Monthly Archives: June 2004

69 comments?! What a great welcome home gift! :)

I’ve been traveling now for over 12 hours, my mind is total mush. Luckily the Customs officials were almost pleasant and I got through that ordeal relatively unscathed.

While I was en route to Minneapolis, I was reading through Sue Monk Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter — and after reading the first 100 pages, I found myself stopping and composing a journal entry on the spot. What follows below is the result of that 31,000 ft rambling and reflecting.

I’ll be back tomorrow when I’m conscious to comment on those 69+ comments.

Awakening.

(5:00 pm EST) I’m at 31,000 feet in the air, somewhere over Indiana (I think), on my way to Minneapolis. I’ve been reading Sue Monk Kidd’s book Dance of the Dissident Daughter – and I can’t wait another moment until I start journaling what I’m coming across. So here I am – laptop in hand, with only 78% left on my battery power, hoping desperately that the power will last long enough for me to write down what’s on my mind and heart.

This book. I can’t even begin to describe my reaction to it. It seems as if it’s been written specifically for me. Lately I’ve been so thirsty inside – it’s as if I have this great spiritual thirst inside that has long been neglected. For a long time, I put aside all my feelings of spirituality – mainly out of a self-protection reflex, I think. Internally I felt so badly wounded by the actions of people, spiritual leaders even, who I loved and thought loved me (and my family) back. And after we were so badly betrayed, I transferred much of my hurt onto the Divine – rather than making the people that caused the pain the ones actually accountable.

It took me almost 2 years, but I’m pretty much over all of that. Which brings me to now – to my spiritually thirsty heart. Before tackling Kidd’s book, last month I read Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner. Admittedly, I initially picked up this book because I was intrigued by the similarity of its title to my weblog title. This book outlines the transitions of a woman from the world of orthodox Judaism to Christianity. I’d highly recommend it! As I read that book, I was amazed at the similarities between the author and myself in our journeys of faith. She’s also a member of the academic world, so she knows firsthand the problems encountered in clashes of the mind and spirit. We also have similar interests in our reading choices, and there were times that I could have sworn she lifted a page or two from my own personal life.

But even as much as I enjoyed reading that book, I still couldn’t bring myself to completely agree with her evangelical views of Christianity. I’m finding that my faith is moving away from the evangelical, convert-and-save-as-many-sinners-as-you-can type of faith to one that is more contemplative. I’m not willing to subscribe to the beliefs that the Bible is the sole inerrant word of God – nor am I willing to say that Jesus is the only way to the afterlife.

Just mentioning those two views of mine probably places me in the “heretic” category of many people I know back home – people that I have looked up to my entire life, and people who don’t understand me or the transition I’m going through now.

Which brings me back to Kidd’s book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter. You know, I was immediately drawn to that name – mainly because I feel as if filling that role nowadays. I’m the daughter that has moved 2500 miles away, I’m the one who’s selfishly pursuing her own academic dreams, as well as the one who doesn’t check the “Christian” box on her spiritual survey anymore.

So far, I’ve only read the first section of Daughter – entitled, “Awakening.” After reading the first page, I quickly discovered that this is the type of book that requires a pencil in hand – marking down the passages that stick out to me. Skimming over what I’ve read, I don’t think I’ve gone 2 pages without underlining, starring, or writing on a page’s margin.

Before I move onto the second chapter, “Initiation,” I wanted to record what I was thinking about its first. Sue Monk Kidd grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition. She was married to a Baptist minister/professor and had 2 kids. She wrote for a Christian magazine, and was known for her books of Christian literature (I’ll haveta look up what specifically she wrote). When she was around 38 years old, she experienced her “awakening” to the Divine Feminine – and this book is the recorded experience of that journey.

There is so much within these first 100 pages that I want to mention – but I know that I could never do them the justice of experiencing and reading them for yourself, so I’ll try to hit the highlights of what spoke out the most to me.

For my entire life of being in the Christian church, I’ve had issues with the ways women are treated both within the Bible and in the Church itself. Serious issues and reactions I buried deep within my heart whenever I was told to swallow my negative reactions and “have more faith” or to accept the submissive role the Bible lays out for me. Kidd has had similar problems, and I think it’s these passages that reverberate the most with me.

