Thursday, November 29, 2012

You're Either a Feminist or a Masochist

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Genesis 1:27

According to a feminist is: “a person who advocates equal rights for women.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is defined as the theory of the political, economic, and the social equality of the sexes.

I am so confused when I meet women who do not consider themselves to be feminists. Here are some things that we, as women, would be denied the access to, had it not be for the feminist movement:
  1. Education
  2. Equality in the workplace = equal pay for equal work
  3. Custody = before the feminist movement, a divorced woman had no legal rights to her children.
  4. Property = any property owned by a woman or inherited, was not hers, but her husband’s once she was married.
  5. Voting
  6. Protection from physical abuse = prior to this movement, men had a legal right to beat their wives.
  7. Walking in public without a male escort
  8. Having a bank account
  9. Driving a car
  10. Wearing pants

I’m sure the list goes on and on. But I will stop and ask any woman who reads this: “Do you personally enjoy any of the freedoms listed above?” If your answer is yes, then you ARE a feminist.

And to any man who reads this, do you believe your mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters should have any/all of these freedoms? If you answer is yes, then you are also a feminist. It’s not a bad word and it’s not a sin.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galations 3:28

For any women out there who do not want to be labeled as a feminist, here’s a great quote from one of my colleagues in education:

If you’re a woman, you’re either a feminist or a masochist. defines masochist as: “an abnormal condition in which pleasure …. is derived from pain or from humiliation, domination, etc., by another person”

In my last blog, I stated that it is ideal for a woman to be a homemaker for her family. And I stand by that statement, in ideal circumstances, which includes a man who values and cares for his family above his own needs. A man who does not need to belittle women or “put them in their place.”

Equal does not mean the same. I do not want to be a man or be the same as a man. But I do want women to be treated equitably and fairly. I want this for myself, my nieces, and my daughter. And, I want it for the millions of women in this world who benefit every day from the feminist movement that came before our time.

My name is Suzi, and I am a feminist.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Woman's Place is in the Home

A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done.”

I don't know who came up with that catchy quote, but I heard it often throughout my formative years. It made me angry when I understood what it meant. It meant that men had less work than women. It meant that as a future woman, my lot in life was already settled. It meant that a boy could grow up to be a wide variety of things, but I had no options. I hated being female.

When I turned thirteen and was old enough to dance at church parties, I was often disappointed that the boys didn't choose to dance with me. The girls had to stand in our corner and wait for boys to walk over and tap us on the shoulder, signifying that he wanted to dance. We stood in circles so that the boys could tap us from behind. But I was rarely chosen for dances, except with my brothers who chose me out of sympathy.

Mom had a lot of advice for me on the subject of how to attract a boy. “You have to smile a lot,” she advised, “and wear red. Boys like red.” I remember one Sunday night, wearing my red dress and smiling the entire two hours. It didn't work.

Another thing my mom often told me was to act dumb around boys. That men and boys didn't like girls and women who were smarter than them. What a terribly defeating piece of advice. Didn't it matter what the girls and women wanted out of a man? I would be lucky for anyone to dance with me or date me. I didn't have a choice. I had to be dumber than all the boys so I wouldn't intimidate them.

I hated that my brothers worked outside and I was stuck with housework. I wanted to mow the lawn, and help Dad in the garage. But, I had three older brothers, and wasn't needed. I wanted to go on hikes and to go hunting, but I wasn't invited because Dad had his boys.

After school, my mom would tell my brother that he and I had to get the house cleaned up. He always chose to clean the living room. It was his choice. I got stuck with kitchen duty, while my brother was in the other room watching television. He'd wait until the last moment, then rush around and clean up some clutter in the living room.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Titus 2:4-5

I didn't want to be stuck with no choices. I hated the lack of options when it came to potential dates. That we weren't allowed to date outsiders, so the boys had a monopoly and called all the shots. No competition for them.

I hated the thought of being a subservient woman. Of having to serve a man and, worse than anything, obey him! But, I did want to be married. There just weren't any other choices to be made. If I didn't marry, I was expected to live with my parents. I wanted freedom.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Matthew 23:11

When I was a teenager, I got so frustrated at one of the dances that I complained to my friend, “Boys act like they're better than us.”

She looked at me and with a completely straight face said, “They are better.”

What the heck? She really believed that.

But then I found some comfort in the above and below quotes from the book of Matthew. I even brought it up with some of my friends and family members. But they acted horrified that I would suggest that women would someday be rewarded for their lack of status here on Earth. How could I suggest that women would be first in Heaven? Women would never be put before men.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

And that's true. I don't believe either gender will be put before the other in the end. As the below quote from Galatians explains, there will be no gender in heaven. That's something to be thankful for!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

But as I've matured, I've had a lot of opportunities and options. But one option I never got was to be a keeper of the home. My not working outside the home just wasn't possible, for reasons that I cannot explain here. I had to work. Some would say that since I had to work, I shouldn't have brought children into this world to be raised by others. For the most part, though, my children were watched by my parents when I have had to work.

This school year is the first in my children's lives when, in essence, I am a keeper of the home. I have a teaching schedule that allows me to drop my kids off at school and drive to work, teach my classes, and then leaves time for me to pick the kids up after school. The timing couldn't be any better for my folks; they are ready to be just grandparents.

And something else I've learned by experience and getting to know a variety of people and their lifestyles is that being a homemaker is noble career choice. There are many happy, intelligent, educated women who choose to stay home and create a beautiful home for their families. They put their creative energy into making the best of what they have materially, making good food, and nurturing their children. The care, education, and guidance of my children is the accomplishment I am most proud of. It is the most difficult job I've ever had. It is worth every tear, frustration, worry, stress, and more to be the person God entrusts with such an important vocation.

