Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Articles’ Category

Sexism and Women’s Rights

CCUCC Statement Concerning

SEXISM and WOMEN’S RIGHTS

November, 2016

 

It has been a long hard fight for equality for women and it is far from over.  As a progressive Christian congregation, we call for recognition of the problems cited below and for action wherever the opportunity arises.  On the world-wide scene, we can publicize and contribute to organizations which combat them, such as Amnesty International.  On a state and national level, we can support legislation that gives adequate protection against domestic violence and mandates fair employment practices.  Personally, we can speak up against treatment of women as objects and attitudes that demean women’s human dignity.  We must not rest until all humans are valued and respected equally everywhere.

 

As we write this:

In the United States of America:

  • A woman is beaten every 9 seconds.
  • Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy.
  • 98% of abused women also experience financial abuse. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is that the abuser controls their money supply.
  • Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness.
  • 10,000,000 children are exposed to domestic violence every year.
  • Women only make 79 cents to every dollar a man earns for the same jobs.
  • American women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan are more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by an enemy.
  • In 2014, 74 colleges in the US had Title IX sexual violence investigations pending.
  • By 2018, there will be 1.4 million open technology jobs in the US and at the current rate of students graduating with degrees in technology, only 29% of applicants will be women.
  • One in five women on US college campuses have experienced sexual assault.
  • Women currently hold only 4.8% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.

 

World Wide:

  • Only half or the world’s working-age women are in the labor force, compared to 77 percent of working age men.
  • 62 million girls are denied an education all over the world.
  • 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married worldwide, many with little or no say in the matter.
  • 250,000 maternal deaths and 1.7 million newborn deaths would be averted if the need for both family planning and maternal and newborn health service were met.
  • Female genital mutilation affects more than 125 million girls and women alive today.
  • At least 1000 honor killings occur in India and Pakistan each year.
  • One in three women worldwide have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Only 30% of the world’s researchers are women.

Church 9.0

Church 9.0: A Series of Paradigm Shifts for the 21st Century

A recent article published by Rev. Scott Lovaas.

Moving Forward Together

Dear Church Family,

I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you in Pullman/Moscow. Once I read and learned about your church I knew that I wanted to be apart of this community.  You have a rich history, gifted lay leadership, and a strong commitment to learning and service.   I am both humbled and honored to serve as your interim minister.

This month we start another exciting chapter in the life of our church.  The interim is probably the most challenging time in the life of a congregation–it is marked by a period of time of learning and reflection.  How we address these issues will significantly impact the next settled pastor and the future direction and tone of the church. Church life and the fabric of our country is significantly different when Kristine Zakarison and Peter Stevens were called as your ministers. In the months ahead, we will work through some important tasks together and it is vital that we take the time to process the past, present, and future before a new pastor is called.  We need to assess where we are as a corporate body—emotionally, spiritually, historically, and sociologically.  Fortunately, there is much to celebrate from our past.

If history is a guide, Community Congregational will continue to follow Jesus’s call to faithfulness.  I hope you perceive, as I do, that our church has a great future, a future worth investing in.

Over the next few months I plan to call on members and friends of the church to get acquainted and hear your stories— Listening Tour.   I would love to share a spot of tea or a meal or just get acquainted.  I can be reached several ways: at the church: 509-332-6411, my cell phone: 719-684-3617 or email: slovaas@comcast.net

Little about myself:  I grew up in Minnesota and I graduated from Texas Christian University.  After seminary, I served churches in Illinois, Connecticut, and Colorado.  While in Colorado, I picked up a masters degree in social work from the University of Denver.  After graduate school I went east for ten years and worked in mental health and eventually our family ended up as missionaries in South Africa.  The process of living in post apartheid South Africa was life changing for the entire family.  While I was in South Africa I received a PhD in media studies.  I have five daughters and my wife is a school social worker.

I look forward to seeing you in person or at church.

Faithfully yours,

Scott

Delusional Much?

