Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Words I Couldn't Say

I am a feminist.  I believe my friends in the LGBTQ community will be in heaven beside me.  I believe in a global economy that doesn't capitalize on the poverty of others.  I believe that race does not define a person but allows us to see the diversity and beauty of God.  I believe in breaking chains of oppression.

Most of these views are accepted by my community of faith, but less are accepted in the place that I call home.  From my experience, I will tell you that those who disagree with me are not bad people and do not mean to harm others.  To them, to US ALL, we must extend grace.  These issues have become normative and ignored in lots of communities.  I have never understood how the global economy places entire countries in poverty until today, and quite frankly, I'm appalled.  Are there others who understand and yet allow these systems to persist, or are we all ignorant?

This may be offensive to some, so I must start by saying I am imperfect, am privileged and perpetuate these issues, and still do not have answers to SOO many questions.  This is not meant to be accusatory, but rather informative.  It is not meant to depress, but impress upon you the severity of your actions.  It is not to satisfy you but to make you ask more questions and seek out truth and justice.  Sadly, my summary of today's events cannot convey the entirety of the issues, but we have to start with baby steps.

Global Economy (A Source of Poverty)
Rick facilitated a discussion about the global economy and started out by involving several of us in a skit to portray how we as a country "help" develop countries and aid them in stabilizing their economy. I realize that there is no way to explain this all simply in my blog, so I will give you the summary: buying the cheapest products that were made at an unfair wage is not helping developing countries.  Hopefully, I can someday share with you the knowledge I gained today, but trust me, the way the IMF and World Bank regulate loans, and by association our support of their regulation is creating a giant mission field in developing countries.  While this information is relatively new to me, I will have to find some way of translating this knowledge to you, but I cannot adequately do it now.

Racial Oppression
Since racial tension is present in our everyday lives, it seems more comprehensible, which is why I move on so quickly.  Today we shared our race stories.  Being from a nearly all-white community, I had very little to share about my childhood except that I lived in a state of ignorance.  I must remind you that I do not blame my parents or community, because I believe we are all in the same boat.  How do you learn about racial matters besides direct communication?  Lord knows I wouldn't look to the media for advice.  So, my incorrect use of Oriental instead of Asian, Indian in reference to Native American, and African-American for any Black person is forgiven by my friends, classmates, and even professors, who couldn't imagine that I had never been made aware of these politically correct terms.  In college, I took an interest in the diversity of religions, cultures, and races.  I realized that in American cities, there is a mixture of races and do effective ministry, I needed to know more.  Thanks to Maurice Wallace, Sharon Holland, and the four African-American studies classes I took between them, I walked away not only educated, but better.  I don't believe that the books and lectures is what educated me, though.  Being in community with persons of different racial backgrounds and hearing their stories helped me understand, and the relationships that I formed broke many unjustified stereotypes that I held.  One of the many thoughts that I had today and couldn't escape was this:

How often do we hear derogatory terms or tell racial jokes and laugh because no one around us identifies with the race we are poking at?  Today, it was mentioned that people had said things to a Black man that were offensive, but as a global church, a global community, shouldn't we all take offense to someone criticizing a person created in the image of God?

Sexual Orientation
This little bit is not going to be accepted well.  I know, and I'm okay with it.  I have to admit that the "conservative family values" of Northwest Oklahoma have always taught me that homosexuality is sinful.  Freshman year of college, I even came up with my own understanding to prove I was not just a product of my raising.  Here's what I've learned.  You can not truly come to understand or appreciate an issue until you have been in solidarity with people who are bound by our judgments.  I sit in a mission training with people of mixed sexual orientations.  Hear me when I say that I see God in them.  They are in full communion with God and are not struggling with the issue of sexuality.  They are at peace with God and we must be at peace with them as well.  As a person who does not believe in arranged marriage and instead trusts people to select their own companion, I do not feel it is my place to restrict another's choice of partner.  Because I am heterosexual, I get to choose and I believe everyone else should have that right.

Feminist Me
This may have been the greatest epiphany of my day and after I ask permission, I would like to credit the person who said this about people who don't claim feminism because they don't want to be mistaken as extremists: "We must reclaim the name of feminism and renew its original purpose."  To this I say, I'm a feminist.  After many conversations and debates, I learned much about the perspective of feminism, and I want to share with you the most important part in my opinion.  Sadly, when I say I'm a feminist I must define what I mean, so I'm not misunderstood.  I believe in the equality of genders.  That does not mean only equality for women but men as well.  We got into an intense discussion about the threat of sexual assault.  While the men did not prepare to walk around at night in the city, the women felt strongly about taking safety precautions.  We identified that most of these were taught by parents who wanted us to return safely, and then statistics of sexual violence came into play.  Something like 1 in 3 sexual violence/assault cases are reported and the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the woman being the victim and man the perpetrator.  BUT, this was another idea proposed.  Most sexual assault/rape occurs with a familiar acquaintance of the victim.  And, men are also vulnerable, and even less likely to report because of gender stereotypes.  This is my way of saying that feminism and gender equality is not just about women.

Think about it!  Men are criticized for crying in public, ever being vulnerable, and for letting their wives "wear the pants in the family".  Maybe that seems funny to you, but how in the world do we expect to get equality when we don't at least acknowledge the other side of the coin.  Not saying that the men deserve all the sympathy.  Women's attire, expression of sexuality, and place in the professional world were also discussed prominently.  I don't know if we'll ever reach that goal of equality or if we'd even be satisfied with equality, but I do know that the United States is one of the highest ranked countries, when it comes to gender equality (more equal than most).  It's hard to imagine, but in other countries, women are worse off.  We must strive for equality, not only for ourselves but for the greater community of God.

I know that's a LOT to take in.  If you made it to the end, congratulations, and thank you for journeying with me.  I hope that if some of these points do not align with what you believe, you extend grace to me as I plan to do to you.  We have many issues as a universal church and I would hate to see us divided when it will take all of us to break the chains of oppression and end systematic injustice.  I feel like the only way to make these statements is boldly, so forgive me for not putting it lightly or beating around the bush first.  Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that someone from my Northwest Oklahoma community shares some of the same views as I do. After coming out of the loving, but still sheltered environment that we grew up in,I have gone out. I have mixed with people. I have found friends. I have found more God in unexpected places than I could have ever imagined. One of my very close friends told a group of us that she was a lesbian. She had been fighting it for sometime, but she knew it as truth and wanted to tell us about her decision. At first, I was troubled by it because I still know it is unbiblical. However, with months of prayer and thought, I knew that as a Christian it is my job to LOVE not to JUDGE. It is said that all sin deserves death. I have sinned. I deserve death. I have been forgiven and saved. All Christians sin because all people sin. Who am I to say that their sin is worse than mine? How "Christian" would it be to let myself get so wrapped around their lives that I ooze judgement and hate from mine. I always try to live as though I have a plank in my own eye, and I need not be worried about the splinter in someone elses. I am called to bare fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. It is also said in Matthew 22:34-36 to love your God first and to second love your neighbor as you love yourself. Those words alone give me the desire to love people of all creeds and nations as I love myself. It is not my place to judge, but to love.