Humanity, Men and Women

In the past few years I have tried very hard to be tolerant of the popular Christian lingo in evangelical circles— MAN means humanity.  It includes everyone.  Most people mean that when they say MAN… they mean all people everywhere. And so I have tried to hear it that way.  But my patience has been wearing thin lately.

Why not just say “humanity” or “people”? Why use a gender specific word when you mean something gender inclusive? Is it really that much harder to say “Jesus paid the price for humanity,” rather than “Jesus paid the price for MAN”?  Really?

And if it’s just habit, would it be so bad to work at changing that habit, on behalf of all our sisters out there… I mean, it’s not all about what is easiest for us, right? Our faith is about loving others and acting in loving ways toward others.  This is such a small sacrifice to make, to simply say exactly what we mean.

If I know what these people mean when they say MAN, you may be wondering why it’s bugging me.  And here’s the reason: Because it is simply one more way that women are ignored, pushed to the side in evangelical circles, asked to “get over it already.” Well, I tried. And now I’m asking my brothers to try something as well. I am not a man. That’s a fact. So when your are speaking about me or others like me, when we are included in a group that you’re talking about, could you please do us the respect of using a word that actually does include us?

Okay, I will step down off my soap box now… just some food for thought, for all those friendly readers who tend to use male language when they mean groups that include both male and female members. Thank you.

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Rights and Interests

I’ve told a good friend of mine a number of times that I have a terrible political mind. I find it difficult to think like a politician. It’s terribly uncomfortable for me. Let me illustrate: There is a phrase that the candidates have been using lately that grates against my values.  “I will protect American interests overseas!”  Now, I’m sure that’s what politicians are supposed to say. I’m sure that is what our government servants are supposed to do, protect our interests above all others… but I don’t like it. I don’t think that, as a Christ-follower, it is something I can fully and whole-heartedly support. (I told you…. bad political mind)

Here is my problem (and I’m wondering if there are any other evangelical Christians who struggle with this, too): My citizenship knows no national boundary.  I have brothers and sisters all over the world who also have interests and rights, some of them are rich and powerful and some of them are poor and have no voice in their government or its policies. Some of them own no land, no home, have no job.  Some benefit from our country’s foreign policy, but some of them suffer greatly from our actions (such as our sanctions against abusive governments, but also because of American corporations and the laws that protect them).

We consume so much of the world’s resources and spend so much energy trying to police the governments of the world…. our politicians promise that we will have what we “need” (more likey “want”) for years to come if we elect them.  They promise to keep us safe.  But at what expense? Who is looking out for the rest of God’s people?  How can I be at peace about politicians promising to protect our interests when I am aware of people all over the world who have no one (or at best, very few) people promising to protect theirs?  I am MORE than an American. That is my problem with American politics.

And then there is all the lingo about rights– my rights, your rights, the rights of the unborn, the rights of the accused, the rights of immigrants, the rights of single parents, of underage children, of animals, of women, minorities, men.  Who decides whose rights are valued more, who gets first priority? Sadly, it seems wealth and power often decide… as a white woman, I have seen both sides of this. I have such privilege and opportunity as an American. Yet, I have seen and felt what it is like to be pushed down, unheard, hands tied, passed over… a small taste, but I have experienced it.  My right to pursue happiness may collide with someone else’s right to survive.  Your right to eat until you’re satisfied may mean someone else cannot. His right to the job he wants may mean someone else has to take a job that pays barely enough to feed his family. America’s right to oil and its right to prevent attacks against its citizens means other people die.

I, of course, want my rights and interests protected, and those of my husband and children as well. They need to be protected. But I also want leaders who have a view wider and larger than this country. America is one among many nations. We are not the best. We are not always right or always good. There are other people out there with rights and interests. They should be protected, too. And if it’s not a Christian politician’s job to do that, whose job is it?

A trip to the ER

Today was a day of the unexpected, unplanned and unpleasant… which is prone to happen when you’re a parent.  Heidi fell while she was running outside today and there was enough blood that we decided to take her directly to the ER.  It turned out that they needed to put her under general anesthesia to put in the stitches.

