After some consideration, I've decided to take a break from blogging for the month of July. I have an important translation project on my plate that unfortunately is not working on itself, and with August and September just around the corner, I need to get moving before a new sweep of responsibilities rolls in. If SCOTUS or anyone else with extraordinary power makes an outlandish decision over the next month, however, I'll drop in to write about it. In the meantime, my readers remain in my prayers. (If you would like to make a special prayer request, I welcome you as always to click on Aurora Chapel and leave your request there.)
If you're like me, you're just not ready for the red and green and tinsel cropping up at Target, Starbucks, and the grocery store. I want to go, "Hey, don'tcha know there's all kinds of cool stuff that goes on for a couple of months before Christmas ever arrives?"
I invite you to try out the following this year, not to ditch your family traditions, but to expand them.
Thanksgiving/Chanukah: This year, for the first time (and the last time for 77,000 years, according to one source, Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah coincide. This year, as you finalize your Thanksgiving day menu, consider a few Jewish specialties, like latkes
(Pro-tip: matzo ball soup can be made in minutes using a handy-dandy pre-made dry mix in the Jewish section of your grocery store.) When you and your family and friends are gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table, share the story of the miracle of Chanukah, in which an oil lamp with only enough oil for one night lasted eight nights, providing ongoing light in darkness. Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish feast of enduring, miraculous light--telling this story is is a great time to light the first candle of eight of your menorah, if you have one, or perhaps the first of other candles you have on your table. Allow this to be your segue into a giving of thanks by each person around the table.
Then, when you awake the day after Thanksgiving, consider just staying home. Really. Eating latkes with cranberry sauce for breakfast while sipping home-brewed coffee and wearing fuzzy slippers is a far gentler holiday practice than trampling your neighbor at 3 a.m. to get through store doors. Consider continuing your candle-lighting through the eight days of Chanukah, saying a silent prayer as you light them if you aren't familiar with the Hebrew prayers.
Next, Advent, as in, advent-ure! That's right--before you pull out your tubs of Christmas glitz, try cutting a few boughs from an evergreen (places that sell Christmas trees may give these away for free, if you don't have any evergreens of your own) and fashion an Advent wreath with your kids.
Each Sunday, beginning December 1, light one of the candles. Sing a verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" or "People Look East" with your kids. Invite them into conversation about what the dawning of light means. Refer back to the Chanukah ritual, if you used it. You might ask:
Why do we want light when it's dark? What are examples of darkness we experience? What are ways that we can bring light to dark places?
Allow Advent to be the season of quiet, pregnant anticipation that it's intended to be--because if you do, the glimmer and dazzle of Christmas Eve's light and the bright clamor of Christmas morning will shine and ring out for you in a whole new way. This post was originally featured at parentwin.com.
An image of a 14-year old girl holding a sign recently went viral. The sign said: "Jesus isn't a dick, so keep him out of my vagina." I assume this young woman was hoping to be noticed, and she definitely was.
Over at a tumblr page called Public Shaming, the latest article there features a picture of the girl holding her sign as well as internet images from Facebook and Twitter chronicling negative reactions to her sign. The reactions were varied in their accusations. What got my attention was the overall prevailing assumption that because this girl made a statement about vaginas (one that clearly relates to recent actions by legislators to make abortion access more difficult), she must be sexually active (and, more particularly, must be promiscuous or otherwise a slut/whore/prostitute).
A secondary assumption that caught my eye was that this young woman was in some way taking the Lord's name in vain. (As the author of the tumblr page notes, however, she's saying Jesus isn't a dick, rather than saying he is--a rather clever part of her double entendre, in my opinion.)
Christian conservatives are behind much of this negativity. Sometimes I wonder how I keep company in the same religious tradition as people such as these. How is it possible that I claim to follow in the path of the same Christ they claim to follow? How can I call myself a Christian when thisis what Christians are like?
Søren Kierkegaard, a devout Christian and famed existentialist philosopher of the 19th century, distinguished between what he called "Christendom" and following Christ, where the former had to do with falling in line with the polite (or, in this century, impolite) opinions and practices of Christian society, and the latter had to do with discerning for oneself, from one's own prayer and study of scripture and tradition, what it meant to take up Christ's cross in one's own circumstances. Kierkegaard would not look kindly on the religious right of 21st century America, I imagine--he would probably denounce it as full of unkindness, full of fear about change, full of unwillingness to imagine the world from the perspective of someone as politically insignificant as a 14-year-old girl.
To debunk the power of this girl's Christendom-threatening message, many right-wing Christians who are anti-abortion and pro-vagina-legislation are attempting, in their social networking comments, to discredit her by slut-shaming her. What is slut-shaming? "Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog" sums it up well: "Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings." To acknowledge one's sexuality (in this girl's case, her vagina) is to be a slut, according to the slut-shamer. Unfortunately, that's not just a logical fallacy. It's a non-sequitur made by a politically powerful crowd, America's modern-day Christendom, to rape a non-powerful person of the most powerful tool she has: her right to speak. Obviously, if she's a slut, she cannot have any authority--at least not in this God-fearing Christian country--to talk about vaginas or what goes in and out of them. (But really, when does any woman have the right in a God-fearing country to talk about vaginas? Vaginas and the people who have them only lead to sin unless God-fearing non-vagina-bearing-people are in charge of them! Right?)
As a Christian particularly and a religious person generally, I am dismayed by the way in which right-wing Christians are lashing out at this young woman. Those Christians don't represent me. More importantly, they don't represent Christ. They represent a "Christian" crowd that apparently prides itself on being no less chauvanistic than the most chauvanistic elements of the Bible, rather than practicing compassion as Christ did.
I challenge my fellow Christians to take a second look at this young woman--without resorting to slut-shaming--and see what it is that she's driving at. Why would she want to keep the anti-abortion legislation of American Christendom "out of her vagina"? What might be at stake for a 14-year old girl in 2013? Imagine for a moment that she's not religion-bashing or Christ-bashing or pro-promiscuity or anti-babies. What key message does she bear about her sexuality, her ability to bear children, and her vagina? What does she have to say that religious people in this country need an open heart to hear?
Happiest of Trinity Sundays to each of you--may you be richly blessed in the holy, pervasive presence of the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy of Holies. Today Christians celebrate the intrinsically relational character of G-d. I can't help but think of the relationality between myself, my first daughter, and my daughter still in the womb. We are connected and separate, three and one all at once.
Today I'm working on a trinity-themed piece for Life. Love. Liturgy. I look forward to finishing this piece and those that remain to be written. We'll see which reaches its fulfillment first: my book, or my pregnancy!
Once I finish the Life. Love. Liturgy. collection, I will move on to work on two things: 1) revamping and revisioning my primary blogs (this one and that one), and 2) giving shape to my first novel.
If there is anything in particular you would like to see from me in the meantime--any topic you would like me to discuss here or on my other blog, any question you would like me to explore over a series of blog posts or perhaps in an article, please let me know.
In the meantime, you can now find me on Twitter (@lifeloveliturgy!), so feel free to visit me there as well. I'm delighted and grateful that you're joining me as I continue journeying into my vocation of prophetic word-weaving. Thank you.