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Friday, May 9, 2014

Do Good

     Lately, I've become almost obsessed with these things called Purity Balls. They're like a debutante ball but instead of announcing that your barely legal daughter is now "on the market", parents are effectively announcing that their daughters are off the market. Fathers and their frequently prepubescent daughters take pledges concerning the girl's virginity. The father pledges to protect it until she's married and she pledges to hang on to it until she's properly wedded off. Doesn't sound terrible in light of some of the nasty consequences of sex- STIs, pregnancy, heart break when you realize he only wanted "one thing", does it? Except it's part of this other movement called Christian Patriarchy . I would have thought that meant that G-d The Father was in charge but it doesn't. They're also, not surprisingly, part of what many refer to as the Purity Culture. I encourage you to follow the links provided. They explain these concepts better and in more depth than I want to right now. I also recommend these posts for further reading. sums up most of the objections I have to the Balls. I would add that it really seems, on reading the Generations of light website that money seems to be their primary objective. I also have a problem with the way our culture has to make an extravagant party about everything. If you're that obsessed with your daughter's virginity, talk to her about it and quietly lock her in a tower and spend that money feeding poor people. That's what Christians are supposed to do, anyway. And don't get me started on how these girls are absolutely not prepared for reality. And this post discusses another problematic aspect of the movement: And I'll just throw this one in for shock value But those aren't even what I really want to spend time on any more.
     This isn't something I talk about a lot, but I'm a follower of Christ, or a Christian, in normal vernacular. This was a choice I made as an adult and feel like a person's relationship with G-d and Christ is very personal and direct. Each person has a path that G-d wants them to follow and each person is directly accountable to G-d. Not a priest, elder, bishop or, ultimately, a parent.  I believe that G-d is a god of love and wants us to be good to one another. I also believe that G-d wants us to have a relationship with them and religion, generally a set of man made rules regarding behavior, quite often, has nothing to do with that. In the course of a bible study several years ago, during study of scripture and prayer, I had an image of G-d as a loving parent who just wants their children to sit in their lap and be with them. Not carry out some political agenda and especially not browbeating total strangers into a confession of belief.
       Reading about the purity culture and patriachal movements has influenced my current struggle with organized religion. I currently belong to a denomination that could be considered a fundamentalist, protestant denomination, although, compared to some denominations, considerably less so. In all fairness, I have rarely if ever heard anything so extreme preached in any of the 7 churches in my denomination that I have attended. As I was becoming more and more outraged with what I saw as imprisoning and marginalizing 3/4 of the population, I was becoming more and more disillusioned with "church" and thought I would just separate entirely. Then I thought of the hundreds of really good people I know from the various churches I've attended in my life. I was reminded of the various charitable organizations and NGOs supported by Christian denominations around the world. I was reminded of friends who have gone on short term trips to build schools or help in disaster relief and friends and family members who've gone to stay. Some work under conditions that require secrecy and must keep a bag packed at all times in case they need to be evacuated immediately. When they are mentioned in media published by their denomination, they are only listed by their first initial and the location given is very vague. Other friends have felt so led to help, they have gone on their own, with no formal support of any denomination. One woman was a widowed nurse who went back and forth to Brazil to work with a doctor. She could only stay for a few months at a time and then had to return to the States. She used her own funds and received donations from church members to accomplish this. Yet another friend, also a nurse, and her husband, a teacher, gave up well paying jobs with benefits to move their family to Central America to run a school and do a lot of community development, helping a lot of the people in their town become more financially secure and independent.
    I also thought of the "ordinary' people who stayed home but do various things in their communities to help the people there. I had a friend in Mobile, Alabama who was 72 and drove some older ladies to their doctors appointments. The church I attended Millry, Alabama has a group of men who do various construction projects around the community for people who need them, from wheel chair ramps to commercial kitchens. Really. A local woman was making and selling special order cakes from her home to make ends meet while her husband battled an illness. In Alabama, you're required to produce the food in a commercial facility outside of your home. I guess it's a health code thing. Anyway, someone reported her so there went her cake business. But, not really. These guys from the church got together and built her a free standing kitchen that satisfied the Health Department.
    I could go on but I want to get to the point sometime in this century. I thought of all these stories and thought of the people who are just nice and brighten your day by just being friendly. I know you don't have to be a Christian and go to church to be nice to people, but that's the group I'm talking about now. I was thinking of all the good things done by good people that I know to make the world a better place and then I was faced with the question, "what am I doing?". Is reading all the internet articles on a subject I find abhorrent and then railing about it really doing anybody any good? I realized that instead of carrying on about something I dislike, I need to be actively trying to promote good. This is something I feel all Christians should focus on rather than vocally fighting those with opposing viewpoints in the public square but I can only control what I do. Where ever I am, in whatever small way I can, I need to love more and provide tangible proof of that love.   To quote Emily Dickinson,
 If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.