You Are Not a Jesus Feminist. Part 1

Jesus-Feminist-definition

May 2019 was not a good month for North American Christian women on social media and in the news. We experienced the loss of Christian author, speaker, and thought provoker Rachel Held Evans. Following that we witnessed epic verbal and moral attacks against Christian author, bible study teacher, prayer warrior, speaker (don’t say preacher), and energetic storyteller Beth Moore.

The unexpected death of Rachel was shocking and difficult for the many people who had been touched by her work. The ministry of Rachel was one where she asked us to think long, hard, and constantly about what we believe, why believe it, and how those beliefs are manifested in our actions. She provided safer spaces for people to freely question themselves, God, and society. It was her heart’s work to help us stand in front of the spiritual mirror and ask, does what I believe bring me closer to God and closer to others, or does it push me and those I encounter further away from the loving, grace-filled, and redemptive arms of Christ.

The more she spoke, and the more she wrote, the more her haters attacked. I have heard, seen, and read many nasty things directed at women within Christian communities, but I will say, some of the worst seemed to have been slung straight at her. Despite the heart breaking reality that her death had left a husband and their two very young children behind, it didn’t seem to spur her most fervid opponents to call a cease fire on personal attacks. This type of behaviour is what happens when people are so attached to their doctrine and dogma that they have no tolerance for extending emotional understanding or compassion towards those who are hurting and in need.

I was never a “fan” of Rachel Held Evans in the same way that I am not a fan of my parish priest and the clergy team. I saw her as a woman who fulfilled her calling in life. No one has to agree with her, I certainly didn’t agree with everything she said, and I don’t think she ever expected people to. Instead she encouraged people to do the work of self-reflection, communicating with God, revisiting the bible and being open to new understandings and ways of interpreting what we have been traditionally taught, and following God’s commandment to love others.

When I saw that these same people turned their spiritual venom towards Beth Moore I was disappointed, but not shocked. I consider Beth Moore to be an Evangelical fundamentalist.  I have completed over 10 of her bible studies, and she had a major impact on my life and my faith. Each one of her studies has brought me close to God and taught me the importance and benefits of going deep into the word of God.

As with Rachel Held Evans, I don’t agree with everything Moore teaches, and I also don’t believe she expects us to. She has provided us with the tools to dig deeper into a topic and it is up to us to understand why we believe what we do and how we came to those decisions.

After reading some of the online attacks against Beth Moore I finally accepted that the issue really isn’t about women and preaching; it is about the deep seated hatred and dislike that some people have for women. Some of the most passionate opponents of Moore happen to be women. They are active gatekeepers of patriarchy in the church.

To quote Anne Graham Lotz (Crosswalk.com)

“The very first person to be commissioned was a woman. And she was commissioned to go to men to share her testimony…and then also to give His Word. I know there are some people who will draw a line and say I can give a testimony, but I can’t share the Scripture. But Jesus didn’t make that distinction. He gave Mary Magdalene both commissions, to share her testimony and to give out His word.”

Could you imagine if Jesus gave post-resurrection instructions to the women and they responded by saying, ‘I’m sorry Lord, but I can’t share the good news I’m a woman; that’s not the role father God has given me. But we can go back and find some women to tell the good news to, cook for the men, and by then you will have announced your resurrection to them directly and we can all celebrate together.”

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Instead of falling back on man made instructions Mary Magdalene and the other women listened to Jesus, who clearly stated that he speaks as God  instructs him to.

Beth Moore I am

Jesus comforted the women and told them, “Do not be afraid” (Matt 28:10) and he tells us women the same thing today. Do not be afraid to choose the commandments of Jesus over the commandments of men.

While the women were on their way to share the good news of the resurrection, and to share the truth, a group of men (the guards) were busy being prepped for telling lies about why the tomb was empty and Jesus was gone (Matt 28: 11-15).

