Sunday, June 18, 2017

I Am Wonder Woman

I remember the first time I read something where the author used inclusive pronouns. Reading right along, "he this", "he that", "she this". Stopped me in my tracks. 

Now, I'd taken Latin in high school. I understood the grammatical convention behind using masculine pronouns as the default. I'd never felt excluded by the generic masculine pronouns. But seeing a generic feminine pronoun I felt included. The author intentionally meant for me to be included. It's the difference between:

not intentionally excluding
intentionally including.
That said, the new Wonder Woman movie is transformative. I didn't have to imagine myself fighting with the superheroes. I was the superhero. The movie stopped me in my tracks like the first time I read an inclusive pronoun. I was intentionally included. 

This sounds dry and academic. However the effect was anything but. I insisted on sitting through all the credits, processing. I cried as something indefinable inside broke open and started healing. My jaw was set with determination for a solid hour after I left the movie. I resolved to get that "nevertheless she persisted" t-shirt I'd been meaning to buy.

As a wonderful bonus, in addition to being a women superhero, Diana reflected me also in her temperament and outlook. This is right, that is wrong, I'm going to do what's right. I cried as she leapt out of the trenches to cross no man's land (ha!) to save the village. It's impossible, but it is right and honorable, so we do it. 

I'm appreciative that the movie was set in World War One. Nazis are too easily evil, and overdone. WWI let Diana see that things aren't cut and dry, right and wrong, good and evil. Realizing that sucks. It's a pit in our stomach. We collapse and can't stand up. Our world reels. But! But. Even though things are messy, Diana fights for truth. It's more complicated and difficult than before, but it's even more important now. 

Wonder Woman is a postmodern superhero movie that still holds on to truth and goodness. And Wonder Woman includes us women in the fight for that truth. RAWR!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Who Executes Justice for the Oppressed

When I’m not sure what to read in the Bible, I sometimes go with the daily lectionary.  It’s a three year cycle of daily readings used by some parts of the Church.  So, I meant to read Psalm 145.  But, due to sleepy brain, I read Psalm 146.  All that to say, I found some cool nuggets to share.  Thanks for letting me share them with you!

               5Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
                              whose hope is in the LORD his God,
               6who made heaven and earth,
                              the sea, and all that is in them,
               who keeps faith forever;
                              7who executes justice for the oppressed,
                              who gives food to the hungry.
Psalm 146:5-7 (ESV)

Check out the contrast of this passage between verse six and seven.  First, the Lord God made everything—heaven, earth, the sea, and all of us in them. All the birds, plants, animals, and people.  At the pivot in between, the psalmist reminds us that this Creator God keeps faith forever, always, non-stop, without ceasing.  Then, this grand, majestic God concerns Himself with the least of us. He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  We humans don’t give much attention to the oppressed.  It seems the less we know, we don’t have to feel uncomfortable and the oppressors can keep and grow their power.  And the hungry we help out around Thanksgiving and Christmas, maybe drop a coin or two in the red kettles and let those organization help those people. 

But.  But!  The creator of all—pause right there.  How much attention do we give to the creator of Apple or Microsoft?  How much attention do they give us?  But God, the Creator, keeps faith, and executes justice for the oppressed.  He notices them, He notices their oppression, and makes justice happen for them.  The oppressed aren’t a statistic or an infographic in a newsfeed to God.  He is with them, Immanuel.  He is the God who sees, El Roi.  He recognizes that they are oppressed, and He does something about it.  He keeps faith forever.

And another amazing thing?  This Creator, faithful, seeing, with us God, invites us to create, be faithful, really see people, and be with them.  He invites us to recognize the oppressed—in our community and around the world.  To recognize our human sister or brother and their experience.  To name and call out their oppression.  And to work for their justice. 

Too often, though, I find myself like this: 
Ostrich with its head in the ground
If I don't see it, it doesn't exist, right?
My heart hurts when I start seeing the oppressed and I feel too tiny, powerless.  I can bury my head in the endless sand of silly cell phone games and entertainment, letting my heart atrophy to avoid the pain.  But then, I’m denying who I was made to be.  With my head and heart deadened by entertainment, my silence and my dollars inadvertently prop up the oppressors. 

If my heart breaks when I see the oppressed, I must remember that the creator of all is faithful forever.  And that includes being faithful to me, too.  This Advent, we remember that God came, that He is the God with us.  We are not forgotten.  So neither should we forget.  The most often repeated command in the Bible is, “Fear not!”  Don’t fear when your heart hurts.  Don’t fear when you feel too small.  Don’t fear to see and be with people, to really love.  God keeps faith forever. 

Here are verses seven through nine reworded to encourage us—me and you—to put feet to our reflections on this psalm.                              

The Lord, who executes justice for the oppressed.
How can I concretely work for justice for the oppressed today? 

Who gives food to the hungry.
Who can I feed today, who would have otherwise gone hungry?

The Lord sets the prisoners free.
In a literal sense, how can I work for prison reform today?  In a figurative and very real sense, who do I know, including myself, that is in mental, emotional, or spiritual bondage that I can touch with kindness today? 

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
How can I help to open the eyes of the blind today?  How do my own eyes need to be opened today?

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.
What burdens can I lighten or remove from people today, to allow my sisters and brothers to stand upright in their dignity as a daughter or son of God?

The Lord loves the righteous.
How can I love those quietly working to put things right—the righteous—today?  And, how can I tangibly love the self-righteous?

The Lord watches over the sojourners.
How can I protect the vulnerable today, those fleeing everything they’ve ever known, seeking safety and stability?

He upholds the widow and the fatherless,
How can I provide help to those experiencing the crushing grief and financial burden of losing a husband, wife, father, or mother?

But the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
How can I bring ruin to the way and systems of wickedness today, while loving those perpetuating those systems—unknowingly and knowingly? 
That’s a tall order of actions to take.  But—I’m preaching to myself here—don’t be an ostrich.  Don’t be afraid to let your heart hurt.  God came, He is with us!  There is hope!  Small acts of kindness and justice add up.  Do what you know and are called to today—however small, huge, or scary.  God will mend our hearts and be with us. 

               The LORD will reign forever,
                              your God, O Zion, to all generations.
               Praise the LORD!
Psalm 146:10 (ESV)

May I suggest one act to take today?  My friend Danielle is participating in Dressember, where she wears a dress every day in December to raise awareness about the grievous oppression of sex trafficking.  You can watch this TEDx talk to learn more: “How a Dress Can Change the World”

You can also donate to her fundraising page, supporting International Justice Mission.  And bonus!  Every donation will be matched by an anonymous supporter of Feet for Freedom, up to the first $1,000 donated. Thank you for your generosity!