-first century.

With that disclaimer-
Why do I believe contraception is so incredibly important?

1) 68,000 women per year die from complications of unsafe abortions.
2) 536,000 women per year -approximately 1 per minute-die of pregnancy complications and childbirth (90% of these are in Africa and Asia).
3) Globally, 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and 25% are unwanted.
(All statisti…

The post we'll pretend doesn't exist

I typically choose not to delve into my personal life here. However, this is important enough that I'm going to break protocol....and you, dear reader, take whatever's helpful from this, but we're all going to pretend I didn't write it, because I don't want to have the conversations it could initiate.

Previously, I've briefly touched on my history of self-harm:
Here, and here

Nov 13 several of my Facebook friends very visibly celebrated "To Write Love on Her Arms" Day. This was problematic enough for me personally that I had to point out that it might be counterproductive, and no one else seemed to realize it.

I'm not pretending to speak for everyone, but there are things that I wish people would take into consideration before plastering phrases all over Facebook.
So...briefly, as I try to avoid writing things that may be harmful or triggering to others:

1)"To Write Love on Her Arms" is really, really problematic phrasing. Switch out the im…

Christian Bleeding Hearts?

Given my great fondness for books and propensity for writing up lengthy reviews or responses, taking some time to blog a response to Half the Sky really was inevitable. Nicholas Kristof holds the distinction of being one of three living human beings I'm in love with (the other two being Barbara Kingsolver and Michelle Obama- I get along much better with dead people for some reason), so I'd anticipated this book all summer.
It didn't disappoint.

Kristof and WuDunn make their points about brutality without being excessively graphic, making this a book I can recommend to others (unlike, say Sunday at the Pool in Kigali). It's hard to imagine the amount of work that went into this book. Lots of first person interviews and a massive amount of time spent in the library. End notes are respectable, and do a decent job of pointing readers to primary sources. Personally, I had one issue with the end notes- the authors state that studies that evaluate the efficacy of abstinence-o…

again with sexuality in the Bible Belt

Returning to this discussion.
The whole evening was....intriguing. I felt a wee bit like an anthropologist, not being an LGBTQ individual, or a minority, and given that my Christianity looks radically different from what's typical of the Bible Belt.

But the most gripping moment was at the end, when the final audience question was asked.
"What strategies can be used to empower young people to use safe sex practices and how can the Church contribute?" Every nerve in my body was at atention- one of my professors has hinted at rumors that occasionally church members can be convinced that condom distribution was actually their idea, and I thought Bishop Rawls was going to share the secret.

My mouth literally dropped open when Bishop Rawls started talking about building bridges/relationships and moving beyond dialogue. She continued with "I'm owning how important it is that my life speak more [than my words]." This led into a discourse on the lack of role models for…

Priveleges of university students...

include the ability to procrastinate on schoolwork to dash off to something equally academic but more interesting. With some prompting from a colleague, I exerted that privilege and attended a panel discussion on "Bible Belt Race, Power, and Sexuality" last night.

I took away quite a few thoughts, and will try to progress through them in a somewhat orderly manner...
Dr. Shaw opened the discussion by showing a portion of the film "Black is....Black Ain't" which I need to watch in its entirety. Something that jumped out at me was the number of interviews in which participants said "Religion is about bringing people together." "If it doesn't result in peace with others, it's not from God." All panelists reiterated this viewpoint, including Bishop Rawls. As a Christian, I couldn't help finding this remarkably disturbing- Jesus makes it quite clear in Mathew 10 that he didn't come to bring peace but a sword, and that his followers c…

My bishop isn't crazy:reflections on Canterbury and Rome

Given my response to a certain event last week (that I've been referring to as the "Canterbury-Rome Cataclysm") there are things I need to say...perhaps primarily to reestablish my status as a rational human being.

I have a bishop who seems to be rather concerned about healing schism. This is a good thing. However, it seems to result in my being greatly upset with him rather often. He is currently taking the stance that "This offer from Rome is a good thing, however, there are some problems that need to be addressed before we, as our particular branch of the Church are interested." Given my strong feelings on the matter, this scared me...until I realized that he more or less said the same thing to the ACNA. I was upset about that too, though less upset, and for totally different reasons (that may be worthy of their own post). We're not going anywhere, we're just talking about it. And even though that seems a little dishonest to me, I think it's rig…

Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide

The following is a review requested by a priest and written for a church newsletter....I have a lot more thoughts, which will be addressed in future posts, but this ought to be a decent introduction, at least.
“[S]ex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women’s issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed.” This assertion is the driving force behind Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s latest book, Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.While most couples start their marriages discussing what color to paint the living room or how to divide chores, Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn moved to China as New York Times correspondents. They witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre and were horrified. That initial shock was soon dwarfed by the discovery that each year 39,000 infant girls die in China because parents do n…

Rome, Rome, go away

I don't have time for this. But to quickly chronicle my response to yesterday's incredibly disturbing news: I am a continuing Anglican- this means I am Protestant and Catholic at the same time, and I believe this is where the fullness of the Christian faith is held. I cannot submit to the bishop of Rome because I do not believe his authority was divinely given, or even justly attained.

