Thursday, July 25, 2013

#234 Daddy-Daughter Dates

Christian culture is way into daddy-daughter dates. Yes. They're exactly what they sound like. To their credit, evangelicals have recognized that absentee dads are more or less a societal menace and they appear be taking steps to rectify this within their frame of influence. But the emphasis they place on the daddy-daughter relationship is wildly disproportionate to all other parent-child interaction, to say nothing of creepy.

Part of the discrepancy can be seen by the quantity of ink devoted to this concept. There are pages upon internet pages about daddy-daughter dates, while the number of pages on mother-son dates that I could find are under a dozen. I found even fewer on daddy-son and mother-daughter dates, but no shortage on the daddy-daughter front. These articles lay out details for how and why and when and where to "date your daughter" (that is really what they call it). This appears to come from a lovely sentiment and honest desire to help shape girls into women who know their worth and won’t settle for dodgy men when they’re adults. And yet an equivalent amount of emphasis is not placed on the mother-son / mother-daughter / father-son relationship, and the tone of fatherly ownership of daughters is remarkable. Christian culture does not appear to have a problem with this.

Not surprisingly, the chatter surrounding daddy-daughter dates is directly in line with Christian culture’s M.O. of Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. Rather than learn about why your relationship with your daughter or son is important, rather than seek to understand why vulnerability is crucial to emotional health and that bearing each other’s burdens is where relationship truly takes place, lists are given and dads check them off.  If fathers were instead reading about female psychology and relational intimacy, instructions on how to facilitate bonding through dates wouldn't be necessary as they would be organically acting out of their desire to know their daughters and honor them. But we don't live in that kind of world. And so here is some actual advice from an actual Daddy-Daughter Date article

“Keep your eyes on her. Looking at your daughter and not cutting your eyes to what walks by takes a little practice. Sure, you can look up at the server once, but that’s it after you order.” 

Now this appears quite inoffensive and even commendable, but no one seems to be asking why this sort of instruction to grown men is even necessary. If he can't relate to his daughter organically, an article on how to go on a date isn't going to touch the root issue. And his daughter will be able to tell if he is doing what he was told as opposed to whether he is truly interested in her as a person. This advice continues: “Keep a few open-ended questions handy.” “Girls want you to pay attention when they’re talking.” (As if boys don’t.) "So here’s the core list of Daddy Dates ‘Dos’: Do call her up and formally ask for the date. Do hold the door for her. Do tell her she looks nice. Do have her choose the music in the car. Do give her a flower. Do talk to her."

And on and on. The exhaustive instructions beg the question: are dads interested in who their daughters are as people or are they more interested in completing a checklist in order to feel they’ve done the fatherly duties required of them? Why are mother-son / father-son / mother-daughter dates not given one-tenth the amount of attention in evangelical culture that daddy-daughter dates are? It's an epidemic within Christian culture: actual relationships are not emphasized, but instead guidelines are given of what would follow naturally from a genuine relationship. They've put the cart before the horse once again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#233 Giving Kiosks

With the way tithing has been cramping our cyberactive lifestyles, we had to know we’d live to see the Giving Kiosk. Forged by Mother Necessity/megachurch-era capitalism, these glowing monoliths of conviction are humming in lobbies of evangelical churches across North America. You may now foist over your firstfruits anytime, anywhere. Your excuses have vanished ascension-style.

Judging from Giving Kiosk’s customer feedback, everyone loves this system. But the folks at Giving Kiosk say they don’t toot their own horn, they let happy customers do that for them. Yes, "customers." Don’t be cynical. That could just be their love language. Now the churchgoers/customers don’t have to haul out their checkbooks or hate themselves beyond standard Calvinist depravity when they leave their money at home. And Giving Kiosk even has an app so you can give at stoplights, worship rehearsal, women's Bible study, men's discipleship breakfast, or from your marriage bed.  

