Gender

Inspirational Lunch

I had a great lunch conversation with two young white men today who are feeling the pressure to “produce and provide” and are looking for alternatives to succumbing to this stereotype and just joining the corporate project. After lunch, I wrote this:

As I think about our conversation more in the understanding of my daily work at a social services agency in town, I am reminded on the necessity to invite anyone and everyone with whatever ethnicity or background (age, sexuality, religion, political persuasion) to participate in the work of healing (and radical positive social change and happiness creation) in our society. There is enough pain to go around. Everyone can have a hand in creating peace. I think a place like where I work, is where push comes to shove, and the realization that we can’t find enough people (of ANY race, class or gender) to facilitate the creation of a new society, and not enough people to persuade others to stop beating each other in inter familial violence). It feels desperate.

There were some black people back during the time of emancipation, who didn’t want to participate in the mainstream US society, and they opted to farm somewhere and live in peace with their indigenous neighbors. Just a random thought about what it would look like if instead of clamoring to be just like white people (when I say white here, i mean the white people that southern black folks encountered…rich, conservative, separatist, tea parties, cult of true womanhood, Victorian, etc) and be accepted into their culture and politics, we searched the alternatives that our indigenous (to Africa) pasts gave us. but we didn’t for the most part. (more…)

Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

(more…)

an ordination sermon

I attended the ordination service this past Sunday at James Street Mennonite Church. I recorded most of the service with a hand held digital recorder and thought some of you might find the sermon interesting. A little background first: Elizabeth Nissley, who has been an associate pastor at James Street since 2002, was ordained; Lancaster district bishop Linford King also received the ordination credentials for Kathy Keener Shantz. (Her credentials had been held by Pacific Southwest.)

The sermon was preached by Jane Hoober Peifer, pastor of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, and it can be downloaded here. Thanks to Denver for uploading it for me.

Father’s Day

It’s father’s day, and I wanted to post something that was shared at my church service this morning that I found helpful to hear. I recognized it is limited in it’s patriarchal view of God, and I recognize that as men we have failed women in seeing them as equals (as well as failed them in many other ways). And I recognize that the attribute described are not limited to males, and that not all of us will agree with what “maleness” means. But this is not what this post is about.

This post is to the guys out there to say, it is OKAY to be male. Because of our historic power imbalance in our culture with our female counterparts, we have a huge responsibility to figure out what it means to be radical Anabaptist men seeking after what God intends for us while rebuking harmful stereotypes.

This is a day set aside to honor fathers. But we at Dayspring want to extend this honor to all men. Today, we want to celebrate your masculinity…your manliness that was patterned after the divine image of our Heavenly Father.

We rebuke stereotypes that hurt and hinder you…. that seek to destroy your competence and question your value.

We celebrate with you instead the Christ-centered model of manhood that embraces your sense of adventure, your love of nature and the wild, your need to do battle for justice and your call to protect. We celebrate by echoing the voice from Heaven that Jesus heard at his baptism:
“This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

If you’ve seldom heard those words from your earthly father, we ask that you hear them with your heart now:
“This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

Supreme Court Hates Women

From the New York Times: Justices Limit Discrimination Suits Over Pay.

From 2001 to 2006, workers brought nearly 40,000 pay discrimination cases. Many such cases are likely to be barred by the court’s interpretation of the requirement in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that employees make their charge within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.”

In a vigorous dissenting opinion that she read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.

According to NPR, one of the cases cited as “precedence” for this ruling has been overturned by congress. If you find the details, link it up.

Sexism has never been so much fun.

Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…

I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.

The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)

Lancaster Congregation to Ordain a Woman on June 24th

Taken from the online edition of The Mennonite

Lancaster Congregation to Ordain a Woman on June 24

LANCASTER, Pa.—More than 60 people from nine congregations gathered at the James Street Mennonite Church on May 16 to discuss how they might respond to a recent decision by Lancaster Mennonite Conference to not allow ordination for women (see Recommendation to Ordain Women Fails on page 19.)

“Very low on the list of options was to leave LMC,” said Linford King, overseer-bishop for the Lancaster City District, “and join another conference or start a new conference. There was a strong move to stay connected to LMC and go ahead with ordinations. The Lancaster district of LMC has formed its own ‘credentialing committee’ to interview candidates. The major impetus to move in this direction is the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, our full participation as members with Mennonite Church USA, and the recent Executive Board Affirmation for the Gifts of Women. The group did not engage in the ‘administrative arrangement’ with another conference. There was also some talk of ‘taking a leave of absence’ from LMC and entering a ‘safe house’ free of conference policies and participation.”

James Street Mennonite church is planning for a service of ordination on June 24 for Elizabeth Nissley.—Posted at 10:30 a.m. on May 22 by Anna Groff

How do we get the straight white men to shut up?

