Recent reads: August

Over the past month or so, I have bookmarked close to forty articles about feminism, religion, abortion, and other controversies. Here are just a few of my favorites.

A young lady in a quiverfull home faces the stigma of infertility: http://becomingworldly.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/voices-of-sister-moms-barren-samanthas-story/

The myth of post-abortion trauma: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/01/on-abortion-murder-and-post-abortion-trauma.html

Abortion, “God’s Plan,” and “selfish” women: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/02/abortion-gods-plan-and-selfish-women.html

Struggling to Find a Safe Place in the Church: http://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/struggling-to-find-a-safe-place-in-church/

On rejecting the idea of Hell: 

1) http://www.wideopenground.com/reasons-i-rejected-traditional-hell/

2) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/02/hell-the-most-problematic-christian-doctrine-of-all.html

An Episcopalian perspective of communion — you don’t have to be “right with God” to participate: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/christian_formation/why_do_they_come_for_communion.php

Leave Miley alone: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/08/the-lesson-of-the-2013-mtv-vmas-being-sexual-while-female-is-worse-than-being-rapey-or-racist.html

Looking for more? Here are some of my favorite blogs.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/

http://diannaeanderson.net

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/

http://thedirtynormal.tumblr.com

 

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Shame, Shame, Shame

This video has been popping up all over my Facebook, and I thought it was some sort of funny, so I finally checked it out. I was appalled by what I saw.

This is a fantastic example of slut shaming.

According to this video, it is shameful for a woman to express her sexuality in public, or ever, to anyone, except her husband. If she expresses her sexuality in any circumstance other than in marriage, she is turning herself into a piece of meat, discarding her self-respect, and throwing herself out there for men to gawk at and take advantage of. In other words, a woman who twerks throws away her humanity. Why should anyone care if she gets raped or molested? She was asking for it.

This video makes me angry.

Doubt, Faith, and the Errant Bible

I’ve had quite the religious adventure in my short nineteen years. I grew up primarily Anglican/Episcopalian, but my family also had phases in the Mennonite and Russian Orthodox church. In recent years, I have spent time in Baptist, charismatic, and nondenominational congregations.

The challenge is finding a congregation where I fit in, where I am free to express my struggles, doubts, opinions, and passions. I want a church where there are no trigger words. I want to be able to say dinosaur, evolution, feminism, and gay without fear of being berated. And most importantly, want to be free to doubt.

Every Christian who truly seeks to understand his faith will at some point have doubts. Those who do not are either extremely stubborn or naive. Sadly, most Christian churches do not provide a safe place for doubters and seekers. There is immense pressure to believe, and if you don’t believe, then maybe you’re not a real Christian. Maybe you only thought you were saved. But no matter how many times a person prays that salvation prayer, the facts that shake their faith will still be there.

Most people who goes to seminar are required to take a Bible class that examines scripture from a historical perspective. The fluff is taken out, and tough realities are addressed. The reality is, the Bible is not inerrant. The Gospel writers are not who we think they are. Moses may not have existed. Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. And this is only the beginning.

And yet, supposedly educated preachers continue to teach that the Bible is completely inspired by God and is utterly inerrant. Such a perspective is either ignorant or a lie.

During my time in contemporary churches, I was taught many of the excuses that are given for the Bible’s inconsistencies, many of which make perfect sense. For example, I was taught that Judas hanged himself, his body hung there for a long period of time, and then eventually fell to the ground and broke open. This is a very sensible way to explain the contrasting accounts of Judas’ death. But not all inconsistencies can be so easily and sensibly explained away. For example, the Gospel of Mark clearly states that Jesus was silent during his trial and execution, and he does not seem to understand why he must suffer and die. In Luke, Jesus speaks quite a lot and seems to be completely in control of the situation. Each account has an individual meaning and purpose, but there is no way to know what actually happened.

We do not have the original copies of the books of the Bible. The accounts were passed down through oral tradition long before they were written down. Oral tales are told differently depending on who tells them. When they were finally written down, the stories that had already evolved through the years were changed here and there by the scribes. Every change was made for a reason. The differences seen are a result of the circumstances of the individual writers and the messages they are trying to present. The inconsistencies do not necessarily make the Bible irrelevant, but they do justify skepticism about what actually happened. And when a person who has been taught their whole life that the Bible is inerrant and historical realizes the truth, it can be detrimental to his faith.

Many churches bury the facts deep, deep down in order to prevent the congregations from doubting and falling away. When I began to uncover these hidden facts, I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. I wanted to become an atheist. There simply was not enough evidence, and there wasn’t enough room to ask questions in a church where the only ministry to doubters and seekers was pressured conversion. These churches miss the point.

Faith is not naivety or ignorance. Faith is knowing the facts and fallacies and choosing to keep one’s belief regardless. Faith is saying that one’s religion is a meaningful and personal experience that impacts one’s life to the extent that it is worth being observed regardless of the evidence. True believers stay with their faith not because it is absolutely true and infallible, but because it makes a difference. If this is the case, doubt should be encouraged. After all, is faith in the absence of doubt really faith?

Suggested reading: Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman. http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Interrupted-Revealing-Hidden-Contradictions/dp/0061173940

The Wrong Response to Illness

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Many years ago, I went on a mission trip. And while I was on that trip, I got sick. I woke up in the middle of the night and vomited.  The leaders on this trip are very kind and compassionate, and they do their best to take care of me, but they didn’t know me well enough to truly understand what I needed. In the past, I have suffered from low blood sugar and lack of appetite. My mother knows that when I feel sick, it’s important to let me eat what I feel like eating so I can get something in my stomach. These ladies did not understand this. I told them I felt like eating some cereal. They told me no because milk isn’t good for upset stomachs. I asked for orange juice. They said the acidity of the orange juice wouldn’t be good for my stomach. They let me eat bread.

