Posts Tagged women

Climb the Ladder and Storm the Treehouse* – Rev. SUSAN SPARKS  

I grew up in Charlotte, N.C., on a quiet neighborhood street called Lockhart Drive. For years, I was the only little girl on a street full of boys. Lucky for me, I could outrun and outclimb most of them, so they would begrudgingly let me play, too — except, of course, in the treehouse.

Tucked away in the top of an old sycamore in my next-door neighbor’s yard, was a fort made of nailed-together plywood. It was the place that all the kids — excuse me, all the boys — loved to play.

To emphasize that it was for the boys only, they had scribbled the ubiquitous “no girls allowed” sign on the door. Ironically, the sign was spelled not “allowed” but “aloud,” which made me think I could come in if I were quiet.

I was wrong. I was never invited in.

I put up with being excluded from that all-boys treehouse for a long time, not wanting to rock the boat and hoping they’d change their minds. Then one morning, I woke up and thought, “This is a new day.” Sneaking through my neighbor’s gate, I inched up the ladder, and as I was about to clear the last rung, one of the boys spotted me. They all started shouting, “You can’t come up here! You’re a girl! Read the sign!”

I was about to yell, “You can’t SPELL!” when my next-door neighbor’s mom came running out of the house, and said, “What’s the ruckus?”

When the boys shouted their angry disapproval, she crossed her arms and gave one of the best comeback lines ever: “Well, boys, I own this tree, and the tree house that’s in it. Technically, you’re trespassing. I’ll let you stay, but only if you take that tacky sign off the front door and let Susan in.”

There was a long silence, followed by grumbling. Then the sign was pulled down. They did it, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. They did it because they didn’t own the treehouse.

Fifty some years later, nothing has changed. The world is full of treehouses with signs that say, “no girls aloud” or “no people of color allowed” or “no LGBTQ” or “no persons with disability.” Why? Because unlike the one in my neighbor’s yard, these modern-day “treehouses” are still owned by the boys.

That changed this week when a powerful Hollywood actress woke up and decided “This is a new day.” Two-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand said two words at the end of her Oscar acceptance speech that rocked Hollywood: “Inclusion Rider.”

The next day social media and news outlets were abuzz, explaining the significance of the term. In short, an inclusion rider is a stipulation that actors and actresses can ask (or demand) to have inserted into their contracts which would require a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew. It is a little-known concept and one most people are reticent to engage because, like me with the treehouse, they don’t want to rock the boat or damage their chances to “getting in.”

The movie industry is a classic example of the proverbial treehouse with a sign hung out that says, “no ­­­­­­­­­­______________    (fill in the blank with any demographic that is not straight white able-bodied male) allowed.” For example, a recent study showed that LGBT-identified characters represented a mere 1.1 percent of all speaking characters in the top 900 films of the past decade.

Similarly, the Asian community has for years endured the sting of Hollywood casting Caucasians for Asian roles. For example, DreamWorks and Paramount cast Scarlett Johansson, a Scandinavian actress, as a Japanese cyborg in their adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. The announcement coincided with reports that producers considered using digital tools to make Ms. Johansson look more Asian.

People with disabilities are another underrepresented population. As comedian and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid has explained, “We (the disabled) are 20 percent of the population, and we are only 2percent of the images you see on American television, and of those 2 percent, 95 percent are played by nondisabled actors.”

Of course, women are not allowed in the treehouse either. According to a study of the top-grossing 250 films, women comprised only 11 percent of the directors, 11 percent of the writers, 16 percent of the editors and 3 percent of the composers.

And the statistics for inclusion are equally if not more skewed for people of color. Again, studies of popular movies show that in 2016 70.8 percent of speaking roles were white, far outweighing the numbers for those who were black (13.6 percent) or Hispanic (3 percent).

These statistics are particularly troubling in film and television because what we watch has the power to shape what we believe about who we are.

Hollywood is not an isolated example. It’s a microcosm of the deep seated, systemic prejudice and racism that runs through the social meridians of our nation and our world.

Achieving the American Dream shouldn’t be like trying to get into a treehouse in which only certain people are welcome. The Puritan work ethic shouldn’t just ensure success for those who look like the early white Puritans. Frances McDormand was right. We need an inclusion rider. But not just for Hollywood contracts — we need one for life.

Fortunately, we have one. It’s called the Bible.

Unlike most convoluted corporate documents, this contract boils down to two simple provisions: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. If you take these words and apply them to the discrimination in our world, you get God saying to the power structure something akin to this:

“Well, boys, I own this tree and the treehouse that’s in it. Technically, you are trespassing. I’ll let you stay, but only if you take that tacky sign off the front door and let all my people in.”

If we’ve accepted God’s terms, if we’ve accepted this contract, then we are bound to live within its parameters. We are also bound by the corollary: we must not support those who refuse to live by that contract, and specifically the “Inclusion Rider” of life. That is a deal-breaker.

There are many ways we can do this, but one is to be intentional about how we spend our money. Again, Hollywood offers the perfect example. One of the main reasons offered to justify their outrageous hiring practices is economic — the claim being that films with diverse casts don’t make money.

Really?

Last weekend, it was announced that Black Panther, the first mainstream superhero movie fronted by an almost entirely black cast, became only the 33rd movie in history to cross the one billion dollar mark. It joins films like Jurassic Park, and Avatar, and it did it in only 26 days after its original release.

In. Your. Face. Hollywood.

Brother and sisters, we have more power than we think. We have the power to take care of each other, to give everyone a fair chance, to ensure that the gifts and talents of all of God’s children are not wasted.

The misspelled sign outside the treehouse contained more truth than I realized. We all need to speak out and be heard “aloud!” “Girls aloud!” “LGBTQ aloud!” “People with disabilities aloud!” “People of color aloud!”

