Thursday, 11 April 2013

What I learned from Leviticus

At the beginning of the year, I started a reading plan that would take me chronologically through the bible. I've read the whole bible before and I wonder if it isn't a test of our endurance that the books of the law and the genealogies come right at the beginning. The narratives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are so fresh and alive compared to the weight of the rest of the Pentateuch.

However, one of my main goals this reading is to understand the character of God and how he relates to his people throughout the Old Testament. I therefore find it very important to be aware of the laws and what they might say about God.

I got pretty animated and asked God about the verses where Hebrew slave men are released on the seventh year, but a Hebrew daughter that is sold is not released. How is that fair? What does that say about how God values women? I think about the culture and wonder if that wasn't God taking extra care for the women. If a woman was released, would she have anywhere to go? Would there be any way for her to care for herself?

I think about the rules God put in place and wonder, because mankind has free will, is some of what God was doing about management more than his final word on how we must live? Would anyone in our day and age think that God was giving the go-ahead to slavery? To polygamy? I actually haven't found any verses where God commands people to take slaves (or extra wives), but he gives rules on how to treat them. I must admit that the fact God commands that slaves be let free if the master beat them and they lost an eye or tooth seems a little bit loose. Really God? They only get free if they loose a tooth or eye? There's a whole lot of pain to be had without loosing a tooth or eye. I definitely don't understand all of what God meant through the laws.

I listened to the repetitive verses in Leviticus 1-4 on sacrifices and burnt offerings and wondered about whether God set up so many rules around sacrifices so that the Israelites wouldn't start sacrificing as per the customs of other nations. I don't know how prevalent it was, but some of them likely did human/child sacrifices. God doesn't allow for that or temple prostitutes. I wondered if that was part of his design.

As I meditated on what the laws and sacrifices said about God's character it occurred to me that God is probably more multifaceted than we give him credit for. When I do almost anything, I'm thinking about how that action affects things and people around me and the future. For example: when I pick something up to move it, I think about where I might put it down so that it doesn't have to be moved again or so that it will have the most potential to be ready next time someone needs it. I'm sure it sounds exhausting to some (Chris included), but it's so a part of my person that I do it sub-consciously most of the time.

Suddenly, the realization came that God's like me, but WAY better at it. (Or rather, I'm like God, but not anywhere near as proficient.) When God does something, none of the outcomes from his action or inaction surprise him. I think he does the perfect thing for the given situation. I think the laws were structured for the good of the people - even if I can't always see it or understand it from my limited vantage point.

I have difficulty with some of the harsh stuff that happens in the Old Testament - I have difficulty with some stuff in the New Testament too. I always come back to the basic belief that God is good. All the time. One day I'll understand the difficult parts, but I am thankful for the little glimpses I get now. Those glimpses get me through what I have historically found to be the drudgery of the Pentateuch. This time around, it's been much more lively.

Jesus spoke about how Moses allowed divorce because their hearts were hard. The Old Testament law was harsh, but did God really pull out all the stops and set out the full law, the full way to righteousness? I think of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus talking about how looking lustfully is as adultery and anger as murder. From Jesus' words, I don't think God did. God did not crush the Israelites with the law, though they (and we) still could not measure up. Only through Jesus are we made right with God.

Friday, 22 March 2013

A New Feminist

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is feminism. Specifically, feminism in the church. I've recently read "Powerful and Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church" by Danny Silk and I'm in the middle of "Why Not Women : A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership" by Loren Cunningham, David Joel Hamilton, & Janice Rogers.

I am left wanting to know more and more and read different views and other insights into the subject. My husband's bible study provoked my furor. They were studying 1 Corinthians. Chris came home and told me that they had a detailed discussion about what "headship" meant. I asked if he'd stood up for womankind. It was a silly question really - Chris has never played the "headship" card. He plays the "I care about you and I want what's best for you" card. I'm not always easy to persuade, but after much discussion, I will buy myself some new clothes or get my annual haircut or take myself out for coffee and knitting.

I asked him later in the week if he wanted a "veto" card. I have to guess from his reaction, that the idea repulses him. Don't get me wrong - Chris is all about protecting me and being a strong man - but anything that looks like CONTROL is not something he aspires to.

I honestly don't understand what guys and women see in giving husbands a veto/final say/last word/power card. In the loosest sense, it never gets used, but there's an understanding that it's always there. It's just waiting to make an appearance... one day, when things are tough and marriage is hard enough without throwing a power struggle into the mix. In the worst sense, husbands oppress their wives and we all have heard those stories in the news.

How about another way? Where there is no veto card. Neither husband nor wife gets the final word on a discussion. You actually commit to talking it out until you are one, because that's what God called us to be when we got married. One. One Flesh. When Chris and I have an argument, usually it's because one of us was being a &*$!. Sometimes it's because we actually disagree on something. Those times we just talk and talk and listen and listen and practice our Non-Violent Communication (a must read), until one of us realizes that it's more important to the other person than it is to us and we submit to the other person. Why does one of us submit to the other? Because our relationship is more important to us than being right or the issue at hand. We don't necessarily change our mind and agree, we just choose to behave differently because we love each other.

