Posts by Annie Newman

Radically Liberal Christian. Autism/Girl/Pitbull mom. FarmHER. Incurable maker of things.

Hosea 10 – Musings on Gender Fluidity

Israel was a spreading vine;
    he brought forth fruit for himself.
As his fruit increased,
    he built more altars;
as his land prospered,
    he adorned his sacred stones.

11 Ephraim is a trained heifer
    that loves to thresh;
so I will put a yoke
    on her fair neck.
I will drive Ephraim,
    Judah must plow,
    and Jacob must break up the ground.

(Read the rest of the chapter here!)

 

Oh hi it’s me again, two days in a row.  I realized last weekend that Christmas was a little over a week away, and I really, really wanted to finish the book of Hosea before Christmas.  When I started Hosea,I thought I’d have plenty of time, maybe be able to get back up to three postings a week with a few skipped, probably even have time to throw in a nice psalm or two…and here I am in crunch mode.  But seriously, I want to finish Hosea before Christmas, so a post a day, here we go!

Also, I am not ignoring the horrible imagery of mothers dashed to the ground with their children.  It is, unfortunately, a motif found in several places in the Bible.  So when we get to another one, we can sit with it for a while, if need be.  But today I wanted to focus briefly on something else.

Throughout the book of Hosea I’ve been paying attention to pronouns, and how they shift.  Of course, this chapter is a metaphor (as is much of this entire book), and not about a singular person, so we can only assign so much weight to pronoun inclusivity.  In other words, I don’t think 7th century BC Israel was a place known for it’s progressive views on gender.  But even taking that into account, the two kingdoms of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) are referred to in singular and plural pronouns, as well as male and female pronouns – all in this one chapter.  From he to they to it to you to her to them it’s difficult to follow exactly whom is being discussed, honestly.  I don’t know ancient Hebrew, but I would be interested to know how some of those pronouns translated.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pronouns lately because I have a two-and-a-half year old at the (very normal) developmental age of getting pronouns wrong.  She refers to herself as “him” often and tends to call anyone whose name she does not know a “little boy” regardless of age or gender.  As she masters language this will change, but I have to say I find it kind of sweet.  She’s just trying to figure out people at a person by person level, and broad gender generalizations (as well as many other generalizations) don’t exist yet.  And those generalizations that do exist are still – for now – free from bias and based strictly based on observation.  For example, to her, Mommy is pink and Daddy is brown.  We are not “white” or “black” yet.  I know the day will soon come when we morph from pink and brown to white and black, but for now I’m enjoying her innocence.

A few years back I heard a pastor use female pronouns for God in a sermon for the first time.  And even though I liked it, it was jarring.  It was jarring simply because it was something I wasn’t used to hearing.  But I’m hoping that’s different with my girls.  I’m hoping any pronoun used for God will sound normal to them, because God is all-inclusive of pronouns, bigger than pronouns, if we’re honest.  Perhaps one day, Hosea will be seen as a more progressive book than it is viewed today, in part because it has these fluid pronouns. As an aside, it’s funny how popular opinions in Biblical studies can shift and sway – such as potential future views on Hosea. It’s something many see as a fault in the Bible, but I see it as proof that it is an ever-evolving text that always has some new and deeper meaning to reveal to us.

Hosea’s search for the right metaphor for his relationship with his God – whether it through his marriage with Gomer, or the constantly evolving imagery of Ephraim and Judah, or a parent-child relationship, has, I think, stumbled upon one of the greater truths that he didn’t know he was looking for: that God is inclusive of all.  Of the prophet and the prostitute, of every gender, of every person.  Hosea lacked the cultural vocabulary to describe it directly, but we can see it.  It is a message refined by Jesus hundreds of years later: everyone is a child of God, God loves us all, and therefore we should love our neighbor as ourselves – regardless of what pronoun they use.

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Hosea 09 – Stewardship Callings

5 What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,

    on the feast days of the Lord? (Read the rest of the chapter here!)

