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Showing posts from 2017

Things What I Learnt at University 2: Back in the Hood

I wrote recently about my university days – lessons learned (and unlearned), people met, struggles faced (or fled). Except of course, in spite of my undergraduate malaise, those days haven't technically finished yet ... I've just moved from one university to another, switched fields, raised my qualification level, and meandered recklessly into perpetual postdoctoralism.

Still, change has this way of happening around me and at me in spite of my best efforts to avoid it. And this season is one of endings and new beginnings in the group where I work – including talk of an en masse removal from the uni building we've been based in since before I joined to some off-site offices just down the road.

In nostalgic tribute (though the latest is I'm staying put anyway), here is a poem – the first sonnet that I wrote and liked (marking my graduation from limericks to more advanced forms), as well as the first of many lyric musings inspired by the building's plenitude of maint…

Persecuted minorities

The main thing I knew about the film Finding Dory before I belatedly got round to watching it was that it featured (dun dun daaaa...) a lesbian couple. The reason I knew this was that some Christians got very vocally very upset about it in the run-up to its release.

I say 'featured' ... Given the strength and volume of the outcry (none of which I cared to read in any detail [1]) I was on the lookout from the start for Pixar's controversially courageous nod to diversity. Would it be that Dory falls in love with another lady-fish? or that the parents she's looking for turn out to be two moms? And then, about halfway through, there was this bit with two women walking along next to each other. And one of the women happened to have (to quote a disgruntled Ellen DeGeneres) "a very bad short haircut". And my heart sank, watching it, with the horrified suspicion that this was it. This was the controversial edge of 'representation'. This was what got all thos…

Received wisdom

Card shops have a lot to answer for. It pains me to think how many frustrated, fruitless hours I've frittered, failing to find cards which send messages I'm OK to sign my name to, before settling on ones that (by way of damage limitation) say as little as possible. You see, I'm not sure that I want to help colour-code babies, or teach kids to be pirates/princesses; suggestions that ageing is something to be ashamed of dismay me; I'm more inclined to pray for blessing than to wish for luck; it seems to me that alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation, most of us don't really need more sugar in our diets, and enslavement to consumerism is lamentable, not whimsical; I've a dad who can't bear football, beer, cricket, cars, golf or rock music, a husband who can't bear bad copy, and a sister whose brains and compassion are way more impressive and worth celebrating than her shoe collection (and she has quite a shoe collection). Blank cards it is then ... except,…

Say "shexuality"

Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, ‘You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.’ The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead asked him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ If he replied, ‘No,’ they said, ‘All right, say “Shibboleth”.’ If he said, ‘Sibboleth’, because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. (Judges 12:4-6, NIV) How about a story closer to home: Conservative evangelicals lay claim to the “authoritative” interpretation of scripture and, whenever a survivor of the culture wars says ‘I follow Jesus’, the men of conservative evangelicalism ask them 'Do you hate the Bible?' If that person replies, 'No,' they say, 'All right, say …

A brief choreography of patriarchy

The top three things I look for in a theatre trip: close harmonies, tight choreography, and smashed patriarchy. If I can have all that in an hour and a half or less, so much the better. So 'Two Man Show' by RashDash Theatre Company – a fun and poignant 75 minutes'-worth of dance- and music-driven critique of androcentrism and the inadequacy of (androcentric) language to critique it – was my ideal evening out. It also sparked a number of bloggable trains of thought...

The performance opened with a brief and rapid take on the history of patriarchy. In the paleolithic period (we were told) men and women were nomadic hunter-gatherers, equal in occupation and status. If anything, the female was revered (there is evidence of goddess worship) as the apparent source of life – the suggestion being that the link between sex and childbearing was not well understood. But this all started to change in the neolithic period, when human beings discovered agriculture and began settling in…

Strong words

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

(Matthew 15:21-28; see also Mark 7:24-30)



THE FLOOR

                  “It is not right,” he says; the children nod –
                  He takes the words right out of their own m…

Neeeighbours

Two churches, both alike in masonry, in fair Vancouver where we lay our scene...

They were just across from our hotel, on adjacent corners of neighbouring blocks with nothing but a street between them. Geographically.

And from the very first moment I saw them, I couldn't not feel uneasy. "In 1903 a second church was set up next door in order to accommodate the growing numbers of local residents desiring to share Christian fellowship together," said no local history pamphlet ever. 

Indeed, as Sunday rolled around and I went online to explore my options (Mr. W having already opted for a lie-in) I was greeted with contrasting euphemisms. "We are an affirming church," reassured one. "We are a diverse community of families and singles," maintained the other. Hmm.

Where to, then, for my own Sunday morning fix? Since I'm neither a family nor a single person perhaps you'd think this decision should've been easy. But, exploring the two websites in …

Things what I learnt at university

Recently, my Twitter feed threw up a YouTube nugget that kinda made me want to throw up too. It was a paean to Wayne Grudem, performed – to the tune and choreography of Greased Lightnin' – by a merry band of UCCF volunteer workers at a summer training camp a few years back.

For those of you wondering what half the words in that sentence mean: Wayne Grudem is a well- and widely-respected American evangelical theologian who helped found an organisation working to maintain the subordination of women (and, perhaps not unrelatedly, openly endorsed Trump); UCCF stands for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and is a UK-based charity overseeing a large network of student Christian Unions; a 'paean' is, as I was pleased to hazard correctly before seeking the assistance of the Internet, "a creative work expressing enthusiastic praise"; and Greased Lightnin' is a song about a car that will help you to become more manly and to show the ladies who's boss …