my minds journey

Monday, February 27, 2006

that's an expensive phone bill

At my place of employment we have some international guests staying with us.
I print out their phone bills each week, but having recently checked the call costs to
India, for example, where 2 of the guests are from. It is quite expensive, amost $2
Australian a minute, now to put that in context thats 2 thirds of a tea pickers daily wage,
and I know for a fact these guests aren't earning very much more than that. So I really
struggle with the fact that I am collecting the money from them. Most of them now
have phone cards which is a cheaper alernative. I guess it's just another example
of the inequalities between countires. Yes I know things are cheaper in India, but that
doesn't mean it evens out... petrol is one example, they are currently paying about $1
per litre, just like us.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shopping for sex

I finished Levy's book. An achievement for me, I haven't read any books like that cover to cover so intensely before.
Weel we all know sex sells, and to some extent, I think we've become almost used to it. Reading this book has made me stop and think about how the adds are trying to sell, what are people wearing, implying, saying.

Levy talks about how sex has become a commodity; "Making sexiness into something simple, quantifiable makes it eaiser to explain & market. If you remove the human facor from sex and make it about stiff - big fake boobs, bleached blonde hair, long nails, poles, thongs-then you can sell it." (p184). Sex then is no longer about personal expression and love, but something that you need to go out and get to have.

When you think about the number of products sold for "our happiness" it depressing. We need anti-wringle cream to mintain a young look, we need the right shoes, makeup, clothes, to get the right guy. Even brands tampons and pads are being sold to us with a "sexy" look. Our culture is emersed in this consumerist mentallity and raunch has become a big part of that.

In the final pages of Levy's book, Candida Royalle states, "Revolutionary movements tend to be co-opted - swalled up by the mainstream and turned into pop culture. It's a way of neutralizing it, when you think about it.... it shuts up the radicals. Once that happens, the real poweer it pretty much dissipated." (p196).

Interesting words....

Intergrate or die?

I went to the salvo conference, intergrate or die?. It was focussed on intergration of the social and the corps programs of the army. It was interesting. I really enjoyed hearing about the history of the Army, especially in Australia. A key question that came up in discussion later was, How is the Army distinguished in what it does? It resounded with me, the Army isn't really unqiue in what it does anymore, lots of other churches and social agencies offer what the Salvation Army does. It seems to me that one reason the army grew so quickly in the beginning was because it was distinct and radical.

It was really encouraging to sit with a group of fellow Salvationists and Social Workers who wanted to see better intergration between corps and social work. Apparantly William Booth believed they were like twins, and could not be seperated. I like that image, because I see the two as linked. John Cleary told of how the early evangelicals who called people to the alter to give their lives to Jesus. When they came forward they were taken out the back and expected to sign up for the feminist movement or a social justice group! If they didn't want to sign up, they were told to go back and sit down because they weren't serious enough! I can't imagine that happening now, but I bet if it did it would help solve the problem of Christians who make the decision as a result of emotional tugging and forget it the next day, only to go back up at the next rally.

For me faith is about action... yes grace has saved us and we don't need to work to be "saved." But is it because of Christ and my desire to be a disciple that I am required to act.

Something that lots of people pressed was the need to make disciples. General Burrows made a good comment, "Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind before they were made disciples." Jesus cared for each person equally and unconditionally, there was no obligation to become diciple, and yet many people followed him, many people chose to be his disciples.

It was a great day that raised lots of questions and was a good opportunity to hear from a range of different people.

I went to my Whitely orientation night last night! It was good, it feels like a very welcoming community, I am looking forward to studying there. I feel the most excited about God that I have in a while!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pigs in Training

Still reading Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs, chapter five explores the culture in relation to young people. She talks to a teenage boy who says that "there's a lot to look at if you're a guy, and a lot of pressure to make yourself worth looking at if you are a girl" (p148). We are well aware of peer presure these days, well at least I thought so. It is obvious that our young people, particularly young girls, feel an enormous amount of pressure to look and be a certain way. One example are eating disorders. Eating disorders are not hidden, in fact they appear quite regualry in our media, particulary teenage & women's magazines. A women is expected to be airbrush thin but not suffer from an eating disorder. Our teenage girls are given such mixed messages.

