What’s In a Name? Part Two: Protector of Children

eirenic greer

The Latin, Diana, is of unknown origin and thought to mean “godly” or “divine.” In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt or wilderness and is the twin sister of Apollo. Her Greek counterpart is Artemis. She is the fierce protector of children, and as such is also associated with life-giving fertility and childbirth. While at first it may seem that such a god would be perhaps weaker than say, a god of war, it would befit the reader to consider the mother bear, or lion, or any mother whose child is vulnerable.

In the interview mentioned in my previous post, Major Mary Jennings Hegar responds to the question about whether motherhood has changed her warrior self. She says, “I think of myself as a bit of a mother bear, and if anybody poses a threat to my kids they’ll see both my mother’s heart and my warrior spirit. I think that they’re compatible.” Indeed, mid-interview, her husband brought their infant in so that Jennings Hegar could breast feed the baby. She did not miss a beat and continued sharing her systematic cogent case for including anyone who is qualified to protect peace and promote justice in the military – regardless of gender.

I continue to write about these things because individuals are still barred from occupations or living out their strengths and gifts because of societal norms that ascribe arbitrary characteristics to people based on equally indiscriminate indices. Change in perspective necessitates a paradigm shift on the scale of society. And societal shifts are not easy to accomplish. It takes individuals who able to allow a perspectival change, to actually see an issue from a different angle, and to speak from that vantage. The way in which we use language is enormously important, and this includes the jokes we tell.

The other day, our family saw the Wonder Woman movie. The hero’s given name is Diana, and the zeal that fuels her actions is worthy of that name. In the story, she is freed to entirely be herself in full strength because a man (Steve Trevor) permitted himself to shift his perspective of a woman’s role so he could see Diana as she is. He had to veer farther and farther around the facets that comprise her, but he chose to do so – and led others to do the same. They made room for her, supported her when she needed it, and accepted her as part of the team (likely understanding that it is Diana who makes the team what it is).

In the movie’s telling, Diana learned from Steve, too. Her quest is just and righteous, and she is absolutely qualified to fulfill the mission, but she did not have all of the information. And she lacked a motivation that is paramount to the protection of peace and promotion of justice in the context of a community: Love. This is the work of God: that you believe; this is the object of belief: that God so loved (Jn6:29;3:16). Steve showed Diana that in order to aim at peace, promote peace, one must first believe Love. Not a fleeting romantic love, but one of substance that is derived from commitment and sacrifice – lasting, stalwart love.

So, perhaps this is where we begin. We help to shift society’s perspective, perception, to view from a different facet and see that love is not a weakness. It is not a changeable feeling directed by an amalgamation of hormones and fantasies. Love is work. And this, the work of God. And to believe – and to love – only happens in the context of community. Will you believe with me?

What’s In a Name? Part One: Victorious People

success is another breathes easier

The name Nicole is of Greek origin and means “victorious people.” It evolved into a French feminine of the masculine, Nicolas. The surname Nicole originates in Netherlands where it was notable for its various branches, and associated status or influence. It seems it was derived from the goddess Nike who, in Greek mythology personifies victory, her Roman counterpart, Victoria. In the story of Zeus’ fight against the Titans, Nike and her sister, Bia (personification of force and raw power), were first to answer his call to assist, and Zeus’ side often sees her.

Major Mary Jennings Hegar, author of Shoot Like a Girl, in an NPR interview, talks about her book. In it, she describes how, wounded and hanging onto her helicopter, fought off Taliban to save her team and injured soldiers. She also explains her interest in supporting admission of women into combat status (they are already in this role, but had not been given credit – and attendant promotion – due to a general ban against it). Jennings Hegar clarifies, some people “assume that I have taken some kind of anti-military or anti-establishment stance, and it couldn’t be further from the truth . . . it was never about fighting the military – it was about this is the right thing to do for the military.”

The name Mary (a form of the Hebrew, Miryam) is of unknown origin and means “rebellious.” Though Jennings Hegar makes clear she is not actively working against the rule of the land, she will act to promote what is right and just, and to save lives. It seems the name Mary is, in reality, ironic. It is paradoxical since for a woman to act in an aggressive or forceful manner, she is automatically viewed as rebellious, somehow against something, even when she is fervently acting for something or someone.

