"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fred Small: Denmark 1943

I didn't plan to blog today as it is the last lap of move preparation with the packers coming tomorrow and the truck on Friday. But I had this song playing as I began to pack the backpack and suitcase containing all the possessions I will have access to for the one to two weeks we await the delivery of the car and household goods. And as so often it brought me to tears remembering our pilgrimage to Yad Vashem and the contrast between the huge number of Christians who enthusiastically or complacently supported Nazism and the tiny number of righteous Gentiles like the Danes who saved virtually their entire Jewish population by the creative nonviolent resistance that is so often dismissed without being attempted.

And the heroism of black Americans in their own amazingly nonviolent self defense against the American Holocaust that targets them for slaughter. And the longing for transformation by grace to work toward humbly recognizing and working toward minimizing my participation in white supremacy and embracing the privilege of actual learning from their wisdom and support for their struggles. And if I should ever make a small contribution eschewing the ever alluring search for ally cookies in favor of echoing: "We're not heroes or martyrs," so say the Danes--"We were just looking after our own."

It is also resonant as I move more deeply into scholarship and service claiming the liberating aspects of Ignatian--and all forms of Christian--spirituality especially for abuse survivors and critiquing the dangerous aspects that often retraumatize and betray them instead. And continue to process the micro and macro aggressions--as those from some male commenters yesterday on Rebecca's powerful piece on Olympic sexism-- that often make this prophetic work speaking Her truth and serving Her people a long and wearing way of the cross.


And it's Eichmann and Himmler are turning the screws
The Fuhrer they say grows impatient
"How can it be Denmark's Jews still walk free
After three years of kind occupation?
We will take them like sheep in their beds as they sleep
On the second night of their new year
Devoutly at home they'll be helpless alone
When they cry out no one will hear"

But Duckwitz the German tells Hedtoft the Dane
"My friend I have dangerous news
In three hours the transport ships will set at anchor
You must warn them warn all the Jews"
Soon good Rabbi Melchior stands in the synagogue
"There'll be no service today
The raids come tomorrow, dwell not on your sorrow
By nightfall we must be away"

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

Sompolinski the tailor on the eve of Rosh Hashana
Gathers his family near
"The Lord is my light and salvation
Whom on this earth shall I fear?"
When a young Danish gentile steps into the glow
Of the candle with tears flowing down
"Good neighbors flee - I pray you believe me"
And as quickly the young man is gone

Christian policemen, shopkeepers, and teachers
Tell their friends of the quickening storm
While students on bicycles race through the streets
Searching for Jews to be warned
And Katlev the foreman blurts out to the trainman
"My family has no place to hide"
"Well bring 'em to my house, " the stranger replies
"And we'll spit in the damn Nazi's eyes"

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

Ellen Nielsen the fishwife in the port of Dragør
Has no use for political views
She'll call out the catch, "Fresh salmon, fresh cod"
Comes a whisper "Please help, we are Jews"
"But if you are Jews you're not safe on the street
I know a man with a sail"
Till moonrise they sleep in the shade of her eaves
And escape on the fisherman's keel

Rabbi Melchior hires a young trawlerman
To ferry his family across
After twelve hours afloat in a scurfy old boat
Morning light shows the same Danish coast
Says the skipper "I'm afraid of the German blockade
So we've motored in circles around"
The rabbi gives a shout, with one blow knocks him out
And steers a straight line 'cross the sound

Frozen with fright in the October night
Families huddle in basements and barns
Mistaking each breath for the angel of death
The Gestapo, the shot, the alarm
Then down into the hold with the stench and the cold
And drug all the babies with schnapps
Someone shouts, "Valkömmen till Sverige
You are in Swedish waters at last"

Seven thousands of Jews smuggled over to Sweden
By fishermen, nurses, and priests
Hitler sends Eichmann to hunt them down
But his quarry have vanished like mist
When the war's over the Jews return
Cheers and flowers adorn their way home
"We're not heroes or martyrs, " so say the Danes
"We were just looking after our own"

