Tag Archives: Soap Box

gay soap

i’m flirting with a new soap box… can’t decide if i’m ready to actually “get on” it yet, i think i’ve been growing into the idea for years now.

it’s the gay soap box.

here’s the thing. i have these really amazing friends, and they are all really good people, and sometimes they say things that hurt my feelings, not because they are mean or bad, but because they are unaware. does that translate into an opportunity for awareness? maybe.

friends of lau, let it be known, talking about gay people as if they are a different species, or using the term “gay” in a negative way, hurts lau’s feelings.

chalk it up to me being over-sensitive if you like. shoot, i feel over-sensitive every time someone says something is “gay”… like… “a guy with shaved legs is gay.” (that might sound odd to you, but it comes up a lot in the cycling/swimming community…) really? gay? because my dad is gay, and he definitely doesn’t shave his legs. in fact, i’m pretty sure that a much higher percentage of male swimmers or male cyclists shave their legs than do male homosexuals. so why is that “gay”??

and why do my male friends, when they want to assert their own manliness as being greater than another’s manliness, do they say the other man is “gay”? are gay men not manly?

can you fix a car? fix things around the house? build things? work on a farm? be a good father? because my dad can. he may wear designer jeans and tight black t-shirts, but he’s also one of the manliest men i know.

so last night i was hanging out with some friends, and they started making fun of another friend, who was at a gay party. lots of “gay” banter went back and forth, not all of it negative, but i felt uncomfortable. and again, i realize i could be over-sensitive about gay-talk, but i’m kinda the opposite of sensitive most of the time, so it’s hard to know how to deal. i usually just remove myself from the situation, and that’s what i did last night. i told my friends goodnight, and left the gathering, trying to wrap my head around my own emotions. i texted one of my friends to let him know why i left, fearing my exit was too abrupt, at which point he texted back, “oh gosh… VERY VERY sorry. we definitely didn’t mean anything by it! more just ripping on “so-and-so”… we’re a pretty open-minded group.” now, i love this friend, and i know that he really did feel so bad about the situation, yet his response only frustrated me more. why is suggesting someone is gay the same as “ripping” on them? why does “gay” always imply something negative? furthermore, what my friend perceives as “open-minded,” i perceive as my “new norm.” it’s not thinking outside the box, it’s real life. it’s not liberal, it just is.

and yet, it’s not totally my “new norm” but one i’m still growing into. it’s taking time. and by no means do i expect the world to “normalize” according to my reality. but i do think my friends love me. and i don’t think they hurt my feelings on purpose. and i do think these situations create opportunities to increase awareness, respect, dignity and truth. so here i go, opening my big mouth, hoping you know it comes from my big heart, and i’m grateful for everyone and everything that has brought me to this moment BIG TIME.

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religulous

i went to see religulous last night with a group of friends from various faith backgrounds. it was about what i expected from bill maher. some parts were hilarious (everyone had to put up with my snorting), some parts were offensive, and some (especially the ending) were extremely depressing. i definitely wouldn’t tout it as a documentary. the cuts and editing were way too much in favor of bill and his agenda.

and what is bill’s agenda? to put an end to religion before it puts an end to the world. to take up the banner of doubt. this assumes two things: 1) faith and doubt don’t mix, and 2) doubt would end all conflict.

i think it’s sad that bill is under the impression that faith leaves no room for doubt. that faith and certainty are synonymous. isn’t it the opposite? is it not certainty that leaves no room for faith? yes, hebrews 11 says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” but this is HOPE we’re certain of. faith is the beginning of knowledge, not the the end of it. st. augustine says “i believe that i might understand.” the theologian paul tillich says, “doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” the scientist dr. francis collins says, “doubt is an unavoidable part of belief.” speaking from personal experience, the two go hand in hand… creating this back and forth conversation with God that grows me as a person every day.

and how would pure doubt end all conflict? is it not doubt that sends our economy spiraling downward? doubt that causes paranoia? faith in nothing? hope in nothing?

overall, i wouldn’t suggest watching religulous to learn anything. but it does spark some great conversation. so if you do go, make sure you follow up with beer and pizza.

