If you look back at the history of this blog, you’d quickly see that I’ve been less-than-committed to posting with any regularity. In fact, I haven’t written a thing (other than short responses on social media) for a year. The writing life is hard, and I’ve taken a few knocks personally over the past two years. As a result, I lost confidence in my voice as a woman and as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Several friends have encouraged me to get back to the things I love and in the last year, God has shown me time and again the calling He has for me to be a witness for mercy, compassion, reconciliation, and justice. Yet the fear was (and is) persistent. Several years ago, when I attended a leadership conference sponsored by Willow Creek church in Chicago, I heard Bill Hybels teach about calling. He described his own passion as the feeling that Popeye used to get watching Brutus bully others. Popeye would hang back, waiting on the situation to resolve, then inevitably, he’d roll up his sleeves and say, “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” You can guess what happened next:
A week or two ago, I reached that point. In honor of Women’s History month, I’ve been sharing facts and bios of overlooked women in history on Facebook. Several friends have remarked to me that they’ve learned a lot, but they want to know more. Specifically, they want to learn about the “F” word: feminism. [Cue Spinach]
For me, this is the perfect on-ramp back into writing. We decided to call it our Social Justice Boot Camp on Feminism. As much as I disdain militarism, I kinda dig it. (What can I say, I contain multitudes of contradictions, y’all.) I hope for you, dear readers, that it will provide you the opportunity to engage with concepts that might be new to you. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at Scripture, history, and current events to articulate my own understanding of feminism. I invite you to join me and interact in the comments. I moderate responses on this blog because that’s just good sense to me, but I will review them as quickly as possible so that you can give and receive feedback if you’d like.
Before we launch into full introductions, however, I would like to start with a few caveats:
- I am not the gatekeeper for feminism. As we will discuss later, there are lots of feminisms and historically, certain groups have been excluded from so-called “mainstream” conversations. I want to be as inclusive as possible, but I do have my own perspective. I will do my best to point out sources when my knowledge or viewpoint falls short.
- There are a TON of resources on feminism. There are NOT a ton of resources on feminism from a Christian perspective. That’s not to say that there aren’t Christian feminists (whoa, Nelly, there are a jillion). But there will be times when I’m talking about things that maybe only a few other Christians are publicly talking about. And those people and I may disagree. (dum dum DUUUUM) That’s okay. We’re in this together. Feminism, like any other work of justice, can be a lonely place. I want us to do our best to hear from people who don’t necessarily agree with us.
- I believe Scripture is inerrant. I do not believe its interpreters are. We will be cautious in how we handle the Bible around here because many of us have experienced firsthand injury from other believers who thought they needed to wield the sword of the Spirit in dangerous ways. I am, frankly, more frightened by this than any of you. I take the Bible very seriously, and I believe my worldview to be based upon its principles. Still, there are times when Scripture flies in the face of “conventional” thought, and when it comes to feminism, you can bet your buttons that the Bible has been used to beat back efforts to disrupt or dismantle patriarchal tradition. So there will be moments of controversy around here.
The closest historical analogy for this that I can think of is the abuse of the book of Philemon where Paul writes,
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
For centuries, these words were used to justify slavery. You might wonder, how can that be since it clearly says Paul considers him “a fellow man” and a “brother” or a “son”? The short answer is: people do that. We want the Bible to support our bias or lifestyle or comfort, or we read the text without meditating on it and internalizing it .
I want us to be careful not to read more into the thing than can be textually supported, but I will be bringing contexts like culture and history to bear when we talk about the Bible. I will be judging the characters’ behavior with my modern sensibilities (can’t always help that), but I will be cautious about all of it because the Bible is not a sociological textbook. We learn how to live, but a lot of that is learned through example, metaphor, parable. We can’t always get a straight answer from the Scriptures, but we CAN get to know God and understand who He wants us to be in light of that knowledge. We live in an age where, ironically enough, the orthodoxy squad are just as bad as the feminists sometimes about policing for non-compliance. I’m going to occasionally be non-compliant with the dominant parties in any of the camps. I’m always going to be non-compliant with somebody. That makes me nervous, but I’ll do this scared because that’s the life of faith. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,
We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.