It took me two years, after realizing that I was Anglican in thought and worship, to change my church affiliation. This was because I knew that in embracing the Church of England, I would be stepping into a vehement fight over interpretations of scripture and the role of women and gays. It looked ugly from the outside, and I didn't want any part of it. Yet it hurt, because the Church of England was really my church, and my attempt to avoid pain and confusion was only successful in denying myself a place of refuge. The Church of England is a unique entity, and in order to be here, I had to a…

"Adopt a Liberal"

Ironically enough, I caught this on NPR en route to church last week. I screamed, and decided I wanted to start an "Adopt a Conservative" organization.

Barry Lynn's quotes helped bring things back in perspective:
"As a Christian minister myself, I'm always happy to accept the prayers of other people, particularly when they're not calling for my death and dismemberment."

"One of the great things about the principle of separation of church and state is that people can pray for people whether they like it or not."

This is how I, as an Anglican, pray for my elected officials:

"O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to The President of the United States and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their ca…

for students

I'm that woman, the one in sensible flats with a purple ink pen grading papers. I'm pretty sure every science department has at least one....somewhere along the way we've realized that purple is much less hostile than red, and if you leave lots of comments, it makes them easier to read. We also try to avoid large x-marks and emphasize the answers you got right.

I want to gouge my eyes out when you answer "true" to a multiple choice question and I may occasionally fling my pen across the room because you didn't even try to answer a question. If you use words like "malignant neoplasm" I cringe, because while I know what you're talking about, I'm not sure you do. When I look through your essays, I'm trying to figure out what you meant and if you were even close to being on the right track, while I insert commas and omitted letters. Sometimes I leave you sympathetic smiley faces when you slip up, and I do my best to point out your creative …


I wore pearls for my grandmother's funeral. Not the strand she'd given me, it wasn't the right length for my shirt. But I wore pearls nonetheless, and pearl studs in my ears. I will always associate pearls with my grandmother...perhaps partly because of her June birthday, but always because of her classic, polished beauty.

Before my grandfather died almost a year ago, he requested that Galatians 5:22-23 be read at his funeral: "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

My uncle, likely at my grandmother's request, asked me to choose the scripture reading for hers.
My selection was Proverbs 31:25-31:
"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her child…


I'm looking forward to Advent so much right now. It's partly because Trinity-tide/Ordinary Time drags on soooo long. And while the tone everywhere drops during this season, the two Anglican churches in town have gone much more low/casual than I am used to or comfortable with. It would be almost enough to make me reconsider my ECUSA issues, except ECUSA has gotten so low church in general, I don't think it would make a difference. And I love Advent (and Lent) -the seasons of waiting and preparation resonate with me so much more, perhaps because of their quiet, austere, contemplative nature.But mainly, Trinity-tide is hard because it's the season most closely connected to the life and growth of the Church.

The Church is a petty group of First Baptisters in a Bible-belt town who drained the life out of my father and my family before throwing us on the dunghill. It is also the pastors and friends in that small town who offered loving silence and prayed peace and grace for …

back to school

I've read or heard so many people's reflections on going back to school sheep-like, I'm writing my own.

It's only been about six weeks that I've been out of class, and a significant portion of that time was spent doing groundwork for an independent study project. So it's far easier to see the descent of students as an intrusion than any sort of new beginning. Road construction in Columbia has made running errands an obstacle course. The roads weren't in bad shape to begin with, people in Maine would have been *thrilled* with them. But now I find myself dodging rippled pavement, heavy machinery and orange cones nearly every where I go. The textbook buying/bill paying/random office visiting routine is a little old after nearly six years of post-secondary education. Parking on campus is beyond abysmal and dictates my daily schedule. And either all the stress of the past eight months has taken up residence in my abdomen or I've picked up a …

"This is what a feminist looks like"

My father recently joined facebook. I'm not sure what my parents' goal was in child raising-if they hoped to send another right-wing evangelical off to spread the gospel/fight the culture wars/ raise like-minded children, they failed miserably. If they were hoping to raise a gutsy compassionate young woman who thinks for herself and has a fierce loyalty to Christ and the Church, they hit a home run. Given this dichotomy, I had to family-proof my facebook profile. A couple photo albums were marked off limits, the link to this blog hidden, and I left two facebook groups:"I'm sorry, Jesus probably wasn't white...or Republican" and "This is what a feminist looks like."

