Wednesday, April 27, 2005

the social equivalent of the titanic

We thought we had a foolproof plan. We had a pretty innocuous discussion topic (friendship), we scoped out seating arrangements (we all sit together), and we were excited about the fondue. For once, in the 5 ½ years of planning these monthly church people dinners, we felt kinda good about how easy the evening was going to be.

Then it all fell to shit.

I mean, HOW COULD A CONVERSATION ABOUT FRIENDSHIP TURN TO SHIT?? HOW, in the name of all that’s good and American, can a group of thirtysomething 4thers turn a mild exploration of how we make friends, keep friends, love friends, have friends – how could THIS turn into seminary debate team? HOW could an evening in soft lighting, melted cheese, wine and FONDUE suddenly make a pastor depressed over whiskey, make three women so mad they wanted to EAT their cigarettes and put us all in despair over the future of progressive Christianity?

I’ll tell you how.

Get a man who misses the social mores of 1850 and put him next to me, my roomie and our sharp lawyer friend K- and THEN have him say that a single woman having lunch/dinner/coffee/wine with a married male friend of hers alone is tantamount to pedophilic priests being left alone with children.

Get a woman who teaches at a local university and get her to say that she doesn’t think healthcare should be provided for seniors or poor people and put her across from a Scottish pastor (who sings songs by the wobblies from the pulpit) and watch things get so bad he calls her hateful from across the table.

Get a brainy, argumentative Ph.D in neuroscience, put a drink in his hand and then have him crack open his brain and watch him get into aggressive debate defending strict Calvinism, apostle paul, women's submission in church and watch the table fall silent with dismay.

Get a young perky girl and get her to ask the three of us if religion plays a part in who we date and then one of us says No and watch us suddenly get on the hotseat about why we were deacons then.

That’s how a nice evening can turn to shit.


it's much too late to go into it now, but tonight was a doozy: a fondue dinner with presbyterians, one of whom said it was adultery to have coffee with a married friend alone.

i'll be back wednesday with a full report. (i had to have several glasses of wine to recover.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

coming soon...

a recent comment about anger has started me thinking.
so, soon, i'll post a piece that's in progress.

reading prep: read some bell hooks.

Friday, April 22, 2005

messengers in odd places

T- lives across the street from me. He and his partner are artists; unlike wannabes these two guys live on their art. They sell it on the street, they donate it to friends, they have shows in local cafes, they work out of their basement. My roomie and I met a girl friend of ours at our local bar and T- sauntered over when he saw us. And the conversation between the two of us touched me more than I would have expected.

I was dumbstruck at how open this man is. With his southern accent, his long elegant body and his eye for beautiful things, he hangs out with the homeless people under wacker; he gives money to the crazy naked lady on halsted; he walks to the bus stop and invites the women from the mission to wait for the bus in his living room while serving them egg nog. When he digs in trash and finds the stuff to make his art he doesn’t think this is strange; to him trash is the equalizer – we’re all on the bottom, he says. Some of us just don’t know it.

And when I told him of the decision I’d probably have to make tomorrow morning (yes, it’s drawn out this long) he suddenly excused himself and went to his apartment next door. When he came back he had a short string of fresh water and black pearls and crystal in his hand. At the end of the short strand a tiny medallion of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix hung. He laid them on the table between us.

‘I don’t know you very well,’ he said. ‘But I know that when you talked about working with the Y your voice lifted and your eyes lit up. When you talked about the other, you stumbled. There are things we all have to give away and pride is one of them. Life has taught me humility; I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, I’ve eaten peanut butter sandwiches and thought them feasts, I’ve counted pennies when I used to have thousands. But I’ve never lost faith that my life had meaning, that there was something I was meant to do. I don’t have religion the way other people have but I’ve always thought I’d have to answer to … some … spark.”

He gave me the short strand. They were beautiful – creamy misshapen pearls, gray black pearls and crystals the color of a girl’s blush.

“It’s better to know you’ve done the right thing rather than the convenient thing. A comfortable man is not safe,’ he said, quoting Benjamin Franklin. ‘When you pray about your decision, use these beads. This is the beauty of humility. This is the beauty of sacrifice.”

And, in all places – my neighborhood bar – I felt my eyes fill with tears as I wound the strand around my fingers.

[cross posted at screed]

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

mommy's choice

Being a Lady of the Day (aka, unemployed) means that I have the occasional moment to sit and watch Oprah while eating cereal in the morning. Monday morning I watched Jon Stewart cavort with Oprah until we were rudely interrupted by the Conclave; this morning it was a mother’s shocking confession that…she loves her husband more than her children.

Yes, Ayelet Waldman (wife to Michael Chabon) made the stunning announcement that she is in love with her husband and not her children; that if he died she would be devastated while, if one of her children died (God forbid), she could dare to imagine a life for herself. The stay at home mothers gasped in horror as if she had said, I would stab all of my children and drink their blood rather than be apart from my husband.

These mothers were horrified that she, another mother, could pick her spouse rather than her child; one woman had even asked her own daughter what she would think if she knew her mommy loved daddy more and brought a note to the show to chastise Waldman – ‘Bad mommy,’ she said. (What an inappropriate question to ask a child.) The outrage and insecurity these women showed seemed out of place to me.

In the essay that sparked the discussion, Waldman had written:“…my husband will say that we, he and I, are the core of what he cherishes, that the children are satellites, beloved but tangential.”

It was this marginalization of the child that outraged the mothers in Oprah’s studio; how could she say that, they cried. How could she call herself a good mother when she’s told her kids they don’t matter to her? Their blatant misunderstanding of Waldman’s position aside, my roomie and I found the other women’s attempts to get her to reorient her passions toward her children away from her life partner bizarre and rather cult-like.

It seems logical to me that a woman would feel for her husband more than her child(ren). Yes, I’m blatantly commitment-phobic but there is enough of a Catherine/Heathcliff-type romantic in me who thinks that’s the whole point of being in a relationship: to shout to the world that the metaphysically impossible has happened. You’ve met your soulmate.

I remember a day when it was made very clear to me and my sister that our father loved our mother more than he loved us. We had discovered a part of our mother’s past – a secret that my father had known all along; feeling hurt and betrayed we confronted him – how could he keep something like that from us, his children? My father’s answer was firm and quiet.

‘She and I – we – chose each other,’ he said to us. ‘That woman is my wife and I will not stand for anyone, not even you, stepping in between that.’ My father’s love and loyalty, we learned, was absolutely unwavering, as was my mother’s for him. My sister and I, as loved as we were, stood outside of their circle, only curious observers to what happened inside of it.

I’ve never been a mother so I can’t speak to the special bond one feels when breast feeding, blah blah blah. However, feeling so much passion for my partner it turns me into an oddity at Gymboree?

Sounds good to me.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tom Delay's House of Scandal

befuddled by all the faradiddle about delay? well, here's a handy guide.

pass it around and edumacate someone.

[via mother jones]
i have decisions to make this week: non profit or corporate? the choice is down to these two organizations, both of them great. one will make me happy; the other will allow me to be a fiscally responsible adult (which will make me happy, but in a different way.)

roomie was offered a job today with a consulting company - yay!

so this week will be my turn. i'll miss my mornings.
remember that movie 'dead zone' and martin sheen's character? he reminds me of the current administration and its operatives.

hm. a happy thought right before bed.


a very hot discussion about feminism going on over at my friend Bitch. Ph.D.'s blog. be sure to also read her post about trusting women. it was so spot on i had to stand back and go 'wow.' just - wow.

dang, i like smart women.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

what happens when that crazy law professor gets on the judiciate

The New York Times > Magazine > The Unregulated Offensive

yesterday i mildly freaked out that the newly vocal movement to pack our supreme court with hardline theocratic social conservatives was picking up steam. this morning, it's the Constitution in Exile movement. it encourages judges to 'strike down laws on behalf of rights that don't appear explicity in the Constitution.' so...things like OSHA, the EPA, Social Security, the FCC and the National Labor Relations Board -- all struck down as unconstitutional. here's a little bit about it:

If they win -- if, years from now, the Constitution is brought back from its decades of arguable exile -- and federal environmental laws are struck down, the movement's loyalists do not expect the levels of air and water pollution to rise catastrophically. They are confident that local regulations and private contracts between businesses and neighbors will determine the pollution levels that each region demands. Nor do they expect vulnerable workers to be exploited in sweatshops if labor unions are weakened: they anticipate that entrepreneurial workers in a mobile economy will bargain for the working conditions that their talents deserve. Historic districts, as they see it, will not be eviscerated if zoning laws are scaled back, but they do imagine there will be fewer brownstones and more McMansions. In exchange for these trade-offs, they insist, individual liberty -- the indispensable guarantee of self-fulfillment and happiness -- would flourish far more extensively than it does today.

Of course, there would be losers as well as winners in a deregulated market economy, and history provides plenty of reasons to be concerned about the possibility of abuse. Even the relatively modest deregulation of today's increasingly global and fluid U.S. economy may provide something of a cautionary tale. From Enron to illegal trading by mutual funds and bid-rigging in the insurance industry, corporate scandals are keeping consumer advocates like Eliot Spitzer quite busy. America, at the moment, is engaged in an important debate about the relative merits and dangers of the market economy, and the advocates of the Constitution in Exile are aware that they cannot achieve ultimate success without persuading a majority of the American people to embrace their vision.

Notice their blindnesses: once federal laws are rolled back to pre-New Deal levels, there won’t be considerable increases in pollution, worker deaths/injuries, or labor exploitation. They are confident that communities and private contracts will be able to reign in the larger excesses of the ruler class. Instead of relying on unions to bargain collectively for them, workers will show scrappy derring-do and negotiate with their employers in good faith, because we all know that’s what capital interests and those who hold them do – bargain in good faith.

These are the dreams of men who have no grasp of reality. These are the fantasies of men who’ve lived far too long in dusty rooms. These are the desires of men who want to see the world rolled back to place where workers, women, the poor, immigrants were fodder for business. (Read a good history book, people!) And people of color? Invisible. These are men who remain ignorant to the lessons of history, to the lessons of basic human behavior.

Where is the call for government to operate in the best interest of all – not just the monied few? To protect against the rapacious appetites of industry and private enterprise? This judicial vision, which one administration official calls ‘close’ to the administration’s own, is one built with the Winners in mind; for a moment let’s imagine a world where the Winners get everything they want and let’s be very angry and afraid.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

church, meet state. now go over there.

The New York Times > Washington > Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue

i think this says it all:

"The issue of the judiciary is really something that has been veiled by this 'judicial mystique' so our folks don't really understand it, but they are beginning to connect the dots," Mr. Perkins said in an interview, reciting a string of court decisions about prayer or displays of religion.

"They were all brought about by the courts," he said.

why mr. perkins fails to understand that what he calls 'judicial mystique' is what everyone else calls 'constitutionality' is incomprehensible to me. but what comes through very clear, other than the fact the GOP is quite willing to scrape the bottom of the PR barrel to get their way, is that the alliance between the christian right and the republican party is one that will have serious repercussions for people of faith, as well as those who aren't.

by theoretically aligning our courts with religious sentiment, the veil between church and state virtually disappears (and, please, everyone shut up about how church and state was never explicitly separated in our constitution - that's how our constitution has been traditionally interpreted for the past two centuries; if it's not explicit, our custom makes it so now.)

as a christian woman i don't want to see civil law mixed in with religious law. under religious law, my body is not my own. under religious law, most of my friends and associates are religious criminals. we are living in a secular society, right? a pluralistic society?

when did this happen? when did private acts of faith become public authority? i wrote about this before, but it's frightening that our more conservative christians can't see what's about to happen.

then what the hell is going on with this and what can we, as people of faith, do to stop it? i'm serious. i'm asking because this is seriously disturbing (as is the virtual DEAFENING SILENCE coming from the dems on this one.) why aren't the mainline denominations coming out against this? where are the progressives of faith about this? am i reading the wrong things? is it just me in the dark here?

