Not to Speak is to Speak: Volume 3

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies,

we should find in each man’s life

sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”  

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am finding it hard to love my enemies.

Rush Limbaugh who obviously hates women and calls them sluts and makes them feel like whores.

Those that do not understand America is made up of oppressive systems and structures for African Americans especially and other minorities. That if we don’t do something about it, we are passive racists– contributors. I read this week that the Bible has “more than 2,000 passages of Scripture about God’s hatred for poverty and oppression. They see God’s desire for systems and structures to be blessings to all of humanity — not a curse to some and a blessing for others.”  Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners

(White) people that say our President is not a believing Christian make me angry. Because if he isn’t, then likely they think I’m not one either.

That Olympia Snow despairs enough about our political system that she quit the Senate this last week.

Quick to rush to anger.  That’s me.

'Meet the Sports Illustrated 2011 Swimsuit Models at STK Invite' photo (c) 2011, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas - license:

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition makes me angry.  Come on!  The ongoing female objectification implies that being healthy for women is all about fitting into a tiny bikini (especially since women very rarely appear on the Sports Illustrated cover otherwise).  The effect of female objectification in mainstream culture huge.   Does an interest in sports necessitate an interest in ogling female bodies? When boys watch their fathers flip through magazines dedicated to objectification, what do they learn about what it means to be a man? And what does this communicate to them about a woman’s place in society?   One positive, a doctor who raises concerns regarding the effects of “our pornified culture on our children”.  Miss Representation offered specific suggestions for creating change: positive change; healthy change. The link is

I’m finding it hard to love.  These things make me angry!  God says Pray for those who persecute you.

Sigh, pray for Rush Limbaugh? Pray for racist people and the sexist editors of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. —  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not to Speak is to Speak is a series I started last year. I’m thinking of reviving it.

Volume 2

Volume 1

{I Know What “ezer” Means — Further thoughts on being a Woman in the Church}

Sometimes people listen to me.  And I think,
I have a responsibility to talk about what it is like to be a woman in the Church.

Sometimes people listen,

so hear me,

this is what I don’t understand

Why are women still oppressed?

And why do (some) men not understand?
Why do (some) men treat women the way they do?

It’s not like I want to live my life angry.
It’s not like I want to live my life on the defensive.
It’s not like I want to be oppressed.

(Some) men will always question

the word “oppressed.”
They will ask: How are you exploited? How are you possibly offended

when you can be our helper?

Here’s my problem.  I know what ezer means.

Jesus was a liberator.
Women traveled with him,
supported his ministry,
anointed him for burial,
stayed with him at the crucifixion, and
saw his resurrection because they were waiting, believing.

Jesus loved women and wasn’t afraid of us.
He healed us.
He talked to us.
He listened to us.
In the early Church women were teachers, donors, apostles, ministers, laborers.

Why is the Church today so unlike what I think Jesus meant it to be?
I read the Bible and I see
Jesus gave women freedom.  Why do (some) men read it
and see separation? Partitions.
Why do (some) men only see all of our differences?
I am simply a person in love with Jesus.

I look at the Church today—so many men reading and teaching theBible from a masculine perspective. 
I see the Church today, its teachers and preachers—its magazines—its writers—its leaders —its conference speakers.
Man oh man, it is so full of men.
It is so full of entrenched hierarchy and deep biases
that the Church perhaps thinks is subtle, if they even think about it at all. 

But I see and hear the lack—of a Female Voice.
And even when She speaks, is she heard?

He said:
“There is no longer male or female.”
And I say, except— in the Church.
Sometimes people listen.
Are you listening?

P.S. Donald Miller: Women are so much more than simple sexual beings waiting for you to write our story. And you may have erased the “Love Story for Girls” but women have longer memories. You should take more care with your words.

One Perspective. 

What Can’t our Daughters Do?

I’m re-posting something I wrote a year ago.  It was my most popular article ever written with more than a thousand viewers.  So I thought it was worth posting again.  


Quickly — I want to thank all my visitors from the homepage of Welcome!  Wow!  A lotta love happens when you get featured on the homepage.  Until yesterday, this was a little ol’ blog visited by some of my friends and a few Facebook contacts. I was essentially writing to myself and my lurkers (I do have quite a few of those.)

It would kill me to have you think I’m some ranting feminist and that’s what this blog is about.  Because that is not true, about the blog, I mean. I am a feminist.  And I can rant (at times.)  Okay quite often.  But I rant — ahem write about many topics.  I post my poetry, and talk about all sorts of things from politics, faith & (dis)belief, family & parenting, depression & mental health.  It’s varied.

