Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Rest of the Story: Silencing Mary on Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve. I just put my son to sleep and the family is watching a movie in the living room. I am here writing because there is a deep feeling in my heart that as we go on celebrating Christmas year after year, there is a big part of the story that gets missed in evangelical churches—Mary’s.

My husband and I like to attend Christmas services wherever we are. Today we attended the one at his hometown in Wisconsin. The sermon was preceded by an all-so-hipster video of Mary; a song about the difficulties of her journey into becoming the mother of Jesus. As I watched this video I thought, “Finally someone will talk about Mary and the challenges she faced.” Harry, the pastor, began his reflexion by saying that when we celebrate ‘baby Jesus’ we forget about the rest of the story. “Is this for real?” I thought. “Will this White guy from the Church where every woman has an admin position an every dude is a pastor really talk about Mary?”

“We forget about the rest of the story,” he proceeded. “That this ‘baby’ Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a MAN. He became a judge, a king…” an so on. Mark Driscoll would have been so proud!

As I listened, feeding my 11-month-old son, I felt like throwing the milk bottle at “Pastor Harry.” Hadn’t this man ever given birth? Clearly he hadn’t. As I sat there, moved to tears by the silencing of the story of this courageous teenager who gave birth under the most lonely, poorest, shameful and scariest of circumstances, I felt that someone needed to, indeed, tell “the rest of the story.”

Due to the ‘santa clausification’ of this ‘Silent Night’ I never stopped to think about what actually happened that night until a couple of years ago: A teenager gave birth to a baby by herself, without her community or friends surrounding her, and under sub-human conditions. She gave birth at a barn. People who give birth at hospitals with epidurals, please think about this: A 15-year-old gave birth, BY HERSELF, AT A BARN. And she did it successfully!

So Pastor Harry, or anyone who believes that the story of baby Jesus is not as powerful as the story of the man who died on a cross, please think about what you are saying.

At the beginning of this year I had the honor to give birth to my son. After much thought, I decided to do it at home and without any medication so as to be fully connected to the glory of my body and the birth process as designed by God. I made this decision also because up to that point I did not know that giving birth naturally and at home was an option for women at all. Not knowing bothered me, so giving birth naturally became a political issue for me. As it was, giving birth was a revolutionary act. Under the full moon of a night in January, my husband and I partnered to bring our son to this world. Our midwife didn’t make it, so the three of us, my husband, our baby, and I, did it together. My active labor was fast; only seven contractions and my son was here. Through the contractions I was reborn; I received a new name. I learned things about myself that I didn’t know—That I was strong, that I could handle a lot of physical pain, that my body was wise beyond my understanding, that I was deeply loved and that I actually trusted my husband with my life. The story of my son’s birth was redemptive not only to me but also to our marriage. For someone who grew up under familial, religious and political systems who told me that I wasn’t enough, that experience empowered me to see God, myself, and my body in a completely different light.

After going through that experience there were things I couldn’t believe anymore. One of them was that God was a male. There was no way that God had designed the glory of the birth process without fully understanding it. I’m not saying that God is a woman, but I am saying that calling God a man (or a woman) is idolatry; it is the same than calling God a bird, a bull or a dog (see McGrath, 2006). Since that day, I am referring to God as “They.” God exists as the Trinity after all.

Another thing I cannot believe anymore is that Mary’s role in the coming of Jesus was just utilitarian. There was power (more than many can understand) in bringing our redeemer through a woman’s body. There was power in Mary's bravery, in her physical prowess, her sweat, and her screaming as she coped with labor pain. She did all of this while in a strange land, under conditions of abject poverty, and without any family or friends but Joseph to support her. There power in that vulnerability. There is power in the image of a baby born out of circumstances that were against all odd of succeeding. If “Pastor Harry” thought that a ‘baby Jesus’ was too cuddly for King Jesus, I’d invite him to think about that again.

Tonight I want to make a tribute to Mary, whose faithfulness and courage gave us the gift of seeing God's glory unravel. And with her I also want to make a tribute of all the women who have given birth. To my friend K. who has had the courage to accept life’s invitation to be a mother despite the fact of being single. With bravery she has surrendered to God's will and will give birth to her daughter in just a couple of weeks. To my friend C. who had the unbelievable courage to labor all night to give birth to a still-born baby, only to hope for resurrection to come sooner than she can ever wait to hug her baby. To my friend C.K., who has empowered not only me but many others to embrace the gift of giving birth to our sons and daughters the way God intended—using our bodies in their full glory.

My praise goes tonight to the God who reveals itself through the body of a teenager giving birth to our redeemer. To the God who doesn't rest in the boredom of certainty but who instead invites us to be faithful in the complexity of our bodies, our blood, our pain, our joy, and our grief. To God be the glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gracias! Yes, in Gratitude, we will "Just Hang Out" | a Practical Workshop on Resting in Gratitude

This month, Venus Hill is being taken over by thanksgiving (darn turkeys!). In light of giving thanks, we will have our gathering one week earlier, on the 17th, and devote our time to hang out, drinking wine and sharing our hearts without any agenda but gratitude.

