Archive for the ‘women of faith’ Category

Relationships 2.0: Virtual vs. Real Flesh-and-Blood Friends

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Travelling a lot this week and don’t have time to sit to write a full length blogpost. Thought this would be a good time to take a survey.

Thought I’d raise a question about cyberfriends that was raised by a sister blogger on her blog. Are the friendships we strike up in cyberspace (Facebook, My Space, Twitter, blogs) on par with the real flesh-and-blood friendships we’ve made over the years? Are our virtual friends with whom we engage in long, heated, but friendly banter with for days, weeks, months, perhaps years on end — are these people real friends?

The question is prompted in part by a piece by James Taylor on cyberfriendships which appeared over on HuffingtonPost:

Of all the areas of life that computer and communications technology seems to be impacting the most is its influence on relationships. Mobile phones, texting, facebook, and Twitter are just a few of the ways in which relationships are being redefined, established, and maintained by technology. We have entered a new era of Relationships 2.0. Read More…

Personally, I don’t think virtual friends and flesh and blood friends are the same. But judging from comments by readers on other sites, there are lots of folks out there evidently who think differently.

Hear ye. Hear ye. Cyberfriendships are not real friendships. No offense loyal blog readers. I cherish hearing from you. I look forward to your comments. I appreciate the lively banter we enjoy here on the blog. But I wouldn’t know you from Adam if you came up to me here at the restaurant where I’m typing this right now. How can we be real friends? (Boy, oh boy, are my readership numbers going to plummet now. :))  How can you be  friends with someone you’ve never met? How do you trust a friendship that’s made in cyberspace? How can you trust what someone in cyberspace says about herself? You guessed it. No, I don’t believe in cyberdating. But that’s another topic.

I don’t mean to devalue relationships that have been struck up over the Internet. I’m sure there are some moving stories out there about love found on the Internet and about the support, inspiration, and comraderie struck up on the Internet. If friendship is all about love and support, then I guess it is possible to think of a cyberfriends as a real friend. But to call a relationship born in cyberspace and limited exclusively to the Internet sounds sad to me.


Call me old school, but friendship is friendship not because there’s a long history of support, confidances shared, and mutual admiration. A friendship is a friendship more importantly because it has withstood the test of time and misunderstandings, disagreements, bruised feelings, and make-ups.  Yep, there have been plenty of times here on this blog when folks have jumped in one another’s chest about comments made and have later come back on to explain themselves and kiss and make-up.  All of us know that mending a friendship in cyberspace can not compare with the awkwardness, the dread, and the pain of mending a “real” flesh-and-blood friendship. Facing a friend you’ve hurt or who hurt you, and slinging, snotting, and crying it out face to face as you try to work out where things went wrong, who’s to blame, and promise to do better—that’s the friendship we miss out on in cyberspace. Better yet, that’s the personal growth we miss out on when we lack real flesh-and-blood friends.

But that’s my opinion. Call me old school. A friend is not someone who signs off with emoticons to make herself appear more friendly than she really is. A friend is someone who was there to jump up and walk behind me to keep others from seeing the spot on the back of my skirt as I walked off.

Love Your Enemies. For Real Jesus?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

It’s the question every liberator has had to ponder. What do you do with traitors? What do you with slaves who get half way to freedom, take one look at the swamp that stands between them and freedom, and decide they want to go back to the plantation? What do you do with the slave who sells out his kin and friends down in the slavequarters by telling the master about all the talk about rebellion and freedom that takes place at night when massa’em is asleep up in the big house?

Judas did the honorable thing. He took his own life.

While violence isn’t something I subscribe to normally, I can understand why Harriet Tubman  felt it necessary to keep a gun on her hip at all times. It wasn’t just to blow away any bounty hunter or slave catcher that crossed her path. The gun on Harriet Tubman’s hip was for slaves too. Before each escape she’d get in the faces of all the men, women, and children who met her in the brush harbor saying they wanted to go with her, and say to them, “If you don’t follow me when I go out, I’m going to kill you. Go forward and live or turn back and die.”

Harsh but necessary words, I suppose. I wonder what Moses did when his runaway slaves started murmuring about being hungry and preferring their slave pallets to the harsh desert conditions they now faced (Exodus 16:3). I know he complained to God about it, but, for real, what did Moses and his lieutenants do to dissuade runaways from turning back and betraying to Pharoah’s army the whereabouts of the Hebrew camp?

Every movement has had to decide how it will deal with traitors, turncoats, defectors, betrayers, and people who half way through change their mind and want to go back.

Of course, we’re a civilized generation now. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. Side with the oppressor, if you share the oppressor’s political views. We don’t all have to think the same. Follow for as long as you feel comfortable, and when you don’t feel comfortable anymore; stop following.  Change your mind, if you want.  All’s fair in love and politics, right?

Lord, Renita, what’s got into you this morning?

