Category Archives: Theology

Oppression Olympics: Keep It Out of the Church

Oppression Olympics in its simplest definition is when marginalized groups or individuals try to one up another person or group who is also marginalized.

It can sound something like the following:

“I always vote. My grandparents were denied voting rights because they were Asian American; I don’t take the right to vote for granted.”

“Well my great grand parents had to live through the holocaust.”

“You think that’s bad, I’m Native American and we had our land stolen from us.”

“At least you’re a male, I’m female and we only represent…”


oppression olympics quote

I was recently in a course on with a woman who was incredibly competitive with others in the classroom. Part of our assignment was to tell OUR OWN story. We were each assigned 20 minutes to share the story of our journey of faith and spiritual growth. We each respected the lived experience of our classmates except for one person who used the course to engage in oppression Olympics. Unfortunately for her, none of us were interested in competing. We all gladly gave her the Gold, Silver, and Bronze.


As Christians it’s important to remember that suffering, oppression, selfishness, and harm against people is a part of the sinful world in which we live. God is not a judge holding up the score cards with 1 -10, rating us on a scale of least to most oppressed. If we care about more than ourselves we will listen to the narratives of others. It is not possible to listen and compete at the same time. If you are listening you won’t be able to keep score, you will be too busy being present.

It can be draining when so many people and groups are all claiming to be the most oppressed and when there are so many people demanding this and that, some of which can be accommodated while others cannot. We easily become overwhelmed with those who are shouting the loudest trying to be heard by law makers; afraid by all the angry protesters who are letting the world know they won’t back down, or dizzy and cross eyed from reading all the handmade signs with witty phrases about various causes.

I wish that no one was marginalized or oppressed, but that is not possible. I am a woman who is both marginalized and oppressed in a variety of ways by the dominant culture where I live; but I am not the only one who has a story to tell and demands justice. I’m not interested in trying out for the oppression Olympics. I am only interested in ensuring that institutional laws and policies do not continue to discriminate and oppress people.

If people are willing to stop competing and instead listen to what others are sharing, we will be able to recognize the needs of other groups. Competition among humans is what leads to division. When we listen to others wholeheartedly we will replace competition with compassion.

God didn’t call us to compete, he called us to care.







The Horror of the Cross and Women’s Monthly Flow

In the city I live in, there is currently a shortage of free menstrual items for women and young girls who are homeless, low-income, or living in poverty. It has been so problematic that a woman and her friends took the initiative to start a donation campaign exclusively to collect pads and tampons.

Over a year ago I had asked a local church if we could do a women’s hygiene donation drive, the response of one of the women’s ministry leaders was that it had to be at one of the women’s events. This caught me off guard. Why did this important need have to be regulated to women’s ministry? What would happen if this need was advertised in the Sunday bulletin. Would it really make both men and women uncomfortable? Are periods only a woman’s issue?

I sometimes feel that that Church is only comfortable with blood if it is associated with Jesus being tortured on a cross. Not many seem to object to images of a bloody Jesus hanging from the cross despite the fact that he is no longer on the cross. Jesus defeated the cross, he is resurrected in heaven, free from the blood and gore caused by the Roman torture devise. Yet we can’t let go of that bloody image. In fact, we are so attached to the blood of Christ that we celebrate it and pretend to drink it during the Eucharist. I’m not saying we should not remember how gruesome the crucifixion was; that would be minimizing the amazingness of Christ’s sacrifice; what I’m getting at is our acceptance of a bloody Jesus and the rejection of a bloody woman.

Niddah is a Hebrew word used to describe a woman who is menstruating or a woman who hasn’t completed her ritual bath requirement. The literal word niddah means “removed” and is also used to mean “cast out”.

When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. Whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening; whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.” Leviticus 15:19-24

If she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count seven days, and after that she shall be clean. On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord for her unclean discharge.” Leviticus 15:28-30

How nice of the priest to make an atonement for the SIN of a woman having a period. Something that she has no control over, something that is a healthy part of being a woman.

Christianity doesn’t have any purity laws, but when it comes to menstruation, we certainly act as if it is impure by not allowing it to be a topic that is openly discussed among both men and woman. We treat women and their periods as impure when we glorify the bloody stories of war, murder, and genocide found in the bible, but then shame anything that has to do with women who bleed.

If there are food banks, domestic violence safe houses, or shelters in your area; consider finding out if they need any menstrual products and donate proudly without shame or embarrassment. Let’s change the discourse about women and their periods from one of sin to that of being a gift from God. Sometimes periods don’t feel like a gift from God, but they are. Consider that without a proper menstrual cycle some women wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Similar to the beauty of the cross, is the beauty of menstruation.






#Metoo and the Bible

bible women

Over the past couple of weeks, social media lit up with hashtags and comments by mostly women sharing that they too had been on the receiving end of sexual harassment.

