I started a blog post at the beginning of this year that I never finished. It was tentatively titled “On Speaking Up in 2014” and it was inspired by my friend Osheta Moore. Osheta wrote a fantastic viral blog post that called for white Southern lady-bloggers like me to use our voices to validate the experiences of non-white women who did not have our same privilege. Osheta wrote (and I agree) that white women writers must realize that their ability to choose whether or not to speak about an issue is directly related to their privilege in that situation: by saying nothing, they lose nothing because they already have everything. In early January, I told myself that I would spend this year of “ATTACK” speaking up; I wanted to practice taking risks in small ways so I would be ready for the big moments when they arrived.
But speaking up is hard work, and a number of internet scandals and real life disasters have come and gone since the New Year and I haven’t even gotten around to publishing the draft blog post that says I want to practice participating! It’s pretty cozy over here on the sidelines, where I can roll my eyes at internet crazy from a safe distance.
I’ve ignored that inner voice a lot this year, but over the past week it came right out and surprised me. I saw something that I thought was wrong, and before I could count to ten and calculate potential liabilities and decide not to get involved in a messy situation it was too late. I was on the record saying THIS IS WRONG. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HURTING ARE PEOPLE I LOVE. THEY MATTER. MAKE IT BETTER.
My words didn’t necessarily bring about a better result, but I received a surprising number of private messages from women who were afraid to speak until they heard my voice, who told me that they felt braver and stronger because I went first. They began to share their opinions too. The opinions were all different — of course we did not all agree — but we had a dialogue that was mostly healthy and that I was proud to participate in. This week was sad and stressful and there have been a couple of personal emergencies and family health crises on my mind. Each of the notes I received and each instance of robust and impassioned dialogue I witnessed has been special to me. I enjoyed seeing women I respect disagree well. It was beautiful.
And so, I pulled this draft blog post out and I’m dusting it off a bit. I’ve learned this year to get right to the point in my writing so here it is:
We often think about oppressors as them. But sometimes the oppressors are us. Sometimes we are the ones whom we should be speaking against. When the people we love and respect are the ones committing wrongful actions (whether it is a relatively minor power imbalance or something big and terrible like systemic racism or institutional poverty) it is so much harder. Because then we have to not just speak out for the weak, but speak against those we love. That is WAY WORSE.
But even when we disagree with those we love, staying silent doesn’t reconcile or redeem. We may think it is noble to stay silent to preserve relationships; we may even call this “peacemaking” and claim our special place among the Blesseds. It is not. It is not noble to protect the feelings of the majority at the expense of the minority. It is not peacemaking to sit quietly and watch evil or fear or prejudice or injustice run the world. That is just plain old self-interestedness, the kind that reinforces majority status and others everyone else. And really, there are enough people reinforcing majority status and othering everyone else. It’s time to be real reconcilers, real peacemakers. We can do that by starting a conversation.
1. Abi Bechtel for SheLoves Magazine in an essay entitled Her Face.
2. Justin Lee for Crumbs from the Communion Table with Did Daniel Pierce’s Coming Out Video Upset You? Here are 5 Things You Can Do.
3. On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit, by Esther Emery.
4. Abby Norman on her blog with Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead.
5. Engaged in Paris, the story of my friend Katherine’s engagement which was inspired by me! (well, I mean, not entirely inspired by me. The engagement itself wasn’t my idea, just the way that they told their story. But I’m still taking credit.)
Thanks for stopping by! I’m so excited for the blog to finally be back in action. I’ve missed you guys! Did you read any other awesome things this week? If so, make sure to share in the comments or link me up on Facebook or Twitter.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Here are five awesome things I read this week, and you should read them too!
- One of The Atlantic’s feature stories, The Case for Reparations, is legitimately one of the most awesome things I have read this year. It was written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and you should check it out.
- Modest is Hottest? by Sarah Moon for No Shame Movement.
