Read my piece about this in the Federal Way Mirror here: http://www.federalwaymirror.com/opinion/241911211.html
Read my piece about this in the Federal Way Mirror here: http://www.federalwaymirror.com/opinion/241911211.html
Early this morning, I was doing some work for a project for which I've been hired to help. The hiring body is the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ. The large topic for this project is social justice.
I found myself in tears at one point, after watching part of Bill Moyer's keynote speech to the General Synod gathering of my denomination in 2007. After citing statistics about how wealth has been redistributed in our nation over the past 30 years, he used the following analogy. It's as if you invited 100 people over for pie, and you cut the pie into 5 pieces. You give 4 of the pieces to one person, and the 99 left get one piece. No wonder they fight over it. Now, mind, you, this speech pre-dated "Occupy Wall Street" and the 99% movement by a few years.....
I struggle with all of this. I am a person with privilege, after all. I didn't know what to do with all my guilt. How can anyone do enough to make the world a just place, when there are so many people working against it? People who work against equality and rights for the poor and minorities and do so in the name of their God and their Jesus, even.
So, I took my middle class white educated married self in my Prius to Yoga class.
It was muggy. So muggy my instructor joked about being in "hot enough yoga" today. I breathed. I stretched. I brought myself back to the present many times during that 75 minutes, as my mind wandered to "not enough not enough not enough" and the dichotomy of the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 (yea!) with their striking down part of the Voting Rights Act (what??!) within 24 hours of each other. Breathe. Stretch.
What happened is what usually happens in yoga. I became more present. I relaxed. My body adjusted itself--little mini pops and cracks and easing things back into where they needed to go. No major aha's. No dramatic healing. And yet.
Isn't that what life and progress are usually about? Steps forward. Steps backward. More steps forward. Re-educating our body-- our body of government, our body of culture, our body of Christ--about what is in alignment. Keeping on doing what is the next thing and trusting it will lead us where we need to go next. Supporting ourselves and each other along the way so we don't get hurt. Resting when we need to. Taking time to breathe, sit with what we have done, reflect, and breathe some more. Holding our vision for justice and peace, and then staying present and doing what is next for us today.
I came home. I let the dog out. I drank water, took my vitamins, took a shower. I ate lunch. I drank more water. And I continued to breathe.
I don't know exactly what is next for our country. I do know I will be marching Sunday in the PRIDE Parade in Seattle, rejoicing with fellow progressive Christians about our victory for marriage equality this past year, and the striking down of DOMA. I do know I will continue to prepare for creating a social justice resource for parents with the United Church of Christ. I will keep breathing. And I will continue to do my best to be a witness for those in need.
Parents—beware of complacency around gender roles. A study of middle school students found that their teachers believed their middle school students accepted the rights of women to hold nontraditional jobs in the workplace---much more than the students actually did. In fact, the study found that stereotypical attitudes about gender roles have not changed much.
This means we all have work to do, starting with how we talk to the youngest among us. Do you ooh and ahh over how cute little baby girls are? Are you sure to mention how strong a baby boy looks? When preschoolers are playing, are there ample gender-neutral toys around, such as playdough, blocks, crayons and blank paper, legos and art supplies? Do you inquire about a young girls reading selection or athletics, or merely compliment her outfit? Do you ask a young boy about his clothes or friends, or immediately begin to engage him in some sort of physical activity?
While gender identity remains controversial, with research supporting both socialization and prenatal hormonal factors as influences, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Whether or not a child or adult identifies as male or female, those around them can help define what is acceptable for either of those roles.
Despite women’s rights in the ‘70s and the men’s movement in the ‘90s, our culture remains fairly divided along gender lines. Progress has been made, yet there is more to do. Take steps today to make sure your girls know they can be strong, independent thinkers, and your boys can be sensitive, caring friends—without it costing them anything, especially your love and approval. We all benefit when there is less judgment in our homes, schools, and communities.
For ideas on gender neutral toys and activities:
For more information on how toys reinforce stereotypes:
Books about play and gender:
Each year, December 1 is World AIDS Day, which is publicized in order to increase awareness about this topic. Even though there have been many advances in information about HIV and AIDS, and in treatment of people who are HIV-positive, there is no cure, and the rates of infection are still staggering.
On a recent trip, I saw a bulletin board in an airport proclaiming that every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV . In addition, one in five people who are living with HIV in our country do not know they have it. That means they can unknowingly pass it on during subsequent sexual contact. One in four of those affected by HIV are women, and African American women are most vulnerable.
