Columba of Iona: Spiritual Pilgrim, Progressive Saint

Columba of Iona: Spiritual Pilgrim, Progressive Saint.

Quote of the Day:

Postmodern people possess no stable identity, nothing is inherited from the past, no family ties bind, and all forms of personhood must be chosen, and often, chosen again. Many people live in several states (or countries), marry more than once, change religions one or more times, and switch jobs a dozen times or more. Indeed, instability is so pronounced that some philosophers argue that constant questing for personal meaning is the only sane way to adapt to the contemporary world. Life is an unfinished and unfinishable project. Human beings are, in essence, homeless wanderers, spiritual tourists or religious nomads.

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A Sermon in Books on Sunday Morning

This weekend, I had every intention of going to church. After a lonnnnnng weekend of 4th of July activities, fried Walleye fish sandwiches and cheese fries (did I say I’ve been off my “heart healthy” diet?), and rearranging the bedroom, I was ready for a leisurely Sunday. Being both Catholic and Baptist (no it’s not redundant or an oxymoron) I intended to go to Mass on Saturday and Baptist worship on Sunday. Well, we got lazy and watched a movie on Saturday instead. Ooops. If I were more scrupulous, I’d write that down for confession next weekend, but I’ve outgrown the scrupulosity I had when I first became Catholic. Still, I felt a small twinge of guilt.

Yesterday my husband and I rearranged our bedroom. It’s a long room and rearranging is not easy. I can’t help very much either since I have a bad back. But I gave it a go and was aching all over by day’s end on Saturday. We also had gotten a new mattress last week (an ordinary Bemco) because I could no longer sleep on the $1500 mistake of a latex foam mattress we bought last year. I would arise every morning since we bought the thing with what felt like severe arthritis. I could barely move around. It was so odd. This mattress was always billed as great for your back. Uh-no!! But this morning, after a day of heavy lifting and an Aleve cocktail, I got up freshly feng shue-d and rested in our rearranged bedroom and new mattress and got ready for church. Sunday school is always first up for Baptists who only have one worship service on Sunday. In this church, Sunday school was at 9:00 a.m. so, off I went with my bible and lesson book. I got there just in time for pre-Sunday school announcements. I chit-chatted with the ladies for a while and then sat through a good 25 minutes of prayer requests, which is really nothing but the women sitting around trading stories about who was sick and who was sicker. I’m all for prayer concerns, but this was silly. It’s akin to gossip and playing catch-up for the week. After that we finally got to the lesson about hospitality or something. The “proof” text was Job 31. The American Baptist curriculum we use is ok, but it’s by no means in-depth bible study. Most of it is lecture in written form. Of recent years the curriculum is spouting “ermergent-ese.” You know what I mean; where every word discussing the “new church model” ends in “al:” missional, intentional, relational, etc. Ugh.

Well, after the bell was rung for church (literally a little bell like those kept on hotel concierge desks), I started to go into the sanctuary with everyone else, but I fell back. I just couldn’t sit through another bland, Baptist worship service where the same hymns were sung and the same sermons preached. I felt a longing for something deeper, something more true; something to connect with that great Undercurrent of Life. It was communion Sunday (the first Sunday of the month) and I couldn’t face that either. Little bits of bread and little cups of grape juice passed around the pews did not in any way signify to me the deepest mysteries of the Eucharist. I felt that to take it would be a betrayal somehow. So, I packed up my gear (purse, book bag, bag of lettuce from Helen’s garden) and left while everyone filed into the sanctuary. I drove home and found my husband cleaning out the garage. There was a light summer breeze blowing through the trees and after dropping my bags on the kitchen chair, I headed out to our patio with a book. I opened up Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas, the character of this series of Koontz’s, sees dead people. These dead people usually want him to solve their murders. In this novel, Odd is taking a long-needed retreat in a monastery in the mountains of California after having prevented a larger massacre at a shopping mall. His purpose is to retreat from his ordinary duties to the dead and heal his own soul. As I read partway into the chapter, I found this:

The world beyond this mountain retreat was largely barbarian, a condition it had been striving toward for perhaps a century and a half. A once glorious civilization was now only a pretense; a mask allowing barbarians to commit ever greater cruelties in the name of virtues that a truly civilized world would have recognized as evils. Having fled that barbaric disorder I was reluctant to admit that no place was safe, no retreat beyond the reach of anarchy… (page 64-65)

That’s how I feel most of the time right now. I feel that barbarians have been allowed to take charge of the hen-house and our only hope is a “chicken-run.” Many people, I’m sure, feel this way nowadays. Each thinks they are right in feeling this way and want to blame others, but regardless of who is “right” or who should be blamed, I feel as if the world has hurtled toward some barbarism much faster than anticipated and that words no longer mean the same things any longer. We’ve come to a war of ideas and dogmas. It’s the era of Big Brother speak in which the signifiers no longer signify long held beliefs but are being used against the definers of traditions in ways that bring confusion and anarchy. I also feel today, that I had learned far more sitting in my breezeway reading fiction than I could have listening to one sermon in a long line of spiritless sermons.

My retreat lately feels just like Odd Thomas’ retreat. It’s a falling back; a regrouping. It is a choice to choose non-action in a world that does nothing but mindlessly act merely because it feels good to our self-esteem to act. At what point is our character development more important than activism for activism’s sake? I wonder if anyone really knows why they argue endlessly for the beliefs that they do? I wonder what is solid and real and what is mere show and bluster; bread and circuses? I am also beginning to think that I’m an unfortunate product of my time (70s), my education (university) and my lack or conscience formation. I can soak up vast amounts of knowledge and “education” but I cannot honestly come up with a consistent ethic of my own. I have simply bought into the empty rhetoric of poststructuralism where there are no norms and where consistency is lacking. I had given up trying. I fall back on the argument that there is no use trying because there is no foundation on which to base concrete beliefs.

Increasingly, in my self imposed exile from belief, I’ve found that despite what Emerson said about consistency, there is a deep, deep truth to foundational thinking. Emerson did not say that consistency was the problem; foolish consistency was. We are living in an age, I think, of foolish consistency. One of the books that set me permanently on the road to Roman Catholicism is John A. Hardon’s The Catholic Catechism. It is beautifully written and far easier to read than the modern Catechism the church put out in recent years. Hardon writes at the beginning of the book about the age in which we live,

The world in which one lives keeps asking for evidence, it wants to be shown that what the believer believes is not mere illusion but objectively true. This same world protests that all human knowledge is unstable, that what people know today others will know better and more accurately tomorrow. So the man of faith must defend himself against the charge of dogmatism, as though what he believes now has always been true and will remain essentially unchanged in a universe whose only apparent constant is change. It would be tempting to try to respond immediately to both levels of criticism in our day. More effective is to look at ourselves and ask what too many Christians have taken for granted: What do we believe, and why? This will lead us into pastures that few Catholics, who may be severely orthodox, have ever visited. We are discovering that orthodoxy is no guarantee of perseverance and still less of living up to what the faith demands. Self knowledge as believers will deepen our loyalty and help evoke generosity, and in the process the commonplace objections will also be satisfactorily answered. (pages 29-30)

I suppose Hardon is saying that in discovering the reasons for our own belief we will answer the questions of our age. Ours is a time of surface thinking and surface solutions. We want change for change’s sake as if we are going to come up with anything new. There is nothing new under the sun, yet no one born form the 60s onward wants to believe that. Our churches, especially Protestant ones, are not asking us to deeply examine our beliefs. They are only asking us to enforce a prideful dogmatism and certainty about doctrine. They are only asking us to accept change just as the world wants to accept change. There is no substance in it. We are not asked to examine, test, and practice. I’m tired of wasting time on ineffective methods or theories that are merely the pet projects of mega-pastors and gospel shills. I want to get to the kernel, the very heart of ethics, the tried and true, the deep foundations, not just learn to spout what others have said because it sounds pleasant. I feel like I’m close to discovering something…. I’m still striving for I’m not sure what, but I’ll let you know if I get there.

