My mother, a March-born soul, loves the natural world.
I’ve sent her these cardinals in honor of her birthday and hope she enjoys them.
My mother, a March-born soul, loves the natural world.
I’ve sent her these cardinals in honor of her birthday and hope she enjoys them.
Today I finished Hollywood SDA’s sermon series, 5 Deadly Sins of the Church. I’m grateful that the church posted them and has kept them available to those of us who aren’t local but still enjoy learning with others.
1. Patriarchy + Heterosexism (video): I was so glad to hear Trisha distinguish between loving people for who they are and loving people despite aspects of themselves. This is something I’ve been learning to teach by example, and thanks to the curves of my life and the communities around me I’ve had a lot of practice.
I’ll be happy to listen to the presentation again but do not see what some people have found so offensive about her thoughts. Given the thumbs up-to-thumbs down ratio and the wild viewing numbers for that video compared to the rest of the series, my hunch is that thumbs-downers have reacted to the topic and the implications they see in it but have not yet engaged the actual content and the people represented in it in an open, dialogic way.
2. Racism + White Privilege (video): I appreciated Jin complicating the common white/black binary. Wish he’d been able to speak more about how racism flows from sexism: it was a provocative idea. Great points on how demonizing Those People leads to fear and bigotry, and how it’s more our psychology than our reasoning that blocks intimacy with Others and is the root of social prejudice.
I nearly retweeted Jin’s line about minorities snacking on the crumbs of white privilege instead of choosing a different way to engage a dysfunctional social order (I still might tweet it!). There’s a lot to be said for an oppressed group absorbing messaging that harms them and using it to police themselves or attempt to control others. For du Bois this was linked to the “double-consciousness” of “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Freire also tackled the tie between an oppressed people and their oppressors’ values in his pedagogy books.
The last 10 minutes re. sullied reputations and crucifixion was almost prescient for the Hollywood community and I wonder how much of that foresight was conscious.
3. Nationalism + Militarism (video): My perspective on Maury’s talk is skewed in part because I’m not an American, I lean pacifist, and the Seventh-day Adventist denomination’s recent apathy about war, combat, and the attitudes that nourish them is really uncomfortable for me. I’m curious how American citizens respond to this message, and have bookmarked the book Maury suggested (Theology for a Nuclear Age).
I struggled with the “redemptive violence” frame for war, though I understand that redemptive violence is a common way of looking at, say, the crucifixion of Christ or how God might resolve “sin.” I agree with Maury that “war no more” is the target but do not see redemptive violence among men or from God as a viable way to get there.
4. Consumerism + Ecology (video): I enjoyed Ched’s comments on a rounder way to engage Sabbath. I’d never thought to consider it the 1st commandment rather than only the 4th though I knew it preceded the Sinai story. I have come to treat it as a ritual answer to our programming to grasp for more rather than live “enough.”
Something Ched can’t do from his perspective but which I hope more Adventists do from theirs is to wrestle with how the Adventist lineage can inspire more engagement with this world as it is (i.e. ecological responsibility) instead of less engagement ahead of apocalypse. If one text were enough to settle this, Revelation 11:18 might be it. But one text isn’t enough and we need a more comprehensive model: the church’s apocalyptic bias will probably not go away but it can be channeled such that it doesn’t produce fatalism or passivity.
5. Classism + Wealth Privilege (video): This is a topic I think about a lot because of where I live and my place in this society. The apostle James’ teachings on partiality are important—and I actually think they cut in both directions: they address the comparative rich (us) looking down on the comparative poor and the comparative poor (us) making assumptions about the comparative rich. I grew up and went to college in two hyper-class conscious societies, and I see how class consciousness binds everyone who participates in it, not merely the rich and not merely the poor. Income and wealth may grant us certain kinds of options, but they can also constrict our vision in other ways. I do agree that wealth grants out-sized influence in this culture but I don’t see this or any other privilege as one-dimensional.
