Friday, October 26, 2012

Just... stop... talking.

Dear Politicians:

I am a 30 something year old woman who would like you to stop talking about my reproductive organs since you CLEARLY do not have a good understanding of anything about my body.  Listening to YOUR understanding of my body, my reproductive organs, and the choices I make with them feels a little something like this.

While this video is adorable and I celebrate the creativity and understandings of a child - YOU are not a child.  Neither are you a doctor, nor are you a theologian, nor are you a woman, and you just....

I understand that many different professionals have to come together in order to make policy surrounding issues such as abortion, rape, birth control, medical care for my uterus, etc. but you can also make sure you understand this clearly, and focus on YOUR profession, leaving those other professionals to do their jobs.  I have never been pregnant, I have never been in the situation of needing to make a decision about an abortion, nor have I ever been raped.  But I am a woman, I am a theologian, and I am a minister.  Those three things alone make me qualified to tell you to STOP TALKING AND LISTEN.

I am not advocating that you have agree with my personal decisions, nor compromise your own personal beliefs.  However, leave the job of professionals up to those professionals.  Use them as guides and help along the way but actually LISTEN to them as you work together, doing YOUR job, not the job of others.

If you listen to them, ministers, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders will tell you that theologians around the world have been pondering, discussing, arguing, and praying about why horrible things happen in our world for CENTURIES.  So let that serve as a reminder, that you, on your soap box during an election year are NOT qualified to make definitive statements about why rape happens; nor are you qualified to speak about something that might happen as the result of that rape.  Doctors will tell us the HOW things happen in an instance of horrific assault, theologians and ministers can help women and their loved ones grapple with the WHY.  But you Mr. Politician, you can deal with the WHAT and that is your only job.  What needs to happen now that this unspeakable sexual assault has happened?  What needs to happen so that this woman feels like she should report it, because she trusts that all efforts will be made to bring her attacker to justice?  What needs to happen so that this woman does not feel condemned to a life she did not choose?  What needs to happen so that this woman can use her OWN personal, moral and religious convictions to work through this horrible experience?  What needs to happen to remind this woman that she lives in a free country that seeks out her liberty and well-being?

I am a religious leader, and I am telling you that your religious convictions DO NOT matter to me, nor should they heavily influence your policy making discussions.  I know they will some, but we live in a free country where your religions convictions should be as separate from your policy making as possible.  Instead, your policy discussions should surround the question, "Does the United States government, the government of a free nation where its people are allowed to practice whatever version of religion they choose, or choose not to, have the right make decisions for women OR MEN who have been raped?"

Do not ponder why this happened, if the woman's skirt was too short, or if you think she was "asking for it."  Do not ponder why this woman chose not to come forward right away, or why she still felt violated, assaulted and attacked even if it was someone she knew and trusted.  Do not ponder why this woman only said STOP sixteen times instead of seventeen.  Do not ponder why this woman's grief and fear have kept her from remembering every single detail of every single awful moment.  Do not ponder why this woman conceived a child out of this horrific experience.  JUST STOP.

Instead, ponder what the social services of our governments can do to support this woman, her loved ones, and possibly the child that comes out of this experience.  Ponder what policies need to change so that they are SUPPORTIVE and not CONDEMNING.  Ponder the ways that our government can give liberty and well-being back to someone who has been violated on the most intimate level possible.  Ponder the ways that you can get as much information as possible from professionals in their various fields so that you can make INFORMED decisions.

Most of all - if you do not have these lady parts constantly in question and discussion - SIT BACK.  Invite a WOMAN to your party of professionals and LISTEN to HER.  Invite women who have experienced these horrific acts to come to share their stories, without fear, and LISTEN to them.  Just stop talking.  Start listening to those who are directly involved in these experiences.  Stop talking and listen to the professionals that are qualified to do so.  And then... after you have done all the listening you think you have to do.  Listen some more.  Then, and only then are you qualified to do your own job.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I'm a Minister Too!

No.  No, you're not.  You were licensed on the internet for $29.95 to perform wedding ceremonies (and sometimes only temporarily).

I feel like I'm a pretty good sport.  I swear I've heard just about every comment under the sun when I tell people that I'm a minister, and I can smile and graciously respond to almost all of them.  My parents taught me a lot about being gracious and how to act in public, so 99/99999% of the time I can handle anything or any comments people throw at me.  Sometimes they straight up don't believe me.  (One time they just turned around and walked away!)  Sometimes they are intrigued and ask a few questions.  Sometimes they are judgmental and ask LOTS of questions (basically trying to discredit my "claim").  Sometimes they ask really personal questions that are none of their business but most of the time they want to talk about THEMSELVES and how they have interacted with and/or experienced the church.

Most of the time they want to tell me about their church (yay _____ church - you're doing a good job!).  The other response I get often is they want to tell me all the reasons they don't appreciate/follow/like organized religion.  (Lawyers, I'm genuinely intrigued; do people start telling you how much they hate the law?)  But like I said, I'm willing to listen.  I know several people have been hurt by the church, and the deserve to have "the church," hear them out.  Did they plan to share their hurt with "the church," while sitting at a lunch counter in the airport?  Probably not, but I'll listen and "be the church," for them.  It might not be THE one thing that brings them back to the church or organized religion - but they deserve to be heard.

Most recently on my way back from an AMAZING spiritual retreat with some of the most amazing ministers I know a conversation began with a man while we were waiting for our plane.  We started talking about football because the Saints game was on, but after having to wait for our flight for quite some time, the conversation turned to a variety of other things, including what we do for a living.

He works for an electrical company selling to builders and other contractors, and oh yeah, after I told him that I am a minister he let me know that he is too.  He got ordained on the internet.

To be fair, I recognize that not everyone that gets married is spiritual or religious and that people desire to have meaningful weddings without a religious component.  In that regard, find a Justice of the Peace that is known for performing weddings, that can do it with feeling, respect, and integrity for the relationship that you are honoring.  Find a way for someone you trust and respect to be licensed to perform weddings.  Whether it is on the internet or through the County Clerks office - find a way to have an officiant that is licensed, not tied to a church and not a MINISTER - that's what you wanted, right?  However, if you are not religious, do not have a religious background and do not want to get married by a minister - then DON'T.  Please do not ask one of your friends to "get ordained" on the internet for $29.95 and call it "being a minister."

The church has had a LONG history of working with ministers within the church so that they can serve this Body of Christ even if it is not in the traditional way.  The Christian Church (DOC), along with several other mainline protestant churches, is working to develop programs that will allow second career and bi-vocational ministers to still DO MINISTRY with their churches even in different contexts.  Whether its through online M.Div. programs or through commissioned ministry in which you consistently have a a mentor to work with you, the church is working to help people interested in MINISTRY get to where they need to be.

That being said - those who have been "ordained" on the internet - I respect your right to be LICENSED to perform weddings.  I respect the need for such individuals in light of many people not wanting religious ceremonies, nor connections to a certain religious body.  However - stop calling yourselves ministers.  You do not minister.  You are licensed to perform weddings - and some may do it with great integrity and respect - but you are not ministers.  Please leave this classification for those of us that choose this incredibly hard, but incredibly rewarding way of life - and those of us that regardless of our life circumstances make every effort we can to ACTUALLY be ministers.