- This Slate piece has been making the rounds on social media so you may have already seen it, but if not it’s an interesting take on racism in the younger generations.
- In Southern Baptist Convention news updates (I know you are pumped to read something beginning with that introductory clause), a Muslim student has completed his first year of Ph.D work at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and people think that is weird. Because it is weird. The interesting part of this conversation, though, is this challenge that Seminary President Patterson’s defense of this decision shows that he (and/or his institution) values moral and social issue alignment (i.e. on women’s rights, homosexuality and marriage equality, abortion rights, etc.) over faith alignment (i.e. other Christians who have different positions on social issues than those espoused by the SBC).
- Finally, we’ve got this article at The Huffington Post that repeats the often-published truth that it is cheaper to provide homeless persons with housing than to continue treating their emergent needs through ER visits and prison stays. If you don’t know this already, you’re about ten years late to the party, but it is definitely worth repeating.
As an honorable mention, I was watching celebrities read mean tweets (Jimmy Kimmel) and it was cracking me up. So check this out if you need something funny to start your weekend right.
Okay, that’s it! What awesome things did you read this week? Share in the comments or link us up on twitter.
This week’s five things all focus in some way on women. Enjoy!
This article from Salon.com discussing the problem with using the term “women problem” to describe a cultural failure of including, promoting, or appreciating women.
This story from my new friend Diana, on being a woman in seminary.
This feature story at The Atlantic (from last week) entitled The Confidence Gap.
This New York Post article on the outstanding character and accomplishments of the woman George Clooney is lucky enough to be engaged to.
This list written by my friend Hannah about five things she learned growing up in a fundamentalist household. This post was so popular that it broke her blog, so that’s a good sign, right? Right.
So, what awesome things did you read this week?
Wow, April. I can’t believe it’s over and I can’t believe we survived. After nearly seven months of winter isolation, I got out and about A LOT in April. It was incredibly fun.
What I’ve been up to:
We spent a weekend in Washington, DC, with our very best friends. It was so lovely to see them all and to celebrate birthdays and first-zoo-trips and drink coffee at my favorite coffee place ever.
The following weekend I rented a car and drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Festival of Faith and Writing. It was weird and awkward and wonderful. I met some really lovely new friends!
I loved so many of the sessions, but I really started feeling my writerliness in a session with Peter Orner (a non-practicing lawyer who is an MFA professor in San Fran and is from my city!). His novel Love and Shame and Love is set in Chicago and is waiting for me to finish up a few other things I’m reading. I’m so excited to read it.
Sometime that week we also made it to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field. The next weekend was Easter Sunday, and we spent the holiday with my friend Brenna and her lovely family. One of her three daughters sat in my lap all day (except for the parts where she was throwing up everywhere) and H and I both felt like we belonged. Brenna set a lovely table as well:
Because we spent so much time out of town this month, it’s been hard to do all of the things I really love to do — such as staying at home in my jammies and watching lots of television. I’ve seen the season finale of Scandal but I’m still a little behind on all of my shows (which is probably good since the season finales leave me with nothing left to watch all summer! I should probably try to spread them out a bit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.)
Instead of a subject-by-subject breakdown of the month, here are a few random things I’ve loved this month:
- Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bars. Holy cow they are delicious and only 200 calories.
Eating healthy(ish). It’s a work in progress.
Kappa Delta. The Illinois-Wisconsin State Day was last weekend and it was so fun to attend! I’d never been to a state day before and I didn’t know how adorable it would be to see my Kappa Delta sisters celebrate 50+ years of sorority membership. They are a d o r a b l e. And also, smart and kind and funny and stylish. And even more – seriously, there’s more – they had Midwestern accents. I nearly died of happiness.
Body shop bath products. On a related note, I won a raffle for coconut-scented Bodyshop products and they. are. awesome. I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on fancy shower/bath stuff, but my showers have been quite lovely this past week!
Pitch Perfect. I mean, I think that movie is on TV every single day, but the thing is: it is hilarious every single time.
6. FUMC at the Chicago Temple. I have so many notes in my journal and things to write about how lovely it has been, but without getting into all of that, it’s just basically the greatest church I’ve ever gone to. I can really focus on the sermons and enjoy the services because I’m not counting grammatical or historical or factual errors or constantly crossing and uncrossing my legs to distract myself from completely inappropriate comments about poverty, race, or gender.** It’s really what I’ve been needing and I’m so glad we found it.
- Edward Gorey. Do you guys know about Edward Gorey? I totally didn’t, and then I went to this Goreyesque event and I fell totally and completely in love! Apparently Goreyesque is a celebration of funny morbid creative things, like a short story written from the perspective of a recently deceased seventeen year old who makes fun of his sister’s vapid friend while watching his sister wrestle with the details of his suicide. Which was sad and hilarious.
8. Me. Is that weird to say? This month I’m totally into me. I’m into goal setting, I’m into believing in myself, I’m into my writing and my blogging and my spiritual development. I’m also into my brain: I went to a lawyer training event one afternoon and for a few hours remembered how fun it is to think about the law and how much I love doing that. So that’s cool, right? I’m kind of into me right now, and working hard to take care of my whole self (brain/heart/body).
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you this month! How are things in your world, and what have you been loving this month? Leave me a note here or join the link-up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog.
** I’m not blaming other churches for my inability to fit in, but I am excited to have found a congregation where I can be myself. If you’d like to let me know that feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts in church is my fault and not the church’s fault I’m happy to receive that feedback below. Thanks in advance. ;)
Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant the way a lot of people do. And I know that writing that down and publishing it on the internet means some people who share my faith tradition will lose respect for me, but I need to start there. I think that reading the Bible brings me closer to God, and helps me to know him better — but reading the Bible also reminds me of the ways people have [mis-]used Scripture to silence me and to silence my brothers and sisters on this planet.
It’s a complicated relationship, for sure. I want it to be less complicated. I want Scripture to bring only joy and not pain, but that just isn’t where I am right now. I haven’t been there for a few years, actually. Life is a journey, and I do not believe we are called to check all the boxes while shutting down our brains. Faith shouldn’t have to be a mental power struggle, where we refuse to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and confusions and doubts and scream out an unthinking “YES” to all the things they say we have to believe. For me, right now, it’s an ongoing effort to seek God’s love and pursue relationship. To follow Jesus. To find the arc of redemption moving in our world and to follow it, and to hope for the redemption that we believe will come. So, while I’m often frustrated or unsure about where I stand with the Bible, I trust that if I am seeking God and trying to follow Jesus, that one day I’ll be in a better place with the Bible too.
I still think I’m a Christian.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I spend every minute of every day seeking God and trying to reconcile with the Scriptures. Because I don’t. Reconciliation with Scripture and communities of faith is something I think about often and hope for. Scripture and faith communities are intrinsically linked to my childhood and my understanding of the world. But I’m not necessarily doing that full-time right now. I think about a lot of other things too.
I still think I’m a Christian.
The internet makes it harder. I read blog posts and articles and comments saying that if you interpret differently the meaning or application of one or two sentences of a certain translation of the Bible, you are throwing out the entire gospel narrative and you can’t be a Christian anymore. And I’m stunned because, holy cow, I wish it was only one or two sentences that I didn’t interpret literally. I wish it were that simple.
This week, with all of the World Vision USA hullabaloo, I read your words, and I felt even more that I didn’t belong. Here I am: I grew up in your world, I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong. I still think I’m a Christian, but if I told you the truth, would you agree? Would you say that it’s okay to be different, to not understand the world in the same way as everyone else, that God is bigger than our doubts and our questions? I’ve heard that before.
But I wonder sometimes — is God only bigger than my doubts and questions because I am a straight, white, married female?
