This past Sunday was Pentecost, the day we remember and celebrate the Holy Spirit descending indiscriminately upon a crowd of friends, strangers, neighbors, and passersby. The idea being that all were included and that all were equal participants in the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, we chose to include in this Sunday’s worship a blessing of the animals as well.
There were around 25 dogs and two turtles. The service was outside, and the Sunday school kids were running around next door. It was a little bit of a madhouse, but that is exactly what I wanted. Unabashed noises of life all around, unencumbered by social norms and expectations. I can only imagine what kind of chaos ensued on the actual day of Pentecost. Voices so loud and diverse you wouldn’t have been able to preach if you wanted to. There wasn’t time to have an orderly service; barriers were too busy falling down, strangers too busy becoming friends. There was a social and cultural hierarchy based on exclusion being turned to rubble.
Now I am obviously guessing and most likely idealizing this day and event, but frankly I need that ideal. The fact that I can imagine something like that happening, however impossible, means I can still hope and strive for the values within it. This has been a season of frustration for me. There have been many moments of blatant sexism, derogatory comments on my clothing, and an unwillingness to interact with me as an equal due to my sex. This is not a new thing to be hearing or writing about with things such as the “Me Too” movement going around, nor is it as terrible as what some women go through on a daily basis. I say this because I want to be careful to name my privilege as a white body, and intention of only speaking for myself and not all female experiences.
These moments are frustrating because I don’t want to become the “man-hater”, or the one “causing an unnecessary ruckus.” But it’s not a coincidence that these stereotypes come up when women speak up. They come up because it is an attempt to invalidate my words and assuage those who are made uncomfortable. So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place… stay quiet and accumulate that hurt and frustration, or voice it and wear the frustrating and hurtful label. So far I am trying to listen to my emotional boundaries and act accordingly… sometimes acting and sometimes letting it go… but either way, I go home with a heavy weight in my bones. Oh, and PSA: When I wear shirts or say things jokingly (but serious) like “destroy the patriarchy”… and someone says “isn’t that insulting to (insert male name here)?”, it hurts my heart because what I hear is that you think my advocacy for women means that I hate all men, and wish upon them the oppression women face. This is simply untrue; a warped interpretation speaking more to the insecurities of some men than the aspirations of women. Why does it have to be one or the other? Men or Women? I have experienced the system of patriarchy to be one where men’s voices create the rules, establish the norms, assume the power, and assign blame elsewhere. So if anyone should be insulted here, you are right. It should insult anyone to be spoken for in such a way without being there to defend themselves. Hopefully one day we won’t have to protect the fragile masculine ego. If there is anything you take away from this post today… let it be that when I speak of destroying the patriarchy and being a feminist, I hope that men will have the courage to do the same. I hope men and women understand that I mean advocacy for EQUAL opportunity, for an acknowledgement that the assault women go through is real and not our fault, and for social/cultural/political change. Men are not the enemy… many just don’t think to ask how they can be a part of the solution.
So, like the Pentecost service this Sunday, if there is going to be chaos in this world and in our churches, let it be the holy kind. Let it be due to inclusion, due to vulnerability, the willingness to let our pride go, due to dismantling oppressive hierarchies, and most of all… due to the Holy Spirit.