I challenge this – On banned books and women’s roles.

I saw this book cover the other day. It is in the “young adult” section.

misbehavingYA

Sure, it is Banned Books Week – so I should celebrate that people have the right to read whatever they want. While I’m OK with choices, I’m still going to question them.

It is the same issue I have with buffets. People can choose vegetables or fried meat. They can choose to eat only one plate of food, or fourteen. But we pay for our choices. And ultimately, society pays for people’s bad choices. My health insurance rates go up every year because people refuse to take care of themselves. Their health gets worse, so the costs go up, so it has to be paid for – by me. Meanwhile, I take care to eat well and exercise. I should not have to pay for their bad decisions, but I do.

We say we are all about free choice, but in some ways we aren’t. Notice light bulbs. We can’t buy regular incandescent bulbs anymore. They aren’t “environmentally correct”. Fluorescent bulbs last five times longer than incandescents. But – they can’t be disposed of in a “green” way. You can’t throw them away legally. You have to take them to a hazardous waste center because of the mercury in them. You can’t even recycle them. So in a way they are better, but in another way they are worse. The strange thing is that we don’t have a choice about it anymore – if we want light bulbs, they are fluorescent.

I’d think that if the government was really concerned about our well-being, they’d ban cigarettes for starters. Then, they’d make sure that all food was healthy – no additives or preservatives. Nothing would have extra sugar in it. We’d have mandatory exercise time during the work day too.

I don’t see any of this happening.

But back to the book cover. I am opposed to this book for several reasons. I’m not going to “challenge” it officially. I’m not going to try to get it banned. But I will bring up questions about it, and wonder why authors and publishers provide this kind of book. I will suggest how this kind of book affects us all.

This book is geared towards teenage girls. Do they really need to be indoctrinated to the idea that they have to be sexual beings? Do they need to be taught that they have to have a boy in their lives to feel complete? Is this a healthy message we need to be promoting as a society?

The “need” to have a mate distracts women from being full people. They spend their energy and money on attracting and keeping a boyfriend to the exclusion of anything else. Perhaps this is part of why women don’t go into science or politics nearly as often as men do. They don’t have the energy for it. They’ve given it all away to the goal of becoming a girlfriend or wife or mother.

Plus, do we really need to get young girls all steamy? They can’t handle the responsibility that comes with sex. Why have books that are explicitly sexual geared to this age group?

We don’t give full driving privileges to young drivers. They have graduated driving licenses. There are certain hours they can and can’t drive, and certain limitations as to who can be with them in the car. They don’t have the maturity to be able to handle the full responsibility of driving when they get their license, so we control it for them.

Sadly, sex isn’t that way. Once you figure out how it works, you can do anything, and anything can happen. Sadly, young people are still growing up themselves, and are almost never mature enough to handle the overwhelming responsibility involved in being a parent.

Sex is like playing Russian roulette with your life.

With this kind of book we are handing young girls a gun and telling them to put it to their heads. Either way, their own life will end. They’ll either get pregnant or distracted. Their energy will go into being a mother or a girlfriend. Their energy will be in relation to someone else. They won’t be their own people – strong, independent.

We all pay for this. We pay for it in teenage girls who get pregnant, who become single mothers and can’t afford to take care of themselves. So they get government assistance – which we pay for. Our taxes go up because of other people’s bad decisions, just like with health insurance. We pay for it in women who have spent their lives taking care of a house and home rather than fulfilling their dreams of being engineers or astrophysicists or diplomats.

How much have we lost as a nation, as a world, because we keep teaching young girls that their only value is to be found in their bodies, and not in their minds? We are prostituting our girls. We are selling them as surely as if we put them on the street.

