Month: January 2015

One Simple Way to Protest Fifty Shades of Grey

In case you haven’t heard about it, there’s a movie coming out over Valentine’s Day weekend that’s being blasted by Christians (and most other religions and feminists and people who actually care about the writing quality of the books they read).

You could, of course, just burn the book. But then you'd have to buy it or steal it from the library. Not recommended.

You could, of course, just burn the book. But then you’d have to buy it or steal it from the library. Not recommended.

Most people objecting to Fifty Shades of Grey think it’s dangerous to associate twisted fantasies with love. And that’s true, but I think it’s also become a symbol for all the unanswered (sometimes unasked) questions our culture has about gender and sexuality.

It’s way bigger than just one movie. It’s Super Bowl commercials with scantily-clad women for props, sitcoms where all guys are idiots, and misapplication of the Bible’s take on gender roles. It’s trafficking and courtship debates and Disney princesses and pornography and bikinis and burqas and 100 million wives and moms who read a book about abuse and somehow came away thinking it was a romance.

People are confused. Some Christians, I think, are even confused.

When you look around you, it’s pretty clear that we don’t know what it means to be men and women anymore. You can offend almost anyone in about .05 seconds by bringing up something related to feminism, gender roles, or sexuality.

So it’s obviously not simple, and I will not attempt to address every aspect of this issue. But I’m going to try to say something mildly useful on the subject, anyway.

Our culture typically says that women should be treated differently in one of two ways: either they are smarter and more capable than men or they are objects to be used by men.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like either of these options.

There are some more balanced folks who insist that women and men should be treated equally. To which I say, hooray! I am incredibly glad I live in a time when I have legal rights, when I can go to college, when I don’t have to write this blog under a man’s pseudonym, and when, in the church, I am treated in light of the truth that both men and women were made in the image of God. Equality is great.

But why not go a step further? Why don’t we let women be treated differently from men…but in a way that gives them more dignity, more respect, and more honor, while at the same time telling men they are capable of being dignified, respectful, and honorable? What could be more different from our Fifty Shades culture than that?

So here’s my radical protest idea:

Men, hold doors open for women. And women, give them permission to do so.

And I would argue that courtesy is as much a mark of a lady as courage as well.

And I would argue that courtesy is as much a mark of a lady as courage as well. The question is…what does that look like?

Okay, before I go on, let me just say that not every woman who doesn’t like guys holding open doors for her is a crazy, bra-burning feminist who reads erotica every night and is trying to put gender-neutral signs on all public restrooms.

Maybe someone is sensitive to this issue because she’s known men who actually have stated or implied that she isn’t capable of doing simple things without their help. Maybe she has known (or dated) too many guys who play the gentleman card as a cover for being manipulative, controlling jerks. Maybe she’s encountered prejudices that range from annoying to demeaning to outright harassment.

But here is what I would say to those women: this is about how we treat another person who is doing something to show respect. And I say, accept a kindness in the spirit that it was given. If a beaming hostess prepares a fishy-smelling dish she’s sure you’ll just love, eat what you can and hide the rest discreetly in a napkin. If a toothless kid gives you an ugly thank-you note studded with glued macaroni, it is beautiful and wow, look at all that color! If a guy holds open a door for you, assume it is a simple act of consideration and receive it with grace.

You might say, but what if the door wasn’t held open out of consideration? Well. That gets tricky. Are some of these guys smarmy ladies’ men who just want attention? Sure. Are some of these guys prejudiced chauvinists who think women are less valuable than men? Sure.

I can 100% guarantee you that some of the men holding open doors for you are selfish or manipulative or insincere or patronizing or hopelessly self-obsessed show-offs.

And some of the women walking through those doors are too. I have been all of those things. You probably have as well. The truth is, we all have mixed motives. We’re all unknowingly prejudiced against something. And we would all like others to assume the best about us and give us a chance to live up to that.

But please keep this handy guide in mind.

But please keep this handy guide in mind.

So take the offered seat. Accept the steadying hand. Surrender the heavy box. Say “thank you” and smile, not because you are a fragile woman who needs assistance, but because you are a gracious person who appreciates every shred of general human kindness you encounter, especially in a culture that doesn’t value respect very highly.

The same culture that says it’s all right for men to either be abusive or belittled. The culture that tells us women are eye candy or strong and independent or victimized or in control of their own sexuality even if it leaves them empty and searching for something to fill a void they can’t name.

