In response to ‘Christian, or Feminist’

When I saw the title to of this article published by the Atlantic, ‘Christian, or Feminist’, I was actually really excited. I’m like finally! Conversation opened! …no. Upon reading the first sentence, I was severely disappointed. The particular lens in which the article has taken to reconcile Christianity and feminism was really restricted to sexual freedom and failed to expand itself into the greater conversation of societal understanding of gender and how the church overall understands gender. Yes, one could indeed argue that gender/gender inequality can be closely tied to sexual expression but I also feel like it’s a very limited way to look at it. Let me set up some personal context from where I’m coming from before coming back to this article.

I think as a Christian woman born in the late 20th century and now living in the 21st century, I am constantly grappling about how I should understand the role of women in the context of today’s world/culture. I grew up in a family that valued both son and daughter without discernment (which from a culturally standpoint, is pretty amazing since my family is Chinese and traditionally, patriarchal). I had the greatest privilege of attending good schools and received a solid education first as a secondary and then post-secondary student without any obvious barriers due to my gender. I also currently work in a workplace where a lot of us are women but our expertise and experience is taken into consideration without the lens that hey, this comes from a woman and thus could be questionable. Nope. I grew up and continue to be someone that believes in equal opportunity for both men and women, whether it be in sports, career, education or whatever. Whenever someone challenges my abilities and inserts false limitations of what I can or cannot do because I don’t have that particular appendage, I take it as a personal challenge and go out of my friggin’ way to prove this nincompoop wrong (note, I wanted to insert stronger language there but refrained…trying to curb my swearing ;)). As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with accepting ‘girl’ in who I am because I had for some reason associated being feminine as being weaker than a man especially in the context of sports. However, being surrounded by so many strong female athletes in my tri club (which often has a majority of girls at our workouts…), climbing gym/outdoors and on the ultimate friz field, has really challenged my perceptions. Also, seeing my own athletic abilities grow due to time invested and commitment to training without relinquishing the fact that hey, I was born with certain body parts and still am pushing hard and playing hard. Anyways, mini rant there.

However, I’m also not pretending that men and women were created in the same fashion; it’s that seemingly contradictory phrase of ‘different but equal’. A friend of mine was like I think that sometimes we forget how different we are including via gender lines and that our genders gives us certain inclinations that are stronger in one gender than the other. It’s not say that those inclinations and strengths are any better or less than the others but they are indeed different. To an extent, one could even say that those different inclinations and strengths can complement one another towards a greater outcome. One only has to look at a healthy marriage (to illustrate this particular point, between a man and a woman): I think ideally a husband and wife could say that they work together to make the marriage work and to run as smooth (though…life happens :)) family life as humanly possible. It could be something like husband is stronger at writing and reading so he helps the kids with language arts and social studies homework whereas the wife is stronger at math and science, so she helps out more with subjects.

I remember the first time I heard the bible verse that called women to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), my hackles totally raised up and I was like what kind of crazy backward way of looking at things is that? There are few ways that I’ve deconstructed and reconciled my understanding of this particular verse. For one, our current understanding of ‘submit’ has some really negative connotations with it. I think often times I look at that verse and forget the verse that follows immediately afterwards: ‘Husbands, love your wives and Christ loved the church…'(Ephesians 5:23). Personally I think that’s an even harder calling. But if one’s husband aspires to instil that kind of love for his wife in his marriage, then it would draw upon and embody those characteristics in Christ that calls Christians to love and trust Him and ultimately, to submit to Him. If that is indeed the case, that an environment of love and trust is created in a marriage or we can even say relationship if you think that this may only pertain to marriage (mm would argue no but this isn’t the main point), can we ladies trust our men to care for us and respect the decisions he makes? Chances are, if there is indeed again that environment of love and trust, decisions aren’t made without a deep consideration for your opinion and discussion to come to whatever conclusion has been drawn. So in this case, for me, submission isn’t so much a call to bring him a damn sandwich when he’s sitting on the couch watching the game, but it’s a call to truly trust the man you love and who loves you (as Christ loved the church!!!) in return.