So with those things out of the way, let’s have a quick introduction.
Why do we need to talk about feminism? Because we humans have a fundamental problem. Sin. We sin as individuals, we sin in herds, and quite often, we institutionalize sin. Solomon said, “there’s nothing new under the Sun.” As we look at the narratives in Scripture, we’ll see that for women and other marginalized groups, the song remains the same. Societies have organized themselves differently throughout the ages: dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies, republics, democracies, etc. but there has been a persistent alienation of certain groups of people. We see them most often referenced in Scripture as “widows, orphans, and strangers/aliens/foreigners/sojourners.” But Jesus included others, too:
[T]he King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Here Jesus identified Himself with the poor, the stranger, the criminal, saying whenever you serve people on the margins of society, you serve Him. Many of us see this and immediately think, “Okay, so Jesus told us to help these people, let’s go do it.” We don’t really look into why Jesus is asking us to do these things. We assume it’s because He’s loving, good, a nice guy. All true. But there’s more to it than that. He tells us to recognize these people and see Him in them because He knows these are the people we ignore. These are the people we exploit. These are the people most vulnerable to our individual and collective pride, cruelty, contempt…sinfulness. I once had a professor tell me that we don’t really have to address poverty completely because Jesus said “the poor will always be with you.” The problem with that thinking (aside from the fact that he was taking that Scripture out of context) is that by saying so, he was interpreting Jesus’ statement in a way that would absolve him of any responsibility. But isn’t that what all of us comfortable people do with marginalized people? We take for granted that the world will be this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
When God tells us us to care for widows and orphans, it’s because in every place and time on earth, women and children are dominated, exploited, and abused. That’s not to say that the same doesn’t happen to men and boys. It does. This is where people often get justice wrong. At it’s core, justice work, including feminist work, seeks to reimagine a world in balance and harmony: a world of mutuality and concern for one another. A large part of that reimagining and engaging means pointing out the places where things are wholly out of whack. That’s what God is doing when He tells us to advocate and serve those on the outs. He’s restoring the order that He intended from the beginning. The order that was thrown into a chaotic eat-or-be-eaten paradigm because of our sin.
From the beginning, God spoke to this problem. In ancient Israel, He called the nation to implement a justice system that to us Americans looks downright preferential. Greg Ogden writes in his book, Discipleship Essentials:
…the role of judge and justice in Israel was to actively and redemptively seek to protect the poor from the wiles of the rich and powerful., So strong was the skepticism toward the powerful that the poor in the courts were often viewed collectively as the innocent and righteous.
This idea offends us. God is partial toward the poor? He encouraged them to consider the poor innocent? Yes. God is striking a balance here. Despite what we’ve learned from American iconography, justice is not blind (nor is justice a white lady).
This is a huge hang-up for a lot of us. We want God on our side. And we can have God on our side, when we get on His side. His side is full of a lot of people that we’d rather not hang out with, but it’s where Jesus Himself went. It feels threatening, though. To call us to identify with the marginalized, to consider them better than us, to look at them and see Jesus seems unfair. I didn’t do anything wrong! I have privileges, but I earned them, or maybe I don’t think I have privileges at all. Life is hard for everybody, right? But God invites us to change our point-of-view. To see things we don’t want to see because then we might have to give up something, or apologize. We might have to upend our lives and swim upstream.
The beautiful part of working for justice is that in upending everything we think we know, we begin to see things set right. Contrary to popular belief, justice is not a zero sum game where if one person benefits, another person loses. What might feel like a loss is but a loss that heals, like the excision of a cancerous tumor that is slowly killing our own soul and taking others down with it. When we work for justice, sharing power or resources or our voice, we see God repay beyond anything we thought we were giving up. Because in God’s kingdom, when justice prevails, everyone wins.
This is especially important to understand as we undertake a conversation about feminism. Many continue to resist feminism because they see it as a war between the sexes. They say women just want to be men or women want to be in charge. Feminism rejects the idea of dominance and rejoices in the full spectrum of gender identity and expression. Feminism doesn’t argue that women should be the priority at the expense of men. It says the marginalized should be a priority because they are unfairly and consistently excluded.