They’re simple things, those little acts of “gentlemanly behavior.” But I think they matter, because they tell our culture—and remind us—that we do not have to accept any of those labels they want to attach to our identity as men or women.

I can’t speak as directly to the men, since I’m not one (except to say thank you to all of the gentlemen I know personally—seriously, you guys are the best).

But women, yes, let’s be strong. Let’s be strong enough to think of someone else before ourselves, to put aside baggage we might associate with certain actions and just be grateful for what they might mean—what they probably do mean—if done from the right motives. Let’s love people as best we can without thought to our own agenda.

Let’s walk through the door.

Agree? Disagree? (I have heard good, well-reasoned arguments against this from people I respect…so go ahead!)

That One Time I Confessed In Mafia

The only time I ever confessed in Mafia was one year at summer camp. (Mafia, for those of you who don’t know, is a super awesome strategy game. Not the actual mob.) Let me set the scene for you: I was playing with my cabin and the guys from our brother cabin. One guy in particular was a bit out of place.

I don't think we even need to discuss whether this kind of Mafia is ethical.

I don’t think we even need to discuss whether this kind of Mafia is ethical.

To give you an idea, picture a clean-cut, super conservative sixteen-year-old with a Biblical name (we’ll call him Nathaniel), a polo shirt, and a hopeless crush on me. (Don’t ask.)

Someone finally talked Nathaniel into playing Mafia, though he wasn’t sure a game based on killing people was ethical. During that first round, it just so happened that I was one of the Mafia. I had used my usual charm and sort-of-fake logic to convince everyone I was completely innocent, as usual. (Hey! What is that eye roll for?)

The game was nearing the end—I was the only Mafia left alive. There was only one person who still suspected me. She was relentless in her accusations, sure that I couldn’t be trusted. (A position, that, I will admit, is reasonably safe.)

Is it just me, or does it always seem that as soon as you’re sure you’ve got it made, something goes wrong? Because right as I was about to win it all, Nathaniel spoke up. “Everyone, it’s not Amy,” he insisted, “I know it isn’t. She wouldn’t lie.” At this point, I was staring at him, shaking my head and hoping he’d get the message to just stop where he was at.

The kid kept going. Of course. “I’d stake my own honor on the fact that she’s not the Mafia,” Nathaniel continued, proving that love is not only blind, it is also foolishly unaware of how the fifteen-year-old object of its affections is glaring at him and wishing he’d go home.

Of course, at this point, I interrupted him. “Nope, I’m the Mafia,” I announced. “Sorry—kill me now, everyone!” And they did. Other than a few hurt looks, Nathaniel got over it, probably figuring I had repented by confessing my lie and was in right standing before God by the time we got around to roasting s’mores around the campfire. What he didn’t know was that he forced me to consider for the first time: when I decide what’s right and wrong, how do I factor in what is hurtful to other people? (more…)

What Scrooge and Oregon Trail Taught Me About Death

I learned to appreciate mortality from Oregon Trail.

When I was in first grade, only my sister and I and one other kid were allowed to play Oregon Trail during computer lab because we destroyed those dumb phonics games and could read well enough to navigate the general store (and buy ridiculously disproportional amounts of supplies—hey, I could read, I never said I was good with numbers).

Note to past self: no one needs more than

Note to past self: no self-respecting pioneer family needs more than 12 sets of clothing. Put all your money into bullets. (Because, let’s face it, you’re a terrible shot.)

To a girl who loved history, this was the height of coolness. “Oh, what’re you doing over there? Picking out consonant sounds? I’m shooting buffalo and fording rivers. Yeah. That’s what I thought, kid.”

Of course, it was cool to go hunting and trade with the Indians and run your oxen into the ground trying to get to the fort because, sorry, the two rabbits you got three days ago aren’t enough to feed your whole calico-clad family. But the most fun part of all?

When people died.

Was this just me? Am I a terrible person? (Probably.)

Here’s how the game worked: at the beginning of your virtual trek across the Old West, you named your party members. Either celebrities or people you knew, usually. And there are few things funnier to a seven-year-old kid than reading the pop-up message, “Barney the Dinosaur has dysentery!” or “Erika drowned in the river” to the accompaniment of sad, tinny music. (Sorry, Erika. But seriously, though. You can’t tell me you didn’t do the same thing to me.)

So. Sad.

So. Sad. (Also, who wears a pink party dress out into the wilderness, anyway?)

