feminism?

Every smart Christian woman’s dilemma with the bible, women and gays

Here’s the thing, I’ve been through hell and back with God. A few times. Seriously. Hell. Then back. Then Hell again. Then back again.

So, I can tell you without any doubt in my mind that the dude is real.

I know that for some people, that might sound like a weak line of thinking for deciding whether or not to believe in an almighty creator. But if that’s the case for you, then you either haven’t been to hell, or you haven’t gotten back yet. I have. And getting back from that awful place is horrible. So when God grabs your wrist and physically yanks you out, well, it’s life changing.

It’s so life changing that I do my best every day of the week and twice on Sundays to tell other people about this God dude who saved me from the abyss. Specifically speaking, I’m a youth leader.

More specifically speaking, I’m a God-related craft creator, mission trip planner, pizza/paint/markers/poster board buyer, Bible studier, fund-raise organizer, raw tears cleaner upper, hard-question explainer, youth room janitor, church-leader-meeting attender, go-to-pray-er, sermon giver, parent re-assurer, candy bringer, and teacher who humbly hopes to help just one teenager avoid hell altogether, and prays every day she’ll have the chance to help bring at least one other back from the fire.

It’s not easy. It’s not “Christian light.” And I wouldn’t couldn’t do it without a strong faith in God.

Except. Well. Dude. Some of this Christian stuff is really hard to figure out.

The stress in my stomach started about a couple weeks ago, while I was reading 1 Timothy, Chapter 2 (Page 1875 in my Bible for those following along at home).

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

All right. “Dress modestly” is pretty vague, and the ban on braids seems pretty silly, but I can’t afford any gold or pearls anyway, so I can sort of, kind of, maybe follow this part. But then. Well, it continues.

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

I had heard those words before. But as a relatively intelligent woman, I had just decided to ignore the fact that they were in my holy book.

Except. Well, there they are. Page 1875.

To sum up: As a woman, I should shut up and listen to the men. Also, God literally forbids me from trying to teach said men anything.  Oh, and let’s bring up all that crap about Eve and the stupid apple, because obviously, if she could be tricked by a snake, then every woman ever could be as well. And, seeing as how I don’t have kids, well, I’m pretty much screwed. Er, not literally, otherwise, I suppose I would have kids.

But ya. So. What the hell?

Why is that in the Bible?

Yes, some try to say that the verse were culturally specific to the Ephesian women of the time, known for being floosies and whatnot. However, in my holy book, it does not start, “An Ephesian woman.”

It just says “A woman.”

So, for me, at least, that’s not enough.

A lot of scholars has attributed this book of the New Testament to Paul. Before he was “Paul” he was a Christian killer named “Saul.” After a crazy conversion experience, he changed his ways though, and we’re told he went about the world preaching the Good News.

From what I can tell he’s a pretty decent guy. I mean, sure, he’s got really high standards for Christians (See: Galatians 2:11-14, where Paul yells at Peter) (Yes, THE Peter), but in his other letters* he doesn’t seem to have anything against women as a whole. So how could he have possibly written this?

*Yes, there is a little blurb in I Corinthians about women being silent in church, but some believe it was inserted into the letter after Paul wrote it by one of the scribes who was charged with copying it down and passing it on.

Well, the newest research has raised objections to whether or not our man Paul actually wrote this section of 1 Timothy. The style and the word choice seem to be just different enough that it could have been someone else writing the letter using Paul’s name for credibility. It was likely one of Paul’s students though, so it’s not like it was super shady. Think of it like the Baby Sitter’s Club Books, which haven’t actually been written by Ann M. Martin for years.

Ok. So maybe Paul didn’t write this bullsh*t. Maybe it was someone else. And we can all go on our merry little way respecting women.

Except, well. It’s still in there. Right on page 1875.

And I don’t do “Christian light.” I do “Christian, whatever it takes because I have seen hell and I do not want to go back.”

So, does that mean I need to follow these teachings about women? I honestly don’t know.

I really don’t.

I can tell you that I personally believe I’ve been called to my current church, where I am not only childless, I also teach men on a regular basis, braid hair, and have authority over at least the teen-age men.

