I’m a feminist but…

Nope. ‘But’, nothing. There’s no but. I’m a feminist.

The woman who has just become the Turnbull Government’s Minister for Women said, in 2014;

“I have never been someone who labels herself in terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”


I don’t even begin to know where to go with that.

It’s not just frustrating, it’s also incorrect. This article provides a good, quick overview.

(Look, this post is a bit directionless. I have lots of feelings about this but I’m not entirely sure what they are exactly…)

So many teen girls that I know don’t want to be associated with the term, and one of my male students said last week ‘I think people should have equal rights but I don’t like it when women get all Feminazi’. Surprisingly, he couldn’t actually articulate what that meant. And then I made the joke about how wanting equality is exactly like invading Poland…

I’d like to say that I’ve never had a problem identifying as a feminist, but I’m pretty sure I was in the ‘well I want equality but I wouldn’t want it to go too far’ camp when I was younger.
Too far.
Too seriously.
Silencing tactics that try to stop dialogue and infer that you are being unreasonable. I still don’t know what people mean when they say ‘too far’. Well, I do know what it means actually, because I have been stupid enough to engage in parts of the internet where MRAs lurk. And Reddit. I should know better…

(there’s a certain irony that this is the largest size that this top comes in but it only just fits me)

Christianity and feminism.

The two things aren’t incompatible.

I’ve been surprised to learn just how ‘feminist’ the early Jesus movement was, as recorded in the New Testament.

Although current dialogue often sees Christianity as a patriarchal religion that relegates women to roles of subservience and deliberate silence, this does not accurately reflect the early church. Within a patriarchal Greco-Roman society, Jesus chose women as disciples, supporters and travelling companions, and Paul, long regarded as a misogynist (certainly by myself) , praises many women active in ministry at the time, describing Phoebe in Romans 16 as a ‘deacon’ and Junia as ‘outstanding among the apostles’.

Some of the lines that have stopped me connecting with any of Paul’s writings (‘the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak’ 1 Cor 14:34) are now regarded by many to have been inserted by those who composed the deutero-Pauline writings. When read in light of the approval and encouragement that Paul gives to women in his other writings, this line is totally incongruous.

Of course, as it became part of the establishment, these early beginnings were silenced because = Patriarchy. But, at its heart, Christianity isn’t incompatible with feminism. Women were leaders, passionate adherents, and an important factor in the spread of the Gospel in the Roman Empire.

Maybe if we can understand that within any given group, there is a huge array of ideas, and apart from certain broad definitions there is room for a diversity of viewpoints.

The fear of claiming a truth because of the perceptions of others, or buying into the idea that ‘feminism’ or ‘Christianity’ is so narrow that it can’t handle discussion or diversity trivialises the importance of both these traditions.

They are both old enough, and tough enough, to handle our questions and our doubts.

Kevin Hart fangirling

I’ve been writing a post for a few days, about our souls, and about sin, and about the things that take us away from God. But I’m getting wrapped up in my own self-indulgent hyperbole and I’ve been irritating even myself with my words.

And then I remembered that I’ve actually touched on what the soul is here, when I wrote about the way that we are inexplicably touched by beauty or nature or a connection with someone else, and it steals our breath in a way that we can’t quite understand.

And I’ve mentioned before that poetry doesn’t really do it for me; I’m more likely to feel the transcendent in nature than art or poetry.

But Kevin Hart? Kevin Hart’s poetry blows my mind. It’s both other-wordly yet completely comprehensible to me, even if I’m left grasping to verbalise what he means, or even what the poem was about.

Anyway, there’s this. I think it should be read with a glass of Cab Sav. Unless it’s 9am, and then not so much.

A Word

Some words are dipped in silence for a while,
So when you murmur forest, wine, or sleep
The other words to left and right seem loud
Like people on a street outside a church.

Some words come wrapped in a horizon- far,
and final bring a desert home,
And if you write one on an empty page
Your earthly years may be quite swallowed up.

And there’s a word that has a darker night
Than any dead man knows: it first was said
Before tall shadows fondled vines and trees,
And in rich quiet that word still speaks in you.

Kevin Hart, Morning Knowledge

What does baptism really mean?