Blessings,

Violence Against Women and Why I Won’t Shut Up About It

Lately, I’ve heard many complaints from men on the blogosphere who attempt to downplay or to minimize the issue of violent men on the internet. Many are simply ignorant of the terrorism that women live with daily. Others are just power tripping and refuse to see what’s out there because their ideologies implicitly support such violence. They are threatened by feminists because they have their whole lives invested in the status quo. But the majority of men out there are normal men, educated in a patriarchal world, who’ve never read or heard of scholarship that openly challenges or offers viable alternatives to a world they’ve always known and taken for granted. They pay no attention to the horrors that women experience daily or if they do, they see it as none of their concern. In fact they challenge us at every turn, “Come on, they say, you can’t believe THAT!” Or say, “Oh thank goodness my wife (insert female “other” here) doesn’t have to live that way.” In a way it’s not these men’s fault. They are clueless. They are sheltered by their patriarchal churches and patriarchal colleges. They learn from those who learned before them, and they never question the way things are. That’s a problem for others to solve, not them. They refuse to see. They are blind to the real world of women. Their wives may be blind to it too and they both blissfully float along, assuming those nasty feminists have axes to grind or that they hate men and authority. Those in power and privilege can’t see it any other way. Even conservative women, who should be the first to understand their own plight, blame feminists for being stronger than even they themselves are allowed to be. Oh, they know. And they are envious because they are trapped in roles defined FOR them, not by them.

But there is another reality out there that patriarchal men and women do not see, nor do they care to see it. In “What’s New About Terror, Part III” Doire Musings chronicles why she thinks it is that men do not understand women or what we live with daily in this age of watching for terrorist activities, in this age where we think terrorism is somewhere else; anywhere but right here. She writes,

We are instructed at airports to report “any suspicious behavior” and to be on the alert for any suitcase that is left alone. That is terrifying, isn’t it? A suitcase, left in the middle of the airport terminal, or on a seat in a subway car? A woman is taught to be on the alert when she is alone. And for many of us, this is often. We are taught to be suspicious of a man alone, or men in groups. The anxiety is particularly heightened on a secluded street, a park, a bar, a parking garage, a freaking Laundromat. We are taught not to GO OUT in the dark alone. NO place is “safe,” because every place has men in it and every man who is a stranger is a potential threat. And in many ways, for many days and nights, these cultural lessons curtail our activities.

But our activities are not the only things that get “altered.” Two young men recently moved into my apartment development. They sit on their stoop to smoke. Before reading Margaret Miles’ essay and before reflecting on this female condition of terror I didn’t realize how much I alter my behavior when they are outside. It is only through analytical hindsight that I see what I do; how differently I behave when they are there from when they are not there. And the alteration in my behavior is based on two facts; they know where I live and I do not know what kind of men they are. I find that as soon as I turn my car into my parking space I look to see if they are there. When they are not, I am glad. When they are, I walk like a “schoolteacher,” or how I imagine one to walk. The joyous lilt in my stride is gone lest it be interpreted as flirtatious. My walk is purposeful, with determined direction. I do not toss my hair, even if it is in my eyes, lest it be interpreted as provocative invitation. I say a quick “Hello,” but my eyes do not linger upon theirs, lest it be interpreted as interest. I must walk a tightrope between not-too-friendly, and cordial, lest I piss them off and they think me stuck-up and haughty. After all, if they turn out to be harmful, it will be my fault. When my door is closed and locked behind me, I breathe. I understand the risk of the confessional nature of these words; that there are those of you who will yet think I am paranoid. I exaggerate. I am nuts. But I assure you, this anxiety and these behavioral modifications are enacted by women in countless apartment complexes, in countless neighborhoods throughout this country (throughout the world) every day. As I think back to my interactions with female students and former students I cannot list all the reports shared with me of sexual harassment by male employers, of physical violence by building maintenance workers, fathers of childhood friends and boyfriends; of rape, physical brutality and intimidation. Failure to report is based in the same terror; that there will be violent retaliation….