Thank goodness Chris loves me more than he hates cleaning the house!

So, if there's another way to do marriage, why do we keep holding onto the idea that husbands need a veto card? Because a lot of us have been taught that God wants it that way. God has veto over Christ, Christ over man, and man over women.

Maybe we could look at that differently... where "headship" means "source" or "fountainhead" and like Ezekiel's River, the source serves the outflow. As the river runs, it gets bigger, wider, deeper because of the fountainhead. Maybe head actually means what Christ lived - leading by service. There are lots of books on the theology supporting a different way of thinking about women in Christianity, I don't need to go into it here. I will leave with one quote though...

"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world." - Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The other 90%

I'm missing "the other 90%". I'm not sure how much of communication is actually non-verbal, but the dynamic dialogue that happens over coffee is what I'm really after. I don't want wisely worded responses to deep questions or carefully crafted examples of why some idea will or won't work.

It's not that I spend a great deal of time thinking about or editing my posts (as if you couldn't tell!). I'm not looking to be a writer, but I do have a need to get thoughts out on "paper" and after 6 years of hiatus, I'm getting back to online expression. My livejournal is old and archived...every time I log on there I get spam comments. It died a bit of a terrible death. My last great hurrah on LJ was commented on by a bitter used-to-be-friend who remained annonymous in order to tell me in various ways why I was a worthless person. I never found out who wrote the comments, but there were enough personal references that they either were a seriously deranged stalker, or someone I used to know.

Is that why I gave up online? No... I had other things I was working on. Getting used to living with someone was difficult as we are opposites in some ways. I also work on a computer all day and I just didn't want to spend anymore time on one when I was at home. Then there were kids. They take up LOTS of time!

How did I start to come back? It all started with Twitter! I swore I'd never tweet. Then I did. But better than tweeting was being able to learn about things that are important to me by using it as a news feed. Nobody ever told me that Twitter could do that. Now that is useful. Way better than hearing about someone taking their dog outside to do it's business.

So I've been getting very passionate about social justice, feminism (I've been a closet feminist for a long time) and specifically women's issues in church culture. Finding people to talk to about it all has been, well, difficult. For one thing, with young kids it's hard to get out in the evenings. When I do get out, not everyone I hang out with is overly interested in talking about these things. Maybe it's partly because some of them already are social/youth workers and they are trying to recharge for another day of dealing with difficult issues. Maybe because you just can't talk about some of the more difficult aspects of social justice when your kids are around... and they are very often around. :)

Anyway, so here I am, online to try and connect at the very least to people who share a passion for these issues and other things that are more important (to me) than how to be Martha Stewart.

The best thing I've read recently?
Henry Rollins Comments On Steubenville Rape Verdict

I think Henry Rollins is brilliant and youth today need to know how cool he is. They/We could learn something.

The Green Mohawk

Recently, Chris changed his hairstyle to a green mohawk. I helped (it’s hard to get those straight by yourself). It’s not a permanent new look (maybe). Although I was pretty indifferent to it at first, I definitely don't hate it. It is a fun look that E laughs about and refers to as “silly”.

More than just being fun though, it brought up some thought-provoking discussion about how we perceive others. Someone commented that it could be seen as unprofessional for Chris in his dealings with school officials. That it might create a barrier for people that don’t know him. That they might make assumptions based on his appearance, rather than his character.

How we appear says something about who we are. Doesn’t it?

It reminded me of when I was 19 and died my hair blue. I applied for credit at the bank that day. I visited my uncle as he was grocery shopping for his dessert restaurant; he commented that the colour of my hair didn’t faze him, because he knew who I was. He didn’t see me as an irresponsible punk because he knew who I was on the inside.

How do we see those “punks” that walk down the street?

Chris and I often smile and exchange a glance when we see alternatively dressed youth walking down the street. We remember our youth and maybe envy them a little. We know from past personal experience that some people dress alternatively because they genuinely want to express something in that way. However, some people use their appearance as a way to foster their own insecurity. They are a lot like those friends of yours that don't want to come to your party because they don't believe anyone likes them. Then they spend the whole party against the wall with their arms crossed. They look angry because nobody will talk to them. They fear people won’t accept them. People don't want to approach them because they look scary. When people try to approach them, they are given the cold shoulder. I actually have to say that how people dress puts up less of a barrier than the non-verbal communication they give off with their body language.

Not that appearance doesn't affect things. We all make assessments and judgements, for negative or positive.

We can see a classy lady and think, “She must have it all together.” We can see a scruffy man and think, “He isn’t a productive member of society.” Meanwhile, the lady is suffering from depression and uses her appearance to create an illusion and the man is on vacation and enjoying not having to shave everyday for his job. It's not so much our initial judgements that are the problem. It is what we do with them. Do we treat people differently because of our assumptions or do we respect all people because we choose not to let image and our prejudices dictate our actions?

Does Chris’ green mohawk create a social barrier? Probably for some. Most people that bother to say anything think it's great. Why does Chris have a mohawk? To more easily identify with youth? To stand out at the comic-con? Maybe all of those things are influences, but I'd guess that he genuinely likes it.