This is a new day. Come on! Let’s climb the ladder and storm the treehouse!

*This piece is taken from a sermon delivered at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

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These Reformation Heroes Were Glossed Over by History – Pam Durso

These Reformation Heroes Were Glossed Over by History | Pam Durso, Reformation, Women in Ministry, Marie Dentière, Martin Luther

Marie Dentière was one of the many women, mostly privileged women born to families of wealth and nobility, who dared to proclaim publicly their commitment to reform teachings, Durso writes.

Churches around the globe paused earlier this week and remembered the courage of a man named Martin – and rightfully so.

Martin Luther’s challenge of the Catholic Church on Oct. 31, 1517, reshaped the 16th-century Christian landscape, and it continues to influence Christian life in the 21st century.

Soon, other voices joined Luther’s call for reform. We are familiar with many of those names: John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox.

Yet there are names we don’t know. Women’s names.

Women were active in this new movement. They spoke out, some even dared to preach. Others wrote letters, poetry and books; still others were financial underwriters of the movement.

Yet the names of these women did not make it into history books. Their stories have not been widely told. Their voices were often silenced during their lifetimes, and their voices have been silenced by history.

Among these women was Marie Dentière (c. 1495-1561).

Born to a French noble family, as a young teenager Marie entered an Augustinian convent. She eventually rose to the rank of abbess.

In the 1520s, Marie embraced Reformation teachings and was forced to leave her convent. She fled to Strasbourg, married a former Catholic priest, joined with him in working for reform and eventually moved to Geneva.

Among Marie’s strongest convictions was her belief that every person should have the opportunity to read God’s word. She believed that women and men were equally qualified and entitled to interpret Scripture and practice their faith.

In the 1530s, Marie began writing, first publishing an anonymous pamphlet about God’s intentions for reform in Geneva and later writing a book on the history of reform work in her city.

Marie also began speaking out, talking with people on the street corners and in public taverns and “preaching” to the crowds that gathered.

In 1539, Marie wrote a letter to fellow Reformation sympathizer, Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, in which she pushed beyond the teachings of Luther and Calvin, calling for equality for women.

Several of Marie’s writings appeared in Jane Dempsey Douglass’ book, “Women, Freedom and Calvin,” published in 1985 by The Westminster Press.

Marie wrote, “If God then gives graces to some good women, revealing to them by his Holy Scriptures something holy and good, will they not dare to write, speak or declare it one to another? … Ah! It would be too audacious to wish to stop them from doing it. As for us, it would be too foolish to hide the talent which God has given us.”

Marie’s letter also included these words: “Although it is not permitted to us [women] to preach in public assemblies and churches, it is nonetheless not forbidden to write and admonish one another in all love. Not only for you, my Lady, have I wished to write this letter, but also to give courage to other women held in captivity, in order that they may not all fear being exiled from their country, relatives and friends, like myself, for the word of God … that they may from now on not be tormented and afflicted in themselves but rather rejoicing, consoled and excited to follow the truth, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. … This is the principle cause, my Lady, which moved me to write you, hoping in God that in the future women will not be so much despised as in the past.”

The letter was published in Geneva and caused quite a scandal. The printer of the letter was arrested, and Marie’s books and writings were confiscated.

She was accused of “meddling with preaching and perverting people of devotion,” and as a result, Marie’s voice was silenced. Her name is known today only by a few.

Marie was one of the many women, mostly privileged women born to families of wealth and nobility, who dared to proclaim publicly their commitment to reform teachings.

Many of these women were reprimanded by male reformers. Some were persecuted, some burned at the stake. Their names certainly deserve to be remembered. They should not be a footnote in history.

I can’t help but wonder if their voices made a difference. Did the influence of these women result in freedom, equality, opportunity? Did women gain any ground as a result of the Reformation?

Most scholars agree that the Reformation did not instigate any drastic changes in gender roles and expectations. Protestant women did not gain freedom in their homes, society and certainly not in the church.

Women continued to be excluded from the priesthood. They were not given official leadership positions in the church. And yet the Reformation brought freedom or at least the possibility of freedom to women.

Many women embraced Luther’s principles of “sola scriptura” and the priesthood of all believers and believed wholeheartedly that these teachings meant that they too were included in the mission of the church.

They believed that spiritual equality was possible, and they used the avenues available to them to share their convictions, to spread the liberating message of the gospel.

Their names are not remembered. Their voices have been silenced. But in this anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, let us not also be guilty of forgetting these women.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) in Atlanta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on Durso’s BWIM blog. It is used with permission.

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The Side of Kindness: Recovering the Lost Art of Being Kind by Sandra Makowski, SSMN.

Sandra Makowski explores the deplorable state of kindness in modern society and offers simple suggestions to recapture a kinder gentler more affirming culture. “Why can’t disagreements be viewed as healthy and acceptable as long as they are reasonable and realistic?”  She uses her personal experiences to illustrate much that has gone wrong. Each chapter contains activities to help us on our journey.

After much internal conflict,  I decided that chapter 29, “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There,” is the most significant one for me; however, I had previously decided that chapter 24, “Not Counting Women and Children – Where’s the Kindness in That?,”  is the most powerful. It certainly is one of the most provocative. She compares the historical bad treatment that women have received from the church to spousal abuse. As you read each chapter, I predict that you will experience similar struggles in deciding which chapter is the most relevant to you. Each chapter challenges our basic assumptions about ourselves, other people and God.

Sister Sandra has written a deceptively simple book; however, it tugs at every motive and action of our daily lives. She challenges us to live as if we really believe the teachings of Jesus. Each chapter begins with well chosen quotations. The book is available at www.amazon.com.

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