Friday, April 04, 2014

Fighting rape culture and the however of having a teenage daughter

I feel like being a feminist and fighting rape culture when you’re the parent of a teenage girl is full of howevers. I can teach my sons not to rape, but I have limited ability to teach other people’s sons not to rape (yet another reason to work in youth ministry). So I have to teach my daughter to avoid rape. I have to teach her self defense skills, to not walk alone after dark, to not go off alone with a boy.I have to teach her not to wear provocative clothing. I will have to teach her to keep her keys in her hand, to not let her drink out of her eyesight, to be careful of how much she drinks when she’s not in a crowd. I am a feminist. I will fight against rape culture every day of my life. But I will never bet my daughter’s safety on others doing the same.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Can true faith be truly lived in a theocracy?

It seems that every time I go online nowadays, I read another story of a local government voting on laws to make their populace behave in a way they consider Christian.
I have several problems with this.
First and most glaringly obvious is the separation of church and state. It almost, it SHOULD, go without saying. But this post isn't about that, because separation of church and state is a constitutional right. This post is about two ways "morality" laws dilute religious practise .

The first ( which perhaps ties more to freedom of religious expression than to dilution of faith) is that of interpretation. Those advocating laws in the interest of "Christian values" rarely align with my own expression of Christian value. To put it briefly, any law that makes it harder for my poor neighbour, my queer neighbour, my atheist neighbour, my Muslim neighbour, my addicted neighbour, my promiscuous neighbour, (the list goes on) to be treated with full dignity, kindness, and compassion is one that violates MY expression of Christian values. It doesn't just establish one religion over another, it establishes on particular interpretation of one particular religion over another. Now, unless I have my history wrong (and I don't), that's just the thing our forefathers and foremothers came to this country to escape.

The second, perhaps more esoteric one, is the one I find most important for those who want to live out a life of faith. When the law of the land requires us to behave in a "Biblical" way, how can we say we're living a life of faith at all? I'll use an example that isn't likely to be too contentious and upon which the Bible is actually absolutely clear (unlike a lot of the contentious issues).

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

There's no getting around this one if you're of the Judeo-Christian tradition; it's one of the Ten Commandments. Yet most of us would agree that it would be ridiculous to make a law making it illegal to take the Lord's name in vain. Not only does it violate separation of church and state AND freedom of expression, it would be next to impossible to enforce!
But that's not the most important reason why for people of faith.

The most important reason is that honoring God with our words is meaningless if it's done out of fear of the legal repercussions. If I refrain from using the Lord's name in vain because it's against the law, I'm not expressing my faith. I'm not expressing reverence.

I'm just staying out of trouble.

Laws that make people "act Christian" don't promote holiness. To be holy is to be set apart. Religious people can't do that when the law of the land imposes a narrow range of action on people, and when the CHOICE to not act that way is taken away from them. Only when we have freedom can we truly act out of faith.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Money CAN buy happiness

When people say "money can't buy happiness" or that the "best things in life are free", they need to add a few qualifiers.It needs to be said that certain needs need to be met before this even has a chance of being true. They need to acknowledge that below a certain level of financial well being, money CAN buy happiness. Money can by a warm house, nourishing food, and comfortable clothing. Money can't buy happiness? Try having an abscessed tooth and having no money to see a dentist. Try having to choose between paying your electricity bill and necessary medication. Yes, I can see that once certain basic need-and yes, wants- have been met, more money will do little to improve your life, and more time will do so. But it's demeaning to suggest the poor are somehow "fortunate" because they "know what really matters".

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Always something there to remind me: a purely selfish post about grief.

In this past week, Nirvana was announced as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and I threw an empty Body Shop tea tree oil toner in the recycling.

This week, my daughter continued her study of the life of Kurt Cobain, and a memorial was held for my friend Carrie.

Right now, in another window, Pinterest wants me to invite Carrie Brown to join.

As you can tell, this post is not just selfish but disjointed, and it doesn't even touch on the greatest griefs of my life. But that's kind of the thing. Grief is selfish and disjointed and sometimes follows a trajectory that makes no sense.

Last November, my friend Carrie, who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer one year before, was packing up to move to California where her family could care for her. I drove the 2 1/2 hours to help her mom pack, and to see her before she left the beautiful state of Washington.
I think I knew then that it would be for good, though no one would think to speak it.
When we were packing up, her mom was going to throw away some half empty bottles of toiletries, and I offered to take them and use them up. The bottle of toner was the last thing we used up, the only thing to outlive Carrie.

When I assigned my daughter the book Cobain as part of her rock history course, she said it would be too sad to read. I was brought back to the day Kurt died, and how my husband walked down the hill to meet me at work and tell me. As young, Seattle area denizens of the early 90's, it was all so close. We all felt like we'd lost a brother.

I remembered this November, this first weekend of November, standing at the transit center with my 11 year old, freezing in my Green Lantern costume, reading facebook on my phone, hiding my emotions, as a group of people from every corner of America and Canada held Carrie in love as her not unexpected but somehow still shocking  death unfolded.

Today, I saw a Nativity it Goodwill that reminded my of my Gram's. I did not buy it. My children have grown up with the Nativity I bought my first year on my own. That is OUR memory.