Christianity, by its very nature, is a religion that is male-centered. It’s a belief system that is “named, shaped, and directed” by men. Read this:

At church girls fare no better. A young girl learns Bible stories in which vital women are generally absent, in the background, or devoid of power. She learns that men go on quests, encounter God, and change history, while women support and wait for them. She hears sermons where traditional (nonthreatening) feminine roles are lifted up as God’s ideal. A girl is likely to see only a few women in the higher echelons of church power.

And what does a girl, who is forming her identity, do with all the scriptures admonishing women to submission and silence? Having them “explained away” as the product of an ancient time does not entirely erase her unease. She also experiences herself missing from pronouns in scripture, hymns, and prayers. And most of all, as long as God “himself” is exclusively male, she will experience the otherness, the lessness, of herself; all the pious talk in the world about females being equal to males will fail to compute in the deeper places insider her.

YES. Exactly. How many times have I cringed at these sermon series outlining “great men of faith?” or sung the words of “Faith of our Fathers?” Just how many hymns sing of the great faith of women like Deborah, Ruth or Mary? Not many.

How many times have I silenced myself whenever I’ve deeply felt this inequality? Too many, unfortunately.

Kidd goes on to describe what she calls the “feminine wound.” This is created whenever we internalize the experiences that label women/femininity as “lesser than.” I think this happens more often than we realize – both within the culture of the Church and the larger culture that surrounds it.

As she uncovers these deep feelings of inadequacy that she’d long condoned within her faith, she goes through a type of crisis – one that I totally can relate to. She writes:

Mostly, I didn’t want to believe I could have been wounded by my own faith. I didn’t want to acknowledge how it had relegated half the human population to secondary status and invisible places. I didn’t want any of this to be true.

Again, been there. Usually whenever these feelings start to swell in my heart, I immediately try to contextualize or even trivialize what I’m feeling. Kidd did that too:

Trivializing our experience is a very old and shrewd way of controlling ourselves. We do it by censoring our expressions of truth or viewing them as inconsequential. We learned the technique from a culture that has practiced it like an art form.

How many times have I silenced myself for fears of being labeled as “one of those feminists” or been afraid to speak aloud for fears of being laughed or scoffed at? Kidd goes on to set six categories of archetypes that women often place themselves in order to deal with the patriarchy that surrounds their everyday live. These are: the Gracious Lady, Church Handmaid, the Secondary Partner, the Many-Breasted Mother, Favored Daughter, and the Silent Woman.

Obviously, the one that spoke the most to me was the role of Church Handmaid – and this quote specifically: “I think that sometimes a childhood place can lean so heavily on your growing up that later, when you are grown, you find it has become part of your internal geography. This church was such a place.” Not only does this quote explain my internal struggles in justifying my new spiritual path, but I also think it explains why I took my betrayal at SCC so personally.

Here’s another point that I think Kidd makes very effectively. When she defines patriarchy, she’s very careful to point out that the enemy here isn’t all men or masculinity itself. She writes that “It’s important to emphasize that patriarchy is neither men nor the masculine principle; it is rather a system in which that principle has become distorted.”

Yes. She goes on:

In a similar way we’ve accepted the widespread attitudes and effects of patriarchy as givens. They are so much a part of the world, we start to thing that’s just the way reality is.

Sound familiar? It reminds me of the same reactions I get whenever I start to rail against unethical labor practices and sweatshops. It’s the old defeatist argument that I CAN’T stand and won’t accept. You can make a difference, because all it takes is for you to stop and make a stand. Even a little stand is better than none.

But back to this spiritual struggle. Kidd writes that “[f]orming an honest feminist critique of our own faith tradition is not an easy thing to do. Betrayal of any kind is hard [Ed. don’t I know it!], but betrayal by one’s own religion is excruciating. It makes you want to rage and weep. It deposits a powerful energy inside.”

She’s preaching to the choir at this point, as far as I’m concerned. I know exactly what she’s writing about. How many times have I gotten disapproving side looks for a bumpersticker on my car that reads “Goddess Bless” and then felt the need to apologize? Why should I feel anxiety for believing that there can be a divine Feminine force in our universe? I shouldn’t, but I know that my culture is partially to blame for these feelings of inadequacy – feelings that are fostered by the patriarchal notions of distrust of the feminine and a hostility toward anything outside the Judeo-Christian norm.

Toward the end of this opening section, Kidd writes about the moment when she decided that she could no longer subscribe to the main tenets of the Baptist faith. She decided to leave that church, and to pursue a different spiritual path.