First of all, I’m going to talk about baptism for a while, and then I’m going to ask for your opinion. So this will be one of those posts that needs other people’s feedback to make it complete.

Just so you know.

And I think that this might be a little bit self indulgent, so if that makes you roll your eyes and go ‘first world problems’, then head on over to these great Countess of Grantham gifs and I’ll see you next post.

So, I’ve been thinking about baptism lately. And I’ve been thinking that it’s something I would probably like to do. And what it means.

Is baptism mainly about belonging? About belonging to the faith, tracing back to the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. And about belonging to a church.

But a church that isn’t, in its most pure sense, a building. Church is a people. A disparate and eclectic and imperfect and wonderful people trying to bring about their best version of heaven on earth, while also trying to navigate their own lives, and other peoples lives, and the tricky bit where everything intersects and what do we say, and how do we say it and what happens then?

People are fantastic. I know that I joke that I’m a bit of a misanthrope, but I’m really not. I love people. I like to be challenged and to connect and to question and be questioned, and to spend time with the energy and the ideas and the stimulation of others.

But what I don’t like is to be exposed. And I don’t like the walls to go down too far. Because you can connect with people deeply, and forge friendships and make a pretty good go of life without opening up yourself too much.

I know that some people would say that you can’t, but you can.

But I don’t really think that you can say, in front of a group of people;

I repent of my sins…

I turn to Christ…

I commit myself to God…

Without pretty much exposing yourself completely. Don’t you think?

I’ve read that it’s an ‘outward sign’ of an expression of faith, which immediately puts my back up. Outward sign? What, for other people? An expression of faith for other people to accept?

Or maybe it’s much more than that. It’s about God and I. But I thought God and I were doing pretty well. Will getting baptised cause me to be anything in God that I am not already?

I suppose I’m a bit confused at what it’s all about.

Because it will take a bit of interior realigning for me to get there. Which I can do, of course, but it would take some work.  But doing something just because it’s what people ‘do’ when they are a christian isn’t something that I can connect with on an authentic level.

So what is it all about? Do you think it’s necessary? What does baptism mean to you?

Over-quoted bible passages…

Are, I think, usually over-quoted because they are fantastic. There’s always the temptation to go all hipster and find an obscure passage to fall in love with so you can be all ‘I dug Ezra 8:21 before it was cool’, I suppose, but (sigh) 1 Corinthians 13;4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

It is just the best. BEST. I read this passage at a funeral two years ago, and it would have been equally appropriate to use at my wedding 13 years ago (except I didn’t because ugh, bible and religion).

I’m finding this verse particularly pertinent at this stage of my life, because GOD HELP ME PARENTING IS HARD. Wonderful and great and all that stuff but hard, too. Hard as in lay your head down on the kitchen bench in the middle of a conversation and close your eyes, or pray, or use the worlds worst swear words to yourself for a minute, hard.

Every year has it’s ups and downs, of course. This year has been…tricky. My eldest son was diagnosed with hearing loss a few months ago and now has hearing aids. Which was a shock, of course, but now I get to yell ‘PUT YOUR HEARING AIDS IN, GRANDAD’ a lot, which is fun and give the whole thing a bit of a comedic upswing.

But the main challenge for me at this stage is Maths and my Anxious Child. And the patient and kind love that I have to show to him, and, in turn, the 9 year old Eva.

Backstory; my 9 year old first manifested OCD at the age of 5*. This year we have discovered that he also has high anxiety. Which we kind of knew but an actual diagnosis makes it a bit more real. So, OCD and anxiety. You can imagine. Or you can’t, which is good. Not imagining how hard anxiety and OCD are packaged into a 9 year old boy is good. Because it’s really shit and a bit heart breaking.

And you add to that Maths.

Archie is not particularly bad at maths. In fact his recent grade three tests show that he is above his grade level. But that doesn’t mean that any wrong question isn’t greeted with tears and trauma and end-of-the-world apocalyptic really big feelings, which also tend to be loud and angry. When he doesn’t understand something, he really doesn’t understand something. And his brain locks down and he just can’t take the new ideas on board. I thinks it’s the finality and the injustice of it all. ‘But I went through all the steps properly! How can this be wrong?’