I also want to include a word about those in a position of privilege. We all have some measure of privilege. Very few of us are utterly devoid of some measure position or advantage in society. One of the biggest challenges when working on any issues of justice is that when we finally do see and understand the plight of the oppressed, we are tempted to view the privileged as the enemy. Frankly, the privileged often act like the enemy. As believers, we know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against supernatural forces that separate us from God and one another. So, we have to pull back a little and see the big picture. We keep our eyes on the oppressed, but we also see how injustice afflicts the soul of the oppressor and those complicit in oppression. James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time about racism:
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain…Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace-not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.
We have to be willing to take off the masks of our privilege and humble ourselves in solidarity with those who are made humble by society. But our God wants freedom for all: the oppressed and the oppressors, the privileged and the marginalized. This can only be achieved when we commit ourselves to seeing the injustices in front of us, eschewing privilege as our birthright or an endgoal. As we begin our conversation here, let’s start asking key questions about how we can better serve one another and how we can open ourselves up to have our ideas challenged, our feelings hurt, and our worldviews transformed for the better.
Last Friday, my first instinct was to run to this blog like it was the Bat Cave. Surely, something must be done. Something must be said! The noise and violence of the Connecticut shooting had gotten too loud for me to take. I wanted to scream above it all. Drown it out. But I didn’t. Instead, I took time to hold my own children, to talk with them about what happened. To weep alone, to pray corporately and in solitude, and to rant at my husband (who already agrees with me and cannot echo back his own thoughts for grief and disbelief at what we all have seen).
Many people did run to their blogs, to the presses. My social feeds and email notifications have exploded with conversations about guns, God, and illness. One post cannot possibly contain those multitudes, but I am compelled to address some of those ideas in one place, my place, at this point.
To start, I have seen many, many people reiterating and defending comments made by Mike Huckabee, etc. that things like this happen because we’ve taken God out of the public square. I find that to be rhetorically ridiculous, given that even at times other than Christmas, He still makes the news constantly as part of political and social conversations. Not only is that a wholly inaccurate assessment of our culture, it’s an entirely bad theology. You cannot “take” God anywhere. He’s not a mouse in your pocket. He’s not a treasure in your heart. He’s the living, holy, omniscient, omnipresent God of all Creation! I think that demands an exclamation point.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139: 7-12
Anyone who needs further Biblical evidence of God’s all-everythingness is invited to consider and meditate upon His response to Job in chapters 38-41 of that book. Godly Job lost everything, even his children, and once he reaches the point of questioning God, “Why? Where ARE you?” he gets a nice long set of questions back that explain exactly where God was.
Now, I know this “kicked God out of public schools” thing has become part of common evangelical discourse, but I just have to say, once and for all, stoppit. Stop it right now. Last spring, when I found myself an aimless stay-at-home mom, I prayed about a new opportunity to head up the PTA at my son’s elementary school. I thought, “I’ll do a little good and bring some Kingdom to my boy’s school.” When I got there, I saw that God was already there. He was in 98% of the teaching staff who renewed their contract at a Title I school instead of bailing for a school with fewer poor children. He was in the Monday afternoon Bible study, 70 kids strong, that happens after school is out. He was in the churches that supply sack lunches for our schoolchildren to take home every weekend because their families are food insecure. He was in the office secretary who, despite her naturally surly personality, loves Jesus and offers my daughter conversation every time we drop in on PTA business. He was in the principal who endures endless bureaucracy and parental inanity and yet still believes in the democratic mission of public education and has confidence in God’s call that she be there to love and serve families. He was in the music teacher whose Newsboys hoodie gave her away as a Jesus freak while she taught all our kids, a whole SCHOOL of children, the dance to Thriller. I was not surprised to see Christ in our school, I was shocked only by my hubris that I would be the one, or one of the few, to bring Him there.
I can confidently say that God was in that Newtown school on Friday. He was weeping. He was whispering in the teacher’s ears and welcoming children home. Stop telling me and the world that we can kick God out of anything. He will not be mocked, especially not in a frikkin’ sound bite that garners favor with the fearful.
