Tuesday 29 September 2020

A Brave New World

 I saw a great quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg today. She said:

          Fight for the things that you care about,
             but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

I needed the reminder, because quite often the things we care deeply about may be of no interest, or even be an anathema, to others.

A few months back, I wrote out the things I care about in a reply to someone on Facebook who had requested the chance to debate our different points of view. I have waited over two months now, so I think I can safely say this person never had any intention of discussion. I suspect that they thought I had no clear argument, no way to prove my point of view, and expected it to be over quick and easy.

It seems that sometimes, when you fight for what you care about there will be those that run and hide.

Since I took a fair time to research and write my response, and it is very much about the things I care and fight for, I've decided to share it here. I have removed what he wrote to protect his privacy.

He disagreed with my opinion that Jesus was a feminist. 

Here is some of what I replied:

Jesus really was the first pro-women's rights activist I ever read. He said men would be judged as much for dirty thoughts as for acting on them. He told the men stoning the adulteress that they were only worthy to do so if they were without sin. Admittedly, we now know that Mary Magdalene was not the Prostitute who wept on his feet, but the story of the prostitute is real (just tagged onto Mary M without any actual proof) and had impact on me. I've seen society castigate women more than men when it comes to sex and adultery. Blame that on three years of Catholic schooling with nuns telling me how girls wearing the wrong clothes were evil and harmful to boys. Ugh...

I think it had impact because at the time I was reading those stories I was coming to terms with having moved to live in a misogynistic country. I never considered myself a feminist in my teens or 20s. It was only when I spoke to others about things I saw as perfectly normal that South Africans (and some Americans) told me I was a feminist. But by British standards, I'm pretty average. My Scottish husband was and still is way more feminist than I am. 

Jesus was right - no man has a right to throw the first stone and yet... they still do! Women are still more likely to be seen as sinful for anything related to sex or promiscuity than men are. It also struck home how Jesus included teaching women as well as men (Mary and Martha) and how he chose to show his resurrected self first to Mary Magdalene. A woman.

To go deeper, if we take into consideration the Patriarchal background of Judaism, then Jesus' teaching become even MORE radical and Feminist. He talks in public to strange women, which was almost as much a no no in ancient Judaism as it is in Islamic countries today. He even talks to women who aren't Jewish, like the Samaritan woman at the well. 

Not only that, but in the story of the woman he heals on the Sabbath, he calls her a "daughter of Abraham". That is heresy - there are only SONS of Abraham in Judaism. No daughters are given a title of respect. Jesus did that. He elevated women to an equal footing in Judaism. That is huge. Plus he had women followers. Also highly "not done" in Judaism. He not only taught women, but he had them go with him, same as his disciples. I couldn't remember their names, so I had to look that up.

Luke 8:1-3:
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom several demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”  

Mark, 15:41 mentions them again: “These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him”

I'm going to end this with a wonderful quote by Diarmuid Ó Murchú, that I read a few weeks after I wrote my own thoughts on this topic. It's from The Center for Action and Contemplation

"Of all the Gospel material related to women, none is more enigmatic and empowering than the role of the women in post-Resurrection space . . . I [wrote of] the women on Calvary remaining faithful to the end. For those women, it was anything but an end. Even when the male disciples fled in fear, they remained to await a new frightening dawn that would propel them into a mission transcending all other missionary endeavors recorded in Gospel lore. The early church seemed unprepared for the archetypal breakthrough and proceeded to consign the women to historical invisibility."

Thursday 10 September 2020

Just add Love

This year has been hard on everyone, an extremely rare thing in the history of mankind. From politics to climate change disasters to a worldwide virus pandemic... no one has been able to avoid stress. And, not surprisingly, a lot of people are struggling.

I was talking to a friend about the way high levels of aggression I'm seeing online lately. It got me thinking about something Gabriel said to me once - how there were no "good" or "bad" emotions, just different ways to deal with them.

Being angry or scared, for whatever reason, isn't in itself a bad thing, but how we deal with that is important. Which is easy to write, but what exactly does it mean? How do we manage to ensure our anger or fear is a positive experience rather than a harmful, negative one?

Gabriel kind of shrugged, as if this should be obvious, and said, "When in doubt... just add love."

Even now I'm still somewhat the sceptic, I was not convinced until I gave it a try. Honestly? It really does work, but it takes a certain mindfulness. For each strong emotional reaction I had that day (and there were many because the political back-stabbing is horrendous at the moment) I had to pause... step back and look at the emotion I was feeling... and add love. And within seconds my stress would ease and my outrage or anger would shrink back to manageable or even vanish altogether.

