Bow down, bitches, and I shall lift thee up

One of the elders from the church I used to belong to loves Africa. Many sermons contain references to things witnessed during his travels there. Usually these anecdotes fueled the romanticized white saviour mentality endemic to “mission work”.

This elder described witnessing a traditional greeting among one particular tribe from a place I do not remember.

Women always wore a sturdy apron because when they greeted a man, they fell on their knees with their heads down. They remained this way until the man fulfilled his part of the traditional greeting by doing something that allowed them to stand back up. I forget if it was a pat on the shoulder or something else, but it hit a cringe factor in me, mostly because I had experienced something similar and felt condescended to.

I waited for what spiritual truth this greeting would illustrate. Was it maybe Galatians 3:28  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  That we don’t need to have anyone debase themselves because Christianity brought equality? (Yes, I actually thought that, and yes, its totally colonialistic.)

No. This elder got weepy and wistful. He talked about how beautiful that greeting was. How this was a beautiful enactment of proper gender roles.

Women are always more beautiful and godly when submitting-  oh if only Canadian women could greet men like that. Plus giant aprons covering the knees mean more modesty! (aaahh!)

Because the man was supposed to use his authority (and superiority) to lift women up! After they bow down before him. Because men are like god and women are the fallen creation.

Did it not occur to him that it was actually two adult humans, both walking, until one of them had to do a display of subservience until permitted to resume to the original position? That he was metaphorically pushing her down so he could pull her up and take credit for it? (This is how it was portrayed in this man’s illustration; I cannot comment on the actual greeting habits and symbolisms of a culture I do not know.)

No, this couldn’t have occurred to him because it means starting from a position of equality and that isn’t how to do  gender roles beautifully.

The sad thing is, this elder is easily the most progressive and feminist elder in that church.

Personal Prophesies?

I’ve had several personal prophesies, of the sort where a deity is supposedly speaking through another person to give me direction. I want to see if there are patterns or codes.

Personal Prophesy the First
In a kitchen during a youth retreat, an older woman started telling me things “from the Lord”. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it felt very encouraging. Something about being seen and appreciated.

Personal Prophesy the Second
During a church service, a man I did not know was given a message for me which he asked someone else to pass on.
It was Song of Songs 4:1-7, hair like goats, teeth like sheep, no flaw…
This one made me cry. I was 17 and felt completely flawed and unacceptable.

Personal Prophesy the Third
I was helping a mature student from my grade 12 biology class to study. She ‘prophesied’ Psalm 91 over me. Its the one about not dying of pestilence, plague or warfare while tens of thousands around you do. It promises a long life.
Since I had still planned to be a missionary martyr at this point, it was probably good for me to think about the possibility of living a while.

Personal Prophesy the Fourth
This was the presbytery: the group of special men in suits that stand around you in a circle and give you instructions and spiritual gifts by touching you. I have a transcript of some of it.
– I am and need to be faithful (to god?)
– I am supposed to prophesy and sing “the things of the Spirit”
– I will exhort (that’s as close to teaching as a female can get) in church
– “be unto them as a signpost pointing the way” “lead by example” “a beacon to those that shall desire to walk with God for they shall see in thee the ways of God”
– quotes of scriptures about how important scripture is
– Psalm 91 again
– I have the gift of healing in my hands
I felt really conflicted after this. Some things sounded cool (who doesn’t want magic hands!) but there was a lot of warning me to obey church authority and a vague threat at the end that I’d never heard in one of these things before.

Personal Prophesy the Fifth
This one was the presbytery over both my lover and I.
– something about an office (referring to a leadership role in the church) for him
– “take your headship, young man, take it” (So many dirty jokes to be made)
– “submit, submit, submit” (that one was for me)
I felt really upset after this one.

Trance Prophesy the First
A friend of mine sometimes does this. It has the same cadence as the others, so I’m counting it here.
– stop doing things that build resentment
– pursue relationships that bring joy and peace and let you be yourself
– release those who delight in the negative
– don’t hold back because of others’ insecurities
– release other people’s expectations and fears

Trance Prophesy the Second
– mostly encouragement about not being less than anyone else or responsible for fixing anyone else

These last two were much more vague and could apply to anyone. Since it came from someone who knows me well, I took it as encouragement from a friend who maybe felt too awkward to say it directly to me.

While the content varies, the delivery style has been remarkably similar. Sing-song cadence, slow delivery, almost a chant, with a lot of emotion.