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

And today we will welcome you home
And today we welcome you home
Written by Fred Small • Copyright © Frederick E. Small D/B/A Pine Barrens Music

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Response to Tobias Winright on John Howard Yoder

This piece began as an increasingly long comment at the Sojourners blog on a powerful piece by a Christian ethicist on his dilemma of whether to continue to use his doctoral mentor's work as increasing attention is paid to the man's extensive history of abusing female students, colleagues, and community members as a Mennonite pastor and professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary followed by our shared graduate alma mater, Notre Dame. I have reproduced it here and hope that he responds to my invitation to further conversation and mutual learning on the subject. The Sojourners piece is an abridged version of an earlier reflection by Dr. Winright.


Hi Tobias! Many thanks from a sister ND Theology PhD alum for sharing your struggles on this very painful issue and for your attempts to honor and support the many women John Howard Yoder unrepentantly victimized, with the equally abusive collusion of the Mennonite seminary and denomination and our own department which unconscionably hired him in knowledge of his egregious record. It is especially poignant for me because I narrowly dodged the bullet of his predation as the only woman in his seminar my first semester, originally planning to focus on social ethics. Since he was my most likely adviser I shudder as I read of his repeated attempts to sexually abuse his primary female dissertationist, still resident in the program when I arrived, and his opportunistic use of her for emotional support and academic hostessing. This is eerily reminiscent of Karl Barth's double betrayal of his wife Nelly, whose vows he trampled on, and his young employee Charlotte von Kirschbaum whom he sexually abused for decades while plagiarizing substantive portions of her work.

I would have been even more vulnerable as the youngest person ever admitted to the doctoral program, fresh from a profoundly devastating experience of clergy and professorial abuse by my undergraduate theological mentor--especially as it would be five more years before I learned that I was a victim, rather than a slut and adulteress, and began to fight my way out of the intense shame and false guilt that would have left me putty in Yoder's hands. The perpetrator was a married Protestant pastor at a Catholic university where my beloved Jesuits repeatedly fostered and mishandled the abuse as ABSM and Notre Dame did with Yoder: allowing me to confess it as my sin, granting him tenure rather than punishment, and years later claiming to have improved their awareness but refusing to make restitution for the tiniest portion of the huge lifetime costs to me and my family for therapy and lost wages from PTSD and intermittent writing block. Ironically, this man, a just war theorist himself put The Politics of Jesus in my hands in my sophomore grooming year, along with Barth and a host of other kyriarchal writers over four semesters beginning with the sexually abusive plagiarist Karl Barth and continuing in four courses with one non-white--Gustavo Gutierrez--and zero women theologians.

My own work eventually shifted to the historical area specializing in medieval women's theology. So I am accustomed to reading and teaching oppressively privileged male authors from Scripture through the present day with a mix of brilliant theological insights and horrific theological flaws that caused and cause grave harm to women and other oppressed people to this day. Their work is certainly overemphasized in contrast to women's and other marginalized people's work--if I had a dollar for every time my erudite nuns who brilliantly interpreted and advanced the texts of scripture, early church writers, and their own contemporaries are dismissed as "mystics with visions" I would be a rich woman. And I once lost a job to a junior male colleague from the program despite in depth, totally unreciprocated knowledge of the male authors he studied because "He does, ya know, regular medieval theology." But if we tried to exclude their work from use the field would virtually vanish and the chance to directly address the deep problems in both their particular work and the ecclesial and academic systems which fostered and extended the evil intertwined in it.

So I would advocate reducing dominance especially of singular worshipped figures like Yoder, adding balance by rearticulating the canon more effectively, and teaching them with deep and specific attention to both their gifts and insights; the sinful problems in their work and their lives; and the direct but generally ignored interaction between them. I well remember how offensive the mansplaining, domination supporting "revolutionary subordination" chapter in Politics of Jesus was and find it no surprise that he treated actual women with hierarchical abusive violence for which that profoundly flawed theology provided rationalization. I feel nauseated when I contemplate his closing words in PJ proudly calling Christians to follow the Lamb of God--desecrating in the sacred Latin I have often so often sung in worship by the contrast to his own actual life spent raping and soul-slaughtering the true presence of Christ in his sisters, daughters, mothers, and brides.

