Sunday, January 20, 2008

What Hubris!

Warning: What follows will most definitely constitute a rant.

What hubris does it take for church leaders who declare themselves guardians both of the patriarchal traditions still common in many corners of Christendom, AND of what they call biblical manhood, who have always been civilians themselves, to disparage those military veterans who are women?

Just who, I wonder, had the courage and the spirit of self-sacrifice to spend years of their prime young adulthood in service to their country? Not these sanctimonious, self-appointed judges of what they neither understand nor have experienced personally.

Where were they and what were they doing when I wore the uniform? Oh, yes, doing the "manly" thing: marrying and fathering children, while presuming to dispense religious wisdom to the hapless who consented to their leadership. What were they studying while I delayed my education in order to become a weapons expert? Based on their current rhetoric, presumably they studied how to talk a walk they have little experience making on their own steam. While I served in two infantry divisions and endured field conditions in three countries and four states and while I participated in the first Inaugural celebrations for President Reagan in sub-freezing January 1981, these bastions of cheaply held convictions were building their little religious empires. When Gramm-Rudman kept me from being paid on time in order to be "accountable" to the taxpayers, these so-called gentlemen's parishioners were paying them quite well.

Did they ever meet both men's and women's physical fitness standards while both were being studied, all while also learning how to be a soldier at the age of 18? Did they go from never having held a weapon to becoming a rifle expert? Did they qualify to hold three different military occupational specialties? Did they obey orders from openly unlawful and sadistic superiors and have the courage to report the one order they could not ethically obey? Did they find the grace and dignity to ignore the blatant bigotry of those, like themselves, who would never enter military service, yet who dared to lie about their morals and lifestyle simply because of their gender? And did they ever have to manage to be a Christian in uniform and maneuver with integrity through the tensions between the two loyalties?

No, of course they didn't. That's why it's pretty easy to laugh at the stupidity revealed by their petty, graceless, ignorant opinions about female veterans and those women currently serving their country in uniform. Gentlemen (and I use the term loosely), these women, like their brothers at arms, serve and have served to preserve your freedom to demonstrate your bigotry for all the world to read. Bray on.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Musings on Anthropology and Identity

I've been reading a lot lately about how girls and women ought to be identified, and it got me to thinking about names and identities and what our Christian faith says about these things. I can promise you one thing: this will NOT be a scholarly treatise. Rather, it will by my attempt to work out my own understanding of a complex issue that I believe is causing major problems for our Christian witness in the world.

This crystallized for me with what I assume is a misreading of a comment at the CBE Scroll, in which one commenter took another commenter to be saying that a wife ought to respect her husband as HER father. (I had read the comment in question, and I think rightly read it to say that a wife ought to respect her husband as the father of their children.)

The second commenter talked about how creepy it is for there to be any sexual overtones in a father-daughter relationship, and I completely agree. (I merely disagree that the other commenter intended to describe any such creepiness.) I think that's why most of us rightly question the "purity balls" and "daughter as daddy's helpmeet" practices that are popular events and teachings in a few highly patriarchal, self-described Christian circles. Then there are the mothers (and fathers) out there who are describing their daughters not as girls, but as "maidens" or further as "maidens of virtue." They pride themselves on sequestering their daughters so that they will remain virgins until their wedding nights. Now, I uphold virginity as a virtue, but I question the practice of sequestration to enforce it. I think it is a virtue worthy of the word when a child--girl OR boy--is taught chastity and supported in refraining from sexual activity until marriage. Avoiding temptation does not strengthen one's resolve to resist it.

Then there's the whole issue of names. A boy or a man is rightly known as Firstname Lastname, at least in majority practice in North America and most of Europe; that's my culture, so it's the one I can think and write about with some degree of accuracy. The problem comes with insistence by some Christians that women must still comply with the largely-outdated practice of being known as Mrs. Husbandfirstname Husbandlastname, or at a minimum as Wifefirstname Husbandlastname, but certainly as Mrs. Husbandlastname for short.