And yet, we deny. We delude ourselves into thinking that these crimes are committed by individual men with abnormal psychological pathologies. We never see the violence as rooted in a systemic, institutionalized, cultural evil grounded in an ideology of national and global misogyny. But we must awaken from our sleep, like Snow White from the poison apple. My future and my daughter’s and the futures of any granddaughters I might have, depend on it.

So the man seized his concubine and put her out to them; and they raped and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. As the morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. “Get up.” he said to her, “We are going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass and the man set out for his home. When he had entered his house, he took a knife and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. Judges 19:25-29

And he sent her throughout Israel in outrage, that the men had been so disrespectful to him and to his property. He dismembered this body that had served him and sent the pieces throughout Israel because he had been insulted. Had he loved her, he would have bathed her body in oils and wrapped her in a shroud of linen. Had he loved her, he would have buried her in the tradition of his elders. Had he loved her, he would have wept. Of course, had he loved her, had he even considered her a human being, he would not have handed her over to be gang-raped and murdered.

I do not know how this woman felt as she was betrayed by her master. I do not know how the women of the enemies of Moses felt when they became the spoils of war. I do not know how it felt to be a virgin of Shiloh, abducted and raped as strangers in a strange land. I do not know the terror of the captive woman who mourned the death of mother and father wrought by the hands of her captor who became her rapist. But I do know what it is to be a woman living among a people who consider the treatment of these women to be a part of their glorious and holy inheritance.

So what’s new about terror? Ask any woman and she’ll tell you-absolutely nothing.

Patriarchally trained men keep asking with incredulity in their voices, “You can’t believe that??!!” or “I’m a man, and I would never do that!” or my favorite, “I’ve never seen that where I go to school (work)!!” i.e. if I don’t see it personally, it doesn’t exist mentality. Well, of course you haven’t dear, you’re a man. Men do not silence other men. Men don’t realize that the fact that they are ONE man who would never do that means zilch in the real world. The fact that you’ve never seen it proves my point. It’s not that man, or this man, or that man over there! It’s the culture of masculinity that teaches men and women implicitly or explicitly that women are objects to be used as men see fit. It’s the culture that says women have their proper role, and to stray outside that role invites censure, even violence. It’s the total relegation of women to the status of “Other.” The status of “them.” It is the culture that teaches men that it is their “holy inheritance” and their right and privilege to be above women, because women are forever “sinful” beings and must forever pay for that ignominy. Yet, it’s also the culture that sexualizes young girls and turns women into dress dummies for men’s gaze and amusements. Yes, women buy into it too, in more ways than one, but it’s hurting them and the rest of us, whether they realize it or not. They are products of a culture that promotes women’s denigration whether men will admit to it or not. “But, men suffer violence every day too!” they opine. Well, I say so what? I’m not concerned with man on man violence. That’s a politically level playing field. No, I’m concerned with violence against those who have no level playing field.

This privileged and objectifying mindset runs so deep in our culture because religion runs so deep. There is nothing more dangerous than a patriarchally trained man who believes in the hierarchies of humanity where women and children are at the bottom. Why? Because a male God, born and raised in the image of a fundamentalist man, inherently denies women the right to be, the right to exist on her own, in her own right. Because, as Mary Daly says, “If God is male, then the male is God.” Master of Divinity professor, Doire Musings writes in “Dismantling the Castle (Cathedral), Part II,”

For women, the spiritual consequences of exclusive male language and imagery for God should be obvious. Whereas men are able to identify with the divine being and enjoy the full experience of truly having been “created in the image and likeness of God,” women cannot. Women’s interior lives offer a spirituality that is always characterized in relation to, but not through identification with the divine being. No matter how hard one tries, the interior experience of God is always relational/separated/distant. For women, God is always the absolute “Other.” Now it may be argued (with a nod to Martin Buber) that God should always be experienced as “Other,” but men experience this “Otherness” only by degree. God is more powerful than men, but men still share in that power. God is more perfect than men, but men still reflect the divine image. There is no passage perhaps more disturbing to the Christian feminist theologian than St. Augustine’s thoughts on the ability or inability of man and woman, respectively, to reflect the divine:

How then did the apostle [Paul] tell us that the man is the image of God and therefore he is forbidden to cover his head; but that the woman is not so, and therefore is commanded to cover hers? Unless, forsooth, according to that which I have said already… that the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that the whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman is joined with him in one. — On the Trinity

Augustine hit the proverbial covering on the head. A male God is reflective of males, a mirror in which there is no room for the female.

One giant leap forward would be to at least acknowledge that feminists have a point and that we should, as a society, try to change this culture of misogyny. The chief purveyor of this woman objectification is the church. “OH, but we honor women!” “Oh, but we’ve always placed them on a pedestal!” they all cry. That’s it right there. We are either Madonnas or whores, never just ourselves. Why must we be objectified at all? Notice that the categories themselves are all about sexuality. We are either mothers or playthings. Never a PERSON, always a uterus, a vessel, a container for something else.

Heart over at Womens Space/The Margins says it well,

I have also been devastated, over and over and over in my life, by the violence of men– sexual violence, physical brutality, spiritual, emotional, verbal violence, violence of all kinds which have often made my and other women’s lives a living hell. I want the world to pay attention to the violence that harms us all– not only little girls, but little boys, not only women, but men. This is violence we are so accustomed to, so inured to, so used to, that it doesn’t even fly across our radar as violence– the violence of pornography, the violence of female infanticide, of “honor killings,” the violence and pandemic-ness of domestic violence and rape. To get the world’s attention, those of us who have been devastated by this violence must have a voice and our voices must be heard, however raw or unforgiving or raging or angry or bitter or not-motherly, not nurturing, fearsome, and yes, powerful and unapologetically so. Women who comment to my boards and blog, all them, have their own stories to tell. All have lived through indescribable horror at the hands of men. It does not set well, it’s true, for mothers to wish their sons not born. Mothers, of all people, are expected to be endlessly loving and nurturing, even when it costs us our very lives, everything we have, are or could be. But this is wrong and it must end. And in increasing numbers, women have to be brave enough to say this is wrong. What is expected of mothers is wrong. What is expected of women — that we act in ways which harm us — is wrong.

This is what patriarchally trained men will never, ever understand; the violence we have all around us and the violence women continually live with. They will never understand the mindset of always watching your back. Our defensiveness they say is entirely unrealistic! It’s in our own imaginations. Surely we can’t believe that. Such incredulous tones drip of sarcasm and utter lack of understanding. But you know what? It happens even if the privileged men are unaware that it happens. Yes women are still harassed, harangued, and stolen from. Yes, women are beaten, raped, or tortured every minute of the day. And not just with physical violence do men wield the power. Yes women’s research and writing is still co-opted or questioned as suspect. Yes, women are still labeled too fat, too skinny, too black, ugly, a lesbian if she questions men or a whore if she loves them too much. Yes, women live in fear. Yes, yes, yes. If you think it doesn’t happen, or you wish women would focus on something else instead, then you have your head in the sand and are a very large part of the problem.

Woman:Heart:Church :: Men:Head:Christ

I think the Apostle Paul would have loved to keep men and women permanently separate in the church. I’m beginning to think this is a wonderful idea whose time has come, especially in fundamentalist churches. In Ephesians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and in other epistles, Paul makes clear that women’s leadership in the church is a bad thing. On that, biblical literalists are universally agreed. I’m not speaking about progressive Christian churches, who have managed nicely to move beyond this point of gender contention and work very well together in service to the community. No, I think the only obvious solution for fundamentalist churches is to divide men from women and just get on with service to the community already!