Yoder's exposition of pacifism is also profoundly theologically flawed by failing to take into account all the axes of oppression that contain systemic ignored violence and make equal admonitions to nonviolence to oppressed and oppressors highly dangerous. This follows the general problematic history of strict pacifism in failing to address the right of the intersectionally abused and oppressed--women being especially vulnerable--to defend themselves from violence, with last resort violence if necessary, from abusers and oppressors. Just war theory is equally flawed in its imperialistic inconsistencies: neglect of widespread household and individual violence by cis males, the corrupt systems that foster it and forbid self defense by victims, and the failure to place revolutions of the oppressed on the same level as state violence against them and other states. Instead it I hear the dilemma posed as "great theology but flawed life" and find it distressing that these serious flaws in his work have not been addressed in any of the discussions I have read of the parallel sexist abuse of so many female students. Academic celebrity culture too often ignores the faithful praxis and brilliant writings of a diverse range of voices which ground, correct, and extend the work of those confined to the narrow perspectives of their own unjust privilege. Broadening the theological conversation takes time, work, and humility but is richly rewarded by improving its overall caliber as well as addressing specific ethical dilemmas like this one.

My biggest concern about your piece is the problematic comparison of him to slave-trader-turned-Jesuit Rodrigo Mendoza in The Mission who thoroughly and publicly confessed in word and deed his sinful abuse and oppression of the vulnerable--and followed this up with both a total renunciation of the ill-gotten goods it provided and a lifetime, and sacrificial death, in service to his victims. As others have mentioned, Yoder balked real repentance to his last day of power and privilege and fame. It was profoundly sinful of ND's theology dept. to hire him in full knowledge of his abusive past--though not surprising given their long term toleration of other multiply abusive male priest-professors like Jesuit Charles Kannengiesser and Holy Cross Jim Burtchaell. (Not to mention androcentric bias in hiring, course and exam content, and treatment of male and female doctoral students--especially in student parenting which was frequent and supported in men, and vanishingly rare and ambivalently treated in the women like me who managed it).

Hiring and retaining Yoder subjected female students to both physical danger and the daily emotional trauma of knowing our safety and dignity were totally disregarded by a dept. and university that falsely claimed to engage in theology as an expression of Gospel values. This was certainly retriggering to me and helped delay my recognition that I was a victim, not a slut, until it was too late to seek legal or significant institutional redress for my own abuse from my own perpetrator or undergrad alma mater. Like Yoder, that prof made the scantiest of apologies for what he minimized as "the inappropriate aspects of our relationship" and continued to enjoy a successful career there before moving on to endanger female undergrads at a national service academy.

Every penny Yoder earned at ND and every honor received was tainted with his abusive history and present which, as others point out, he has no history of thoroughly repenting nor of making the slightest of real, direct amends to his victims. Renouncing both by giving the money to his victims for therapy and to preventive organizations; resigning his professorship with an explanation why; and focusing further research on this issue with humble listening, learning the deep wrongness of his actions, and writing about it to would have all been components the Mendoza-like behavior. Supportive mentoring of primarily male grad students in no way makes up for his destructive abuse of the hundred womenhe physically abused before arriving at Notre Dame--and after, as reported by the woman mentioned in my opening paragraph. He continued to abuse women at Notre Dame--and after, via the secrecy which created a dangerous and hostile environment and the continued attempts to perpetrate with allowed him to continue abuse attempts with at least one student (and likely others) as described in my opening paragraph. The fact that he eventually accepted her rejection of his repeated rape attempts does not change that these attempts were violating and abusive in themselves, just as they would be from a pastor to parishioner, a parent to a child, a therapist to a client, or anyone else with massive power which was supposed to be used for the good of the one in their care. So hearing Yoder's generosity to men already enjoying unjust preferential treatment in the department and the profession--above all the unimaginable luxury of daily safety from predation utterly denied to your female colleagues--as penance for his egregious abuse of us and our sisters is immensely painful. I implore you as a father of daughters, professor of ethics, and follower of Jesus to rethink and renounce that profoundly flawed assertion which dishonors all survivors of clergy and professorial sexual abuse with retraumatization rather than healing advocacy.