"Maiden" vs. girl. "Wife" vs. woman. What's the deal? It's the old practice of identifying a female human being not by her actual identity as the unique human being she is, but primarily by her sexual status. Is she a virgin? Is she sexually active as a wife? "Miss" vs. "Ms." Ooooh...that horrible "feminist" notion that a woman's sexual status is no more pertinent a matter of public identity than a man's is!

Dig into the matter some more, and it gets downright disturbing. If there's no ring on the finger or she doesn't go by "Mrs.", she's fair game for trolling (for men to try to "pick her up"). If she DOES go by "Mrs.", then you deal with her husband, not with her, if you're going to deal socially or in business with her. Parents who proudly call their daughters "maidens" are telling the world that their daughters are "untouched" and are potentially in the market for a husband, as long as he meets some pretty stringent (and perhaps impossible) standards. Deal with her father to try to win her hand and the right to take her name from her and give her your own. Wooing/courtship/marriage negotiations are viewed as a matter of warfare, of "conquering" and mastering a woman and excising her from her family. (Don't laugh; I've read that model for obtaining a bride from a couple of well-known advocates of patriarchy and female subordination who identify themselves not only as Christians, but as pastors.)

We human beings are members of the animal kingdom. (If that's offensive, consider that the other options are plant and mineral.) There are certain aspects of being animals with sexual (as opposed to asexual) reproductive capacity that are not all that comfortable to talk about, but are nevertheless true. If our species is physically to survive, we must reproduce. As civilized beings, we have overlaid this need to reproduce with relatively civilized practices and rituals. But from time out of mind, the issue of sexual access to the female has been of critical importance.

Other higher mammals tend to leave this largely to the female, though for many species the male of highest status may combat with lower or outsider males for access to the females of his group. The female, however, ultimately mates or refuses to mate with the male (or males) of her choice.

Not so the human animal, at least not in Western history. As a social group that organized according to the rule of the strongest, the male emerged as ruler: of nuclear families, of clans, of tribes, of nations. This rule extended to the right of sexual access to females. The great Western religions accepted this practice and at least tacitly approved of fathers/clan and tribe leaders/regional rulers controlling marriage (that set of practices that control sexual access). Despite the monotheistic religions' teachings that marriage is about more than sexual access, that remained (and in many circles, still remains) the most important aspect of marriage practices.

Fast-forward to the present. There are still pockets of Christians who assert that fathers should select husbands for their daughters and protect their daughters' virginity for the sake of those future husbands. Even if their wives married THEM for love (or whatever other reason women make when they choose a husband), they will arrange marriages for their daughters, who are expected to support their fathers as an extention of their mothers' role as "helpmeet" to those fathers. Thus, the daughters are encouraged to obtain an education only toward the end of being homemakers and supporters of their future husbands and mothers of those husbands' future children. They subscribe to the ancient practice of making the patriarch the center of life and are taught to perpetuate that practice.

So who ARE these women? Will anyone know them? Will anyone even get a glimpse of the true woman God created them to be? Or will their identity, from birth to grave, be as a man's future wife/wife/widow, with perhaps "mother of (how many children)" added to boost her status?

Let me pause here to explain that I think marriage and motherhood are wonderful things and I believe God blesses these aspects of women's lives--those women who marry and who bear/adopt children. But I believe also that just as men are not totally and exclusively defined by who they marry and by the children they father, women should also not be totally and exclusively defined by their marriage partners and their children. First and foremost, any person, male or female, is a beloved child of God, redeemed at the highest possible cost. Thus, any human being's highest calling is to live out that redeemed life in service to God and to humanity. I believe God calls each of us in specific ways, many of which have little to do with whether we're male or female. I believe God calls us BY NAME, and I really do not think God says "Mrs. Husbandname, I call you" in that calling. "Firstname, my beloved child," is generally the way it works.

And if it works for God to use our names, why are our names not sufficient for identity? Why the focus, for us women, on whether or not we're virgins, or married, or mothers? Why the obsession with sexuality?

I think the short answer is, we are still members of that animal kingdom. When we operate out of our animal-ness (the flesh), we show the truth of God's observation that, once sin entered our world, the man would dominate the woman and the woman would nevertheless desire the man above all else (including God). Though the Second Adam has redeemed us and called us to newness of life, we settle for life in the fallen state. And for some, we idolize that fallen state and codify it and teach one another and our children that we are commanded to live in that state. Our fallenness controls us; there's no room for God the Holy Spirit to guide us in life as the new creation we're called to be in Christ.