True confessions:  I love rock music. Classic, alternative, folk, whatever the flavor, I grew up listening to it.  So listening to rock creates an experience for me unlike other kinds of music because, I suppose, it connects me to that rebellious time when I was deciding who I was going to be.  This music—Boston (my first album), Heart, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Bruce, REM, U2, Dylan—was NOT the kind of music my parents listened to and because of that simple fact, listening to it differentiated me from them.   I was driving home recently and was listening to a mix cd Emma had made.  Surprisingly, I often like the music my teenage daughter listens to, but it has taken me some time to appreciate Hip Hop, R&B, and Rap.  But, I have made some headway and so now I don’t immediately skip over songs.  I’ve learned to listen for a while in order to develop a familiarity.  On this particular evening, I listened to a song by Seattle rapper, Macklemore.  (If you never thought you’d listen to rap/hip hop, but now want to try it out, I’d recommend Macklemore)  The song, “Ten Thousand Hours,” is in part about Macklemore becoming proficient and famous as an artist because he put in ten thousand hours of practice.  “Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand ants,/ ten thousand ants, they carry me” and “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint/ the greats were great because they paint a lot.” Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book, Outliers.  He quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin:  “The emerging picture from these studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,”— p. 40  In case you are wondering, that translates to about 10 years of consistent, dedicated, focused attention to a skill or subject.

As I drove home, this idea of ten thousand hours bounced around and around within me. First I thought, “Yes, we can do whatever we want if we put our minds to it.”  But then, at the end of what had been a slushy, grey, not quite spring day on the Palouse I realized that I was deluding myself.  Who was I kidding?  Every option is not open to each of us.  Many of us don’t have the time to remake ourselves even if we wanted to do so.  The idea that we can become proficient at whatever we want isn’t false, but I noticed that for me, it easily becomes a delusion.  Delusions can sometimes be therapeutic.  They can shield us from hard truths and help us cope with very difficult realities.  But in normal circumstances, delusions keep us from living the kind of life we value and affirm.   The idea that I can become anything I desire if I just practice is a delusion when it comforts me and appeases my anxiety enough that I don’t end up doing anything different. If, however, this idea motivates me to act, change, grow, then it is a generative idea rather than a delusion.

The same can be said about theology.  Our ideas about God and how God is present within and among us can be delusions that keep us from acting in the world in meaningful ways, or they can be generative and transformative.  I wonder about delusional theology especially at this time of year, when we celebrate the outrageous idea of resurrection: that Jesus was dead, and now is alive.  Some of us affirm that events happened 2,000+ years ago transcended laws of nature, while others of us hear the story and affirm it as metaphorically true with a wider scope of understanding, while still others throw up our hands and don’t know what to make of it.  No matter how we understand the story of Easter, we can be delusional.  Our ideas and understanding and beliefs can make us comfortable and more at ease.  These understandings can make us feel like we are on the right track, but if they don’t move us to act out the compassion found at the very heart of the story of Jesus, they become delusions.

It doesn’t take ten thousand hours to learn how to do something well, only to master it.  It doesn’t take ten thousand hours of practice to be a faithful Christian.  It begins immediately with a few minutes of extending our compassion.  When we do, Christ is risen indeed!  (No matter what kind of music we enjoy)

Blessings,

Chip

Holy Tension

I met a young man who was in town visiting a friend recently.   As our brief conversation began the inevitable question was raised:  “What do you do for a living?”  I told him that I was a pastor at a church in town.  He continued to ask questions, curious about what would draw a person to do such a thing, and do it here in Pullman.  “No, I didn’t graduate from WSU” I said.  “No, I didn’t grow up in the area and I don’t have extended family nearby.  I came to do ministry with and for a group of people at Community Congregational United Church of Christ.”  He was listening and playing out scenarios in his head.   When his demeanor changed, I sensed his realization that if none of the more familiar reasons had brought me here, my purpose might be something completely foreign to him.  He was getting a little nervous and looked like he was thinking, “Is he whacky, crazy, one of those strange religious types.”  And as much as I wanted to alleviate his fears about what ministry at CCUCC looked like, I was also struck that ministry is sometimes a strange, edgy, counter cultural thing to do.  The Christian ministry that we all do is, and should be, out of step with the norm.