Friday, April 15, 2005


[via post secret]

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

GodBlogCon 05: it's a plan

wouldn't this be neat?
i think i could probably swing a visit around that time since my family is still in southern california.

but looking at the still to be finalized session where are the women?

[via the nytimes, of all places]

Sunday, April 10, 2005

man date

The New York Times : The Man Date

my rommate told me about this article and i laughed my ass off. not because i'm scornful (snort) but...ok, i can't even finish that sentence.

guys... come on. share a bottle of wine. go to that dark jazz club and don't sit at the bar. take long walks in the park together. no one will think you're gay.

(my dad goes on man dates all the time! he's 61!)

more and more i think the average straight male mind is a rabbit warren of insecurities and paranoias.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

i'm waiting...

ignoring vs. ignorance.

echidne's blog is another of my favorites. sly of tongue but very sharp of mind.

this time she levels her gaze at what radical conservatives want to do about the constitution.
we can ignore these little signs of incipient craziness...but should we?

i have to take a nap now.

happy anniversary to me: church gal is 1 yr old

my dad and i were in the habit of checking in with each other; he worried that some big city serial killer had finally overpowered his baby and had her locked up in some cage and i worried that some divorcee with gold teeth and a weave would sink her claws into my newly single still grieving dad (who has all the instincts of a man who stopped dating in the 60s.)

so one day he called me:

Dad: hey, little girl. i have an idea.
Me: yeah? what idea is that?
D: i want you to write an article about relationships for my website.
M: (laughing)
D: really. you're single, smart, live in the big city and it would be great. it doesn't have to be long. a column.
M: i don't think you want to do this. i mean, you really don't want to do this.
D: of course i do. you're my baby.
M: see? you don't want me to write for you. i'm honest, dad. i get the feeling your audience, uh, may not like that from, uh, someone like me.
D: aw, forget them. they can't handle it, forget it. it would be great. just something about what it's like being a christian woman dating.
M: i don't write very nice. i mean, i don't do churchy. i don't write devotions.
D: that's not what i want. i want what you have to say. what you see. what you think.
M: (hesitating) well... i warned you.

i did. i warned him and then i wrote it. i wrote four of them, actually, and jeebus - the crap storm that opened up on me from my dad's male readership was spectacular. maybe that's to be expected when you write something called "why i don't date church guys." anyway, those four articles (one of which is here) started me thinking about the ways that i don't quite think 'churchily'. i hadn't really thought about what it meant to be a progressive christian woman before and now i was thinking about it. amy sullivan's writing had also started the cogs turning in my head about how my faith and politics intersect or diverge. throw in the insanity that was the election year and ChurchGal was born - one year ago this month.

so cheers to this little blog for keeping me sane and actually forcing me to learn some things. i hope the second year is just as fun.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

for dad

The Christian Century Magazine

just this. just in case he stops by.

don't worry; be happy

to piggyback on my comment yesterday about how we tend to pray for things to make us happy, just thought i'd link to this.

it is a pretty good article from the revealer about some research on teens and their religious beliefs. the discussion in the comments section is good and lively (and less rancorous than when discussing the pope or the latest gay marriage ban in kansas.)

late night secrets


'night you guys.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005



i used to be a fun person. now i'm as fun as a baptist in boystown. in the middle of feeling worn down by this job search (enough already! find me a job!! it's been 5 freaking months!!), and pulling clumps of curly hair at all the political crap happening, there's the sense that ding's old fun persona is fading fast. i used to have the best stories, the funniest stories, the wackiest tales of city life. things would happen to me and every day was an adventure.

today, for 3 minutes, i actually had a fantasy about selling my soul to be some corporate drone for the rest of my life to buy a house of my own. what the hell. now, my biggest adventure is standing in the unemployment line and hearing manny the case worker say my name the way it's meant to be said. and i blushed! lame. i'm getting earnest.

is THIS what my ordinary life has become? getting jazzed because a stranger pronounced my name the right way?!?

