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
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.....
I had bundled myself against the Return of the Rain for my morning walk--outer layer of my ski jacket, fleece sweats, hat, gloves. Overkill? Maybe, but I don't enjoy getting soaked on my walk.
As I headed up my street, I noticed a young boy walking toward me. We live near an elementary school, so his destination was obvious. However, he had the saddest look on his face, and he was wearing a t-shirt and no coat on this rainy February morning. He looked longingly down our street, then turned to the crosswalk leading to the school. I asked, "Do you have somewhere dry to do?" He pointed to the school. I said, "Good! I'm glad." and went on my way, trusting he would soon be in the warmth of the cafeteria, enjoying some substance they call school breakfast.
Several thoughts collided in my mind. I thought of how much I've enjoyed being a mom. How I've structured my time and work so that I could volunteer and be involved in my sons' schools and activities, cheer at their sporting events, attend scout Courts of Honor, be present at the occasional award ceremony. How I've welcomed their friends to our home, brought them on vacation, made lunches and cookies and bought enough pop and chips to feed the troops in Afghanistan. How I've nurtured relationships, taught several of their friends sexuality education at our church, nudged and helped friendships grow through youth group and swim team leadership programs.
I thought about how blessed I have been to be able to make that choice, and not have it mean that we couldn't pay bills, or afford to go on vacation, or buy new clothes. I thought of the support of my spouse, and all he's done to support our doing all the above. And I thought about this Washington Post article about the illusion of equality for women in America, and how we still make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.
I thought about how partisan everything has gotten in our lives--not only politically with Democrats and Republicans, but with men and women--all those male-bashing emails that go around from time to time that I admit I've laughed at. But they always make me think of an old friend and colleague, Bernie Dorsey, who started a movement called Conscious Fathering, and brought to my awareness how damaging those types of attitudes are in our culture.
Which then made me think about the cultural competence unit I'm in the middle of for a course I'm taking, and how it relates to gender. Check out this iceberg model of culture. It's a great visual for what we tend to see and what is hidden. Somehow, when we wouldn't dare to criticize another ethnicity, we find it OK to openly joke about and criticize the other gender with jokes about courses they should take, or blond jokes (99% about females) or what planet they are from. We say, "it's a guy thing" or "it's a girl thing" to dismiss or discount something without going into an explanation of why that behavior was important to the person. Without really trying to understand.
It took years of me living with them and hanging around many different varieties of them to come to the realization that teenage boys are some of the most misunderstood people on the planet. They are stereotyped as trouble makers, shallow, wanting only sex, insensitive, etc. In reality, many are working diligently to handle the emotions they feel inside and the hormones raging through their bodies, the pressures they feel from society and media, the differences between how they think about things and how many young women do. They lack adults in their lives who will listen without judgment, mentor them without criticism, and celebrate who they are.
At the same time, young women are victims of a false sense of equality. From Jessica Valenti's Washington Post article:
...more than 1,000 women were killed by their partners in 2005, and of all the women murdered in the United States, about a third are killed by a husband or boyfriend. A leading cause of death for pregnant women? Murder by a partner.
In Iraq, women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.
Even the government underestimates the crisis American women are in. Last year the Justice Department reported that there were 182,000 sexual assaults committed against women in 2008, which would mean that the rate had decreased by 70 percent since 1993.
But a study by the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center showed that the Justice Department's methodology was flawed. Instead of behaviorally based questions, such as "Has anyone ever forced you to have sex?", women were asked if they had been subject to "rape, attempted or other type of sexual attack." Victims often don't label their experience as "rape," especially when someone they know attacked them. The center says the actual number of U.S. women raped in 2008 was more than 1 million.
In church on Sunday, we were singing a hymn. Our church has embraced mostly inclusive language, but this hymn was a bulletin insert and had "His" in several places. I sang "Her" and "She" and felt the difference of that in my heart and soul. Neither is bad or wrong, they are just different--and equally valuable.
We have a long way to go in our country. We may expect our leaders to put aside political differences, but what are we doing personally to do this? Where in our lives can we insert more understanding and effectiveness and less need to be right?
A friend of mine has two sons in the military. She doesn't always understand why they have chosen that route. But she supports them. She sends emails to her friends asking them to send encouraging notes, and she updates us on how helpful they are. She had Christmas in July when one of her sons was going to be deployed in Iraq over the holidays. She sends cookies and other treats, she prays, she grows. She's a mom.
I walked back by the school as I was finishing up my walk. I sent silent blessings to the little boy in the t-shirt, hoping he had dried off and found a friend to spend the morning with before school started. And I wished the same for every child, boy or girl--that someone would send them silent blessings for warmth and a friend today. Once a mom......
