Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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 could expect persecution and the breakdown of relationships. Ow. Panelists made a distinction between "church" (people) and "religion" (spirituality) and I found this a little incomplete. "Religion" is an organized system of belief and worship, complete with structure and leaders...."spirituality" is much more ambiguous and open. But given the broad scope of the panel, the definitions worked well enough.

Bishop Rawls clarified that her denomination, the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, is not a "gay" church but rather an "authentic" church. I picked up a serious "good pastor" vibe off this woman, which doesn't happen often with evangelicals for me (a "good preacher" vibe is more common- which must be related to why some churches with the best pastors run those ministers off because they're not good preachers). Yes, that was a minor point, but I think important to mention particularly in light of the discussion on gender.

When panelists were asked about gender, Bishop Rawles took the position I did throughout college. She expressed enthusiasm over women occupying and vying for top positions of power in this country in recent years (Nancy Pelosi, Condoleeza Rice, Hilary Clinton, Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori). Rawls pointed out that there seems to be a far greater rift when it comes to gender and positions of power than race or sexual orientation in regards to those same positions. She went on to speak about the lack of models, for, say, being a woman bishop, and the importance of approaching those situations like a woman. She mused a bit about "things that happen when girls get in boys' rooms" and gave the example of the UFMC and a couple other likeminded denominations struggling to dialogue- until the point when there were female bishops present, when it turned into "let's all go to Palm Springs for a girls' week." Hmm....Rawls believes women to be more likely to ask for what they need and to pull resources. (Example given being "if I'm trying to make a meal for my children, and I've got rice, and you've got some beans, and I know that guy over there has a hamhock, I'm gonna try to hook us all up with a good meal. Men aren't as likely to do that."

The three other panelists- Dr. Simmons, Mr. Hinojosa, and Mr. Patterson, all took the position I ended up with shortly after graduating college- gender is a social construct of society, the load of expectations of what men and women traditionally are like and do. Mr. Hinojosa in particular mentioned a friend of his who is a transgender man who's recently started dressing in drag, which is the sort of thing that makes your head hurt. And the general conclusion was that authenticity is much more important than gender.

Which was my conclusion shortly after college...and the more I get away from that environment, the more I feel the disservice of the John Eldridge books. (yes, I know the John Eldridge books are just one example of this). But this process of defining "what masculinity/femininity is" or "what being a man/woman means" just seems deeply hurtful at its core. Especially when it's conducted by conservative Evangelicals (who seem to be the ones most interested in such definitions). I can't start to explain how many times as a teenager, and a college student I collided with some pre-fabricated idea of what femininity was. Femininity involved nurturing, having children, bringing life and encouragement to situations....that femininity was gentle, demure, submissive. Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3 etc. were used to model templates of what being a "Godly woman" looked like....and that template was never anything I could possibly become, without losing my soul. I tried to take the thoughts on femininity and womanhood and carry them into a different environment (one that allowed women ambitions beyond marriage and motherhood, and permitted them to be leaders,thinkers, activists) but that ultimately got to be too much work. So at some point, I made the decision to treat gender like it was something society had invented and just to be authentic. I chose to believe that striving to be a thoughtful, excellent, Godly, authentic individual was more important than trying to make sense out of Captivating, or any similar garbage.

Oddly enough...the mentality that society constructs gender, and we are in reality free to be who we are allows men and women to move through society simply being themselves. Ironically, this creates a more accurate picture of what men and women, as individuals and groups are like.

(I do have more [but shorter!] thoughts on something else brought up in the discussion that I'll save for a later date)

Monday, October 26, 2009

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 right. Heck, what's the point of having a bishop in the Apostolic Succession if the Holy Spirit *isn't* helping guide him?

Per Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, around AD 166 (And I am lifting this quotation directly from Frank Schaeffer's book Dancing Alone, so it's out of context. Though it's worth saying that Dancing Alone did really horrible things to my perceptions of both Orthodox Christians and all of the Schaeffers.):

"You ought to have been ready to suffer anything whatever rather than split the Church of God, and martyrdom to avoid schism would have brought you as much honor as martyrdom to escape idolatry- I should say more. For in the latter case a man is martyred to save his own single soul, in the former to save the whole Church."

Or to grab a favorite hymn of mine:
O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray
that all thy Church might be for ever one,
grant us at every Eucharist to say
with longing heart and soul, "thy will be done."
O may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.

For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;
make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;
draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,
by drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace;
thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.

We pray thee too for wanderers from thy fold;
O bring them back, good Shepherd of the sheep,
back to the faith which saints believed of old,
back to the Church which still that faith doth keep;
soon may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.

So, Lord, at length when sacraments shall cease,
may we be one with all thy Church above,
one with thy saints in one unbroken peace,
one with thy saints in one unbounded love;
more bless├Ęd still, in peace and love to be
one with the Trinity in Unity.

