A Review // A “Rape Culture” Tutorial for the Naysayers

Tula Drimonis recently, on the wake of International Women’s Day, published an incredibly poignant Huffington Post article.

Today is March 8th, so let me share my own thoughts on this important day–a day we remember women who experienced much of what Drimonis writes about.

Rape culture, this can be a hard concept to explain, but Drimonis does a fantastic job. She describes how the environment around us, the social fabric, has been built as to minimize the impact of rape.

For me, this quote summed it all up: “Rape culture doesn’t mean I live in debilitating fear that a man will rape me the minute I step outside my home, but it does mean I nervously hold my keys in my hand when I walk home late at night.” Rape culture, while working to minimize or downplay rape has had an adverse effect, propagating fear.

I have experienced off-colour jokes about rape, my own body; I have experienced unwanted attention; I have experienced inappropriate approaches from men when I was only a girl. Then, for every experience I have, there are billions of other women who have their own experiences. I am ashamed to say that I feel lucky that my experiences of sexual assault and rape culture have been minimal. I am ashamed that I am happy that what I experienced is less than what others have. That is a hard statement to say.

The saddest part of it is that I have knowingly been a part of rape culture–sharing jokes and laughing off comments. I have continued to perpetuate the idea that it is okay to make light of this issue. it is okay to touch someone inappropriately then laugh it off. Anything is okay as long as it is a joke.

Drimonis has helped me put into words the tingle I get on the back of my neck when I am joking with my own friends. Rape culture is a pervasive issue, and often a passive-aggressive one. It is hard to put our finger on. But, I am gratefully she has–and it is an article I will be sharing with friends from now on.

First Week of Lent // #RethinkLent #RethinkChurch

The other day I shared with you some reflections on Lent. Though I discussed some of the ideas around the season, which are highlighted in the Book of Alternative Services prayer, we didn’t discuss many options for Lenten commitments.

Now, this morning (Ash Wednesday), around 8am, I received a text message:

What should I give up for lent?

Lent can be a tough season, as we try to navigate an annual delve into a spiritual discipline. It can be even more disconcerting as, for many of us, it may be the only time during the year we take the idea of structured and consistent practices seriously. There is also a feeling of social pressure, as we look at friends and family who are giving up their favourite things or committing themselves to, what appears to be, mountainous tasks of prayer.

“What should I give up for Lent,” almost seems to say, what is good enough to give up? What sacrifice can I make which balances my will power and time with the right level of piety? It is a perplexing question, and annually I have begun to dread the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

The question seems to echo the words: Piety. Righteousness. Penitence.

Though the question seems to be one of casual conversation it is imbued with spiritual baggage. And I have to ask, are we to commit ourselves to an annual form of socially acceptable suffering? Is this what God has asked us to be? Hungry? How does this image of ourselves reflect onto our God?

No, this image of a God who calls his children to suffer because Christ suffered is inconsistent with the call to love and reconcile. Frankly, Jesus had some harsh things to say about the virtues we uphold for Lent, and how they can be distorted away from God. (Excepts from Matthew 6, The Voice)

Concerning Piety:

But when you do these righteous acts, do not do them in front of spectators. Don’t do them where you can be seen, let alone lauded, by others. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Concerning Fasting:

And when you fast, do not look miserable as the actors and hypocrites do when they are fasting—they walk around town putting on airs about their suffering and weakness, complaining about how hungry they are. So everyone will know they are fasting, they don’t wash or anoint themselves with oil, pink their cheeks, or wear comfortable shoesThose who show off their piety, they have already received their reward.

I am not saying fasting or prayer is a bad practice, nor do I think Jesus is. The message appears to be that all of these things should be approached with careful thought and humility. Fasting is not for everyone, nor is it an expected part of Christian faith. It is a useful process of self-sacrifice and focus and can take many forms. But Lent is not synonymous with fasting, though we may use it in that way. I.E. “I’m fasting from chocolate.” Further, fasting is not synonymous with righteousness.