I’m a Haus Frau, free-lance photographer and generally vexed person who writes.  If it were not for my faith I’d be mean and ugly things would come out of my mouth.  But if you find anything golden here it is because of grace of God in my life.   Melody

I started writing these thoughts about two months ago.  But Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s NY Times entitled, Religion and Women, got me thinking, again.   I am a regular reader of his Op-Eds.

Do you believe this little girl does has the right to the same opportunities as these boys?  (Even if she felt called to be a Pastor?)

Kristof mentions Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, which I read when it was first posted online.

(I think I’m “in love” with Jimmy Carter because he lives his life with principles.  And standing up for women is sexy!  But that’s irrelevant here.)  I don’t have complete or even very coherent thoughts on the topic yet, I just want to ask some questions:

  • Is feminism as simple as giving women equality in work, home, church life?
  • Do women deserve access to anything that men have access to?  Why do some men have such a problem with this?
  • Do you believe your daughter has a right to every opportunity that your son has?  Why would a loving God say she doesn’t?  What can’t our daughters do?

Personally, I think oppressing  a woman, from war lords raping women in the Congo, to Afghani men who throw acid on girls faces, to men who psychologically abuse women, or the British woman who was arrested for being raped in Dubai, all of this should make us sick to our stomachs and even more culturally accepted things like putting women down, objectifying women.  And yes even keeping them from leadership opportunities they are obviously qualified, all of these things give men the chance to believe that women are inferior human beings.  And when you do that, bad things happen in our homes, institutions and relationships.

Sexism is any mistreatment of women, ranging from violence against women, to treating women as inferior, to objectifying a women. Any time women are treated in any way other than a respected human being with every opportunity in the world!

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted.  “The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Jimmy Carter sees religion as one of the basic “causes of the violation of women’s rights.”

As a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, he is speaking out.  The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

Why do I have a problem with women not being elders at my church? Because in its simplest form it is saying:

  • That women are not trusted by God with the complete story, or
  • that women somehow don’t have what it takes to lead the church, or
  • that women don’t have full access to God, or
  • that women  don’t have the wisdom and life experience,
  • We do not have whatever it takes.

Oh, believe you me I know (some) churches will allow you to do anything else! Serve, give, teach, be missionaries.  Just not be the spiritual guide.  It just doesn’t feel right.  In my gut.

Eugene Cho, is a pastor and leader and all around amazing, wise and prophetic person who has written and thought about this subject saying:

“Shouldn’t we work together to build a culture (even amongst our own churches) of respect and dignity? How do we do that beyond the debates of the ordination of women?  How do we do that in our lives, families and churches (or must it be connected to the issue of ordination?)  What’s clear to me is that it’s really difficult to pursue these things when we don’t hear directly from women. Or allow ourselves to listen to women… aka – that we take a posture of humility and submit, believing that God can actually speak through women as well. Why?”

I’ll tell you why.  Because they do not fundamentally believe they should be listening to women.  You can’t convince me otherwise.

Surprisingly, in a progressive place like Madison we settle for less on this subject.  It is rare in Madison that are women subjected to overt forms of sexism.  Most of the men I know are loving and open-hearted.  And so, in the church especially, women let a lot go.  We ignore the whole Elder and women being ordained issue, just glad we’re all getting along.  And in fact my church is ahead of many other Evangelical churches in the area.

What I don’t like is that we aren’t willing to talk about these things.  We need to talk about these things.  The fact that we don’t talk about it is painful to me. I believe if we want grow, to heal, and to have everyone truly empowered and working out of their gifts and abilities, it is crucial that we be willing to talk.

It takes an immense amount of energy to challenge someone on their sexism. It is much easier to sit here and write about it.  Even a situation that is simple and straightforward, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, sent me into a tailspin for about 12 hours.  I knew it was sexist.  I couldn’t believe how bad I felt and wondered how my sister, an ordained minister in her own church felt being spoken to in such a demeaning manner.  I suppose in some ways I forgot, being out of the workplace and not heavily involved at church, that this is still common, and widespread.

It would seem that sexism would be easy to recognize.  As with any type of discrimination, sexism can be both personal and institutional, obvious and much more subtle.  Do you think you could spot sexism when it occurs?  These are all in the category.

