Why Christianity Needs Feminism

Uh-oh, spaghettios! Prepare yourselves for a wild ride. And also, don’t be a dick in the comments section.

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but feared to do so. I was scared because a) I wasn’t sure I could give this subject the proper justice it deserves and b) other, more well-spoken characters than me have written about it, in better and more pithy ways. Why should I want to add my voice to the clamour? Why should I try to convince anyone of anything on the internet? Isn’t it better, wiser, more time efficient, to keep my mouth shut? To shut the polite fuck up? Why do I have to stir the pot? Why would I not just ask God to do the changing of hearts and minds? That’s not your job, Megan Joan. Well, first of all, being subtle or playing hard to get is just not something that comes naturally to me, so at this point in my career I’ve decided to give up on those two admirable activities altogether. You’re welcome. And secondly, I feel like it’s my responsibility to say something. As a woman, and also as someone who calls herself a Christian (while whispering “free-lance” afterward).

The reason I’m writing this post at all is because it has come to my attention, in a myriad of glaring and simultaneously subversive ways, that there is a divide between “feminists” and “Christians.” To be seen as feminist, in some circles, is to be seen as anti-Christian (because think of the babies!), and to be seen as Christian, in some circles, is to be seen as anti-feminist. To calmly put yourself in both camps is nothing short of ideological suicide on both sides of the coin. And while I’m no stranger to committing ideological suicide, I still feel like this egregious oversight needs to be corrected, or at the very least, someone should point out the fallacies of it. I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!

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First of all, before we really get started, there seems to be drastic confusion and antipathy surrounding the word “feminism”, and it needs to be cleared up, so allow me. I get the feeling, in certain social situations, to say the word “feminism” is akin to saying “I pooped my pants.” People look away, fidget in their chairs, blush, back away a bit, tense up for the smell that’s about to hit. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay to say the word feminism. It’s not dirty, it’s not bad, it doesn’t mean that you hate men, or want to talk smack about them, or think women are better than men, or that you want to kill all the babies, or that you’re now a member of the Politically Correct Police Task Force. It doesn’t mean any of that. All it means is that you believe women should have the same rights as men. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Do you believe women and men have the same right to exist? Congratulations! You’re a feminist.

What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy, and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.Caitlin Moran, How to Be A Woman

If you think women should be allowed to say what they think, you’re a feminist. If you think women should be allowed to make decisions for themselves, you’re a feminist. If you believe women have valuable input, be it at work or church or school, you’re a feminist. If you’re a woman who has talked in public today, you’re a feminist. If you believe women have the right not to be raped, you’re a feminist. If you’re not into child marriage or human trafficking, guess what? You’re a feminist! If you believe women should be allowed to take care of themselves, you’re a feminist. If you believe a woman should be allowed to say no without being called a selfish cunt, you’re a feminist. And lastly, though I may get in trouble for this one, if you call yourself a Christian, you’re a feminist. Because to be Christian, to follow Jesus, to believe the words and message of our God, is to be a feminist. In fact, the birthplace of feminism was the evangelical church, circa 1840’s. You really can’t get more fundamentally Christian than feminism. It is the traditionally conservative approach.

The fact that there are Christian women out there who speak against feminism boggles my mind, because without it, you wouldn’t be allowed to voice how you felt about it in the first place. In Caitlin Moran’s words, “The more women argue, loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hardwon privileges. Imagine if, in the 1960s, it had become fashionable for black people to say they “weren’t into” civil rights. “No! I’m not into civil rights! That Martin Luther King is too shouty. He just needs to chill out, to be honest.”

In her book Liberating Tradition (which I cannot recommend enough and which everyone needs to read), Kristina LaCelle-Peterson describes this estrangement between women and the Church in the following way :

“[Feminism] is to help women believe at a deep level something that our laws and our theology affirm – that women and men are equally valuable – but that our societal and church practices often deny…I met a young woman who had grown up in the church but somehow never really believed that women and men are made equally in the image of God; she feared that in God’s design, women are only second-class citizens. She may have heard the words about women’s equal value before God, but she has doubtlessly received the opposite message many, many times in subtle and explicit ways…American gender mores have been baptized by church tradition and repackaged as ‘the will of God’ and ‘what the bible says women should be or what men should be.’ Consequently, to challenge gender assumptions and gender roles feels as if we are rejecting Christianity, or at least parts of the Bible. But that is simply untrue. The problem is that we often assume that the social distinctions we live with flow naturally from biological differences. But they simply don’t.”