Instead of giving something up, recognize what you have. It might seem silly to someone who has nothing to eat that you would give it all up simply because that is what you are expected to do. Try and choose a Lenten activity that suits your person and the relationship you have with God. If you binge on candy when you’re stressed out instead of working through your stress and putting your trust in God, then you very well might feel called to give up candy. Maybe then you should choose to reach for a favourite CD or yoga mat before you reach for the candy.

Choose to incorporate in your life activities that are uplifting and positive reflections of the Gospel message, and messenger, in your life.

I believe this is one of the reasons why there has been so much pushback and a move towards taking up something for Lent. (Read Patty Kirk’s 5 suggestions for things to take-up this Lent.) Lent is an incredible season of potential to rediscover Christ as he makes his way towards crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation–the critical moment in the Christian faith. We want to empathize with Christ’s suffering, but even more so Christ has already chosen to empathize with our own. We want to take the choice seriously, and choose to set aside time each Lent to do that.

Lent is not a time of mourning or suffering; Good Friday is a time of mourning. Lent is when we look at Christ not as a child, not as the one baptized by John, but the figure emerging out of the desert with a story that needed to be told.

#RethinkChurch is a project put on by the United Methodist Church that calls us to “live the questions” during Lent. They have a series of discussion questions that look at Christ’s message of salvation and reconciliation on a local and global scale, as well as discerning your place in the movement of the Kingdom of God closer to the here and now. If you are looking for something to take up, why not take up the discussion? Begin to ask the bigger questions and to invite God into your daily acts.

Rethink Church

The First Week of Lent // Inconvenience and Experiment

This week, on Ash Wednesday, I will begin, along with the wider church, a new season of Lent. A season, as the Book of Alternative Services puts it, of “self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.”

The Ash Wednesday service is a meaningful one, as the Celebrant calls us to reflect and begin to prepare our hearts for the Easter season. It is an invocation–an invitation to begin an annual pilgrimage towards Golgotha and the pinnacle of the Christian faith.

…every year at the time of the Christian Passover we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin this holy season by remembering our need for repentance,
and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes, an ancient sign, speaking of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and marking the penitence of the community as a whole.

I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God. (Ash Wednesday Service, BAS)

How might I observe a “holy Lent”? Will giving up chocolate invite me into the activities this liturgy is declaring? How will it invite me to mediate deeper on the word of God?

I ask this question not to belittle those who do give-up sweets, or similar loves, as Lent is first and foremost a process of self-examination. So, I ask again, how will giving up sweets invite Selina into self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? How can I choose both to give-up and take-on activities of prayer and reflection that: 1. I can reasonable commit to without harming myself or another, and 2. will encourage me to deeper my relationship with the Gospel message and messenger?

We cannot achieve the perfect Lent, with absolute self-sacrifice and righteousness. Lent is an experiment in discipline, spiritual formation, and introspection; it is a messy process that should be felt more as an inward pilgrimage than an obstacle course to be overcome. There is no road map and no destination. We must each discern an area, a thought, or a theme God calls us to reflect on, and allow the Spirit to guide our meditations and actions as we look deeper into ourselves.

As I begin a journey towards inconvenience and stewardship, the themes of my Lent this year, I hope to share some small reflections on my own experiment. I will be giving up plastic, to the best of my abilities, in an exercise to question the value of convenience and the call of humankind to be stewards of creation. (Later on this week or next I will share about the driving force and process I will be participating in.) As well, I will be taking up a number of small activities with my family, ones that call us to love and recognize the face of God in one another. My leading thought is around the idea of “caring”–how we care for the earth and our relationships. I hope God will have surprising outcomes and interesting thesis for me to discover during these next weeks of experimentation.

Let me leave you with a final quote, which sums all of these thoughts and feelings up far better than I might ever:

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent?  Our indifference, our hardness of heart.  What are we to believe?  Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”  (Mother Teresa, of Calcutta)