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yoga: it’s not just for pagans anymore

back when i was training to be a missionary, a speaker asked a roomful of us to share different ways we relieve stress in the US, and which methods we thought would prove useful abroad. i was quick to suggest yoga, to which i received a very reserved and calculated response, “er, yes. some would say yoga relieves tension. others may find it conflicts with their christian faith.” WHAT? do i worship yoga instead of God? no. do i take off my christian hat when i step on the yoga mat? of course not. what was this nonsense?

well, it turns out, quite a few people have issues with yoga. and maybe i should just let that be. others have decided to embrace “christian yoga,” creating (i think) an us-verses-them mentality in what ought to be a very unifying expression of exercise and meditation. perhaps my experience is unique. i started going to a yoga studio 6 months before moving to benin, looking for some form of exercise i could eventually perform in the privacy of my own home. i even signed up for the “hot yoga” classes, where you practice in a ridiculously hot room, sweating puddles, enabling you to get deeper into your stretches. i figured it would help me to acclimate to the african heat, and it did. at the beginning of each session, the instructor asked us to “name our intention” for that practice. we didn’t actually name intentions aloud. it was just something to focus on and work toward in a personal way. i never found this to challenge my faith. the best practice i ever did was one where my intention was forgiveness. perhaps it’s because i’m a kinesthetic (hands on) learner, but i felt i had a better understanding of loving my enemies as i walked out of that sweltering room… something about asking God to teach me forgiveness, approaching him with my mind, body and soul… the understanding i left with was more complete.

hot yoga has been good to me here too. i finally dusted off my yoga mat last week, lit a candle and struck many a pose (and the heat is automatic in benin!). every time i come before God with my whole self and ask Him to aid me in whatever intention He lays on my heart. this week it’s been listening.

this isn’t christian yoga. this is me approaching yoga as a christian. the same as when a runner approaches his run as a christian, or a teacher stands before her classroom as a christian or a man sips on his cup of coffee as a christian. i’m a christian when i eat ice cream, when i ride squished between two big mamas on a bush taxi, when i share a cup of tea with my girlfriends, when i blog, when i eat, sleep and breath… and even when do tree pose. especially and intentionally then. to God be the glory in all things. namasté, amen.

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strings and things

if my heart were an instrument, i think it would be a mandolin. i can’t quite explain it. i listen to music on bush taxis, and the songs always play at random, so i never know what to expect… and yet every time a song with a mandolin comes on, i actually feel it plucking at my heart strings. it’s a very strange and intimate sensation, such that i feel exposed in the group of strangers that are my fellow passengers. the music hits my ears and suddenly it’s as if everyone in the car knows something about me, something very personal, though they stare straight ahead in dark silence.

night traveling is pretty dark. there are no street lights, so shapes and figures come into view only as the dim headlights of a beat up vehicle (forget halogen) cast faint shadows. that, and the glow of lit wicks soaked in coco butter or kerosene, which light the faces of women selling bread, sugar cane and oranges. the darkness lends itself to introspection, and i come home feeling quaint and relaxed. it’s a far cry from when i used to speed home from class at night, blaring my music and singing at the top of my lungs to keep myself awake and alert on I-97.

sometimes i wonder if the worlds i have lived in will one day mesh together in a way that makes any sense at all.

if not, i suppose a multiple personality disorder could be fun…

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how many wives does it take to…

if ever you’re short on things to write about, hop in a bush taxi (or bush van, in this case).

yes, wednesday i made my usual trip to and from porto novo to teach an english class at the girls’ school there. on the way back, i was listening to my iPod shuffle, pretty much ignoring the conversation around me (mostly in local languages anyway), other than the obligatory “bon soir” accompanied by a smile each time a new passenger squeezed on board.

the men sitting next to me were speaking so loudly, and in french, that it became impossible to concentrate on whatever song was playing. i pressed pause and eaves dropped. basically, two muslim men were talking about the proper treatment of wives, using both the bible and koran to justify their points. now, i’ve yet to perfect my french, so i’m sure there were various meanings and phrases i missed or misunderstood. but i at least agreed with the man seated across from me, who insisted it was wrong to beat your wife. you tell ‘em mister!

but mister got tired of arguing, at which point his opponent turned to me to ask my opinion. granted, this was all in french. but the conversation went something like this.

