Dismantling Patriarchy: Don’t Be Conformed Cleave Like Adam and Be Transformed.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome.

In the past year or so I’ve done a lot of thinking about Patriarchy. Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, I’ve had a sense that this is about much more than just holding past transgressions of men against women to account. I have seen it as a much larger reckoning of the system of Patriarchy. Patriarchy is so steeped into dominant culture for so long that I have been largely blind to it. Even when I have been suspicious of it I didn’t know it by name and thus couldn’t call it out. But now I’m starting to see it and do the work of learning about it so I can unlearn the ways in which I have been shaped and conformed by it. This work has led to a renewing of my mind to what I believe is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here’s an example of what I mean…

I’ve started seeing things in the Genesis 2 creation account that I didn’t notice previously. Note that the Genesis was written in the ancient Mid East. Even in the modern Mid East women are viewed as property belonging to fathers and then the family of her husband if she marries. Marriage in the ancient Mid East wasn’t about purity and holiness it was primarily a business transaction where goods and property were exchanged—your daughter for my livestock. If woman’s husband died she didn’t automatically return to her parents. On the contrary her deceased husband’s parents still had the rights to her. If the in-laws were dead too then she was inherited by the eldest of her deceased husband’s brothers. Therefore marriage in the ancient mid-east when Genesis was written wasn’t about love and commitment. Marriage was primarily a business transaction where goods and property were being exchanged.

With that in mind here is what has started to jump off the page to me in Genesis two.

One, Adam’s response to seeing Eve is an expression of oneness and complete solidarity. He doesn’t see her as belonging to him, secondary to him, or complimenting him. He expresses oneness and solidarity, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. She’s not the lesser or fairer half of himself. She is another whole of the image bearing in the likeness of God humanity that he is.

Second, the “so what” in the passage is “for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother”. Given what I’ve already stated this would have been very counter cultural, because typically the opposite was true. Women left their fathers and mothers and cleaved to their husbands. Men didn’t leave their fathers and mothers because they were the source of their inheritance. Nor did they cleave to their wives because their wife was their property gifted to them by their father. They didn’t cleave to their wives anymore than they cleaved to the livestock their father gave in exchange for their bride.

Lastly, the “therefore” is “they were naked and unashamed”. Patriarchy typically is averse to the type of vulnerability that could be described as naked. Instead of solidarity and oneness being the foundation upon which there is no shame, Patriarchy then uses masculinity as more than just a way of grouping things associated with males but instead as a tool to protect patriarchy from perceived threats, “Men don’t cry. Be a man!” Masculinity is not in and of itself toxic but it can be turned toxic when weaponized. This often results in shame, specifically shaming the woman. Shaming the female form. Shaming expressions of emotion associated with femininity. Shaming female endeavor into pursuits reserved for men. The list goes on.

There are many of us men who don’t have to live in fear that our lives will become a casualty of the Me Too Movement. However, there are many of us, men and women (myself included), who need to identify the ways in which we have been conformed to this world in the ways we think about women. In order for a transformation and renewing of my mind to take place I need to, amongst other things, continue recognize how patriarchy has shaped it. Then I will be even more equipped to discern what is good, acceptable, and the way things ought to be. It is discerning good and beyond acceptable to not view women as objects possessions or secondary to men. It’s perfect.

Nikolas Cruz Was the Bully: Why #Walkup is the Right Thing at the Wrong Time

The WalkUp idea started with Ryan Petty a father of one of Cruz’s victims. At a press conference he encouraged students to walk up to 14 students and 3 adults and say something nice, and get to know them, instead of walking out of school for seventeen minutes. During that Press conference he also implored state legislators to do three, things all of which echoed the sentiments of the WalkOut protestors. Enhance safety and security of schools. Second, keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a risk to themselves or others. Finally state leaders must improve mental health resources for at risk youth. These are the very things that many students wrote a letter to congressmen requesting during the seventeen minutes they walked out of their school in solidarity with their peers across the country.