Monday, April 04, 2005

I’m not in any particular mood to write today. I’m consumed with job worry, money worry. I worry waaay too much but I’ve found that there’s often a good reason for it. (And, my cleaning lady is here and I’m feeling weird sitting here while she wipes down my kitchen counters.)

When I was a kid my family owned a few albums by Dallas Holm (remember him?). He had this one song that said something like ‘I’ve never seen His seed begging for bread.’ This phrase gave me comfort of a false sort. Yay, I thought. I’m His seed and since that is so, I won’t have to worry about material stuff. I’m always going to be ok. Now, being an adult, I know that’s utter crap. Like non-seeds, if I manage my money poorly, I am going to have a sucky life. So currently I’m in this panic spiral of student loan payments, taxes, bills, rent, expenses, obligations, upcoming travel…it’s overwhelming me – even though it’s only been ONE week I’ve been unemployed.

The words from the Bible that ask us to cast our care on Him sound good, don’t they? But it seems really petty to me: Dear Jesus, I have $1600 in debt. Uh, I’m worried about that. Help me land a really good job that’ll allow me to pay all that stuff off so I’ll be less worried? Wouldja do that for me? Oh, yeah, and help those folk who don’t have a home in Indonesia, while you’re at it, too. I suppose if I was living a purpose driven life or something like that I wouldn’t care that asking God for financial assistance is lame. Maybe. All those PDLs seem awfully satisfied and worry-free while I am constantly lost in the tall grass.

And asking for my worry to be taken away won’t help me either; the problem (debt) will still be there. Is prayer supposed to work like a holy dose of valium? Numb me, Lord, so I won’t see how much of a financial hole I’m in and I won’t mind it so much.

If so, I have half a tab of valium left over from a dental scrip with my name on it…

Sunday, April 03, 2005

today on the history channel they aired a fun show on sexuality in biblical times (augmented by lots of 19th century paintings featuring perky breasts and breathily narrated by kathleen turner, no less.)

not only did they hit all the stories i secretly read during my dad's sermons when i was a kid (abraham/sarah/hagar, david and bathsheba, amnon and his sister, tamara and judah, lot and his daughters, the whole song of solomon) they made this interesting dichotomy between the old and new testaments: old = sex is great and it's even better when you do it with your mate(though they didn't get to ruth and what happened with old boaz out there in that field); new = sex is ... ok and if you don't want it you don't have to, in fact don't do it, but if you can't not do it, then you better be married, cuz if you don't then you're like a roman whore.

oh, and apparently paul and augustine totally messed us up. totally.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

sex ed saturday

from my morning perusal of, came across, a site created by our gov to help parents embarrassed to talk with their kids about sex.

feministing thinks it's appalling; i wanted to see for myself so i read the site, especially the parts about contraception and sex ed. at first i thought, well, it looks ok. then i thought, well, you've internalized all your lessons about sex ed already (it's already a part of my thinking) so you're not a good judge.

so i decided to compare its information on contraception to planned parenthood's information.

(and hey! planned parenthood also talks about abstinence! whaddya know.)

in this day and age i can't believe parents are *still* skeeved out talking to their kids about sex. come on! my sister and i can remember the day, hour and context of our conversation with our dad about sex. (we had german shepherds and our bitch was in heat.) we were in elementary school. and we were in junior high when our mom told us to 'explore our bodies.' (gasp - a minister's wife!!)

knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to action, you know. (for me, it was at least a 15 year gap between one and the other.)

april fool

uh. ok.

i love his first sentence:
Christ was a man, Moses was a man, and Mohammed was a man. The conclusion that I draw from this is Thou shalt never apologize for being a man.

yeah, that's exactly it.

via big brass blog.