Before anyone gets offended, that’s hyperbole. Bet it got your attention, though. What I’m really asking is how do we achieve diversity on YAR? I have noticed something these past few weeks on YAR. The regulars who tend to dominate the discussions on race, gender and inclusion are… men. (Or I presume so based on their screen names.) I recall several saying they are straight and white. In no way am I saying I don’t enjoy reading what they have to say. I’ve certainly been challenged by them in many ways. It just seems to me there’s something anachronistic about a core group of males who are probably also straight and white being the primary discussors of these matters in this venue.

I remember a recent race and church discussion here in which someone said straight white males should step down from church leadership to give women and minorities* back some of the power. How much does YAR function as a pulpit? We know more people are reading than simply those who post and comment. We’re even going to give periodic summaries of our discussions to an Anabaptist publication.

My fear is that with several straight white males being so adept at sharing their (thoughtful and insightful) views on the subject, the women and minorities* who would like to speak up will see YAR as ultimately no different than any other straight-white-male-dominated venue. I’m not one to just shut my trap on here, heh, but not everyone is like me. Hopefully those who know far more than I ever could will find this a safe place, too.

Maybe I made some of you mad. Good! If I’m wrong, tell me so. Come up with a better solution. Tell me which are the right questions to ask.

*I’m including GLBTQ in “minorities.” Hopefully that’s not a problem.

anti-abortion, pro-abortion?

I didn’t pay much attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion. I skimmed the headlines, noted that pro-abortion activists were “outraged” while anti-abortion activists were celebrating, and went on to the next page. (In case you’re fuzzy on the details, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial birth abortions.) But this past week, I noticed that another web site had reprinted Tim’s post, “The Altar of the Gun.” The blogger said he didn’t agree with Tim’s post but wanted to provide another perspective on idolatry. At one point in the article, he inserted this: “No mention whatsoever from this crowd [that would be YAR] that this Democratic congress supports the murder of five million people per year with abortion…”

Abortion is an incredibly complex topic; it’s never as simple as either side wants it to be. Even the words we use, how we chose to define ourselves, matters: pro-choice? Pro-life? Both phrases sort of rankle me. But I really want to know: how do we here at YAR feel about abortion? Since I’m asking you all to perhaps make yourself vulnerable, it’s only polite of me to go first. (more…)

the problem with feminism

In the past several months, whenever the issue of gender equality has come up in conversation, I’ve heard several of my white male twenty-something friends express frustration at the guilt they feel about being white men. A good friend once said to me, “I feel like I have two strikes against me: one for my ethnicity and one for my gender.” I don’t think anyone knowing these men would say that they don’t have something (perhaps rather significant) to contribute in all of this, and yet the question persists: in our attempts to diversify and enrich our churches and organizations, how do we avoid disempowerment? I’m uncomfortable and dismayed whenever feminism is used as an easy scapegoat, but I’ve never really known how to respond. This post, however, touched on something I’ve been trying to articulate for a few years now: “Men are in trouble because of the feminist movement, but it’s not feminism’s fault.” I’m particularly interested in what the men who read and contribute to this blog think. Some of you have put way more time and energy into this topic than I have. Thoughts?

Sin and Oppression (part 2)

Does the Jewish tradition include the concept of sin? If they did, wasn’t it was relating to following the law (order of the religious establishment) in order to please God? So, Jesus, who in my understanding did a lot of anti-oppression work, was a big sinner, right? Sunday in church, someone mentioned again that Jesus was perfect.

Jesus disobeyed most of the ways to be a man in society, as a Rabbi he called disciples in an unconventional ways, and he behaved in ways towards women, the unclean and marginalized, in ways that got him rebuked by the keepers of the law. When I follow Jesus, I am led to do anti-oppression work. I am lead to be with the marginalized of this society, and behave differently as a woman than society has dictated. This will cause me to sin against some of the institutional laws of the religious establishment, right? For example, it could cause me to go against what my parents have told me. It could go against general church regulations against homosexuality, women preaching and teachings about reproductive rights. (more…)

a sign of hope

As someone who raised a bit of a stink about the whole Lancaster Mennonite Conference-vote-to-not-ordain-women thing, I want to direct your attention to some good news. There was also a letter from the bishops recently to people in the conferece that I would also call hopeful.

So, to the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, I want to say “Thank you.” I must confess, I wasn’t sure you had it in you, but with a little time for pondering and for the dust to settle, I see hope, strength, and wisdom in this resolution. I guess I had too little faith. Well done, the church will be better for it. I’m curious to see how this will play out.

To the bishops – you are asking some good questions and bringing up some important issues and I’m also curious to see where this will go.

Lancaster Conference Credentialed Leaders Respond to Recommendation Regarding the Ordination of Women

Good grief! I need to be studying, but I was sucked in by the latest poll (look to the right)[update 4.15.07 – click here for info about the poll]. Whoever put that up deserves a gold star!! Ever since I read the report about the ordination of women in the Lancaster Conference News last month I have been thinking about posting something about this (Katie already did). I’ve copied the relevant report below from the February 2007 issue. I think the poll speaks for itself; its commentary is more poignant than any I could muster. (more…)

Ain’t I a Woman?

I ain’t actually, but Sojourner Truth was. I copied this from the Modern History Sourcebook.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? (more…)