We Were Meant to be Courageous

Updated 7/15/14: Op-Ed by Mormon women on the “End of the Mormon Moment”

Kate Kelly’s ex-communication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has me thinking. I’m not Mormon, but I’m a member of a (local) church that has seen some turmoil over the last five years. We’ve lost three pastors – some by choice, other by grave “sin” – and the effect has been a heavily splintered congregation. The latest split has perhaps been the most profound, not due to “sin” per se, but to a large chasm of opinion about the “right” amount of influence, insubordination to church leaders, and the sowing of discontent — much like the charges brought against Kelly. It split our church, and left me with a sour taste regarding our current church leadership and their abilities to be good stewards. Honestly, I think they really messed up.

I think part of the problem is a lack of diversity on the Elder Board. See, my church also does not allow women to hold the penultimate positions of leadership, eldership, similar to the LDS church where women cannot hold the priesthood. Women do important jobs in the church, no doubt, but women cannot hold the title of Elder, part of the group that “heads” of the church and who makes decisions about the path of the church, the employees, the finances, etc. Women can’t do those jobs.

Prior to the Kelly story, I was troubled by the lack of women in high positions, especially since I think a dear (female) friend of mine would make an excellent elder in our church. I think at least one woman might have been able to temper the egos involved in the decision. But I wasn’t TROUBLED by it. True, my church attendance has been pretty spotty since our last pastor left, but I’d chalked that up to the turmoil and the fact that more than half our church left, leaving worship services feeling empty, even of God’s presence. I told myself I just needed to be more faithful, for scripture says that God is anywhere two or three are gathered in his name, and at least my husband was there.

But now I’m TROUBLED. I don’t know if Kelly violated the rules of her religious organization, who likely has the right to kick out whomever it chooses — it’s an organization in addition to being what their members believe to be the voice of God’s church. But I cannot help but feel a great sense of compassion towards her, and some admiration for her bravery. She likely knew that her actions would lead to serious repercussions, even if she didn’t agree with the results. I think she chose to sacrifice herself for a purpose larger than herself. From what I can tell, Mormons are having deep conversations among themselves and in public with non-Mormons about what just happened.

But now I feel like a coward. I love how Kelly has refused to accept the ruling that she must repent, for insisting on equality cannot be wrong. It just cannot. MLK said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” There are few things I believe in more than the equality of humans. While I believe we all have roles to pay, outside of what is ruled by biology (childbirth, breastfeeding…not sure what else) I don’t believe that there is some “natural” divisions between who can be a leader and who cannot. Between who can guide and teach and who cannot. Between who can make decisions affecting a large number of vulnerable people and those who cannot. Not everyone is meant to be a leader. Not every woman or every man should be a leader, guide, or teacher. But I have yet to hear any good reason, other than because the Bible says so, which is usually a ridiculous argument, and in this case even notable Biblical scholars disagree on this issue of requirements for elders that includes gender. And even if the Bible says so, why should I believe that God intended me, solely because I’m a woman, to not have a equal say as to the leadership of His church? Why would I believe that?

Of course, there is a larger argument as to why believe in God at all. Short answer, for me, is that it’s the only way I can understand the purpose of life at all. I choose to believe in God and in the divinity of Christ Jesus because it makes sense to me. 

The exclusion of women from the highest seats of power and influence in the church is something I do not understand, something that does not make sense to me. So why do I continue to support a church who does not believe as I do about one of my core values? How can I continue to support a church that sees me as inferior, for everything a woman can do a man can also do, but not vice versa? How can I continue to be a part of a practice that I believe oppresses me but cloaks itself in “obedience”? 