Some of those comments re: God are an intentional distraction from the very real conversation and reform that needs to happen around our healthcare system and weapons availability. I know some advocates for gun control and mental healthcare have been pitting those priorities against one another, but I’m a girl who wants all of it. We need sensible gun control in this country. MORE guns is a stupid, stupid solution and should not be tolerated at this tragic and important moment. The rest of the world is looking at us like we’re the wild West and I for one don’t want my kids going to any school where a teacher is packing under his/her petticoat. No sir. We don’t make schools less vulnerable by making them more dangerous. We make them less vulnerable by making guns less available. Will it make them unavailable? No. But less available is good. Always.
I know some have said that evil men can do evil with or without guns. Well, let’s have them doing evil without guns for a change. This weekend, a story out of China provided a stark contrast to our own. A man, armed with a knife, injured as many children as were killed in Connecticut. It was horrific. It was evil. It was not fatal. Gun control is for me, a moral priority. Jesus was born into a world of violence. A world that killed children of His day. A world that would one day take His life. He calls us to be people of peace, not people of heat. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a gun. Too many of my brethren are living in fear of government, predators, intruders. Jesus made Himself vulnerable, wrapped Himself in mortal flesh and entrusted Himself to God. He never carried a weapon. When His followers did, He told them “that is enough!” or “put [it] away.” Those messages weren’t advocating conceal and carry, they were calling His disciples to a different way of life. He’s calling us to do the same and influence our violent society for peace.
We also need serious reform for those battling mental illness. A wise friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday:
It sure would be nice if we had a national conversation about access to mental health care for the vast majority of people with mental illnesses who will never shoot anyone.
One blog post in particular by Anarchist Soccer Mom has made some headlines. In it, she openly talks about her struggles and her fear for her son who has yet to be completely and accurately diagnosed. She writes:
No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.
God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.
God can help her. His people can get involved. I think of a new friend who works with patients that struggle with intense illnesses like schizophrenia, etc. He is governed by His trust in God and is committed to seeing His patients through the worst moments of their lives. Another friend wrote this weekend about her brother’s illness and left her readers with a call to engage:
[Most] of us, whether we have an awareness of this or not, are in a position to be very helpful.
Pray for this issue continually.
Pray for the mentally ill in general – that they will know the healing power and peace of Jesus.
Pray for any specific people that you know of who struggle with mental illness. Pray that they’ll be spared from the worst symptoms of these diseases.
Pray for their families, especially their parents. Pray for them to be sustained by God’s wisdom and mercy to us all.
Pray for those people who venture into the field of mental health. Pray that they’ll be granted knowledge of – and the ability to put into place – real solutions that are both effectual and merciful.
Pray for those saints who engage with the mentally ill in their ministries. Pray that they’ll be rewarded for their great work and that they’ll see results in this world.
Since we are commanded to give thanks for all things, give thanks that you’ve been placed in a world currently dealing with this issue. And, especially give thanks if you have the privilege of ministering to specific families of mentally ill persons.
Second, minister to anyone you know who struggles with mental illness.
Treat them with kindness.
Third, minister to the families of the mentally ill.
Do not stigmatize. Having a mentally ill family member is not an embarrassment. Are family members with cancer embarrassing?
Do not pretend there isn’t a problem.
Do not pretend you understand the problem.
Do not ever let the sentence, “well, if he was my child, I’d…” come across your lips. You do not know what you would do. I grew up with it, and I do not know what I’d do.
Do not attempt to diagnose.
Ask if and how you can help. One great way is to minister to any siblings. Grab them for the day. Any respite is welcome when chaos is a reality.
Food is always a ministry. Always. Second only, of course, to laughter.
Follow the lead of the person in your life about how much and when to discuss the problem. Some folks are very open and benefit from people checking in. Some are tired and want to talk about the BCS standings. Provide openings without prying.
Talk to your children about emotional struggles that all people have. Talk to them about right reactions to their own emotional struggles, and reactions to those folks who they encounter who have much more acute problems.
Always remember that, but for His grace, there go we all.
Honor the truth that sick people can do evil things. The deeds are no less evil because they are sick, and the people are no less sick because they do evil things.
Remember that the vast majority of those who struggle with mental illness are not on the verge of engaging in destructive behavior.