So many young girls today dress provocatively, and we might look upon them with distaste. We may be upset to find out how young teenagers are when they become sexually active, and the raunchy thing they get up to. But when we stop and think about where this starts, it is not with our young people. Levy puts it nicely, (p146) "Adolescents are not inventing this culture of exhibitionism and conformity with their own fledging creative powers. Teens are reflecting back our slobbering culture in miniature." We need to do something about our culture before we can expect to see change in our young people.

Levy's book reveals that teenage girls compete to be the skankiest and act this way to attract guys. "For me it's all attached to the guys... Like I have this weird link between certain guys and my own self-worth" was a comment from one girls Levy spoke to (p 153).

That is not something I want to hear from a teenage girl. It scares me that a girl would measure her worth from how guys valued her, but I guess it scares me because I know it is true. So many young girls place value on themselves according to others opinions. I guess I know because for a long time I struggled with, finding worth in myself aside from others expectations/opinions of me. We should be treating our young girls with respect and showing them how to respect themselves for who they are as people, not as an object of someone else's desire. We need to help them find self worth in themselves and in God.

Sex appeal has become a tool for young girls to become popular and gain acceptance with their peers, both female and male. It is not about valuing sex as something special between two people. It is about physical gratification and expectation. They are focussed on getting attention yet are not necessarily prepared or equipped for the implications.

Levy found that most girls who had sex the first time didn't actually want to, it was "voluntary but unwanted." (p163). She states that girls feel "they need to embody" sex and sexiness to be cool. Now we all should be aware of the overwhelming pressure to be "cool" as a teenager.

Our common answer as Christians has been say no, don't have sex until you are married (which is something that I value). Levy suggests that we surround teenagers with a "canyland" of sex in magazines, reality TV, advertising and so on, yet we expect them to ignore all that surrounds them and just so no (p157). What environment are we providing for our young people to discuss this and the issues that surround it, can they talk about what thier actually feelings are. Do they feel comfortable to discuss their struggles in the church? Can they talk about sexuality?
Can we as adults talk about it?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

what a lovely weekend

We had nothing on this weekend, quite unusual for us. It was great! For the first time since we've been married our whole house is free of junk, that's every room clean all at once!

Still reading Levy's book... it raises interesting questions. I'll talk more about this later when I'm finished the book. All I'll say is that it confronts me to do something about how women view themselves and how that impacts our communities. I don't quite know what yet....

This morning's message at church was taken from Romans 2. A challenging chapter, much like the entire book of Romans. Stop judging others. vrs 13 "It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Then it goes on to talk about the law and how that will not save you, it is what is in your heart.
I guess that's what it all comes down to, the state of our hearts, are we genuine. It is a challenge to me, to keep my own spiritual life in check, especially if I am in a position where others may follow, like being a youth leader. I like Romans, I think I like it because it's so blunt, straight down the line and I always find it's words a challenge.

This evening we discussed the direction of the Salvation Army, I guess considering our own context at Greensborough. It was interesting to hear others talk of what aspect of the Salvation Army is important to them. I heard my passion echoed in a few peoples comments. I hope for a Salvation Army of compassionate soliders who serve others and build up the community, and does so because of the faith they have with Jesus. I think it's when we journey with people that they meet Christ. Actually I like the new Melbourne Central Division Motto, "acting in love and generating hope". If we all strived for this then I think we would be following Jesus call.

Anyway enough, my mind is still on weekend mode...

Monday, February 13, 2006

female chauvinist pigs

So I'm reading this book by Ariel Levy, "Female Chauvanist Pigs." It talks about the rise of raunch culture and how women are claim to be liberated but how they are not. The book explores how so much of our culture has become focussed on "sexy." Levy talks to Erica Jong who says, "I think we have lost consciousness of the way our culture demeans women." Women have bought into the idea that sex appeal gives them power. Women have been tricked into believing that flaunting ones body around is liberating, yet the reason for this behaviour lies in the response from men. The "power" is given by the men who objectify women as objects of desire.