Sometimes, though, my complete lack of common sense caught up with me (“Oh, we can totally start traveling in the winter.” “Lighten the wagon before crossing? What do they think I am, a wimp?”). And, in those moments displaying my stunning lack of brilliance, every single member of my party died. Including, well, me.

There it would be, flashed on the screen as a pixelated tombstone: my own death announced (more…)

Scenes With the Pharisees, Act Two, Scene One

Because I couldn’t leave my pals the Pharisees back in 2014. One of my favorite children’s books points out that most of us either identify with the prodigal son or with the older brother. That’s what inspired this particular scene. (For more scenes with the Pharisees, visit this post.)

Pharisee

(Joseph is standing onstage, stretching a yawn, as if preparing to go out for the morning, when Micah rushes on.)

Micah: Joseph! We need to talk.

Joseph: Well, good morning to you too, Micah. The Lord be with you and your family. Are they all well? Was your Sabbath rest refreshing?

Micah: Good morning, thank you, yes, and yes. Satisfied?

Joseph: Barely. I take it that you didn’t come to me for advice on your choice of clothing, which, as usual, you desperately need.

Micah: We’re teachers of the Law, Joseph. What we look like on the outside is of no concern.

Joseph: You Pharisees and your complete lack of vanity. This is why I only serve on the Sanhedrin. God blessed me with prosperity, and I intend to use it. Besides, what sort of God commands tassels on one’s cloak if he didn’t mean us to care about our appearance? I ask you.

Micah: I need your advice, friend. On a serious matter.

Joseph: I can be serious, I suppose. Just this once.

Micah: Did you hear the new rabbi at Simon’s banquet last week?

Joseph: Yes, and I was surprised to see some of the other guests. Hezekiah and Addon haven’t decided to leave their little Sadducee sect to join you, have they?

Micah: No. That was Levi’s doing, inviting them. The latest scheme of his.

Joseph: I might have known. That man could swindle our forefather Jacob out of his last pair of sandals. What’s his game this time, eh?

Micah: He plans to get rid of the teacher. This…Jesus.

Joseph: Ah, yes. The rabbi certainly does know how to tell a story. That one about the banquet and the guests…I was laughing along with all the rest when he told the ridiculous excuses they gave for not going. “My oxen need testing”? Bah! I came up with better excuses as a ten-year-old for incomplete Torah readings.

Micah: Didn’t you realize the rabbi was speaking about us? The people of Israel, rejecting God’s invitation, causing him to look elsewhere.

Joseph: Of course I did! Hadn’t been hitting the wine cup that hard, old fellow. Everyone there might have guessed that one. But it’s just a story, Micah.

Micah: Is it? You don’t think he’s the slightest bit dangerous?

Joseph: Come, let us be honest, Micah: there is corruption among our people. Perhaps it would be best if we took this Jesus’s warning to heart: if we do not repent, our chance to respond to the invitation may be lost.

Micah: Don’t let Levi hear that. You always were too honest for your own good.

Joseph: And on that note, your belt simply does not match your tunic. In case you wanted to know.

Micah: I’m serious, Joseph.

Joseph: So am I. It really does look awful.

Micah: Joseph.

Joseph: I know, Micah. I know. I’ll keep my head down. I’m no fool. Well, not a great fool, anyway. But it’s a mystery to me why this storyteller-rabbi upsets you so much. I rather like him. I have never seen Levi’s face turn so many shades of purple during one meal! (more…)

We Are All Cabinets of Wonders

Sometimes, I get seriously annoyed at characters in epic books and movies. Because their lives are so darn significant. There are prophecies that the fate of the world rests on them. Everyone they meet is an intriguing, yet flawed, character. They go on epic quests, face danger with courage (and perfect hair), and constantly say interesting, funny, or dramatic things that people actually want to listen to.

But I am Amy Green, twenty-three-year-old nobody who battles…the broken belt in the vacuum cleaner. Who goes boldly forth…to answer emails and finish HTML coding. And who is blessed with the mysterious gift…of making chocolate chip cookies.

I am ordinary.

But another ordinary person, a friend of mine, Keith Cantrell, shared a video today with that chronicled his 2014 in one-second bursts.

And you think, watching the video—what would mine show, from 2014? A collage of all the unremarkable days.

But, no. That’s not right. Because if the video tells us anything at all, it’s that there are no unremarkable days. (more…)