A new wave of media has hit this week regarding a study that had somewhat favorable results with an abstinence-only sexuality education program. I could probably write a book on how and why this has been oversimplified, but here are the main points.
First of all, the study was well done. Control group, good methodology, well-respected authors. However, this program used an "abstinence-only" curriculum that did not meet federal guidelines for programs federally funded under the abstinence-only criteria, and it was significantly different from the bulk of "abstinence-only" programs reviewed in the past. Here are some of the differences.
Look at all the hoops that had to be jumped through to have an effective result from the program! Reasonable and accurate information had to be shared to have effective results, measured by the fact that only a third of the 6th and 7th graders who took that program were sexually active 24 months later. Here's a question: how safe were those that were sexually active, since they had NOT been taught about contraception? Even though they were not to disparage condom use, they did not teach it, either. How many pregnancies and diseases occurred in that group as compared to the group that did have sex, but had had the information about contraception? No data yet.
By the way, comprehensive sexuality education programs teach about abstinence as a part of their program. The developmentally appropriate part of these curriclua emphasize that abstinence is the best choice for young adolescents--which the kids in the study were. They were in 6th and 7th grade, and average onset for sexual intercourse is actually age 17.
To quote our president from the National Prayer breakfast today, "You can question my policies without questioning my faith." Those people of faith like myself who teach comprehensive sexuality education in our churches and faith communities and communities believe what we are doing is right and good and for many of us, yes, a Christian thing to do. You can decide for yourself--just make sure you have all the facts.
I am offended by the yard signs that have popped up in the last few days on the roadside in my neighborhood. Urging people to reject Referendum 71 in our state is one thing, but with "Protect Marriage! Protect Children!" as their tag line? I don't think so.
First of all, the Referendum protects the rights the Washington legislature approved, which are commonly called the "Everything but marriage" provisions. Domestic partnership is what is legal in Washington. This provides protection for not only gay and lesbian couples, but also seniors in committed relationships who choose not to marry.
Protect marriage from what? Those of us heterosexual couples who have the right to marry, since we do such a bang up job of it? Current statistics put the divorce rate at between 45% and 49% of new marriages, depending on the source. And since this law doesn't even have to do with marriage, this is a moot--well, actually, a very misrepresented point.
Protect children from what? Parents in a committed relationship? We need more of that, not less. Being allowed to marry offers no guarantee that a couple will parent well. Child abuse rates attest to that. Simply providing biological material to create a human being unfortunately carries with it no mandatory knowledge, wisdom, or commitment in caring for that being during or after pregnancy.
What kind of protection is provided when a partner is forbidden from visiting a loved one dying in the hospital? Whom does that protect?
The question on the table is who is going to legislate what we believe? Should the state deny rights to people simply because of their sexual orientation or living arrangements? We need to approve Referendum 71 so we can protect people from the real issues on the table: bigotry and hate. I do agree with the opponents on one thing: they are encouraging people to pray for Washington State. Please do. Let's join the folks in DC and elsewhere and Stand on the Side of Love, not hate and fear. Contrary to what many on the dark side would lead you to believe, many Christians and Christian churches stand solidly on the side of equal rights for sexual minorities.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to Stephen Colbert. Our state's fight made his national show last week. Yes people, pray. Pray hard for the people of Washington State.
This video is a performance by Eric Bibb of his song, Spirit I Am. I was introduced to this song this weekend at a Satsong at my favorite yoga studio. I think it brings it all home. We all live the spirit we are, in the bodies we have. Amen.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LTYmFMQ-4A
I had a near traumatic experience today in the lingerie department at Macy's. Shopping for bras is not easy for me, nor is it for most women. I wear an odd size, and do not get much sympathy from other women about my....curves. I am not skinny. I am not fat. I am full of curves, some welcome, some not.
I found myself curious at the fact that I was nearing tears at one point during the process, until the sales woman came to the rescue. She had found two bras in my size (yes, only two out of the racks and racks of bras in the department), and had also come up with an additional product to help with a certain issue.
Afterward, as I was driving to get my hair cut, I thought of Sarah Palin and her recent public stand against a joke by David Letterman this week. I actually agree with Governor Palin in terms of not finding funny much of the casual debasement of women in our society. In our culture, it's "funny" to make jokes about her daughter's teen pregnancy, while we also spend billions of dollars sexualizing women and over $1.5 billion on ineffective abstinence only education for teens.
While it may be ironic or even amusing to some that Bristol Palin is a national spokesperson for abstinence, there is nothing funny about teen pregnancy. Our lack of funding and willingness to look at effective programs to prevent teen pregnancy has helped cost 750,000 teens a year their innocence and changed their lives forever. One thing that does concern me about Ms. Palin's abstinence spokesperson association is that the Candies Foundation, for which she is an Ambassador, focuses on abstinence for teen girls. Last time I checked, it took a male and female to create a pregnancy. In yet another subtle way, our society is enabling sexism to continue.