Which is exactly what happened to 9 year old Eva when she was trying to learn maths (I went to third person. Is that weird?)

Because when I was a child (and now), I really didn’t understand maths. And it scared me and challenged me. So people decided that I was difficult, and part of our family lore is that I made such a fuss about doing maths in grade three that the teacher had to stop teaching it to the whole class. Because of me.

This is a story that is still told, by the way.

And I was so resistant and stubborn that everyone gave up trying. This is what I’m told.

Did I mention I was nine?

So when my Archie gets so upset about the fact that he can’t do that maths that he cries and yells and blames me and everything is JUST. THE. WORST, I remember…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And I say to him…

I’m not going to give up on you. I will stay with you in the tricky bits, and the messy bits, and through the angry and the yelling and the sad. Because I love you, and I understand that you don’t always know how to behave. And you don’t know why you feel the things that you feel, and sometimes these things make you angry. But I will be here, and I will try to be your stillness, and when you are ready then we will keep going. Together.

And I like to think that God feels this way about us. Patient, kind and there when we are ready.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Never giving up, even though we yell at the problems and sulk and be our very-most-not-best selves much more often than we would like to admit. Reminding us that, with a sense of perspective, the problem that we are raging it is probably not that huge on a scale of one to eternity, even if it seems pretty damn insurmountable right now.

Although maths does, and always will, suck and I will be having a strongly worded conversation with God about it one day.

Edited to add; I’m studying a course at the moment, and coincidentally we are looking at Paul this week, with a focus on this passage. As it turns out, Paul was actually giving the Corinthians a bit of a schooling, and essentially telling them that they were the opposite of all the shiny and nice things in the passage. Paul being his usual know it all self takes the gloss off it a bit for me, I must say ;)

*the same age as I first developed OCD, incidentally. Which isn’t really related but is so completely related because I want so hard to ‘get it right’ with him.

This has nothing to do with parenting or maths but I took it here at home last month and it's pretty.

This has nothing to do with parenting or maths but I took it here at home last month and it’s pretty.

Telling people to F- off is not an option.

In the last month or so, on hearing that I’m a Christian, people have said the following things to me; ‘How did that happen?’, ‘Really, you don’t seem like a Christian’, or ‘Wow, that’s really interesting. Could you tell me about it?’. *

Actually, the ‘how did that happen??’ is kind of wryly amusing. I’m currently working with a man that I’ve known in a round about way for about 20 years, and is friends with my (extended) atheists family members. We’ve been chatting and a few times he has made ‘Omg Christians, right???’ jokes to me (which I once would have been right on board with), and I thought I’d let him know just so he doesn’t feel too uncomfortable if/when he finds out.

So I told him, and he literally didn’t believe me. As in, laughed out loud and stared at me in shock for a minute. And then, ‘How did that happen???’. And I laughed kind of made fun of myself (as you do) and laughed at him when he joked that I was probably now going to be a pedophile and basically didn’t account for myself in a very impressive way

I need a good story. More than a tweet, less than a blog post. Something that I can tell people when they ask ‘how did that happen???’. Without poking fun at myself, or my faith, or apologizing. Something where I don’t I blither on and make vague comments and giggle a bit and say ‘But I’m not, like, a gay hating biblical literalist or anything’. I’m not looking to evangelise anyone (If I accidentally made someone a Christian I’d probably be horrified) but I would like people to respect my choice, and the best way to do that is to craft my words carefully.

I need to think of something to say that explains myself without over explaining. Something that doesn’t involve, as one friend suggested, telling them to fuck off and mind their own business. Because I’m fairly sure that’s not very Christian…

*My faith isn’t something I open with. Or really discuss much. But it has been coming up recently for some reason.

I may have to sleep in the chook pen tonight.

I’ve pulled my religious/ christianity/ faith type books off the shelves and my Grand Plan is to organise and curate them beautifully into concise sections. I’ve got ‘social justice’, ‘apologetics’ ‘NDEs’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christian living’, ‘Catholocism’, ‘Rohr’… well, you get the idea. I’ve also got ‘Really Hard Books That I’m Too Simple To Comprehend’. I’m looking at you, Brueggemann and Philokalia.

This idea was much better in theory, believe me.


The confines of humanness.