Why should parents care about this? First of all, the chances of you or your child knowing someone who is HIV positive are high. The HIV-positive person may not have shared that information with you, but with over 1,000,000 people in our country living with HIV and over a million more living with AIDS, the chances are, somewhere in your circle, someone is affected.
Also the statistics take a dramatic turn for youth. Every hour, two young people are infected with HIV, and of those 80% do not know they are HIV-positive. Your teens need to know that if they become sexually active, there is no way to look at someone and know if they are HIV-positive. And if your partner has had previous sexual partners, even if you haven’t, they may be infected and unaware. The only sure way to know is to get tested.
In the “Get the Facts” section of the 9 ½ minute website, they suggest: Focus on Awareness, Focus on Abstinence, Focus on Monogamy, Focus on Condoms and Focus on Drug Use. All of these topics are conversations you can have with your children and teens, conversations where you can discuss your values, listen to your children’s thoughts, answer their questions, and become more informed and connected as a family.
This week, make a pledge to have a discussion with your children and teens about World AIDS Day. Here are some discussion starters:
If you do not know the answers to any of the above questions, make sure you find out and are clear on your values before discussing them with our child. Asking questions is a great way to find out what they do and don’t know, as well as what they think they know that may be incorrect. Taking time to talk with your family members about this topic is one way to make a positive difference in the world.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, with an emphasis on adopting children who are in foster care.
Children enter the foster care system for a number of reasons, and not all children in care are eligible for adoption. However, adoption is an option for thousands of children and teens in our country, and November is a time to think about this way of building a family.
If you are an adoptive parent, know you have my respect and appreciation. Adoption often comes with extra layers of relationships to sort out, and it is important to create and build an ongoing support system for yourself and your family.
For more information about creating activities to support National Adoption Awareness month, check out this free toolkit. If you are an adoptive parent, grandparent, kinship provider, or want to increase awareness about adoption in your family, check out this Adoption Awareness Calendar. Many of the activities can be done by any family, such as brainstorm and create a new family tradition, send thank-you cards to your local foster care office, or watch an adoption-related movie with your family.
Increasing awareness about adoption helps everyone. Think how you can take one step this month to become more educated about adoption, increase your family’s awareness about adoption, celebrate your adoption story, or help others to learn more about adoption.
Call your congress representatives today!
From an email I just received:
In response to the tragic suicides by LGBT youth in recent weeks, Advocates for Youth is taking action by joining the Make It Better Project. Today, October 12th is the National Day of Action to call Congress in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is proud to join the National Safe Schools Partnership in supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying bill... The bill requires schools that receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act funding to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories often targeted by bullies, including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and others. It also requires states to include bullying and harassment data in their state-wide needs assessments reporting.
Call now and ask your representatives to
Inspired by the sharing of a song by a friend on facebook, and fueled by the amount of media attention given to Pastor Terry Jones and his illogical campaign to burn Qur'ans Saturday, I decided this song summed up my response to him, and my hope for what will prevail, not only Saturday, as we commemorate the 9th anniversary of 9/11, but into the future, as we continue to strive toward peace in our country and world.
Islam is not of the devil, Pastor Jones. In fact, Islam is closely related to Christianity and also sharing the same Abrahamic roots with Judaism.
But here, truly, is my bottom line. Thanks, Gungor, for putting it so succinctly.
I'm not a big fan of burning books. I figure I'm blessed enough to live in a country that allows free speech and protects it, so I need to be supportive of folks giving voice to their opinions. That's one of the great things about America--that we're free to disagree with each other, and our government, and as long as we don't turn violent doing it, no one needs to go to jail.
So, when I hear about book bannings, or book burnings, I confess, I have judgement. I imagine someone is so fearful of an idea that they give it more power by taking drastic steps against it and calling all kinds of attention to it, instead of saying, "Well, that's the way some people think about that, but I disagree because...." I believe the latter way encourages people to think about what they believe, and the former way encourages people to be afraid of what others believe.
Being a person of faith, I think fear is a big sign for me that I'm not looking at something with faith and love. So, when I heard that there's a church in Florida burning as many copies of the Qur'an, I sighed.http://cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2010/07/29/ricks.burn.koran.cnn
Not surprisingly, this pastor's view and tactics are so extreme that they have gained a worldwide audience. Also not surprising, people oversees see this as a mainstream "Christian" response. Which really torks me off. I'm really tired of extreme Christians commandeering the media and implying they speak for me. Let me be clear: they don't.