Thank you again for this courageous piece and especially for considering my very extended reflections here! You can find some of my work addressing intersectional abuse issues in theology and spirituality and pastoral care at my blog. In fact, I think I will reproduce this there and welcome your comments and insights. And you can reach me at lauraATgrimesDOTws if you are open to further conversation and learning on these issues from the perspective of someone who shares the experience of the sisters John Howard violated and, I trust, is now interceding for as he is purified by the fiery divine mercy on which all of us sinners depend.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Excellent Anti-Racist Links

This "Unequal Opportunity Race" video from the rich website at the African American Policy Forum is just four minutes long and beautifully explains why people of color are not asking for unfair advantages--just for redress of the unfair advantages still granted white people, above all those who are cisgender males.

I was saddened to see hurtful comments about the video on Youtube and to learn that a school district in Virginia had banned it due to complaints by white parents when it was shown during a first ever Black History month event which was added because of a racist incident at a school football game. The AAPF website has thorough and respectful treatment of the issues including a sobering list of racial disparity facts.

As a mother it especially breaks my heart that black infant mortality in America is twice that of whites and that black babies are 3.5 times more likely to die from complications of low birthweight. True prolife activism must address these issues in getting black babies safely to birth and through their first year of life--and, of course, having a decent chance at life if they do survive--rather than merely trying to prevent abortions and implying that desperate-for-survival black women who choose to terminate are dupes of racist clinic staff who, in turn, are vicious liars aiming to hurt and not help their clients.

Gabriel's post also pointed me to a very helpful (except for the title) essay on call-out culture and conversations about racism at Cracked, which also means it was laugh-out-loud hilarious (which was nice because it drew Katie's attention so I could read her bits without any using up any of my mama preachy points). It's helpful for me as I balance the calls to prophetic proclamation of the Gospel call to anti-racism with humility in owning my own part in white supremacy and gentleness in explaining it to white siblings, the primary call for aspiring white allies.

"Am I a racist?" and "Is what I just did racist?" are not exactly the same question, depending on what you think a "racist" is. Not everybody has the same idea, which is why you get conversations like this:

Natasha: I have nothing against Mexicans; I just don't want them in my neighborhood bringing down property values.

Yvonne: That seems racist.

Natasha: I'm not a racist! I have a lot of black friends! I voted for Obama!

Yvonne's interpretation of a "racist" is a person who does or says racist things. Natasha just said a racist thing, ergo she is a racist. Yvonne is convinced that Natasha is intentionally bullshitting her.

Natasha's idea of a "racist" is less a person and more a golem formed from pure racism, a complete and unvarying package of across-the-board racism toward every race outside of her own, in every way. This Racism Golem is committed to their racism and will never break character by enjoying an NBA game, eating Mexican food, or making pleasant small talk with their Asian co-worker. They are hardcore dedicated to bringing down other races. Racisming so hard, it burns calories.

Natasha will keep basically shouting, "I'm not a Racism Golem!" and Yvonne will keep insisting, "The thing you just said is clearly racist!" but the translation that happens in [their brains] is, "I'm not racist!" and "Yes you are!" They sound like they're arguing about the same point, but they're not.

Both of them could help by being clearer about what they mean, and Yvonne could even throw Natasha a bone and humor her a bit by saying, "You're a great person and I love your attitudes on civil rights, but I think you just have this one blind [sic!] spot toward Latinos we need to talk about."

Happening upon both resources today is especially well timed for me as I prepare for the sacraments of Reconciliation and Healing as part of the spiritual move preparation--ideally with the wonderful Jesuit with whom I celebrated at Pentecost. It has been a long journey from:

1) being raised "color-blind" and thinking racism was over except in the south and certainly not in me to:

2) experiencing tremendous initial conversion on the issue by a cross country flight next to a black businessman nine years ago and beginning to actively study the issue followed by:

3) repeated Screwtape rounds of self righteousness and condemnation of other white people alternating with suppressing the whole issue in my consciousness.

The final stage, began in the last couple years and will probably continue till I die:

4) aiming for a gentle and humble and consistent effort to discern what I am called to on this issue and above all to have those characteristics in conversations with other white people, especially those that are a tiny bit behind me on the issue. It's up and down but I passionately desire to stay at it and when I can have respectful and positive engagement with people with whom I disagree or have different approaches on this and other issues it is amazing how much freer and happier I feel than when I get sucked into stuck and tense combox exchanges.

It felt good to try out some of these principles in the combox of Gabriel's post. I am especially looking forward to his responses and hoping that the first commenter I addressed comes back so I can see if I made any sense to him and if we can find some meeting of the minds and hearts!

I am more and more aware of how my responses and those of others are powerfully tied into personal pain which often turns to mutual triggering. It is amazing how much attending consciously to that as I work through my thoughts and phrase my responses, beginning with any honest affirmations I can give and moving on with a light tone, can get around the stuck places and help build real community with mutual care and respect even across large or controversial differences.

I have often thought it would be an arduous duty to build a calm conversation around hot topics but this feels so much better that it is positive reinforcement to, please God, keep seeking that grace on a daily basis. And to return to the "observations, feelings, needs, requests" format of nonviolent communication.

Edited to add:

After posting I kept reflecting on these questions as I undertook a dubious kitchen experiment involving leftover not-so-silken tofu, an unfairly tasked blender, chocolate pudding mix, dark chocolate almond milk, and an envelope of all-we-had Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate.

This is definitely worth a full post, but I am especially compelled by the different meanings and implications of "racist" as both an adjective and a noun, on a spectrum from terms like "displaying racist behavior" to "acting racist" to "being racist" to "being a racist." I have been thinking for some time of titling a post "My name is Laura...." and continuing "and I'm a racist," or maybe "recovering racist," and the last thing that popped to my head was "and I struggle with racism."

Which eventually made me giggle and then sober as I thought of the way that term has been used by conservative religious folks as a club against LGBT Christians who are only supposed to identify as "struggling with same-sex attraction." I think it might actually be a helpful term in this case though because racism, unlike queerness, is clearly something terrible and to be struggled with--but it also balances humility and avoidance of the intense and resistance producing shame the concept can bring even when only being owned in oneself.

Friday, August 5, 2016

With Grit and Grace: August Goals

Excited to join two monthly goal link-ups for the first time! A warm welcome to anyone who comes to visit from there and don't forget to visit others. Not sure how to obtain the button so I will link to With Grit and Grace via Waltzing in Beauty, and Gratitude and Goals via FabWorkingMomLife

Since we move across the country in two weeks there are plenty of tasks possible and necessary in August--the trick will be keeping them to manageable level.

My categories will probably evolve, but I think I will start with Holly Pierlot's priority-ordered "Five P's" from A Mother's Rule of Life.

1. Prayer: The summer, and the move stress, led to a lot of spontaneous conversational prayer but a loss of a daily rhythm of formal prayer. I have been getting back in the game the past couple weeks and want to continue that process. I am especially happy with my nightly candlelit Examen prayer before our couple Netflix time, and want to maintain that, but I would like to do a little more in the morning as well.

I have resumed my personalized version of the morning offering first thing, which feels great, and did my first sunrise rosary walk by the lakeshore today in a long time. But I miss the psalm-based Lauds/Morning Prayer which I have only done once, last week--yet know that it is too lengthy for this time of preparation and especially while we are sharing hotel rooms, staying with my parents while awaiting the moving truck, etc.