I am called by God, by my name. I am not my marital status, I am not my sexuality, I am not my father...I am me, God's beloved child. I believe that status is the only one that matters and that it's every child's birthright (whatever the age or other status of that child). I stand for the freedom of every boy and girl, man and woman, to live out that identity in Christ.

Monday, January 14, 2008

For those interested in the interview suit

(much good though it did me)...

Here's an image of a similar suit. Mine has navy slacks, a pale blue shell with navy piping at the neckline, and the jacket is a tapestry of navy, black, pearl gray, and pale blue. The jacket collar is slightly more "stand up" than this one.

And did I mention in the previous post (before my last rant) that I got it IN THE MISSES' PETITE DEPARTMENT? I did? Oh, sincerest apologies for REPEATING myself. I guess I'm still celebrating at least that victory, seeing as how I didn't get the job and all.

I now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog reading. Carry on.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I've had it


I have had it with the Body of Christ tearing itself limb-from-limb. I mean it. I'm sick to death of it.

The wholescale warfare against mainline Protestant denominations by the self-declared orthodox (little "o") and evangelical and conservative members (who apparently, wrongly think there are no orthodox or evangelical or conservative UMs or Presbyterians or Episcopalians or Disciples or ELCAs or UCCs) is uncalled-for. To them, we're not hardline enough on "gays." We're too hardline on social justice. We're not quick enough to excommunicate members. We're too "feminized." We're this, we're that, we're not thus and such . . . take your pick, pick your combo of pointed fingers. And in the final analysis, they consider us not really/fully/acceptably Christian at all. That's it. Never mind our faith, they claim we don't belong to Jesus Christ because we don't agree with them or do things their way.

SAYS WHO? Who condemns us? Not our Judge. We're trying our best to serve God and one another and the world as Jesus taught us. We've received assurance that we're forgiven sinners and we're charged to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Christ is in our midst, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Fellow mainliners, take heart. As my pastor quoted Romans 8:1 just this week at a funeral, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ." Whatever else we may or may not be, as imperfect but redeemed sinners, we ARE in Christ.

And I would observe to my sisters and brothers who insist on troubling us with their finger pointing, that it is impossible to simultaneously spread the gospel of Jesus Christ AND tear apart the body of Christ with their attacks on us mainline brothers and sisters. Like it or not, we ARE in Christ. Our goal IS to spread the gospel; won't you join us in that endeavor instead of denying our faith because we're not as conservative/orthodox/evangelical (in your definition) as you claim to be?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Interview Decision

The other candidate was offered and has accepted the position at the pharmaceutical company.

I may have another position to start on Monday, albeit for significantly less money but for a whole lot more than what I was making at assignment-from-the-hot place October - December. I'm waiting to hear for certain that it's still open and get more details about it. It could even develop into a permanent position.

As I just told my pastor, who has been a supportive friend through this day-job odyssey, it would help if I simply knew what tipped the decision against me. That, unfortunately, is something I'm never told in all the times this has happened. Is it my size? My age? My strange work history? Did I say something wrong in the interview? What were they looking for that I could not provide?


Still trusting, even when it's hard. And meanwhile, I am weighing less and have a couple of professional outfits that I look REALLY GOOD in. For my depressed fluff-head clothes-focused survivor self, that's SOMETHING, no?

Update: I did get the back-up assignment and it will start either Monday or Tuesday. The minimum duration is four weeks. The client company is in the process of creating a permanent position for the work that has previously been contracted projects, because their business has expanded to the point the projects are continuing year-round now. So, it may morph into a temp-to-hire position. Not holding my breath, but glad to have work to go to again.

NEW Update: The assignment has been postponed until a week from Monday. Hoping for a short assignment until then, but that's not too likely. Maddening!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Thank you, everyone.

