Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thoughts from a Cis Male on "Me Too"

The women's movement has shown they know how to use social media, and the latest indication of this is the "me too" reaction to the many sexual assaults of Harvey Weinstein.  The producer and mogul of Miramax Films has been called out for his multiple sexual assaults over decades.  More and more women declared that they were also victims of his attempted or successful assaults.  On social media, then, more women declared "me too", publicly acknowledging that they were victims of sexual assault.

It has been amazing to see.  Sure, I knew that the majority of women have been assaulted, but it is another thing to see my friends, women of all personalities and powers, announce that they have been attacked.

The cis male response has been less than stellar.  

I see some men standing up saying, "I'm guilty" for leering or participating in porn, which is kind of right, but I don't know if they got the point.  Other men are saying "me too", acknowledging that they have also been sexually assaulted, and this is good, but I would like to see a separate time focus on their abuses.  Other men are giving the equivalent of "you really wanted it," which I find disgusting and encouraging the evil we live in.

So here are some of my own thoughts, which I hope work toward building a better world for women.

1. 
 I need to recognize that we live in a rape culture and I participate in it.

It amazes me how many people perpetuate the myths of rape.  Assuming that someone is lying about sexual assault without evidence.  Claiming that a woman “deserved it”.  Thinking that the way a woman is dressed has anything to do with whether they deserve to be assaulted.

And I have participated in that rape culture.  I have paid for movies that perpetuate the myth that if a woman says “no” she doesn’t really mean it.  I have ignored men who openly and lightly objectify women.  I have, in the past, approved of churches who insisted that “forgiveness” means a wife must accept back a husband that abused her and that “submission” is a one way street.  I have ignored and supported the ocean of objectification and reductionism that women swim in.

2.
As men, we need to realize what the problems really are.  First, it is the limiting of women to objects of our own enjoyment or pleasure.  Of course, when our only relation to a human being is as an entertainer, then we can judge their performance as to whether they have given us something.  But women in general are often treated as a male gaze display.  Thus do men catcall and tell women to “smile” or advise them to dress better or to wear makeup.  These are all indications of a context in which men see all women as on a stage for their own benefit, instead of equal human beings who are allowed to look as they wish, according to their own desires and goals.  When that

Second, men consider their sexual satisfaction as something they “deserve,” and to not obtain that satisfaction is to suffer something unacceptable.  Look guys, if you aren’t getting the sex you want, you have another option: jerk off.  It may not be the first option, but it is better than driving oneself crazy failing to obtain the specific kind of satisfaction you choose.  Women, whether individuals or in general, have no responsibility to make sure every man is satisfied.  When a man thinks that their sexual pleasure is more important than respecting another human being, their priorities are screwed up. 

3. 

In the past, a man’s sexual limits were limited by a concept of purity.  Then it was by a principle of faithfulness.  Then it was a matter of law to determine what a man could and could not do.  In our society, the key principle is consent.  We cannot assume that women are on board with our plans or desires for them, whether they are strangers or girlfriends or wives.  We have to ask and obtain agreement.  If we have no agreement, then there is no place for any kind of sexual activity, from a catcall to a slap on the ass to a kiss.   We need to train our boys to back off until agreement is reached and we need to train our girls that they don’t have to accept any kind of intimacy unless they agree (even if that’s a kiss from their rich aunt Zelda). Consent is a huge part of respect, something we all want and expect. 

4.
A number of people (almost all cis males) claim that women are as aggressive sexually as men. That is certainly true, and it isn't good. But it means something different.
99% of all sexual assault happens by men. Women know this, even if men don't. Women protect themselves from the inevitable onslaught by some man, and they don't know which one. Most threats from men are small, the off-hand comment, the lingering leer. These mosquito bites mean nothing, unless you are in an area in which a quarter of those mosquitoes have malaria. Then you get scared, because one of those mosquitoes will really harm you.
This is the life that women have in a rape culture. Up to 25 percent of men have sexually assaulted someone. Less than one percent of women have. Frankly, women have something to be scared about. Men might get unwelcome sexual attention (I have), but we don't live in a context of sexual assault.
And sexual assault usually happens by friends or family, people women trust. This makes the whole situation more frightening. Because the ones who are closest to women are more likely to be the ones to harm them.
The issue is less a single event, but the constant fear that it could happen any moment, by a trusted person. Most cis men don't have to worry about that.
(BTW, 45 percent of all gay or bi men also experience sexual assault, 99 percent of which are also caused by men).