I’d add that we can also look into ways to educate our public leaders about mental illness and to secure funding for research and long-term solutions that go beyond the incarceration that the Anarchist Soccer Mom fears may be inevitable.
In 1963, when a bomb was launched into an African-American Alabama church killing four little girls attending Sunday school, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a eulogy that is relevant to our situation today. I’m truncating the eulogy because much of it is unique to that event, but as with any sound preaching, the whole of it is wonderful and true:
This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.
These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.
And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows… They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.
And so my friends, they did not die in vain. (Yeah) God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. (Oh yes) And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city. (Yeah) The holy Scripture says, “A little child shall lead them.” (Oh yeah)…
May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.
I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.
Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. (Yeah, Yes) Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. (Yeah) And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him (Yeah, Well), and that God is able (Yeah, Yes) to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.
And so today, you do not walk alone. You gave to this world wonderful children. [moans] They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives. (Well) Their lives were distressingly small in quantity, but glowingly large in quality. (Yeah) And no greater tribute can be paid to you as parents, and no greater epitaph can come to them as children, than where they died and what they were doing when they died. (Yeah) They did not die in the dives and dens of Birmingham (Yeah, Well), nor did they die discussing and listening to filthy jokes. (Yeah)…(Yes) Shakespeare had Horatio to say some beautiful words as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet. And today, as I stand over the remains of these beautiful, darling girls, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare: (Yeah, Well): Good night, sweet princesses. Good night, those who symbolize a new day. (Yeah, Yes) And may the flight of angels (That’s right) take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you.
Let’s take solace in the God of all Comfort and let this moment give us the courage to bring His Kingdom of peace and justice to bear on our hurting and hurtful world.
Man, I know I promise to write y’all, but this is just embarrassing.
I call this “Blue Like Jazz: The DVD” because mamas who love movies have to live at the Redbox. Seriously, I may actually own the thing outright if we rent “The Muppet Movie” one. more. time. Redbox should adopt a layaway policy. Maybe I’ll submit that next time they text me a free code.
But I digress…
We have this way in Beckydom of deciding what’s Christian and what’s not. Often it’s a determination made by art’s “family-friendliness.” We say this is faith-based and that over there is secular. For example, once in a rental car, I had the pleasure of hearing Chris Tomlin cover U2′s “Where the Streets Have no Name.” Before I’m flogged for implying U2 isn’t a Christian band, I’ll say THEY ARE. THEY ARE. But I’ve never before heard any of their music, that song included, on Christian radio until Tomlin consecrated it with his worship-leader vocals. It’s a song about Heaven by Christians and yet in one case it’s Christian enough and in another it’s not. I was at a concert once where I heard Jars of Clay do an unplugged version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” so…
Okay, that was just mean. My apologies.
I thought about all this the other day when I rented the Miller movie. I had a friend recommend “Blue Like Jazz” after he saw it in the theater and he mentioned it on Facebook with this description: “might be uncomfortable for typical ‘Christian movie’ watchers.”
Now I read the book. Liked it. Made me feel a little less alone as a Not Becky, but it wasn’t as life-changing for me as it was for some of my younger Christian hipster friends. I had no idea how they were going to make it into a movie. I could barely remember the narrative parts of the book and even what I remembered didn’t seem to fit the standard movie formula.
I really liked the film. Sure, there was a lot of drinking, swearing, and running around with pagan sinners, but that’s college for everyone, right? No? It was still definitely a Christian movie. And I like that Miller and friends were allowed to go there (independent fundraising as indicated by the crazy double-columned credits at the end. You gave a small amount, you got producer credit. Probably my favorite part of the movie.)
Without spoiling the whole bit, I’ll say the one issue I had with it is that despite it’s wrestling with an honest-to-goodness crisis of theology and, more to it, ecclesiology, the resolution of the crisis was unsatisfying. The book seemed to focus on what Miller had gotten wrong about people in general, and evangelism in particular. That Christianity was more than cleaning up your act and breaking the news to people that they were hell-bound (perhaps considering getting far enough out of your social circle to even just do that).