“lady. tell me. what should a man do if (insert elaborate story about two men, a woman, and a village)… his wife is unfaithful?”

“well, i suppose the man should go to his religious leader to ask for advice.”

“of course!”

“personally, i am a Christian. i think that if the wife asks to be pardoned, she should be pardoned, as Christ has pardoned us.”

“yes, exactly!”

“if she does not want to be pardoned, i suppose the husband should let her go.”

“yes! yes!”

“but in all things, it is important for the husband to be respectful of the wife (ie: not beat her), and to set an example, since he is the leader in the relationship.”

“eh, heh!” (in africa, this translates to, “right on, sister!”)

at this point, i didn’t really understand what the argument was, since the man was eager to agree with every statement i made. he was also eager to touch my leg. not really sure what to do, i picked up is hand (which he had rested on the hem of my skirt at my knee) and placed it back on his own leg. sure, this kind of thing communicates a message pretty clearly when seated at a bar or someplace in the states, but how would it be received on a bush van? where personal space is non-existent? he seemed to ignore the gesture, but refrained from leg touching, settling for my arm instead.

the conversation continued…

“where do you live, in cotonou or porto novo?”

“cotonou.”

“where in cotonou?”

“habitat.”

“me too! you should give me your number.”

“no, thanks.”

“yes, yes, you should. i will take care of you. you have needs, do you not?”

“i have no need of you, thank you.”

“but you need a man.”

(no response… getting extremely annoyed at this point.)

“you are a missionary. does not the bible say that a woman needs a man? that man and woman are made for each other?”

(ignoring still…)

“listen to me. what does the bible say about how many wives a man can have?”

“i believe a man should take one wife.”

“why?”

“we agreed that the man is the head of the relationship, yes?”

“yes! yes!”

“and that he should set an example, yes?”

“eh.”

“then what kind of example does the man set if he has many wives? does that mean the woman should take many husbands?”

(he laughs…) “but here in africa, if the woman leaves to visit her village, what is the man to do while she is away? he must have relations or he will grow small.” (he says this while pointing between his legs…)

“this conversation is over.”

he continued to argue his point, but i just shook my head no, making clicking noises in the back of my throat to further express my dissent. i exited the van at the nearest stop and was relieved to jump on the back of a zemi home.

somewhere in the argument about being faithful, the man said, “now i understand why you moved my hand from your leg. you will be only with your husband. even if you travel away from him.” so i guess despite my feeble french, some points did get across, even if they didn’t sink in. oh well… what can you do?

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hello soap box

rarely do i write anything of consequence on this blog. some may even wonder what the point is half the time (and yet you’re still reading!) but the time has come for me to get a little preachy. or thoughtful. or angry. whatever.

i have a problem. it’s called men cheating (girls can cheat too, but i’m going to stick it to the man this go round). i mean, really. WHY? what in the world are you thinking?!?! what’s the point?!?! what’s so hard about breaking up with one girl before hooking up with another? do you think you’re doing the girl a favor? you’re NOT! ridiculous. really. and while i’ve been cheated on several times (am i a cheater magnet?) that’s actually not why i’m mad. when i get cheated on, i get hurt. but when one of my friends gets cheated on, i get angry! (and right now i’m mad at you, mr. visor-wearing-blockhead.)

do you know what a girl feels like after a guy cheats on her? betrayed. rejected. not good enough. when, HELLO, clearly she’s worth quite a bit. definitely worth a man that can be loyal. where does that leave you, mr. cheater? i think it leaves you with a lot of questions. you need to sit in time-out and seriously consider who you are and why you act the way you do. cheating is indicative of some issues you need to confront, and i hope to God that you are man enough to do so.

i believe in forgiveness as well as change, and i believe in you, mr. cheater. i believe that you too are created in the image of God. i believe that God can heal whatever it is in you that’s broken. shoot. i even love you. but until you’re in a place where you can sustain a healthy relationship and make healthy decisions, please stay away from all the nice girls out there. it’s just plain mean not to.

and to the ladies, you are good enough. i promise. i am too.

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extremism

the following is an excerpt from martin luther king jr.’s letter from the birmingham jail to fellow clergymen, dated april 16, 1963.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus and extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like am ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvery’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

may we too be extremists for love.

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