Female warriors are not new, nor are they historically as infrequent as I was led to believe in my early education. Boudicca and the Spartans are examples, not to mention the rising number recognized in archeology. They did not engage in battle to make a point or promote a gender-based agenda. They engaged in battle because they were able, and were needed as much as anyone in the community. Currently, eight other nations (including Canada) welcome women to combat roles. The ban in the US was finally lifted (provisionally) in 2013, even though since the Revolutionary War women such as Molly Pitcher – who took over firing her husband’s canon after he died in the field – have actually served in such positions.

I am not a proponent of war. I hate guns and would like to see a blanket ban on personal guns (though I have no illusions this will ever happen). But I do promote freedom and maintaining peace, and as long as some are not free and others work to dismantle peace, force is sometimes necessary. But this is not really my point, either.

My parents gave me the name, Nicole, because my mother always liked the name. Giving a name is also a blessing, often prophetic. And while my mom might be exasperated by my strong will and determination, I know she also appreciates that strength. I love that though the name Nike is associated with an individual, Nicole is “victorious people,” suggesting leadership that ushers a community to that end. The community is victorious. The work of Jesus was to accomplish exactly this, and my task has always been to “work out” that salvation (Phil 2:12). It is frustrating to be misunderstood because of societal norms that ascribe arbitrary characteristics to people based on equally indiscriminate indices. But Jesus was always misunderstood, and I suspect all of us experience being misread from time to time.

So, here’s to victoriously living out the blessing of a name. And even if I have helped one life gain victory – breathe easier – because I exist, I know that I’ve succeeded.

Concrete Cancer and Discrimination – Day Twenty-Two

concrete imperfect strength

Reinforced concrete was once called “liquid stone.” It is made of a combination of three main ingredients: 65% aggregates such as sand, gravel, crushed rock, recycled glass; 10-15% cement (calcium silicates and aluminates); and 15-20% water: and was invented in 1867 by Joseph Monier. The word “concrete” is derived from the Latin concretus that means, “grow together.” The crushed stone and gravel are mixed with the cement and water. And as the water hydrates the cement, the silicates grow and crystalize binding the strong rock powder, making it stronger than it was in the first state. By continuing to wet the mixture the binders grow further, strengthening the mass still more.

Interesting, the crystals are not crystalline as such, rather a more random structure (much like glass) that traps air pockets. In this way, this super strong concrete mass is also flexible. By adding twisted strands of steel—reinforcing bar, or rebar—the concrete already strong when compressed now maintains tension strength, reinforcing it against cracks. The composite consists of imperfect crushed debris, held together with a binder that strengthens in imperfect configurations, and needs to be watered in order to grow in strength. Insert chords of steel and it will take on pressure and stress with aplomb.

But sometimes alkalis in the cement will react to silica in the binders that cause the “crystals” to grow more slowly and leave the concrete more vulnerable to cracks. Water can more easily seep into the hardened concrete, reach the steel and promote rust. The resulting pools of rust are referred to as “concrete cancer.”

This process, as you might guess, reminds me of community, the Body of Christ. We are the imperfectly shaped crushed rock and glass that actually make the whole combination stronger. The binding agent is the relationship that builds between us, imperfect bonds, randomly formed, at once strengthened and flexible. God waters. A tri-chord rebar is Christ, or the Trinity – either works in this metaphor – supports the pressure and tension. But we react to one another and cause division, cancerous to a community. Cracks evolve and the concrete-community breaks apart, no longer useful—in fact, damaging to anything attempting to traverse it.

This week Lysander is performing his debate on the importance of Feminism. We worked on his slides this past weekend. It is just so aggravating to me that though the Equal Rights Amendment was first written in 1923, and the first feminist convention gathered 75 years before, in 1848 (initiated by two Quakers, James and Lucreia Mott), we still have no ERA to our Constitution. There is still a gendered wage gap (even after all confounding factors removed), the US is 1 of 4 countries (of 189!!!) that has no parental leave policy, and rape and sexual harassment has increased exponentially with new technologies!