Take the time to read up on the accounts of Nikolas Cruz. This isn’t a story of a bullied kid handing out unmitigated retribution on his tormentors and the silent bystanders. This was a kid described as having developmental issues, and impulse control issues. Students who had tried to strike up conversations reported that he only talked about guns knives and hunting. He was known for posting videos and pictures on social media of him killing animals. The behavioral issues that led to his expulsion included threatening other students and a teacher. Not a teacher who was disciplining him but trying to help him. There was such a concern about his mental state and the threat he posed that he wasn’t even allowed to bring a backpack to school.

He wasn’t a loner because he was weird or different. He was a loner because he was dangerous. Even the most accepting of us would think twice about engaging someone like that. So why are telling kids the best response to this latest school shooting is to #walkup? Even still, at his request, Nikolas and his brother moved in with a friend’s family back in November. Clearly this was a kid who was no stranger to the kindness and generosity of others. Another student interviewed after the shooting said they had been close friends until Nikolas started going after and threatening another of his friends. WalkUp has all the feels of being an anti-bully movement, which has tremendous merit when it’s not being used to redirect civil protest and become little more than victim blaming. Under these circumstances it neglects to see that Nikolas Cruz appears to be the bully long before he became a mass murderer.

I grieve for the obvious brokenness of Nikolas. Surely he was ill-equipped to navigate the loss of both his parents by the age of 18. I simply see no link to justify an anti-bullying be nice movement in response to this because that wasn’t the issue. Especially when so many adults have resorted to bullying tactics in response to the very students who have spoken out after surviving this incident. Students that knew how dangerous he was. Some of whom notified the proper authorities when he posted that he wants to be a “professional school shooter” and nothing was done. I fear WalkUp has become just another example of adults thinking they know best and not listening to young people, particularly those who were there.

Again Cruz found pleasure in torturing and killing animals, which is a clear indicator that his lack of empathy was the issue, not his peers. The same day students were protesting demanding legislative action in the same three areas Mr. Petty spoke of, the WOOFF Act was introduced on the Senate floor in response to a dog dying in an overhead bin of a plane. It was 48 hours after the incident. Next April will be twenty years since Columbine.

I’m all for people loving one another. The core sentiments and principles of “WalkUp” are things I have practiced and preached specifically to youth in seventeen years of student ministry. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand why loving one another is linked to the greatest commandment of loving God. However, extending the hand of friendship and gestures of gratitude will not change the fact that the mentally ill and unstable (an individual who is well short of responsible), can #walkup to a gun retailer and #walkout with a gun.

Token Confessions Entry 1 – On This the Six Year Anniversary of the Murder of Trayvon Martin

Six years ago today Trayvon Martin was murdered on his way home from the convenience store. His death and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Today I am reflecting on the past six years of this social movement against anti-Black racism in light of the present gun debate we are having.

Dylan Roof and Nikolas Cruz received more restraint and strict adherence to procedural protocol after killing 26 people between the two of them than…

Tamir Rice
Philando Castile
Alton Sterling
John Crawford III

In all four of those cases (two involving toy guns) I don’t recall any pro-gun advocates or the NRA being alarmed at how quickly these individuals were killed due to them possessing a firearm, and every intermediate step of de-escalation was bypassed in favor of just shooting and killing the individual. What about their…’

Gun Rights

Black victims had their whole lives excavated in order to find cause for victim blaming. Trayvon Martin? Smoked weed, Not just any weed but allegedly chemically enhanced weed that made him aggressive. Moreover, he had recently been suspended from school. Tamir Rice was “large for his age”, and “shouldn’t have been playing with a toy gun at a park”, in a city where white men flaunted their right to open carry inside of Target. Mike Brown was equated to wrestling legend Hulk Hogan or a demon, plus he had just stolen cigarillos. Philando should have just done what the officer asked. Eric Garner shouldn’t have questioned why they were messing with him over selling loose cigarettes. Nikolas Cruz and Dylan Roof on the other hand were simply…

