Monday, July 21, 2014

I'm a Feminist Because I'm a Misogynist

    I hate the word "woman." That's why I'm a feminist.
    Woman. Woman, she shall be called, because she was taken from man.
    Woman makes my tummy tingle and conjures up an image of someone dressed in a dim pink sheath, submissive and silent, superficial and not so smart, her hips wide for child-bearing. A lactating cow, useful property for sex and pleasing to look at.
     I'm not fond of "lady" either, since I have no desire to scream and pull my skirts away from devious little mice, and I'm just not an elegant person. I need glasses, I'm perpetually covered in cat hair, and my makeup usually consists of red rings on my face from my lab goggles.
    Call me a girl. Even if it makes me sound childlike and sheltered and in need of protection. Even though when I fail at sports or get a question wrong in chemistry, failing kind of makes sense because I'm a girl. At least a girl runs free and does what she wants.
    Just don't say I'm a woman. I'm not a doormat sex object or a child-bearing oven. I'm not your bitch.
    I hope I don't have to tell you that this is misogyny. Misogyny of the sickest, deepest kind, lodged deep in my heart and soul.
    My soul. Me. I am a humanist, a Jesus-loving feminist.
    And I hate being a "woman." I'm uncomfortable with being twenty-one, no longer really qualifying as a girl, having periods and hips far fuller than my breasts. I'm uncomfortable being thought of as a tantalizing treat.
    So. There is misogyny in me.
    Don't you see how unbelievably screwed up this is?
    But what is "woman," exactly? It's a concept that describes what I am, for the world.
    Those stupid misogynistic images? Mere connotation (which, in case you don't know, signals that our world is unbelievably screwed up. Connotation comes from somewhere).
    This, however, is the image that comes up when I search "woman" on the Internet:
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

     Naked, covered, old, young, fat and skinny. Beautiful and ungainly. Sculptured, painted, photographed. Together, they're a myriad of colors, depicting people of different races and religions and different times. Different stories, too, uniquely their own.    
    They're all people.
    These are people; they've lived. Don't you see, these are women and they are people, people who've etched themselves into many or few people's lives.
    Aren't they beautiful? And handsome? And glorious?
    Don't you see Jesus reflected in their many colors and stories?
    This picture? It's feminism.
    I'm a feminist because I'm a woman, and I have misogyny hiding in my darkest, most secret parts.
    Feminism says only this: I'm a woman. Because what woman means is human. Fully, deeply, intimately, intricately human.
    And, to take that one step further, if I'm a woman, I reflect Jesus.
    I will not be prescribed how to reflect Jesus based on a chromosome. He is God - God so unending, so far above what we can comprehend, facets of Her can be reflected and found in everyone and still many more left over.
     So, yeah. That's why I'm a feminist.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hobo the Brave

    Meet Hobo.*
"Hi. I'm Hobo."
    No, he's not my kitty (yet ... mwahaha. Just kidding, just kidding. I'm not looking to kidnap him; who, me?!). He's my parents'.
    Isn't he adorable?
    He's also a true 'fraidy cat. Seriously. If you approach his fluffy self, he cowers and flees as soon as he can.
    And he is Hobo the Brave.
I'm so fluffy, but you already know.
    He used to be a stray, and by the time he was rescued, he was FIV-positive, living in a dump, starving and filthy and in the "worst shape" of any cat the rescue worker had seen.
    Yet he pulled through, and he's semi-receptive to people now (if they have a whipped cream can nearby, that is). He even has a friend: Yoyo, another young, rescued stray who never does anything without him.
"We travel in pairs."
    He doesn't act like any cat I've known. He shrinks away from people, scampers and slinks around the house as if expecting imminent doom, and when you pick him up, he sits awkwardly in your arms, forever unsure of your love.
   Which is kind of why I identify with this kitty. Like, if I were a kitty, I would be Hobo.
   Shy? Perpetually scared? Defaults to running away? Uncertain of everything? Checkcheckcheckcheck.
   Okay, I realize that sounds a bit like a scaredy-cat. I suppose that's true. Unfortunately, that also has a a connotation of "coward."
   But, you know what, maybe - just maybe - living scared every day is a way of living brave. Hobo made it through some awful events, and now he battles his fears every day. Sometimes he loves a good scratch behind his fluffy ears, and sometimes he runs in a panic like Oh noes they're going to kill me.
    But he's also a sweetheart, as if enduring so much suffering has made him extra sensitive to others. If Sushi Li'l Ninja gets himself into a scrape, Mr. Hobo runs right over to make sure he's all right. When Miss Yoyo arrived, Hobo would stand guard while she slept. Now he licks food off her face and plays with her all night (when the big scary humans aren't around).
    So, yes, Hobo the Brave gives me courage. He reminds both me where I've been and reminds me of the love that helps me more forward.
I am Hobo. I am perpetually scared and I am perpetually brave.
    Let's hear it for Hobobo!