5.
I just had a man post under the last section, "you are so brainwashed."  If he means that I have looked at the facts and listened to women to come to a reasonable assumption, and he calls that "brainwashing", then yes, yes I have.

But if he means that I have dismissed out of hand the assumptions that the world has stuffed down our throats about the sexual "needs" of men, the lesser status that women have been handed, the disrespect that women have suffered for millennia, and the excuses men have given in order to act immorally... well, I guess I have done that too.

No apologies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Working toward Freedom

We all have two people:
A free person and a person under slavery. 
Our freedom is where we can love beings around us. Our slavery is when we have to focus on something other than love.
We could be under slavery to mental health issues, to selfishness, to emotions, to addictions, to oppression, to financial burdens, to a belief system, or many other things.
The first goal of our lives should be to free ourselves so that we can love and help others. The second goal of our lives should be to help others free themselves so they can love others.

Questions I Must Ask Myself Today

Did I speak to support or to tear down?

Did my silence encourage or discourage listening?

Did I have an opportunity to save a life today? Did I take it?

What I hope for today?  What actions did I do that indicate my true desire?

To which god did I offer service today?

Whom did I love today? How did I show that love?

For what am I grateful for? How can I speak that gratitude?

Did I give someone a chance to thrive, or did I take that away?

How did I respond to my anger, to create or to destroy?

Did I step up to my fear, or run away?

Did I equip myself to help another person tomorrow?

For whom must I pray?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Denial

I've got a friend named Dave.  Okay, that's not his real name.  But he's real, even if his name isn't.  I mean, it's a real name.  My brother in law is called Dave.  But it's not the name of my friend.

Dave is a great guy.  He goes out every day, seeking the homeless to help them out.  He'll serve meals, connect folks with resources. help people move, get people housing and so much more.  He has been a comforting voice to those in need, a help in time of need.  He is also a strong Christian, reading the Bible, and a believer in prayer.  He is known as a hero, a philanthropist and a savior.

He's also a pedophile.

He was convicted in 1995 of an act of incest and pedophilia and was sent to jail for twelve years.  When he was released, he had to reveal his conviction, keep away from children and stay in a certain apartment under a curfew.

I didn't have a problem with him being a pedophile.  I mean, it is possible for people to change.  It is possible that under certain restrictions that someone can repent of their actions and do good.  Dave certainly seemed to be a great candidate of that.  I never had problems with him all the time I was working with him.

Except I didn't know.  Because he never told me.  I didn't find out until he had crossed a line sexually with a fellow advocate who was under care because of past abuse from a partner.

After this, Dave denied he had crossed that line.  He said that he was "framed" about his conviction.  He also denied other things he had done, or denied that he was wrong.

Anyone can change.  It usually takes a situation in which they can avoid their weaknesses and be encouraged to love.  Anyone can be a better person.  But it doesn't happen if we deny that we had ever done anything wrong.

I wonder if I use my relationship with Jesus to excuse wrongdoing?  I wonder if I excuse myself when I should really be taking a closer look?  I wonder if my salvation and knowledge is used as a wall to keep myself from blame instead of being the catalyst of change, so I can be a conduit of grace?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Independence Day in Church

This Sunday in churches all over the United States, many will hear songs of patriotism and much speech about "our nation." Much of the speech will be positive, some will be critical, but almost all will talk about the crisis of "our nation."
The issue I have is that Jesus called all of us Christians out of the nations of this world. He died on a cross displaying the folly of empire and oppression in the name of "security and solidarity." And he was raised to establish another, unique nation.
A nation where the only law is love.
A nation where the economic rule is giving to the most needy.
A nation where leaders sacrifice themselves for their people, not the other way around.
A nation that is known for welcoming the outcast, especially those in deepest need.
Jesus doesn't call us to fix this broken nation we were born to be a part of. He calls us to immigrate to a nation of forgiveness, grace and peace.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What Did Jesus Resist?

Lots of people repeat the cliche "What would Jesus do?"

That's a pointless question.  We shouldn't speculate as to what Jesus would do when we have so much evidence to indicate what Jesus DID do.  


Jesus DID resist immoral authority.  He made public pronouncements against them, held protests against them and threatened their power to such a degree that he was killed.  What exactly was he resisting?  What is the example of Jesus in resisting authority?

