Thursday, May 19, 2011

Words: beautiful or boring?

In a denomination which calls for diversity and the use of the imagination in ministry, it is sad that one hears little that lifts up the beautifulness of language. Just a few days ago I wrote about Sylvia Thorson-Smith writing and speaking on how patriarchy was the cause of most social ills. Her words included, “patriarchal sex bolsters patriarchal injustice. Compulsory heterosexuality – the social mandate that everyone be heterosexual – also requires that all men dominate all women, and the world. Lesbian, gay, …”

Almost a year ago, before General Assembly in June of 2010, I wrote about the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns placing their recommendations on all overtures that would have opened the Book of Order to include same gender marriage. They wrote:
The practice of excluding people who are gay and lesbian from marriage has its roots in the persistence of patriarchal standards for the lives of women and men. The notion that men and maleness is superior dictates that men and women behave in particular ways that abide by the rules their sex dictates. For this reason, same-gender loving women and men are perceived as a direct threat to the norms that patriarchy lays out, as they, in their loving, challenge the models of prescribed masculinity and femininity that patriarchy determines. Gay men are a threat as they are perceived as “too feminine,” and lesbian women are perceived as “too masculine.
I thought of how dead some words become when they are anchored in cultural and sociological narcissism. How empty of life words become when they come with the name Christian but do not lift up Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Words that defy the light of Scripture become idols and much like stone or wooden idols they have no wisdom or meaning. They are just lies and lies that sound and look like other lies- they are all boring, unimaginative and yes, even deadly.

When I first began writing of Thorson-Smith’s thoughts about patriarchy and LGBT ordination I kept turning to a small book of poetry that I love. I know why now. I was searching past the boring words of radical feminism.

The writer, Irina Ratushinskaya, who at one time was an activist in Russia, an Orthodox Christian and also a poet, spent seven years in prison for her poetry. Her words are beautiful; they do not ring with idol words but with reality. The book of poetry I am reading says of Ratushinskaya and her prison poems, “She copied her poems in a tiny hand onto strips of paper which were hidden and then smuggled out of the camp.”

‘We have learned’

We have learned, indeed, to throw time into tins
And have stirred in the condensed night at all times.
This century grows ever darker, and the next will not come soon,
To wipe clean the names off yesterday’s prison wall.

We loaded it with the voices of departing friends,
With the names of unborn children-for a new wall.
We equipped it so lovingly, but we ourselves
Do not row in it, we are not even allowed on board.

But covering the measured-out load with coarse matting
We still manage to broadcast the seed.
Our hands are torn but we still pluck out the dragon’s
Teeth from the crops, which are fated to stand after us.

These are words that are full of meaning, suffering and speak of preservation as well as despair. The unborn children, whose names the women prisoners write on the wall, will never come because the author and the other women after suffering extreme cold will not be able to conceive children. Hopefully, we who love Jesus and are moved by the Holy Spirit would not write ‘patriarchy’ on any wall or paper but instead passionate beautiful words that flow from faithfulness. Words that sing because the heart, the mind, the hand know Christ.

5 comments:

Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Presbyman said...

Viola,

Pseudo-academic jargon marinated in anti-male resentment makes for a foul tasting word stew from the ACWC.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Robert said...

Several important words here:

Patriarchal

Matriarchal

Unraised or Raised Consciousness

maleness

femaleness

How one defines each of these words is terribly important to any conversation about sexuality and power. The key word is not patriarchal. It is raised or unraised consciousness. The term as used in some feminist circles literally means "You are not like me and do not think like me and therefore you are wrong and unable to define anything. You are in fact either an oppressor or someone who unconsciously or consciously submits to the oppressors." One whose consciousness is unraised is unable to have a true opinion on the subject at hand (and maybe not on any subject) as "raised consciousness" is a belief system).

Those with raised consciousness are able to correctly define patriarchal, maleness and femaleness. Those whose consciousnesses are not raised are by definition unable to define any of these terms.

The faith system - beyond the limits of most faith systems sees the unconverted (those with unraised consciousness) as unable to look at the world in any way that might be the truth.

This faith system is integrally opposed to Christianity not because the adherents believe Christianity is at its core patriarchal. But if as Ms (Dr.) Thorson Smith, defines patriarchalism as essentially a power system then Christianity corrupts that system. Christianity sees true power in a helpless, dying man on a cross. Christianity believes that the servant is greater than the one served.

There is a great deal more on this issue. But by identifying Christianity as essentially a patriarchal system is to completely misunderstand Christianity.

That, of course means that Dr. Thorsen Smith has misdefined patriarchalism in relation to Christianity as well as maleness and femaleness. Jesus' maleness (or even God's) is not at the center of Christian belief. Jesus's divinity and humanity and the Father's lack of sexuality are the center of Christianity.

To say this is to is to say that those who claim to have raised consciousnesses are in fact unable to see reality in relation to Christianity. Their faith system rejects Christianity because it is in essence a different religion.

Which of course is what the reimagining conference was all about. The leaders sought to redefine (which is the meaning of reimagining) Christianity according to their belief system. In doing so they rejected Christianity in favor of their new belief system.

This is not to say that Christianity has not been corrupted by patriarchalism in the past and often in the future. But one can separate Christianity from patriarchalism without rejecting the core of Christianity as those who claim to have raised consciousnesses do.

Pastor Bob said...

Viola, should I put my dissertation somewhere else? :)

Viola Larson said...

Thanks John and Robert,
I just got back from a very discouraging presbytery meeting. I have been gone for two days because it was way up in Northern California. I heard a wonderful sermon and we read part of the Barmen Confession. So I will write about that later.
So Robert leave your dissertation there, I want to read it when I am not so tired.