Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hittin' the Ooooold Dusty Trail!

My mom and I are gonna be road trippin' down the coast for the next couple of days, so I'm taking a break from the blog on Wednesday and Friday.  See you guys next week! <3

In the meantime, watch this excellent video which provides a bit of foreshadowing for a future post of mine.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Not to Debate

I read a lot of comments sections on blogs, especially on controversial, high-emotion topics.  It's fascinating to see the arguments people make from any particular side of an issue, and I sometimes even learn new tactics I can use to support my own point of view.

What I've noticed, however, is that there are folks who'll go onto conversations about, say, gay rights, and basically debate people HARD and make nasty jokes to belittle the position of the opposition, then when called out say that they're just doing this for fun.  And when everyone explodes, they act like it's other people who are irrational.

I used to participate in the Junior States of America, a politics and debate organization for high school students.  I loved debate.  I still do, when I'm in the right mood.  But debate becomes a lot less fun when someone with no sense of the importance of an issue decides to get in the thick of it with someone who puts a lot of stock in the outcome of the debate happening on a large scale.

It's one thing to debate an issue for fun- it's another to debate an issue for fun when the other side has deeply personal interest in their side being right.  Allow me to provide some examples:

-A straight person debating gay rights with a gay person, "just for fun"
-A male complementarian debating women's role in the church with a woman, "just for fun"
-A man debating reproduction rights with a woman, "just for fun"
-A white person debating the value of affirmative action with a person of color, "just for fun"

During Rachel Held Evans' Mutuality 2012 series, Christian feminist blogger Dianna E. Anderson wrote a post on this very subject.  She related a story wherein she was having a discussion with a complementarian male friend:
I referenced John Piper’s words that a woman should “endure abuse for a season” and attempt to bring her husband under church discipline before trying to leave the relationship. I also pointed out that complementarianism, as a system, leaves more room for abuse because it creates an uneven power dynamic within the relationship. I had a friend when I was younger who suffered extensive emotional abuse because her father bought into the rhetoric that “the man gets the final say!” and so on.  
My friend replied with a long, confusing mess that essentially boiled down to “abused wives are martyrs for Christ, like missionaries in China.”  
I stood up and walked out.  
He got upset at me, saying he was just “having a fun discussion,” was “disappointed that I took things so personally,” and that he hoped I would examine what he said, free of personal bias, and come back to The Truth (TM). 
We no longer speak.
She then went on to explain that the reason she got so angry was because the larger discussion "...affects everything about how [women] are to behave, how we see ourselves, how we interact in our relationships, how we manage our careers, our children, and our lives...if complementarians are right, my world falls apart.  How can I not take that personally?"

What Anderson gets at here is that, if you aren't personally affected by the outcome of a debate, you shouldn't treat it like a toy.  You can't just toddle in to a discussion and play devil's advocate "just for the the heck of it".

If you're a man, you can't for funsies tell women that they should give up their bodies and their health for an unwanted child.

If you're complementarian, you can't lightheartedly tell a woman that all she needs to do is submit to her husband and everything will be peachy.

I sound like a killjoy.  I don't care.  If you're privileged, you don't get to be flippant in debate.  These are conversations happening on a large scale, with people's lives and livelihoods standing to be radically affected depending on the outcome.  These aren't just abstract, theoretical discussions.

If you try to do this- if you try to treat an intense issue as your intellectual plaything- don't be surprised when people get emotional.  Even if it's not of personal importance to you, it is to someone else.

Recently, a friend and I ended up in a conversation with two guys over using the word "transgender" vs. "transgendered"* to refer to the trans identity.  My friend and I ended up being incredibly frustrated because these guys, being not-trans, thought they were totally within their rights to say that it was okay to use "transgendered" because it was grammatically correct, regardless of the explanations my friend and I gave.  Even when I said "We should respect trans people and use the term they prefer," they stuck to their grammatical guns.

These were cisgender guys trying to argue that they knew better than trans people what was the appropriate term to use to refer to trans people.  That's not okay.  When I tried to explain the importance of respecting a trans person's right to identify and label themself, I was mocked.  These guys turned a serious discussion into their own toy with which to show their grammatical chops in order to avoid being exposed as being in error.

Now, if you want to debate whether chocolate or vanilla ice cream is better, or whether Harry should have ended up with Draco instead of Ginny, or whether the Working Class Foodies recipe for borscht deserves to be called borscht, that's fine.  Have fun.  Very, very little is lost by your goofing off.

But when you think it's okay to toy with an issue which doesn't affect you but does affect your opponent, or to decide for a minority group whether their complaints are valid, that's wrong.  Plain and simple.

*"Transgender" is the correct term, as it is an identity assumed by an individual.  "Transgendered" makes it sound like trans is something that happens to you, not something you are.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No blog post today

There was a small family emergency and I'm not in the mood to finish and post what was going to be today's thing.

