What does it mean?

One of my new favourite Christmas songs is ‘God Is With Us’ by So Elated.

‘Mary wakes a little piece of me…’

One of the churches I went to in Oklahoma had a beautiful statue of Mary. The church I go to now has stained glass above the altar depicting the Annunciation and Nativity. The Annunciation is one of my most favourite images in art. I know there are many evangelical Christians who would be wary about granting her too much importance. Even so, I am glad for these images of her, for she inspires me: such courage in meekness, such beauty in faith, such strength in obedience.

‘What does it mean to be the favoured one?
What does it mean that God is with you?
God is with you.
God is with me, too.’

‘Mary bites her lip and takes a breath,
nods her head and says, “Let it be done.”
Just behind this thick-skinned warrior,
lies a girl who understands the days to come.’

Today’s sermon was given by the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. He spoke first of hope, the expectation of something unseen: that hope is the heart seeing the invisible as visible. Then he spoke of patience, and more specifically, ‘patient endurance’. The pairing of those two words was revelatory to me, especially when twinned with hope. I most often associate endurance with my arthritis and other physical and mental ailments; with the long-term, with just getting through each day. It is not something I have associated with patience, nor with hope.

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Patience can be an active verb, not simply passive. I can patiently endure with hope that justice is not forgotten; that the day of restoration will include judgement as well as healing. That it will be as it was in our reading from Isaiah this morning:

‘Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”‘ (Isaiah 35.3-4)

The bishop also spoke of community and of sharing patience with others. We wait for the Day of the Lord together. But waiting, enduring, hoping are active verbs too. We wait by being the Church, we endure by bearing each other’s burdens, we hope by sharing in love.

We must ask ourselves the same questions that I quoted earlier: What does it mean to be the favoured one? What does it mean that God is with us?

Imago Dei

I was going to post pictures from this morning’s Raisin Parade, but instead I am going to write about some things I read and thought about today. Just let me pull out my soap box. I’m short, you see, and I want all of you to hear me.

It’s interesting how reading about medieval understandings of the differences in physiology between men and women leads to reflections upon modern day evangelical Christian perceptions of men and women, and how, despite our ‘modern society’, it still echoes the past. Namely, the idea that women’s bodies are inherently sinful.

In the Middle Ages, the idea was that women were not made in the image of God, and were therefore lesser spiritually and physically than men (and, because this was the point of my reading, were more susceptible to demonic possession). The human soul, of course, was sexless and was made in the image of God (see Aquinas), but regarding human physical form, only man was imago Dei; woman, on the other hand, was made in the image of man (and, in the Aristotelian view, an imperfect or deformed image of man). Along a similar train of thought, William of Auvergne claimed that good spirits only ever took the form of men and that the most appropriate form for evil spirits was that of women. Women are associated with the demonic, evil.

The modern evangelical church might not go so far as to associate women with the demonic today (however, the modern evangelical church doesn’t really like to talk about demons at all), but there is still a troubling and unhealthy perception of women’s bodies as being inherently sinful. There exists a double-standard regarding clothing and modesty: men can go about shirtless and wear swimming trunks in the pool, but women are told to cover up ‘so as not to lead astray their brothers’ and can only wear one-pieces to the pool. Women’s bodies are objectified even in the midst of modesty; women are told to be ashamed of who and what they are, how they look, simply because their bodies happen to be female.

Equally troubling and unhealthy is the implication that men are morally weaker than women. That is one thing that has been reversed since the Middle Ages: back then, women were the more carnal and morally weak, today that is the men. Both extremes are unacceptable. Neither is wholly true.

It makes me angry that we cannot see each other as persons. Though each and every one of us is sinful by virtue of being sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we are also worthy of respect and love because we, like them, are made in the image of God. And if we have been washed by the blood of Christ — if we claim to be His own — then we are new creations, no longer bound in slavery to sin. Christians should be among those with the healthiest ideas regarding the human body; it frustrates and deeply angers me that they are not.