It was no surprise to me that so many women had experienced sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. The harassment might be physical, but it affects a person’s sense of well-being; especially if they keep their experience to themselves. Imagine carrying shame, embarrassment, and sometimes confusion on your own; it eventually becomes a mental burden.

One would think the church would be a safe place to seek help and share experiences, but sometimes it’s not. The bible, the very book that is used by Christians as a guidebook for godly living, is filled with horrific stories of the physical abuse and oppression of women, sometimes at the hands of godly men. Hello King David, I’m talking about you!

In the Hebrew scriptures, the stories of revenge against rapists is more about protecting the family name and their female property rather than respecting the woman herself.

In Genesis 34 Dinah’s rape was avenged by her brothers who killed all the men of Shechem and pillaged the village of items including women. On the surface this might seem like a victorious story, but it’s not. The women who were captured certainly didn’t need to be taken by men as a revenge prize. The capture of these women are equally as appalling as the rape of Dinah. In both cases women were violated. These women were seen as nothing more than possessions to be had by any means without any thought about how they might feel.

The story of the Levite’s Concubine can be found in Judges 19-21. It is a repulsive story of a traveling husband who offers his wife to a group of strangers to be gang raped. After being assaulted all night she manages to make it to the doorstep where she likely died. In the morning her husband finds her unresponsive and places her on donkey. Once at home he dismembers her body into twelve pieces and sends her body to different territories of Israel. There was no mention of a memorial, funeral, or burial. All we are left with is another story of a man who is angry that his property has been violated is no longer of any use to him.

As a person who has read through the entire bible, I have no memory of any verses and stories about sexual harassment against women that would be inspiring to a victim.

The bible clearly tells us that God is our rock, our strength, our protector; but I certainly wouldn’t encourage women to turn to the bible for any heroes or heroines of assault.  A woman’s body belongs to her, not to her parents, nor her husband. Scripture will not inform you of this.

no means no

So… all this to say: When dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault, don’t look for inspiration in texts of terror (as feminist theologian Phyllis Trible would call them). Instead, seek out verses that strengthen you, ones that remind of God’s love for you, those verses that remind you that while God did not stop bad things from happening to you, he is still with you. You are still his beloved daughter, you are not damaged goods. His love, mercy, and grace will bring healing to your life and your body. 



Hope for the Helper

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;” Isaiah 61:1

Reading this verse used to fill me with strength and hope; it fueled my passion to follow the calling God had on my life. However, over time, this verse began to feel more like a curse than a blessing. When things because almost unbearable the following passage of scripture became my reality.

“’If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’.” Matthew 10:14-20

I became aware of the destructive things that your own fellow believers were more than willing to do to you; but I had forgotten two important parts of this passage, “…shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” and “do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time,”.

Instead of heeding the sound advice from Christ that is written right there in scripture I disobeyed both instructions. I stuck around too long and I didn’t wait for the Holy Spirit to guide me in what to say to those who made it their goal to attack and destroy.

When God has given you a calling to work and minister in certain environments it is not often easy. Our society has convinced us that anything that involves God will be smooth and easy, as if it were the only sign that you were in the right place doing the right thing.

“In the Vincentian Family, I had the opportunity to meet many missionaries (religious, ordained and lay) who were slandered in their missions; priests that had to leave their parishes due to the internal ecclesiastic [ordained] incomprehension or to the lack of understanding from their own parishioners whom they served; consecrated [ordained] forced to abandon their projects of service to the poor because ‘they were so effective in their service that they caused envy’; lay Vincentians who were called self-interested or corrupt and who had to leave their vocation. Many times we are misunderstood by the poor that we serve! We build their house and in the following week visit, we do not find them anymore, because they sold the house that took so much effort for us to build! Sometimes we feel that we are fighting with all our strength for the mission of service and total dedication to the Poor and that nobody understands us.”


Christ asks us to join him in carrying his cross. Carrying a big wooden torture device over our shoulders is not easy; it was never intended to be. Sometimes we are called to do something that is fun, exciting, and almost effortless; this might be a calling, but it is not the same as carrying a cross. Carrying a cross will always involve pain, hurt, decrease in strength, battling our weaknesses, and many other challenges to our emotional well being.

Does this mean that we will always be defeated in carrying our cross? Not at all. Why? Because God is the one who gives us strength to be able to be co-carriers of the cross alongside Jesus. Jesus is with us, his experience with the cross reminds us that in the end we will have overcome the cross; but until we depart this earth we will always have some type of cross to carry.

When your calling involves carrying the burden of the cross turn to God. Ask him to reveal to you when to dust off your sandals and carry on verses when to stay as a guest and servant. When the attackers come for you, pray, ask God for wisdom as to what to do next. Do you stay, do you go; and what do you say while you are in the midst of the mess. God always has an answer, it will be up to each of us to listen, trust, and follow.