  • Definitely commenting on a woman’s looks when you should or could be talking ideas with her can be a form of sexism.
  • The use of pejorative names like ” ‘girls’ at the home office” and other patronizing terms can be a form of sexism.
  • A teacher or pastor or youth worker offering more attention to one gender can be a form of sexism.
  • Only hiring people of a certain gender for a specific type of job can be a form of sexism.  (Every support role in a church or ministry being filled by one gender, female.)
  • Expecting only people of a certain sex/gender to be interested in specific activities can be a form of sexism.
  • Identifying activities, roles and chores as male or female can be a form of sexism.
  • Steering students towards specific subjects based on their gender can be a form of sexism.

Mutual respect, openness and conversation are what we need.

I have rung the bell too many times within my church on the role of women. I try to be respectful and teachable. But I am tired of being told “Talk to so and so, who is a woman who leads…” so that she can tell me why she’s accepted the fact and is okay that she will never be an elder in the church.  Pass.

I’ve decided it’s the denomination that speaks.  Women are not pastors or ordained in our denomination.  I cannot change the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination (Or can I? my son would say.  But I know I cannot.) so I have to decide if I can live with it.

And it comes down to whether I can counteract the message, subtle as it is from the platform, that says to my 12-year-old daughter sitting in the pew — you will never do that job.  You will never be a pastor.  You don’t need to study scripture as seriously as the boys, because you aren’t accepted at their seminary.  Women do not preach.  You will not see women preach in our church.

I just think that’s sad.  It makes me very sad.

Was this sexist?

Here’s how it went down.  I was invited by my sister Paula to take photographs of her new church.  She is having her church website updated and wants it before Christmas.

After three years of seminary and commuting to work part-time at a church near Milwaukee for even longer, she’s recently gotten an appointment at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in Monona, Wisconsin.  She has been there for about three months as head pastor.

I am very proud of her and excited to help out in any way I can.  I went over on Sunday to get some shots of the morning service and activities.

She’s talking to one of the people helping her prepare for the service, a man, who notices me taking pictures.   She says something to him and  he smiles and says something.  She has an indecipherable but polite look on her face, which I can’t hear because they are about ten feet away but they are clearly talking about me.

I approach questioningly?

As I walk up she tells me: “He said that you got the  good looks in the family.”

A shocky-kind-of-limbo comes over me, which is what always happens in these situations, while I try to decipher what’s going on.  He really just said that to his pastor?  Seriously?  Should she be insulted?  Should I?  Yes, my gut tells me.  And yes.

This is one of the most subtle types of sexism.  A comment masked as compliment but clearly designed (whether consciously or not) to make women uncomfortable.

I say, “You got the I try to remember that  joke about “age before beauty.” No that doesn’t apply and why am I trying to be funny, except that I feel uncomfortable and I don’t know what to say.  Commenting on her smarts was all I could think of, in the spur of the moment.

She says, “We’re just smart about different things.  You’re definitely the better dresser.”

We both fall into a lame quiet, while neither of us knows what to say.   They begin to talk about microphones or something related to the service.  I finally mumble something about more photos and walk away, feeling sad and wishing my sister didn’t have to deal with stupid people constantly reminding her she’s a woman.

Was it sexist of him to talk about my looks? To refer to and rate his pastor’s looks by implication?  He was meeting his pastor’s sister for the first time who cares about our looks, I mean really?

When I got home, after a twenty-minute drive, I was still bothering over it and I asked Tom what he thought?

And now I’m asking you.  Was it sexist and what would you have said?

Of course I obviously do believe that this comment was sexist.  It’s a work situation and a man is commenting on his pastor’s looks.  However he does it , no matter his motives it is wrong.  Saying something in a moment like that is hard because I don’t want to make things harder for Paula or create a scene. But saying nothing is worse. Looking back, I know that both of our silence is interpreted as agreement, indifference, or fear.

And so I sit here simmering, thinking about what I should have said.


Resource:  I found this website to be incredibly helpful as I sorted through my feelings and the facts.  If you’re new to the topic or still sorting these things through, give it a look and come back and tell me what you think?

It’s about pain: Concern for Christian women in the church

This is a followup to writing about multi-ethnicity, race and culture and the culturally insensitive and offensive book, Deadly Viper. I’ve concluded that the only way to change that story is to boycott the book but even that is ineffective. And apparently the authors are “good guys” and they didn’t mean any harm. Okay.  Beyond that, I’m going to continue to follow and cheer on, virtually, my (new) Asian American contacts, for they must continue to raise their concerns about WHY this is so inappropriate.  If you want to do something, here’s the email for the appropriate person to contact at Zondervan, the VP of PR and Communication,

I keep reading on (mostly) from women blogging, and here, that aspects of Deadly Viper are offensive to women, to which I heave a sigh of frustration!  I don’t want to read their silly book.  I’m not ready to talk about my pain and concerns for Christian women in the church.  And I do not look forward to writing this post which is essentially about PAIN! Yes, pain.