One of the best and most overlooked things about Christianity is that, among other things, it is an invitation to be fully human. It is one of the things that I have always loved the most about it. But how can we do that, how can we accept that invitation, if there is an underlying assumption that men bear God’s image more fully? Because God is equally female and equally male, and being “large enough to encompass both”, neither gender can claim that they have a greater resemblance to God. Therefore, neither gender can claim superiority or inferiority. We are equal. God did not design the relationship between men and women to be hierarchical, and scripture does not divide God’s characteristics into either “feminine” or “masculine.” Regardless, we, The Church, have done this anyway. We have tried to divide God. The invisible hierarchy takes place, despite what the bible says. I can only begin to imagine how this grieves God. And because of that, I have to believe that the current imbalance in the way men and women are perceived in the church is something that God never wanted.

So without further ado, here are some troubling arguments against feminism I have come across that I will address, and then you can decide how you feel for yourself :

Feminists are nothing but Pro-Abortion, Anti-Family Satanists

Classic. Okay, well. We all knew this was going to come up, so let’s get it over with. Let me just preface this by saying that I am not going to get into the Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice debate, because that’s a fool’s game, and it will only end in tears. I refuse to take sides on that. What I will say, however, is that I have seen astonishingly blindsided and hateful rhetoric from both sides. Abortion isn’t simply murdering a child, and abortion isn’t simply a woman’s choice. It’s more complicated than that. You can’t force an issue to be less complicated by sheer force of will. It doesn’t work that way. (I will probably get death threats from both camps now, but that’s okay.) I’m saying that you can believe abortion is wrong and still believe that women are equal to men. You can also believe that it’s a woman’s choice to get an abortion and still be a Christian. If you are a woman who has chosen to stay home and raise a family, that’s not anti-feminist – as long as it was your choice. If you are a career woman, you aren’t anti-family. It is not Us vs. Them. Christianity is about inclusivity, no matter what bible you’re reading. We can’t keep polarizing the sides like this, not only because Jesus didn’t do it, but also because from a practical point of view, it gets us nowhere. So can we please stop with this bullshit? Being pro-life isn’t antithetical to feminism, and being pro-choice isn’t antithetical to Christianity. As Buddy the Elf once said, “There’s room for everyone on the nice list.”

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Man Is The Spiritual Head/Submissive Marriage

This argument is like a pesky, slightly immortal mosquito. I have to keep swatting it over and over. For years. So let’s start with what all the cool kids are saying. There are several verses in the bible that state husbands are the head of the wives, and that the wives should submit to them. However, any biblical scholar who’s worth his salt will tell you that the word given for “head” translates as source and/or completion, not authority. So there, you think, that’s that problem solved. But is it? Because somehow, the belief that the husband makes the final call, that he directs the household, or that there are different things in marriage that men & women are suited for (i.e man is suited for leadership, woman is suited for…other stuff) keeps cropping up. The argument goes, “You can’t be a feminist and a Christian because God made men and women different, not equal.” First of all, let me just say that I don’t think this particular school of thought is Christ-like or even scriptural. Secondly, I’m going to quote LaCelle-Peterson again, because she says it better than I ever could : “You can’t convincingly say ‘We are going to do things my way because I am the head of this house,’ and in the next breath say, ‘but I am ready to lay down my life for you.’ It is nonsensical because those are opposite orientations. Rejecting the hierarchical model of marriage that is still so comfortable in this culture in favour of a marriage shaped by Jesus’ definition and demonstration of love would be truly counter-cultural…God doesn’t need husbands to be spokesmen for him in their families. That some of the marriages in the Bible depict the submissive model for marriage says more about human brokenness than God’s design, and further to that, if you are looking in Scripture for passive women who fit our stereotypes of nice, godly women, you will be sorely disappointed.”