This wasn't easy-"Feminist" is a label I've sported proudly since high school. Somewhere, I may still have a button or t-shirt with the above statement...or perhaps, the more direct "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

And as I'm leaving …

Because I wished to live deliberately

On occasion, I wonder why I blog or write at all, when everything I could possibly wish to say has already been said. After reading Nicholas Kristof's column, today is one of those occasions. One of my college professors was quite fond of saying that our entertainment functions as both a mirror and map of our culture- reflecting what we are, and showing where we will go. I think it would border on insulting to call the writings of a Pulitzer prize winning journalist entertainment, but Kristof is certainly both my map and mirror. Because of the depth and breadth of his concerns about the environment, human rights around the world, women's issues and education he often pushes me beyond the things I've considered, into a more committed, more compassionate view of the world. At other times, like today,when I've freshly returned from two weeks spent mainly wandering the woods in Belize, he reflects my own ponderings and concerns.

The greatest gift my parents gave me-one of r…


I've been back in the lovely, green, humid, southeastern US for almost 48 hours at this point. (Belize is also lovely, green and humid, but that's beside the point).
Pictures have been more or less sorted through and posted on Facebook.
I've seen a few photos and a video of the beautiful daughter of a friend who was born while I was out of the country.
Have caught up with Nick Kristof's column....lots of writing about women's issues in Pakistan the past few weeks. He is my hero and inspiration as always.
There is food in my kitchen now, and clothes have been washed, and bills paid. And I've re-entered the world of phone calls in the wee hours of the morning.
I can't talk coherently about Belize yet. There are a total of 27 pages scrawled in my journal from that time...which isn't excessive, but does indicate that a great deal of observation and thinking happened.

Some very exciting ideas for where to take this independent study project....but all dependent on…


Possibly the most infuriating thing about my time at [small liberal arts Christian college] was the flippancy towards the natural world we lived in. There were lectures in which I was told "the world was built for catastrophe and God's not going to let us destroy it", and my personal favorite was the chapel service in which Relatively Well Known Theologian claimed that people concerned about the environment were "Foolish, Faithless, and Fearful" because "Air pollution is actually a picture of the Resurrection. Living organisms died and became fossil fuels, which we burn and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which encourages the growth of plants. It's life coming from death"

That's a statement I cannot repeat without literally shaking in rage. I live in a state where it's unsafe to eat fish from many of our rivers and streams because of mercury deposits from coal plants. That doesn't sound like Resurrection, Redemption, or any o…


well, the obvious thing to follow a post on self-harm is a post on tattoos - the process of voluntarily submitting yourself to pain at the hands of another, for a personalized scar. I'm not sure that it's a universal correlation but it's worth observing that each of the women I know who has a history of self-harm also has a tattoo (or more, in a couple cases).

Opinions in the Christian community about tattoos are strongly divided- remarkable, given the facial tattoos of the Coptic Christians once upon a time. Heck, even outside the Christian community...a dear friend's father-in-law spent much of her wedding weekend lamenting loudly that we have "defaced" ourselves, and wondering why on earth a beautiful young woman would do such a thing. "It's like someone spray painting a sign on the Grand Canyon."

There's the loudly expressed views that "it hurts your testimony." "You're just being like everyone else in the world, and on…


A sundress, a tank top....throwing sunscreen on my shoulders before I run out the door...that's when I see the scars. The thin raised lines left by a razorblade or exacto knife, they're mostly on my left shoulder. Sometimes, on waking, I mistake one of the lines on my forearm for a crease left by a folded sheet. The sudden shock that it's a permanent mark I've given myself makes my stomach turn, no matter how many times it happens.

Is it possible to explain? The remnants of some of the very worst days are etched on my body. I'm not sure which bit of the latticework belongs to the day S. died...even though I didn't know at the time, it's there, written in my skin.