I’ve heard some very smart Christian women try to get to a place where they can submit to this teaching. They’ll say things like,

“Well, God created men and women different. And it’s an act of faith on our part to submit to a man.”

Or “Men are created to have authority over us, and when we allow them that, things just go more smoothly.”

I’m sorry, but that is total bullsh’*t.

It seems a lot more likely that verses like this were written and continue to be taught because if it’s suddenly all right for women to teach and talk and stuff, and it turns out that they don’t suck at any of those things, then all the men in the world would suddenly have a lot more competition for their power.

And I have read the Gospels, and poured over Jesus’ life story with a studious heart and a yearning soul, and I never got the impression that he was opposed to women being smart. In fact, I dare say the man was a feminist in his time — all protecting an adulterous woman from death by stoning, walking around with women in his posse, and even appearing to a group of women first after the resurrection and then telling them to be the opposite of quite about the whole thing.

Never once did he say anything close to “Women should shut up and listen to the men in this world and for crying out loud, stop braiding their stupid hair.”

And don’t you think, that if he was super worried about getting that point across, he was would have mentioned it to John or Matthew or someone to take a note when he preached it?

But even with that line of thinking, this passage in 1 Timothy still bothers me. When I read it, I feel like I’m being punched in the gut, and tears fill my eyes, because I know it does not align with what I feel I have been called to do at my church — but at the same time, I know I cannot ignore a teaching in my holy book.

The bottom line is, I don’t agree with it, I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, and I don’t know if I ever will.

But I can tell you one thing, even if every other Christian on this entire planet tried to tell me we needed a national law forbidding women from braiding their hair, wearing pearls and teaching men, lest God’s perfect intentions for the ways of the world be doomed, I wouldn’t fight for that law. I wouldn’t fund raise to pass it, I wouldn’t vote for it holding my head high as a Christian and I most definitely would not feel I was accomplishing Christ’s work by doing such things.

Which brings me to homosexuals.

I don’t agree with those parts of the Bible either. I don’t like them, I don’t understand them, and I don’t know if I ever will.

God forgive me if I’m wrong.

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The tired person’s lunch-break rant

So, I was up until 2 a.m. last night putting final touches on the gift baskets that will be auctioned off tonight at the youth group fundraiser.

I’m really excited about the fundraiser, (Shameless plug: Mission trip fundraiser 6-9 p.m. at bd’s Mongolian Grill in Bolingbrook tonight will feature myself, my awesome pastor and the our wonderful youth helper-outer grilling for tips. And, also, of course, the silent auction baskets. Please come!)

There are nine baskets and I put 8 of them together with help from my little sister and a wonderful student in our youth group. I did not ask for donations or help from adults because I’m on the brink time-management wise and I seriously did not have one ounce of one minutes to go around asking people for things only to be rejected by a solid 65% of them. So I made the infamous rookie leader mistake and took control of the task myself.

I know. I’m dumb.

So now, I’m at work (on lunch) and really tired.  Because, even with the help from my little sister and a wonderful youth student, there were still hours worth of work that had to be done last night before the event. You don’t think making bid sheets, little name cards along with corresponding envelopes for the baskets, and figuring out what to do with the last 11 items that don’t match at all will be hard or time consuming until you spend four hours on it.

The thing is, I promise you I did not have four hours to spend on it until 10 p.m. last night.

I can feel myself being overcome with exhaustion because I’m starting to get mad in my head at inanimate objects. I feel the urge to yell at the top of my lungs at my cell phone when it doesn’t load DrawSomething right, and to scream at my car when the doors don’t unlock the split second I press the key chain button, and to throw a complete tantrum when my towel gets stuck as I try to pull it off the towel holder after my shower.

Really, the problem is that I also was up until 2 a.m. Saturday night trying to get my youth group lessons finished. I got stuck because my DVD conversion program was randomly converting an MP4 file I needed upside down and backward and the whole internet world did not seem to contain the cause for such craziness, much less a solution.

So I was up half the night messing computer programs that people with my skill set probably shouldn’t even be downloading on to their computer for fear of viruses, all in an attempt to show a 5 minutes and 39 second sand-art video of the Resurrection story.

I finally got the thing to play correctly on a DVD at 7:30 a.m., after I woke at 6 a.m., prayed a bunch and worked at it again. Take that Satan.