Women Aren’t Supposed to Teach or Lead in Church

Again, this seems like a simple misunderstanding – when the verses in the bible that forbid women to speak in church are looked at critically, we realize that the writer of these verses, Paul, was merely admonishing the women in the church who were being disruptive (and not in a cool way). If you look at all the things written by Paul about women as a whole, Paul was actually an advocate for women, encouraging them to pray, prophesy and be heard. The apostle Paul was a feminist. Maybe the first one. I’m considering making him our team mascot. Therefore, it astounds me that there are churches and Christians out there who would discourage women from being in a place of teaching or leadership. However, to make a long story short, I would perhaps redirect our attention to something I heard said at a conference a few years ago : The church is impoverished when voices are missing. The church cannot fully bear the image of God if half of that image isn’t even invited to the table. Not only is it mathematically impossible – I believe it is an insult to God. To say, “we accept and uplift this part of your creation, but this half – no, they are too emotional, they are less than, and we alone determine their importance in your story” is audaciously arrogant and gross. It’s gross. And I’m really surprised and disappointed that we’ve let it go on for this long.

If you are a Christian, I want to invite you to really take a long hard look at why we, as the Church, are looking at feminism with such distrust. What are we afraid of? Is our God not capable? Does he not transcend gender? Has he not demonstrated, again and again, by word and action, that He believes women are an equal part of his creation? Why can we not treat women as He does? Why can we not make room for that? Why must we ask women to make themselves smaller, to shrink in on themselves, to be one-dimensional? The answer does not lie with God, but with us. It’s us. We did this. And if you let that thought consume you, it will. But let’s not focus on the wrong part of the story. Even in our faithlessness, God reminds faithful. Let’s step out of his way. Let’s accept his invitation to become fully human.

“Doesn’t everyone belong in the arms of the sacred?” -Lady Gaga

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Dear Awaken

Dear Awaken
 
I want to write a heartfelt note but am not sure how to use my talking words to maximum effect. To communicate these things we call “feelings.”
 
I’ve been feeling a lot like this lately.
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Due to the combining factors of Steph leaving/being sad/Sarah getting mono/Alessa being sick/summer ending/my boss telling me I couldn’t name files “Queen Anne’s Revenge” in SharePoint, I just felt tired. And sick. And alone. And depressed. And very, very, very apathetic. (Wait a second, isn’t this post supposed to be uplifting? Just wait.)
But in the midst of that, I asked you guys for help. And tonight, dish after dish of wonderful food appeared on our table, courtesy of awakeners, to feed our guests. A giant ham. Scalloped potatoes. Caesar salad. Buns. Apple crisp. Ice cream. It was scandalously lavish. Those are the only words I can think to describe it. Awakeners also showed up to visit with our guests. And I just thought to myself, when I was too tired and felt like I just couldn’t keep doing this every week, you guys showed up for me. And I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I felt like you guys were holding us. And I also felt like everything was going to be okay, which, as anyone will tell you, is rare for my personality type. And while I’ll admit that a full stomach often has that effect on my outlook, I think more of it has to do with the community of Awaken. I really wanted to tell you guys how much I appreciate everything you do for the house, and for me. This is the only time you’ll hear me give verbal affirmation for the next five years, so enjoy it while you can.
And the grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.
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Scream Queens S2 Premier : Innermost Reflections

The green meanie. Ooh.

If this show was just 40 minutes of slow motion walking by John Stamos & Taylor Lautner I would be satisfied

Oh god. So this is where Hermione actually went after drinking the polyjuice potion that turned her into a cat

Oh Taylor Lautner.  Wish he still had that long hair from Twilight because that….was amazing

AAAHH JAMIE LEE CURTIS YOU ARE MY IDOL

A Munsch to the Face? I can’t even

Jamie Lee Curtis is the only woman I would ever tolerate wearing an all-white suit. Hillary Clinton, don’t try this at home

Haha. I would watch a Netflix documentary on the Chanels

ITS MY BEST FRIEND DENISE HEMPHILL!

“Who was later stabbed in the face…and pushed out a car.”

Lea needs to look up the meaning of double jeopardy asap

What is Jamie Lee Curtis up to now. I don’t trust that look in her eyes. But Zayday, like a fool, is all “YEP ALL IN”

So John Stamos is channeling the stone-cold-weirdo persona. Bet you he’s the killer. But no, too obvious.

