by Gregory Stevens (BEA guest writer)
I wrote “A Religious Rape Culture” a year ago for BEA and it sparked some great conversation about feminism, sexuality and Christianity. As a gender studies student and a Christian, I find these two streams of thought most beautiful when in harmony with one another – and yet for many Christians, the two are best left very far apart. These next few blog posts are a glimpse at where I think the conversation can (and should) go…
I remember the first time I ever had a beer. I was 16 and at a bon fire with some of my friends, they were serving keg beer – two words I didn’t really understand, but either way I put my read solo cup under the tap and began my journey toward adulthood, errr kinda.
I had one sip and I hated every bit of it, it didn’t taste good, but that might have been because it was Natural Light. Either way, I remember getting buzzed very quickly. Things get fuzzy after that, but I specifically remember dancing with someone’s mom, you know, the responsible type mom who wanted to drink with her kids friends to “make sure they were safe.” I’m still not convinced that’s true, I mean, she hit on me more than my high school girl friends.
At some point, mid bump and grind with the mom, she screamed out, “I’VE GOT MY BEER GOGGLES ON! LETS RAGE!” Again, she was just a responsible parent making sure we stayed safe ;)
I laughed, kept dancing, and wondered, “What in the hell are Beer Goggles???”
As any good self-righteous high school student, I didn’t have it in me to ask what she was talking about. I was a first time drinker, but even the buzz didn’t make me blunt enough to admit my own ignorance to what beer goggles were. I went home that night, surprisingly safe (after the cops showed up), and went straight to Urban Dictionary and searched “Beer Goggles.” Here’s what came up, “Phenomenon in which one’s consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive persons appear beautiful.”
Ahhh yes! Beer goggles…
With a few beers, the ways in which we interpret the world around us radically changes. —Warning: As any good preacher type does, I’m about to take this idea and stretch it as if Jesus said it —
It’s an interesting idea, beer goggles. I realized how true it was that often we are wearing goggles or filters at which we see the world through. Maybe not always fuzzy and on the verge of vomiting, like I was when dancing with my friends mom, but nevertheless, we put on interpretive lenses at which to see the world. We approach every day situations with our filters, which are always socially constructed. We often don’t recognize our filters even exist, we don’t know they hinder or help us understand the way the world works. Unlike my friend’s mom who screamed at the thought of rocking her beer goggles, our every-day-
goggles aren’t so obvious. We don’t think twice about them.
In our context, the conversation on feminist thought and Christianity, we have learned through feminist scholarship that often, the cultural goggles we have inherited aren’t that healthy. They are often restricted by race privilege, gender privilege, religious privilege, straight privilege, and historical privilege.
There are many directions I could take from here in describing, “feminist-goggles” or as academics might say, a feminist hermeneutic, but what I find most important in conversation such as this, is the notion of exclusion. The challenge I invite you to wrestle with is, in what ways are your actions and/or language exclusive?
I would suggest that the Christian narrative is that of inclusion over exclusion. Jesus life and work is the clearest model of what it means to include over exclude.
Jesus is born to a poor immigrant family, as if to say God’s saving action will begin with and through the poor and marginalized of society. The first signs of God’s coming commonwealth are in the midst of people our society tell us to ignore. The story has barely even begun and it already has political implications. At Jesus birth the first to show up are Magi, aka astrologists. They weren’t practicing, devout religious Jews. They were stargazers, those outside the chosen people of Israel. In the opening account of Jesus life we not only see the poor included we see people of other spiritual persuasions included. Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, his story of the good Samaritan, his prayer for unity in John 17, his dinners with rich and poor alike, his inclusion of tax collectors, sinners and the self-righteous are all in stark contrast to exclusion. The very metaphor we use as Christians to describe the interrelatedness and complexity of God, is a three fold relationship, the Trinity. The very nature of God is oneness in otherness. In Gods triune self, we see community, a community of inclusion that we have been created in the image of.
As Christians, I would suggest, that in our actions and in the words we use to describe our lived experiences, that we would seek inclusion of exclusion. When our words and deeds act in ways that harm the Earth, harm others and/or harm ourselves, we are essentially excluding God’s declaration over all that is from good, to unworthy of love, respect, and care.
GREG STEVENS HOLDS A DEGREE IN GENDER STUDIES FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA AND IS STUDYING FOR HIS MASTERS OF DIVINITY AT CLAREMONT SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY. HE SEEKS TO CONTINUALLY DISCOVER NEW WAYS TO UNITE FEMINIST ACADEMIA WITH LOCAL FAITH AND JUSTICE INITIATIVES. HIS WEBSITE IS http://www.hellogregory.com/, AND YOU CAN FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @HELLOGREGORY.