My article on eating disorders and the Eucharist is now available in the fall issue of Word and World, with the theme of Bread. I'm grateful they gave me the opporutnity to take another look at research I did twenty years ago on this subject for my M.Div. project, and to consider how much the conversation around food and theology has changed in recent years.
Carol Howard Merritt at Tribal Church has a great post about "post-evangelical women" and the challenges of moving into leadership even when your new church circles officially welcome women's leadership. While I don't think of myself as a PEW, those of us raised in the Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod can certainly relate -- especially #5 about finding our voice and women's reluctance to self-promote. This post absolutely resonated with my years as a mission developer hanging out mostly with (post-)evangelicals.
Fewer and fewer denominations have policies that exclude women from leadership, but more subtle forms of sexism, unfortunately, are still very much alive -- even in church circles where women have been ordained for over thirty or more years. We're doing better with gender than we are with race or GLBT issues, but no, Virginia, we have not yet fully unleashed women's leadership gifts in the church.
I could give examples, but that begins to look like finger-pointing. And honestly, I've never found a way to write about such things without sounding whiny. Because, truth is, I benefit far more from being white, middle-class and straight than I am disadvantaged because of my gender.
I've been wondering, like Jenell, how the Dobson crowd could spin someone like Sarah Palin as their darling. I get plenty of "you're clergy so you must be conservative" mail, but Dobson has left me off their list.
Thanks to Jenell for the report on how Palin's " Christian womanhood" is being spun. It makes me think that Anna Quindlen may be right, writing in her latest Newsweek column that the culture wars are over. People are still highly unsettled about gender roles, but there is no going back. Not gonna happen.
There has been much rich conversation today about upcoming sabbaticals, sabbath, and pastoral ministry. My favorite definition so far, from David Wood, one of our co-facilitators: " A sabbatical is a time when all that has been 'background' to your ministry -- your own spiritual life, your family, the origins of your call, your passions -- is given time to be foreground, while the foreground of ministry -- the tasks of preaching and pastoral care and administration -- drop away for a time." Exactly.
On another, crankier note, I was reminded again how little we know about doing ministry in the era of co-parenting and new gender roles. Eugene Peterson is often held up as a model for how one can be in parish ministry while still doing serious reading and writing. Here's a man who served a congregation for 28 years, with only one sabbatical in the midst of it, and still wrote countless books. His secrets? Well, he clearly had a strong vision of the ministry of the laity and handed over many tasks to his members. But there's another thing -- he has a wife, one who clearly was happy to take the traditional role of pastor's wife and see that as a calling.
Well, I don't have a wife. I have an active father to my children, but definitely no wife, and not one eager to be an upfront pastor's spouse either (not that anyone at my congregation expects that of him). It's really hard for me not to be resentful of the many men in generations past -- and quite a few still today -- whose careers benefit from the fact that their spouses have willingly picked up the slack.
I have to constantly remind myself that our mission is together as a family, even though our work worlds tend to pit our careers against one another. Fortunately for Will and me, our passions and commitments are blessedly compatible, even when the reality of modern life makes us feel like we're competing for time.
My friend Jenell managed to find something useful to say about the program in homemaking that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) is offering only to women. Not surprisingly, her blend of compassion and wit made it onto the LA Times Op Ed page. Go Jenell! Well said.
I went to a Disney movie last night, and I enjoyed it. It
was, as all the reviewers have noted, new territory for Disney, spoofing its
own star brand, The Princess. Creating
Giselle, a Cinderella- Snow White - Briar Rose – Ariel- Belle amalgam, the
makers have thrust their cherished meme into the (sort-of) real world of New
York City, where she must find her way, at least until her True Prince finds
her. They manage to make you laugh at all the truly laughable qualities of the
Princess while still letting you care about her enough that, in the end, you
don’t resent the storybook ending one bit.