When life turns you into a lemon, just add love. ;)

Remember the feeling of love in whatever way works for you, and then look again at what is scaring you or making you so angry with that filter of love  between you and your problem. Same with grief, jealousy, hate or any other nasty little emotion that shows up to ruin your day. Add love. I guarantee you'll begin to feel a difference.

Thursday 3 September 2020

Closure is not a Door you Close

Last weekend, my high school held their reunion online, since covid has made gathering anywhere impossible. I've never been to any school reunion, but I did end up staying for a while in the group chat related to this year's gathering. It was a strange feeling, seeing some names I remembered and a lot I did not.

And depressing, when people started to list those students now dead from cancer and other various life misfortunes. I was thinking of leaving the room, when someone I did know commented on one of the cancer victims, a girl named J. Someone said how sweet she was and another that, "She was a lovely Christian" and instantly all I wanted to do was open my mouth and say... too much.

I made one dry humour comment and left. 

I'm not sure if what I did was right or wrong, but it felt... unfinished. So, here I am, talking to myself most likely, but ready to finally finish and let go. It's time for closure.

So... I am sorry that J died of cancer, but she was far more than "sweet" or "lovely". She was a mess, emotionally mixed up, angry and unheard. And seems no one realised that. Or did they? Do they now want to forget and bury that part, because no one did anything to help her?

J started high school as my friend. We were both from the same junior school and so casual friendship became "best friends". I knew she was unhappy about several things, we did talk sometimes, but I had no idea how deep that went until it became rage. That was when we were about.. 14? One day at lunch, she just stood up, turned around.. and started kicking me.

I can't remember what I did. I remember being shocked speechless. My best friend was attacking me. WHAT THE HELL???

It was the first time in many. For the next few months, every chance she could get, when we were somewhere quiet, she'd attack me. Kicking, stamping on me, whatever. Did I fight back? No. She was my best friend! And plus I could only think this craziness was because she was hurting badly or angry at someone else. I didn't want to hurt her more. I wanted her to calm down, stop, and talk to me. I didn't tell a teacher. Never even considered that, to be honest. It was my problem and I would deal with it.

Except... I wasn't dealing with it. I thought she'd calm down. She didn't. I thought she'd eventually talk it out. She refused. And eventually I just began trying to avoid her at all costs. The lowest moment was one day when she managed to ambush me in an empty courtyard. I remember feeling so tired of it and bruised both of body and spirit, when I realised we were being watched. A mutual friend of ours, M, who went to the same junior school. She was standing at the entrance with another girl, just standing there watching.

The worst part of that moment was realising that friendship meant nothing and I couldn't trust anyone. The more vital lesson of that moment was realising some far greater truth - people don't get involved. Even when they know you and like you... they stand and watch.

I'd remember that a decade later, when someone commented on how the Germans were bad people because they never stopped the Nazis. If two high school girls are too scared to tackle a girl bully who was shorter than both of them... then why on EARTH does anyone think that German civilians should have stood up to men with guns and the government behind them? So although I truly did judge my friends severely for that moment in high school, it led me to judge others with more tolerance as I grew older and wiser. Not a bad trade, really.

And what happened to J and M? J stopped attacking me eventually. To this day, I have no idea what triggered that. We eventually reached a friendly truce, but we never were true friends again. In an ironic twist, I was present on the day a group of girls bullied J in art class, throwing her prize scrap book about the class until she was in tears. That time I was the one who stood and watched and did nothing. It wasn't for revenge, just wasn't sure she'd appreciate being rescued by her past victim.

M... we stayed friends a year longer, but the sense of betrayal never quite left me and eventually led to the death of our friendship as well. Not helped by the fact that our friend group took sides without ever bothering to find out facts. For some reason, even though I'd been the victim I was portrayed as the bully in schoolgirl gossip and lost about five close friends by the end of it all. Another "lovely Christian" school friend, held onto the gossip grudge with such pious intensity that she actually phoned me, several years after high school, to tell me she wasn't inviting me to her 21st birthday party.


Not surprisingly, my final year of high school was mostly spent avoiding making any close friendships! It would be about 20 years before I made any close female friends. Trust broken is not easily mended and closure is not a door you close, but more a series of doors you open revealing more truths and more lessons about yourself and the world around you.

Time to open the door, walk through and move on.