Archive | feminism

shutting their gates and opening our doors

IMG_2707They say my hair is kind of auburn, turns reddish when it’s in the sun. I think I feel my red-headedness come to the surface when certain issues are at hand. Issues, for example, like abortion and women’s rights. When people tell me that to be pro-life, you must be anti-woman, it’s like I’m a scarecrow being fed  matches. This just isn’t true and it’s burning me up inside.

Let me make something very clear: I am 100% pro-woman. I am in awe of the women who have gone before me to pave the way for me to be able to vote, get fair pay, own property and wear pants for Pete’s sake!  I love my rights. I want all women to have the rights I exercise. I am for equality, for liberation. I don’t want any men bossing me around either.

However, abortion is simply not an issue of my rights or your rights. Saying that abortion is a woman’s right is like saying mercy killings are the right of a Muslim father or polygamy the right of a Mormon husband. Women aren’t fighting for those rights because, though some men have these rights legally, we don’t feel that they have a right to those rights.

And I strongly believe that women in Texas do not have the right to abortions. I know this makes me sound like I’m contradicting myself, but hear me out. I don’t think any person, man or woman, has the right to take an innocent life. I don’t necessarily believe life begins at conception, but I don’t think there is any denying that life begins in the womb. The bill that Texans recently passed deals primarily with late-term abortions. I honestly cannot imagine, from a scientific or faith-based (or any other) standpoint, how anyone could watch a late-term abortion and not believe that the the legs and arms and face they are watching being dismembered and dissected is anything other than a person. And if it’s a person, shouldn’t we protect him or her from harm?

(As a side: I would like to personally challenge anyone who is on the fence about late-term abortions in particular to go to Youtube or Google images and search “24-week preemie”. The babies you will see smiling, fighting to live, growing, eating, learning are the same age as or younger than babies being who are victims of late-term abortion.)

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What I am trying to get at is the fact that babies, unborn or born, have the right to life. A right that cannot be overruled by a woman’s right to “choose.” Killing is not a right. Killing is a not a right. Say it with me.

I know that there are such things as rape, incest, no money and no father and no way we can do this alone. I am not so naive as to think that ending abortion will fix the world. I don’t think every woman who gets an abortion is a selfish, stupid baby-hater. I know that it is often done under much pressure, out of desperation. But that doesn’t change the fact that a person’s life is being ended. That doesn’t make it a “right”.

If you really want to fight for women’s rights, my rights, fight for a change in society. Through education (about contraception, adoption, financial aid and most importantly, the hope in Christ) we can end the need for abortion in America. I believe that if more men take responsibility for the children they father, we can end abortion in America. I believe that if those of us who have our feet on the ground will open our homes to adoption, we can end abortion in America.

Today I got word that the abortion clinic in my area is shutting down next month. This is big for me, huge for my community. I have spent hours outside of that clinic praying and reaching out the customers and volunteers there. I have prayed to see those gates shut forever because I believe it kills children and hurts men and women. After a long, long battle, we’re finally finding victory. But with all my celebration, the victory was really outweighed by the responsibility I felt at the sound of the news.

The closing of this clinic (and two others in Texas) and the inevitable closing of many more abortion clinics in October, is my cue. My community’s cue. The church’s cue.

This is our cue, not to say “I told you so! I told you abortion is unethical!” But to throw our arms open to the children who would otherwise be aborted. To throw our arms open to the women who think pregnancy is going to ruin their lives for good. To throw our arms open to the dads who have no faith in their abilities to parent and support. To throw our arms open to the clinic workers out of a job. And we must not backslide into a lazy victory, but keep our arms open until all the babies are in families, all the moms and dads know that they are cared for and all the love has been given away. Then I will believe you if you tell me you are pro-woman. Then I will believe you if you say people have rights.

I am ashamed of many things my state’s government has said or done. I am ashamed of many things fellow Christians have said or done. I am ashamed of some of the things the South is known for or the Pro-Life Movement is known for. I am ashamed of my own words and actions. But you can’t get the truth mixed up in southern accents, ignorance and somebody else’s doctrine. What I do in the name of the “pro-life movement” is to inform women of their rights. The right to ask for help, the right to be scared, the right to need time, the right to be a mom against all odds, the right to know what is actually growing inside them. Nothing I do takes away rights. I do not hate women, I love my fellow woman. And my heart breaks when I see her hobbling out of Planned Parenthood just being robbed of her health, wealth and child.