The Great Commission
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matt 28:16-20)

The passage above is one of the reasons I don’t need to call myself a Jesus Feminist. There is nothing wrong with doing so, it’s a personal choice, but I want people to know why I won’t give myself that title. I’m a follower of Jesus, that’s who I am. Whatever contemporary titles you give yourself, remember to keep them rooted in God, his word, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of wisdom which has been given to us.

When You’re Too Woke For Your Own Good

Too Woke
So many people from all walks of life have a habit of throwing around the terms “woke“, “ally“, “space” “decolonization” without really considering that these words have different meanings to different people. Worldview and social location contribute to how you define these words and how you live them.

I had to take issue with some women who were a bit “too woke” for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman of colour who also gets tired of the same old B.S. but I also believe in being realistic. Justice, equality, equity, and the like don’t happen overnight. It requires groups of people to commit to the steady, difficult, painful, and not always instantly rewarding work of creating change. Change is never instant.

I’m not saying advocates need to become silent, soft, or passive. What I’m saying is that sometimes you just might be your own worst enemy and become a barrier to change.

What do I mean by being “too woke”, well here are some examples:

-You think you, and only you are right, always right

-When you are proven wrong you refuse to apologize or acknowledge it

-You have deemed everyone and anyone who doesn’t look like you or experience the same oppression as an enemy; despite not knowing the other person(s) story

-You speak for everyone in your community and don’t allow for intersectionality and diversity of views

-If things don’t go your way you become upset and disrupt meetings, storm out of meetings, take over meetings, silence others who don’t agree with you; all.the.time.

-You take on the negative habits of oppressors or colonizers and refuse to engage in self-reflection

-You are so woke and wide eyed you see things that are not there

-You refuse to acknowledge the work that others are making towards positive and healthy changes

-You demand change NOW without considering the consequences of poorly thought out plans

-You don’t engage in discussions or communicate well. Instead, you take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to express your thoughts. You are more interested in cancelling, destroying, and seeking revenge rather than helping to make long lasting positive change that benefits others.

-You don’t know how to relax and have fun. You take everything seriously. Self-care and community care are not familiar parts of your wellness routine.

-You critique, but rarely have any ideas, solutions, or alternatives to offer

-You refuse to learn more about people who are different from you (gender, socio-economic, ability, race/ethnicity, colour, sexuality, etc.)

Unfortunately, this is a short list of examples.

I think it is best for those of who are involved in community work and change making to remember the words of Audre Lorde, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.

Let’s all do our best not to make positive change more difficult than it has to be.

Fill Your Cup and Others Also

Fill Your Cup

We hear the expression “You can’t pour from an empty cup” followed by “You have to fill your own cup first”. These sayings are very much in line with North American concepts of self-care being about one’s self only. That might also explain why there are so many memes which say, “self-care is not selfish”.

I’ve never liked the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” because I always wondered, who pours from a cup anyways? When was the last time you went to a restaurant and the waiter poured your tea from one cup into your own cup? Even at home you start the kettle or the Keurig, and your beverage of choice is served from there into your cup. Full or empty, you don’t pour from a cup, maybe this is also key to why people continuously feel empty and drained; they are doing things in ways that were never meant to be.

As for “You have to fill your own cup first”, I would say to others; your cup is not meant to be poured from. Your cup is for you and only you to drink from. How often do you share your personal cup of tea or coffee? Probably never or rarely. Instead what we pour from is the teapot or the coffee carafe. We can pour our own drink first and pour for others or pass the container along for others to do so themselves. Your cup is for you to replenish yourself only and none of it is to be consumed by others, it is what helps to fulfill and sustain you according to your own needs and your life responsibilities.

