Thursday, July 7, 2011

Red Letter Christians » Find Your Own Calcutta

I usually don't share other articles on Fringe Faith too much, but this is an excellent article on Mother Teresa from Red Letter Christians:

Red Letter Christians » Find Your Own Calcutta:


"Mother Teresa was all too aware that we have a tendency to look for exotic places to do service for the kingdom of God when, in reality, there are needs all around us that are waiting to be met with Christ’s love. She made us aware that until we are faithful in loving those around us, we ought not to think we will be able to love those who live in some far-off place.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Man Is a Rape-Supporter If…. | Eve Bit First

A Man Is a Rape-Supporter If…. | Eve Bit First: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

I came across this list through another blog earlier today and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. So I thought I would blog about it to get it out my system, so to speak.

What it is is a list of things that show a man is a rape supporter. The list includes quite a lot of things that seem to have nothing to do with rape such as being pro-life, watching movies or musicals that sexually demean women, or subordinating the interests of women. It's a long list and I'm not going to reproduce it all here. But I think it's worth having a look at.

First up, though, let me say I don't agree with this list. Just because someone has decided that these activities support rape doesn't mean that they actually do. And not only would many men fit one of the categories listed here, but so would quite a few women I know. I'm pro-life. That does not make me pro-rape. And I fail to see how wanting to reduce the killing of babies (and the psychological harm to mothers) translates to supporting rape. Also, I love musicals. And let's face it, some of them are quite demeaning to women. But just because I enjoy musicals doesn't mean I agree with the way they portray women anymore than liking Judy Garland means that I agree with the drugs she took or the suicide attempts she made.

But the reason I have been thinking about it so much is because I think it's a wasted opportunity. The list is obviously meant to be one where all men have participated in at least one activity. It is deliberately broad. But all that does is mean the die-hard feminists are agreeing, saying, yeah, all men are rape supporters. And everybody else is shaking their head, going this person doesn't know what they're on about. Because that was my first reaction. There was no 'Wow, she has some really interesting things to say.' It was all, 'She's got to be kidding, right.'

And that's all well and good if all she wants to do is get people who already agree with her to agree with her some more. But I believe that rape and the sexual demeaning of women are things that we should try and do something about. And this post isn't going to do it.

Firstly, I think the list would have been better if there had been less on it. Let's look at those things that really do contribute to women's rape and try to address them. Secondly, I think we should differentiate between those actions that actually support rape and those that are just demeaning to women. Because there's a lot on this list that, while I don't agree support rape, I believe are wrong and that men need to start thinking about. Women are not just sexual objects. And we do need to change men's thinking where they think of us as only sexual objects. And I do believe that often women are objectified by men who don't really understand what they are doing. I need we need to think about a lot of the stuff that's on this list - without suggesting that men who do these things are supporting rape.

But I don't think this list is going to change anyone's thinking. In the comments, she points out that the list is meant to include all men. Well I understand that. But I believe most men will read this and go, this is ridiculous and I have nothing to learn from it. They know they're never going to avoid everything on the list, so why even try to avoid anything. Much better to have a shorter list that people can go, you know something, I'm actually going to try and change this in my life.

But I fear her aim in writing this list was not to effect change at all. It was to get a whole heap of women agreeing with her that, yes, all men are rape supporters. I'm not sure what good that does. At the most, it might get some women hating men more than they already do. It certainly isn't going to stop men from raping women - and I for one believe stopping rape is more important than making men feel bad for 'supporting' it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Franciscan Benediction

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfit
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. 

(Taken from Prayer, by Philip Yancey.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Of the world, but not in it - and no, that's not a typo

One oft-repeated Christian phrase says we are to be in the world, not of it. It’s a good phrase. Christians are meant to live in this world while still having Christian values. But dare I suggest that sometimes we seem more like people who are ‘of the world, but not in it’.

I think western society in general tends to separate itself from the world. We drive to work in cars, never having to look in the eyes of or rub shoulders with our fellow commuters and where the only communication involves a horn or a finger. We separate ourselves from the weather and the seasons, with air-conditioned houses and then complain how cold (or how hot) it is. Our food comes to us pre-packaged on supermarket shelves, where we never have to see (much less worry about) the weather, the ground, the killing of animals and everything else that helped produce that food.

The impact of suffering is diluted through television screens and minimised into five-minute segments that fail to adequately convey the grief and suffering that people out there beyond TV land are feeling. Their tears don’t stop and their hunger doesn’t end when the anchorman switches to the sport.

Christians can separate themselves from the world in any of the ways listed above. But we can also separate ourselves from non-Christians. We go to church, attend bible studies and hang out with Christian friends, all (or most) of whom have roughly the same values and ideas as we do. We hear the same advice, speak the same language and hang out in Christian world together. Often, churches have a “come to us” mentality, where people who aren’t Christians are always welcome to hang out in Christian world too, but where we fail to go out to them.

Sometimes churches send people to other countries for missionary work - which is a great thing. But do those of us who don’t go end up looking at the photos, patting ourselves on the back for supporting such a worthwhile cause and meanwhile ignoring the suffering in our midst?

There's this song I love called Not Too Far From Here. It’s basically talking about how somewhere near here there is someone crying or someone who needs help. I don’t have any statistics, but I think it would be fair to say that most of us walk by at least 10 people in any given week who desperately need someone to reach out to them. And sure, we don’t help because we don’t know. And we don’t know because they haven’t told us. And we can’t exactly go around stopping every person we see and asking if they need help. But maybe if we were a bit more ‘in the world’, if we rubbed shoulders and met eyes and communicated on a real level, we would know. Maybe they do want to tell someone they need help, but they just haven’t had an opportunity.

One of the things I love about the internet is it lets me see what is going on in the world. I know when there’s been an earthquake or Christians are being persecuted or schoolkids are being bullied or whatever. And because I know, I can care. And because I care, I can pray. And because I pray, I can be one tiny part of seeing God’s will done in that situation.

But I do wonder whether, as our knowledge of hurts and injustices on a global scale increases, our ability to recognise it on a local scale decreases. Are we too busy staring at the horror on our TV screens that we do not hear the person knocking on our door?

So that’s the not in the world part. Here’s the of the world part.

We live in a consumer culture. We live in a society that places a high value on what can be bought or sold. We measure the importance of things by the dollar value attached. We also seek to solve our problems by buying things. Feel too cold? Buy a heater. Got grey hair? Buy a hair dye. Got acne? Buy this skin product. Not feeling sexy enough? Buy this body spray. Feeling depressed? Buy this vitamin.

Not getting the spiritual results you want? Buy this Christian DVD.

Now I’m not suggesting that Christian books or DVDs are bad. I love Christian books. But I do get annoyed when people say, if you just get this book or DVD, your life will be changed (or blessed). Because it’s the same message we hear from TV every day. Got a problem? Fix it with this product.

And from the church I want something different. I want to see people who place more value on spiritual riches and relationships than they do on material wealth. And I actually want to see a church that doesn’t want to solve every problem, but that seeks God and sees him working in the midst of our problems. And I also don’t think that churches should be about selling themselves (or God) to unbelievers, where God is made to sound that the best new product on the market and the quick-fix that will instantly give us everything we want.

Yes, God is good. But we must remember that suffering and persecution receive a lot of space in the bible. And we shouldn’t leave them out of our churches just because their brand value is low.

This isn’t a dig at any specific church. I don't know of any individual church that really does live completely of the world, but not in it. But I think with all churches the temptation is there, the temptation to isolate ourselves from nature, suffering and the wider world and to embrace a Christianity that involves just buying the right products and reflecting the market-mentality of wider society.


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