Overkill, maybe. My point is that this conversation, about two branches of the Catholic Church about reuniting is good, fitting, important, and perhaps unavoidable because of the faith we both hold to. It may very well be impossible to do more than talk though. Rome wants unity on their own terms-demanding that we accept the pope as Christ's Vicar here on Earth, that we accept the Marian doctrines as necessary to salvation. Oh, and by the way, all our clergy need to be re-ordained, because according to Rome, they're not ordained to begin with.

If we were trying to prevent Schism, that amount of work might be worthwhile. However, what we're dealing with is a schism that's already happened, and accepting the current offer means yet another ripping apart of the Church of England. I don't think it's worth it. If this were pre-Reformation, I might consent to submit to the pope and to accept the Marian dogma as good and necessary, seeing this as my duty to the Church. But it's not!! And the Reformation in many ways happened *because* of Rome's power-hungry political posturing. I am not about to say that they were right and fragment my (also Catholic) branch of the Church even more. Nothing about that heals schism. I will continue to pray for healing and unity, but given offers like this one, I'm not expecting us to be united on this side of heaven. But because of who we are, because of those prayers on all sides, the discussion still needs to be held.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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 not consider them worthy of the same medical attention infant boys receive. They began investigating the problem and discovered that at least two million girls worldwide disappear because of gender discrimination. Based on birth rates, it is estimated that there should be between 60 million and 101 million more women present in the world. Kristof and WuDunn claim that this unnoticed “gendercide” is the great moral issue of our century-comparable to slavery and totalitarianism in previous generations.

The authors have logged many hours both in the library and in on ground interviews, and the result is a thoroughly documented account of the state of women’s lives in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It’s a difficult book to read, as they address human trafficking, infanticide, neglect of maternal health, and the use of rape as a war tactic. However, the darkness is penetrated by inspiring accounts of the transformation of devastated women into leaders for their communities and providers for their families. Half the Sky is filled with the promise that large scale change is possible and the hope that it will begin to occur soon. Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn provide an honest assessment of what aid groups are presently doing and how it can be improved. They also provide a lengthy list of organizations and projects where readers can connect. Half the Sky is both a call to action, and a tool to achieve change. As children of Christ who are called to “shine as lights in the in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,” (Phil 2:15) this is a book we should take seriously.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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 accept that those who hold different views than I do share my heritage and have just as much right as I do to be called Anglican. I have two dear priest friends- one in ECUSA, one in APA, one who used to work for Planned Parenthood and one who has been arrested in abortion protests. Because of how their faith approaches sacraments, mystery and history, they are far more like each other than they are any minister outside of England. We are united, we are a family, and as such we disagree bitterly-it is our right.

Rome stepped in and just suggested part of the family leave. I think it's fair to compare Rome's current offer to a priest encouraging a couple to divorce over "irreconcilable differences." Sorry- you're not a part of this, and you're doing more harm than good. You are offering to amputate limbs of a body in the name of "solidarity."

I am shaking in fear, because I know enough of the current landscape to picture some pretty hideous things happening. The continuing Anglicans + Anglo Catholics are a small minority, outshouted by the chaos that is the ACNA. Some of the most rapidly growing branches of the ACNA are just Protestant Evangelicals with sprinkles on top. I anticipate that gradually, the money and security offered by Rome will begin to appeal to what is the solid backbone of Anglicanism in this country, and the Continuing Anglican/Anglo-Catholic movement will eventually choose to take refuge there, rather than continue to be pushed about by the uber-Protestants. The uber-Protestants will then rejoice, being free to abandon even more Anglican structure and discipline because there are no longer any dissenting voices within earshot. People like myself will be forced to choose between the mishmash of heaven only knows what and ECUSA.

In that case, ontology dictates that I choose ECUSA. Because I believe in fasts and feasts, because I value seven sacramental rites, because I treasure the disciplines of my faith and I cannot align myself with Rome. This has been one of my worst fears for quite a while now, but I had hoped it was paranoia.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"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 calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end"
(and P.S., Dear God, please tell all of them that healthcare reform is really important, and it's criminal that people in this country go bankrupt over medical bills and are regularly denied insurance for preexisting conditions. Amen)

Minimal soapboxing. Not asking God to bully them, not asking their deep rooted convictions and ideology to change. Just "Hey God, go have a talk with the folks in my government."

Because I'm pretty sure God knows more about what should be done than I do.
(Though I do need to find time to write my senators a note about healthcare)

And no, God doesn't agree with liberals about everything either. But for the most part....the Democrats don't have an organized base declaring you're going to hell for disagreeing with us.

Friday, October 2, 2009

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 ideas as well as snark about your grammar.

Your papers drive me crazy because I'm on your side and I care so darn much that you get this. I'm hard on you because your learning is much more important than your grades to me. Eventually, I hope you feel the same way, because if not, you're going to have a miserable life. It's not about the numbers, in my grade book or on your paycheck. So we're going to talk about those things that you didn't understand, regardless of whether you'll be tested on them again or not. You're building a foundation, and the fact that you're in my class means that you at least claim to have some interest in pursuing the good of society at large. Get over the grade thing.

And seriously, if I have to fail you, I'm going to be just as upset as you are.