Before you, dear reader, get annoyed because we women are always offended, please understand how much I do not want to talk about this, knowing you think I should stop whining.

For me it starts with questioning why people, but Christians especially, cause one another pain so needlessly?  And especially why do we cause pain for those that are different from us?  Why are Christians so dogmatic, so closed-minded, so unwilling to change, so proud, and so damn selfish?  This is a serious generalization, but I cannot stand the reputations that Christians have right now in the media and in any secular context.  I cannot stand the way many, many Christians behave, it’s embarrassing!  We, above all, as followers of Christ are instructed to love, as Jesus loved (Remember the poor, the meek, the widow, the prisoner.)

If a person is in pain, whose fault is it?  I’m especially cognizant of this question because I have three kids very close in age and my husband and I are constantly being called upon to administer justice. (i.e. break up fights.)  Is it: a) their own fault for being too sensitive or getting hurt? b) the fault of the person who caused the pain in the past so it’s pushing buttons and causing additional anguish, or c) the fault of the person who caused the pain this time?

I suspect though, as we try to figure out who did what to whom and why, that we are asking the wrong questions.  Someone was hurt and pain occurred.  Where do we go from here?  How to make it right.  How to create conversation and learn?  These are the things I try to work through with my children and these are the things we should focus on now, as it relates to very difficult painful experiences.

Let’s be real. Racism exists.  Homophobia is very real. And I can step up boldly to the mike and say: SEXISM IS REAL and alive, though I genuinely wish it were not so.  And it causes minorities, gays and women pain, sometimes deeply, scarring because it is often repeatedly happening.

And yet we live with it.  We learn to get along. Sometimes we even smile and act polite; we don’t want to offend.  occasionally, we get angry.  Women don’t want to be perceived as a bitch.  Christians don’t want to be perceived a liberal.  Many don’t want to be labeled a feminist.  Hardly anyone is willing to, dare I say it, admit to being a person that loves gay people.  And so we live with the pain of repeated offenses, getting along, and leaning on those who are the lightning rods for us, like Dr. Soong Chan Rah and Kathy Khang .   I’m not so sure who other lightning rods are for women but I appreciated Julie Clawson on the topic this week.

So where do we go from here?

I haven’t been in the fray for a long time.  And I haven’t missed it, not really.  But allow me to tell you a true story, the short version of nearly ten years of my life.  Every word is true although admittedly my perspective. I worked for many years for a para-church organization.  I was lucky in that  I was given tons of responsibility and opportunities for leadership.  I was using my abilities, influencing, it was a good place.   As fast as I could catch I was being thrown responsibility and I love it.  I was Gen X right when Gen X was a hot topic and I was able to bring that to the organization’s communications efforts.  admittedly, I was promoted quickly over just a few years.

Running parallel to this was a tension growing between myself and another leader.   He was older (by two decades ), intellectual, theological, super influential and made a big splash all the time and he had made himself integral to all aspects of the organization.

I was an up and comer and although people liked my work, and my work ethic and my productivity, it wasn’t long before it was clear that we were competitors.  There are more spiritual ways of saying it without sounding crass, but there’s only so much turf in a small organization and we both wanted it.  Were fighting for it all the time.  Oh, not to each others’ faces but in everything we did we were working toward taking charge of the area of communication. Trust me I was not a perfect leader by any means, but I would say probably my greatest vice (other than an insane desire to be perfect and in control of everything and working too hard) was working my staff too hard and not providing enough coaching.  No one had ever coached me and I didn’t know how, but that’s another topic (throwing leaders into the fire without grooming them.)  His vice?  Temper temper.  He threw a Bible at my friend in anger.  He treated people (below him) horribly.  Severe abuse which I would hear about and would bring up with my supervisor and it hit the President’s office and stayed there.  They were buddies.

Being an emotional person, I cried floods of tears at home in bed to my husband and I prayed, but at work I tried to prove to everyone what I “just knew” — that I was supposed to be the one in charge.  I was young, innovative, I was ‘the future.’  Meanwhile, I was also having babies while working full-time.  I would have these meetings with my supervisor where I would try to make him understand how horrible it all was the infighting and how people were being treated and that people were leaving the organization because of this person, and as he said “We waded through blood together.”