Heather, over at the always wonderful I Wonder as I Wander blog contemplated the relevancy of applying first century standards and first century cultural interpretations of scripture in this day and age when some things are so obviously wrong to assume, such as the inferiority of women and the “natural” superiority of men. It’s amazing to me that people still argue over this dichotomy of the sexes, especially in fundamentalism, which is at 50 years behind every one else doctrinally. History has proved that there are no hard and fast rules about inferiority/superiority of men or women, only that humans will take power and use it to exploit others if given half a chance. Power is always the issue, whether it’s a man or woman who wields it. Yet no one in fundamentalism seems to be able to wield power rightly in mixed company, least of all in the Christian church. Heather wrote, when she was explicating the famous Ephesians passage about headship and the body of Christ:

4) Only the man is compared to Christ. The woman is compared to the church. The church and Christ are not equal, so under this comparison, the man and woman are not equal, either. As the church is subject to Christ, so is the woman subject to the man. And how often do we hear that is no longer the person who lives in the body, but Christ? If that’s applied here, the woman is not independent, but again — seen as the extension of the man. The verse does go on to describe how Christ gave himself up for the church and cleansed it. But that comparison leaves us with the man needing to “save” the woman and presenting her with no stain or wrinkle. Plus, the whole purpose of Christ was that man was incapable of saving himself, so God had to step in. In the comparison, woman is incapable of overseeing herself, so the man has to step in.

From this we can reasonably intuit that in Ephesians 5, men are indeed compared to Christ and women are compared to the church. Going further; if the woman is compared to the church, then by rights she is the heart and soul of the institution, something we women have known for years. The Holy Spirit is the glue that keeps the church from disintegrating and the Spirit of Christ dwells directly in the Heart, not the Head. When doctrine fails and all the “heads” who think up theology and engage in endless debate about who is right and who is wrong, eventually reach that point at which no one gives a shit about their theological musings. There’s work to be done. When honest believers reach that theological saturation point, then it’s up to the heart of the church to work behind the scenes visiting the sick, bringing food to those who need it, and upholding in prayer and/or enabling every “head” that thinks itself indispensable in that hydra called religion. You either swallow your pride and your sense of rights to continue the work of Christ or you rebel. It’s no different now than it was then when the disciples questioned Mary Magdalene’s right to even claim to be a disciple, or Mary of Bethany’s right to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him, or another Mary’s (“Mary” appears to serve the purpose of equaling anonymous women in scripture) right to anoint him with perfume. About the women in the Gospels, NT Wright says,

Among the many things that need to be said about the gospels is that we gain nothing by ignoring the fact that Jesus chose twelve male apostles. There were no doubt all kinds of reasons for this within both the symbolic world in which he was operating and the practical and cultural world within which they would have to live and work. But every time this point is made – and in my experience it is made quite frequently – we have to comment on how interesting it is that there comes a time in the story when the disciples all forsake Jesus and run away; and at that point, long before the rehabilitation of Peter and the others, it is the women who come first to the tomb, who are the first to see the risen Jesus, and are the first to be entrusted with the news that he has been raised from the dead. This is of incalculable significance. Mary Magdalene and the others are the apostles to the apostles. We should not be surprised that Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16.7. If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, there were women who deserved that title before any of the men. (I note that there was a huge fuss in the translation and revision of the New International Version at the suggestion that Junia was a woman, and that not a single historical or exegetical argument was available to those who kept insisting, for obvious reasons, that she was Junias, a man.)

Jesus as “Head” of the new church is now responsible for making the rules, holding all things together by power through the Holy Spirit, and basically expecting submission from ALL of us, not just those who first century leaders enjoined to be submissive (i.e. women) in Ephesians. This submission is something that does not come at all easily for men or women, but both agree that it is Christ to which we are to submit. Unfortunately, some men think that also means them. I’ve seen this battle of wills played out over and over in churches and on the internet. Men and women pointing fingers at each other, blaming each other for the “demise” of the church, when both are right and both are responsible for division. YOU aren’t submissive to us enough, yell the men. YOU have no heart and soul, yell the women. Men, claiming the status of little Christs in the church, keep excoriating women for not falling at their feet and worshiping their leadership as we are all expected to do for Christ. Men, blaming women for “feminizing” the church, when they have no clue what that really means, nor do they realize that you can’t “feminize” what you historically have no control over as an institution. In fact, Paul himself describes the stereotypical view of men and women in 1 Timothy 2:8-10 where he tells men to quit arguing and women to quit worrying about hairstyles and jewelry. Do some things never change? Neither sex realizes the obvious solution to this dilemma.