Last night, I was sitting on my bed, meditating. For me, meditation can be a great way of making my grocery list for the week, or a form of prayer whereby I pull and poke at God trying to get some attention and validation, or an almost transcendent experience (I’ll let you decide which of these is my usual form).

So, I was mediating and miraculously not planning my meal list when a huge gust of wind hit the side of the house and scared the absolute willies out of me.

It was a case of: peace-bam-fear.

And the idea instantly struck me of how incredibly limited we are as humans. It’s just all emotions, all the time, isn’t it?

We are constricted by our humanness. So confined. Just aware enough to know that there is this amazing eminence surrounding us, just able to be glimpsed and to be understood a little and imperfectly, but only by our limited and finite selves, who are so easily knocked off course by fear or lust or anger or just that general low level irritation which is barely even a real emotion- enough to distract us but without even the commitment of a real, honest expression of feeling.

We know just enough to understand our own limitations.

“Paradox, physicist Neils Bohr tells us, explodes our everday linear concept of truth and falsehood by positing two qualities that exist on a single continuum…Paradox thus points us to the mysterious place where two or more profound truths pull against each other in a tension that cannot be resolved by the clever machinations of the rational mind”

…On the frontier where human reason shades off into divine unknowing, you may find a resolution to the paradox or at least a sense of acceptance that can help you assent to the apparent contradictions in your spiritual life. But if God remains inscrutable beyond the farthest reaches of the most brilliant human mind, sooner or later we can expect to stumble across paradoxes that simply cannot be resolved. These insoluble paradoxes are at the core of faith *

The paradox, perhaps, that we are limited and finite yet eternal and heavenly. The fact that we are stuck between knowing about God, and knowing God, and our fear/anger/lust/irritation selves are pulled back to striving to know about God, when our pure selves already know God.

But then, of course, there’s this;

‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I can have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing”(1 Corinthians 13;2).

If we are going to have the chance to try and emulate the agape that we have all been given unconditionally and absolutely, by nurturing phileo, then we need all these emotions, don’t we? We need to be able to love despite our inner selves railing against it, despite anger and fear and misunderstandings and mistrusting ‘other’. We need to hone our ability to love, to forge it in the furnace of real life and real feelings because nothing good comes without work. Without roots. Maybe these emotions do constrict our ability to grasp the transcendent, but equally, maybe our very humanness is the only way we will ever be able to appreciate and understand the nature of this love. Pushing ourselves to love others through our limitations and our faults may be the way that, ultimately, we can connect with the divine.

Our very humanness is the way that we can access our god-selves, and rather than despairing at how far we have to go, we should rejoice in how close we really are.

*The Big Book of Christian Mysticism; the essential guide to contemplative spirituality; Carl McColman

Has being a Christian made you a ‘better person’?

So, interesting side effect of my new found faith is the changes that have appeared within me. Some I’ve deliberately made, (but too few of these, sadly, as I have the will power of something with very little will power. A puppy?) but when I look at my life a year ago and my life now, there are some real and fundamental differences that, while unexpected, are welcome. Not necessarily at the level of ‘Better person= selling all my shit and moving to Africa to care for orphans’ different, but growing into being more fully myself is probably the best way to describe it.

Apparently I’m a late developer. Your 40s are the new 20s, right?

Some of these are elements that I never really loved, but just assumed it was ‘how I was’. Despite decades of reinforced patterns though, they seemed to have shifted without any conscious effort on my part. I don’t know. The Atheist Me would scoff at the very entertaining of the mere thought that fundamental things about me have changed since I accepted my faith. But I don’t listen to her as much any more.

Which makes me wonder; has Christianity made you a better person? For those of you who chose to become a Christian, how (if at all) are you different as a person now as compared to before you found faith?

And for those who were born into faith, how do you think your faith makes you different from someone without it? This is obviously tricky because you don’t have a ‘before’ to base it on. But is there another path that you might have gone down, do you think?

Of course, this is all subjective and I’m not trying to prove any point. I’m also not defining ‘better’ so really, go for it. I’m just interested. I know enough now to realise that nothing is ever just me. If I experience it then I’m fairly sure that a million other people have also had the same thoughts (sob, not special) and I’d like to hear how this may have manifested for you.