Burgess Shale Pilgrimage

The Secular group that we are a part of went on a pilgrimage to the holy of holies, the Burgess Shale. The place of fossils so ancient, so strange, and so integral to evolutionary theory, that all travelers must stop in awe.

It was a 10 hour trek. Our guide informed us that we went on the nicest day she had all season and that we were one of the most enjoyable groups. Apparently there is often friction when creationists and non-creationists go to look at fossils that are over 500 million years old. Many of us came from not only creationist backgrounds, but Young Earth creationist backgrounds so we felt obligated to hunt for rabbit fossils among the Odaraia latas and Hallucigenia sparsas like one of us had been told existed.

Because this was many months ago, I have forgotten most of the funny and interesting things that we learned, which is sad because we were fortunate to have a few scientists with us. There was much laughing, hiking, and sharing of food and water. It was the perfect pilgrimage.

Photo credits: John Hordyk

Paintbrush Song

This is fiction. Wordy, cheesy, melodramatic fiction. Maybe I am a sappy romantic after all.

~—————————————————————~

I will be in charge of my paintbrush today. The primed canvas smiles at me, daring me to do great things. My fingers itch. The rhythm of the music around me pulsates in my fingers and I begin.

At first, I have complete control. My fingers are still stiff and rigid like the grid I am filling in. My sketch is nearly exact and ready to be coaxed into life.

The music changes and my mind begins to wander. I remember this song. Its notes gently stroke my ears, the way she did. I can feel the small of my back ache, almost as if it had been touched. My rigid posture begins to melt and I swear I can smell her. Prairie flowers, clover and hay. Dust, sweat and that sweet smell of desire floating on the wild airy notes of our song.

My eyes close and I imagine her strong quick fingers playing in my hair, rhythmic but loose. The paintbrush falls. My eyes snap open and see a dripping purple gash where my neighbour’s grandmother was supposed to be. Then I notice in the background darting figures hidden in the foliage- jumping, embracing and …

Crap. I can’t cover over everything.  I give up and let my brushes take control, guided by the music.

The music is now urgent and throbbing. The colours fly, illuminating the contours and limbs and torsos, twisting, thrashing; the aching, pounding music is now ebbing away. A new song.

My brushes softly caress the gentle curves of the newest figure, rising out from the background shapes – covering my carefully calculated sketch- with what is looking more and more like her. The music is dreamy, like the deep rose of her areoli, purple shadows pushing out erect nipples. I can’t stroke her with my fingers but my paintbrush fills in the space between us. Back and forth, up and down, around and around…

The music stops. The light is gone. Tomorrow I will start again with a fresh canvas. And I will know better than to listen to the music mix she made for me.

Vagina Dialogues

I was tucking my darlings into bed when the oldest one told me, “Mom, some people have nicknames for their vulvas. I’ve decided to call mine ‘vagina’.”

I replied that isn’t surprising because many people call vulvas ‘vaginas’, but that the vagina is inside the body and not seen, while most people don’t know that everything on the outside is even called a vulva, so they get them confused.

She thought about this for a while. Peer pressure is pretty important, and she had to decide whether she was going to believe her friends or her mom. Dilemma.

Meanwhile, the youngest one asked, “Mom, when do I get a vagina?”

“You already have one sweetheart. You were born with it.”

She: “Wow!”

Me: “In fact, you had one before you were born.”

She: “Awesome!” and got up to do the dance of excitement preschoolers do when they learn something new.

Then they asked if they could see what a vagina looked like. At that point, I realized we were well into bedtime stalling techniques.

This morning, C-minor tried distracting me from getting her to eat her vegetables by asking me what colour of blood various animals had. Now you know how to distract me- ask anatomy questions.

Its not real torture, its an illustration

JW man: Hello, have you heard the good news…
Me: Probably.  Just so you don’t waste your time, let me tell you that I used to be a devout believer and also tried to convert people.  I am more than happy to have a conversation about why I am no longer, but don’t expect you to.
JW man: Oh, that’s terrible!  [Pause] Why?
Me: I finally read the bible with critical thinking skills and could no longer ignore my issues with condoning genocide, slavery and eternal torture for thought crimes.  

JW man: [in a tone of condescension] The Old testament had to be like that to keep the Hebrew people separate.
Me: By giving rules about how badly you were allowed to beat your slave?
JW man: They were much better than the people around them.
Me: Have you read Hammurabi’s laws?  