These days, those of us who participate in a faith community carry a kind of holy tension into our relationship with others:  the same, yet different.  We feel this tension especially in a university town like Pullman and in a progressive Christian community like CCUCC.  In the academic community, the very real and important spiritual aspects of our lives have for too long been dismissed as either non-existent, irrelevant, or irrational.  In such a setting, there are times when we don’t want to admit to noticing, let alone being guided by the spiritual, for fear we won’t be taken seriously.  And in the wider community there are many negative examples of religion gone wrong:  when faith is used to control and manipulate, or to justify oppression, arrogance, incivility, and downright meanness.  Many of us can quickly offer personal examples of the harm done to us or to those we love by religion gone wrong, and we don’t want to be associated with it.

But there are costs involved in allowing this cultural inertia directing us away from faith.  (No, I’m not saying that we will all be seeing each other in the burning fires of hell if we don’t go to church!)  It is understandable when we don’t identify ourselves as a Christian or a member of a church because we don’t have the energy in the moment to combat the assumptions that come with it.  The costs begin to show themselves when we do that so often that we begin to forget the reasons we wanted to be involved in Christian community in the first place.  When we forget how our experience of God’s spirit has shaped us and set before us the hope of something better than the current configuration of human culture, we’ve lost something.  When we stop exploring the divine through meditative practices and acts of compassion, we’ve lost something.  We begin to lose a unique and beneficial identity.

In my brief encounter with the young visitor to Pullman, my initial inclination was to take the easy way out and not get into the subject of faith.  But as we continued to talk and I shared the kinds of activities we do in this congregation, I realized how important and how countercultural they really are.  Simple things like talking honestly together in a group about doubts and questions and widely varying experiences of God; contemplating our failings or our mortality while listening to a beautiful piece of music; practicing different ways of giving something away to others as well as accepting the gifts offered to us; valuing our children by teaching them what we know while also being open enough to learn from them; reminding one another time and again that each and every one of us is a beloved child of God; creating a safe space for everyone to explore faith, no matter what.  All of this (and more) is our unique attempt to follow God in the Way Jesus taught.  These ways of living in community don’t make us better than, but do set us apart from many others as we attempt to live deeper and fuller lives together.  They offer the identity we seek.  They make us strange (in a good way).

The Heart of Progressive Christianity: A Q&A with Marcus Borg

A Good Introduction to Marcus Borg, an author whose books many of us have read, as well an interview with his thoughts on the future of the progressive Christian church.  The Patheos site is worth exploring, as well (especially the Progressive Christianity Blogs).

The Heart of Progressive Christianity: A Q&A with Marcus Borg.

Blessed are the un-cool

Like this blog post.  Do we fit the bill?

Blessed are the un-cool.

Apolitical Church?

I’ve been following a discussion online about young Christians leaving their churches, why they are leaving, and why they are or are not finding a home in another church.  A number of young adults have written about this recently and one item on their list of why they get fed up enough to leave their church is that the church became “too political.”

One thing I try to determine about someone who says this is whether or not this person is apolitical.  Does she have an aversion to everything in the realm of politics?  More times than not, the answer is no.  It is incredibly rare to find someone who is apolitical.  Most of us dislike or disagree with one thing or another about our political system.  Some of us hate nearly everything about it, but when it comes down to it, what happens in the political arena affects us personally at one time or another.  And when those laws or decisions touch our lives, we pay attention.  We have opinions so either we endlessly complain about politicians and parties, or we get involved.  This applies to all of us who attend CCUCC as well.  So I wonder, “what is the line between appropriately political, and too political when it comes to church?”

One reason I’ve been interested in this recently is because I’ve just begun working with a group of people from the community who want to make it possible for all people to marry in the state of Washington.  In fact, this group may not have come together if not for two members of our Community LGBT Group.  So the ties to our congregation are there already.  I also know that while the majority of people at CCUCC probably supports marriage equality (we are an OnA Congregation after all), not everyone does.  And we value the freedom of individuals to make up their own minds and decide where they stand.  As a general rule, Kristine and I tend to not talk party politics, but if we get involved in advocacy of some kind we are careful on a couple of counts. First, we never endorse candidates.   Second, if we talk about an issue, it is with the intent of inviting us all to think about that issue in light of our faith.  In other words, does our faith have any guidance for us on the issue.  I think we become too political when we don’t leave room for a variety of opinions, and stop making the effort to be very clear that we welcome questions and respect people, no matter what their view on a particular issue.  The mantel of “too political” gets laid on churches where respect for others is some ways down the list of the core values of the organization.