What had happened was…from time to time I listen to so called Christian radio when I’m in the car driving to Atlanta. There’s nothing Christian about the stuff that comes out of the mouths of the folks on many of those shows, especially when the President of the United States is the subject for the hour (which he nearly always is). And from time to time I watch Fox News (something I don’t do often) and I’m stunned by the things that come out of the mouths of some of the black conservatives that come on Fox News.  enemie's fingersAnd admittedly, I’m still shaking from an encounter I had here on the blog over a month ago. You remember the one where a reader left a comment admitting that she is a black woman Tea Party member who loathes Obama’s politics and has no qualms with her party’s caricature of the country’s first black president as a monkey. After much yelling back and forth between us, the reader and I eventually calmed down and agreed to disagree and went to our separate sides of the rings. But I haven’t been able to get the incident out my head. That encounter made me sit up and pay attention.

Is there a point in a political fight when it’s more than the fact that you and I differ ideologically. It’s not just that we have different ideas of what it means to be a Christian. We’re enemies, Boo. Plain and simple. To allow you to continue on in your rants and ravings is to leave myself at risk of being killed, subjugated as a woman, or sold back into slavery.

Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus understood exactly what he was asking of us when he demanded, “Love your enemies,  bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). For real Jesus?

First Black Female Rabbi

Friday, June 19th, 2009

alysa stanton first black female rabbiA blog for thinking women of faith must stop and congratulate  Alysa Stanton on becoming the first black female rabbi.

I remember all that I endured as a doctorate student in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the 80s there at Princeton - the sneers, the condescension, the sexist comments, the racist gestures. I can only imagine what Rabbi Stanton experienced in her journey to become the first black woman to earn her rabinnical license from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

Did I mention that some of my most painful memories as a doctorate student and as a young Old Testament scholar were the reactions of Jewish colleagues to my being a black woman in Old Testament. Even now I still get the question, “So, you really can read Hebrew?”

Hey, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about Rabbi Alysa Stanton, America’s first black, female rabbi who starts on August 1st as the rabbi for Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C.

I had to smile when I read what sisterblogger Prof. Tracey wrote when after congratulating the rabbi on her achievements, she ended with “I respect the hard work for the achievement, but I still can’t help thinking….why?”.

“Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed,” Stanton, 45, told “Me, a spiritual leader?” Like myself the rabbi is a former Pentecostal. Hmmm…I wonder… Oh well, you can read more about Rabbi Stanton’s spiritual journey here.

Rabbi Stanton is the first black female rabbi in this country. And for that she deserves our heartfelt congratulations, our deepest admiration, and our sincerest prayers.

And You Call Yourself A Christian - Part 3

Monday, April 6th, 2009

We talk a lot on this blog about getting beyond boundaries.  Folks do a lot of snarking here at denominationalism, parochalism, religious legalism, old definitions, and the kind of rigid cultural thinking that keep conflict brewing and  prevent us from being our best selves.

That said, meet Anne Holmes Redding. Writer. Bible scholar. Former seminary professor. Episcopal priest. Christian. And Muslim.

For nearly 30 years, Ann Holmes Redding has been an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church. Her priesthood ended last Wednesday when Bishop Geralyn Wolf, who presides over Rhode Island where Redding was ordained, terminated Rev. Reddings’ right and authority to function as a priest in the Episcopal church.  In today’s parlance what happened to Ann Holmes Redding is called deposition. In times past it was called defrocking (frock being the term for the official garment clergy wore while performing the priestly functions of the church).

The reason for Holmes’ defrocking? For the past three years Ann Holmes Redding has been both a practicing Christian and a Muslim.

Redding, once director of faith formation at a Seattle Episcopal church, found herself drawn to the Muslim faith after attending an interfatih service three years ago. During the meeting, an imam demonstrated Muslim chants and meditation to the group. Redding said the beauty of the moment and the imam’s humbleness before God stuck her profoundly.

The Episcopal church interprets Redding’s decision to become a Muslim as abandoning the church and goes on to say that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim. But that’s not how Redding sees it. She doesn’t see why the need to discount one faith in order to embrace the other. “I’m actually a better priest now than I have ever been. Because being a Muslim makes me a better Christian” says the now former Rev. Redding.

How does Redding reconcile the contradictions in the two faiths? She doesn’t even try. She feels no need to reconcile all the differences between the two faiths, believing that at the most basic level they are compatible. Both religions believe in one God. They simply come at the matter from different perspectives. Sure, Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet while Christianity worships him as the son of God — but at the heart of both is belief in the one God. The perspectives and practices of Islam, says Redding, strengthen her witness to the good news of God in Jesus.

You can bet that there are plenty on both sides of this issue. There are Christians who question how in the world Redding can call herself a Christian, and there are Muslims who wonder how in the name of Muhammad she dare call herself a Muslim. But that’s their problem, not hers.

These are not Redding’s words, but I think what she’s saying is that at the heart of both religions is what theu testify about God — which is essentially the same thing. God’s goodness. God’s oneness. God’s love for creation. God’s power. God’s insistence that we love God and each other. Everything else is convention, tradition, noise, distraction, and keeps people locked in conflict with each other about whose religion is superior to the other.

What say you about the former Rev. Ann Holmes Redding’s insistence that it’s possible to be both Muslim and Christian?  I must say that while I respect and admire Ann Holmes Redding greatly, I’m still scratching my head about this one. I’m still gathering my thoughts and feelings about it.  It feels right, but I’m not sure. Perhaps we’re moving toward a post-religion era too.  How bad can that be? Afterall, Redding shows us that you don’t have to renounce religion belief.  Embrace the good in all religion, and refuse to choose one over the other.  Both/and. Not either/or.