This is probably my favorite passage encountered so far:

This is a stupendous moment for a woman – when she decides to live from her own inner guidance. It is, however, excruciatingly hard for a patriarchal daughter to accomplish. She may have to do it, as I did, in stages.

What is held over her head is condemnation, even damnation. We’ve been led to believe that leaving the circle of orthodoxy means leaving the realm of truth. Typically the church has considerable stake in our staying tin the orthodox circle. It knows if we claim ultimate authority as something in ourselves, as some inchoate voice in our own souls, it has lost all power over us. We have rendered ourselves independent, outside its control. We have stepped out onto our own path. For some reason it scares people senseless.

It [terrifies] me just pondering it.

I changed the “terrified” to the present case “terrifies” because that’s exactly how I feel sometimes. I know that I am questioning the very foundation of everything I’ve ever been taught – but I also know that I could never go back to the old ways, short of a lobotomy of the spirit.

(I’m at the end of four pages on WordPerfect, and am now running dangerously short on battery juice. I should cut this off, soon.)

I’ve decided that I’m going to stop silencing myself. Do you remember, last week, when I remained silent when racist/homophobic jokes where going on? I don’t want that to happen again. Granted when a situation like this happens, I will use discernment, so I won’t always be flying off the handle – but I’m not going to silence or dismiss these passions (“misdirected” or not) that mean the most to me.

It’s time for me to speak up – and in the process, maybe break a couple cages. It’s a thought that is both exhilarating and terrifying – not to mention a little lonely.

Descending now.

No scary Conservative government for Canada, doo-dah, doo-dah.

Liberals win Minority!

Yay, no scary Bush-like Harper hawk running the government.

Whew.

As promised, here is a post about a new book I’m adding to my official list of favorite books of all time. It’s a privileged list — and despite what you may think (and already know about my voracious reading habits), it’s fairly exclusive.



The newest member is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I picked up this book yesterday afternoon — and finished it this morning. I was enraptured, absorbed, and intrigued simultaneously. It’s the kind of book that you want to read at a breathtaking pace — but then again you’re dreading coming to the end of it. It’s that kind of reading experience.

Even now, I miss some of the characters I encountered as I turned the pages. Golden’s language is at once exquisitely metaphorical and divinely effortless.

As I was reading it, I could literally envision the story unfolding before me. It’ll make a great movie, and it looks like one is in the works for 2005.

Okay, enough gushing. Onto some of the passages that forced me to stop and underline — so I wouldn’t forget ‘em.

We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.

– I really like this passage. I love how it’s so visual, it makes me think of all the times I’ve watched water flow in gutters, and then added various obstacles to make the water change direction. When I apply this metaphor to my life, I can think of specific people and experiences that I’ve encountered that have forced me to change direction — and while it was difficult, I don’t regret the place it has put me now.

“Waiting patiently doesn’t suit you. I can see you have a great deal of water in your personality. Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else has thought about — the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of a box. There’s no doubt it’s the most versatile of the five elements. It can wash away earth; it can put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and sweep it away. Even wood, which is its natural complement, can’t survive without being nurtured by water. And yet, you haven’t drawn on those strengths in living your life, have you?”

– This quote doesn’t even need commentary, it’s just good. I love encountering quotes that make you stop and read them over again.

I’d never understood how closely things are connected to one another. And it isn’t just the zodiac I’m talking about. We human beings are only a part of something very much larger. When we walk along, we may crush a beetle or simply cause a change in the air so that a fly ends up where it might never have gone otherwise.

And if we think of the same example but with ourselves in the role of the insect, and the larger universe in the role we’ve just played, it’s perfectly clear that we’re affected every day by forces over which we have no more control than the poor beetle has over our gigantic foot as it descends upon it. What are we to do? We must use whatever methods we can to understand the movement of the universe around us and time our actions so that we are not fighting the currents, but moving with them.

– This passage is similar to the first quote about water’s direction. It’s spiritual — in a way that could fit in to many belief systems at once. I’m still processing it.

…And now my favorite quote of the book:

From this experience I understood the danger of focusing only on what isn’t there. What if I came to the end of my life and realized that I’d spent every day watching for a man who would never come to me? What an unbearable sorrow it would be, to realize I’d never really tasted the things I’d eaten, or seen the places I’d been, because I’d thought of nothing but the Chairman even while my life was drifting away from me. And yet if I drew my thoughts back from him, what life would I have? I would be like a dancer who had practiced since childhood for a performance she would never give.

– Ouch. Been there. Somehow this quote spoke more to me than I can communicate, even now.