I am only part way through the book, but it is raising some very good questions. Our culture has become so hungry for sex and the female body in a very lustful way, it is glorified by not only men but now by women themselves. I see so many girls with the playboy bunny on Tshirts, stickers, on phones, when did we start seeing porn as acceptable, when did we start viewing porn as something to be proud of. Sometimes I think we've come so far that our teenage girls are filled with so many fake images and stereotypes to live up to that we are setting them up to fall. Do some of them even understand what they sing? What the words on their Tshirts imply?

It concerns me that our culture promotes sex and feminity in such a demeaning way. I am not saying that sex should not be talked about, quite the opposite, I think we need to have a healthy understading of sex and about what it means to be a women. Growing up in the church I think sometimes this can be a taboo subject, and because of the "bad" images the are on display in our culture we can be sheilded from it. Frankly I think that it's because of the "bad" images in our culture that we should be talking about it all the more in the church community. It has made me think, as a community of Christians what qualities of being a women are we promoting to our young people?

Anyway, I'll keep reading and keep thinking it over...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

So I had a job interview today, I don't like them much. I spose I don't know anyone who really doess, but I REALLY don't like them. This one was ok, I guess, although you don't really know how you go until you get the result. I was trying to approach this attitude with a different attitude, one where it doesn't mean absolutely everything to me if I don't get the job.

I have worship band practice tonight. I am a bit unenthusiastic, as I am not sure if I will continue with it. I have SO much on at the moment and I don't want to be spread so thin that I can't put in my best in what I'm doing. It's hard because I would like to do so much, yet in reality I can't fit it all in. It will be difficult but I thin kI will have to cut back on things and stop doing some things to make time to do other things well. By the end of last year I was just so worn out and had become very tired, which left me feeling unwell.

So, worship band may just have to be one of those things to go when it comes to the crunch. The problem is when you take on a role at the church there is not very often someone to take over if you stop. We have a lot of people in our church yet we are really struggling for people to help out. We have a great children's music program running at our church and really need more volunteers but no one is putting up their hand to help. In turn those of us who want to see these things happen are left picking up all the extra pieces. We are facing the same problem with our op shop.

Don't get me wrong I know the struggles of being a volunteer, I have been one for years! I guess that's a problem I am facing now, I have to find a balance between paid work and the volunteer work I do. That's why I am considering what I have to stop.

Monday, February 06, 2006

a strange thing...

I was on the train this afternoon on my way home from work. A lady sitting next to me stopped before she got off and handed me a piece of paper she had ripped out of her bood and folded up. She said, "I wrote something for you..." I looked at her strangely, and she said "use it as a bookmark." I was perplexed. I sat in the train holding the paper wondering what had just happened. Had she merely dumped her rubbish on me? maybe, but she had deliberately ripped it out of her book. Was she sharing her poetry? maybe. Was it something else? maybe. What it puzzled me.

As the train left the station I unfolded the paper and read it, "you must leave this place the cover of your birth and the sheen of the sun in a settled paper scrap." To me, this makes no sense, just ramblings. Yet it took up my thinking for the next few stations until I got off the train.

Strange yet curious.

I've just returned from Youth Workers conference. It was a good conference, we heard from Ridley lecturer Dave Fuller. One topic he spoke on was the importance of character in the youth worker. Part of this was balancing the tension of being in a culture whilst being set apart. It is something that is a constant challenge for me and has been for some time. I have particularly noticed this since returning from Inida. India was a huge challenge to my lifestyle and made some of the convictions that I felt previously very real.

Our culture is fully submersed in comforts and fulfilling wants, meanwhile others go without essential needs. It is a challenge for me, as a Christian, and particularly as a Salvationist, to live a life that meets my needs but doesn't become excessive. We have become so used to comforts that it is hard to see where to draw the line between what is "want" and what is "need". It is all too easy to justify the things I want.

Then there are times when becoming part of the culture is so vital, I was reading about when Tucker was sent by the Salvation Army to India. Tucker required all his soliders to embrace the life of the outcasts lived, to wear the clothes and bare feet and sleep on the floor. There are times when becoming part of the culture is neccesary for effective mission.