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I don’t hate the people at Planned Parenthood. I love them as well. People are people, no matter how small or how hurtful. But I can absolutely not swallow the idea that Planned Parenthood is helping and protecting women. They help as a side-effect at times (they offer things other than abortions) but they do it for a bigger price tag than alternative healthcare providers and they do it laced with deception. Closing their clinics does not end women’s healthcare. They have all the medical access a man has.

After much thought, discussion and tears, I think this bill is the best thing we have access to today. I am hesitantly excited about the clinic closing in my area. But I think it’s just the beginning of the solution. Women need access to all of their rights. We need to be ready to provide. Babies will need help finding their way into this world. We must be ready to assist. Foster parents and mentors will need to be working overtime. We might be done standing on sidewalks, but our work is just beginning. Abortion is about babies, but it’s also about men and women, which is why by saying I’m pro-life, I’m really saying I’m pro-person.

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why modesty is (and isn’t) very important

(Note: Despite my closing statements, I really do feel like this is a good topic to debate. I am only learning and would be genuinely interested in discussion on the topic of modesty, at least at this time. I am using lots of scripture references in this post for your own further study, but please remember that I am not theologian. This is my own interpretation. Also, I am purposely including only New Testament passages in order to keep things relevant  As we continue to live under The New Covenant, the NT should continue to be our guide. Please join the conversation in the comment section if you have something to add!)

There has been a lot of talk lately about The Modesty Culture. From my spot here with Chrysanthemum (my laptop) it appears that the basic idea is this: Our traditional view of modesty for women is skewed and the way we dress and the way men act are not correlated. To the first point-yes. I noticed this in high school. Girls used to say things in youth group like, “Nike shorts are immodest, I don’t wear them.” And another girl would whip around, eyes wide, jaw-dropped and say, “They ARE?!” And then I was the one with the bug eyes as I realized that my peers thought modesty was something like 100% cotton or buy-one-get-one-free. It was something that an article of clothing either was, or wasn’t and you might as well just print it on the tag.

To say that immodest dress causes lust or rape is silly. That isn’t the cause of lust or rape. Lust and rape have been around a long time and are rampant in countries where women are forced to wear burkas, the most “modest” kind of clothing I can imagine. In these cultures, men are the boss, period. Women are merchandise. You wear the burka, no questions ask. You go to his bed, no questions asked. I seriously doubt girls in this culture are thinking, “Gee, if I was wearing a darker, heavier burka, maybe he’d respect me.”

So no, I don’t think immodest dress causes men to be lustful or violent creatures. That is a deeper, older heart issue. However, I have one issue with this tidy idea which brings us back to a place near where we started, though not via the same route at all. I still believe Jesus-following women are called to modest dress, and here’s why:

1. I am no theologian, but I am learning every day. I think that, though our cultures change for good and evil over time, 1 Timothy 2:9 was left in the Bible for a reason. I think that the plea for women to dress “with modesty and sobriety” is still relevant. If you read it in context, what Paul appears to be saying is that women should care more about good works than good looks. He says for men to try not to get so angry in church and women, likewise, try not to be so flashy in church. It appears to all be in context of a church service, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t apply to the rest of life. After all, church isn’t just a building or a time slot and our brothers and sisters in Christ see us all week long (along with the rest of the world.) I doubt Paul meant for the men to leave church and go back to their “anger and quarreling” nor likewise for a woman to pull off her clothes as she left the sanctuary, forsaking all sobriety of dress.

2. Immodesty may not cause men to lust, but it does tempt them. Hear me out on this one. I am not saying that we are responsible for what our brothers and sisters decide to act upon, but there is no one who can argue with the fact that as the American culture has become more lewd, as pornography has become a booming industry and body wash companies use female anatomy to advertise*, as lace thongs are being sold in little girls sizes and nudity is the norm at the movie theater, there has been a rise promiscuity and, in general, acceptance of “sexual freedom” (to do whatever we want, wherever we want, with whomever we want.)

*warning: link to Axe ads is quite provocative

I think the only way to further my point is the make a confession. I live in a college town where the #1 activity is what you might imagine and the second-most popular thing appears to be running. Yeah, running. All over town. In as little clothes as possible. Now, I know that this is Texas and yes-the summers here are sweltering, but that’s really not an excuse in my book. I understand why many guys don’t think anything of it when they run out of their dorm with nothing but shorts and tennis shoes on, but I also know that they work out for one basic reason-to make themselves attractive. (Not everyone, but most.) And my confession is this-they do look good and it does bother me. I have to turn away when I’m driving/walking around town and not stare at all of the half-naked college guys prancing around because it does affect me. 