But now I really should start packing, considering my flight leaves at lunch tomorrow.

Next stop, Saskatchewan.



Georgia’s Jewel and a Castaway Wannabe-Canadian.

She returns! To Savannah, at least.

Just got back from a brief trip out to Jekyll Island, a beach about an hour and a half from Savannah. I only got to spend a day and a half out there, wish it could have been longer. (Pictures here)

But I have lots of packing and rearranging to do before I can head back north tomorrow. I only packed one suitcase — but with all the books I’ve acquired, I’m going to have to borrow another! Ah well, one can never have too many books.

Speaking of which, I just finished one amazing book that I’ll most more about later tonight.

For now, I’m buried in laundry and last-minute errands.

Well, I did it — I went back to my parents’ (and I suppose my own) old church in Savannah.

For those of you that don’t realize this already — this place fired my dad 2 years ago and I have had a hard time getting over all the betrayals and two-facedness that has occured since then.

But I’m getting better about it — really, I am! I thought by visiting this place, and seeing for myself how its developed, then maybe I could put it all behind me.


A map, in case you get lost in the building
And maybe it has. For one, I won’t name or link the “church” in question — I’ll just make up a pseudonym for it … let’s see. I’ll call it SaddleCreek Christian (a hybrid name of some of those other mega-churches). For short, I’ll call it SCC.

My parents have been in town for the past week, raising support and meeting with those people who support them finanically. It’s been interesting for them too, coming back “home” — especially to a church that rejected them earlier, and now — while they are supported by SCC — they were still passed over when the church listed the different missions they supported in a glossy brochure.

Anyway, when they went to SCC last Sunday, a woman came up to them — and cried and cried as she hugged them. Why was she so emotional? Maybe it was because my parents represent a different time for the church — a time when numbers didn’t dictate the way services were ran and the goal wasn’t to become the largest church in the Southeast.

But I digress. It is interesting though, to think about the ways things have changed at SCC. Back when my dad was on staff, there were 3 ministers (and 1 secretary). Nowadays — there’s over 90 staff members and “coordinators.” There’s a coffee shop, a book store, and they even have their own brand-image — complete with SCC bumperstickers to label your car or polo shirts to wear out golfing.

Other things have changed as well. While there may be 90 something people on staff, one problem the church faces is a lack of volunteers. This seems odd to me, considering they’re running over 3000 people in services per weekend. But then again, maybe it’s not so odd — considering the fast-food, consumeristic faith that is being fostered within the walls. Why serve as a volunteer, if you can attend a well-scripted, entertaining hour and 15 minute service each week?

But back to my experience tonight.

It was an interesting experience — it was only the second time I’ve been in the new sanctuary since they’ve moved. The worship time was short, and while the place seemed pretty filled (I was in the back, of course), it didn’t seem like anyone was singing. One of the songs we couldn’t even sing along to, it was so performance oriented (as the worship leaders sang it and we mostly listened).

Some things haven’t changed — apparently only men can still lead worship and serve communion. The sermon tonight came complete with a multi-media skit performance preceding it. And in case you couldn’t see the preacher well enough, there were flat-screen TVs on either side of the sanctuary offering closeups.

Sure enough, time came for the service to end — and soon I was walking back to my car in the massive parking lot … which had its 9 parking sections labeled as the different fruits of the spirit (seriously!).

What did I learn after this experience? Well, my insides didn’t explode and I wasn’t struck by lightning when I entered the building — so that was a good thing.

I also realize that I’m not that upset that my dad is no longer a part of that church. The way SCC is now is not at all like the church I grew up in — nowadays, it’s a polished business whose goals are based more on the Willow Creek model than the New Testament. I don’t want my dad or my family associated with that. My parents are way happier, and way more appreciated, working for next-to-nothing in Virginia than they ever were here in Savannah. And that’s too bad — SCC is missing out on something, in more ways than one.

So I’m not really that viciously angry anymore. Granted, I’m still waiting on that karma train to stop on by and wreck havoc — only now I’m not the conductor. I’ll let someone else take over.

Did the tourist thing today in downtown Savannah. Here’s the customary photographic evidence.

It’s been a busy week. I may need a vacation to recover from my vacation!

Ahead this weekend — beach all day tomorrow, Summer Waves on Sunday, Jekyll Island all day Monday, flying home on Tuesday.

Whew.

Last call for souvenirs from the States. I’ve done pretty well on my list, methinks.