So my goal is to follow through on a wonderful suggestion from a really great Pentecost confession last year and create a much shorter and more streamlined version of Lauds that I can easily fit in on a busy day--ideally from memory if I need or want to be on the go. I have the opening verses I created and the Benedictus/Canticle of Zachariah and closing prayer memorized, but for the middle I only know one psalm by heart--27--and it's a long one.

So this month's prayer goals are 1) to create and print out a simple ordo with a couple of short psalms and 2) to memorize one of them, which come to think of it was a Lenten goal that didn't happen though some did.

2. Person: Healthy enjoyable eating and exercise also fell by the wayside as I dealt with some depression and PTSD triggering coming from the forced and sudden nature of the move (work transfer for ComputerGuy) as well as the great expense of the new area reawakening grief and anger at the concrete cost to me and my family of the mommy track sexism my academic career has faced. I felt loved by God as I rested, lamented, read YA literature, and ate treats but am grateful that as the energy comes back and the doors open for ministry and scholarship and community in the new area the joy flows over to the physical self care as well.

I have swim several times and luckily the apartment has a pool open till Halloween so I hope to continue as the move means losing my kickboxing dojang and, at least at first, our health club membership due to finances. The prayer walk this morning felt great too and I would like to add in some abs and stretching. I am also enjoying getting back to healthy eating and the big challenge is taking the time to shop and prepare things that are really enjoyable--worked great today when I had a smoothie (Silk Dark Choc Almond Milk, heavenly) and a banana for first breakfast at 6 and when I was hungry again at 9:40 a baked egg with a tiny bit of sharp cheddar, half a baked sweet potato, and half an apple!

So this month's person goals are 1) to rotate between the three exercise routines--swimming, walking, abs and stretching--so I do one per day and 2) to take the time to eat lovely healthy foods as well as, always, little treats.

3. Partner: This one is pretty much covered as I handle most of the move logistics to support his career transition--and, thankfully, as we enjoy work together on the process and continuing to rebuild our relationship after some tough years.

4. Parent: It's an endless joy to sit in the living room doing my work on the laptop and see homeschool maiden doing the same--and occasionally sharing FB fun with each other--to get ahead on her online second semester chemistry class before, God willing, adding in Stats at the community college in the new area. I have spent a ton of time sorting out their system and calling people and guiding her through her own app (like teaching chores when they're little--takes three times as long but worth it for the independence and putting ourselves out of a job!). We have mapped out a plan for high school graduation and progress towards the A.S. in two years using all four terms (intensive January intersession along with fall, spring, and summer), including a semester of Japanese so anime/manga lover can earn a graduation gift trip.

Just like last summer with Shakespeare, we have also started Literature a bit early equipped with the excellent new translation of the full Iliad by Caroline Alexander and the corresponding Audible recording which we listen to and discuss in the car while she reads along, juggling her Kindle and mine for the two modalities. We had a long trip to the mall with the Krispy Kreme and have heard much of the long but useful introduction--though it really beats into the ground "this does not glorify war, they hated it!". But we are both looking forward to "Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus...."

So with things in great shape with Katie this month's parent goal will be continuing to build/transition the relationship with Nick, the young adult--especially as we drive out to Lansing to take him to dinner tomorrow before bidding farewell till we met up at my mom's at Christmas!

5. Provider: Professional work is another resurrection joy as I move toward exiting the mommy track--complicated by two of my four dying young and tragically and one being a non-neurotypical and alpha male adolescent. Happily he is fully launched at 19, staying in his apartment here for college with some extended family assistance, and we are getting along great. So even with picking up more maiden chauffeuring in the new area with Dad going back to the office all day--how we will miss telecommuting!--I should continue to build my spiritual direction and retreat practice as well as shift my scholarly focus from medieval women's theology to Ignatian spirituality and ministry. I am working on a marvelous grant application which is due Oct. 1, with an optional submit for feasibility critique Sept. 15, for a project start Jan. 1 if awarded.

So my provider goal for the month is to make major progress on both my correspondence and writing toward that application--fitting in work as I can during move prep and then really immersing myself in the week to two weeks where everything is in route and I can't start unpacking!