Kind of a rough start to a blog entry the week before Christmas, right?  But this chapter does ask us an important question: what will we do on the day of our appointed festivals? On the feast days of our Lord?  Will we participate in hollow ritual, whether that be religious or secular in nature, or will we remember our true callings?  Throughout these recent chapters – indeed, a major message that comes from numerous prophets – is that God does not want lip service, God wants our hearts and minds, our true dedication.

But what does that mean, exactly?  For me, it means stewardship.  I believe the best way to show our love of God is to care for what God cares for: Xyr creations.  The Earth and all its inhabitants.  So stewardship can take many forms, as you might imagine.  That’s one of the beautiful things about it: you can find what makes you passionate and follow that path.  And no one path is “better” or “right.”  There are many, many problems that need to be addressed in this world.

For example, my two major motivators are environmental stewardship and combating racism/xenophobia.  Those are broad topics, and I’ve explored them further I’ve zero-ed in on what really, really interests me.  First, within environmental stewardship is the issue of food waste.  Did you know that somewhere between 162-218 BILLION DOLLARS of food waste is generated in America each year?  That’s food that is thrown out at grocery stores and restaurants, by individual consumers, and the stuff that is left to rot in the field because it doesn’t meet harvesting standards (but is perfectly edible).  Just one third of that wasted food would be enough to feed the 50 million food-insecure individuals in this country.  Instead, it is in landfills producing methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. It is a sin of excess compounded by a sin of carelessness.  Did you also know that there are two bills that have been introduced to Congress that would go a long way towards combating this waste….but they have languished since being introduced.  (It’s the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act, both introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, you can read more about them here.)  You can bet I call my reps about those bills, and spend a lot of time sharing facts like the ones above to spread the word.  And while I’m far from perfect, I try to combat food waste at home, as well: buying only what we need, using leftovers in the next meal’s cooking, and composting as a last resort.

Second, racism and xenophobia, which need to be attacked from so many levels.  The issue-within-the-issue, if you will, that really gets to me is governmental policies towards refugees.  We are a country of plenty – as illustrated above by the sheer waste we are able to generate – and there is no reason we can’t reallocate resources to help those in need, including incoming refugees.  I wrote more about why this issue is important to me last year, in this blog post.  Again, I call my representatives, speak up on this blog and other forums, and donate when I can to organizations like IRC and RAICES.

But that’s just what I’m passionate about.  And it’s OK if that’s not what you’re passionate about.  My plea today is to just find what makes you passionate.  Some other quick examples:  My priest in Charlottesville cares deeply about healthcare in rural communities, as well as the rights and well-being of those in institutionalized care (such as the elderly or mentally ill).  I have friends passionate about criminal justice reform.  Others are dedicated to plastic-free lifestyles and spreading the word on the benefits of that, both personal and environmental.  Many of my favorite accounts on Instagram are devoted to fighting fast fashion with it’s exploitative nature and environmental impacts.

Like I said, there’s a whole world of problems to be fixed.  And that can be scary, when you think about trying to fix all of them. But God does not ask that of you.  God simply wants you to be a part of the larger picture.  When we are selfish, greedy, careless, we turn from God, as the ill-fated people in this chapter.  But if we turn towards eachother, towards stewardship, we can avoid the horrors of this chapter, and that is something to rejoice.

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Hosea 08 – Michael Vick and the NFL

“Put the trumpet to your lips!
    An eagle is over the house of the Lord
because the people have broken my covenant
    and rebelled against my law.

(Read the rest of the chapter here!)

 

The NFL is like an idolic religion for some.  A calf that a metalworker has made, you might say.  And that is our jumping off point for today, because there has been a lot of talk about Michael Vick getting recognized at the upcoming Pro Bowl.

Let me just go on record as saying, what Michael Vick did was atrocious.  I have pitbulls myself, and it just shatters my heart to think about those poor dogs he put to fighting.  Do I think he should be recognized at the Pro Bowl?  I honestly don’t know.  My knee-jerk reaction is “no.”  But, he’s done prison time, he’s paid fines, paid for some of the dogs’ rehabilitation, and has partnered with the director of the Humane Society to speak at anti-dogfighting forums (where he pays his own expenses, by the way).  This article is a few years old, but does a good job painting a fair picture of Vick.  And, as the author says, dogs themselves live in the moment, wanting to forgive and love and get back to playing….so maybe if a dog can forgive Vick, then we can to.

