Saturday, September 24, 2016

The politics of politeness

Politics – or patriarchy?

Just thinking out loud here.

I could be wrong, but there’s nothing wrong with “sir.” It conveys respect, politeness. One could argue it makes him feel old or that it is overly formal but that’s more about the recipient’s self-consciousness than the word’s connotations.

But how do you politely address a woman whose name you don’t know?

If she’s 18 or under, “miss” is fine. If she’s over 60 and you’re from the south, “ma’am” probably works. But what do you do with the swath in between?

Somewhere between 20 and 30, “miss” starts to feel patronizing or dismissive. But one isn’t necessarily a “mrs”/”missus”/”ma’am” – and even if one is, one doesn’t necessarily wish to be referred to that way.

Why must marital status be encoded in politeness terms for women while men’s terms of address are simple and unfettered? And if that weren’t irritating enough, there’s very little social judgement on men’s marital status whereas unmarried women of a certain age are assumed to be shrews or nitwits or both.

Why is society so concerned with women’s sexuality?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Haiku: Fall


Imprisoned toes and 
rows upon rows of laundry:
Sock weather is here. 

And unwelcome, in case you didn’t get that. I may have to close my window, too, alas. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The problem with being Spirit-led

Yes, I dare go there.

It sounds so good, “being Spirit-led.” Who can argue with that?
But that’s the problem. Is it wise to fancy a person or idea as above scrutiny? Patterns of exclusively single-sourced guidance often don’t turn out well, whether it’s only going by what the Bible says, only listening to advice from wise people (yes, even that could be problematic), or only listening to the voices in your head.

It’s not that Sophia won’t whisper in our ears, but are sure we’re often listening well enough to catch what she’s saying? Can we trust ourselves enough to rely so heavily on what goes on between the ears?

Perhaps others are less recalcitrant than me, but the only way I’m going to discern God’s direction is for the still small voice to beat through my walls of resistance and outsmart my well-evolved systems of self-delusion, I may never know what to do.

If I wait for a flash from heaven to shed new light on a situation, I’ll likely never find a way out of my ruts.
“Being led by the Spirit” in the way we use the terminology in Western evangelicalism presumes this kind of individualistic, me-an’-God, quiet-time whisper as the only possible mode of revelation.

But what about that thing you read that struck a chord of resonance OR conviction, or that person who challenged you OR nudged you toward something you’d never considered– who’s to say that can’t have been the Wild Goose (or the Great Pigeon! [A speaker on a podcast said most of the birds in the Old Testament are more mundane than we’ve translated them. Soar like an eagle? Hmm, maybe a buzzard. A gentle dove? Maybe just a dirty pigeon.])?

Anabaptists make a bit of a sacred cow out of the concept of community (and fail miserably to live up to our ideals), and, as with many movements, they are probably too enamoured by this corrective notion as the answer to everything. But it’s certainly a key component we are much the lesser without.

Please, not sola sciptura! And not just “Spirit-led.” Tradition by itself was never sufficient but neither are any of these. Community has also made interpretive mistakes but it’s an important partner with the rest.

We need all these things interacting – often in tension -- as we discern what God is saying to our communities and to our selves.

And might I add a fifth criterion to this rubric? One person called it the common sense filter. I like to call it “where’s the fruit?” Sometimes this can only be done in retrospect, but I suggest that even if all four other filters align, if the outcome just doesn’t seem God-glorifying, maybe despite it all, we didn’t discern correctly. Failure or embarrassment is not the worry here, but abuse and hatefulness. The Bible, tradition, and all our pals seemed to be in favour of slavery and the subjugation of women through most of history, but those never bore the fruit of righteousness.

It’s certainly not efficient to have to wade through all these filters in decision making and discernment, but we’re talking about a God who became incarnate among us in a specific time and place to share his mission with us. And then entrusted his message to a bunch of proven unreliable numbskulls. Doesn’t seem like a really high value is placed on efficiency there.

But that’s another subject for another day.

Does God speak? Yes! Does the Spirit lead? Indeed. Sometimes in unexpected ways. If the Spirit only ever sounds an awful lot like us, we might want to ask if we’re hearing her at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Haiku: The moon

Elusive soft orb
Mystically compelling

One always wants to take a picture of its unasssuming beauty, but though captivating, it won't be taken captive. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Not dead yet!

Sorry, folks.
"As long as there is snow in the forecast, I'm not switching bikes."
That was my mantra, but after such a balmy March, it was wearing thin as April moved along. Surely, snow on April 10 will just be an inconsequential fall of flakes that leaves no trace. That's what some fo the numerous snow days meant earlier in the week. So I took out the Skyline yesterday.
Well, whaddaya know? The forecast snow really did start to pile up. So it was back to the fatgirl tonight.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The other foot

“I told God I never wanted to do [Thing A],” practitioner of [Thing A] quipped wryly. 

Why is this person so happy with their ministry? I thought to myself. Dear God, please don’t make me do things I hate.

I recall this scenario playing out a few times in my childhood, particularly during my time in YWAM.
It occurred to me recently that I am currently actively participating in or philosophically committed to a number of things that were anathema to me as a child. Happily. By choice. 

I said I hardly wanted to move off the farm, that living in my rural town would be the closest I’d get to urban living. And I figured the only thing I learned during a two-week urban ministry experience was that I was not in any way meant for that kind of activity.

Now I live downtown by choice, look with disgust and scorn on suburbs, and love to vacation in densely populated cities. Formerly the country bumpkin, afraid to go anywhere, I’m now comfortable in areas of town others fear; I enjoy the shabby downtown mall and movie theatre that aren’t cool enough for the suburbanites and have instead become the village square for the city’s newcomers – both those from from the Global South and the Canadian North. It is a value to me that as a function of where I live and where I go, I encounter people who aren’t like me, people whose situation challenges me.

I said I didn’t know what kind of career I wanted as long as it wasn’t becoming a teacher. And I certainly didn’t like kids. 

Now I am certified to teach ESL and I regularly volunteer with  young teens at a homework club and in a school classroom. I eagerly take my nieces and nephews on special outings, and persistently steal other people’s babies at church. 

Even in more banal ways, my old self has been turned on its head. I distinctly recall the terror of crossing the main street in my sleepy town, particularly the one time when there was actually a car to deal with and no crossing guards on duty. (Of course, my friend’s dad wouldn’t run me over, but it was still scary!) Now, it’s only at unfamiliar intersections or in new cities that I don’t boldly jaywalk across city streets – and even then sometimes. 

Any of my high school classmates would laugh themselves silly if you called me athletic, yet my adult pastimes involve physical activity. Somehow, I'm looked upon as an alpha cyclist (though my ridiculous fall yesterday hearkens back to my klutzy childhood). "I don’t dance!" I maintained against all cajoling onto the dance floor. The qualification I levied on that statement remains – no meaningless spontaneous gyration – but dancing has become my absolute favourite activity. 

So I am encouraged. God is trustworthy. God is not capricious and vindictive, insisting we learn to like what he wants, but gentle and patient albeit perhaps a tad mischievous, leading us on journeys of learning, confounding expectations in the process. 

I wonder what reversal is next.