OH GOD I DON’T WANT TO SEE HIS HAND GET CUT OFF

Haha this show is campy as balls

When do I get to see Chad Radwell. That is literally all I care about

OH MY GOD TAYLOR LAUTNER IS PLAYING A VAMPIRE!!!! PLOT TWIST

I’ve changed my mind. The candy striper is the killer. 110%.

So if she shaved all that hair would it just grow back?

Because of course “Chanel #5” is ON THE DIPLOMA

I like seeing the Chanels poor. WELCOME TO MY LIFE CHANELS

Why does Chanel know how to knit? Like, where did she pick that up?

John Stamos shower scene? Christmas has come early

HAHAHA JOHN STAMOS HAS A HOGWARTS TATTOO ON HIS BACK

Chanel has the most accurate definition of ghosting

Their bedside manner leaves much to be desired

HAHAHA KIRSTIE ALLEY?!?!?!? What the fack

Doctor tv show? Dare to dream

I want a tv show where these “doctors” and the Grey’s Anatomy doctors collide

Oh my god is John Stamos going to make out with Chanel

“No! You look like a large baby!”

Nobody’s died yet

Kirstie Alley just amped up the creep factor so hard

Earmuffs will always be my favourite Chanel

Oh here comes a drowning bathtub scene I bet you

Haha what? A double drowning bathtub scene?

Why do these bathtubs look like torture devices

Oh, here comes the killer. NO ONE IS SURPRISED

Oh pal, you got some green stuff on your fingers.  You’re gonna wanna get that seen to.

And….here is when our journey ends.

Great stuff, but where is my main squeeze Chad Radwell?

The premier of season one was better, but I feel like this season has real potential.

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Tickled : a movie review

“I keep saying the word weird over and over again, but that’s the only way I can describe it.” -Chuck Klosterman, accidentally describing what it was like to watch the documentary Tickled

I would describe my experience of watching this movie much the same as my experience of watching Rocky Horror Picture Show in high school. My thought progression was like this:

This is very hilarious and tremendously enjoyable

Things are starting to get weird now

I feel uncomfortable

OH MY GOD WHY IS THIS HAPPENING AND WHY AM I STILL LAUGHING

This movie also had some of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard in my life, primary among them being “Yeah…he’s back into the tickling again” and something alluding to “one man’s elaborate scheme to keep watching other men being tickled” (or something like that).

There were suspenseful parts, although not as “scary” as movie reviews and trailers purported it to be. I read one review describing it as “the scariest documentary you will see this year.” But honestly, a man from the scuzzy underbelly of the internet using a buttload of money to satisfy his weird but non-violent sexual cravings and then to manipulate and terrorize other people is not that scary anymore. It’s a tale as old as time.

As far as the documentary itself went, I thought it was very well done. I was thoroughly amused and simultaneously repulsed, which are my (and America’s) favourite emotions to feel during movie-watching. I hope that the media attention garnered from this documentary will go into publicly shaming the freak show that is David D’amato, because if you can’t legally punish a man, you might as well publicly shame the crap out of him. That’s my personal motto and always has been.

In conclusion, this movie was awesome. I will probably never feel comfortable tickling or being tickled ever, ever, ever, ever again, but I give this movie 10/10. Would see again, would recommend.

Also, as a side note, every documentary I see is more bizarre than the last. I feel that this is a disturbing trend. If this is to continue, I either have to get weirder (which is a situation absolutely no one would be comfortable with), or the content needs to become boringer. That’s a lose-lose situation.


 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Father’s Day

My father has told me that he is “accepting revenue” this Father’s Day. In lieu of revenue, I hope this will do instead, because I’m poor and need all my money to go on vacation. I believe he will understand this as he is the one who bequeathed me my itchy feet.

All the words in this blog post (beyond this initial paragraph) are things my father has said – out loud, either from memory, written down, texted, or otherwise electronically captured. Behold. The words of my father await you.

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“Don’t forget to publicize this far and wide so I can quit work and be rich.”

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I don’t care about the Phantom of the Opera. I care about the jazz bar.

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I’m gonna get my twelve dollars worth.

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Dad : your mother and I are trendsetters
Me : what trend are you setting?
Dad : combining old age with parasitic couch surfing

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Dad : How did the son of Lucifer get in this vehicle?
Me : Dad, that’s a cat.