I know that even if I lived in a porn theater, my sexual decisions would be my own. I really believe that. But it’s a lot harder to fight lust and “save myself” for marriage (Hebrews 13:4) when there are tanned abs encircling my car. (Honest, aren’t I?) Modesty isn’t just for women. Modesty isn’t just about clothes. But if the way men dress (or don’t) affects my mind, why would I think my dress doesn’t affect the mind of my brothers?

Sex before marriage isn’t the only kind of impurity (Matthew 5:28.)  It all starts in the mind (or, as scripture calls it, the heart.) I have to be extremely, over-the-top careful about what movies I watch in order to avoid this kind of sin. I have to not look at the sidewalk while I’m driving. I have to scroll quickly through certain websites which use crude advertisements to avoid this sin. You can call that what you want-common sense? A sacrifice? (See Matthew 5:29) But it’s what I have to do to keep my mind from wandering to hurtful, degrading places.

Historically, men degrade women. I’m not being sexist when I say that. Women have long been objectified, oppressed and made to be a commodity. This is absolutely unjust, wrong and makes me angry. But I don’t want to degrade men either. I don’t want to be one of those moms who goes to the theater to drool over Twilight beefy werewolves. 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Max are two perfect examples of women recently degrading men. This isn’t just a man’s battle. (Romans 13:14)

I would like to tell the guys I know that modesty is for them too, because it helps protect us all. Especially, perhaps, modesty in their speech. Stop showing off and flirting with every girl you see. It’s embarrassing.

3. It’s really not that big of a sacrifice to keep your clothes on. We do things to protect our own minds, as Christian women, all the time. Don’t pick up that book, don’t turn on that tv channel. We can put hours of thought into if this outfit makes us look good, why not a couple of minutes into if it makes us look immodest? We aren’t our brother’s keeper, but, for some reason or another, Paul wrote that women should be careful about how they dress. And so what if it’s to help a brother out? Is that so offensive? Sounds more like “loving one another” than selling oneself, to me. Romans 14:13 begs that we never put a stumbling block in front of a brother. This is in context of food and drink, but it doesn’t say “in regard to food and drink” does it? It just says never.

4. Women appreciate modest women too, and not just women who struggle with homosexuality. Women show off to other women just as much as they show off for men…maybe even more! In our competitive minds, we want other girls to see how attractive we are, how fashionable or thin or tan or wealthy, and we do this by dressing brazenly. The only thing I can find that scripture tells us to wear is “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” and “above all else, love”. (Colossians 3:12-14) Showing off and putting others down is not kind, humble or loving.

5. Lastly and most grandly, clothing is only the tip of the modesty iceberg. A woman in a burka can seduce a man. A woman in a bikini can repulse a man. A man in a nice suit can be the most flirtatious jerk you ever met. A man with no shirt can be met with indifference. I think that the main reason women should dress modestly is because our dress should reflect our person. I want to dress like a woman. In my culture, that means certain things. In Scotland, a kilt is seen as manly. Here, we call those “mini skirts” and sell them to teenage girls. It is a matter of culture. I like to dress in a way that my culture will see as feminine because that is what I am, feminine. Not because my dad makes me or my pastor will kick me out of church, but because God made me female and I want to be seen as such. God also made me an heir. I want to dress like one. I want to dress with modesty because I am learning to be a modest person, not just a mannequin for modest clothing. Though many of you know exactly how I dress, I am going to refrain from describing it here. Some of you will see me as legalistic, others as immodest. This is where personal decisions are  made, and that’s fine. Not even the wordy Apostle Paul told us about necklines and swimsuits, so we can keep the details to ourselves. I make changes pretty frequently in what I approve of for myself or feel good in. I also make clothing decisions based on financial, ethical and aesthetic reasons. I like to look pretty. I like to buy fair-trade whenever I can. I like to save money. These things don’t have to do with modesty, they have to do with reflecting the rest of my personality and mindset.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25.)

Yesssssir. I don’t actually think this issue is about bikinis or necklines or fabric. We should really be asking ourselves, “Am I following Christ? Am I representing Him well? Would immodest dress reflect a proud spirit?” Jesus tells us that the Father listens to the humble, not the people who dress a certain way. Should we think about what we buy, what we eat, how we dress, how we speak, where we go? Yes! But that is of so little concern compared to greater things. Perhaps, instead of complaining about what our neighbor is wearing, we should focus on the main thing Jesus says about clothes-clothing the poor. Perhaps, instead of bemoaning our culture day-and-night, we should reach out to the girls who have been victimized by porn and prostitution. This may sound like a bit of a rabbit trail, but I think it’s true. Jesus himself said not to worry about clothes. It may be an issue, but not a salvation-related issue. Not a gospel-related issue. Not a huge issue. It’s just an outer layer, worldly issue.

