Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

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Who Ya Gonna Call? Updating White Male “Franchises,” Part 1

 

A new Ghostbusters film opens today, and the reviews are pretty good over on Rotten Tomatoes, which only accepts reviews from people who have seen the movie.

As of yesterday, when it wasn’t available to see (aside from advance viewings for critics), it had thousands of 1 star reviews on IMDB from nerd-ragers who swore that it “ruined my childhood” … without ever seeing it …

How did it ruin their childhood? Well, the Ghostbusters are women this time around. They didn’t even re-gender the old characters. It’s just a reboot, with the same concept and general look/ideas/proton packs, with women as the ghostbusters.

I wish I could make money by bottling neckbeard bile and tears. I’d make a mint right about now.

I could bathe in it, but I’d end up dirtier than when I started. But seriously, I’m eating this up. The same whiners who tried to organize a boycott of The Force Awakens are pounding their keyboards about Ghostbusters for a few months, before they go back to slandering and death-threating Anita Sarkeesian.

But their man-child whining is all in vain. Their rage, though amplified by their keyboards, is impotent. The balance is already tipping. Ghostbusters is one more major property pushing it over the edge.

Why does this all matter? Representation.

People who aren’t white men need to see themselves in a wide variety of roles, roles with agency, roles that make things happen. Kids especially need to see people who look like them in a wide variety of non-stereotypical roles.

And they need to see them in major pop cultural properties, big ones like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, James Bond, and the various comic book movies, not just relegated to “chick flicks” or “the black sitcom.”

Oh, yeah, there’s one more reason I’d like to see more diversity in traditionally white franchises, and it’s totally selfish:

I’ve seen and read enough stories about able-bodied white male (usually violent) “heroes” to last me ten lifetimes. I’m bored. I need something fresh!

So if your Netflix list or DVR is haunted by the ghost of a monochromatic male franchise, who you gonna call?

(Yeah, I stuck with the original theme song. I tried, but I really can’t get behind the Fall Out Boy version).

Fifty Tears for Orlando

I posted about this on Facebook on Sunday, and thought I should add it here, where it would be more permanent. I thought about adding more here than I said there, then I read this: Dear White, Hetero, Cis People: Please Don’t Co-Opt This Tragedy. 

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what I think. I’m not gay, transgender, bisexual, or otherwise a sexual minority. I’m not Latino. Any observations beyond base sympathy would be little more than armchair commentary from the safety of the sidelines.

We should get out of the way and yield the floor to LGBT+ people, especially Latinx people, so I’ll link to this interview with Isa Noyola and then be done.

[My Facebook post from Sunday, June 12, 2016, follows]

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting [Saturday night, June 11, 2016]. This morning in the service, Pastor Megan told us of an old ritual (Jewish, I believe) of pouring out drops of wine or water in mourning, to represent tears. She poured out fifty drops of water (the number murdered at the last count at the time), counting each one.

I closed my eyes in silence as she counted, trying to comprehend that each number represented somebody’s life. Somebody of incomparable value. Somebody who was most likely loved by friends, family, loved ones. Perhaps somebody who felt alone.

All taken away in the name of “righteous” anger, of “purifying America,” of self-righteous hate.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us all…

The Farmer’s Wife (Complementarianism, Again)

Farmer and Wife, Irving Rusinow, 1941

Farmer and Wife. Photo by Irving Rusinow, 1941

A farmer’s wife is a farmer, not a housewife.  I know that because my maternal grandparents were farmers.  There was a division of labor, of course, but it wasn’t some philosophical self-conscious complementarian structure, but a legitimate division of labor.  Pa Clarence didn’t know how to sew, and Nanny Jet couldn’t fix or maintain a tractor, for example.  But the men and the women all picked crops (as did the boys and the girls, once they were old enough).  Both cooked, at least some: Pa Clarence made the best biscuits I ever ate (and he took the recipe to his grave).  Nanny Jet was the cornbread champion, and their chicken and dressing was a kind of joint effort, using his biscuits and her cornbread, though she prepared the dressing itself (a recipe that has been passed down to her daughters, and, through Mom, to me … but Katherine makes it better than I do).

Yes, men and women were different.  Men and women are still different, though changing times have revealed some of those differences to be cultural constructions, rather than biological conditions.  Perhaps in the future, even more of the differences between men and women will be revealed as nothing more than socio-cultural artifacts.  The gospel will endure, even as it endured blue stockings, suffrage, and industrialization, as it survived the birth of pantsuits, career women, and birth control.