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Christmas trees are the kingpins of ambience.

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I want to come for dinner and visit with all you socialists.

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She told me I was stupid and that I smelled like fish.

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Your mother is a premium broad.

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I know what will fix this. Broccoli, water, and exercise.

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Dad: you should live long and be…prosperous
Me : dad, do you want me to live long and prosper?
Dad : yeah! Live long and prosper!
Martin : she just made you quote star trek.
Dad : is that a star trek quote? I thought they said you were supposed to go where nobody ever went.

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I don’t have the time to deal with ignorant post graduate high school markers.

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Me : Dad, why are you watching Justin Bieber on youtube?
Dad : just because I can.

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I know that. I know that. You can’t tell me nothing I don’t already know. I think like a Darwinian.

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This is an estrogen tsunami and I’m going to go hide in my room.

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Big Jim says hi. And pray for Stephen because it says in the bible to do that.

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Rise up and bless the Law Society tomorrow. And don’t fart at work.

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Me : Why are you driving so slow
Dad : I’m preserving the integrity of the silver auto

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Who’s this long-hair coming up the driveway? Is he selling you drugs?

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My favourite euphemism for a delivered sermon is chong.

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I’m a jesuit, and jesuits mow their lawns.

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I ain’t going on that. You have to wear a helmet.

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I wanna be the rhythm guitar player in Celine Dion’s band. Or a tow truck driver on the coquihalla.

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I look like George Clooney.

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I’m the closest guy to Jesus in this room.

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I would say there are no answers, but somebody would hotly contest that point too, so I won’t say it. Better to listen and nod.

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Our own church is a grab bag of everything under the sun, just like the rest of life.  Only an idiot—or masochist—would even attempt to sort all that out.

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I think, would I want to wade into all this controversial stuff and get my ass shot off when I could be sipping a cool one at Earl’s?  Is that a bad attitude?

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Is not gospel for the populace?  It is.  Did not Jesus our Lord come to the common people?  He did. Has not the church always tried to express itself in local idiom?  It has.  Talking like this makes you feel like Rick Warren.

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 I get to wondering why he would want to be hated by a zillion Muslims and all the women in the world, but it seems to cheer him up.

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Television furthers the moral decline of the soul.

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Looking on, I am happy for you.  I don’t think you could have found a better situation.  That said, I do feel wistful when I think of you in Calgary…. ” sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years/  One season following another, laden with happiness and tears…”  I wonder if it would be any better or any different if we had it to do over.

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Ode to my Mother

My best friend’s mother passed away two years ago.

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We were taking a break. It sounds odd to say – “we were taking a break from death” – but that’s what we were trying to do. Lying in my bed at my parents’ house, laughing over something only the two of us would find funny. Like we’d done countless times since we were twelve, and probably like we’ll do countless times into our old age. Our laughter didn’t sound the same, but we laughed anyway. The phone rang, and I remember wishing she didn’t have to answer it – maybe we could just stay in the moment in between moments. But of course we couldn’t. It was the news we expected – Joyce had gone – and I felt a sensation like falling. I tried to hold on to Steph’s grief for her, but she slipped right through my fingers. I watched her go into that other landscape. Come back, I wanted to yell. Stop. Wait for me. I don’t want you to go by yourself. But I couldn’t go with her. After all, I still had my mother. I didn’t know what that was like. I prayed that I never would.

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On one of those nights, I slipped into my parents’ bedroom, just to make sure my own mother was still alive. That sounds silly now, but at the time it seemed absolutely imperative. Like I’d die if I couldn’t see her breathing. I crawled into the bed on her side and I let my mother hold me. Maybe I was too old for that, but I didn’t care. I thought to myself, “There’ll be a time when I’ll give anything to get this moment back.” Because I can’t keep my mother forever. None of us can.

To those of you who have lost your mothers, you are braver than me.

My relationship with my mom is complicated. Everyone’s is. To those who say their relationship with their mother is simple and uncomplicated and unfettered, you’re tacky and I hate you. My father once said to me, “You fight with her all the time and you tell her everything. You don’t tell me nothin’.” (Which isn’t true, by the way, I do too tell him things. But he was right about one part of that sentence.) My friends are amazed by the way I talk to her, sometimes in a bad way. The familiarity both amazes and scandalizes them. “You talk to your mother like that?”