The movie, probably for the purpose of turning it into an about-face personal narrative, makes it a little more about Miller’s desire to fit into a secular crowd. While that conflict was a big part of the book, it wasn’t the whole lot of it. In the end, the main character almost apologizes for everything that made him interesting for the bulk of the movie.
What I liked about Jazz the book, and Miller’s talks of “story” and faith when I’ve seen him in person, is that he often challenges that arbitrarily drawn line between sacred and secular. That was part of the movie, and I’m sure that’s what my friend was alluding to in his review. But rather than pressing the wider audience to consider if their Gospel would be open to, say, tear-soaked midnight heart-to-hearts with a lesbian in their dorm room, the film ends just where the book got good: with Miller confessing his sins to people used to hearing Christians condemn theirs. That may have been the point, for all of us to go and do likewise. It doesn’t matter Miller’s instincts in that scene “worked” as a soul-winning tactic. What matters is he was honest. Perhaps that’s the challenge he hoped to leave us with in the end. I just wish he could have found a way to preserve the weight of the book’s subcultural critique. Limitations of the form, I guess.
Regardless of any lukewarm feelings I have on that subject, I’d recommend it and I hope they make more like it. As projects of this nature get more democratically-funded and less studio-controlled, I think there is hope we might see more films that are less “family-friendly” and a bit more varied in their address of the Christian experience.
Speaking of confessions and forgiveness, I really am sorry about that Miley Cyrus prank. Link of contrition:
Rather than launch into an exhaustive apology for lack of posting since, errrr, APRIL, I’ll just say, I have a doctor’s note and expect to be excused. When we last saw our hero, she was still reeling a little from the news that she would have to have her hip replaced at 33 and 3/4. Zoinks!
We’re going to fast forward a little and skip all of the grueling medical details (you can easily get the worst of it by Googling “Percocet side effects”). And lucky for you, I posted all my whiny “Physical therapy is hard” updates on Facebook. Though, I will share with you one of the best parts of my experience (and by best I mean annoying, frustrating, hot, tight, and itchy):
I’ve been sitting in tall chairs and watching lots of TV (highly recommend USA’s White Collar and Aaron Sorkin’s latest is just meh but I’m hopeful). Despite the fact that the pain meds have prompted almost daily weepy spells, I’ve been in good spirits. God is faithful even when the circumstances of life bust my butt. This week, I was reminded by the great Oswald Chambers that sorrow and suffering are helpful teachers. As someone who has been struggling with feeling “benched” for this season of my family’s life, even my life, these words were a healing salve, offering purpose to my pains (emphasis mine):
Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.
It’s only been three weeks since the surgery, but I feel like I’m coming a little out of the fog. This week, I was liberated from the compression stockings shown above. I’ve been answering emails, writing for other people, and venturing out into public where I get to drive those motor carts through the store. Things are getting better.
I even have a shabby to chic before and after picture:
My orthopedist told me that he had to install the smallest parts he had ever used because I have such small bones. *hotness* I’m actually a little upset about that because looking at the size of my thigh, I was hoping that femur accounted for more than 15%, but we’ll tackle that situation once I’m able to cross my legs again without dislocating something.
The point is, I’m healing pretty well and hopefully I’ll be back on the blog soon. I’ve really missed you all and I know I owe you an adventurous tale about how I became PTA President. Something to look forward to while you wait. With that, I leave you with a picture of the awesome get-well mug my dad gave me.
Another crazy week, another late entry.
I dedicated this week to catching up and finishing well. Or more like: errrr, well…finishing. Going into the week I still had that closet to tackle and I was hoping to accomplish a couple other things: 1) read something 2) clean out a few drawers in a few places.
We had an off week with Batman. After two weeks of telling people what an awesome sleeper he was, we got our comeuppance. Early on in the week, he woke up around midnight (or 3:00 am) and just started hollerin’. Our Kindergartner ended up in our bed almost every night. Which is bittersweet : sweet because when he sleeps I can still see my first baby in his expressions and bitter because a five-year-old’s knee really smarts when it hits your boob.