These women generalized my stomach issues and assumed that they knew what was best for me. They did not let me tell them how I felt or what I needed. They thought that because I was just a kid, they knew better. But they did not know what was happening in my body. They told me what I needed instead of letting me tell them. They did not listen to their patient.

When my mother was pregnant, she was miserable. She looked up her symptoms and found an illness that sounded exactly like what she was experiencing. The midwife told her that there was no way she could have that illness and that she must be mistaken. The midwife didn’t even bother to test her. During her next pregnancy, she mentioned her symptoms and her doctor tested her. Sure enough, she had that illness. Her previous midwife did not take her seriously, so my mother unnecessarily suffered miserable symptoms that could have been relieved. The midwife thought she knew better. She did not listen to her patient.

I have seizures. They’re like panic attacks. I never lose consciousness. I shake off an on, sometimes for an hour or more. It can be very mild or very distressing. The people closest to me try to help. They want to make it easier. Unfortunately, they have come to believe that it gets worse when they coddle me, so they just leave me alone and wait for it to stop. But I shake when I’m alone, and I shake when I am being held and comforted. The difference is, when I am being held, I feel like I am safe. I feel like I can let myself go, and someone will be there. I feel like I can express my distress. I feel like my illness is being taken seriously. But if I’m left alone, it’s like I’m being put in time out. It’s as if the illness isn’t worth taking seriously. It’s all in your head. Get over it. There’s nothing that can be done.

When others treat my illness like it’s not a big deal, I am inclined to view it he same way. So I seize alone. I writhe and thrash around, and I reach out for someone to hold me, but no one is there. They think they know what is good for me, so they just leave me alone.

When a person feels like crap and they aren’t taken seriously, it seriously sucks. They feel like it’s all in their head. They feel alone and they suffer alone.

When someone feels like crap, don’t push it aside. Don’t tell them what will make them feel better. Let them tell you. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t generalize. What helps one person might not help someone else. When someone is sick, LISTEN TO THEM! Don’t tell a sick person how to feel!

On Life and Choice

WARNING: Controversial content

Disclaimer: I am neither pro life nor pro choice. This is not a debate, but an observation. I am not arguing for one side, but acknowledging that abortion is a difficult decision that involves many considerations involving both the woman and the fetus. Please read with an open mind. Rude and judgemental comments will be deleted.

unplanned-pregnancy

Abortion is a tricky issue. On one hand, an unwanted pregnancy means drastic changes for a woman. She not only endures discomfort, pain, and labor, but also negative social responses. An abortion spares her the struggle of bringing an unwanted child into the world, a child she is not equipped to care for, who will likely live in poor conditions or will grow up in the turmoil of foster care. The woman’s life will be uprooted, and the child’s life will be seriously lacking. A woman can spare herself and the child the suffering. It’s not an easy decision, and it is a decision that causes much grief. It is painful to think of who the child would have been, and the joy the child could have brought. But if she has this child now, it is not only this child who will suffer, but also the future children, as the woman will not have the chance to prepare herself financially or emotionally for motherhood. She will struggle to make ends meet.

But which is better: for a child to have a hard life, or for the child to not have lived at all?

There is no easy answer. Two lives are changed by unexpected pregnancy or abortion. One is given relief and grief. The other is given death before existence, but is spared a potentially miserable life.

Either way, one life is uprooted, and the future is drastically changed.

Do not judge women who choose to abort their child. You don’t know their circumstances. Yes, there are some who choose abortion for vulgar, selfish reasons. Others choose abortion for much more complicated and even compassionate reasons. Every circumstance is different. A solution for one woman could be a disaster for another.

The pro-life movement fights for the rights of an unborn baby and forgets the mother’s struggle. The pro-choice movement fights for the rights of the woman and forgets about the potential and possibilities for the baby inside her. Both movements fail to acknowledge that pregnancy and abortion involves two beings, not just one, and the well-being of both must be considered.

During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes drastic changes. She experiences nausea, weight gain, cravings, discomfort, swelling, the need to urinate constantly, emotional fluctuations, and more. Pregnancy is no easy feat. And in the end, the woman undergoes eight hours of tremendous pain. This pain and discomfort is certainly worthwhile for a woman who is excited about her child. But can you imagine going through this for a child you do not want, or for a child you know you cannot keep? There is also an immense amount of social stigma attached to being an unwed, pregnant mother, especially for those in conservative circles. There is a flood of judgement and so little support.

On the other hand, a fetus grows rapidly in the womb. It has a heartbeat. It kicks and rolls around and sucks its thumb. There is debate over whether the fetus has consciousness or feels pain, but there is one thing the fetus definitely has: potential. And this potential is sacrificed when a woman has an abortion.

But the mother also has a potential. The potential to get an education, a career, to have economic and social stability, a marriage, and a family. These are sacrificed when a woman is forced to endure an unexpected pregnancy. The difference is, the fetus does not know what is has lost. The woman does.

For some women, the sacrifice is worthwhile. Some women become wonderful mothers at a young age and are given much support from family members. They are given countless joys as they watch their child grow. Others women are on their own, with no way to give themselves or their children a happy life.

The fallacy of both the pro-life and pro-choice movement is that they fail to acknowledge that a pregnancy involves two beings. These movements make us choose a side, fetus or mother. Every pregnancy is different and every situation is different. In every situation, both the woman and the fetus must be considered. There is no easy answer, and there is no right answer.