Yes, There’s a War On Women, and it is All Around Us

It amazes me that people can continue to deny there is a ‘war on women’ when it is all around us. Wars include threat, injury and death, and that is what happens to women every day.

But denial runs high.

Bill Cosby has still not had to face charges of rape, and the female victim’s reports were ignored for several years until it was brought up by a male comedian., Our daily news (or the crap that runs rampant through social media) is filled with stories of physical, domestic, emotional, and sexual violence against women.

One thing that really helps hide the ‘war on women’ is how women’s bodies are totally objectified. Think about Kim Kardashian and Chelsea Handler “breaking” the internet by feuding over their butts.

We see images in selfies and fashion magazines that indicate that while the war on women wages on, we continue to lose every subliminal battle too.

Contrast this objectification and invitation to violence with how Jesus of Nazareth treated women. Early Christian feminists wrote about how “Jesus was a feminist,” and they were right. It was Jesus who reached across cultural norms to quench the spiritual thirst of the Woman at the Well. It was Jesus who refused to accept the the woman at his feet as the sexual object that she was made out to be.

Jesus sets the standard for our lives, including how men need to value women and girls as equal human beings created in the image of God.

Baby Girl1

From the moment that I learned that my first child would be a girl, I knew that I was receiving an extra privilege and an extra responsibility – an extra responsibility because young women need to be taught and empowered to defeat the system that has been structured against them. What I did not expect, some 2.5 years later, was to already be fighting that battle.

I recently found out that I am going to have a son, and I ignorantly asked my wife, “How much of our daughter’s clothes could not be used again for our son – what’s the difference?”

In researching that question, I have realized that the difference between boys and girls clothing – even at size 2T – is more than just colors and accents. It is also a difference in clothing measurements that suggest differences in body type and/or fashion preferences.

At Target, the hemlines around the crotch are significantly higher for “girl’s” toddler shorts than for boys.

This is a shocking example of how young girls are when their bodies begin to be objectified.

When we open our eyes to what is really going on, we must admit that the difference between clothing for young boys and clothing for young girls the difference is not a matter of fashion, it is a matter of sexualization.

Lingerie store, Victoria’s Secret, has begun marketing a line of thongs and panties towards tweens and teens. As we market cosmetic products like make-up for young kids, we are teaching them not only to develop an image based on their bodies but also to begin to hide the blemishes that threaten that image.

My daughter is perfectly content running around in a diaper, I know that her sense of fashion will be just as much as it will be instinctual. If we are not more outspoken about the images, messages, and products that smother our girls their sexuality will not be forced and nor will it be developed. It will be imposed.

callmeunderwear

We fathers We Christians must admit and atone for the fact that we have been absent soldiers of defense in the war on women. Unlike Jesus did in his own time, we have either ignored or perpetuated violence against the women in our communities.

Unless we make a stand against the sexualized images that control our phones, computers screens, television screens and fashion catalogs, we are no less guilty than Lot as we subject our daughters to forced sexualization.

And it starts in their toddler where a healthy sense of self is far more important than a sexist sense of fashion.

MegaPastor’s “Stance” on Homosexuality Simply Not Good Enough

This month, Brian Houston, the senior minister of global megachurch, Hillsong, declared that his church is in “an ongoing conversation” about same-sex marriage — saying that it is appropriate “to consider the words of the Bible alongside the changing culture and the experience of people in the pews.”

While Houston’s stance might be seen as blasphemous to the extent that it is drawing backlash from several other evangelical leaders (read the comments on the Christian Post article here) and still many others are recognizing Houston’s stance as a progressive achievement (See the New York Times), I see it as the quickest way out without saying anything of value.

And it simply isn’t good enough

HILLSONG-superJumbo

Let’s be clear: Houston was correct in not speaking on behalf of the thousands of persons who attend Hillsong campuses around the world. That is not his job. His job is to speak on behalf of the scriptures and the evidence of God’s grace and justice throughout the history of creation not the opinions of his parishioners.

Asserting a need to re-“consider” the Bible based on cultural change incorrectly assumes not only that homosexuality is a new trend but also that the Bible has ever has changed her mind about homosexuality.

Although I can understand why Houston is reticent to dig deeper into his personal feelings considering the magnitude of the responsibility he carries to be all things to many people, I am baffled as to why he is not willing to dig deeper into the Bible.

There is a shift within Christianity that is becoming increasingly affirming of homosexuality. This should not come as a shock to anybody that is reading their Bible.