The difference between a farmer and his wife and a 21st century complementarian is this: the farmer and his wife did what they did because it worked.  They were raising crops and livestock and children, and their life was in the land.  Every year, they planted their livelihood in the ground in an earthy leap of faith that most of us have never had to take.  They didn’t have time to theorize from their wealthy, government safety-net supported, megachurch attending, paid by a seminary or church, privileged position.  This wass as true of first century farmers and shepherds as early twentieth century farmers.

The complementarian movement isn’t returning us to some pre-industrial idyll.  At best, it’s sanctifying the white-upper-class privileged gender roles of an idealized 1950’s.  At worst, it’s dragging us back to old Greco-Roman house codes.  Some complementarians, like Douglas Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and George Grant, have even ventured into slavery apologetics.

As bizarre as that seems in this day and time (paleo-confederate?  Really?), it really is the natural, logical conclusion of God-ordained male dominance.  After all, the passages that teach women to submit are always located near passages giving slaves the same instruction.  The Greco-Roman households Paul wrote to were ruled by men, with wives having more status, but no more freedom or authority, than slaves.  Paul’s admonitions to mutual submission upended the heart of this one-sided power-structure, but in the interest of civil peace, he urged Christians not to flout the laws and customs of his day.  Twenty centuries later, we can do better.

They quote Paul, but they recreate themselves in the image of Ward Cleaver and seek to forge women into the image of June Cleaver, using the Bible as a hammer and tradition as an anvil.  They claim tradition, but in truth, lack all authenticity.  Past social arrangements were based on physical and economic necessities.  Past social arrangements made survival possible.  They may not have been just, but they were necessary.  This?  This is the retrograde fantasy, a dangerous escape from modernity.

Toxic Legalism (Jeremiad #1: Sexism, Lies, and Ecclesiastical Bling)

Lazarus and Dives by Fedor Bronnikov, 1886

Lazarus and Dives by Fedor Bronnikov, 1886

A new, toxic legalism, based on a shallow, piecemeal, combative reading of the scriptures, is choking the Evangelical faith like a clinging vine.  Our churches are shrinking, and our reputation is mud with the wider world – they think we are immoral in our vitriol and our intolerance.  They see us as less moral than non-Christians, as moralistic and manipulative and controlling.

And they’re right.  Our churches are segregated, even today.  Our divorce rate is no better than the non-religious.  Spousal abuse still lingers, and in some cases is even tolerated.  And our advice to abused women is often dangerously, even fatally wrongheaded.

You can proof-text me all you want, but homosexuals are not the ones degrading our nation’s culture.  We are, with our arrogance, our lingering racism, our commercialism and consumerism.

We build multi-million dollar churches, yet leave the poorest of the world (who often need things like $18 mosquito nets and $25 vaccinations) and the poor and homeless in our own cities to fend for themselves.

We keep spending money to prop up dying churches that exist only because a few elderly people don’t want to find a new church, but which are doing nothing for the community, spiritually or materially. We spend ungodly sums on “faith-based extravaganzas” on Easter, Christmas, and Halloween (“scare them to salvation with Hell House!”).  And all the while, like Dives, we watch the poor man starving at our gate.

We degrade our name, and our nation, when we let our political leanings dictate our theology.  Case in point: it’s no secret that the Southern Baptists are going whole-hog for Mitt Romney.

But when I was growing up, Southern Baptists considered Mormonism a “cult.”  Some still do.  Oops, never mind.  He’s backing Romney now.   So, which is it?  The answer no one will give you is this:  “it doesn’t matter, as long as he dislodges that black pro-death, pro-gay, liberal socialist we’ve got now.”

We bring shame on our name and Christ’s through our sexism and incredible insensitivity to the realities of women’s lives.  You can proof-text me all you want, but the truth remains:  when you pre-determine a woman’s role in life based on her gender, you take away her right to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you take away her Imago Dei, and you make her less than human.

Who should we obey, God or Men?  The reality of complementarianism, as it is often preached, is this: Only men get to obey God.  Women obey men, and access God through the male spiritual heads – first their fathers, and then their husbands.  But I think we all know the right answer to the question, both for men and for women I think the answer is clear [Acts 5:29].  We obey God, not men.