Someone who comes much closer to speaking my truth is a Christian pastor in my denomination (United Church of Christ) who has a church in the same town. Here are his thoughts, actions, and beliefs: http://creativeseminole.com/2010/08/19/if-they-can-burn-it-we-can-read-it-a-ucc-ministers-response-to-burning-the-quran/
Just to call out a key phrase, when he was asked what he'd say if he could preach to the Qur'an-burning congregation for 5 minutes, he said:
"The danger to our faith comes not most from outside, but from the shadows within. We must pay attention to our neglect to look at ourselves, instead of automatically pointing the finger elsewhere. God’s call is for constant opening.”Amen, Pastor Reimer. See, this is why I love my church. We don't see different ideas as a threat. We see them as an opportunity to learn and expand our love. And isn't that what Jesus was about? Expanding our love for one another?
This means, then, that I have to expand my love for the Qur'an-burners, and their pastor, no matter how crazy or disturbed or fear-driven I may think he is. So, don't worry Pastor Jones, I'm praying for you, too.
Some churches have joined together to agree to include words from the Qur'an in their worship on Sunday, September 12. I hope you'll consider joining them and embracing expansion, love, and freedom of religion.
“I’m not trying to make this a national or international event, but I feel that those who understand that allowing [the Qur'an burning] to pass silently by allows Dove Outreach to win in the fight against tolerance and religious compassion will stand up and share scripture from the Qur’an.”And the article ends with this, which is why it is important to not do nothing:
Not a moment too soon. In the words of German poet Heinrich Heine written in 1820, now enshrined on a plaque at the site of Nazi Propoganda Minster Joseph Goebbels’ book burnings, “There, where they burn books, they will in the end burn people.”
I hope you'll take 90 seconds to watch this video, which has been praised across the nation and the world, from our own UCC folks, to other denominations for its depiction of inclusion and its message about faith in action.
The Language of God.....
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was struck by the disparity just a few blocks apart. We were driving through town to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and meet relatives for dinner. We passed the massive concrete of the business district, viewed glimpses of Chinatown and North Beach, a heavily Italian neighborhood, and kept going. Further on, our borrowed TomTom device took us through a neighborhood teaming with activity. A couple of men sauntered down the street, beer cans in hand. Another literally wove his way across an intersection, while still another sped up and yelled something back to the weaver. A Sikh squatted against a brick wall and dropped a piece of his dinner, which looked to be contained in a foil wrapper. Women were conspicuously absent, and bars conspicuously adorned every ground floor window and door. it was the kind of neighborhood I wanted to notice every detail, yet at the same time, not be noticed noticing.
Just a few blocks north, the scene changed. More modern structures. Trendy diversity. Happier looking ethnic restaurants and businesses. Advertisements with clean, young, beautiful people of color. We crossed the bridge and entered a tunnel painted with a rainbow around the entrance. We looked at the view of this shining city in the evening sunlight. Ahhh, how beautiful!
I wondered later how many of the people in the "in-between" neighborhood were born into families who had planned for them, were ready financially to support them, had parents who wanted them and took time to understand them, learn about what they were going through at each stage in their lives, volunteer at their schools, help them through tough times, take them on vacation and buy souvenirs....Not that all those things are necessary to become a well-adjusted adult who is contributing to society, but they sure don't sure as heck don't hurt.
When people say that these residents need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, I always remember what my grandpa said: The presupposition to that statement is that the person has boots. Some people think that homelessness and drug-addicted lowlifes and poverty aren't their problem, but I disagree. Social issues like this are everyone's problem. They cost our entire society in lost income, crime, incarceration, medical services, not to mention, it's just the right thing to do to care for our neighbors, no matter which neighborhood they live in.
When I was in DC this spring, I met a young man who said he was a Professional Idealist. I tend to think along the same lines--you know, shoot for the moon, because even if you miss you'll land among the stars type of thing. And this is where I am regarding comprehensive sexuality education, because, call me crazy, but I tend to think that if everyone had complete and accurate information about their sexuality, relationships, and safety, and it were offered in a safe, caring, culturally relevant context and environment, it might make a difference how many people ended up with nothing else to do on a Monday night but saunter down a street filled with bars on the windows, drinking beer and looking for trouble.
So, I'll keep on keeping on. Because "someday, we''ll find it, the Rainbow Connection--the lovers, the dreamers and me..."