In her book, Abortion Rap, the late attorney and activist, Florynce Kennedy, wrote the now famous statement, "if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." There are days when I really contemplate that statement, especially in light of current politics on the subject. There remains a piece of this argument that is mired in sexism, even though it appears on the surface to be a religious issue. When people tell me they are Christian, and that is why they don't believe in abortion, I discern whether or not that is the moment to let them know I am Christian, and pro-choice. Not pro-abortion, pro-choice. I believe that women are able and entitled to make that decision for themselves. When we remove the choice, we are treating them as "less than" citizens.
And that's why I was almost near tears today for a short moment before I grabbed my brain by its wits and got a grip. I do not look like any of the women on the tags or advertisements for bras. Or underwear. Or shirts or shoes for that matter. They are all thin, smiling, air-brushed models, put there to make men salivate and women feel inferior. And yet, we come in all shapes and sizes, all of us children of God. There's a line I love from the movie, Saved, where the lead female character says, "If God wanted us all to be the same, why did he make us all so different?"
Indeed, we are different. We are men, we are women, we are trans. We are straight, we are gay, we are bi. We have bodies that are male, female, in between. We are obese, we are anorexic, we are bulimic. We are. And God adores us each, no matter what bra size we wear.
As you know from my previous post about SEAT, these things converge in my world. I want to share with you an article running in today's Federal Way Mirror that I wrote, entitled: Our Righteousness Is Killing Us (click on the title to go to the online article, or open up your Mirror to page 4 if you live in Federal Way....). I hope that by reaching a few more people, I can help spread some information and passion about the absolute necessity of our working together to provide our youth with comprehensive sexuality education. And if you tire of this topic, no worries--I'll be back soon with more musings.....
I had the incredible honor and privilege to be part of a group of faithful, religious communities joined in voice to promote comprehensive sexuality education last week in Washington, DC.
The 6th Annual SEAT (Sexuality Education Advocacy Training) was put on by the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Union for Reform Judaism. I am still processing, interpreting, coveting, and holding dear and discerning best ways to share all that I learned and experienced there.
Aside from the fact that 40 of us came from literally all over the country (Washington State, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, California, Indiana, Delaware, Massachussetts, etc), the experience of joining together as people of faith to be a religious voice to our legislators about a topic so precious to me touches my heart deeply.
Lobbying was, how can I say this? Way cool!!!!! Empowering, inspiring, patriotic....
Being in community with people who are intergenerational (lots of youth and young adults there with us older folks), interfaith, advocates for sexuality education of the comprehensive variety seemed to be a match made especially for me. I love teenagers, I love my faith and learning about the faith of others, I love advocates and advocating, and I love sexuality education. 'Nuf said.
But what I really want to share is a prayer written and read by UUA Reverend Meg Riley at our closing time together. You can go here for her post, and I am also including the text of her prayer below. I hope it touches and inspires you like it did me. And you can take that inspiration into action by contacting your legislators and asking them to support the REAL Act (Responsible Education About Life), which is legislation that would open up a federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education. Please also ask that they DEFUND abstinence only education--those funds have already been allocated and must be defunded or they just keep on giving groups money to spread myths like HIV is spread through tears, and condoms failure rates are 30% (go here and here for some really entertaining presentation of some really startling information.
Here's the prayer, with my blessings added to Reverend Meg's, and in conjunction with my faith community in supporting us all to be healthy, included in community with one another, and loved always.
Sweet source of hope and healing, longing and life,
We know our first responsibility is to create a world which supports the growth of our world’s children
A world safe for them to explore, and to learn and grow, without being judged or punished.
A world safe for them to make mistakes, knowing there is nothing they can do to lose our love.
May we provide them with tools to protect themselves and those they love from decisions which hurt—information about the physical, spiritual, emotional aspects of sexuality.
May they know it is safe for them to come to us always, and we won’t make it worse.
We wish that life were simple.
We wish that unwanted pregnancies never occurred,
That no one engaged in any kind of sexual activity without protection and real choice, real response-ability,
That all people were equally valued.
We wish that every person knew his or her own beauty and worth, and thus that of the others with whom she or he interacted.
A child I love dearly, aged ten, was struggling with gender identity.
“Do you ever feel,” I prodded gently, trying to understand, “as if you were born into the wrong body?”
The young one paused for a moment of silence, and responded, “Nope, this is my body all right. I feel like I was born into the wrong world!”
We pray that we can make this wrong world a little bit more right for our children.
May they know and cherish their own bodies as sacred, beautiful, true.
May we create a world which reflects this back to them.
May we demand schools, governments, communities, which honor them
And in so doing, be worthy of this gift of life, this beautiful broken world.