Troubled
Suffering from Mental Illness

I’m grateful that the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas are being given a national platform to air their grievances and concerns instead of tanks, militarized riot police, and tear gas. Moreover, I doubt high schoolers across the country will be met with much more than a suspension if they stage walk outs from school. I wish the same would have opportunity for constructive dialogue before lawmakers would have been given to the teenagers and citizens of…

Baltimore
Ferguson

I agree that there needs to be more resources education and awareness on mental illness. If for no other reason so we can make a distinction between mental illness and toxic unresolved anger that grows and festers if left in isolation. I wish there was a similar push for education of…

Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery not white supremacy
Generational Poverty
The High School to Prison Pipeline
The failure of the Mass Incarceration System

And how all those things have negatively affected communities of color.

I believe most gun owners are responsible law-abiding and knowledgeable about the rights afforded them under the Second Amendment. I understand their suspicion of a slippery slope that would lead to the dismantling of their rights under the second amendment. US prison population went from 350K to over 2 mil. A disproportionate amount of them black and brown largely because of the dismantling of the…

4th Amendment
14th Amendment

But I don’t think they have to worry too much even if gun laws became a little more strict. The origins of the Second Amendment was to defend against the possible invasion of the British trying to take back the continent, and against possible insurrection of the indigenous people’s of America and West African slaves. That’s why there were so many laws prohibiting free black men from bearing arms, because the Second Amendment functionally only defended the right to bear arms for…

Land Owners (colonizers)
White Men

Over 20 million Native Americans were killed leaving only a remnant left to live on reservations, slavery was reshaped into the mass incarceration system whilst America re-segregated itself, and the Brits are welcome as tourists and green card-carrying expats. It’s no wonder the gun debate is so contentious amongst, white America because the only ones they have left to bear arms against is…

One Another

When the murderer is Muslim, America responds with a travel ban. When the murderer is Hispanic, America responds with tougher immigration laws (for those seeking to cross our southern borders) and wants to build a wall. When the murderer is Black, America responds with more police and prisons. When the murderer is White, America responds with…

Thoughts and prayers

Forsaken

 

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Mark 15:33-34

 We love to talk about the weather. It impacts the way we feel about any given day. Anybody remember last weekend? Yuck. Writers often use the weather in a scene to shape the mood. Again, the weather impacts us. The extreme form of this in literature is the pathetic fallacy, where inanimate objects, often the weather, are attributed emotions and thoughts. Authors write so that the weather impacts the way we feel.

But the gospel writers aren’t playing any literary tricks as they capture this scene on a scroll. They aren’t trying to get us to react to the weather as Jesus cries out to the Father. In a stunning role reversal, the cosmos is commenting on the darkness of the moment. Everything is dark and pregnant with pain, poignantly pointing to the reality of what’s transpiring as Jesus hangs on the cross.

We have to remember who this is, because it makes his cry all the more shocking. This is Jesus Christ, God from God, light from light. He is Light from Light; but in this moment, only darkness abounds.

And so he cries out and says what the clouds and wind are saying as they themselves react to the light of the world hanging on a cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsake me?”

His cry is the opening verse of Psalm 22. The Psalm so vividly captures the day’s events, I’m sure if the Psalmist realized the full scope of what the Holy Spirit was saying, it would have sent chills down his spine. Jesus knows the Psalm ends in victory, just like he already knows that this moment, though dark, isn’t the end. He will prevail, rising victorious. But here, and I don’t know exactly how to get my mind around this, there is little doubt that Jesus knew anything other than forsakenness.