Churches, like people, are almost never apolitical.  Politics is about how we organize ourselves to manage what is most important to our common life.  My view on how we should manage these crucial elements of life is very much influenced by my commitment to following Jesus.  So, this particular issue of whether everyone should be able to marry, as well as many other issues, should be talked about in light of our faith so that we can decide and act with integrity.  And if we feel that our faith is leading us to have political will, be it for LGBT friends, the natural world, or the poor, etc…, our churches should be places that facilitate that good work, shouldn’t they?

If the answer is yes, then there is good work on many fronts to be done on behalf of others.  Here is one example of how members of a little church in NC that made some waves by telling their stories.

What do you think?

For further reading:   an article by Brian McLaren in Sojourners Magazine and brief set of guidelines for churches who do engage in some political actions by Our Faith, Our Vote.

Choosing

My friend, S.M. Ghanzafar, maintains a legendary email list, sending out thoughts and reflections related to Islam and Interfaith Dialogue.  Ghazi and I first got to know one another when he reminded me that CCUCC was the first place that the Islamic community was invited to gather for prayers. “Ghazi” had recently moved to this country, and the small Muslim community had no place to worship together. Under the leadership of the Rev. Ted Edquist, our Fellowship Hall became the first “mosque” in town, and Ghazi has never forgotten that act of kindness.  Ted was recently back in Pullman visiting, and we talked about that time.  In Ted’s words:  “There was no question about it . . . It was just the right thing to do.”

I was working on gathering my thoughts related to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when I received the following from “Ghazi.”

THE LESSON OF 9/11 (excerpted from an article written by Rinku Sen for ColorLines.com)

“This is the lesson of 9/11 for me. I can’t call myself a person who values inclusion and compassion and then pick and choose those whom I accept. I can disagree, but I can’t disown. Not if I want to help build a nation that accepts rather than rejects; that constructs rather than destroys; that frees rather than enslaves. In such a nation, everyone needs to feel they belong, everyone reacts to the loss of that belonging, and everyone needs to feel its renewal when things change, as they always must. Every story has a sequel, shaped by our interpretation of the past. There is a 9/11 story in which we belong to each other. That’s the one I’ll be telling as we move into the next decade.”

I share with you a part of my response:

My Dear Friend,

Thank you for quote and pointer to the article by Rink Sen.  We surely do each have a story about 9/11, as we do about many events that impact us.  How we shape that narrative, and, more importantly, how the “sequel” shapes us and our actions, makes all the difference.

I was just looking at my bookshelf, at a number of books I received in the mail after 9/11.  None of them were solicited — they were sent to me as a Christian pastor, and, I’m sure, to thousands of others.  Almost every one of these unsolicited books is some form of diatribe against Islam.  Some are more “academic” and some more “religious” in tone.  All of them, professing fact, actually shape a narrative of fear and offer a reason to hate.  At the time, I wondered why groups would go to so much expense to send these things out to people like me?  My first inclination was to throw them away.  But I kept some of them, and I look at those books from time to time as a reminder — really a prod — to shape a different narrative, one that I know to be truer to my own faith and the commitment I share with others, like you, to do my part to create and celebrate a loving and just human family.  As Nelson Mandela writes:  “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love , for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  I choose the narrative of love.

Thanks for your commitment to building a true community, and thanks for your friendship,

Kristine Zakarison, Pastor, Community Congregational United Church of Christ

And here is Ghazi’s response back:

“Thanks, Kristine….my eyes are moistened a bit….

Affectionate good wishes/prayers, always . . .”

–Ghazi

One of the women in the Libyan community told me that they have a saying which roughly translates that “Once we have cried together, our hearts become one.”  May we find the space to cry together, as one people on this anniversary.

Peace/Shalom/Salaam,

Kristine

What Do We Do When the Terrorist Looks Like Us?

Click on the link below to read this article originally published in the Moscow Pullman Daily News.

What Do we Do When the Terrorist Looks Like Us