With that out of the way, let me also say that Vick is just a symptom of a larger problem that is the NFL.  Chris and I stopped watching football years ago.  We love the sport: Chris played it in high school and the Superbowl has consistently been one of my favorite events of the year since I’ve been young.  (My birthday is January 27th, so it was always around my birthday and felt like a second party.)  But the NFL just has too many problems to keep watching it.  Let’s list some, shall we?

  1. Openly racist names and mascots, particularly the Washington Redskins.
  2. Roethlisberger, twice accused of rape (one case settled in civil court, one where the prosecutor refused to press charges), still starts for the Steelers.
  3. The NFL (an organization that makes over 10 BILLION dollars a year) was exempt from federal taxes until 2014.
  4. The NFL does not care – at least, not care enough – about the players’ health and safety.  Autopsies of 202 deceased NFL players showed that 99% suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Side note: not all these guys are millionaires. Apparently NFL retirement benefits suck and many face financial hardship.
  5. Their charitable causes are often just marketing campaigns in pretty packaging.  Let’s take Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Here’s all the official NFL gear that you can get to that end. Some proceeds may go to breast-cancer awareness, but you know their making a pretty penny off of it, too.  And how many new viewers do you think the NFL got when all that started? Hm?
  6. Selective blindness to player personal conduct.  Their suspension system makes no sense.  Some of my favorites: Tom Brady for cheating (remember Deflategate?) for only 4 games in 2015; Adam Jones for attacking a stripper and threatening a security guard’s life for one season in 2007; Mike Reilly for vehicular manslaughter for one season in 1983.
  7. And the biggie: Self-reinforcing institutionalized racism runs rampant in the NFL and its fans.  Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick – two black men – are the ones getting people riled up.  Not the (white) rapist Roethlisberger or Dan Snyder (white owner of the Redskins), who flat out refuses to engage in a name-change discussion.
  8. Everything else: personal conduct of the team owners, the league’s steroid policy, problems with the officials…you get the point.

If this chapter of Hosea has one overarching message, it’s that God doesn’t want lip-service, God wants your heart.  So wringing your hands over Michael Vick and talking about how terrible he is but not acknowledging the larger problem?  It means you’re just looking for something to talk about.  Are you actually worried about Michael Vick’s behavior, and perhaps the NFL at large?  Then stop watching.  I’m not asking you to physically join the protests, which do happen fairly frequently over various NFL-related issues.  Simply, don’t tune in.  Don’t tune in for the Pro-Bowl, as many anti-Vick commentators are claiming they will do.  But then, don’t tune in for the Superbowl either.  Then don’t tune in next pre-season.  There are plenty of other things to watch or do on Sunday.  This is literally the easiest form of activism you can possibly do: not doing something.  I miss it, I do, but seriously folks, what do you think the NFL would do if viewers and attendees dropped by 50% for a season?  Maybe even for a single Superbowl? They’d be scrambling to get some changes made.  We’d see more personal accountability from the players and the owners, more concern for the player’s health and safety, more inclusivity and less racism.  Then we could all get back to watching football after church again, and not have to feel guilty about it.

***

(Also, since it’s Monday, I wanted to let you know I called my representatives.  I talked about the Border Crisis again.  If you want to do the same, here is the script I made for today’s call:  Hello, my name is _________ and I’m calling from zip-code _______. Nine thousand people travelling across the Southern Border *as families* were arrested in November, which is the start of the slow season.  Defunding of DHS programs like MPP, and increased funding of the Office of Refugee Resettlement needs to be addressed before refugee numbers start to surge again in the spring.)

If you are enjoying what you read please follow the blog for more!  Click the folder icon in the upper left corner of the menu, and you can follow via WordPress or email.  And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter, too!