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Stop worrying so much about how you or I look on the outside. Our clothes and our bodies are so very temporary. We’re all going to the grave to turn into dust momentarily. In Heaven, we’ll have new bodies. We might just be walking around with crowns for all I know. Until then, read scripture for yourself, consider your decisions and then go and live in freedom.

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was Jesus a feminist?

 “Take heart, daughter…” –Jesus

Matthew 9:22

Jesus with Mary and Martha

I am a woman and I wish that I did not have the right to vote, to wear slacks, to cash a check without my husband’s signature or to be paid fairly in my workplace.

At least, that’s what a lot of people assume about me when I tell them that I stand against feminism. The issue is that “feminism,” like so many other words, has been used to mean many different things over the past century. G. K. Chesterton, a great writer and philosopher of the last century said,

“Feminists are, as their name applies, opposed to anything feminine.”

As for the “feminists” Chesterton was referring to, I am sure that this was true, but there are a lot of women who call themselves feminists and mean something entirely different by it. Some mean that they believe in equal rights for women. Some mean that they don’t want to be a “doormat” girl. Some mean that they wish women had the right to annihilate men entirely and be rid of those pigs once and for all. (I don’t consider this a healthy view of humanity!)

There is the same spectrum within feminism as there is within critics and fans of The Hunger Games. There are those who are strongly opposed, “I could never enjoy anything so violent.”  There are those who are simply open, “It was entertaining, but…whatever.” There are those who are true fans, “I’ve read all the books, seen the movie and bought the t-shirt!” And there are obsessive fanatics, “Read the books nineteen times, seen the movie eleven times, started Peeta Vs. Gale forum!”

Aside from the opinions and beliefs of others, we, as Christians, should look first to God’s word on a matter (which, on a side note, happens to always be the last word.) Though terms like “feminism” and “equalitarianism” are not mentioned in scripture, God actually says a lot about the issues these topics involve.

Genesis 1:27 says,

“So God created man in his own image

In the image of God he created him;

Male and female he created them.”

In other words, God created both men and women in His image. From day one, we’ve been equal.

Fast-forward to The New Testament. We both (male and female) have sinned and been separated from God, his holiness and the perfect lives we once lived. In order to reunite us with Himself, God sends His son to be born on earth, teach us about his father and then to become our redeeming sacrifice. In his short life, Jesus is recorded teaching about love, marriage, parenting, divorce, anger, lust and everything else we still wonder about today. He is seen with the wealthy and the poor, the Jew and the foreigner, the fisherman and the tax collector, the man and the woman.

During Jesus’ life on earth, women were treated, as they still are in many parts of the world, as a commodity. They were bought and sold, used and abused and considered valuable only in affiliation with a man. A barren woman was a disgrace, a widowed woman was a lost cause and an adulterous woman was sentenced to death with no trial. And yet, in the few stories of Jesus life and ministry that anyone thought to write down, we see several instances of Jesus, a Jewish man, reaching out to and standing up for women.

In John 4, we see Jesus associating himself with a woman at a well. Not only is she a woman, but also a Samaritan (arch enemies of the Jews). And on top of that, as we learn as the story unfolds, she has been married five times and is now cohabiting with someone she’s not even married to. There is hardly a cultural equivalent to this pair today. Yet Jesus tells her that God is seeking just such a person and specifically chooses her to lead many people to faith in the Lord!

In John 8:1-11 Jesus stands up for a woman who is caught in the act of adultery and saves her life. Jesus also set aside time to heal women, accepted them as part of his social group and ministry and cared for his own mother, even as he died.

The way Jesus treated women was extremely counter-cultural. Instead of treating them as merchandise or livestock, Jesus treated them with honor. Jesus taught the world that God does in fact treasure women, invite them into his kingdom and will for them to be treated justly.

So, was Jesus a feminist?

Yes and no.

Jesus was a gentleman (he treated women with respect.) Jesus was a social justice advocate (he stood up for a woman’s right to be treated humanely.) Jesus was freak of his culture (he associated with women when the other men considered this shameful.) But most importantly, Jesus was God.

If he walked the streets today, I don’t think Jesus would side with the feminists who tell us that a woman is of more value in the office than in the home. I don’t think he would side with the oppressive husbands who tell us that a woman is only valuable when she’s scrubbing floors or plucking chickens. I think he’d be, even in our modern society, culturally radical just as he was two thousand years ago. I think he’d tell us that a woman is valued because she’s created in the image of a perfect God and, in true Jesus fashion, leave it at that.

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