Blessings and love to Trisha, Jin, Maury, Ched, Ryan, and the Hollywood SDA community. Thanks so much for sharing!
I enjoyed watching PBS’ Makers documentaries a few weekends ago: Women Who Make America. I also enjoyed reading other people’s reactions to it on Twitter and other sites where women activists gather.
Sometimes these historical retrospectives make me nervous because it seems that we prefer to remember great movements as clean; we like our heroes (male and female) to be simple and coherent—and they rarely are.
The 20thC women’s movement still holds the fragmentation and internecine conflicts it had at its start and we haven’t yet worked out how to advance multicolored solidarity amongst ourselves rather than monochromatic uniformity.
As much as people like Phyliss Schafly often baffle me, I realize that we all have our parts in the story. I’ve been looking at some of the young teenagers I’ve met since I moved and it makes me wonder what model of Woman they’re seeing in me. I still have crisp memories of some of the older women around me when I was their age; some of them showed me by example what not to become.
Do I consume the people around me? Do I encourage them to be as large as they are? Do I hinder them to promote myself? Would I sacrifice them to save the system? Can I recognize them as part of my community even when they don’t manifest as I expect? Do I stand up for those whose experience is absolutely not mine?
I am an instance of Woman in this world; does my instance add value?
The unfaithful witness is the one who simply transmits the conventional and familiar, unchanged and undigested. He is unfaithful, in the first place, because he is lazy. For the labor of interpretation and contemporization, the work of ‘translation,’ is grueling work and it is never done without abortive trials and breath-taking risks. . . . He who simply repeats the old phrases takes no risks; it is easy to remain orthodox and hew to the old line. But he who speaks to this hour’s need and translates the message will always be skirting the edge of heresy. He, however, is the man who is given this promise (and I really believe this promise exists): Only he who risks heresies can gain the truth. —Helmut Thielicke, The Trouble with the Church
Thanks to Ryan Bell for sharing this quote: it is equal parts inspiring and unsettling, which strikes me as the right balance to take!
There are very few things: there’s love and work and family. And this movie is so special to us because it was all three of those things. And I’d like to thank all of my families, the tribes that I come from. —Jodie Foster 
At the Golden Globes earlier this year, actor Jodie Foster sparked conversation about self-revelation, privacy, and how public figures shape their inner and outer circles. A recent post on fundraising and family imprinting pointed out that many of us grew up in families or subcultures where the most common undertones were notes of scarcity rather than abundance. And a powerful personal essay by inaugural poet Richard Blanco on family, abuse, and [not] belonging made the rounds during Inauguration Week. In it, Blanco describes absorbing, resisting, accepting, and transforming the incredibly negative messaging he received from Cuban-American relatives as he grew up.
These stories made me reflect on how much our early and adult networks influence the kinds of messages we receive, and what responsibilities fall to those with power to shape both messages and networks.
We all receive several kinds of messaging through deliberate and implicit instruction as we grow. This isn’t a nefarious process: it’s how we’re socialized, how our families and communities acculturate us to the wider world.
Adults teach us by affirmation or approval whether our successes mean that we’re intrinsically “smart” or have earned achievement through hard work; from them we learn whether and how much self-confidence, persistence, and resilience are worth developing. Girls taught that their success is due to hardwired intelligence seem to deduce that if they can’t crack a new problem or skill quickly, their failure comes from not being “bright” enough to handle it. Deductions like these can have lifelong impacts.
Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the Bright Girls — and your belief that you are “stuck” being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. This would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they’re not. —Heidi Grant Halvorson
Because of structural inequity, teacher neglect, and deliberate discouragement from the gatekeepers around them, minority children also learn that some disciplines aren’t for people like them. First-generation, female, ethnic minority, and working class students build up additional barriers to progress rooted in messages about their native competence or inadequacy. The so-called Imposter Syndrome is named for these internal barriers and is surprisingly common across demographic categories. Young black men respond to cultural assumptions about their supposedly inherent violence or delinquency, either by playing down to the type or by overcompensating so as to appear as non-threatening as possible. A message like this seeps into the interpretative background even for a man who becomes POTUS, President of the United States.