And those are pretty common words we’ve all thought or uttered ourselves, aren’t they? “Where are you God? ” “You’ve left me.” And we really feel that way. The rug is pulled out from underneath us and we begin unraveling when things go awry. In those moments, it’s very easy to point the finger at God. “You did this to me.” “I’m mad at you, God.” It’s because we feel forsaken. But the reality, just as all of nature attested to that day, is that Jesus really was forsaken. He was forsaken so you and I never would be. Abandoned so we would never have to experience the objective reality of forsakenness. It happened in this moment so that we could know God’s presence for eternity, no matter what our circumstances caused us to feel.

He was forsaken so that you would never be.

Can Overtly Sexual Commercials Be A Golden Opportunity With Your Teen?

Watching the commercials during the Super Bowl, or any televised sporting event for that matter can be a perilous activity for a family. Between the commercials for beer, Axe body spray, and GoDaddy, there are plenty of moments to turn the channel momentarily or send the kids to refill the bowl of chips just in case.

Back when I was in college I took a sociology class on Pop Culture. One day we spent an entire day analyzing popular advertising, which to this day was one of the most memorable two hours of any class I ever had in all my years of being educated. Our professor gave a very interactive lecture, meaning he encouraged a lot of dialogue from us on the more subtle messages of advertisements. He displayed numerous clips of print and TV advertising and pointed out some of the more subtle messages that are communicated that we don’t necessarily pick up on, which can also be the most influential because we haven’t been trained to think about it beyond its bad because it’s overtly sexual. In regards to print advertising, he trained us to observe how in clothing and especially fragrance ad women were almost always in postures that suggested she was available sexually and was placed on a lower plane on the page that suggested her submission to the male character. In other words the subtle message of male dominance and female submission to men was more influential than the overt fact that she, or both of them were half naked. More subtle than the fact that all the women look like models in most beer commercials is the subtlety that, one, opposite sex interaction was easier with a beer in hand, and two, if the girl even looked at the guy she not only was attracted to him but wanted him sexually. Some advertisers are savvy enough to poke fun at their own strategy (think the Merc Benz commercial where the guy almost makes a deal with the devil to get everything that goes with the car). If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew numerous guys who went through life thinking in these ways, if a girl even looked at them and gave so much as a polite smile it meant she wanted him, it wouldn’t have been such an impressionable lesson.

Now instead of simply recognizing how women are being objectified I recognize how men in particular are advertised to as if their Neanderthals whose sole purpose in life is to mate and reproduce. By purchasing this product the odds of my happiness, fulfillment, survival, social status or whatever it may be will instantly multiply, is the underlying message. When I was a teenager all I saw was the product and pretty girls who depending on the ad wore next to nothing. It wasn’t until my twenties that I saw more.

Here are some suggestions for parents of young teens who want to help their kids decipher the more subtle messages of advertising. This way they can become more empowered to not fall for the subtle lies used to sell the product. Plus you may have an opportunity to get to know a little bit more about your young teen as you enter into dialogue about something other than what they did or need to do.

  1. Find Out What They’re Thinking. Ask them what they think about what they just saw. Ask them how they think the marketers are trying to convince us to buy the product. Ask them what they think the ad says about the nature of men and women. Ask them what they think the ad says about life, fulfillment, happiness etc. This will also help you get a gauge on whether or not they are thinking concretely or abstractly (Hint: if they already are starting to pick up on the subtle stuff then they are entering abstract thinking).
  2. Make Observations. Instead of making direct comments about what you think is wrong with the commercial, which if you are raising your child to have a moral compass shaped by God’s word will be fairly obvious to them, point out some of the more subtle things. For example instead of pointing out how overtly sexual the ad is, point out how the mood or tone of the individuals change when the product appears or is put into use.
  3. Discuss the Message? Advertisements, whether commercials or print are like art, and portray a worldview; life is good or as it ought to be if ‘x’; there is a problem or life is broken because of ‘y’; life is back the to the way it was meant to be or even better than before because of ‘z’. This doesn’t have to be like work and could be turned into a fun little exercise to connect with your young teen as you watch tv.