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Month: March 2016

Why Christianity as We Know It Won’t Survive: An Easter Saturday Reflection

Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ, and in American Christianity today we debate whether women should be allowed to be in the forefront of the church.

Mary the Mother of God took the radical, courageous step of agreeing to birth the Messiah, and the most dominant adjective used by the Christian church today to describe her is “humble.”

The longest conversation Jesus has in the Bible is with the woman at the well, and many Christian churches seriously claim women shouldn’t speak in church.

The only disciples that could stand in the agony of the cross with Jesus—Peter denied him, all the men fled—were women, but many Christian churches tell women they are fit only for teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir.

The financial supporters of Jesus were women, but even Christian churches that “allow” female priests pay them discriminatory less money.

When Jesus was presented with a choice between valuing women’s cultural role as domestics or their role as disciples (the Martha and Mary story), he chose their role as disciples, but many Christian churches continue to view women as mere supporters of men’s work.

When Jesus’s supporters tried to depict his mother as “the womb that gave you birth and breasts that suckled you,” he corrected them, praising Mary for being a follower of God, yet the only day most Christian churches ask women to stand up and be recognized is Mother’s Day.

Jesus’s most powerful encounters of inclusivity involved women—touching the bleeding woman, for example—but most Christian churches erect a brick wall excluding women from ordination, leadership, and recognition.

Jesus was a radical supporter of women. The church is not. For years this failure wasn’t a problem, as no cultures came close to Jesus’s position. But as the valuing of women culturally has grown, the church’s overwhelming failure to follow Jesus—yes, there are exceptions, but most churches twist themselves in knots to escape Jesus’s lessons—becomes starkly unacceptable. If the Christian church cannot return to Jesus’s views, it will not survive in a more just world.


The Dog’s Happiness

I think I’ve found the key to happiness. All I have to do is ask, did the dog have a good day? If the answer is yes, life is moving in the right direction.

Think about it. What Evangeline loves more than anything is going for a walk. The walk takes me outside in the fresh air (does that sound like your mom–“go get some fresh air!”?) and I’m exercising, good for the heart and soul.

No, I misstated that. What she actually loves best is when my husband and I take her for a walk together. We each take her out separately at different times in the day. But together? That sends her into paroxysm of joy. I’m not kidding. I keep thinking I’ll take a video of it, how she runs in circles then jumps on me then on Tom then runs in circles some more. She is absolutely delighted. And her delight means I’m walking and talking and catching up with my husband’s life while seeing the neighborhood and getting some exercise.

Second on her list of “And it was good” activities is sleeping upstairs on the bed while I write. Long time ago I saw one of those “writers at work” picture books that showed famous writers writing. One of the writers was lounging on the bed. I thought, well, I never. Now, I am that writer. It started during my hip convalescence, and it has extended into modern times. Why? Because it gives the dog great joy (cough, cough). Seriously, she races me upstairs to see who can get to the bed the fastest. Then she lays out her full length and glances over her shoulder at me, like, shall we begin? If I ever actually sell the novel I’m working on, I may have to dedicate it to the dog.

So. Writing. Exercising. Spending time outside. Catching up with my husband.

I’m telling you, it’s the perfect yardstick. 🙂

Christian? Don’t Make Me No Nevermind

Here’s a story: conditions are so bad at an apartment complex in Jacksonville, Florida, it brings a council member’s assistant to tears. A tour of the complex affects the mayor to such an extent he’s activated to work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure “all residents of subsidized multi-family housing in Duval County receive the benefit of safe, clean and healthy living conditions.” The mayor announces he wants the owner, who has 61 housing complexes in 8 states, transitioned out of owning the housing complex.

Who is the Christian in this scenario?

Is it the owner, whose website interview by a local radio station tells you he has traveled  the globe spreading the Gospel and is transforming “these communities” by bringing them the word of Christ? (NB: no mention of black mold here)

Or is the Christian the mayor, who has seen something terrible wrong in God’s world and was convicted to change it?

Do we care?

I don’t. In fact, I have no clue about the mayor’s religious affiliation, if any. In a long arc of change, I have come to not give two f*s about someone’s beliefs. All I care about is how you act in the world.

So. If you do bad things in the name of your God, I’m not taking into account at all your religious motivation. The only thing that matters is the bad things you are doing.

If you do good things, and you give not two whits about God, more power to you.

Does this mean God doesn’t matter to me? Hell, no. The only reason I care if people in Jacksonville, Florida are living in substandard conditions while we pay the owner millions of dollars in federal funds is because of the movement of the Spirit. I love God. What I’m saying is I’m not forming an opinion about your impact in this world based on whether or not you love God.