Add to this mesh a multiplicity of messages about religious or non-religious identity. Layer on rules about trust and vulnerability, boundaries and intimacy, friendships and sexuality. Weave in messages about the right sort of personality, how much sociability is too much (or not enough), and how service-minded or others-centered one should be. Unwind these strands during puberty and complete the web in early adulthood. No, no… don’t struggle too much in the middle of the web. It’s supposed to be that sticky.
I see no single factor with more power to advance or hinder a person than their social web: their relatives, relationships, and network of acquaintances, and the quality of interactions and assumptions among them.
There’ve been a handful of pivot points in my life when I’ve reviewed my own social web. Who surrounds me when I’m learning about myself and how I fit into the world? What do they undermine or affirm about me?
And how about your web? What do your connections encourage or criticize? How do they support your efforts to learn and grow? How do they resist your next steps? What do they add to you? What do they undermine? How do they nurture you? Do they nurture you?
At forty-one I realize I’ve been sad all my life and have always written from that psychological point of view. I am inspired by the melancholy I see mirrored in others, in the world, and the ways we survive it. I strive to capture sadness and transform it through language into something meaningful, beautiful. —Richard Blanco
Blanco’s story struck me when I read it: even as gender and sexual diversity becomes more mainstream in some ways, it remains marginal in others; even as people become more visible, their standing doesn’t always rise. Marginal status shows up in the language some people use to dismiss or diminish certain classes of people (the euphemism of “lifestyle” for sexual orientation or relationship status is a common example). But marginalization also appears in the gendered frameworks that otherwise progressive writers use to discuss expectations of professional clothing and how a woman might be “fabulous.”
It’s well worth exploring how modern professional women are often evaluated based on how “feminine” others judge them to be; how “feminine,” even today, is too easily linked to “less competent”; and how “feminism” should mean that competence and perceived femininity are no longer correlated in the popular imagination. These are questions I discuss with my sisters and in our groups; I find people happy to engage this conversation when it is framed soundly.
But pernicious tropes just under the surface hamper the discussion: binary norms that categorize heels and sleek dresses as “feminine” clothes while treating suits and flat shoes as “not feminine” or “repressions of femininity”; the idea that a woman’s tastes and energies may be either “feminine” or “masculine” (not neither, not both); the persistent invisibility of “fabulous” gender non-conforming women, not only in the mainstream but also in left-leaning feminism.
I had a brief exchange with one author about this a few months ago and don’t believe she deployed the tropes above fully understanding what they implied about femininity or women whose femininity didn’t mirror hers. But even if she personally holds a much more complex model of individual and social gender, one that includes all women and not just some, that broadness didn’t translate in this piece. We’re both individual women, two out of millions; neither of us is single-handedly responsible for the pervasive messages I’ve identified in this article.
But whoever holds a mic gains with their platform the power to amplify the status quo or to challenge and adapt it. Those traditional constructs are not the only lectern to speak or teach from, nor the only viable sources of credibility in our time. Rightly or wrongly, my generation has a reputation for being one of the most inclusive in recent history. If that’s more truth than hype, what does it take for all of us with platforms to embed our inclusive spirit into how we define, imagine, and engage this world and its full range of people? What does it take for us to improve the quality of the messages in our web and, thereby, the quality of the web itself?
 Via Marnie Dresser’s “Dear Jodie Foster: I Got It (and it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t)” a lovely reflective analysis of Foster’s speech.
“To This Day… for the bullied and beautiful” flows out of Shane Koyczan; he speaks from experience for everyone who can’t.
In November 2012, Chimamanda Adichie reflected on Chinua Achebe’s literary legacy, his gifts to her as a new writer, and his contributions to Nigeria’s rendering of its complex and traumatic recent history. Our forerunners cast a long shadow and their stories have such power.