*Quotations provided by Kate Danahy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A God Who Is Good

    God is Holy.
    Isn't that what the four creatures sing day and night before His throne?
    God is Holy.
    We are not. We are sinners.
    God is Holy. God is perfect, just, awesome.
    And, well, we aren't. Hence Jesus, who shed his blood because God couldn't forgive us or allow us into heaven otherwise.
    Such good news, isn't it, that God can't do certain things.
    God is Holy. 
    He might not want to condemn because love, but He can't make exceptions because holiness.We're all sinners, don't you see, and so those who persist in sin or never hear of Jesus must burn or be annihilated because holiness.
    God can't abide the homosexuals. The killers. The addicts. And before some of us, myself included, nod our heads in righteous anger, let's flip the tables: God can't abide the judgmental jerks who don't use their damn brains. Oops. 
    God can't, God can't, God can't.

    Perhaps - and I suggest this very tentatively since I'm no theologian - the concept of "can't" - does not apply to God.
    I don't want a God who can't. 
    I don't want a distant god, a god who's so repulsed by his own creations he can't stand our presence.
    I don't want a vengeful god, a god who abhors us and eagerly awaits our destruction. I have no desire for a god greedy for souls, who thinks the children deserve to be raped and beaten and slaughtered, that a woman deserves wasting away from cancer, that college student deserves to be so anxious over "success" he thinks suicide is the only option should he fail, because original sin.
    I don't want a god who is in any way tainted or contained by culture, by imagination. I don't want an American God, a Republican God or a Democrat God, a Catholic God or a Protestant God or an Orthodox God.
    I want a God Who is Good. Mind-blowingly, earth-shatteringly, soul-illuminatingly good. I want a God Who transcends my boundaries in the most gentle and stunning of ways, Who tastes our food and our pain. I want a God Who is so deeply intimate and personal He is everywhere around us, a God Who listens and grieves and laughs and dances against the wind, Who loves and loves and loveslovesloves.

    May I suggest that holiness isn't under such a threat that it requires the torture or destruction of its enemies?
    May I suggest that it's not holiness that's threatened at all, because if holiness is good, then it's part of God. And to God alone belongs the victory. Maybe, maybe I can dare to hope that all the shit of this world - the torture and pain and diseases and evil - are the things truly under threat.
    God is holy. When did that become a condemnation instead of a reason to celebrate?
    God is holy. And that's good.


P.S. - For more into what has inspired this post, please read Slacktivist's "There Is No Such Thing as 'Holiness' Apart from Love."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Life for the Dry Bones

    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

-Henry David Thoreau

    I'm back in Boston, friends. Jet-lagged, reverse culture shocked (like what is this thing called flushing toilet paper? And do I really see gluten-free bread?!), and happy to reunite with Sushi the Ninja Cat, and, oh, my family.
    Yet there's a tremble in my heart for a people and a place I knew for a very, very short amount of time (relatively speaking), and it's not easily ignored. A city of a spirit and culture stunningly different yet eerily familiar, and hauntingly unique, all in one. And the people ... did I mention the people?
    Sure, we didn't know each other for very long but, you see, we dove deep. Both on my team and the people I met in the city. Every one of us unique, intricate tapestries, woven by a vast God so creative He takes my breath away at night when I dream I'm back in that city with the people I know.
    And now I'm resurfacing and they're not here for me to smile at and talk with and listen to, and it's hard. Like, smack-your-head-against-a-metal-plate-and-see-stars-as-you-drop level hard.
    So: this might be a long post. Bear with me, friend.
    He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley...

    It's cliche, but I've been lost for so long. Ill and exhausted.
    I'm not sure where I first heard the term "post-evangelical wilderness" to describe this place. All I know is I'd been inching closer to the city gates for years, then World Vision happened and I bolted, tripping and dizzy and falling on my knees in the desert dust, beaten down by the fists of the sun.
    And then I was like, oh, right, I decided to do a cultural exchange with a bunch of Christians in the Middle East. Even though so many things about church are triggering for me. This should be interesting.
    I never said it aloud, but what I secretly thirsted for was a rediscovery of God, the true God, whoever He is. To find peace again, the peace long since dried up as I fade to brittle bones in the desert.
    I wanted to stand in the dust and raise my hands up to the vast sky and the God watching me. I guess I wanted to feel Him smile.
*** was full of bones.

    It's not like I didn't have friends going on this trip. I do. I'm just afraid of them, afraid if they know how broken my heart is and how angry I am at Christians and how I panic at Christianese, afraid if they know my real opinions, they'll misunderstand me as someone disobedient to God, a liberal fool.
    It's day one and I'm excited, yet I melt in fear when I face the forty-one beautiful people who will be accompanying me. 
     Inside me I know: this trip might mean either the resurrection or end of my thinned spiritual life.

    And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.