Then one day he brought me into his office and he had a time line on the whiteboard.  I kid you not, he had a time line for my life where I would finish out the current assignment, I would go be a mommy for a few years, and this person would have retired and then I would come back and rule!  Once I got over the hurt, knowing that he was done advocating for me AND  he was essentially telling me I had gone as far as I was going to there.  So I finished the gig I had and quit.  That was nine years ago and I haven’t gone back and they haven’t asked me.  Draw your own conclusions.


I began to read.  I first learned one of the authors owns a Media Firm (Yikes! What a revelation!)  They need some sensitivity training.  But I digress, sort of.  I’d like to ask the authors of Deadly Vipers if they have daughters.  Because if they do, how can they speak so diminutively about girls and women?  Here’s an example:

“there’s little old us looking like school girls with plaid skirts on, because we are unskilled and undisciplined in the area of character. We’re weaklings with rail skinny arms and toothpick legs.” DV, page 8

I have a daughter.  I am a daughter and a woman and I must say I resent being used as an example of weak and pathetic, totally lacking in character and discipline and I do not want my daughter thinking that she is either.  Even worse, would be my sons learning about “leadership” from macho, cool, trendy dewdes.

These guys are my worst nightmare.  They even make fun of ugly people!! Yes, I mean nerds, geeks, “four eyes,” me.  Yep guys, you’ve gone and made me mad.  How can you use ugly people in such a way?  So that did make me cringe and wonder at their sophomoric attempts at humor, and cool, and their strange lingo.  But I stopped reading when I read the phrase:  “We are asking you to go balls out with us.” mostly because I had to look it up.  They can’t mean what I think they mean …?  Go look for yourself, but I can tell you that you exclude women from your book at this point boys, as this is something that we just physically can’t do.

So forget about Deadly Vipers.  I’m tired of that topic already and I don’t really want to beat up on these poor guys.  They are just trying to be cool, and hip and relevant.  Just trying is what they are doing, trying too hard.

I shall put my Communications hat on for a second and tell Zondervan and their PR people what I think.

1) Say you’re sorry and you messed up, when you’re sorry and you mess up. Just do it cause it will make you a stronger person. Humility is a part of integrity.  Then, fix it.

Once I produced a poster for a convention featuring all sorts of images of people serving in different capacities.  What I didn’t notice, nor did the graphic designer, or a whole slew of other people who saw the thing, that all of the servees were ethnic and/or darker skinned and the servers were lighter skin.  The posters got a reaction from our multi-ethnic staff.  I was crushed.  But I had messed up.  So, I pulled the posters and they were trashed.  We quickly redid a promo poster and I can tell you that I will never forget that.  Not because I messed up, but becuase I saw how you can do so and survive if your heart is remorseful and you are willing to change.

2) Change your infrastructure. You must have women and minorities at the table on all levels of your organization if you want to stop making these huge grotesque blunders.  (Well they are huge and grotesque to me.)  In the board room, in the leadership, in the communications team, as your artists and ideas people.  I’m not an ethnic minority so I can’t speak to that, but there are people who consult on such things who could generally help the communications of an organization by having advice on the ways that you communicate and what you’re saying.  I am a woman with a background in communications/marketing and I could easily look over anything quickly to tell you if it’s insulting to women.

3) If that seems too impossible a task (to hire us I mean) then get your organization some cultural sensitivity training.  Again, tons of firms that could help both secular and Christian.  Every person on staff should get such training.

And then tonight I read about Presidential hiring process at Wheaton College and to be honest I had no idea it had gotten to be so backward.  One would assume that Wheaton would hire the best qualified person.  Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex is not only illegal, but morally wrong.  I cannot believe that people feel they need to ask that some women and minority candidates be considered,but like Justice Sonia Sotomeyor said,

“if you are a white male who thinks that race and gender don’t matter, conjure up the image of a Supreme Court made up of all-hispanic and black women, and you will know how the rest of the US feels when faced by the prospect of an overwhelmingly white male Supreme Court.”

If women want an equal world, we have to work for it by accepting positions of authority and responsibility.  Not by walking away from the fight, like I did.  But I gave it everything and frankly almost lost my faith in the process.  And so, I have to look forward to a day when men work side by side with women,  people of every color and stripe, with joy and common purpose. That did not happen for me, but I speak out because I hope that things will be better for my sons and daughters, for my nieces and nephews who are all bi-racial or of a minority culture.   It will be a better world for them.  It just has to be.

Fundamentally, it is our hearts that give us up every time.  And out of our hearts spew what we believe.  It’s our hearts that need changing.

CS Lewis wrote: The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.

Enough for tonight.