I have favourite things about my mother. Likely you have favourite things about your mother, too. She watches the Space channel. A lot. Would I say too much? Not here. One time she tried to watch Battlestar Galactica on my computer and accidentally downloaded a porn virus. Her curiousity about the world around her. “You guys, what does ‘getting jiggy’ mean?” I like watching her at parties, I like watching her talk to my friends. I like eating her toast and taking her books. I like the way she laughs when I tell inappropriate jokes, like she really shouldn’t be laughing but she just can’t help herself when faced with the ingenuity of my wit. I like listening to her boss people around on the phone. There was a time when she came along as a “chaperone” on some sort of “youth trip” – one night we were behaving like teenage girls do at 3 am, and I heard her footsteps coming. I dove into my sleeping bag and pretended to be asleep. The others didn’t follow suit, didn’t notice I had dove for cover. Maybe I should have tried to warn them, but after all, bitches gots to learn. The next day, they said to me, “Megan, your mom is scary.” I smiled grimly, but proudly. You’re goddamn right she is. When caught up in a crisis, I’ll remember that my mother exists and I can call her and her advice will ground and center me. I won’t be drifting anymore. I like her dorky jokes and her sarcasm. Her care for others. I like how her face turns red when I yell “TAMPON!” at her. I passionately hate anyone who criticizes her (who’s not within my immediate family).

When I was a child, I tried so hard to imitate her. When I was a teenager, I tried so hard not to imitate her. In my twenties, if anyone accused me of being “just like my mother” my reaction was surprise and slight pride, mixed with a wry acceptance. Sometimes I look down at my hands to see if they’re like hers, but they aren’t. She often says, “Megan doesn’t want to be anything like me”. That’s not true. It’s complicated, Mom. I’m you and I’m not you. Sometimes I look up and there you are. And sometimes I can’t find you at all.

I went for a walk with Maren the other day. She was unsure about it at first.

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Maren is famous, Maren is diplomatic, Maren is insightful, Maren is beautiful, Maren is one. We are not biologically related, but someone tell that to my soul, because I love her with everything that I have. Without purposefully deciding it, we ended up walking around in Sunnyside Garden Centre. Maren waved her arms ecstatically about. Babbling in that way that she does. Flowers, Maren, flowers, I told her. These are important. And then I realized, somehow, I’d turned into my mother. My mother always took me to garden centers. She had a penchant for doing so, in fact. Countless times I’d trailed after her at Dunvegan Gardens. It’s become part of the furniture in my memory. You repeat the best parts of your mother without even realizing you’re doing it.

There is a picture of me as a toddler looking down at my mother from a window. I had seen her and recognized her. Mom liked this particular picture because she says it “spoke to our connection.” It is, indeed, the expression of someone who has seen her mother and knows her.

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I hope that when my turn comes, as I know it must, I can be brave too. I hope that I possess just a fraction of the grace and resilience as my friends whose mothers have passed. In the meantime, I’m lucky, fortunate, blessed beyond comparison. My mom is still here. I’m thankful for the time that we still have together, the things we’ll do, the memories we’ll create. The hours you could have spent with your mother, it’s a lifetime in itself.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I wouldn’t have wanted any mother but you.

“When you still had your mother, you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing…then you will feel gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. Wait til the incomprehensible power that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you shall always keep something broken about you. Know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, and that you will constantly remember more and more.” –Marcel Proust

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Is Christianity bad or good?

I don’t want to be hysterically decried as a loony heretic (I’ve been called worse) – so in my defense, let me just say that it’s okay to ask this. It’s just okay to ask it. We can ask, we can consider the entire spectrum of questions without guile. And no matter what, don’t stop believing, because Journey’s Steve Perry says we should never, ever do that.

The wider question, is organized religion harmful or beneficial to a person/group of persons, is more general and feels more palatable, so maybe I should ask that instead. But I care more about asking if Christianity is, because I go around calling myself one. Hey, I’m part of that! Lately I’ve taken to tacking on “free-lance” at the end of the word. Like if I’m meeting someone for the first time, and it comes up…”Oh, so you’re a Christian?” I always feel the sudden recoil from them. “Free-lance,” I smile uneasily, trying to soften the blow. Praying we can just go on to the next topic of conversation. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Mostly I’ve always been able to answer this question more or less to my satisfaction without losing any sleep over it, but this week in my facebook feed one of my friends posted an article entitled “Escape from Duggarville : How Playing The Good Christian Housewife Almost Killed Me.”  At first I was like, I’m not going to read this, because it’s going to be depressing, and I just want to go to work and go home and eat carbs and watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I’m tired of caring. But then I did read it.