Audience

Who is my audience? Who reads this? Who “gets” what I write? And does it affect what and how I write?
I am my first audience. I write to understand things. Writing helps me to clear my head. Writing is how I define myself – it is how I understand what I’m thinking, and it is a descriptive. I write in order to be me. But I don’t write about the same things all the time. I write poetry, “progressive” Christian commentary, what it is like to be an adult survivor of an abusive family, Bible study, and political pieces about modern culture and what it is like to be female. That is a pretty broad range, and there aren’t that many people that will like each thing. I write about whatever comes to my mind that I want to understand. I also write about things that I think are helpful to others, things that may give them a signpost in an often confusing world.
I feel that sometimes I have something really important to say. Sometimes I feel like I want to shout from the rooftops – hey – look at this, here’s a connection that has just come to me and it will make so many lives easier! I sometimes don’t feel like they are my words. I feel like I’ve found a treasure rather than created one. Writing is like that sometimes. It isn’t always a process of creation but discovery. Sometimes these discoveries are pretty amazing.
My audience is small. It is highly unlikely that the right person will get this information. My audience is varied – all over the world. I look at the profiles of every person who “follows” my blog. I give thanks for each person who has decided that what I have written is worthwhile enough to want to read it on a regular basis. I keep a list of every person that I personally have sold a book to for the same reason.
I don’t feel that what I write is “mine”. I feel that I am a receptacle. I feel that I am a channel. I feel that God uses me (and everyone else) to reveal things. Sometimes I’m not very good with conveying the information. That is why I write every day. I want to get better. Writing is just like any other exercise. You have to do it a lot to get good at it. What is the point of having information if you can’t convey it to others in a way they can understand it?
But I think that is part of faith and trust. I think that if God wants this information to get to others, God will make it happen. I think writing a blog is a great idea. You can write a book, but then you are dependent on a publisher accepting it and then printing it and then distributing it. You have to rely on people being able to get to a bookstore and being able to afford it, or having a library nearby. With a blog, whatever you produce is right there, available, no waiting, to anyone with an Internet connection.
Admittedly, that isn’t everyone. Not everyone has electricity. Not everyone has the infrastructure to have high-speed Internet. Not every government is OK with the free exchange of ideas. Just looking at the map of who has read my blog reminds me of this.
But I think that part of all of this is that I just have to do my part. I have to show up, and receive what I can, and offer it forth in the best way I can, and let it go. Just like casting bread upon the water I have to trust that it will get to where it needs to go.
Would it help if I had more followers? Would that encourage me, or hinder me? Would I get bolder, or more hesitant? Would it help if more people “liked” my posts? Would that mean I’d write more things like that, or less? Would it help if I posted some of my posts on larger sites? Would that change my audience, and then change how and what I wrote?
I think it is best to just write, a not worry about it. I don’t make any money on writing a blog, and in a way I think that keeps me honest. Nobody can “buy” my words. I don’t have to change what I write to suit anybody. While it would be nice to get a little money from this, I feel that isn’t fair in a way. I feel that I get the information for free, so I should give it out for free. But then, there is the time I take to write it – isn’t that worth something? But that too, was given to me by God.
Not everything I write is divinely inspired. Some of it just is rambling and wondering out loud. Perhaps it sounds strange to say that I feel that God inspires some of what I write. But to me it sounds humble – it is giving credit where credit is due. To take the credit for a connection that came to me out of the blue is to lie, in my opinion. I’m sure that some people will think it is vain to say that God inspires me (and others – I’m not alone) but to me it is the exact opposite.
I write all the time. I write every morning. I write while I’m walking at lunch. I write while I’m waiting in doctor’s offices. I write while I’m going somewhere if I’m the passenger. (Long road trips are great). I write if I’m on retreat. I write at work when it is a quiet time and I’m caught up. I keep a notepad with me all the time for ideas.
I pray to be a worthy receptacle, and that God is able to help people through me. I pray that I can help encourage others through my words, and to open doors for them to shed light on confusing ideas. I pray that I can let them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles, and to keep on working on it and through it.

Parental Advisory

I worked in a record store when the Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics labels started being put on record albums. I could (and probably will) write a post just about that whole experience, but this is about a specific issue.

I owned two albums that illustrate the problem I have with these labels. One is an album from a band called Ministry. The album is called “The Land of Rape and Honey.” The other is from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That album is called “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.

The Ministry album does not have a Parental Advisory sticker on it, but the RHCP album does.

The Ministry album has a song with lyrics about extreme violence – about ripping someone’s head off and defecating on them, because they hate them. There are many uses of the F word.