Instead, enjoy this video of Christian author Rob Bell explaining the importance of remaining awed and overwhelmed by the beauty of life and the world around us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

I'm sure you haven't escaped hearing a certain song by an Australian guy called "Somebody That I Used to Know".  I'm also sure you've noticed that there's a woman in the song.

She's on the right, Snarkface.

You may have thought "Eh, she's got a nice voice.  Kinda quiet, though.  Meh.  This is Gotye's song."

Oh ho ho, how little you know about this woman.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jared Wilson et al., We Need to Have a Talk

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of rape culture and all that goes along with that

So the Christian blogosphere has been going nuts over a certain Jared Wilson over at The Gospel Coalition (a complementarian organization), who, by quoting a book by one Doug Wilson (I assume no relation), in his analysis of the problems of Fifty Shades of Grey managed to:

1.) Blame egalitarians like me for the massive sexual assault problem this country has
2.) Suggest that the ideal sex is a man being aggressive and a woman being passive
3.) Frighten a heck of a lot of women who, being sexual assault survivors themselves, were reminded of their own assaults

Friday, July 20, 2012

Today, We Need to Lament

I had a post all ready for today, but after the news this morning I'm going to wait till tomorrow to post it.

Instead, a prayer posted by Rachel Held Evans on her blog seems appropriate:

Gracious and loving God,
You watch the ways of all of us
and the utter destruction of which our hands are capable.
We implore you to weave goodness and grace
in the lives of those destroyed by senseless violence.
Surround those whose lives are shattered with a sense of your present love.
Wrap them in the warm quilt of your compassion.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted.


Sunrise Mass - 2. Sunrise (Gloria) - Ola Gjeilo from Music@belpres on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Patience and Social Justice Sally

My parents and my religion both raised me to be patient and forgiving.  If something got me angry, I learned to breathe and get through it so I could function and not turn into a Giant Squid of Anger.  I'm always grateful for this particular aspect of my upbringing* because I find it helps in my activism and education work.  It's not easy (insert big DUH here) but I think it's worth it.

WHICH IS WHY I get tired of other social justice activists who seem incapable of forgiveness, or love to seek out reasons to be offended then blow up in people's faces when someone sets them off.  These are the people who say they're open-minded about everyone except for straight cis white Christian men.  These are the people who have long lists of things which make a person worthy of the title "feminist" or "ally" and they must satisfy all of those specific criteria to be considered.  These are the people, ostensibly, who abused Laci Green because three years ago she used the word "tr*nny" in a video and then spelled the word out in her apology, which was otherwise humble and brought attention to trans* issues.

These are the people who are featured in my new favorite meme, Social Justice Sally.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Not Feelin' It

Sorry friends, I'm not feeling much like writing today.  So enjoy Nicki Minaj, whose music is an occasional guilty pleasure of mine, being awesome:

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Feminists: Thoughts on Anita Sarkeesian and Laci Green


He's very happy to see you.

So there's been quite the crapstorm about feminism on the internet, lately.  Specifically, threats made against two feminist educators/activists, Anita Sarkeesian and Laci Green*.  These women have different missions, different video styles, and different things have led to threats of violence against them, but they both have been dealing with those threats lately.  I wanted to share my thoughts about both of their situations, but first I should summarize for those who haven't heard about what's been going down.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To the Boys

The other day, I saw a couple of young boys (the older couldn't have been more than 13) in the grocery store peeking at the pictures of female models in an issue of GQ magazine.  I rolled my eyes and walked on, but immediately afterward I started thinking.  Next time I see young boys looking at semi-naked women in magazines and giggling, I wish I could go up to them and say this:

Learn how to treat girls right when you're this age, and you'll get plenty of real-life women when you're a little older.

And that doesn't mean pretending to care so you can get in her pants by the third date.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On (Rude, Unpleasant) Atheists

So after freaking out about the broken nature of western Christianity on Friday, I decided to write some thoughts on the relationship between religion and the non-religious.

It's been my observation that, humanity being wonderfully diverse and complex, there are multiple kinds of atheists*.  Many of them (the ones I usually end up being friends with and who are on my team in political debates) are humble and say that while they personally see no evidence for the existence of a Divine Whatsit**, they respect the religious' beliefs and meet the difference in opinion with a shrug and a "Whatever brings you comfort."

Some atheists may have a more antagonistic position toward religion- they don't understand why anyone would be silly enough to believe in a Divine Whatsit- but they generally keep their opinions to themselves and consider it a mystery of the universe.

But there are some atheists (not sure how many, but they seem to frequent any article on the internet pertaining to religion) who aren't content to disagree with religious people.  Instead, it's apparently their mission to inform everyone that, regardless of whatever experiences they've had to the contrary, there is no God.  None.  Nada.  You're either delusional or stupid if you think otherwise.  Some folks even go so far as to say that belief in God makes a person a worse human being, and we should execute all Christians because of the Crusades and fundamentalists.  Thankfully, that last group is a minority (I can pretty safely assume).