Achebe died today in Boston aged 82. Nigeria’s Senate has called Achebe “a fearless man who told the truth as he saw it” and his death “a great loss to Nigeria and Africa.”
“What happens when a generation comes along that doesn’t care about the game you’ve spent so much time buying equipment for, has little invested in the durable nature of the stuff you value? … You could spend your time trying to convince them that they have a responsibility to value the things you value… Convince them the stuff they value is pointless and shallow. That should work.” —Derek Penwell*
Heh. You could tell them they’ll value what you value when they get older, are truly converted, and/or mature. You could explain that their perspective has been skewed… because, y’know… Culture. Secular Education. Relativism. You could tell them that Jesus’s best intention when he wandered around with his disciples was to set up a 501(c)(3) 5-tiered corporation with leadership (s)election via closed-door committee. Yes, that was in the master plan; if only they’d had the system we have today.
Surely the kids will understand all of this when they grow up. Won’t they?
“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” — Nelson Mandela
Earlier this month I was looking for updates on Baptist-affiliated Shorter University, which lost 43% of its faculty last year after requiring staff to sign so-called “faith” pledges. The university hired 51 new faculty members for the following school year and framed its statement and employee turnover as part of maintaining an “authentic Christian context.”
Similar reasoning came from the Ohioan administrators who terminated a teacher because he wouldn’t take down a social media post that varied from diocese teachings (I’ve written before about this case). At about the same time, I learned of a similar struggle at Ohio’s Cedarville University. The NYT reported on the forced resignation of Cedarville’s student affairs vice president; by the time of the article, the university president was also stepping down—all apparently because these administrators accommodated a visit from SoulForce’s bridge-building Equality Riders that the denomination disapproved of.
So Shorter’s last few years might be a fairly extreme illustration of a religious school “cleaning house” to maintain its purity, but it’s not exactly unusual.*
Reporting on Shorter’s situation last November, education magazine Inside Higher Ed identified the root issue as a series of questions: “Which tradition is more powerful: articles of faith or academic freedom? Who defines [denominational] values? And what does it really mean to be a Christian college?”
I don’t believe there is a necessary conflict between faith and freedom. I don’t think it impossible for these communities to infuse their relationships and policy making with more thought-for-others and more respect for both conscience and constraints freely chosen. I’d love to support communities in understanding that force sullies compliance, that securing mass compliance with weak policies and via compulsion is actually the worst possible outcome, not the best. It’s the worst outcome because it’s so beguiling: the masses have bowed down, and so our kingdom shall stand forever.
It can be hard for groups to assess their policies’ strength and value, I know. Beyond that there are the impacts of our policies on real people; using a mix of “objective” assessments and impact statements is one way to design the path ahead. I’m sympathetic to the fact that this work is complex, and sometimes thankless. I can understand why administrators might be tempted to sweep it aside.
Yet if faith is about deepening one’s alignment with reality and academic freedom is the ability to research, explore, describe, and comment on that reality without intimidation or retaliation, how can faith and freedom be opposed? What it is about this freedom that makes religious schools more likely to limit it through polarizing confessions like the one required at Shorter or the lifestyle conformity required at Adventist universities? Why do we so often default to using these strictures to shape institutional culture?
A community that didn’t regard its standards as inherently sound would be smart to use pressure and prohibitions to bolster those standards and keep community members in line. Secular states often do this. But relying on this kind of force in a religious context suggests that an option isn’t attractive or persuasive enough on its own terms to inspire free consent or voluntary compliance.
Does life not provide enough natural feedback to validate our preferred moral guidelines as the best rules for our groups and their members? Does God’s Spirit require institutional support to guide people into “all truth” and keep them hemmed in once they’re there? We seem to design our institutions as if we can’t trust people to be moral or morality to be reasonable. Why is that?