    It's the first week and my heart is racing, racing. Why does God let people slip away? Why doesn't He answer? (Don't give me that "God's ways are higher than our ways" cop-out crap).
    I kinda want to stay in my room, curled up and ranting at God. Maybe letting my faith extinguish a little more. 
    But instead, for some reason or another, I get up. I walk downstairs and pause, fist raised to knock on my friends door.
    She's always said she's available. But I know people don't often mean what they say, oh boy do I know.
    She opens, she smiles and asks what is wrong. She listens and talks and by the end of the conversation I have no answers but a hope in my heart. A hope that sees someone who loves truly, like I wish God did.

    And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” 

    It's week two and I tell my story in all its ugly, raw detail. How open-ended, how incomplete and messy it is. How concerned they must be for me. How they must be judging me.
    But my heart was pounding and my nerves were tingling, I knew I had to say it.
    And they listen, and they pray, and they love me. Not one doubt, not one judgement proceeds from their mouths or their eyes.
    And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” [No, that was Ezekiel. I said, "I don't think so, but You prove me wrong, okay?].

    Week four we will be discussing our family backgrounds. I've done this before and I don't want to do it again. I don't like to face the truth. You can't imagine how it hurts.
    In preparation, I zone out. I have nightmares and anxiety attacks and flashes of unwelcome memories days before. As we arise the morning of, tears build in my eyes, but I've long learned how to hide.
    And then someone comes up to me and asks how I am. She asks if she can pray for me and says our team is part of my family now, too. And I feel a glimpse of love and warm, warm hope.

     So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
    As the weeks pass I feel myself set free. No weight of anxiety, no weight of feeling unknown, hold down my broken shoulders. Bolder and bolder, I can walk up to someone and ask either their life story or their thoughts on any of the many controversies eating my soul (which I suppose brings me one step closer to my dream, hurrah).
    I feel connected and - and I feel safe - with everyone on my team. Safe isn't a feeling I've ever really been able to have, but it's here now. And love is here, too.
    They say God is love. So maybe He is here as well.
    I don't feel Him like I'm used to. No otherworldly presence, no whispers in my soul. I simply feel Him through these friends who love me, uneven and unfinished me.
    And somehow, my faith, my dry bones faith, knits together, into something new. My doubts don't end - intellectually I remain a disillusioned skeptic (maybe I'll always be so). But somewhere else - maybe it's that spiritual soul I can't feel or think - a deeper faith settles. Because of the very, very diverse people who love me. I can't quite explain it, but I'm strangely okay with that.
     Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.

    On waning days of our trip, the men on our team pick out one adjective for each of us women.
    Mine is brave, written in green marker. Green, my favorite color, the color of life.
    I'm not a crier. But I cried then. Do they know how I've chastised myself as coward for years? Fear has ruled me. It's only here it doesn't.
    But here they gave me a new word. Brave, in light of my ugly and unfinished story.
    It feels like a resurrection of sorts. 


     And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
    Now, my beautiful and strong adelasters, I'm glad to be back and I've missed publishing on a more regular basis. Love to you all; go live today.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Desperate to be Seen

    She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me, ” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”- Genesis 16:13
    It's all we want, isn't it? To be seen. Desperate to be seen. 
    Not just to watch or glimpse, but to see
    To see, to know, to understand. 

    Do You see, God? Do you see how many women are pushed to the side, how many races are ignores based on a beautiful skin color, how many mentally challenged are trodden over because "intelligence matters?"
    Do You see, God, how Christians are the ones who champion the mighty and dismiss the lowly for attractions and sufferings and pasts and anything-to-do-with-sex? 
    Do You see how the meek have been mocked off the Earth?

    But why not delve into specifics.
    Do You see the refugee, clutching her children in the dark as she prays for food that won't come in time?
    Do You see the privileged college student as he wraps a noose around his neck?
    Do You see the child slave as countless men rape her over and over again?!
    Do You see those who don't care, those who will never want to understand or even try to know those who are as human as they? 
    Do You see me - me who judges others, me who quivered in the corner while they raged on, me who hopes and dreams and cries and - and hates?

    Oh, God, do You just watch?

    How empty it must be to watch and never know.

    You're not that God. You're the God Who Is Good, Who dares to swoop into our lives, the God Who "makes the glass break," to quote Jessie J (yes, I'm mixing Jessie J and theology and I like it that way). 
    Hagar, abused and fleeing, in the desert, saw You and christened You the God Who Sees. 
    The God.
    You know us. You know the pain, yes You do (I'll whisper now:
    Does it make You want to blind Yourself?).
    And the victories, the smashing of prisons and the resurrections - those You delight in seeing. You clap your hands and cheer and thrust Your scarred fist in the air (if heaven has air?) every time good wins out. 

    Sometimes it doesn't feel like enough, to have one God, Whom I can't see, see me. It sounds cheap to the abused, to the suicidal, to the outcast.
    But He does. And there's a flimsy vapor of hope that yearns ever-so-quickly for His seeing to be enough despite my rage.

    I don't understand pain, or why God lets such horrors happen. I wish I did.
    I just hope His seeing is somehow, like Hagar experienced, what we need to go on.