I am a woman. I am intelligent and tend to succeed at whatever I put my mind to. I can’t be a mountain climber or Olympic athlete or a Navy Seal, but I also have rheumatoid arthritis. I am a Christian and I read my Bible; I know that I am not inherently evil simply because I am female. My sisters aren’t either. Neither are my brothers because they are male. ‘So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ (Gen. 1.27)

At last!

It is with great joy on this rainy Remembrance Sunday that I learn that Aung San Suu Kyi is free at last! (Don’t know who she is? Read her BBC Profile.)

No, we don’t know what will happen next, but after two decades of imprisonment, she is free. There is still hope in the world for human rights, however long and difficult the journey.

Fire with fire

Strike on Gaza School kills 30. They attacked a school. Not just an Islamist/fundamentalist school, but a UN run school at that—not that the former would make it any better. How in heaven or hell does Israel justify bombing, murdering children? I have been watching the development of this war with increasing disgust and frustration that I can do nothing to stop it. Why this continued pandering to Israel? The facts are clear: the Palestinians were removed from their homes, shoved into refugee camps that they’re still living in 50 years later. Yeah, Israel says it has the right to protect itself, but the Palestinians have an equal right to be angry. And when they’re unable to obtain the education and work that is their right, they’re more likely to respond with violence. This is horrific beyond words.

Meanwhile, I’m also praying for Danielle’s safety. What a time to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Skin Colored

A plug for a friend-of-a-friend’s blog:

Skin Coloured is intended to be a collaborative, visual exploration of what it is to be non-white in a white culture. Make-up, plasters and tights – even when they’re marked “flesh-coloured” – are not the colour of skin that isn’t white. And whilst white women may have trouble matching these items to their skin, for women who don’t class themselves as white, this inconvenience is symptomatic of a wider problem.

To help illustrate this problem, therefore, Skin Coloured is looking for submissions. Send us photographs that illustrate the inadequacy of provisions for non-white people, and we’ll post them on the blog, and hopefully both those submitting, and those who’re here to learn, will gain something from it.

Further information can be found here.

(I’d appreciate it if this were passed along to anyone who might find it interesting; the great difficulty here is finding other women (and, people of any gender) who deal with this issue. Many thanks.)

To a Candid world

Happy Signing Day, everyone. You [presuming you are American] should read–I dare to hope, reread–the Declaration of Independence today. You really have no excuse not to: I have provided a link for you here, and it is short and quick to read. Instead of [or in addition to] eating hot dogs, getting drunk because we can, and watching fireworks, we should be reading the Declaration in public places today. I say this not because I am a patriotic person [as I am not, really, as evidenced by an earlier post regarding patriotic music], but as an historian and as a citizen. Perhaps if we read the Declaration more often we would remember the purpose of government, of the contract we have made as the governed with the governing, and the rights and duties we have as the governed

Instead of America the Beautiful, I listened to America by Bree Sharp. Instead of going to a cook-out, I’m going to go feed the homeless. Instead of making any big plans for today, I have been rereading Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, and Jefferson. I am reminded yet again of my love for political philosophy and how it stirs in me the purpose of the individual in a larger social organism, of the duties and obligations that individual has to his neighbors and the world. [I had written a rather long post expounding upon these thoughts inspired by Locke, Kant, et al, but I’ve transferred it to my journal instead. If you are interested, I’ll still share.]

I think I would be one of those unconventional Englishwomen who lived in Paris before the French Revolution, going to salons every night and mingling with Voltaire and Montaigne, supporting the Revolution as it began and then being absolutely horrified at the monster it turned into.

On a similar, side-tracked note: I heard on The World today that Iran is considering a bill that could charge bloggers as being an enemy of the state and of God on earth [full story here]. I am incredibly thankful to have the right of free speech and intellectual copyright.

This is our summer of freedom and civil disobedience.