I have the perfect solution. Personally, like Solomon holding up the child between the two women claiming to be its mother, hold up the church as an example and ask, “Who loves this? If men and women scream, “We love it more!” yet cannot come to an amicable agreement about what’s best for the church, then like Solomon, we should take the sword to it and threaten to cut it down the middle! (1 Kings 3:16-28). Thusly, I think the church should be divided along gender lines. There should be men’s church and women’s church. Let’s just be done with it and separate completely. That way men can’t blame women for leading them astray sexually or for feminizing the church and women can’t blame men for “not listening” to their leadership input or for masculinizing the church. Let the men gather to be “warriors” and argue incessantly about doctrine if that’s what they want. Let them go to “battle” for Christ and force others to believe the way they do. Maybe then we women can get on with meaningful (for women) worship, and service as we’ve always done. I’ve seen this in action in my own church where the ratio of women is about 75% women to 25% men. Even the pastor is a woman. While they don’t excel at sermons or arguing about correct doctrine, when it comes to service and prayer, no one can top them.

What do you think? I think it’s a great idea; an idea whose time has come I think.

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

In a world where conspiracies are rampant, Catholics are not immune. Check out this story, in which conservative Catholics blame liberal academics for the current priest shortage! Unbelievable. But conservative Christians are certainly looking for people to blame when the world, society, and religion naturally evolve over time, as it should. Also on the Catholic front, a priest mourns the recent decision by the Pope to revive the Latin Mass, apparently nullifying some of the work of the much needed Second Vatican Council in the 60s. I knew that Catholicism under Benedict XVI would be regressive and, well, here we go.

Many of the new movements, confessions, and declarations popping up today are obvious attempts to hang onto old ways in a world that has, well… moved on. Reforming can be a very good and much needed thing. “Returning” to anything instead of carving out new space, though, is probably not a good thing. It’s akin to trying to shove everything back into a closet in which the contents have outgrown the space. It’s pouring new wine into old wineskins:

[36] He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. [37] And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. [38] No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. [39] And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ” (Luke 5)

There is always going to be tension between the new and the old. It’s the way of life and of evolutionary processes. Nothing is really gained by going backwards except to further isolate those who cannot be flexible. Jesus knew this and told the above parable to point out the inflexibility of the Pharisees and those who would not move with the new Kingdom and new Kingdom ethics. Sticking to this or that form because “it’s always been done” is stifling and allows no room for the Spirit to move. Confining people’s lives through ancient practices is also akin to stifling the Living Spirit. Sadly, it’s also a common tactic to demonize those who wish for change; feminists, religious progressives, those in gender studies, genetic researchers. It’s an attempt to blame such people for all the ills befalling society today rather than reach out in love and respect.

I’ve always been keen on inclusion rather than exclusion in the Body.  It’s not for me to say who God loves or who God doesn’t love. I’m always amazed at the audacity of those who claim to know these things for sure.  For me, love is the only glue and mercy the only test for inclusion. All else is idolatry.

“Christianity and Women”

As I continue to blog about Christianity, feminism, and rights for all sized and shaped women, I found that Austin Cline, once again, has a great post over at About.com about Christianity and women. I found his last paragraph particularly apropos, considering the latest brouhaha over our favorite misogynist, Mark Driscoll:

The fact that they [conservative Christians] could insist that Paul’s injunction against women teaching and preaching is “taken out of context” is interesting given how often conservative Christians make the same arguement in defense of traditional interpretations. This rejoinder can be used by just about anyone to “prove” just about anything — so long as the “context” is large enough, one can insist that the verse in question be interpreted in whatever manner they desire. [inserted words are mine]