Needless to say, I get really ticked off by that last group.  I was raised by intellectual, highly intelligent parents who taught me to value science; my dad has a Ph. D in psychology, for God's sake.  But I was taught also to value belief and faith, and to be open to God.  My questions were answered and even encouraged.  When I was in high school, I started developing a spiritual life independent of my parents and have had some awesome experiences through my church, and have often felt like God was speaking to me.

But apparently, to this particular group of (very vocal) atheists, none of that means anything.  I'm stuck in a childlike dependence upon a magical invisible sky daddy*** and because I'm part of a massive group of people (around 1/3 of the world) among whom exist a fair number of corrupt jerks I'm as good as a corrupt jerk myself.  And maybe I should go hang.

It's around this time in my masochistic reading of comment threads on Huffington Post's religion section that I withdraw and mentally take solace in the fact that pretty much every atheist with whom I choose to associate has no problem at all with my beliefs, because I have no problem with theirs.  I can understand the position of "I haven't seen compelling evidence to believe in a God." I have evidence compelling enough for me, but they're very personal experiences and I can't expect someone to take my personal experience and say "Gee, I'm gonna become a Baptist now!" or something.  We're each on our own spiritual journeys.  But it's one thing to say "I need to experience it for myself," and quite another to say "I don't care about your experience- I consider it invalid."

These same hardcore unpleasant people who speak so poorly of religious folks sometimes also tout themselves as being superior in open-mindedness.  These same people who tell everyone to believe as they do get angry when any religious group does the same.

I'm trying to make it obvious that I don't think of all atheists as awful anti-theist anti-faith bigots.  In a fight between conservative Christians and atheists on a certain issue, I'm more likely to agree with what the atheists are saying than what the conservative Christians are saying.

But when conservative Christians condemn me for being gay and a feminist, and then atheists condemn me for being Christian (even a progressive Christian), I feel stuck in a no-man's land where I'm accepted by no one.  To both groups, progressive Christians don't exist.

At SF Pride, I saw multiple denominations of Christianity represented, with priests and laypeople alike smiling, cheering and waving signs declaring their love and acceptance of queer people.  Several hours later, there was an atheist group.  They could've gone multiple ways to celebrate Pride, but the way they chose was to bash religion, with signs talking about how poisonous it is for the community and basically trying to turn us against religion.  This was after the Episcopalians and Lutherans had marched through saying "We think you're awesome and that there's nothing wrong with you.  God loves you just as you are."

Yesterday, I attended St. John Presbyterian Church.  It's a small congregation- on any given Sunday you'll see about 200 people.  But at that church everyone was warm, welcoming and caring.  We prayed in unison for world peace and for justice, and when a pastor passed a microphone to take individual congregant's prayer requests, I asked for people to pray that my family finds a permanent home, and the pastor told us he hoped we'd find a home soon, and we were always welcome at the church.  There we were, a group of Presbyterians, some people mourning loved ones and some with their bodies decaying, all of us together supporting each other and looking out for each other.  People who look for evil in religion will find it, but they'll miss communities like this, people helping people helping people.  Religion, for many of us, brings healing and comfort when none can be found anywhere else.  But to some Huffington Post commentors or Facebook page makers, it's all childish and we're better off without it.

So, to you highly vocal, unpleasant atheists, I have a challenge for you: be as open-minded as you say you are or Christians aren't.  Check out Soul Force or Believe Out Loud or Mormons for Marriage or Dianna E Anderson's blog or John Shore's blog or Rachel Held Evans' blog.  Read books by progressive Christians, like Brian D. McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity.  (And this is all just for us Jesus-following types.  Go beyond us.)

Then tell me religion is poisonous, stupid and pointless, and no good can come from it.

*Just as there are multiple kinds of any other category or group of people anywhere ever
**My girlfriend used this term once and I loved it
***You know what I think of a masculine God

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to Save Christianity

Churches are dying.  Did you know?  The age of rationality is surely upon us, when the cancer that is religion will be wiped out from society.

Okay, obviously this isn't how I really feel about the state of faith in the world, but the sentiment is pretty pervasive.  The countries we generally consider to be the most developed and progressive are also the least religious.  Portland, Oregon- that symbol of liberalism- is the least-churched city in the US*. 

For a lot of people, the decline of organized religion in the developed world is a great thing.  They look at extremist Muslims blowing up schools, Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem spitting on young girls because they don't cover their arms, and conservative Christians condemning sexual minorities, and then they say "Of course religion poisons everything.  It's the primary cause of wars and grievous violations of human rights.  We're better off without it."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fear of Failure

So to keep my always-itching hands satisfied while waiting for my tendons to heal (too much knitting), I've taken up crochet.  At least, I'm doing the best that I can with the stuff written in my knitting book.

The author only put in enough crochet info to help knitters with whatever they'd need crochet- chains for ties on hats and things, single crochet for neckline edging, and crab stitch for tightening loose edges.  With that, I took up my sister's old crochet hook and some scrap yarn and went for it.

My first swatch, I'm proud to say, is an utter derpy failure.