For this reason, I am deeply TROUBLED. For now, as I (sort of) keep my distance, all I can do is pray. I hope, if nothing else, He gives me courage, either to accept what is despite my misgivings (and hopefully also understanding of why what is…is) or to be brave enough to seriously not just question, but challenge. God Help Me.

i’ve thought about this

About whether or not to write about, or more accurately, link about. When I was in college, I did a lot of work with race and gender. I really did more with race, but that kinda gets to the heart of the issue. Since leaving college, I’ve often talked about and written about these issues, but no real active involvement. Part of it is that I’m just kinda over it, over trying to explain the intersection of race and gender, tired of explaining to white women why my race is important, how I can’t separate them, how feminism has shut out the experiences of women of color. How I scan a room to see how many people of color there are but not really how many women there are. How a good friend and I consistently note how difficult we find it to get a long with white women but generally find most white men we come into contact with pretty cool. Latoya at Racialicious puts it beautifully:

In real life, I generally do not have cause to interact with white people on a regular basis. My friend group is diverse, encompassing people from various races, ethnicities, and backgrounds – but there is no white representation in my immediate circle. Besides one or two friends I held over from high school who I see semi-annually, I don’t see many white people socially. I hang in PoC areas, go to events dominated by other PoC, work for a international organization in a predominantly black department, I pay my rent to the rental office staffed by black and latina women, my neighborhood and my building is predominantly PoC – even the belly dancing classes I take are operated by and designed for women of color. Outside of my yoga studio – which is predominantly white, but still manages to attract a large mix of ethnicities to practice within its walls – I generally do not come into contact with white people on a regular basis. I see them commuting, on the metro, in transit – but my life is generally one long PoC party.

So, it is important to me to state that it is mentally taxing for me to go into non-PoC spaces on a regular basis. I find it exhausting. White dominated spaces are difficult for me to deal with because of all the issues involved with privilege and reference points. I find it tiring to be lectured at about my lived experience. I get weary when I see the same tired ideas rehashed over and over as if they have never been debunked before (i.e. – “Well, did you ever think that all the black actresses who tried out for that role weren’t as good, so they gave the role to a white woman?” Wow, no, I never thought of that! I guess that explains all those roles who are offered to certain actresses to accept or decline before they ever make it to the casting!)

While I understand how to navigate such a space, it is never a place I find comfortable and they are places where I am constantly on guard. One could ask why it has to be this way? Why should I assume I need to be on guard in a space created to foster discussion between women? It is because these spaces have been proven to be hostile – and dropping your guard in a hostile environment is the quickest way to get popped in the face.

I mean, she puts it perfectly. My life has a bit more day-to-day interaction with white people – school is dominated by it. But every other part of my life is pretty PoC – my husband, my best friends, my kid’s day care – all black. And that’s how a feel – like I’m navigating, not really a member, playing a role. And I know how to do it well, but when I have to over-do it…I feel drained.

I don’t know why I wanted to link to this, but it was just so true I couldn’t help myself. I hope no one is offended – it truly is not my intention.

mummy tummy

My daughter is now 7 months old and I still have a mummy tummy. For the past seven months, I have felt bad about it. But they say that misery loves company, and I obviously have lots of it. According to a survey of 7,000 mothers by BabyCenter.com (a leading source of information for new and expectant mothers), 87% of mothers who’s youngest child is between 1 and 2 years old say that their tummy is not back to “normal:”

You may weigh the same or less after your pregnancy, but your clothes will fit differently!” lamented one mom in our survey. “I weigh less now, but I wear a larger size.” If you’ve been surprised by the way pregnancy has reconfigured your body, you’re hardly alone.

More than half of our moms said their breasts are different now, and more than a third said they have wider hips. But the post-baby tummy — “my mommy fluff,” as one woman put it; “this bulbous tire around my middle,” another complained — is what really seems to blow most moms away. One to two years after having their baby, 87 percent of women say their stomach still hasn’t returned to normal.

When I lament about this, I invariably get the “Oh, but you have done the most important job in the world!” But I am not, and I suspect most women are not, immune to the beauty standards of today. And as a closest fashionista, having a mummy tummy does not really work with today’s fashions. But unfortunately,

On the down side, muscle tone is not the same as skin tone. Some women are genetically vulnerable to stretch marks and saggy skin. These may look better over time, but they may not go away completely. Skin will also lose some elasticity after each birth — and with age. So if you had your kids later in life, it will be that much harder to restore your tummy to its former firmness.

“Some women” include me. But there are some baby-body upsides to other “challenged” areas:

Still, not all changes are unwelcome. As one new mom noted, “I have boobs now — and I didn’t have to pay for them!”

I know that there are some people reading who are going to tsk, tsk my concern with the shape and look of my body. Is it anti-feminist to care about what your body looks like?