Archive for April, 2009

Outrage, Outrageously Done

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

(Adapted from Moscow’s Vision 2020 forum)

I find it hysterical — were it not so painfully hypocritical — that Christ Church elder and erstwhile blogger Dale Courtney is cursing a Moscow man’s efforts to get the City to release its Hawkins water-allocation records, remarking on his blog that he hopes the man gets stuck footing the bill.

This is the same Dale Courtney who revered the late Jack Wenders, the University of Idaho professor who pioneered the administrative monkeywrenching of the Moscow School District by asking for reams and reams of information for purposes both malicious and dishonest during the 2005 bond campaign. Wenders, a man as churlish as he was myopic, even asked that my personal emails be made available to him, a request that I enthusiastically rejected, given that I was not in a taxpayer-paid position. I don’t recall Dale’s concern for an overworked MSD staff or for the expense of Wenders’ innumerable requests, and, given the war of words he and I engaged in, I think I’d have felt his pain.

The reasons for Dale’s outrage now are simply because this citizen (with whom, by the way, I’ve had many public and pronounced disagreements) has questioned the Hawkins deal, an issue that, like heralding Wal-Mart, screwing public schools, and protesting a return to Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthy, seems to consume Dale much, much more than you would expect it would consume an elder at Moscow’s largest church — that is, unless Moscow’s largest church isn’t an actual congregation, but, instead, another group entirely, a miserable hybrid of post-millennial, neo-Libertarian, arch-conservative patriarchs who’ve mastered the trick of Christianizing the love of mammon and Libertarianizing the message of love.

That church, Courtney serves well.

Words To Remember

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

“May we never break the strong spirits of our daughters. May we teach our sons to become loving and nurturing men. In so doing, we hold the key to universal peace.”
Jane Evershed.

The Gospel is the key to universal peace, and strength of Spirit and humility in Christ on the part of both women and men will do more to bring it about than anything patriarchy has to offer.

Murder By Shock

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

A Greeley, Colorado, man was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after killing an 18-year-old transsexual whose biological maleness “shocked” him as they were becoming intimate. He thought she was biologically female, but the presence of her male genitalia sent him into a rage that resulted in her fatal bludgeoning.

Yes, it was a hate crime. Yes, it was murder. And yes, it’s further evidence of the pernicious effect of patriarchy on our culture, a culture where women usually suffer in the most obvious ways, while men who suffer from the curse of patriarchy do so in ways much less obvious — like the stoking of male privilege that, in this case, resulted in a man’s killing another person because he was “tricked” into believing she was a woman. Patriarchy — men having power over not just women, but everyone else deemed societally subject to powerful men — is what makes a man believe that his sexual honor is a right and privilege that, when offended, must be reclaimed and defended even to the point of violence. Even violence against an 18-year-old suffering from gender confusion, whose crime was pretending to be a woman but possessing a penis.

That the murderer was humiliated, angered, and deceived is clear. But extreme forms of male privilege, and the homophobia that accompanies it, has convinced some men that any hint of homoerotic confusion or denial of sexual conquest is justification for retaliation. And so while we believe that rape, for example, is a crime, we teach our boys that intercourse once initiated must be completed — even when the partner says no. Men, we’ve been taught, simply can’t control themselves sexually. The man who initiates sex only to find out that his partner is biologically male becomes so indebted to societal feelings of male privilege and to his own horror of homosexuality that he lashes out in rage — a rage that no more confirms and secures male heterosexuality than it does confirm and secure Biblical manhood. While we condemn the murder of the young transsexual, too many of us believe that somehow the victim deserved it — a man shamed sexually, or restricted in expressing himself sexually, is thought to be carrying a burden that can only be resolved by his victory over the offender.

Scripture has another view, of course. The mutuality of sexual expression, exercise of authority, and voluntary submission in the New Testament is hard to explain away, although millions of patriarchal Christians try to. And why not? The Fall predicts and explains the sinful grasping of male privilege that the Church has practiced for centuries, and Christian men and women have to be held accountable in large part for our culture’s enshrinement of male sexual honor and disregard for female sexual security. Male sexuality is not a loaded gun, ready to go off at the slightest provocation.