That;s how grief is.It follows a strange trajectory, and it drags you along for the ride. And no matter how close or how distant. something will always remind you of those who have gone before us, and often at the strangest times.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I don't want to talk about reality TV. But I need to speak about our public discourse

Somebody is in the news again for saying something unkind about LGBTQ people. I wasn't going to say anything about this, because me talking about the stance of a reality TV personality would be a lot like me saying I'll boycott crappy fast food chicken sandwiches.
But I feel compelled to speak about the meta-issue, because this affects real people.
You see, when somebody is in the news for denigrating a group of people: whether it's gay people, people of colour, or people of a certain religion (or lack thereof), I will inevitably find that people I know and care about agree with these people. And most of these people have children in their lives: their own, their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, students.

And some of these kids are gay, bisexual, or trans*.

And ALL of them are watching you.

And if you are supporting people who disregard a whole group of people, and the young person in your life belongs to that group, you are telling them that they are "less than."

And friends, our young people are too precious to treat that way.

I have almost my entire adult life working with children, with the last 14 years in the church nursery. I also work with the church youth. Some of the kids I've cared for spend an hour in my care and move on; others have been in my ;life long enough to graduate from toddler eating Cheerios while I read about how much Jesus loves them to teenager making sure I'll be at their rite of confirmation. And yes, some of these kids ARE LGBTQ. Some share with me, some are out and proud, and some kids you just KNOW.

Every single one of them is precious to God and to me. And it hurts my heart to know that some of these kids are hiding who they are because they *know* how Mom, Dad, or the grandparents feel about "people like them". It hurts even more to know that some of them will, probably, think about taking their own lives because it seems less terrifying than their family's rejection. Do you really want that to be the result of stating your beliefs?

So please, even if you do believe that marriage is "between one man and one woman", think about how you say that. Think about whose words you support. And let all the kids in your life know that you love and support them, no matter what.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Towards a more positive activism

If you're on the internet, and you don't edit everyone and everything you follow to be cute, happy, and fluffy, you have probably noticed that a lot of progressive activists are very angry. Their posts are shouty and sweary.

I'm not one of them, and to honest, I find it a bit off-putting. Even when I share their goals, I find their tone to be counterproductive.

I choose to be positive. I choose , 98% of the time, to use language I’d use in front of other people’s children.I try not to drown in anger because I know that when someone speaks angrily to me, I remember my own anger at their tone rather than the point they wanted to make. I wonder if working with small children all of my adult life contributes to this. I view bigots, misogynists, and haters as CHILDREN, and I know you get a lot farther with children by quietly and calmly repeating “We don’t act that way” than you do by screaming obscenities at them.

I prefer to look at the positives. If I want to express why representation matters, won't it be more effective to share what an important role model Lt Uhura has been . If I want to express why gay rights are important, I think it's more effective to share the life stories of gay people than to call people assholes because they aren't there yet. If I want to share why we need feminism, I don't think sites such as Jezebel and XOJane are the way to go. And I really don't think we'll effectively fight unrealistic beauty standards by going too far in the other direction and wearing pajamas and sweats in public.

I'm not blind to the issues.  I take part in social activism: probably way more than the more vocal activists realize. I know that people have a *right* to be angry. I believe that all people deserve equal rights and protection. I believe all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I do NOT think angry, F bomb laden, YOU ARE WORTHLESS IF YOU DON'T AGREE!!! rants will bring that about. Just the opposite.When one of the people in my lives goes into a rage-y rant, I don't listen to what they have to say. I walk away. I remove myself from the negativity. I don't like feeling the same way about my fellow activists...our fight is too important.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What you can't tell by the time they're teenagers

When my kids, and those of many of my friends were little, doing it all right and never wrong was a big part of our daily thoughts. It stood to reason in our sleep deprived, hormonal brains that if we were doing things right, other ways were wrong. I don't think that has changed much.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the mommy wars. We've both worked with kids of all ages for many years. We have made some parenting decisions that are very similar, and some that are polar opposites. All of our kids are good kids.

I put a lot of thought into my parenting and all in all, think I've made good decisions that have served my kids well. I even think a few of them are clearly superior to the opposite decision. But I've also come to recognise over the years that I CAN'T know what would work for another family; that the fastest way to encourage someone to NOT do something is to tell them they MUST (or is that just me?), and very importantly, that by the time your kids are teenagers, some thing will simply not be obvious. So relax. By the time your kids are teenagers, no one will be able to tell:

  • Whether your child was breast or bottle fed
  • What kind of diapers your kid wore (well, except Mother Earth)
  • If your child co slept or had a crib
  • If you played Mozart for your baby
  • If your child read at 3 or at 7
  • If your child's first meal was organic brown rice lovingly toasted in a cast iron skillet for extra iron and ground in a virgin grinder and mixed with your milk and organic fruit you grew yourself, or fruit grabbed off the shelf at the produce market, or a spoon full of chocolate
  • If your baby was born at home, a birth center, or a hospital

What will the astute observer probably be able to tell?

  • If you read to your child and create a language rich environment
  • If you are actively involved in their education, whether it takes place in a public, private, or home school
  • If you have been fully present for your child
  • If you have MODELED and expected basic manners of your child
  • Possibly, whether you've ever tried to pass off a fruit juice sweetened whole wheat birthday cake or oatmeal raisin cookie off as the good stuff. That kind of thing leaves scars.