Well, maybe a little bit. At first, the movie seems like a
wink at moviegoers my age, who have figured out that the princess dreams we
grew up with were not necessarily our allies in facing the realities of modern
love and marriage. OK, Enchanted admits, love at first sight is not the wisest
basis for a lifelong relationship. The Princess is even allowed to get angry –
in fact, this anger is the pivotal moment in the movie. They even let her
rescue her guy, sort of.
I would be a scrooge to begrudge the ending, in which
Princess simultaneously gets her guy and grows to appreciate some of the contours
of real life relationship. At least they don’t kill off the mature, assertive,
rival girlfriend. But the lapse into
fantasy that most irritated me was when Giselle steps into a maternal role.
What, you may ask, seals the deal with her potential stepdaughter? A high end shopping spree capped by a
mother-daughter pedicure. “Is this what
it’s like?” the little girl asks. “What?” Giselle says. “When your Mom takes
you shopping.” Yes, there it is, the real thing that binds us to one another
in families: shared self-indulgence. That’s the scene I don’t want my little
girl to see.
The moment that most encapsulates the Disney mythology is near
the beginning, when the realist father gives his six-year-old a book of
heroines: Rosa Parks, Marie Curie. He wants her to have it instead of the
fairytale book she wants, he explains, because these are real life women. “See?
Madame Curie,” he points, “she devoted her life to science and research, and ..
uh . . . died of radiation poisoning.” Every man’s dream for his little girl.
There’s the rub. Fairytales never end with the heroine
actually dying. Actually, some of
them do, just not Disney’s Americanized versions of them. Despite a Disney ban
at our house, we still have lots of princess fantasies going on, and I’ve made
my peace with them by reading – reading the original tales by Hans Christian Anderson or even the
Brothers Grimm, as harsh as they may be. There is some very deep archetypal stuff going
on with the good and evil in these tales – they have survived for a reason.
Yes, mature and good women are often
lacking in these stories, but I’m secure enough in my motherhood to believe
that this alone won’t warp our mother-daughter relationship. And if I’m reading
to her instead of popping in a video, I am neither the Absent Mother nor the
Evil Stepmother. And maybe she’ll be less likely to assume that a true princess
has to have a microwaist and a $70 manicure.
Journey with Jesus is featuring a series of guest essays for the season of Advent, including pieces by Nora Gallagher and Sara Miles in upcoming weeks. This week's is from Joan Roughgarden a Christian evolutionary biologist who teaches at Stanford. I'm afraid the last writer in the series will be a bit of a letdown after this line-up. But, in the spirit of Advent, we'll just have to wait and see.
My, my recent posts have been heavy lately! Whew! Really, life is OK here in Minnesota. The leaves have fallen, which just means there's more light let in at the ground level.
Check out this blog, Beauty Tips for Ministers. What a hoot. (Thanks Melanie!) On the whole, I think motherhood has put me in greater danger of frump than ministry per se, but I gotta agree with her assessment of clericals for women (sexist conspiracy). And about the lipstick, she's probably right there too.
Well, so far the collar seems to inspire conversation only with bus drivers. Probably most of my parishoners haven't noticed a difference since they mostly see me on Sundays anyway.
I gave myself a snow day from the experiment today, not only because I wanted to be warm but also because I was going to the seminary for a workshop, and I've always been a bit irritated by people who wear their collars when they're spending the whole day with other clergy anyway. And in this case today, I knew I'd been in the company of a lot of lay professionals and volunteers, and I didn't want to be making (or be perceived to be making) any unintentional status statements.
The collar does make me more conscious of ways I may be breaking certain stereotypes:
What does it mean when the person in the collar waits for a bus?
What does it mean when, fumbling for change for bus fare, the person in the collar nearly knocks certain, um, personal hygiene items from her bag?
What does it mean that one of her clericals still has breast milk stains on it? (haven't worn that one in a while. . .)
No one else may know what that curious stain on the back of my shoulder is, but I immediately recognize it as ground up cracker mixed with saliva smeared there while my toddler gives me a hug good-bye in the morning. Both of my vocations mark me.