Spring is Here, And So Are Breastfeeding Moms

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Now that the sun is out and the ground is no longer covered with snow, Jeff’s been able to start his landscaping season. And when the landscaper is busy, the landscaper’s wife is, too. Lawn aeration is a wonderful thing. Doing billings for lawn aeration, as I’ve been doing lately, isn’t nearly so fun. But I’m back to blogging, and a few things have caught my attention.

One is Washington State’s passage of a law that protects women who breastfeed or express breast milk in public. Only 25 states do; in other states, women who breastfeed their children in public places can be subject to sanction. This is one of those realities that reflect the sinful culture we live in: women’s breasts, widely and prominently used to help sell beer, sports cars, and athletic events on billboards and in print advertising, are deemed “indecent” when even partially exposed in the feeding and nurture of their little ones. We’ve tolerated the use of buxom, scantily-clad young women in advertising, knowing that no restaurant or beer distributor is interested in having its product hawked by a flat-chested, plain woman, but we’ve expressed outrage when a woman uses her breasts for their God-given purpose: to lovingly feed and sustain her infant or toddler.

Let’s put it another way. Men, breasts were not made for you. Enjoy your wife’s, and God be praised while you acknowledge the beauty of the human body, but please be clear in grasping that women don’t have breasts to titillate you while you decide between Carl’s Jr. or Hooters, Bud Light or Coors, NASCAR or boxing.

As a former breastfeeding mom, I considered that my primary responsibility in feeding my children was their well-being; at no time did I feel charged with protecting men from their own lust. No other woman ought to, either. A bittersweet kudos, then, to the State of Washington for stating what really ought to never need establishing — that women who breastfeed their children in public should never be harassed, persecuted, or shamed. And unless you’re willing to take your meals in a public bathroom, think hard about expecting a nursing mom to appease your discomfort by taking baby into the restroom to breastfeed.

My Son, The Poet

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

I’m so proud of my son, Jonah! In sixth grade, he won second place in Moscow in the annual Pleiades Poetry competition. He’s in 10th grade now, and we just heard that of hundreds of high school student entries, his poem, below, will be read by Robert Wrigley, Idaho’s poet laureate, as one of the top five in this year’s competition. There’s a reception for those honored on April 26 at 3 p.m. at the 1912 Center, and you bet we’ll be there.

Jonah’s given me permission to print the poem, “Hope,” that so impressed the judges. He wrote it on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 –

The cynic’s hope
So fragile and pathetic; a wet cat after a bath
A frightened, messy creature that hides itself
Waiting to raise its head
Waiting to show its pale angry face to the sun
Pulling open its shut eyes
On walks to the store with pretty friends
Inaugurations and that quiet moment before you step out in the morning
In new shoes or your first day without braces
A million times a day
The cynic fights to keep weak and feeble hope caged by suspicion
Anger and regret
But hope cracks open and hope bleeds through the fixed wall of disappointment
Drips on the day
And leaves it with a shine

***********************************************************************************

My Dad would have been so proud of his grandson, and we thank God for the many gifts he’s given Jonah.

"The ‘Global Warming’ On My Deck"

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Isn’t it curious that our local pioneer of classical Christian education, the Don of the Disputatio whose sniping criticism of stupidity in secular pedagogy has elevated him to the upper ranks of Reformed academia, would be so cheerfully dense as to continue joking that April snow in Moscow deals a death blow to the theory of anthropocentric global warming?

I hope this isn’t an example of New St. Andrews’ announced commitment to teaching its students “how to think.” Perhaps its founder hath decreed that in matters of public policy, logic, reason, and perspective just get in the way of a good ol’ serrated edge, carelessly whipped out and wielded with a predictable clumsiness that somehow looks deft, not daft, to his acolytes.

Pity.

Shannon Thompson

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Tuesday night I sat at the bedside of my dear friend, Shannon Thompson, as she lay dying. I am thankful to her Lord and mine that, while she declined with astonishing rapidity, she died as pain-free as possible, surrounded at home by the people who loved her. She would have been 46 on May 21. She’s eternally young, healthy, and at peace now.