JW man: [changing tactics to evade the question] Of course I understand why you left.

Me: Really?  I would be very surprised if you did understand.  I have had many believers tell me that they understand and not one of them has.  They most often have made up excuses that have nothing to do with my reasons and everything to do with making them feel safe and separate so that they don’t have to worry it could happen to them.  I also find it terribly insulting to have someone tell me I was never a true believer as if they knew more about me than I did.  They are basically calling me a liar.  You can see why I don’t appreciate that.

JW man: [pause] Well, would you let me read you a scripture?
Me: Of course!  I used to think the bible had magical powers too.  Just reading the word could change people.  I lost count of how many times I read the bible and I memorized several books:  Matthew, Luke, Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Proverbs… I am terrible with verse references but start reading and lets see if I can finish it.
JW man: [puts his bible away]
JW woman: [face of horror] But dear, surely you have not abandoned the bible!  There are so many beautiful things that help you be a better mother.
Me: Of course I still appreciate the beautiful things.  I was surprised to learn that some of Jesus’ most beautiful teachings were part of Buddhist teachings many years before Jesus came along though.
JW woman: But Jesus was such a superior moral teacher!
Me: Except for that part about eternal punishment for thought crimes.  That hardly seems compassionate or just.

JW man: Eternal punishment is never part of hell!

Me: I suppose it depends on which hell you are referring to.  There are at least 4 distinct types of hells referenced in the bible.
JW man: I mean the New Testament!

Me: That does narrow it down a bit, but those ones are the most disturbing. “into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched where their worm dieth not” (Mark 9: 44)
JW man: That isn’t describing actual torture.  Jesus was just giving an illustration.
Me: [blinks in disbelief] So that is how you get around that.  Huh.

JW man: I won’t waste anymore of your time.

I wonder if he realized he admitted that in his rationalization, Jesus was deliberately misrepresenting hell in order to scare people into submission.  So, he evaded eternal torture by calling Jesus a manipulative liar.  I tend to agree.

Retelling FoF stories: Homo-Jelly

Our family listened to Focus on the Family nearly every night when I was a child. I remember some of the stories very well, although I can’t recall if it is from the radio program or a story from one of their magazines.

Homo-Jelly (not the original title)

In this story, a hetero WASP SAH mother talks about her neighbours. They are *gasp* lesbians and they have a *gasp* daughter who is the same age as our Dear Christian Narrator’s (DCN) daughter. The two children are friends, and while DCN will not allow her child to play at the lesbians’ house, she is very happy to have their daughter over. Of course, she is a shining example of Christian love and heteronormativity.

I don’t remember the age of the children, but I’m guessing around 10 as they are both in school and need little supervision. DCN seems to spend her time cleaning the house and baking, as any proper Christian wife should. Both of the lesbian Mamas work, which inspires DCN to express sympathy (or was it scorn?) for them and their poor daughter. DCN spent some time talking about her long hair and long flowered skirt and contrasting them to the lesbian Mamas short hair and pants. These details were important.

Not so important was DCN’s husband. We knew he existed because her hetero status was a major theme of her story, as well as her ability to work at home for free. I assume he also had short hair and pants but cannot confirm my suspicion.

The story ended with our DCN noticing one of the lesbian Mamas on her evening stroll around the neighbourhood. She paused in front of DCN’s house for a few minutes and then walked on. At this point, DCN congratulates herself for being such a good example of heteroChristianSAMship and speculates that the look lesbian Mama had on her face was that of longing. Obviously to DCN, the longing the woman had was for a life just like hers of church rules, long flowered skirts and an absentish male breadwinner. The End.

Now to change the narrators.

There is a Christian woman on our block. I’m pretty sure she is some type of fundy since she wears long flowery skirts most of the time and the telltale Jesus fish bumper sticker. She has a little girl the same age as ours and she refuses to let her come over to play. Is she overprotective or homophobic?
The children seem to get along very well so we let our baby go over there to play. I really hope the mother doesn’t proselytize or shame her. Our sweetheart has enough bigotry to deal with at school because she has two moms. I wish I could protect her from that – it breaks my heart.
The hetero mama is almost always home. I wonder if it is because she enjoys it or if she feels too guilty to work outside the home. Does she even have the choice?
When I go on my evening walk, I often see her sitting in front of the window looking out. Tonight I pause and look up at her. I know she sees me but she looks right through me as if she doesn’t. She looks trapped. I wonder if she doesn’t long for a more free life, like mine.