Power for power's sake
Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
Jesus opposed leaders who desired positions of authority simply because of the respect and power they had.  This is one of the forms of covetousness that Jesus warned against-- desiring something that you had not earned.  Jesus taught that power should be given to people who show that they will use their resources or power to help those around them, not to just bolster themselves.

Accumulation of personal wealth
"Woe to you who are rich now, for you have already received your comfort!"  


Jesus rejected all who kept wealth for themselves, because they were flaunting their hatred of the poor.  If one has extra resources and refuses to provide them to those in need, then God rejects them as stewards of His provision.  God does not provide wealth for personal use, but for community use.  To misuse the resources of God, to not give generously to the poor, is to be unworthy of that stewardship. 


Those who support the killing of the innocent
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  


According to the Mosaic law, killing the innocent will infect the land.  According to Psalm 82 killing the innocent is the one thing a nation can do which God will step in and destroy a government.  Jesus recognized that although the leaders of his day praised the martyrs, they were actually acting like those who killed the martyrs-- retaining power at any cost, even the cost of the lives of the innocent.

Political or religious oppression of the poor
"Beware of the scribes: They devour the houses of widows. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

Jesus pointed out how the temple encourages the poorest to give their last cent to a project that will not benefit them.  Thus, they are making the vulnerable homeless and hungry, while not providing for them at all. Jesus condemns all who have power-- the wealthy, lawmakers, religious and political leaders-- for using their power to be poverty pimps-- people who take from the poor for their own benefit.  These, Jesus says, deserve the worst punishment.

Selecting certain groups as outcast
The Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them....”  "I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance."

Jesus stepped out to welcome those whom his society refused to welcome, and then rebuked the leadership for rejecting them.   Jesus' society dehumanized tax collectors and those who did not follow their purity laws, as well as the disabled, lepers, gentiles, the poor and women, considering them all unclean, and in some cases outcast from their society.  Jesus rejected leadership that rejected people according to standards of ethnicity, class, sex or arbitrary purity standards.


Hypocritical leadership
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’  Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?" 
When Jesus claimed that leadership is hypocritical, it is usually because they claim to represent the God of love and justice, but they reject love and justice in their lives, allowing themselves to be the exception of the rules they are imposing.  But leadership Jesus opposed also would establish laws which give their disciples special knowledge as loopholes for justice.  In this way, those with this special knowledge could avoid the obligations that those without knowledge have to follow.



Systems which perpetuate inequality
"It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers."

Jesus held a protest at the temple, because they were excluding worship for women and gentiles in order to establish support for worship for adult men.  Jesus rejected this practice, even though it was approved by the high priest, the mediator of the people to God.  Jesus resisted authority that made no space for all people. 

Lawmakers that only create burdens for people
And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Jesus opposed those who wrote laws for ideologies, without considering how that would negatively affect the average person.  Such people become narrow-minded to their own tribe or class, ignoring how they harm society as a whole. 

Because he rejected this kind of leadership, publicly and authoritatively, he was forced to carry a cross, to die as a revolutionary, as an outcast of his people, as much as a leper or traitor.   Jesus, in turn, said that if we were his followers, we too would have to carry the cross of punishment from the powers that be for resisting them.  If we resist authority for hating the poor and weak and for their hypocrisy, Jesus tells us we will be rejected and punished.  

Amen, Lord, let it be so. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Selected Agrapha

"Agrapha" are sayings of Jesus not found in the canonical gospels, but still early enough to possibly be a true saying of Jesus, or a reflection of something he said.  The most famous agrapha is the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, with the famous saying being "Him without sin cast the first stone."  It doesn't belong in John, where it is usually placed, but it is an important story that gives us insight  about Jesus.  Here are some other sayings of Jesus that are significant, and gives us insight: 

Blessed is the one who has suffered and found life. (Gospel of Thomas)

Let him who has grown rich be king, and let him who possesses power renounce it. (Gospel of Thomas)

For the sake of the sick, I became sick
For the sake of the hungry, I was hungry.
For the sake of the thirsty, I was thirsty.  (Origen, quoting an ancient gospel)


How can you say, 'I have fulfilled the word of God'? It is written, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' But look, your neighbors are covered with filth and are dying of hunger and exposure, but your house is full of many good things and unused rooms and none of this is given to them.   (Gospel of the Hebrews)

He that is near me is near the fire. He that is far from me is far from the kingdom. (Gospel of Thomas)

Hear me, you lambs whom I have chosen, and do not fear the wolves. (Gospel of the Egyptians)