We'll meet, as usual, at In the Red at 8pm. Can't wait!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Body Orthodoxy: a Sensual Education :: Thursday, Oct 27th, 8pm :: Heather Marie Stringer

 © The Vinyl Idol
“There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body. In fact it is not only among the artists but among all people that a greater appreciation and respect for the human body should develop. When we respect the nude we will no longer have any shame about it.”   -Robert Henri, The Art Spirit .

Historically, ecclesial communities have struggled, if not ignored, engaging the physical body as it pertains to sexuality and gender; eros and violence; body image and sensuality with honesty, reverence, kindness and courage. Many times an ascetic approach is employed in which power and control are exerted as the means to the end—serving as one of the primary gages of an obedient, godly life. On the contrary, American culture provides a very underdeveloped sexuality and body-ing that possesses its own brand of asceticism as well as misuse and exploitation—whether it be, for example, encouraging eating disorders, loss of gender identity or mindless sexual activity. Moreover, we need open and safe dialogues about our bodies and what they have suffered as well as generating reverence to them as intelligent, languaged, and complex beings.

 Join us this coming Thursday, October 27th at In The Red, 8pm. Heather Marie Stringer, performance artist and therapist, will lead us into this fascinating conversation, which is made is in light of an upcoming art exhibit in December. Heather Marie Stringer is one of the most fresh and powerful emergent voices in our local theology. You can read her blog here:

See you Thursday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

God & Women: Genesis and Gender Theology with Susan Hall | Thursday Sept 22nd at In the Red

Much of women's discrimination in the Church has been based on a patriarchal read of the story of creation portrayed in Genesis. Susan Hall, Doctor in Ministry in Feminist Theology and psychotherapist, will lead us in a conversation exploring the book of Genesis from an egalitarian perspective. Join us for this exciting conversation this coming Thursday September 22nd at 8pm at In the Red, in Phinney.

As usual, please bring some cash to buy some goodies to share... yes, you are still on your own with the wine :). See you soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reconciliation in the context of Domination | August 25th | Rose Madrid-Swetman

The Gospel of Jesus talks about Reconciliation and Forgiveness. We are all called to love our enemies and bring about peace. However, we have inherited much of these principles within a tradition that assumes a plain field and denies oppression.
What happens when we name and face the contexts of domination? How does the gospel empower the disempowered to forgive and reconcile when justice must be made?

Seattle Pastor Rose Madrid-Swetman will lead us in a conversation titled "Living the gospel of peace in within systems of domination. Whether we are up against theological or systemic injustice, how do we step into the Story that God has invited us to live out?

Join us this Thursday August 25th, 8pm at In The Red in Phinney--->back room.

p.s. In the Red's manager has been amazingly gracious to host us for free every month. Please plan on bringing a suggested donation of $5 to buy appetizers to share. You are on your own with the wine :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

"You shall bake goods and teach Sunday school..." right?: Gender Roles and Reversed Cultural Engagement, with Dr. Jennifer McKinney

Join our next Venus Hill conversation on July 28th, 8p.m., at “In the Red” on Phinney. Dr. Jennifer McKinney, Professor of Sociology at Seattle Pacific University will be leading us in discussion around gender roles in the American family and how Christian culture absorbs larger cultural ideals and “baptizes” them as Christian principles. See you there!

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 23rd | Mystics and Christofascism: a primer on liberation theology with Kimberly George

We are excited to have Kimberly George, creative and academic writer and feminist theologian, joining us for our next gathering on June 23rd at 8pm. We will be meeting at "In the Red," in Phinney Ridge.
Kimberly will be sharing about the role of mystics in today's world. She will introduce us to Dorothee Soelle, a feminist and post-colonial theologian who addresses consumerism, war and violence, and why the way of mystics is needed amidst our activist work.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Our Story, Too" | April 28th | 7pm

Our first Venus Hill gathering is scheduled for April 28th of 2011 at 7pm at Chocolati in Wallingford.

Renee Notkin, pastor of Union Church in Seattle, will be leading us in a conversation about how we perceive scripture and what has influenced us to see them in this way. When scripture is viewed as a piece of work that limits the role of women, stops their voices and even supports oppression, what interpretations have led to these views? Is it possible that we can reclaim the lasting truth of Genesis 1 which affirms that female and male reflect the image of God?

Renee will lead us through passages in the Bible that remarkably and powerfully affirm that the female voice is necessary and loved by our Creator. And, when the female voice is authentically freed to speak, we have a voice that is meant to speak words of hope and freedom and reconciliation for all.

How do we help one another find our God created voices, especially when they have been stifled?

Join us at the loft in Chocolati in Wallingford.