The RHCP album has nothing of the sort. There is no violence. I listened to the album very carefully and the only thing I can see that might have been the issue is a song about having consensual sex with a female police officer on the hood of her patrol car.

Murder isn’t legal. Talking about murder in a song is legal.

Sex is legal. Talking about sex in a song is illegal.

Do you see the problem with this?

If we want to protect children from learning about things they aren’t ready to handle, I’d think glorifying murder would be tops on the list.

Both involve activities between two people. I can understand putting a label on an album that has a song that glorifies rape. But consensual sex? That is illegal to sing about.

Now, to be really honest, I think that the labels aren’t the issue. I think that parents need to parent their children. I think that parents need to be aware of what their children are reading and watching and be willing and able to help them understand what they are consuming. In the same way a parent should make sure a child eats healthy food and doesn’t consume poison, a parent should make sure their child is able to process music and literature in a healthy way.

I don’t think that the government or the record store or the library should be the teacher. That is the role of the parent.

Hearing voices in the closet.

If I have to be in the closet at church about the fact that God talks to me, then there is something profoundly wrong going on. Church should be the one place where you can safely and unselfconsciously talk about how God interacts with you. You walk on a thin edge if you talk about God at work or at the dentist office or at Wal-Mart, but church? You should be safe there. You shouldn’t be silenced there.

Yet that is exactly what has happened to me. Now, perhaps the priest was concerned because I’m bipolar. Perhaps she is afraid that I’m not in fact hearing from God. I understand this concern. I wrestled with it for years. For many years I doubted what I heard and knew. I doubted my experiences. I doubted God. And yet it was proven to me again and again that I wasn’t making this stuff up.

The Biblical test for prophets is to see if what they say God told them was going to happen actually happened. I passed that test. Repeatedly. God proved himself to me. God was far more patient with me than I ever would imagine.

It is very important to me to not lead people astray. The church has enough loonies. I didn’t need to add to their ranks. So I understand the priest’s fear. I had it too. And I worked through it. But she didn’t know the stories of when God talked to me and how He proved Himself. She hadn’t been there.

She told me that talking about God was “a conversation stopper” because “other people weren’t having that experience.” This should have been my cue to leave. This was in November, when she told me the deacon discernment process was put on hold for me. Hopefully you catch the irony here. If you are in the deacon discernment process, it is because you believe you are experiencing a call from God.

So it is OK to get a call from God. Just don’t answer, and certainly don’t tell anybody if you got a reply.

I waited, and watched to see how others in church communicate about their experiences with God. And I realized in the three years that I have been there, not a single person has talked about how God talks to them. Not a single person has mentioned that they even prayed to God.

Maybe they do talk to God in prayer, and in prayers of their own words rather than the pre-written prayers of the prayer book. Maybe they do hear from God, and in more than just the already recorded words in the Bible. But they sure don’t talk about it. Why not? Church should be a safe place to talk about such things. Church should be a place where we can have a conversation with God, not a monologue about God. And it should be a place where we can share our experiences with others.

Perhaps they forgot that the entire faith started with Abraham talking to God. Perhaps they forgot Samuel, David, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaac, Moses, Jacob, Solomon, Noah, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus all talked with God. If the entire religion is based on a person talking to God and so many following people doing the same, then why are we discouraged from being part of that?

God is real. God is constantly communicating with us. We just are too distracted to notice. We fill our heads with the noise of television and iPods and videogames. When God is somehow able to get a word in edgewise we ignore it as a trick of our minds or we think we are going crazy. Or worse, we are told to ignore it by the very people we should expect would be experts at knowing how to deal with it.

I’m not special. I’ve just learned how to cut out the noise. God wants you to hear from Him too. I’ll try to write further about how to hear from God. But I know that the first thing you must do is give God a space. Make some silent time. Be alone with God.

It is crazy to follow God. And it is beautiful and amazing. God knows so much more than I could ever know. My life has changed dramatically since I started trusting that voice. It is calmer. I trust that God is in control. I know that whatever happens is meant to happen.

But to not be able to talk about God in church, aside from what is scripted in the prayer book or in the Bible? Now, that really is crazy.