Shannon had cancer, a particularly aggressive, genetically-linked form that seeped through her body at first and gleefully roiled through it toward the end. That is the official cause of death; her brain, bones, and lungs were poisoned by the cancer that had previously invaded her breasts. But Shannon’s battle with cancer was one of many she had fought throughout her life, and I think that exhaustion, combined with an overwhelming longing to be with Jesus, contributed to her death and to the almost frenetic pace at which she declined in her last two weeks.

Shannon would want you to know about Christ and how he worked in her life. I want you to know what a remarkable woman God gave me in her and how important her friendship was to Jeff and me. Her purpose in this was more noble than mine; she lived to show Christ, bearing the risk of rejection and disgust if only the light of the Gospel were made brighter next to the horror that often accompanied her life. I just want to pay tribute to my friend, to tell everyone I know about who she was. She’d tell me to pour out her story so that others might believe. I pour it out now because it wells up inside me — both the beauty of her transformation and the sadness I feel in losing her. And yet God is glorified in both, in grief and in joy, in loss and in redemption.

I met Shannon when she had finished her first round of chemo, three years ago in March. She was addicted to meth and alcohol and cigarettes; she was also addicted, in ways not altogether different, to the turmoil, violence, and trauma that had dogged her since birth. That day, she called a pastor friend of mine after seeing the word “evangelical” in the name of his church written in the phone book. She remembered, through her despair and depression, that “evangelical” was good, so she called him to ask if Jesus would send her to hell if she killed herself. My friend wisely set up a coffee date with her and asked me to come along. For three hours, we listened to her story. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer that, the doctors said, would inevitably migrate to her ovaries and uterus and would kill her some day. Her partner, Bob, had just been arrested on possession and distribution charges; she was estranged from two of her three children and torn up by the drug use of the third. She lived in a flophouse in Moscow, and less than a week after I met her, she overdosed in a suicide attempt. When she woke up in the ICU, she decided that, maybe, she could trust that Christ had allowed her to, and she began a journey of childlike faith and superhuman strength that touched the lives of countless people, and changed my life forever.

Shannon lived to lead people to Christ. She was steadfast in proclaiming that her victories were his and her failures only hers, and only then opportunities for faith. And she knew, contrary to what a lifetime of rejection and condemnation wrought in her, that she was never beyond the reach of the One who loves the poor, inclines His ear to the pleas of the oppressed, and turns in love to the humble and contrite. She knew she would die sooner rather than later of her cancer, and she was determined that no one who knew her before Christ would miss out on her telling what was true in her life after Christ. She had a study Bible the size of a toaster oven, and she cut through the fluff and garbage that often clutters the Evangelical community’s witness by insisting that if God said it, it was true, and that love was the only imperative for those who called on Christ. She couldn’t abide stuffiness and hypocrisy, and she made sure you knew it. She never finished a conversation without an “I love you,” and the lovingkindness she exhibited toward the people in her life was irrepresible. Even when more “mature” believers would’ve given up on some of her friends, more out of weariness and a weak claim to propriety, Shannon would hang in there, recklessly believing that Jesus was enough. Period.

She is survived by her beloved husband, Bob, who is serving a prison term on drug charges, and who also has come to know Christ. Bob is part of my family, and he’s heartbroken to lose the woman he’s loved for the last decade. I’m heartbroken for him. Our brother hurts, and Jeff and I ache for him. Her two daughters, Linda and Jessica, are beautiful; they were the delight of her heart, and she prayed ’til the end for reconciliation with her son, Michael. May it be. She had six grandchildren, including a beautiful little girl born two weeks ago, and in Christ became the grandma who poured out the love and laughter, attention and affection, that eluded her when she was a young mom struggling with addiction, poverty, despair, and violence. She had a church home in Pullman and a family cobbled together in grace, full of hurting, worn-out, and thrown-out souls who came to Shannon because of the light within her. Sometimes it was brilliant; other times, it flickered in encroaching twilight. But she only reflected the Lightgiver, and God worked mightily through her, even when her view got cloudy and she thought she could see only darkness.

She was braver than I’ve ever been, and I wish she were still here.