The interview went very well. I did not wear the plum suit, which I was dismayed to find that a cat had given claw love (those with cats understand; for the rest of you, that's when a cat is feeling, "Like wow, like I LOVE my mom, I think I'll do my massage-y nursing behavior on this thing that smells like my mom") to the skirt before I last sent it to the cleaner's. So -- BIG risk -- I shopped for a cold-weather-appropriate suit. I found one IN THE MISSES' PETITE DEPARTMENT (woo-hoo! -- weight loss) and I looked fabulous in it. Plain navy slacks, a fitted pale blue shell piped with navy at the neckline, and the most marvelous navy-black-light blue-pearl gray long-sleeve tapestry long bolero jacket. Quietly elegant, worn with a classy pair of navy pumps and simple silver chain and earrings. AND I got a good price on the suit.

(I notice when I'm a bit stressed out, I tend to focus on clothes. I guess there are worse things than trying to look sharp that could come out of my stress.)

I was the only person out of three from my agency who got an interview. The other contract agency has also presented several candidates, and they wanted to interview one other person, so that interview is tomorrow morning. So I'll attend a funeral at my church and, by the time I can turn my phone back on, I could have a final answer. But I'm still definitely in the running.

The department I'll be supporting (it's not just executive support) involves safety, environmental compliance, and security. It's a global company, so there's a huge scope of knowledge that I'll need to soak up as quickly as possible. But through my time speaking with the VP director and the assistant director, I think I'd be a fantastic fit. Their feedback was that I would be, too. The last time I felt this good about an interview was when I got the job that only ended when my boss got fired, I said, I'm still hopeful.

Thanks again for the support and the prayers, my friends. I'll post something once I'm back at a computer

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thank you for caring, friends

Just a brief note to thank my readers for your concerns and prayers.

The depression has been seriously bad this past month or so. I found I simply couldn't meet my day-to-day obligations at church and day job, and blog as well. That well was dry, dry, dry. Sorry I just up and stopped writing.

The day job situation was not good at all; I accepted a long-term fill-in position at the same company where I thought I had a permanent job in the works the beginning of last year, until my boss was fired and I was laid off. It was for a type of work I don't enjoy, for less money than even the state of Texas required me to accept (vs. unemployment), and I had a couple of very demoralizing experiences on that assignment. But it's over now. There's good in every bad situation.

I had another no-interview turn-down happen recently, this one at my pastor's home church; they were looking for a communications secretary and my pastor was certain they'd consider me the ideal candidate. Not even an acknowledgment when I sent in my resume, and a brush-off when I followed up by phone.

Now, I have an interview scheduled (the first of those in a long time) for Monday morning at a large pharmaceutical company's headquarters, for a position of executive admin to their VP of Security. I have higher test scores and a more comprehensive skill set than the other two candidates, according to the new agency that's sending me. This company (client) is notoriously difficult to get a foot in their door, so I'm glad for the opportunity and hoping for the best. The position is vacant because the previous exec assistant just retired, so the VP is clearly not looking for a Barbie-doll kind of candidate. I've dropped enough weight that my old-but-elegant plum suit fits again (now that it's too cold here to wear the new blouse-enhanced 3/4-sleeve interview outfit), and I'm headed out to do Sunday prep work at church and will make a swing by Steinmart to treat myself to a new scarf to spiff it up; the collarless neckline requires either that or a choker-length necklace, and I like the softness of a scarf better. If all else fails, my VERY old pink paisley silk scarf will work again. And my Aigner burgundy pumps will be perfect with the outfit. Truth to tell, I haven't had an actual interview since June. I've kept wardrobing for one, but not getting it. Yeah, this feels a little more like it.

If I get this job, the pay will be such that I can afford to meet my obligations AND take the occasional time off for things like seeing a doctor and a dentist. What a novel concept! It will nearly match the best hourly rate I've ever made. The downside is that I could be temping for up to a year. But heck, that's what I've been doing, piece-meal, for over four years now, so what's the diff? (The pay, that's what.) Not to count an unhatched chicken, but I really do want the job.

Anyway, back to the no-blogging thing. I'm not going to make any commitment to myself or to my few readers to write here regularly. Thanks again for caring and to Paisley and Singing Owl for commenting. I'll try to write something periodically just to prove I'm still alive and kicking.

Happy 2008, all.