It's funny. The handful of people who happen onto this bit of knowledge shudder in horror and quote Bible verses. Or shrug, depending on where they've come from. It's an almost commonplace reality for some of of my generation. What drives this? The answers aren't the same for everyo…


I'm the girl in with dangley earrings and a tattoo in the back pew. The one who looks like a pretty heathen unless you happen look long enough to notice that she knows when to genuflect,she thumbs through the Book of Common Prayer with ease, her favorite hymns are translations of the writings of Thomas Aquinas and she has to restrain herself from running up to the altar at Communion. In many ways,I and those like me are the new face of the Anglican/Roman Catholic/Orthodox triune. Serious, thoughtful,devout....who may not agree with every jot and tittle of church tradition but who love it, who have experienced traditional Protestantism and are painfully aware of its failings. Mother Kirk is accustomed to Cradle Catholics and is uncertain of how to embrace us seeker mystics. This hesitancy and confusion is what currently has me bouncing between two Anglican churches in town with very different strengths and weaknesses.

The church I was at this morning is a lovely Anglo-Catholic &quo…


One of the great gifts of being Catholic is not being confused or overwhelmed when saints and Bible characters step off the pages into your life at the moments when you need them most. You are free to rejoice in the realization that you have a relationship with the Church Triumphant. Ironically, I think Martin Luther was the first person I experienced this with, and his passion for grace, love of Scripture, devotion to truth, perseverance, and reverence at the Real Presence of Christ at Communion were instrumental in leading me to the Church of England (in a similar vein- I have an Episcopalian friend who's been known to request prayer from good St.Martin on All Saint's day). Next was the Apostle Thomas, as I stood at his tomb in India, at a point in my life when I had been nearly destroyed by doubt and fear. He showed me that doubt could be restored; by grace, the man who has become a near universal symbol of doubt and unbelief had enough faith to travel to India, to pour out…


It's begin slowly sharing the news: I'm going to Belize in July. This isn't something I feel compelled to advertise to every random friend and acquaintance, and I doubt that it will be mentioned on Facebook (well, I'm likely to post photos after the fact).

But I am going. Cornerstone Foundation is an intrinsically interesting organization, that seems to be about the same things I am (community empowerment, respect for culture and the individual, AIDS outreach). In some ways it seems like an ideal setting for my practicum project, and I'll be exploring that as well. My adviser and I are planning an independent study based around this time...likely including a literature review on Complementary Alternative Medicine.

And then there are the things less easily explained. The appeal of the rainforest- Nathaniel Hawthorne would find this extremely interesting. That's a fascination I've had my whole life (For the past fifteen years, Madagascar has been v…
For me, one of the biggest differences between being a student of biology and a student of public health is the emotional exhaustion I now experience. Biology was a much more mentally demanding discipline- demanding memorization of countless organisms, structures, cell signalling pathways and the interactions between everything under the sun. Health Promotion, Education and Behavior places more strenuous demands on my heart than my mind. It also orders me to a careful reckoning of how my mind and heart are interacting- is my compassion for a particular situation leading me to jump to a solution, rather than deliberate over the best use of limited resources? How do I balance the urgency of life and death with the need to not be wasteful, to choose the best intervention?

This week I've been working on a short paper on the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, which has necessitated reading a vast quantity of UN "on the ground" reports. I sort of stumbled into this topic, having…

no more ghetto

Some days I really miss my Conservative Christian Ghetto. That place where no one admitted to smoking or drinking, divorce was unforgivable, people with same sex attraction were sick and twisted, and the goal of everything was to lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I'm not romanticizing that place. . . but everything made so much sense there. The black and whites of "never do anything that might possibly cause anyone to stumble," "love the sinner and viciously condemn the sin," and "you have a responsibility to share the Gospel with everyone you meet" are difficult to carry out, but simple in conception.

I don't know when I left it forever. It could have been the day a left-leaning Episcopalian priest's daughter became one of my best friends. Perhaps it was the day I enrolled in college as a biology major. Maybe it was the day the guy with whom I danced my last dance at senior prom hung himself.

Somewhere along the way I…

Stage Theory and the Movies

Somewhere, in my daily routine of prowling through news and blogs, I stumbled across the upcoming film A Powerful Noise. While I added it to my mental list (along with Milk and Slumdog Millionaire) I found myself annoyed by what feels like a glut of "activist movies" in recent years.

On one level, I feel guilty about that annoyance. My sister considers me an "Eco human rights nazi," and she's not without cause for that assumption (the organic tea in my cabinet, my canvas grocery bags, and personal boycott of Hershey, Nestle and M&M/Mars, for example) I have been thrilled and grateful that movies like Hotel Rwanda, Amazing Grace, and the three above are being made and watched. However, I'm perturbed that what I see happening is people watching these movies, having an extreme emotional reaction and then joining half a dozen facebook groups.

Then it clicked- stage theory. The bane of my existence this semester has been a class called "The Theoretical …