Drinking from your cup isn’t about the amount of time you selflessly give to others doing good deeds, favours, and things that are a result of your not being able to say no. The contents of your cup represent what is in your life. Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote a book Can You Drink the Cup using the cup as a great metaphor for life. In his book he writes,

You have to know what you are drinking, and you have to be able to talk about it. Similarly, just living life is not enough. We must know what we are living. A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it, and form opinions about it. Half of living is reflecting on what is being lived. Is it worth it? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it old? Is it new? What is it all about? The greatest  joy as well as the greatest pain of living come not only from what we live but even more from how we think and feel about what we are living. …Holding the cup of life means looking critically as what we are living. This requires great courage, because when we start looking, we might be terrified by what we see. Questions may arise that we don’t know how to answer.”

Everyone has something different in their cup and what they drink might be refreshing, bitter, sweet, bland, nourishing, or toxic; regardless it fills them up. And when filled, what pours out is not from their cup but from their heart, mind, and actions.

Ask yourself, what are you filling your cup with, why, and what does it mean to you. How does it affect others?

Henri Nouwen_Can You Drink The Cup
From Can You Drink the Cup by Henri Nouwen

 

Judging without Judging

Life live to the fullest!

The title, it doesn’t sound quite right. Judging without judging others, how is that possible, is that even possible? Sounds almost like an oxymoron.

Over the past few weeks I had been trying to figure out how to deal with a very powerful peer who happens to be a highly judgmental, self-serving, vindictive, and bitter person (this description sounds judgmental, doesn’t it?). It has gotten to the point where a conversation couldn’t be had without her tearing down other women who work in our industry. It was an earful of listening to nasty comments about how these other women dress, what their husbands look like, silly gossip, and fantasies of taking her opponents down in the cruelest manner.

If this was a friend rather than an industry peer, keeping my distance would be easy. Speaking to her about the behaviour described earlier is out of the question. I have seen firsthand what has happened to those who have dared to do so; it wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately, I live in a mid-sized city and it is difficult to entirely avoid people who are in the same career field as you. Everyone knows somebody who knows someone. In the end I decided to forfeit having her as part of my career sphere of influence.

The Lessons

What I have been learning is that when you are close to a peer(s) and you distance yourself from these people who are emotionally toxic yet powerful and well connected, it makes more labour for you in terms of networking, getting connected with just the right people, learning the ropes, and having your work known by others; but in the end it is worth it.

Not having that powerful and seasoned professional by your side to give you the ins and outs of a cutthroat industry makes the struggle even harder, but I was alright with this, my personal values were more important.

If your career-based circle of associates requires that you cut others down, eliminate your competition with dishonest words or actions; and your emerging business plan includes a social media smear campaign against people you (or they) don’t like; take a pass, this is necessary. Your mentors and those who are part of your career circle heavily influence your behaviour, values, and personal work ethic.

Ask yourself, “what part of who I am as a person is being sacrificed in order to stay within this career based inner circle”?

Is the sacrifice and trade-off your…?

  • personal values
  • unnecessary time away from your family
  • money that you don’t have to spare
  • integrity and honesty
  • healthy character traits
  • long-time friendships (healthy ones)
  • your faith/religion
  • keeping up shallow and superficial appearances
  • constant emotional and mental fatigue that isn’t directly related to the production of your work
  • abandoning your own dreams or personal goals in order to people-please
  • decrease in quality of your own work

Count the costs, not just short-term, but long term as well. It can be difficult to set boundaries with people who have direct influence on your work, reputation, and income, but I encourage you to find a way to create a healthy distance between yourself and industry peers who have a spirit of spitefulness, revenge, pettiness, and exclusion. The slower path to career fulfillment will leave you with a clearer conscience knowing your achievements were obtained without having to sabotage peers, belittle the work of others, or step all over people.

When you take the more laborious and often longer path, do so because the other option was not a part of who you are as a person, nor who you aspire to become. Recognize that people who thrive from their toxic behviour are often personally scared and insecure, and might even have developed such ways of living due to past trauma. But remember, it is not your problem to deal with. Be willing to operate in a different way without seeing yourself as better than anyone else or allowing bitterness and self-doubt to permeate your mind and your work. This is how you “judge without judging”.

 

 

 

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