I was once taught that the end-game of this human experiment was that right-being and right-doing would be intuitive and internally driven. If that’s more than a pipe dream, shouldn’t religious institutions be the most skilled at honoring and nurturing free conscience and persuasion and teaching all of us to do the same? Shouldn’t they be leading freedom, not limiting it?
* At the end of 2012, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed Shorter University’s accreditation. US schools retain the legal room to define their religious and non-religious educational philosophies and craft policies to match them.
Each year I give myself a birthday present. In previous years, my self-gifts have included a bass guitar and amp, an adjustable set of dumbbells, and high quality bed and bathroom linens.
This year, after 8 years of grad school, 4+ years of major life changes, and nearly a year of preparation to move across country, I looked in the mirror and asked myself “What does this body most want?”
Over the last two months, my local church has been hosting health screenings and info sessions: blood donations for the Red Cross, heart fitness, and blood pressure tests in the lobby. But it was a BP screening that got my attention with the highest diastolic reading I’ve ever had in my life. I was so shocked that we came home and I retested it. Our home reading was lower than the reading in the church lobby—but still, it was far too high for my comfort. I was unnerved.
Throughout my life, my BP has been obnoxiously low: my British doctor once took a reading and asked me if I were dead. I have always been active in some way, whether as intensely as sport 4-5 days a week (a decade ago) or as moderately as walking most days to and from campus with some light weights at home (last year).
As we age, however, our bodies change and so do our routines. I carry around about 25 more pounds than I did when I first moved to the United States. I no longer play team sports, but I’ve done light resistance training on and off over the last few years, with great results each time. But the bottom line this time: my BP was ridiculous (for me), I hadn’t trained consistently since moving, and what my body most wanted for its birthday was more muscle tone!
So I made a commitment to myself to do some cardio/aerobic exercise every single day for the following 21 days. I’d planned to increase my activity level this year and love exercise when I’m in the middle of it, but I’d struggled most with getting into it and staying consistent. The recommended standard of 3-4 days per week hadn’t worked for me: I spent too much energy trying to adapt to a shifting daily schedule. So rather than try to remember whether “today is cardio day,” I decided to make every day cardio day.
I kept the entry barriers low: no new clothes, no gym subscription, and only 20 minutes per session. My favorite person has a recumbent bike; I decided to use that. And there were no other rules, though informally I decided that once I started pedaling, I would not stop until my daily time was up. That was doable. So 20 minutes on the bike non-stop every day.
How did I do? See for yourself.
|Day 1||4.51||156||Rolling, Level 6|
|Day 2||5.03||143||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 3||5.00||122||Interval, Level 4|
|Day 4||5.18||130||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 5||5.23||132||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 6||5.02||122||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 7||4.85||115||Interval, Level 4|
|Day 8||5.08||125||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 9||5.20||131||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 10||5.20||131||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 11||5.08||126||Interval, Level 4|
|Day 12||5.32||137||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 13||5.23||132||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 14||5.20||131||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 15||5.10||127||Interval, Level 4|
|Day 16||5.19||130||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 17||5.28||135||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 18||5.22||132||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 19||5.09||126||Interval, Level 4|
|Day 20||5.28||135||Rolling, Level 4|
|Day 21||5.13||128||Rolling, Level 4|
You’ll notice I rode a rolling circuit at Level 6 on my first day (the bike apparently goes up to Level 16, which is insane). I finished my 20 minutes that day, but it was hell! For the rest of the experiment, I stayed at Level 4, and switched from rolling circuits to intervals every fourth day so I didn’t get too comfortable.
And my blood pressure? It dropped 20 points in the first 4 days and was at 113/63 by Day 18. I have more energy through the day, feel more toned, and my thighs are lovely… I’m cool with that. It was my last session today, but I think I’ll be seeing the bike again tomorrow morning for a new round of 21. Happy birthday to me!
How about you? Have you run any short-term experiments with your own lifestyle? Did you finish the testing period? And did you keep the change afterwards?
Edit: The original post’s total miles and calories calculation did not include Day 11. This post has been updated to reflect the correct totals.
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