It’s not that I’ve thought pejoratively of you if you are of another religion or an atheist or agnostic or never even thought about God. But I have tended to take into account in my internal assessing of your actions your Christian beliefs. No more. So don’t count on your love of God to influence how I feel about what you’re doing (again, NB: I’m not saying “professed” or “so-called” or any other adjective because I’m not questioning whether you’re actually a Christian; I’m saying I don’t care one way or the other what your beliefs are.)

One of the Gospels—James, maybe?—says something about knowing Christians by their fruits. I’m saying this whole appellation of Christian or not (ahem, Donald Trump) is a waste of time.

Maybe at some point I’ll finally get past judging people and their actions altogether. Until then, all that matters to me is whether you are kind, acting to make the world a better place, sip tea while the sun sets, tussle on the rug with your dog, laugh at someone’s awful joke, raise chickens, give a tetanus shot with expert skill, struggle to make the numbers add up at the end of the banking day, battle the dang Christmas lights because your kids love them, sing in the shower, write supportive comments on newspaper articles, remember birthdays, attend funerals, always say “You’re welcome,” stand up to bullies, say hello to everyone who walks in the door, feed the poor, listen to the troubles of your clients without laughing, fix breakfast every day, paint murals, indulge in your love of Dr. Who, serve turkey at Thanksgiving, post your gratitude thoughts so that everyone who reads them wants to be more like you, lean in and pay attention when your friend speaks, love the children who tumble through your classroom door, ride the river, light up when you hear your loved one’s voice, carry the cross with dignity through the sanctuary, let your hair grow long and gray, host the holiday meal even when you’re dog tired of doing it, offer quiet advice, offer goodbye kisses, march in parades, swim against the tide, share your troubles and await the inrushing of well wishes, buy the damn groceries again, burst into laughter that makes the room stare, write the words that make us weep, wear the funny hat because you’ve always worn the funny hat and everyone will be disappointed if you don’t, say “I love you,” and all the other many, many, many things you do that light up the world.

Long live love.



The Path Less-Traveled

We were tramping through Couturie Forest in City Park along the well-mulched trails, and I noticed an option. The Couturie Forest contains the highest point in New Orleans, Laborde Lookout. The mountain—their words, not mine—measures a daunting 43 feet above sea level (or 53 feet, according to some sources, or 46 feet above a 3 feet-below-sea-level base according to others—New Orleanians aren’t particular about facts, preferring a good story or maybe even myth.) That measurement puts Laborde Mountain at about the height of an average pitcher’s mound. Later, researching for more information about this amazing site, I learned that it’s not even natural! As I understand it, the “hill” is manmade, built using leftover soil from the building of Interstate 610. This puts Laborde Mountain in a neck-in-neck contest with manmade Monkey Hill—a children’s hill at the Zoo, I kid you not—as the highest point above sea level in New Orleans.

Laborde Mountain in Couturie Forest
View from Laborde Mountain in Couturie Forest

But I digress.

The point is the trails. They zig-zagged through the forest. This, again, is kind of a nebulous term, “forest.” You aren’t, for example, whispering because your surroundings are so lush and dim and humusy that you don’t want to speak out loud. Nor are you constantly sweeping vines from your face, slapping at the unknown things grabbing at your body. It’s green, in early March, springish. And open, airy. We did run across a live oak grove, but basically you could see through this forest, so let’s call it a transparent forest. No Hansel and Gretel houses here.

Evidence of a lost civilization located deep in the forest
Evidence of a lost civilization located deep in the forest

The “forest” trails were unmarked, I mean in the sense of railings or guideposts or anything to keep you on the beaten path. The main trails were, as I’ve mentioned, mulched. But many were foot paths, trails beaten more by usage than maintenance. This was what I noticed on this glorious sunny day. The “path less-traveled”:

The path less-traveled
The path less-traveled

You see, I’d always viewed life as a choice between, on the one hand, the well-trod path and on the other, the wild, brambled, dangerous non-path. That’s binary thinking. Either/or. Black or white. Dualism.

The truth is that frequently branching off the main path in the forest were slight paths. Tributaries, created by spontaneous curiosity: wonder where this leads? The curious take off across the forest, stamping down a way that others walking the mulched trail notice—is that a path? And, intrigued, they take off in the same direction.

So, if you are considering your choices in life, and you are feeling depressed by the predictable way of the well-trodden but the uncharted forest daunts you, remember: if you take that narrower, less-defined path, someone has been there before you. You, in fact, are not alone at all.

My love, joining me on the trail
My love, joining me on the trail

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt |