Why I’m Here (Updated)

In my second post, I explained why I started my blog. I have decided to do an updated post because there are other things I’ve thought about that I would like visitors to this blog and to my Twitter homepage to know. However, I am going to keep the old post up, which you can view here, though most stuff there will be repeated in this post.

Why does this blog exist? First of all, the name: it comes from Jeremy Beahan of the Reasonable Doubts Podcast. “Before you identify yourself as a Republican or a Democrat; before you identify as a Christian or a Jew; before you identify as anything, identify yourself — think of your primary identity as a seeker oftruth.Put that first above anything else. Then whatever is worthy should follow that.” Previous to this quote in the podcast Beahan said it’s important that we have the courage to seek opposing viewpoints; to listen to the other side. Thus, I hope this blog won’t be a liberal, conservative, or libertarian blog; it won’t be a Christian blog; it will be a blog for all seekers of truth — black, white; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu; conservative, liberal, libertarian; cisgendered and straight as well as LGBTQIAP+. 

To share whatever I have that may help someone, that they may connect to. A little over a year ago I joined Twitter to connect with people beyond my bubble, to see alternative perspectives, to break the shell of provincialism.

People have called me smart for much of my life, but I really don’t know what I’m doing. However I think I need to share what I do have. The Quran says “Whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth.”(Surah 2:269) and “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”(20:114). The Bible says “If you seek it[wisdom] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”(Prov. 2:4-5, NIV)

Here are a few hadith(sayings of Muhammad): “Go back to your people and teach them.”(Bukhari 3:25); “Let him who is present impart knowledge to him who is absent.”(Bukhari 3:37); “Knowledge is only maintained through teaching.”(Bukhari 3:10). The idea of knowledge being wealth and the imperatives to share it reminds me of Psalms 72, in which Solomon prayed for wealth and power to be a voice to the voiceless. Like in the parable of the talents(Mt.25:14-30) I see a good mind as a gift, a trust. The two servants who used their talents were told “Well done thou good and faithful servant”(Mt. 25:21, 23); whereas the one who buried his talent was told “Thou wicked and slothful servant”(Mt. 25:26). 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one of you should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its many forms.”

I mentioned above my reasons for getting a Twitter account. As I mentioned in other posts, I grew up in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment. Around age 18 I began to question my upbringing and wonder if there’s more than just my bubble. Plato’s Cave became a good friend, as it was the only way I could verbalize my sentiments. )That’s where my profile pic comes from.) In the Bible Jesus interacted with a variety of people, choosing for apostles a tax collector (basically a collaborator with the Roman occupation) and a Zealot (a group that wanted an armed revolt against Rome). The Epistle of Diognetus says, “Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

I also seek to build bridges of understanding between peoples and resist tribalism and provincialism. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”(Matthew 5:9) and “For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.”(Ephesians 2:14‭-‬16). Furthermore, it says, “Strive for peace and promote it!”(Psalms 34:14b). The Qur’an says, “O mankind! We made you from a male and a female into nations and tribes so that you may know each other.”(Surah 49:13) I’m here to help break down these walls and to help us to know each other. The us vs them mentalities are one of my pet peeves. There is so much more to the world than our little bubbles; it’s more beneficial for all that we transcend our provincialism and tribalism.

Due to having grown up in a controlling environment (and having wondered whether or not to label my experiences as abusive), I also want this to be a safe place for abuse victims/survivors; particularly for spiritual abuse, but also for all other abuse as well. I’ve learned a bit about this subject not talked about much in Evangelicalism and have found various online spaces helpful in sorting things out. I want this to be such a place (for people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum); it’s a way of expressing gratitude.

Since I have questioned my upbringing and had times of doubt, I also want this blog to be a safe place for doubters, a place where we can ask honest questions. In my Twitter bio I quote Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French essayist: “Que sais-je?”, meaning “What do I know?” I say this as a rejection of dogmatism (like what I was raised with) and a willingness to learn from others. The 17th century Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacoub urged people to submit their beliefs to a thorough examination. The Bible says, “But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”(1 Thessalonians 5:21) and “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.”(1 Corinthians 13:9‭-‬10). It was through wrestling with God that Jacob becomes Israel, and after Job has honestly expressed his doubts and feelings, God tells Jon’s friends, who had said pious clichés, “You have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.(Job 42:7). In her book Allah, Liberty, and Love Irshad Manji writes, “Faith doesn’t forbid exploration. It’s dogma that does. Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while Faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can handle them.”

BOTTOM LINE: I have an inquisitive personality, have many interests, and am an intellectual. For me learning new things is fun. I want to share that; my experiences, my journey, my story, my studying, reflections — maybe it will be of help to someone; I hope to make connections, to develop a community in which we can learn, grow, connect, etc. Also psychology shows that sharing what we learn helps us to learn.
For more please see my post Meet Me.

The Benefits of Studying Abroad

This post is based on a speech I gave in my public speaking class. I tried to make a YouTube video, but the sound was too quiet. However, I would like to share the contents, so here it is. Note: the speech was part of a college class, and given to American college students. Thus, it is Americentric, and I apologize to my readers outside USA. (Seriously, I am trying to not be Americentric.) So, for those of you outside USA, I am interested in your thoughts as well. Please leave a comment below on how this applies or differs from the situation in the country where you live.

This post is about the benefits of studying abroad, defined by the International Institute of Education  (IIE) as “US citizens and permanent residents who earn academic credit at their home institution for study in another country” (Kronholz, J. F.; Osborn, D. S.; p. 70). I will go over the social, personal, and professional benefits of studying abroad, and address the concerns of safety and affordability.

I will start with the social benefits. First of all, it can serve as good PR for USA, in an era in American foreign policy is highly unpopular and anti-American propaganda rampant. Another benefit is a broadened perspective, which makes one a more informed citizen. Sanford J. Ungar mentioned that when he was president of Goucher College in Baltimore  (back in 2001), he observed that study abroad alumni were able to see their country more clearly. (This reminds me of the old saying, “He does not know England who has only England seen.”) In addition, Ungar observed increased tolerance and, at times, increased cooperation among the differing social, ethnic, and religious groups of which study abroad participants are members. (Ungar, S. J.)

There are personal benefits to studying abroad as well. At Goucher, Ungar observed that participants had a better sense of self and a stronger personality. In a study conducted on study abroad participants conducted at a Southeastern public research university, Kronholz and Osborn noticed that the participants reported a clarification of their values, interests, skills, and, in some cases, their career goals (p. 77). Kronholz and Osborn cite other studies that note increased self-confidence, global competency, independence, open-mindedness, and general personal development and well-being among those who studied abroad (p. 71).

Furthermore, there are professional benefits of studying abroad. But before I address these, I will address John Ross’s article “Overseas Study Brings Little Career Benefit” from The Australian. Ross mentions a study conducted by Gregory Wolniak of NYU’s Centre for Research on Higher Education Outcomes. Dr. Wolniak found no discernible career benefits to studying abroad that could not be chalked up to discipline, majors, or institutions. (To conduct the study, Wolniak had analyzed a 2002 Education Longitudinal Study that involved 15,000 Americans from their mid-teens to their late 20’s. The study focused on 4,000 participants who had finished three follow-up surveys, gotten their degrees, and were employed full time.)

Now, for the other side: there are a number of career benefits mentioned in the article “Study Abroad Increases Professional Job Prospects” by Isabel Eva Bohrer. First of all, those who studied abroad, on average, started at $6000 mpre that those who didn’t, and 2/3 of the former found their first job within six months of graduation. In addition, 90% of those who studied abroad were admitted to their first or second grad school choice.

Bohrer’s post observes that many of the social and personal benefits I previously mentioned are valuable to employers. One such benefit is global competency. With the globalization of our world, employers are beginning to value things like foreign language proficiency, cultural understanding, international knowledge, and cross-cultural communication. In fact, according to Ungar, 65% of Fortune 1000 executives list global awareness as “essential” or “very important”.

Some peopleare concerned about safety. Well, the Forum on Education Abroad conducted a study on this. To do the study, they examined the 2014 insurance claims from two international providers, which included 147,000 insured students, 10% of whom filed claims. They then compared it to the mortality rate at 157 US campuses. The results were 29.4 per 100,000 deaths stateside and 13.5 deaths abroad. However, due to the lack of availability of the nonfatal injury rate stateside, this was mot included in the study. Nevertheless, this is evidence that studying anroad is safe. (Fischer, K., p. 1)

Finally, I will address financial concerns. Students eligible for the Pell Grant may also be eligible for the Gilman International Scholarship, and those studying languages deemed “critical” by the US State Department  (such as Chinese, Arabic, and Russian) may be eligible for an additional stipend. Furthermore, study abroad students may be eligible for grants from other countries, and can even save money by applying directly to a program, rather than going through their home institutions (Ungar). In short, study abroad may be the same price as, or even cheaper, than study at an American campus. 

To sum up, studying abroad has many personal and social benefits that are attractive to potential employers. In addition, it is safe and affordable. Well, I need to start on my own study abroad program, so have a good day/evening/etc., everyone!

Sources:

Bohrer, Isabel Eva; “Study Abroad Increases Professional Job Prospects”; transitionsabroad.com (link to article above); updated by Transitions Abroad November 2016

Fischer, Karin; “Why Studying Abroad Is Safer Than You May Think”, Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 62, Issue 28; 25 Mar. 2016

Kronholz, Julia F., Osborn, Debra S.; “The Impact of Study Abroad Experiences on Vocational Identity Among College Students”, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, vol. XXXVII; April 2016

Ross, John; “Overseas Study Brings Little Career Benefit”, The Australian; 22 Apr. 2015

Ungar, Sanford J.; “The Study Abroad Solution: How to Open the American Mind”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 95, Issue 2; March-April 2016

My Thoughts on “Art Makes You Smart”

This post is a school assignment that I would like to share.

At the end of the New York Times’s post “Do We Need Art in Our Lives” there are a number of questions about their post “Art Makes You Smart”. I was reflecting on these questions and would like to share my thoughts. The questions cover the impact Art has in on us, our personal experiences viewing art, and whether or not Art should be part of every child’s education. 

Does art make us smarter or expose us to new ways of seeing the world? The original post presents a case for the affirmative. I actually have recently started a psychology course, so I have a new understanding of the terms and their relevance. However, I have a few questions, such as, “Was this a double-blind study?” (double-blind means tbat neither the participants nor the reseachers with whom they interact knew exactly what they were studying), and while this one study is fascinating, I would lile to know whether or not the results would be repeated elsewhere, especially across cultures. One hypothesis I can pose in support of the theory of which the original art argued in favor is that art exposes us to new ways of seeing the world because artistic expression is a human factor but varies across cultures. Thus, by esposure to these works of art, you get a viee into the culture or cultures that influenced the artist.

Concerning whether or not we need art in our lives; well, I say not exactly. We will nlt keel over dead without exposure to art; however, we also have needs that are beyond survival needs, that make surviving worthwhile. Art can play a role in that, but it is not mandatory. That brings up whether or not art matters. In light of my statement on needs that make survival worthwhile, the answer is “Absolutely”. So, while art is a small component to higher level needs, it nevertheless has a role.

Personally, I have never been to art museums and I rarely look at artwork. A couple of my language learning books have works of art from the cultures in which the languages are spoken, and there are exercises asking the learner to describe his or her thoughts on the work of art in the language being learned. For me, I think the artists were talented, and enjoyed some of the work, but I don’t think it had a major influence on me. For years I didn’t consider myself artistic. However, I am impressed with East Asian calligraphy, and their painting, and I read that artists in East Asian countries get started with calligraphy. Then I heard that aboriginal Australians believe that everyone is artistic, and upon reflection, came to agree. This is due to the fact that, as mentioned above, artistic expression varies across cultures, and that means that even if a person is not good at artistic expression in his or her own culture, perhaps a form of artistic expression elsewhere will be their niche.

This last part is one reason I say that art should be part of every child’s education. It helps all children to find their unique way of expressing themselves, and, to be more well-rounded. Even if the kids don’t grow up to be artists, they will still be able to appreciate this aspect of the human condition, and thus tend to be more tolerant of artistic types, who tend to get looked down on in American society.

My Language Learning Journey

About a month ago I started college. One of the courses that I am taking is English Comp I. One of our assignments was to write a literary narrative about a learning experience. I wrote about my experiences learning other languages. I just got back my essay, for which I did well, and I would like to share my work. Well, here it is!

Cooperation between parties begins with understanding. Understanding is not possible without effective communication. This premise has long fueled my desire to learn other languages. I first became aware of other languages around the age of seven, when my dad mentioned that it is necessary to speak Spanish in South America. A few months later, my great-grandmother mentioned that people speak French in France. My great uncle has lived in Germany for many years. When he came to visit around this time, I found out that he speaks more German at home than English. While I found all this interesting, the main thing that ignited my interest in other languages was a fifth grade discussion of ethnicity that occurred when I was ten.

The subject of ethnicity had never come up at home, so my sense of self was only “American”. Thus, I was fascinated by the discovery that we had all originated from different areas all over the world. This was the spark that started the blaze of what will no doubt be a lifelong interest in other countries and languages.

For years, I was unable to pursue this interest, as my mom preferred that I focus on English. In twelfth grade, I studied German. I continued studying German and Spanish after high school through courses I bought from Borders. I learned a little, but did not feel like I had that strong a command of either language.

However, thongs began to change when I got high speed internet in 2008, and I started downloading podcasts from I-Tunes. After listening to Spanish learning podcasts for a time, I glanced at the Spanish instruction versions, and realized that I understood them. It was a great feeling to know that something that had been unintelligible was now understandable. Eventually, my Spanish learning fell by the wayside due to my being enticed by other languages.

One such language was French, which, at first, was lower on my priority list. This changed when I was browsing the I-Tunes store and grew curious about the podcasts Mission Paris and Coffee Break French. I was interested in the former because I had listened to Mission Berlin to learn German, and in the latter because I had listened to Coffee Break Spanish to learn Spanish. After I downloaded and listened to a few episodes of each, I not only continued to listen to these podcasts, but also started listening to other French learning podcasts. Over time, as in the case with Spanish, I was able to read instructions in French.

I even bought French-learning books from Barnes & Noble. Pretty soon, I was reading short stories in French, which expanded to include blog posts and articles. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to go to a website in French, to be able to read what was said, and to tell other people about what I had read. I actually liked a few posts so much that I sought out the authors on Twitter to request permission to translate their posts into English and to then post them on my blog, which they granted. (You can find them here.) In the translation process, I discovered that I needed an unabridged dictionary, because my beginner’s dictionary didn’t include a lot of the words and expressions used in the posts. I also found it inconvenient to keep changing tabs on my smart phone to look things up online. I realized that translation is hard work, but, ince finished, I enjoyed a sense of accomplishment. In fact, my brain released adrenaline into my bloodstream and the parts of my brain associated with happiness lit up. This feeling of euphoria was enhanced when I remembered the days in which anything in French was completely incomprehensible. However, while I can do all that, and can listen to some podcasts, I am not yet fluent enough to watch television without subtitles. 

Now let me talk about my methodology. For years I worked as an electrician, and during most of that time I worked for many hours. However, the jobsites on which we worked required anywhere from a half hour to over an hour of commute time, during which I listened to language learning podcasts. Later on, my old church started a major building project, and I was assigned to help pick up the food donations in the evening. Since we had to drive about an hour one way to get the donations, I utilized I utilized that time to listen to my podcasts. I decided to split up my language study, so that I would learn one language on the way to the jobsite, another on the way back, a third on the way to get the donations, and the fourth on the return. This method was a modified form of some advice given on a Spanish learning podcast; namely, that amyone attempting to learn two languages at the same time should study each language in a separate location.

Not far from our donor was a Barnes & Noble, where I often browsed, and sometimes shopped. On one occasion I bought Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner, which I’ve found to be helpful. While I don’t follow everything he says, he has influenced my language learning strategy. For example, as a result of what I read in his book, I now, whenever I develop an interest in another language, look up pronunciation resources first. Wyner suggests learning pronunciation first in order to attune one’s ear to the distinct sounds of the language, thus facilitating learning, and to help ensure the learner will be understood when speaking. Another practice I picked up from Wyner is to find frequency lists of the 1000 most common words in the language, and focus on learning those words. His reasoning is that these words constitute around 75% of the words used on a regular basis. Furthermore, Wyner recommends resources for a number of languages both in his book and on his site. When I am interested in a language, I go to his site to see what he has recommended.

During and since the time I read Wyner’s book, my interest in and desire to learn other languages has increased.

A few months ago I started learning Arabic. It is widely spoken and is the language of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. I followed a number of Wyner’s tips for this. I started by watching Wyner’s pronunciation videos on YouTube, which even showed where one’s tongue needs to be placed to make the sounds. I did not follow his advice in getting a frequency dictionary, but I have obtained his recommended course, Mastering Arabic, which I highly recommend. In addition I made use of Memrise to help me review the words. For the time being, I have put Arabic study on hold. I do intend to continue it, as it is on my list of possible majors for my bachelor’s degree.

This essay would be incomplete without mentioning the reboot of my German learning. Main main resources were Deutsche Welle’s interactive course “Deutsch Interaktiv” and “Harry, Gefangen in der Zeit”, which is about a man trapped in a time warp, like in the movie “Groundhog Day”. German in particular interests me due to my familial connection to Germany and Switzerland, and my desire to studying in Germany. Other factors that make study in Germany attractive are relatively low tuition costs, and my enjoyment of the works of a number of German authors. Unfortunately, I am not as fluent in German as in French. However, I am able to follow along in a monolingual telenovela that Deutsche Welle, a German media outlet, made for German learners.

In the beginning of this essay I mentioned that I had seen myself as only “American”  was shocked to discover that we originate in different parts of the world and my interest in other languages was a result. This has not impacted my notion of what being American means. What it has done is to contribute to my notion of global citizenship. I have learned that most people perceive the world differently from Americans, and hope to understand those perspectives better. I have come to see that concern for others should not be limited by national borders. By learning other languages, I have more access to issues that concern people in the lands in which these languages are spoken. With this knowledge, I can make better decisions. In addition, I can reach out in solidarity on social media with native speakers. 

Why do I do this? Apart from the reasons given for specific languages, there are a number of reasons that I learn languages in general. As I mentioned in the beginning, I want to increase the number of people with whom I can effectively communicate and whom I can understand. Promotion of friendly relations among nations is essential in today’s world, and learning another’s language is an affirmation that is needed to accomplish that task. In addition, I have long wanted to live and work in another country, and I realize that I will be more employable if I speak the local language. I know that much of the world is already bilingual, so mastering a second language is not necessarily impressive. So I seek to learn multiple languages, a less common skill, which will make me more desirable as an employee. My plan is to follow the advice on a dialog from a German learning course: to learn languages and to find a field in which to specialize, as that seems to be a way to increase employability. But, in closing, the three main reasons for my language learning are as follows: it’s fun; it opens up more resources to listen to and to read; and it allows the possibility for relationships with more people, since relationships requore a common language. There is an old saying that we should make love, not war. A common language with understanding is the first step in that journey.

Political  (In)Correctness: Beyond the Hype

Every so often controversies over “political correctness” flare up. When this happens, have you ever wondered, “What’s wrong with people!?” I certainly have. Well, upon reflection, I have concluded that this is largely hype, and that communication would be better if we were to drop the terms “political correctness” and “political incorrectness”. In presenting this case, this post will go back in time to the origin of the term “politically correct”, return to the present to give a survey of current viewpoints, and give my personal experiences and reflections. In a later post, I will suggest an alternative paradigm.

The term “politically correct” originated as an in-house critique among leftists, as a shorthand for saying that compassion is more important than the party line. These people used “politically correct” to mean self-righteousness and dogmatism. However, in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s the Right started using the term as a critique of the Left. For conservatives most notably, “political correctness”  to refer to attempts to ban hurt feelings and offense; in this case, it is associated with the Orwellian thought police and censorship of dissent. For these folks, “political incorrectness” means “saying unpopular ideas, questioning dogma, challenging orthodoxy; being radical and breaking taboos”. 

On the other hand, others came to see “political correctness” as supporting language, measures, and policies intended to avoid offense or disadvantages to marginalized members of society. They associate political correctness with compassion and sensitivity towards out-groups, minorities, and other marginalized people. Conversely, for them, “political incorrectness” means jerkishness, bigotry, maintenance of systems of power and privilege, cruelty towards the disadvantaged, discrediting concern for the underdog, bullying, trolling, harassment, etc. (More info here.)

I think these ideas are mistaken, and I will now explain how I came to understand why people hold these ideas so strongly. I grew up in an authoritarian, Right-Wing, Fundamentalist bubble, which denounced political correctness, presenting it as censorship. In addition many people watched Fox News and listened to Right-Wing talk radio. It didn’t take long listening to those guys to realize were doing the very things that they accused PC liberals of doing. Therefore, I started using the term “political correctness” to describe conservatives’ getting offended by things like criticizing USA and Christianity. I also had a rough time with a lot of what happened at church, which I have since come to realize was abusive. I thought many harsh things against these abusive practices that were done and ideas that circulated, and because I knew that people would be offended if I said them out loud, I labeled my thoughts criticizing the church as “politically incorrect”. This is why I think that it overgeneralizes to demonize people for opposing PC.

However, I have noticed that for abuse/trauma survivors, certain terms and concepts can evoke visceral reactions, even when the survivors realize intellectually that there is no connection. This certainly is the case with me! This brings me to a recent conversation that I had on a blog on which I frequently comment. I told my interlocutor that I understood her point intellectually, but that certain things she had said had hit a sore spot with me. She replied by apologizing that I found some things she had said triggering.

I have been reflecting on this conversation ever since; in fact, this post is largely inspired by these reflections. I came to recognize that when something hits one of my sore spots, I often feel an urge to label things “politically correct” and to rail against “political correctness”. This happens, for example, when I feel erased. With the labeling of my reactions as being “triggered”, I began to consider that maybe “political incorrectness” is triggering to some people, since some people who proclaim themselves to be “politically incorrect” are, in fact, abusive bullies. 

In the above-mentioned conversation, I used neither “politically correct” nor “politically incorrect”; instead, I explained my thoughts and feelings, something I think helped both of us come to a better understanding of things. As a result of these experiences and reflections, I have concluded that the terms “politically correct” and “politically incorrect” are buzzwords that hinder communication and should be replaced with terms that encourage thinking, active listening, and understanding. 

In a forthcoming post I will present an alternative approach.

The Genocide Begins

Istanbul, 24 April 1915:

The door fly open and soldiers enter the home, arresting Dikran Chökürian, one of many Armenian writers.

Eastern Turkey, a few months later:

The Najarian family huddles together at the sound of hooves signaling the approach of Turkish death squads. Marta holds her daughter Mari close as a soldier grabs her and holds her down while she screams, “Hayır!”* repeatedly. The soldier ignores her, insulting her. He then shoots her. 

The villagers are deported, and marched through the desert. Mari collapses from fatigue and dehydration. A soldier shoots her.

A Turkish family shelters a survivor.

*Hayır is Turkish for “No”. 

This Friday Fictioneers story is dedicated to the 1.5 Armenians killed in the Armenian Genocide during WWI. Hitler later asked, “After all, who today speaks of the annihilation of Armenia?” The answer is many do. #NeverForget. To this day the Turkish government denies the genocide. The event started with the deportation of around 250 Armenian intellectuals on April 24, 1915, of which writer Dikran Chökürian was but one. 

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has arranged for this Friday Fictioneers, and Liz Young provided the photo. 

Murphy’s Law in Action

Fahrünnisa, being short on time slipped on a pair of low-heeled dress shoes instead of the oxfords, and stomped a spider that showed up. “That’s bad karma”, Max said.

“Get in the car”, she replied, pushing the unlock button. She started the car and floored the accelerator. Once at the conference, a man snatched her purse and ran off. The thief gave the purse to a vendor. When the vendor refused to hand it over, Fahrünnisa stepped on the tomatoes. She and Max then fell over when they were injected with syringes. “Don’t oppose Erdoğan”, a voice said.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Magaly Guerrero.

Feminism Reflects Christ Better Than Does Fundamentalism

I grew up Fundamentalist, and in my circle, feminists were bashed as man-haring rebels against God’s Divine Order. However, over the past couple of years, I have read feminist blogs and interacted with feminists on said blogs and on Twitter. As a result of all this, I have concluded that the teachings of Jesus are better reflected in feminism than they are in Fundamentalism. Let me explain how.

Let’s start with a popular definition of feminism: the radical idea that women are people too. We find this idea reflected in the Bible, back to Genesis: “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”(Gen. 1:27), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal. 3:28)

This belief in women’s being human motivates feminists to insist on autonomy, boumdaries, and consent in human interactions, and that corercion should be avoided. This consent must be informed, and is considered invalid if obtained by deception. Well, this is integrity par excellence, and integrity is a value everywhere in Scripture. Also, it is written, “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Lev. 19:18). This respecting other people’s boundaries and acknowledging their autonomy is a integral part of showing concern for others, allowing us to have what Martin Buber describes as an I-thou relationship(approaching them as people) rather than an I-it one(approaching them as objects). Also, Erich Fromm mentions that a healthy self-love and others-love are interrelated. Setting our own boundaries is an expression of that healthy self-love. 

By contrast, autonomy, boundaries, and consent are sorely lacking in Fundamentalist circles. Despite the scriptural injunction, “But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness — or distorting the Word of God”(2 Cor. 4:2a), Fundamentalists are infamous for their lack of honesty and alternative facts, calling it all “The Truth[TM]”. They apply Philippians 2:4-11 to the populace, but the leaders act more in line with the boast attributed to Lucifer in Is. 14:13-14

They love Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, using it to justify misogyny. However, some ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word translated “submit”, in which the verse reads, “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.” This means the verse is a continuation of v. 21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”(emphasis mine). Also, in Greek, the word for “submit” has a meaning of its being voluntary, which requires consent. Fundamentalists tends to not get consent, and prefer coercion. They sometimes reference Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her”; however, this often is used as a means of promoting paternalism.

Christian feminists are not opposed to submission per se, but only opposed to it when it is one way, and/or the burden is placed solely on women. As we saw from the quote in Eph. 5:21, this is a biblical criticism. This is in agreement with what Jesus Himself says, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called ‘benefactors’. Not so with you; instead, the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.”(Luke 22:25-26). But demanding that their followers submit to them and that wives submit to their husbands, these leaders are “lording it over” them. Also, treating people in a paternalistic way, justifying control because it’s for “their own good”, is NOT an example of being a servant; it is still “lording it over” them. 

Another way in which feminism reflects the character of Christ can be seen by comparing the depictions of Babylon and the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. First, it is written about Babylon, “The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her, along with the blood of all those who had been killed in the earth”(Rev. 18:24). Next, onto what it says about the New Jerusalem, “The kings of the earth will bring their grandeur to it”(Rev. 21:24b). Throughout Revelation “the kings of the earth” refers to humanity in rebellion against God, and the passage indicates their redemption, rather than their destruction.

Fundamentalism damages even its own. There are countless spiritual abuse survivor blogs out there, with this list being just a few, and many people raised Fundamentalist go through religious trauma. There is widespread silence on abuse in Fundamentalism, and encouragement of women to stay in abusive marriages. 

Feminism is opposed to abuse. This is reflective of the heart of Christ because the Bible depicts God as hearing the cry of the oppressed. Feminists teach that your pain matters, and that oppressing others is wrong. This is why they support autonomy, boundaries, and consent, since abusers tend to ignore these things. Feminism concerns itself with ending the oppression of women. However, I, though a cisman(a biological male identifying as male), have benefited from these ideas. The church I grew up in did not teach boundaries and consent; so upon reading feminists online, I realized I could set boundaries for myself! Pick-up artists tend to be extremely unpopular in feminist circles, due to their being notorious for not respecting women’s boundaries or accepting “No”. However, in her book Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser, Clarisse Thorn mentions a PUA who actually benefited from feminist ideals and used them for himself. Also, feminists insist that the boundaries of even jerks and abusers need to be respected, and that one can only do what is needed to protect oneself and others. This is a good example of Christ’s command to love one’s enemies. 

So, while Fundamentalists decry feminists, and accuse the latter of destroying God’s order of things, and even of being an Illuminati plot to destroy the family, when you look at the Bible it seems that the spirit of the law is better reflected in feminism than in Fundamentalism.