I point to this particular verse because it’s one of the most obvious ones that people like to pull out when talking about the patriarchal culture of the church and how women are justified to be a second class as a result of what has been written in the Bible. Historically, I cannot deny and vehemently disagree about how the Bible has been interpreted to create different classes of man, whether it be through gender or racial lines; I really don’t think there is much biblical foundation for that. I’m not a theologian so I’m sure someone could come up here and bash this little blog post of mine all around but hey, let’s engage in some dialogue then. Jesus Christ specifically reached out the people who were considered to be second class or of no class during his time. His very birth is an example of his closeness with those who were considered less in this world – the king of heaven, king of kings, was born in a stable…in hay. I know that after years of Christmas carols and stories that we may be desensitized by the imagery of this but really, think about it. Have you been in a barn before? He also didn’t rise up the career ranks to become a formally recognized high priest or a king’s right hand man; nope, he was a carpenter. He also often called for the children during his travels; children during that time (and arguably now…though again not the main point for this particular blog post) had no voice and no status. Also, when we think of Jesus’ followers, I think most of us go directly to his 12 apostles who were men; I know I do. But let us not forget about Mary and Mary – they were to first two people who were told about Jesus’ rise from the dead by the angel. Women during those times were also of little status – for God to decide that these would be the first two people to receive this news when this occurred is pretty momentous. Oh yeah, how could I forget them? Women in the old testament also had an incredibly important role. Esther, Ruth…yeah let’s not forget what amazing things they have done out of faith.

So now that I’ve laid out that I really don’t think women are second class citizens in God’s eyes, I’m going to come back to that article I cited at the beginning and the driver for this post. The article is centred upon a book by Dianne E. Anderson to sought to wrestle with and reconcile her faith and feminist self; this realization came through losing her virginity and then realizing that sex outside of marriage can be holy. Wait, what? Of all the things that could be have been used a launching point, this was chosen? Seriously? The author of the article does make an interesting and arguably true point which does support why perhaps Anderson went in this particular direction: ‘Despite being at odds in their politics, evangelical Christians and feminists share a fixation on sex’. Really true. A quote pulled from Anderson’s book does also resonate with me to an extent: ‘”Sexual purity—rather than a relationship with Jesus, caring for the poor, or loving one’s neighbor—has become the marker of a good Christian,” she writes. Conversely, at times, “sex becomes the god we worship, and we will go to any length to obtain it.” The solution, she writes, is to recognize that “sexuality is not the center of a person’s life, faith, or health.”‘ Fair enough. There has been indeed a deep fixation on sex and I would argue that sex has been elevated to the sin in which we must fight against the most versus ‘do not steal’ even though sin is sin, regardless of what sin it is. There are no levels of sin. Interestingly, the article does go to say that ‘Arguably, the focus on “purity” in evangelical culture arose in response to a secular, sex-obsessed American culture’. Agreed as well. Okay, so what’s my biggest problem with this article since apparently I can relate and even agree to some of the points made in it: the fact that Anderson has decided that sex outside of marriage can be holy. How, seriously, how can you draw that conclusion? I really cannot understand how any interpretation of the Bible can lead you down that rabbit trail. I also fail to truly understand how she can draw upon this conclusion to reconcile feminism and Christianity. As someone that has had sex outside of marriage in a couple different relational context, I cannot relate to her conclusion whatsoever. Sex to let’s say third base was and has been so ingrained in me to be okay that it is only now that I’m really starting to unpack and realize that hey, maybe not so much. It sucks to have a conversation with the Christian man you’re now in a relationship, we’ll call him John Mayer, and be like by the way…yeah, not fun.

The argument made in this article also brings me back to an ongoing conversation with I’ve been having with John Mayer (ha yes! He’s actually a real person, not just an abstract example to illustrate my point). We were talking about the continual strain and difficult balance that must be struck in trying to retain the hard truths we know to be true in our faith and remaining relevant and still being in tune with what is going on in our world. It’s very dangerous to live in our little Christian bubble and pretend the world outside of us doesn’t exist. Differing viewpoints is a blessing especially when there’s room for conversation and discussion; it’s how we grow and understand who we are as people, not just in our faith. The primary approach to the ‘Christian, or Feminist’ article is through my interpretation, a complete disconnect from a hard truth from the Bible. I’m glad it was written though, if anything, so that we can get the wheels churning as to what we really think about this particular topic. I’m a feminist and Christian. I personally don’t undrestand how these two things cannot be reconciled. I’m most disappointed by Anderson’s approach because it’s such a pigeon hole approach to bridge feminism and Christian theory; there’s so much more that she could’ve launched off from. But hey, maybe we can really start digging deep and start talking about this now; at least it was a launching point of sorts.

Rediscovering Faith

I haven’t updated in a long time with my thoughts regarding relationships and what not. If you’ve read previous blog posts, I talked a lot about finding a man who could walk with me spiritually and love God more than he could ever love me. That sentiment still remains but sometimes, things don’t go quite as you expect them to. Whenever I met a guy that I thought was interesting, the first question that came to mind was whether or not he was a Christian. If he wasn’t, I usually lost interest right away. With my dating history, I knew how difficult it would be to date a non-Christian and selfishly, I didn’t want to go through that again. It is also quite amazing to be supported by someone who shares the same foundational views and values and to know that you could always count on this person to pray with you and to rely on God and call upon Him when things were rough inside and outside of your relationship. This would be ideal. I still very much believe in this idea of a relationship even though it would seem that my own path hasn’t followed that.

