Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yelling in My Head

So I don't have enough time to write and you don't have enough time to read all that I would like say about this article from the Mat- Su Valley Frontiersman: Faith : What the Bible says about a modern controversy. To sum it up: the pastor/commentator argues, through the apostle Paul, that because wife's body belongs to her husband and his to her- there cannot be rape in marriage. That is to say that if a man and woman have made a commitment before God and the state, there cannot be forced sex in the relationship.

Apparently, the state says there can be and the state's against it, where it occurs. However, according to Ron Hamman, pastor of the Independent Baptist Church of Wasilla, God says there can't be. Ron argues, even if there was forced sex (rape) in a marriage, you'd need witnesses to prove it according to the biblical standard. Well, Ron, most Christians I know stopped bringing in witnesses to prove the existence (and tearing) of the hymen on the wedding night a while ago. If I don't have witnesses to that incident, I can continue to claim my virginity, yes? (The existence of my son would, technically, refute it.)

Ron, friend, you mention Matthew 18 with regard to the biblical injunction for witnesses. Let me point out, in all humbleness, that the passage in question is for the reproving of members of one's own congregation, as opposed to suing them and making a show in public. This is about sin between members and pertaining to the life of faith, not about issues which actually have legal standing and bearing. Issues like, say, rape. You take two or three people with you, so that the reproof may be documented. Thus if the sin continues, you have witnesses to the fact that you encouraged it to stop. You may have to take the additional step of removing someone from the congregation, except that then Jesus goes on to say you owe your brothers and sisters forgiveness many, many times because of what you have been forgiven yourself.

Be that as it may, there is NO point where Jesus says you should continue to endure humiliation, bodily harm and subjugation. There is no point where Jesus says turn the other cheek so that your other eye may be blackened. There is no point where Jesus says the God-given gift of sexuality and sexual practice should be torn from you because someone else knows what is best for you. To return to where you are being hurt and demeaned is not forgiveness, but to give up on the promise of new life that God has for all. Freedom in Christ does not mean slavery to someone who claims to love you, but whose actions are otherwise.

Brother Ron, with the witnesses of the readership of this blog, I condemn your use of Scripture to manipulate women- half of God's human creation. I stand against your argument to allow rape within marriage. I damn your twisting of the freeing word of God to hold people to an idea of marriage that does not promote faith, service or growth in the love of the Lord. I reprove you for putting women down, attempting to remove their joy in their bodies and for condoning violence in marriage. Shame! Shame on you!

Have you turned away from your sister in faith when you saw bruises, the origin of which you could guess, because that was "between her and her husband"? Have you sent back a quaking daughter to her father because he was her "covering"? Have you refused to intercede between a woman and her adult son because he had the "equipment" that made him right in God's eyes and, thus, in yours?

Brother Ron, faith without works is dead and the fruit of your faith is rotten to the core. When you demean women, you dismiss God's work in them and through them. You destroy their power to raise up strong daughters and sons. You fail completely to follow Jesus' example of love to all whom he encounters, including those with vaginas.

You say, "The sad part is that it is this kind of Christianity that is ruining America."


Friday, July 15, 2011

Sisterhood, Rah-rah-rah!

So I was a little bit of a foot-dragger when it came to signing up for the Women of the ELCA's Triennial gathering this year. If I went it was my first time, I didn't have any friends going, it IS pricey and I was doing other traveling for continuing education. The theme and the speakers looked great, but I grumbled and mumbled. Finally, a bold woman in my congregation made an offer I couldn't refuse (she paid for a hotel room!) and I signed up to come.

Once I decided to come, I was still apprehensive. Like many introverts with verbal processing needs, I can easily be mistaken for a person who welcomes a crowd, but that's not me. Large groups of people make me nervous and large groups where I only know a handful of the people involved are the worst.

Nevertheless, I signed up for everything. To do the Run, Walk, Roll. For the Young Women's Chocolate Lounge. Joining in means, for me, joining in!

It's a little early, yet, to reflect on all that this will come to mean, but this is a very powerful event. There are more than 2000 women here and you can hear us roaring. I had a hard time taking a non-blurry picture in worship this morning because people were dancing! Dancing, I say! Women of the ELCA!

I went on a garden tour yesterday and there were women from the Virgin Islands, the Dakotas, New York, Texas and all over (including, me, that event's AK representative). We saw the gorgeous gardens of Manito Park in Spokane. Highly recommended! While I was considered the "baby" on the tour, I was heartened by the number of women who wanted to know about Alaska, about my congregation and about me.

I could fill pages about this morning's speaker, Nora Gallagher, who told us that making a map of our faith (sharing our stories) is important because the coastline we describe can help someone else navigate life's sometimes treacherous shores and shoals. I could tell you about the amazing mini-workshop I attended on how to make a picture prayer journal and the incredible leader, Esther Prabhakar, who showed us the one she's been keeping for years. I could share my enthusiasm for the future of Joy Ranch in South Dakota, an all-accessible camp, or bubble over in anticipation of what we will hear tomorrow from Leymah Gbowee.