Somewhere around Wednesday, our big boy asked when Batman was going home. :/ The honeymoon had ended, and he wanted a full night’s sleep. I can’t blame him. Thursday night was the worst. It had the hubs and I recalling the big boy’s epic three AM yell-a-thon in our old apartment when he was a baby. An angry upstairs neighbor came banging on the door breathing threats and speaking on behalf of the whole building (don’t know if there was a meeting and he was the assigned delegate or if he just presumed this authority. Didn’t really matter because it scared the crap out of us and did the job either way!).
At this point, it’s hard to tell what the sleep-buster might be. Batman had a birth family visit this week, so it could be separation anxiety. It could be that he missed a few morning naps because of our regularly scheduled programming, and that got him off. He’s going to walk any day, so it could be a developmental thing. He’s been hungrier lately, so maybe we should up his volume or add a feeding before bed. Our Kindergartner could be talking in his sleep and waking him up. He’s been in a pack-and-play for a while, perhaps a crib would fix this. I HAVE NO IDEA.
The challenge of this situation is to keep pressing buttons until something works, but only press a button or two at a time so we can isolate the determining variable. (We should collect and save all this info for future science fair projects.) Thankfully, the kids have spring break this week, so we can do a little experimenting without it affecting their schooling. For now, we’re all (with the exception of my daughter who could sleep through a tornado) walking around like zombies. So what do you do with a sleep-deprived family? You take them all to Ikea!
It was a successful trip (and by successful I mean every one of the three children whined and complained throughout). We got our daughter a new bed in the hopes that moving Batman into what was her crib-made-toddler bed-made-back-into-crib we could get everybody into a more permanent sleeping situation.
In preparation for this round of musical beds, I cleaned out the closet and put everyone’s clothes where they should go. We turned the Kindergartner’s bed around to expose the drawers we’d been hiding underneath since we moved into our house four years ago. The boy was two when he got that bed and immediately deduced that he fit perfectly inside an empty drawer and could close it from inside. In keeping with my motherhood motto: “Our family will not be on the news for crap like that,” we turned the bed so the drawers would be inaccessible against the wall. Now that everyone is more mature (we hope), I felt safe to put all Batman’s clothes in those two drawers so he could, ya know, have his stuff in his room.
With those clothes gone, I was able to sort through the rest of that mess in my girl’s closet. I boxed some of it up for consigning in the fall and then another lot of it went into a bin for a yard sale we’ll have some day. I managed to read something this week, thanks in part to the peer pressure I’ve been experiencing from friends on GoodReads, and I got through the better part of Tsh’s Organized Simplicity. Somewhere in the middle, she suggests combing the house for a yard sale and setting a date for that sucker. I say in all seriousness that her common sense advice there is exactly what I needed to hear. All this stuff I’m complaining about all the time could be GONE. And we might make $5 doing it. Hallelujah!
I even marked the consignment box and wrote “Fall” on it so I would have the hope that it, too, would leave my frikkin’ house one day. Glorious cleaning! I hate it with an undying malice, but I love the results (even if it’s just one piece of one room)! I was in a state of hyper-exhausted euphoria after that and decided to go after a drawer or two while my girl was at preschool and Batman took a nap.
I decided my next victim, I mean uhhh, project, yeah PROJECT, would be the drawers in my bedroom. Not the clothes drawers, those I shove underwear, etc. in and shut really fast so none of the socks can escape. I went for the nightstand drawers and the drawers of my grandmother’s writing desk:
This drawer is the dumping ground of my reading/writing conveyor: all the journals I’ve written in (for about 3 pages) and all the books I’ve read halfway in the last year (because they got bumped for books I placed ON TOP of the nightstand). This is also where I keep my mega-hot wrist and hand splints. You know you want one. Know what *I* want? A wrist splint that looks like Wonder Woman’s arm cuffs. That would be awesome.
I’m not disclosing the contents of my writing desk because I’m only halfway through that project and, to be honest, it’s probably going to get backburnered because of this whole “We have to build a bed from scratch” thing on tap today. Don’t you just love Ikea? They lure you in with cheap prices and Swedish meatball deliciousness and then you go home with three boxes full o’bed that you have to put together with stick-figured pictographs as your guide. *sigh*
I’m just thrilled I made it through this whole month of simplification/complication. It’s probably going to be a contested one, but for now I’ll take the win.
Happy April, y’all!