I want to hear you say that the world is full of nuance. I want to hear you say that we can all work with people, live in community with people, shop at grocery stores with people and bake cakes for people who believe different things than we do. I want to hear you say that you don’t believe everyone who thinks differently than you about the world, or religion, or the Bible deserves to live in constant fear of poverty because they cannot find or keep employment. I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait.
Instead, I’ve been hearing you say that a Christian organization that decides to stop excluding certain groups of people from its hiring pool has thrown away the Gospel. The entire Gospel. Now that they’ve changed their minds, I’m hearing you rejoice, slapping hands and taking credit for standing your ground. For the Gospel. And I wonder, what would you say about me, if you knew my doubts and struggles?
Well, now you know.
I haven’t significantly cut my long brown hair since the Saturday before the bar exam, July 2011. On that day, my hairdresser Allegra told me what a big haircut can mean. Her mother practices Buddhism, and believes the cutting of hair is a release for the whole body: As our bodies process stress and worry, those feelings grow out of our skin into our hair, hanging around with us each day. When we’ve been walking through life wearing our past stresses and worries long enough, when we’re ready for a change in our lives and our souls, cutting off our hair removes the residue of that long battle and helps us to enter into that new stage.
I have been to a few yoga classes this month, but I don’t know anything about Buddhism so I cannot tell you whether any of that is true. I’m not entirely sure any Buddhists out there would read this and identify with that statement in any way. It could be completely misunderstood or misconstrued by me during a bar exam-induced frenzy. But, I’m a believer in the power of a good haircut and let me tell you why: After three years of law school, three months of intense studying, and one significant haircut, I passed the bar exam with no real worry of failure and entered into a new stage of life.
That new stage, which is now my old stage, was rocky and beautiful. I made some deep and lasting friendships, learned a lot, and became much more grounded in who I am professionally and personally. But it was hard. It’s been almost three years now since that last big haircut, and there were a few months in there where I only went to work because I didn’t want to pay a fine for departing before my fellowship was complete, and where I only went to parties when I couldn’t think of a socially acceptable excuse to break the commitment. There were absolutely some days where the veil I wore was too thin, and my actual heartbreak or frustration was clearly visible to those who I like to pretend cannot see the dark edges of my humanity. And, I stuck my foot boldly into my mouth more times than I would like to remember. (I do continue to remember these moments, which is perhaps the worst part of this whole thing called living. Each time I say something horribly ill-timed or inappropriate or unthinking I remember it. Even years later it comes back to me in a disappointing memory which no haircut has as of yet been able to erase.)
Over the last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a serious cut. My hair was just too long, and it was starting to get in the way of things. All of those feelings and memories just didn’t fit onto my shoulders along with the sweater and scarf and coat and hood necessary to survive this winter. I never felt comfortable with my hair sticking out from under a hat and pointing every which way while I walked down Michigan Avenue toward my new office in my new city. In my apartment my hair was straight and lovely, but each time I headed outside toward something new the wind would blow it into tangles and knots. It was time to let go of the baggage and free up some room for warmth and possibility.
I thought that my twenty-eighth birthday would be the time for the big cut, but beginning the day we returned from Las Vegas and until just a few days ago I was so sick I could barely leave the apartment, much less choose a hairstyle and find a stylist. I kept delaying the cut, although I knew how much I wanted it and how ready I was for the change.
This past week, as my cough reduced and my health improved, I found a stylist on Yelp.com and made the appointment. I didn’t realize at the time that my cut was scheduled for the second day of the Chinese New Year celebration, considered to be the first day of the new year, but how perfectly timed it was. As many celebrate the new year by cleaning house to sweep away ill-fortune and make room for good luck (thank you, Wikipedia), I too am chopping off the last three years and starting fresh.
I don’t have a picture for you now. This change wasn’t just about fashion or beauty, it was about being more fully alive, about diving in and seeing what would happen. And so before returning to the surface, I wanted to take the time to share this process. But don’t worry, glamour shots will be headed your way soon. Happy New Year, again. Let’s do something awesome this year.