Before we even knew the diagnosis, Heidi was terrified of the thought of needles, to the point of refusing to go into the car, into the building, into the exam room. She would stiffen up and repeat, “No, mommy, no! I’m not going! I can’t stand it! It’s going to hurt. I don’t want it, I’m not going. No, no, no!”

For my part, I was almost as frightened as her. Before the doctor finally came into the room and looked at her injuries and told us the plan, I kept wondering what was happening… afraid for my daughter, afraid for all of us if this ended up being something more serious than just a few stitches (her injury was pretty bizarre, but I won’t go into details here, to protect Heidi’s privacy). The amount of blood alone was enough to make me feel nauseous. Those are very lonely moments as a parent, when there is no one to hold you and comfort you during your child’s crisis.

Considering Heidi’s almost-hysteria, I found myself caught between my own sense of panic and trying to be cheerful and supportive for my daughter. At one point I admited to her that I was scared, too, but that I also believed that God was with us and knew how frightened we were and would help us face whatever happened next.

The most traumatic part of our little hospital excursion was when they put the IV needle in her hand, in preparation for surgery. She stiffened up and started to panic. One nurse had to hold her arm still while the other put the needle in the vein on top of her hand. She was screaming and crying, but I got down in front of her and held her other hand and said (through my own tears), “Heidi, look at me. Look at my eyes. Don’t watch what they’re doing, look at me, honey! That’s it. Let’s sing our song. I’ll start— Jesus loves me, this I know…”  And my beautiful girl sang through her tears and sobs. She kept looking at me and singing her song even though she hated every minute of what was happening to her and didn’t want to do it. She still sang. She kept looking at her mama’s eyes.

I remember many days when I have sung through my pain– when I didn’t believe the words I was singing, but sang anyway. I would do my best to keep my Savior’s loving gaze, even when I hated what was happening to me and blamed him for it.  Stubborn determination. Stubborn faith in the midst of chaos and the unknown.

You’re a beautiful, brave girl, Heidi. Mama’s proud.

Yes and No

I am posting a link to an article below. This article was passed along to me by the pastor at Highland Park Community Church, the church where I am serving as Pastoral Intern of Worship and Arts. My last three posts have linked you with intelligent, strong, faithful women… women who have courageously embarked on the journey of ministry and leadership, who have found their own voice and their own way of living, women who have delved deeply into life and have refused to “settle” for the status quo that traditional Christian society would place upon them as women. To my male and female readers: I hope these women have stretched you, if you have taken the time to read their writing.

The following article addresses an issue I am currently confronted with in my internship.  Which tasks to I say “yes” to, and to which do I say “no”?  How and when do I say “yes” and “no” to potential volunteers under my leadership?  When am I saying “yes” or “no” to God… and for what reasons?  I encourage you to read and reflect:

http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3667

Women and Theology

Jenell Paris, another blogosphere kindred spirit, whom I have blessed to find writes about the nature and purpose of theology here (it can also be seen at her site: http://jenellparis.blogspot.com/):

Wonderings

Sometimes I wonder if all theology is really theodicy. If a great idea, a great sermon, or a great exegesis doesn’t speak to your aching need, or even aggravates it, can you hear it? Four years later, I still filter Christian words, sermons, and people through my experience of infant loss. And on days when that isn’t at the tip of my emotions, I consider other people’s suffering, of which there is always plenty to consider. Today on Christian radio I heard a man say in what sounded to me like a sing-song voice, “Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, and Lord, we just pray for those Boy Scouts you’ve taken home to be with You.” That just seemed like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, so I offered up a quick counter-prayer, “Lord, please don’t let those boys’ parents be listening to this radio station right now. Amen.” Maybe counter-praying is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, I don’t know.

Yesterday I watched A Birth Story, the cable show that shows women having babies. My heart started pounding, my uterus started cramping, and I started crying. It really took me back! When her baby was born, she cried, and I cried, and I’m sure the thousands of women who love that show cried. My body was remembering Max, my youngest son born a year ago. Like the baby in the show, he was a singleton born whole and healthy in a relatively quiet and sparse room. It was a normal birth, and he was a normal baby. The nurse handed him to me, and I held him, and felt for all the world like I was getting away with something big. I was, and I am.