Now, they might seem a little spendy. An upright Giving Kiosk is $3,895, but their website says most churches see a 20% increase in tithes. So even if your church can’t afford the pastor’s life insurance right now, that 20% increase track record should have it paying for itself pretty soon (and maybe even for some new daylight projectors, MacBook Pros, thermal-regulated baptismal tanks, plexiglass sound-isolated drum kit booths, plasma screens and worship woofers). And if a church really can’t afford it, they can even lease the kiosk. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Doesn’t Dave Ramsey say leasing is bad?” Don’t get your soul patch in a twist. Giving Kiosks are in line with Ramseyism because their Ramsey Clause™ specifically states that they encourage the use of debit-based giving. But they're not legalistic. They can configure their products to accept credit cards, too. You never know how the Lord will work. He might call for you to give him money you just don’t have. What’s more self-sacrificial than that? Dump a wineskin of perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipe it off with your hair already!

With the security of the Ramsey Clause™ you can push to the back of your mind Dave’s “Leasing Is Fleecing” mantra. You can even use your leased Giving Kiosk to conduct registration for your next Total Money Makeover event. It just means they take your business seriously, which of course is the message of the cross, or maybe the message of the bottom line and charge capture. Don't worry. There's no way Martin Luther is rolling over in Wittenberg right now. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#232 Covert misogyny

For as inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly the progressive Church likes to imagine itself, there are still deep, linty pockets of gender bias and old habits that haven’t been broken. And how could they be, if no one has pointed them out? Actually, I take that back. How could the Church realize its biases if if the people in positions of power won't entertain the possibility that they have them? The tragic truth is that the people in power do not need to realize their biases if they don't elect to, and there’s the rub.

Gender bias in Christian culture is so ingrained that it's difficult to identify much of the time. Many women who didn't take their husband's last name or promise to obey him (see, progressive!) are just fine with male-pastor-only denominations. Many men who Mr. Mom while their wives work the day job (and to whom many will ascribe feminist tendencies when he's just acting like a decent human being) can still operate under constraints they haven't examined. We all do it. It's getting to the point where you can dig it up and examine it that's the hard bit.

Straight men in Christian culture simply don't need to examine the ways in which they are sexist, and this is the most difficult factor in the move towards wholeness. Coming to terms with the truth could make men feel awful about themselves. To even be an unknowing participant in something as egregious as gender bias while living in a culture where civil rights and equality are valued above all else is one of the worst things you can do. Far easier to stay ignorant of it. I mean, I would want to. People of privilege can't understand what the margainalized experience day-to-day but when it happens in Christianity in the name of the ultimate gender barrier iconoclast (that would be Jesus), the irony is excruciating.

In a Christian culture whose doctors of theology, board members and published authors are more than 80% male, many men and women still maintain that no significant bias is truly at play. These same people seem proud of the fact that 10% of those in powerful Church roles are women. This is seen by many as a giant stride from where women were a generation ago, but it still means it's 9 times harder to get into a powerful role as a woman. And if you're still having any misgivings as to whether it's really that difficult for a female voice to be considered in the progressive year of 2012, I would invite you to take ornery heed of a Black Like Me-esque experiment conducted by Jen Theweatt-Bates. While commenting on a male theology blog she found that she was engaged with significantly more respect and curiosity when using a male pseudonym, while her female persona encountered markedly more dismissal. Even her doctorate in philosophy doesn't appear to lend her much credibility amongst male theologians. There is no subjectivity in this experiment. Please refer to the statistics she recorded which paint a disturbing mathematical portrait of whose voice we value and why.

A common response to this topic by men in the Church is to deny that it is taking place and to tell women they are misreading the men in power. Those men are actually quite generous with their power! They do a lot of work for civil rights! They even have a gay friend! You are misreading them! I get it. There is nothing more difficult than facing the truth about the ways you perpetuate brokenness within the world and especially in the Church you hold dear. The hardest truths requires such painful realizations that many people live their entire lives without facing them. Summoning the curiosity and making the emotional and intellectual space for these realizations is almost preternaturally difficult. Could this mean they are also outrageously worthwhile?

When gender discussions occur on the Facebook page of this blog, men frequently protest the women's claims that their voice isn't taken as seriously a male voice. In these cases it always takes the voice of a sympathetic dude to point out where sexism is present in order for the disgruntled men to come around a bit. The fact that it takes a person of privilege to advocate for the marginalized and engender understanding speaks disgraceful volumes about how those in power choose to manage their unearned privilege. When defending their role, men will often say "I feel that as I try to defend my position I can't say anything right. I feel that nothing that I say will be considered valid by you. It feels like a vortex and a mindfuck." This is the point where a man might finally understand what it is like to have a feminine voice in this culture.