It would seem that I am determined to take the harder path lol even if on one hand, I aspire to take the easier path. Sometimes I look at my Christian friends and fellows who have found someone they love and loved God from their church and get a bit jealous. Relationships are difficult regardless but at least the onset of these relationships seemed to be pretty good. In the past year or so, I had two Christian guys who became non-starters. No, I did not pine away or jump off the deep end without caution. At least from my viewpoint, I had very explicit signs that hey, boy is interested and boy shares faith…huzzah! Alas, neither came to fruition. Was I frustrated? Most certainly but I remained relatively optimistic that this was where a relationship would come from when it eventually happened. Apparently not so much.

I met M playing corporate challenge badminton this past spring. Yes, I play badminton and used to do so competitively; however, in recent years, badminton would only happen once a year for corporate challenge and that’s it. I actually didn’t really want to play this year because I was already committed to triathlon and rock climbing, two things of which demanded so much of my time as individual sports, never mind both sports. But I was bribed into playing with the promise that snacks would be involved at practice and at the tournament (it was all a lie!). I noticed M pretty much right off the bat and got along with him amazingly well. Somehow, things just came together and snowballed. We started talking more and come tournament weekend, both were pretty confident that the other person was interested in the other. However, M is a non-believer.

On the night before our first ‘official’ date, he figured that we should talk about our differences in faith and values. Up to this point, I had justified the existence of our ‘relationship’ to be nothing more than a summer fling but as this talk approached, I realized how much I liked him. In the past, this is the point where most people would’ve backed off because there would a) be no sex involved and b) not so thrilled about religion having a role in the relationship. M surprised me. Despite all our differences, he wanted to a shot at trying to make a relationship work for us. I was shocked.

Since all this began, M has never shied away from the difficulties our relationship has faced and the times when I question it and when I emotionally shut down. I never had someone care for me the way he does, to want to fight for us. And yet, inside, I felt very torn. In the church, we are told that dating non-Christians is a bad thing – after all, the Bible tells us not to yolk with non-believers. Perhaps my own viewpoint is skewed, but I did and do not view the things that are outlined in the Bible to be hard rules but rather guidelines to living that have been established by a God who loves us and wants us to live a life that is fulfilling to the max. With regards to ‘not yolking with non-believers’, it’s because it’s so fucking hard. It’s so hard to know that you don’t share that perspective with them and have them available for you to pray with when you’re not sure about something or struggling with something. It’s hard to think that when you die, you won’t end up in the same place. This past weekend, M and I really struggled with how this would play out in our relationship and after a lot of discussion, we have yet to come to a conclusion with what we should do.
I spoke about the imperfect love of man to the perfect love of God. I realize though the imperfect love of man will always be imperfect, even if the man is a believer of God because we as people are just imperfect. But love in itself is a beautiful gift from God that truly doesn’t come around as much as we think or wish that it did. Yesterday, the verse of the day on my bible app was Psalm 55:22 that says this: ‘Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken’. I am so thankful for my non-family family, that they can give me a good reality check and encouragement all at the same time. One of my girls, Jaws, told me that I had to let go and give up this self-imposed oppression about whether or not M would know God or not. She told me that it wasn’t up to me. That even though M couldn’t see himself coming to know God, that he nor I could predict what could or could not happen. That being with me was a window into a whole different world that he didn’t see before. That all I could do would love M and continue to live my life with the love God instilled in me and walk on the path God has laid before me. That by being ‘burdened’, I was trying to take control of God’s work. One of the most interesting things she told me though that I hadn’t even considered was that by sharing and not censoring the faith part of my life with M, that my own relationship with God grows. That through this relationship, I am learning and still drawing close to God. A part of me fears that by being with someone who is not a believer, that I am disappointing Him. But then I think about how blessed I am to have M in my life and I’m not so sure about that anymore. She also told me to be strong and not to abandon M when we are both learning and growing with one another. One of the things I value the most with my relationship with M is how we can have involved conversations about life and relationships. That there’s an established and growing trust to share things about our past and how we view life without fear of judgement and knowing that it’s being shared in a safe environment. I feel like one of the reasons why God placed M in my life is because he’s strong enough to be there when I fall and that he is helping me heal the emotional scars left behind by others.