I thought it would be an open-close case of spiritual abuse in the name of Jesus (unfortunately, it happens alarmingly often) and on some levels it was. But there was another facet to it that I hadn’t anticipated. In the article, she opens with this statement :

Whenever I talk about my escape from the Quiverfull movement, Christians immediately dismiss my experience by saying, “Your problem was not with Jesus or Christianity. Your problem was that you were following an extreme, legalistic cult. Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus.” It can be extremely frustrating. I was in a close, personal relationship with Jesus for over 25 years….I did file for divorce and rescue myself and my kids from the tyranny of patriarchy. But for me, the primary break up was with Jesus.

Often, when we hear of cases like this, Christians will say that this is a fringe case. She was in a cult. Those fundamentalists aren’t like us! She didn’t experience the real Jesus. She and her husband were not correctly interpreting the bible. Etc.

Those things may be true. But as I read it, and those thoughts went through my mind, I also thought, I can’t go around saying that my experience is truer than hers. I’ve had an experience of God which has been positive (sometimes). She  has had an experience of God which was 100% heartbreakingly negative. But who is to say that my experience of God is real, and hers simply was not? To say so would be to minimalize her pain, to sweep her under the rug. I did not wish to dismiss her so easily, though I could have. It would have been easy. But it would not have been right.

At therapy the other week my therapist (I love her) handed me a picture of an elephant. Above the title was “A Metaphor For Dialectics.” There were blindfolded people all around the elephant, and the different people were touching the elephant and saying, “It’s a board!” or “It’s a rope!” Or etc etc. My therapist was pretty confident that this would clear things up for me. I gave her The Look, shook the picture in the air and shouted “Yeah but…it’s still a fucking elephant.

Duh.

Duh.

Truth can be both objective and subjective. Which is what makes this conversation so tricky and ultimately impossible to come away with concrete answers to.

With that in mind, I asked myself again, Are negative experiences of Christianity true, or are positive ones? At its core, is christianity harmful, is it negative, is it bad?

Here’s my humble (not so humble) opinion : if you want to believe that it is bad, you will find examples. They’re out there. Evidence, statistics, examples, personal experience. If that’s what you’re looking for, then that’s what you’ll find.

Likewise to the other side : if you want believe that Christianity is good and awesome and that we’re doing the world a favour, you’ll find examples. They’re out there. Evidence, scripture, personal experiences, whatever you want. The world is your oyster.

But I guess I’m not interested in that anymore.

I guess what I’m interested in now is people. I’m interested in their stories. When we say things like “That wasn’t real Christianity, that was just spiritual abuse” – fair enough. But when we say things like that, we also effectively excuse ourselves from having to engage with the issue on any real level.

There’s another way – we could, instead of explaining it away, just enter into it with her. That way is messier, and more time-consuming. We could feel compassion, instead of giving rebuttals. Listen just to hear her, without waiting for our turn to reply. Maybe explaining how injured people are wrong about Christianity shouldn’t be our top priority.

And I guess the reason that I feel that way doesn’t have anything to do with me. Strictly speaking, I ain’t a people person. I love other people and I want to hear their stories because Jesus does. He gives me that grace and that love.

“I say to my non-Christian friends and neighbors, if you want to see the gospel of Christ, the gospel that has energized this church for two thousand years, turn off the television. The grinning cartoon characters who claim to speak for Christ don’t speak for him. Find the followers who do what Jesus did. Find the people who risk their lives to carry a beaten stranger to safety. Find the houses opened to unwed mothers and their babies in crisis. Find the men who are man enough to be a father to troubled children of multiple ethnicity and backgrounds.

And find a Sunday School class filled with children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. Find a place where no one considers them “weird” or “defective,” but where they joyfully sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”

That might not have the polish of television talk-show theme music, but that’s the sound of bloody cross gospel.”

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