However I don't think any of those things are the most amazing part of being here. The  strength of this Gathering is the truth of the power that is gathered. The hum and beat of the wings of the Spirit is practically audible as 2000 women commune together, in body, spirit and Christ. When the Real Presence seems like the Perceived Absence, here in this place- new light IS streaming.

Women have the greatest potential to hurt one another. We know exactly the power we have to wound with words, with what is left unsaid, with a glance. Yet we also know what heals, what helps, what builds hope. In the Gathering, the best comes out.

Sitting at a table together, one woman spoke to me about how much she admired Sarah Palin. Rather than launching into my criticisms, I calmly said how my opinion of her had changed and what I felt about her current circumstances. We were calm and smiling, gentle and caring. United by more than this minor division of opinion. And it IS minor.

There is power here to received and to be taken. The power to go back, loins girded, to the tasks we know are waiting. This is not Transfiguration. We are not seeing something new. What is being revealed to us is the truth about the power we have as women in the church, in this day, in our places, with Christ for us, with us, in us and through us. We are not being transformed so much as being brought into deeper understanding, through fellowship and teaching, about what is already true about us and those around us.

The theme is Renew, Respond, Rejoice- part of what we are experiencing here. We have a little time away, a few service opportunities and great communion, within worship and without. We are also receiving a challenge, a challenge of accountability and action. We are being challenged as half the church, half the creation, half of God's kingdom builders to move into claiming and acclaiming the promises God has made.

Will we go back enlivened by the possibilities of God's work in our world or will we go back to our regular to-do lists and busy-ness? The former takes focus, the latter takes nothing. The power will go out with us, available to those with whom we share these stories and mission opportunities. The Spirit goes out with us.

We are not alone. It's not even just me and the Spirit. The power of this Gathering is the sense of "us" that is created. The understanding of the "WE" in WELCA. God is here. We are here. Renewing, responding and rejoicing... nothing can separate us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Five: Summertime Edition

Dorcas over at RevGalBlogPals encouraged some general sharing today and I've been longing for the perfect...something... to get me back to regular writing.

She writes: Share five things that are happening in your life, personally or professionally or some of each, in this season of life.

1. Exercise! In training for a triathlon in June, I managed to push myself from seeing as exercise as something I needed to do to something that I enjoyed. It has become something that I need to do. I bought a bike rack and drive with my bike on the back of my car at all times and I keep gym clothes and a few shower items in a bag in the car. This past Sunday, I managed to grab a 6 mile bike ride in between services (morning and evening) and visitations! I felt great. I'm really trying to get my tolerance and speed up so that when I have to go back to the gym in the winter months, I will be faster and leaner. I do miss my weight-lifting, so that will get back on the agenda when the weather is cooler too. 

2. Toddler love: My son is not-quite 2 years old, but for sure the cutest thing I've ever experienced. I love his soft neck, his giggle, his excited discoveries. He yells in the car about what he can see and we're in a "buck" phase. Buck= truck. There are a lot of bucks around. It's never been easy to leave him and go to work, but it is so much harder to leave a toddler than an infant. I'm making a kissy-face right now in my office, thinking about how I will just squish him when I pick him up in about 45 minutes. 

3. Bible exploration: I'm big on the book of Judges, which was left out of this year's narrative lectionary passages. I'm trying to figure out how to slot one of those stories in and which one. The bonus of Deborah's story is that it includes two powerful women, but it's early in the book. I once wrote a paper on Jepthah's daughter's story as the hinge of the Old Testament, but that's a different kind of preaching. I'm thinking, maybe, Gideon. Pondering, pondering... 

4. Watermelon: Don't tell my nutritionist, but I haven't quit the watermelon. I'm supposed to stick to the higher fiber, less sugary fruits. She wouldn't actually be surprised, though, because I told her I would still eat watermelon in season and I refused to feel guilty about it. If you are going to take watermelon, garlic or lemons from me... I might as well throw in the towel now. Blech. No watermelon in Alaska tastes like the sun-warmed watermelons of my Southern youth. I can only get decent watermelon in the short season when we get them from California. So I'm eating it while the eating is good. I would say you can have my watermelon when you pry from my hands, but I'd stab you before you got that far. (Not somewhere too essential, but serious enough to be a distraction while I finish the melon!) 

5. Ecumenism: Our congregation is starting to do more and more with the United Methodist Church up the street, which makes sense in many ways- not the least of which is our mutual love of Jesus! (Imagine that!) However, I'm surprised at all kinds of ecumenical gatherings when so much of the time is spent rejoicing in how alike we are and how small are our differences. How true.