So now my faith is growing in a way I never really considered. Man, it’s so hard. It really is difficult but so far, I’ve learnt so much about myself and my faith through M. I don’t know if he knows that. It’s not to say that we won’t struggle because we will but at least I know that I’m on a team and not alone. Here’s to hoping 

25: My Story

As my 25th birthday approaches with seemingly great haste, I keep thinking that this would be a fantastic occasion for me to reflect on my life. I first thought of the things that I had done and also the thing that I have yet to do. But after a pretty deep conversation with my dad and his wife this evening, I thought that it would be more prudent to reflect on how God’s ongoing story is being written out in my life.

My life did not really start until I was 19. Let me give you a bit background. I had a fairly normal childhood until I was 14. My parents divorced then and it was a fairly amicable divorce as far these things go, but even now, I continue to realize how significant this was and how deeply it affected who I was. I became reclusive, internal and sometimes, even suicidal. I withdrew from my friends. I spent my time in the library dwelling and writing out dark thoughts. Somehow, I managed to get into university and eventually majored in English. However, my area of strength had become my area of weakeness and I struggled immensely in school, despite the fact that I worked very hard. I was so frustrated, down trodden and unsure as to what my future prospects were. At this time, I knew God or at least, I knew the existence of God in my life. But no matter how loudly God cried out to me, opened a crack light in my dark room, I refused to simply turn around to see the light that penetrated the darkness that enveloped me.

When I was in 19 and in the second semester of the school year, I somehow got pulled into looking at going to Hong Kong to teach English as a short term mission. My faith was on the rocks and was completely unsure as to how I could supposedly share the gospel when I wasn’t sure if I really believed it. Yet all the cards fell into place: financial support came through, all the documentation worked out and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Los Angeles for a few days of training before flying to HK for a month. It was here that God began His incessant bid for my life. During one of our worship sessions, I felt His sledgehammer of a fist shatter the rock walls that I had built around me; His glory banished the darkness. I became alive. I became the person He had made me to be. It was this person that would bring the glory of God to the world…this person, even though they shared the same fleshy shell, was the complete opposite to the one who refused to turn around in the dark to see the light. My dearest students from Shatin and my fantastic team, you played a huge role in God’s plan to save me. Thank you.

I came back a changed person; the people in my life could see that notable difference. With God as the driving force behind my life, I was changed. I became an optimistic person; outgoing, bouncy even. I smiled a lot, laughed a lot and was always excited to meet new people and make friends. My school work improved drastically; I enrolled in political science in addition to English. I found myself enrolling in a program to go to Washington, DC. I found myself given a scholarship for that program I would not have otherwise been able to go to without it. A semester after DC, I found myself boarding a plane to go and intern in Bruxelles, Belgium for seven months. Brussels wouldn’t have have happened if an auntie from the church felt the need to answer God’s prompting to support me and provide me with enough funds to work as an unpaid intern. A couple months after I came back to Canada, God gave me a job with the provincial government as a policy advisor. A year after, when my contract was not renewed, He gave me a permanent job in immigration policy with the most wonderful team of people I could ask for. A year later, He has given me a secondment opportunity to continue learning and developing my abilities, not for myself, but to bring glory to God in every stage and chapter of my life.

And yet, despite of all these amazing blessings, despite the fact that God saved me, I fell away from Him in different stages of my story. I fell away mainly in pursuit of nonplatonic relations with others. I was drawn away from Him and the perfect love He had for me for the imperfect love of a man. After a few months in my first job upon my return from Bruxelles, I had fallen to my lowest point in this regard. God told me, ‘no more’, so I took my ‘boy free period’ or BFP. During that time, I felt my spirit begin its renewal. I became once again involved with the people who shared my faith and helped me deepen this faith and keep me on track.

Then, I met D. I thought that he was the one that God had set out for me. However, despite the precautions taken, I jumped and had very hard landing. D walked away. I was shattered. My parents’ divorce had inadvertently instilled a fear of commitment to other people or really, to anything that could hurt me. With D, I had jumped; it was my commitment. And on my first true leap, I had failed. It broke me. But, God came through. God told me that to be with one of His sons, I had to be right with myself and be truly content as a daughter of God riding  with God alone. That my companion of the future, would always place God before me as I would and that God alone was/is sufficient enough to carry me through this life. It was and continues to be truly a difficult lesson to learn and apply but absolutely life changing.

Believing in God is a change in perspective. Nothing was physically different in the mental room of my mind. What was different was where I was looking: the dark wall or the crack of light that was coming through. From the surface, I know that I look like a well adjusted and successful young woman. However, I have story and so do you. Share it. You never know what part of your story will resound with someone else and show them that they are not alone in whatever dark place they may be in. Let your story be a source of light, of God’s eternal hope shining through you like a hundred blazing suns.