Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another woman priest...

A 70-year-old former nun was ordained a priest on April 27 in Louisville, Kentucky, by Roman Catholics defying the ban on women priests.

This brings to about 150 the number of Roman Catholic women ordained as priests all over the world.

When asked if she is worried about being excommunicated from her faith, Rosemarie Snead replied, according to NBC News, that excommunication is "a medieval bullying stick the bishops use to keep control over people and to keep the voice of women silent."

"I am way beyond letting octogenarian men tell us how to live our lives," she added.

Watch out, Francis.  We are popping up all around.

You can't keep us down.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Joyce Carol Oates and Lynching

Joyce Carol Oates at the LA Times Festival of Books
Lynching and its effect on the small community of Princeton, N.J., in 1905 is the subject of Joyce Carol Oates' new novel just released.

Its title, The Accursed, says it all.

Speaking at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, she explained how she came to write this book.

She is especially interested in the way Christian pastors at the seminary in Princeton did nothing about a lynching that occurred locally.

These events did not even get into the newspapers.  "Lynching is a secret that white people don't know or pretend they don't know," she said.

Patt Morrison interviewed Joyce Carol Oates

Oates did extensive research to understand lynching and life in Princeton in 1905.

"It took decades just to get a law against lynching," she said.  "But then the men [accused of lynching] were usually acquitted."

Efforts to pass an anti-lynching law in Congress were defeated by the filibustering of Southern senators.  A federal law was never passed, but the civil rights legislation of 1960 helped to stop lynchings.

Oates compared this history to efforts this week to pass gun control legislation, again stopped in the Senate by the threat of filibuster.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone, a theologian at Union Seminary in New York City, was an important influence on her new novel. 

Her 2006 novel Black Girl, White Girl is about a young black woman in the post-Vietnam War era who knows that someone in her family was lynched in 1949.

In The Accursed, she includes real historical characters, such as Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair (who lived in Princeton in 1905), and the man who was then president of Princeton Theological Seminary, who says at one point in the novel, "We do not entertain any new ideas here"  (words she found in official descriptions of the seminary in the early 1900s).

"Not having new ideas was considered a good thing," she said.  "You can send your boy here--there will be no atheism, no Darwinism in the courses."

During the question-and-answer period, two people came forward with questions about "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?," her most famous short story.  

She said that its original title was "Death and the Maiden" and that her writing was influenced by a medieval painting of "a beautiful girl with blonde hair looking in a mirror--with Death standing behind her."  (Three murders in Arizona profiled in Life magazine in 1966 also prompted this story.)

She changed the title as a tribute to Bob Dylan and his song "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

The second questioner asked, "What does the writing on Arnold Friend's car door mean?"  

"It's up to the individual reader," she said, noting that a reader's experience of a story is a separate event from the story itself as written.  Readers complete details of a story for themselves.

One person asked why Oates has joined the community on Twitter.

"It's a short genre," she said. "140 characters," and thus challenging.  Tweets are "a terse, short way of communicating."  They're "like aphorisms, the last line of a poem."  She added that some of her tweets are trivial but that she is "trying to do Twitter with more poetic resonance."

Oates said that she along with most of the nation had been riveted by last week's bombing at the Boston Marathon and the ensuing search and capture of the suspects, and Twitter was one way of responding to that.

"Twitter is a community of people who are committed to thinking about something," she concluded.

Issues that are "roiling, seething" in the US and that she cares deeply about are gun control, terrorism, and the mistreatment of women in social media.

Joyce Carol Oates signing The Accursed

The Accursed is a Gothic novel and includes the supernatural.  Oates likes to try writing in various genres.  She promises that the mystery is solved by the end of the book--unlike some novels that leave the reader guessing.

However, she says, the narrator cannot bring himself to talk specifically about the details, so the reader does have to guess a little.,0,3635471.story

She began this novel thirty years ago but set it aside for other projects. 

Her husband died unexpectedly in February, 2008.  After writing a book about losing him (A Widow's Story), she was grateful to move on and have a big researching and writing project to work on, this book just published.  See this review with a photo of the couple early in their 47-year marriage:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shura's Artifacts

A baby bottle... a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt... The Diary of Anne Frank in Spanish... The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous... shoes, purses, water bottles.

Shura Wallin, one of the founders of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans, displays these items lost by persons trying to cross the desert on Arizona's southern border to enter the United States.

"Why would people leave these things behind?  Why would they be dying out here?" she asks in her public lectures, prompting people to imagine the desperation of persons who try to cross the deserts south of Tucson.  

See more photos by clicking on this link:

In less than one year, 214 people died in two counties south of Tucson (October 1, 2009, to July 31, 2010).

The Samaritans make daily drives into the desert to leave water bottles and aid people who are lost or left behind by the group they were walking with.

Those who survive but are arrested and deported may show up at an aid station in Nogales, the border city split into US and Mexican halves.

"You ought to see his shoulders: indentations, almost ulcerating" from being forced to carry heavy loads of drugs, reports Shura of one immigrant.  

Coyotes (smugglers) in business for themselves have been replaced by coyotes controlled by drug smuggling gangs, who force migrants to carry heavy loads of marijuana or other contraband.

"Many have burlap straps over their shoulders... about 50% carry weapons because if they have no drugs at the end of the line, they will be shot and killed," she explains.

Other deportees have blisters on their feet.  "I'll wash your feet and put salve on them and bind them up for you," say the volunteers at the aid station in Nogales.  

They advise deportees not to risk their lives by trying to cross again, but many say, "I don't have a choice."

They may be trying to rejoin family members in the US or they may be desperate to feed a family in Mexico by earning money they can send home.

What can you do?

Write to your US Senator and ask him or her to vote for the immigration reform bill written by the bipartisan group of eight senators and now receiving hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Immigration: Day of Prayer

Tomorrow is the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform.

The National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, Bread for the Word, Sojourners Magazine, and other groups are sponsoring this event.

By God's grace, this news appears on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times:

"After months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of eight senators is poised to offer a sweeping bill to rewrite the nation's immigration laws this week, taking advantage of a changed political alignment that, for the first time in nearly a generation, appears to have opened the way for comprehensive legislation.",0,3690780.story

 In many papers, this signficant news was pushed back to other pages by the attack on the Boston Marathon.

Let's pray that the Congress will be able to focus on the important legislation before it, both on gun control and on immigration.  May this immigration package be approved by a majority in the Senate and then in the House of Representatives.

Both prayer and action are needed.  Check to see how your senators and your representative in the House plan to vote.  

Call or send them an email.  They may vote whichever way the wind is blowing, and you can be part of that wind.

Here are the phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses:

Further resources:

·        Welcoming the Stranger by Jenny Hwang and Matthew Soerens
·        Talk by Jenny Hwang at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, Jan 2013
· –website for immigration reform
·        Photos and notes on Nogales on my blog
·        Immigration Act of 1924 and other milestones in US immigration history

Deliver Us from Evil

"Deliver us from evil" are the final words of the prayer Jesus taught his followers.  ("For thine is the kingdom..." was added later.)

Yesterday's attack on the Boston Marathon reminds us that we repeat these words every day for a reason.  Those who want to do evil are out there, seeking an opportunity to act.  Whether the bombs were placed by a domestic or international terrorist remains to be seen.

We forget that as we commute to work, enjoy our weekends, and struggle with our burdens, there are others around us suffering in isolation from benefits they think we enjoy.  

When mental illness or some ideology enters the equation, we see an attack like those on Sandy Hook Elementary School or the Twin Towers or the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Someone yesterday exploded the circle of his suffering to include hundreds of others--three dead, 176 hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms, and many in shock.  

The joy and excitement of completing the marathon on Boston's Patriots Day was erased.

Like Grendel in Beowulf, the person or persons who did it slipped away, temporarily satisfied with having been heard but doomed to be tracked down and killed.

Prayers for all those suffering in Boston.  

For those of us as yet untouched: deliver us from evil.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mariam & McCandlish

Two causes I deeply believe in: Christianity and feminism.

Each lost a writer and advocate this past week: McCandlish Phillips, age 85, and Mariam Chamberlain, 95.

These two very different people each lived in Manhattan and devoted a lifetime to passionate work for change.

McCandlish achieved fame as a writer for the New York Times but resigned at age 45 to preach the Gospel on street corners, primarily the Columbia University campus, founding the New Testament Missionary Fellowship.

Mariam, program director of the Ford Foundation from 1971 to 1981, granted funds to launch women's studies courses and programs in colleges across the country.

Her contribution was "incalculable," states Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "It's hard to imagine how bad things were when she came on the scene.  Women's suffrage was not taught in most American history classes."

I thank God for each of these earnest, hard-working, insightful human beings, so different from each other.

Mariam, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, completed high school and attended college against the objections of her father, who felt that women didn't need education.  She earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

McCandlish, whose father was a traveling salesman, did not attend college, instead starting as a copy boy at the New York Times.  He made a commitment to Jesus at a church service while he was a young man in the Army.  

His greatest moment on the Times was reporting that the Grand Dragon of the New York State Ku Klux Klan and former national secretary of the American Nazi Party had been born and raised in a Jewish family. 

Neither of these two left behind children.  Mariam married but divorced in 1970.  McCandlish never married, and his missionary fellowship lists "pornography, drugs, abortion and any form of fornication (including premarital sex and homosexuality)" as sins.

Mariam probably came to accept same-sex relationships, along with most of us in the women's movement, so she and McCandlish lived at opposite ends of this ideological spectrum, as perhaps they were on women's issues and on the Pentecostal approach to Christianity.

Each found important truths and fought for them, but neither had the whole truth.  I need to remember that.  

As hard as I fight for both feminism and Christianity, I do not have all the answers. Others will come after me, reflect on my life, and compare it to that of someone else whose life parallels mine.  

They will notice where I was blind to other important truths.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rick, Kay and Heartbreak

Life is harder for the children of successful parents.  

When you add to that the special pressures on preachers' kids and an underlying genetic vulnerability to a mental illness, the outcome is precarious.  

Prayer may or may not result in healing.  

My heart aches with Rick and Kay Warren in the loss of their son Matthew a week ago.,0,1152255.story

"There but for the grace of God" all parents can go--but the whole tragedy of Matthew taking his own life is drenched in grace.  Apparently the grace of God did not--could not?--prevent this outcome.  

Nevertheless, God's loving care, forgiveness, and redemption are found throughout this story.

Matthew was raised to know God's presence and forgiveness.  Rick has chosen to grieve and reflect publicly, on Twitter and Facebook, to help others facing similar tragedies.

We do not live alone, even in the bleakest moments.  The grief I feel can touch the despair someone else feels.  

For years I have been worrying about my adult children and praying that Jesus would speak the words "Talitha, cumi" to them--that they would hear those words and rise from their beds, as did the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:41).

This prayer was surely close to Rick and Kay's hearts for years, yet the recovery they prayed for did not happen, as least not on earth.  

I met Rick Warren a few years ago after attending a worship service at Saddleback Church in Orange County.  Afterward, he sat on a cement bench in the patio talking with people.  

At the time, I didn't know he had problems with this son similar to those I have been facing with my daughters, but I did sense his genuineness.  He was accessible, not condescending or remote.

I've concluded that children who grow up with moderately successful parents--in our case, an editor at the Los Angeles Times and a college professor--face more pressure to succeed in academics and in a career.  Many political leaders and celebrities have lost a child to suicide.  

A first-generation college student or a hard-working child of poor immigants faces different kinds of challenges, but the possibility of not doing as well as their parents is not threatening them.

Matthew's death will bring attention to the number of suicides per year among young, white males--and the role of easy access to guns in those deaths.  Good may come from this attention, and perhaps lives will be saved.

There were 34,598 deaths by suicide in 2007 in the U.S.

Consider these statistics for young men in the year 2001:

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24 years old.

73% of all suicide deaths are white males.

80% of all firearm suicide deaths are white males.

Code 500 in Texas

Marcela died crossing the Arizona desert.
129 people were found dead trying to cross the US-Mexico border in 2012 in just small corner of Texas: Brooks County near the Gulf of Mexico, south of Corpus Christi.

Yes, border crossing has decreased, but deaths near the border are increasing.

Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for a comprehensive report today on this human side of the border problem.

"The tiny county, population 7,200, accounts for more than a quarter of suspected illegal immigrant deaths along the entire U.S.-Mexico border last year," reports Miguel Bustillo.

"Code 500" is the term for discovery of a dead body.

Those who will grudgingly vote for immigration reform hold up "a secure border" as their prerequisite.

No border can ever be 100% secure--look at the Berlin Wall.

But increasing numbers of migrants will lose their lives, redirected into the most remote and dangerous places for crossing, as we ratchet up the supposed security of our borders.

Is 500 deaths per year the price we are willing to pay for having more secure borders?  

What is so valuable in our nation that we must protect it at the cost of human life?

Let's go back to a friendly border where visas are required at all the ports of entry, but there are no walls and no effort to hunt down people who cross a mile or two from the stations.

Instead, all we need to do is increase penalties for employers who hire people without green cards.

Yes, drugs could more easily get through a porous border, but the "war on drugs" is another area for reform to decrease loss of life.  

We repealed the 18th Amendment to take alcohol sale and distribution away from gang control in the 1930s and reduce the associated death and crime.  (See the 2011 NPR documentary Prohibition by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.)

If we made border crossing easier and set up treatment clinics for access to drugs that are now illegal, today's Mexican gangs would have no source of income.  The government of Mexico could improve its economy and public safety.

Bottom line: many lives would be saved.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Secure Border?

No one can guarantee that the US border is "secure," but those who oppose immigration reform have made this a condition of their cooperation.

Only if the border is first "secured" will they vote for changes in how the US handles immigrants who arrived without papers and have been living here for years.

See this excellent discussion of this problem in the Los Angeles Times on March 10.,0,7065262.htmlstory

In my visit to Nogales in January, I learned that Arizona's border with Mexico is crossed all the time by migrants, drug smugglers, human traffickers, and coyotes assisting migrants.  The fence only extends through populated areas and places without craggy mountainsides.  It ends, and people cross.

See my article on the website of EEWC-Christian Feminism Today:

Write to your Congressperson or Senator and ask him or her to be flexible on this issue.

No One Is Illegal

Hooray for the Associated Press in banning use of the label "illegal immigrant.",0,153864.story

Writers now have to describe a person's status more fully, probably using a verb, not a label.

"He crossed the border east of Nogales and was found dead" rather than "The illegal immigrant was found dead."

"After traveling to Sonora to visit her dying mother, she was arrested while returning because she did not have a visa" rather than "The illegal immigrant was arrested while returning from a visit to her dying mother in Sonora."

More words rather than fewer.

A fuller picture rather than a picture that reduces a human to one label: illegal immigrant.

It's like calling someone "a gay politician" rather than "a Democrat who supports gun control and who married his long-term partner last year in Boston."

People like labels.  They keep things easy to understand.  

Black, white, legal, illegal, gay, straight.

Labels, however, keep us from having to think about humans whose complex lives intersect with many labels and issues.  They keep us from having to think, period.

In my blog posts from Nogales earlier this year, I often used the term "migrant."  It refers to anyone who crosses borders with plans to live in a new place.  

It doesn't remind the reader every few seconds about laws, jails, rights, and status with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).  

While we're at it, let's all resolve to stop referring to people as "illegals."  

The AP and many newspapers banned this long ago because it is even more reductive and implies that someone at his or her very core is illegal.  He or she does not have the right to exist.

Let's also stop saying, "My parents/ancestors immigrated legally" as if it were a badge of honor.

My ancestors came from Europe before any groups were banned by the US government--but the native Americans whose land they homesteaded on did not regard them as legal. 

In Georgia, Missouri, South Dakota, my forebears took land that the US had just wrested from those who had lived there for centuries.

My friend's parents emigrated from Scotland in the 20th century, but they did not face a quota requiring them to wait for 20 years.  They arrived legally and easily.

US immigration laws allow different quotas for different countries.  Anyone from a country with a backlog of applications faces years of waiting, and a decision on whether to obey the law and give up on hopes of immigrating.

Let's not judge those who immigrate illegally--but even if we choose to judge them, let's not beat them over the head with their legal status every time we speak.  

We can speak more carefully and fully about these complex problems.

Equal Day Pay

April 9 is this year's Equal Pay Day-- "the day women's earnings catch up to the amount men earned in the previous year," reports Women's eNews.  

It took 3 months and 9 days more for women to earn what men earned in the twelve months of 2012.

"Right now, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is even wider for African American women and Latinas," the article continues.

It happens to be also the day my mother died five years ago.

She worked as a nurse and nursing instructor from 1938 through 1978--forty years, except for a few years around the birth of her second child.

During the 1950's she worked outside the home, with four young children, and faced social disapproval for being a "working mother."  Her work was always critical for our family's financial survival.

May this catch-up day move back into March next year.  

May it reach Jan. 1 in my daughters' lifetimes-- an unlikely event.

The highest salary I ever earned was about $45,000 while I was an assistant professor at Mount St.Mary's College--much less than my husband earned at the Los Angeles Times.

It's important that all assistant professors, male and female, at a particular college, get equal pay for similar experience and qualifications, and that all newspaper editors, male and female, get equal pay.  

But male professors don't have the pressures of child-bearing and child-rearing gnawing at their paychecks... nor do male newspaper editors.

And women are still less likely to be promoted to the top jobs in either teaching or journalism.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Pope for Women?

In his address to the public a few days after Easter, Pope Francis noted that "women were the first witnesses" to the Resurrection.

"This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria," he added.

He explained the church's overlooking the significance of these women for many centuries by noting that women were not considered reliable witnesses in first-century Judea.  

Women theologians were pleased that Pope Francis admitted to human error in the church not recognizing women's early important role.  

This is "a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy," noted Marinella Perroni of the Association of Italian Women Theologians.

How far will the Pope go?  

Does his record of caring about justice include women?  

It's up to Catholic women to speak up and keep demanding change.  Do your part by visiting the website of the Women's Ordination Conference.