A quick look at Jesus’ encounter with the Centurion (found in Mark, Matthew, and Luke) who reached out to Jesus and broke social and political protocols to save his “lad” illustrates both Jesus’ compassion towards and inclusion of homosexuals. It also reminds us that homosexuality is hardly a cultural change.

At least not in the last 2000 years.

bible_pages

I would have been satisfied with Houston calling for a re-examination of the Levitical laws that we now accept as irrelevant and outdated. I would even be willing to swallow down a little vomit as Houston called for a “Love the sinner hate the sin!” focus on inclusivity because at least Houston would have been fostering a conversation in the name of Christianity.

Instead, Houston gave a different answer. It was not Christian. It was political.

This is a cop-out. It refuses to acknowledge that an increasing acceptance of homosexuality suggests that Houston – and many others who believed the Bible was “Anti-Gay” – misunderstood the Bible.

It is not a cultural change that requires a re-examination of the Bible. It is the acceptance of an oversight on the part of the mainline Church to have for so long misread what the Bible has been saying all along.

It’s bad enough to prooftext biblical laws that were more appropriately applied to property than people. It is bad enough to ignore a gospel of love and justice for the sake of a couple of exaggerated Pauline comments. But to change his stance on homosexuality and fail to accept responsibility for it… that is simply unacceptable.

In his closing statements, Houston reiterated the Church’s challenge to stay relevant.

He’s wrong again.

In order to survive the Church needs to appeal to a generation that is asking more questions and not accepting political answers.

The Church does not need to be “relevant.” It needs to be honest.

And Justice for All

Jesus did not “come to die,” but to live and to teach humanity how to treat each other with justice and love.

Christians do not heed this message, but instead focus on the death of Jesus. This keeps them, and the societies whom they influence, from really understanding either justice or love.

In the United States today this is getting people killed in our so-called “criminal justice system.”

Justice” and “love” can seem like easy concepts to grasp. Most of us can agree that these are good things yet, because there are so many different interpretations of these words, our realities of justice, love, and faith are often limited by our (pre)conceptions. The American ideal of justice, as it stands now, is incomplete, inaccurate, and fundamentally flawed based on a weak misplaced value of Christian atonement.

cross-and-gavel

Justice is hard to define. As I have been learning from Rabbi Dr. Rachel Mikva, there can be procedural or legal justice when laws and policies are enacted; there can be distributive justice where resources are spread from pockets of communities into greater realms; there can be restitutional justice when criminals are required to pay a consequence; and there can be restorative justice as an effort to return the world to proper balance.

Christianity, at the moment, is in the middle of a tug-of-war mostly between an idea of restorative and restitutional justice that has been going on for over 2000 years ago.

Christians have been in dialogue about Jesus’ life and Jesus’ teachings, yet more than anything we have been obsessed with his death. It is no wonder that our violence-obsessed culture is infatuated with Jesus’ crucifixion but as a result, we not only minimize his life, we lock ourselves into a narrow atonement theory that assumes Jesus had to die.

What does atonement theory suggest about a God whose creation is incomplete so that an atonement is required? What does it suggest about a Creator who is out of touch with humanity and requires an intermediary to testify on humanity’s behalf? What does it say about the life of Jesus that the only matter of influence is his death?

This is important because how we understand Jesus’ death affects how we understand Justice. I do not believe Jesus came to make restitution but rather, to lead restoration.

Currently, well over half (32) of the United States have a criminal justice system where death is required. This number compiled does not even go so far as to assert that life in prison is a different yet equal kind of death. Are we as Americans more focused on providing a forum for restitution or a forum for restoration.

 

pope-francis.si

Yesterday, Pope Francis addressed the International Association of Penal Law. According to Katie Zavadski, he had some pointed things to say about some of America’s favorite things — torture, the death penalty, and mass imprisonment -… calling on Christians and “men of good faith” to fight “not only for the abolition of the death penalty,” but also to improve prison conditions. “A sentence of life [without parole] is a hidden death penalty,” he said.

He’s right. We cannot allow ourselves to be so obsessed with violence and restitution that we take for granted the impact of life. We must work to educate our children, and our adults with criminal records to the extent that we are using grace, love, forgiveness and opportunity (the core of the gospels of Jesus’ life) as motivation, as opposed to death.

As we seek to understand and proclaim Jesus to be somebody whose life mattered significantly, whose way provided salvation, and whose teachings urged towards restoration, we must also work to provide a legal system that is fair and economic and social conditions that provide ample opportunities for citizens to choose their destinies so that their lives matter more than their deaths.

Death is not greater than grace.

Not 2000 years ago. And not today.