You’ll probably all, “Crystal, um maybe you should have started working on the youth lesson sooner so you wouldn’t have these problems.”

But again, I promise you with all my heart that I did not have time before Saturday night to finalize the lesson plans.  You’ll have to take my word for it regarding the weekdays, but to illustrate the craziness that was my Saturday, here’s what my scheduled looked like:

8 a.m.: Got my taxes done. Yay because I got them prepared for free at my best friend’s job, which offers tax prep services. But boo because I own the federal government $467 dollars because having two jobs effs up your withholdings.

9 a.m.: Skype conference call for a Christian board I serve on. I had hoped to participate using my new web cam, but A. I did not get done with my tax appointment on time, so I had to take the call on my cell and then try to focus on the meeting without making too much noise with my turn signal and B. Even when I did get to my house and switch over to my computer, I realized that group video chat is different than normal video chat and you have to pay for it, so I still couldn’t use my webcam.

11:30 a.m.: Doctor’s appointment in Joliet.

Post doctor’s appointment until 5 p.m.: Finish buying all the random things I needed for the aforementioned silent auction baskets.

5:30 p.m.: Leave for a (really awesome and fun!!!) event at my church.

9:30 p.m.: Finally sit down to finish my youth group lessons.

And, just like making silent auction baskets, putting final touches on lesson plans is the kind of task you don’t think should take very long, and then you look up and you’ve spent seven hours doing it.

I will tell you that putting in the extra effort on the youth lesson was totally worth it, and that the group is doing so amazing right now and that lately there’s been a lot of fruit (in the Biblical sense) and that the kids seem to really be understanding things in new ways and by extension, I’m learning to understand things in new ways and it’s so wonderful that I truly can’t understand why the whole world isn’t a youth leader.

And I will also tell you that fundraising for mission trips is more than worth it because mission trips are little pockets of time where you and everyone with you is somehow able to physically touch the holy spirit and nothing is more amazing.

But I will also tell you that I’m giving the sermon at church this weekend (approx prep time needed: 40 hours total) and that I have to plan a night lesson for next Sunday night and that our youth group is changing rooms and has to be out by next week and so I have to somehow find time before Sunday to take care of that and that, really, I’m just extremely tired.

And when I close my eyes to pray over my lunch, I will mostly likely fall asleep for 10 seconds.

I just hope Heaven is the kind of place where no matter what you do, you always feel like you’ve had a full night’s sleep.

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My best friend got engaged!!!!!

My very best friend in the whole world got engaged last week! YAY APRIL!!!

And I’m the maid of honor!!! OMG!!!!!

We’ve been friends since she was days away from turning 13 and I was 15.

We met when one day, when this girl Shari and I decided to go knock on April’s door to ask if she wanted to walk to Dominick’s with us to buy ice cream. April had just moved in to the neighborhood and even back then I was uncomfortably friendly, and so, I did random things like show up unannounced at random doors, and ask the people who lived there if they’d like to go to the store with me and my friend Shari.

Lucky for us all, April said, “Umm, sure.” You know, as opposed to “Who the F*ck are you? Where’s my gun?!!”

If you added up all the hours we all spent together that summer, you’d get infinity. That’s how summers feel when you’re old enough to leave the house alone, but not old enough to need a job. Infinite. I do not even understand how we all fantastically wasted away as much time together as we did, but I suspect Monopoly, the card game Speed and discussions about boys helped immensely.

It’s been about exactly 13 years since then now.

13 years.

Wow.

In that time, April and I have both graduated college, lived in our own apartments, lived together in one apartment, dated hundreds of boys and spent years on the phone together. We’ve both gotten excited about alcohol and then over it, dived into the skinny jean trend and stuck with it, and grown deeper into our faith.

Deep down though, neither of us will ever fully shake the teenage girl inside us. Or at least I hope we won’t. Because those girls are SO EXCITED!!! right now about April’s wedding. They are smiling, and laughing, and speaking our secret language, and crying about the joy of it all.

And they are praying as hard as they can that peace and joy and blessings will follow us for many years to come.

So congratulations April!! You have found your one true love and I’m so happy for you that I could jump up and down and fart right now with pure glee!

Here’s to the best wedding ever!

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