When I see pregnant women, twins, triplets, hospitals, or newborns, I almost always react negatively with feelings and thoughts of nausea, vomit, pain, sickness, death, terror, and invasive medicine. This “A Birth Story” is the first time my body put the good times before the bad, calling forth the sweating, breathing, and cramping of a successful delivery instead of the panic of a doomed labor and delivery (for new readers, my first triplet pregnancy ended with the stillbirth of one and deaths of two). Maybe faith isn’t all about mind and spirit. Maybe ‘fixing’ theology isn’t the most important thing. Maybe, just maybe, by living into my reality — I really did birth a healthy baby — my body has taught my soul something about peace and rest. And of course, maybe body and soul aren’t as far apart as I might think.

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She inspires me. Sometimes I wonder if women doing theology brings theology back into the grit and grime and earthiness of the universe. Life is messy and theology should be as well! Thank you, Jenell!

Who am I to God?

A woman named Emily Hunter McGowen, whom I found through reading Natalie’s Narrative has posted some reflections on the debate among evangelicals on the “role of women” in the church.

She has hit the bullseye in my humble opinion.

http://thinklaughweepworship.blogspot.com/2008/06/not-secondary-issue.html

Thanks, Emily! I feel you are a kindred spirit, though we have never met.

Thank you, also, Natalie… again, a kindred spirit. I hope to meet you both someday.  Hang in there, sisters! Keep persevering in the face of opposition. It is truly a battle worth fighting.

Leadership- on mission together

For my seminary class on “Leading Congregational Change,” I’m reading Roxburgh and Romanuk’s book The Missional Leader: Equipping your church to reach a changing world. I actually started by just skimming this book, but it thoroughly caught my attention, so now I’m reading it more carefully.

One of the first things they do is compare the old model of “pastoral leadership” with “missional leadership.” Pastoring, for them, means the following: significant meetings always include the pastor, ordained staff take care of the people and their needs, pastor’s schedule is shaped by people’s needs, preaching and teaching is didactic and offers the answers for life, pastor is the “professional” Christian and a celebrity, pastor plays the role of conflict suppressor and peacemaker and recovery expert, he/she is a maintainer of the church.

Missional leadership, on the other hand looks like this: Pastors are cultivators of an environment, they are coaches and mentors, pastors release people for ministry and mission, they ask questions and invite people to engage scripture as a living Word, they teach using stories and metaphors, they recognize their role as significant but not the sum total of the Body, they facilitate conflict and recognize that tension is okay, they encourage imagination and creativity, and they look for local opportunities and models of ministry.

I resonate with missional leadership, but, wow is it hard to get people on board with this new model when the old one is so ingrained in their hearts and minds!!! I can hear the question, “Well, what will she DO all day if she’s not visiting the hospitals and the elderly, and attending meetings??” So why are we changing the model of church leadership?

It would be nearly impossible to deny that change is needed. Another section of this book that has caught my attention deals with the change in our culture. In this age of the information explosion and what many call ‘discontinuous change,’ the authors say: “one result of uncertainty and massive change is that people turn inward to their private selves, and at the same time turn the public world into a means of achieving their own private security or identity… The bridge between private and public has been dismantled to the point that ‘the sole grievances aired in public are sackfuls of private agonies and anxieties.’ Communication has become largely narcissistic- private therapy through public discourse with gurus such as Dr. Phil and Oprah” (p. 67). That paragraph stopped me cold. From what I’ve seen… so true. We’re so afraid– afraid of losing our rights, losing our identity, losing our way of life and whatever we have to hold onto– that we’ve crawled into our shells. We don’t really engage each other anymore or the world, for that matter.

Want to know what the authors believe the answer to be? Narrative. A story. “For people to become something more than a collection of individuals crowding together for warmth, they must recover A COMMON NARRATIVE that gives sense to the present and shapes the future” (p. 69). How simple and how profound… actually, at first it sounds silly. But I’m beginning to believe in the power of stories. They have shaped and formed me over the years, and I see them forming and shaping my own children as they grow. Maybe it’s not such a silly idea. What is my congregation’s story within God’s Great Story?

Oh, God, make me a pastor who cultivates true community and tells the Great Story and the community stories well! Amen.

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