paid parental leave

It only takes a tiny crack for water to seep in and begin the chain reaction that leads to concrete cancer, ultimately destroying the foundation. I believe inequality is an alkali-silica reaction that slows growth and weakens community, the Body of Christ. Whether or not you feel directly impacted by this malignance does not alter the reality of its existence.

on line harrassment

There are many things we do to promote justice, to make things right in this world. The easiest is to hashtag and tweet, share Facebook articles and heart an Instagram post. But not much of substance happens until real action takes place. One suggestion I found while helping Lysander with his research is that we need to hold our social media platforms accountable for inconsistently responding to sexual harassment complaints and failing to remove memes that champion violence against women. Another, is to just be way more involved in each other’s lives, particularly our children, and notice what they are posting, what others are posting to them on social media. Perhaps the biggest issue is that we don’t always know the extent to which harm is being done if we are not directly affected. And perhaps I do not always know how my split-second text might actually came across to the recipient.

So, here is a start: will you practice mindfulness texting (tweeting, commenting) with me?

Read the text (email, comment, tweet).

Breathe in the presence of Jesus.

Breathe out my first reactions. See it for what it is.

Breathe in the wisdom of the Spirit, the Love of God’s unending grace.

Breathe out a blessing over the sender of the note.

Write a response and maybe repeat the last four steps before sending.

The Politics of Pink – Day Eight

feminism quote korean food

The most popular Christmas present in 1967 was Battleship. It had actually been around as a pencil and paper game since 1930s until Milton Bradley released it as a board game in 1967. And while there were unmistakable elements that marked many toys as intended for a specific gender (e.g., dolls and kitchen sets for girls, GI Joe and die cast cars for boys), the color of these objects were not so obvious (i.e., pink for everything-girl) and still more toys were available that were merely intended for any kid to enjoy (Wham-O, Lite-Brite, jacks, marbles, and kazoos).

sam of the jungle

When my girls were young, we enjoyed watching Dora the Explorer. They learned a little Spanish and loved the quests Dora led them on, and she did so with a sense that anyone is able to go on such a quest. So when I went in search of a Dora-themed toy one Christmas and could only find a Dora dressed as a princess all in pink, I was flummoxed. And not just Dora—everything in that isle was pink! I hate pink.

Ok, hate is a strong word. Pink is not flattering on me and is not a color with which I choose to decorate. Regardless, when did this symbolic reversal of progress toward equality take place? Sure, there is increased attention to providing encouragement and support for girls to pursue STEM tracks in school, and Hollywood is attempting to provide strong female heroes that do not overstate the female form. But, why must there be two sets of play-station controls, one pink and pastels, the other primary colors?! I hate pastels.

Why this rant? My 16-year-old son was just assigned to debate the question, Is Feminism still necessary in today’s society? This after just reading an article that bemoaned assertions that the role of men is become irrelevant. Of course, no one is irrelevant. All people are necessary for any society to exist, and for humanity to relate in all its fullness all members are indispensible. The problem is when members’ roles are assigned according to one of two categories, crushing the impulse of one or overlooking the gifts of another. And these assumptions are deeply ingrained, and I believe begin, in part, with the color and type of toy a parent presents to a child.

With the push to embrace all ethnicities and to refrain from prejudice, it seems we still have this compulsion to assign others to categories (intellectual, athletic, silly, feminine, aggressive . . .) without taking time to get to know a person. Critical thinking demands too much of our time. We are on tweet-time in preference to contemplative, present-time. And the injury perpetrated is incalculable.

The so-called second wave of feminism occurred in the 1960s, the years around my birth. Both the first and second waves arose out of the recognition of inequality of the sexes. Perception of the movements—as is often the case when liberty is denied to a discrete people group—became warped, misunderstood. And the debate continues. My husband is a feminist. He is also a masculist—that is, one who advocates the right to, as a man, express feelings and nurture his children and consider leadership a quality of gifting, not that of gender (in the family, church, work-place, playground), to be emancipated from the expectation to dominate or control a group or decision.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s observation in 1792 was still relevant in 1967 and remains important in 2017. Until every person is seen for who he or she is and considered on that basis—not any arbitrary, irrelevant category—yes, Lysander, feminism is still necessary in today’s society. I suspect he will present a persuasive debate.

More on gender and leadership in my book: Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone [bit.ly/justLTM]