So, do I think a woman's place is in the home? Ideally, yes. I admire women who do the job and make a beautiful art of their work. And, I admire men who treat their wives as equals, who respect the opinions and desires of their wives. A man who would put the happiness of his wife and family before his own happiness. A good and humble man makes a woman want to be his help-mate.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are so many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that I have a roof over my head – unlike so many in this world. Not just the typical homeless, but also victims of hurricanes, wars, and other disasters.

I'm thankful for electricity. For heat and lights. Warmth and dry clothes. Comfort. These are things that not everyone can take for granted and I'm thankful to be blessed with so much.

I'm thankful for food. I'm not a naturally skillful cook, but my family has enough food to be full and satisfied.

I'm thankful that my folks are still alive and that my family is well. I'm thankful for my sweet, loving, children.
I'm thankful that I was born in a free country. That I have the freedom to read any books I want to read, to talk to anyone I want, to go anywhere I want (within my financial means of course). Most of all, I'm so thankful that I'm allowed to worship God freely. That morals and religion are not forced onto me by lawmakers, but something I am allowed to choose of my own free will.

I'm thankful for God and the free gift of salvation through Jesus' sacrifice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mark Shumaker: A Room With Just One Door

My oldest brother, Mark, left  the Followers of Christ in 1998. He wrote this essay two years after leaving, and has given me permission to publish it here.

* * * * *

February 2000

My most powerful experience with a cultural identity started when I was three and my parents joined the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. To understand the impact this church had on my life, you have to understand the church. Some might say this is a cult and they are an integral part of every facet of your life. The internal culture of the church was so all-encompassing and exclusionary that the best way I can think to relate it is to compare it to a room with just one door. Those within the room share a common worldview, and reject anyone that has a perspective slightly different than the accepted norm. Everyone in the room knows about the door but stays clear of it. To experience another perspective is tantamount to rejecting the church; to accept that a differing opinion has validity is like becoming purple. They are a tight-knit group that takes care of their own. Everything you do is based in the church. The members are your extended family. You are told to associate with the Followers, not worldly people. You are encouraged to work for a Follower whenever possible, you socialize with other Followers, every life changing moment is shared with other Followers. We weren’t allowed to go to doctors because our faith should be strong to see us through. We were only to marry someone from within the church, and everybody came to the wedding. It was its own culture, and it was mine as well. All this sounds wonderful except for the fact that if you were not born into the church, you lacked the status it took to rise to higher levels within the church. Higher education was discouraged due to the exposure to worldly ideas and knowledge. The women mostly stayed at home with the children. The church grounded their teachings on the Bible and at some time, all of the doctrines seemed to make sense. The Followers are a very close group, encouraging each other in times of death or illness. It is a kind of security blanket when growing up because you know that if your parents aren’t available for you and you need adult guidance, a friend’s dad or mom will be there for you.
            I played by the rules and was married in this environment, and I kept things going and held my family together until about two years ago. It was then that I discovered how hard it is to withdraw from this type of environment. My wife at the time did not want to adhere to the teachings of the church, in fact, she made it clear that she was rejecting everything I had ever believed or worked for. She made this clear through her actions; what she also made clear was that the marriage was over. I had to try to keep everything together for our family by myself. I made some conscious decisions about my life and the direction I wanted my children’s lives to take. Having one’s marriage fall apart is hard enough, by the idea of losing the backing of the church and my friends in the church was almost more than I could bear. The Followers of Christ church defined my whole world and they did not believe in divorce. There was no longer any place in the “room” for me, my only choice was to leave it. I chose to do so by opening the door. I did not know at that time that doing so would force me to reexamine everything that I ever held as truth or that I ever thought was important. I had to learn to trust others. I realized higher education was something I not only wanted but also deserved. The opportunity to make the best life for my kids and me was very important to me.
            It has been a long road, and it is not over. I do not know that it ever will be. Everything I do or experience I now see through two lenses. The worldview of my youth will most likely shade my perspectives for the rest of my life, but I am learning to view the world through lenses that are less restricting. I question my reactions to most new things to make sure that it is not left over from my previous indoctrination. Periodically I review my beliefs and I question them striving to be ever vigilant in what I accept as truth and what I let alter the course of my life. Since my divorce, I am better able to accept new things in my life. I have started going to a new church, am involved in the Cub Scouts (which wasn’t allowed for me as a youth) and I have a new relationship with a woman who had never heard of the Followers’ church before she met me. The daily walk can still be a tough one at times but I am happier and more self-assured than ever before.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The True Followers

I have received some church history and will be posting snapshots from this very dense material. Please forgive the somewhat confusing diction. Other than minor details, this is the wording used in the original documentation:

* * * * *

In 1918, when most of the churches changed their names from True Followers of Christ to the name of The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, the church that is located between Cleo Springs and Ringwood, Oklahoma decided that to change the name of the church would make them heretics. This resulted in them rejecting all of the other churches.

This church has had many splits since that time. One of the groups that split off years ago have a church that was started by Brother Marion Reece at Ringwood and some of his descendants are still attending that church. Three of Marion Reece’s grandsons were elders of that congregation. The had meetings there on the forth Sunday of the month and every Thursday night. Charlie Smith was the brother that moved to Idaho and started that group there. The brethren that lived west of Enid that go by the True Followers use the scripture for a woman to keep silence in church, and forbid women to speak in prophecy in the church.

The following church history was received by Brother Jack Robinson in the early 1980s:

Followers of Christ Church

Minsters through the years from the early days’ history:
Mr. Burton – baptized Mr. Brewer
Mr. Brewer – baptized Mr. McDonald
Mr. McDonald – baptized Mr. Marion Reece
Mr. Marion Reece – Baptized Mr. Tommie Morris
Mr. Marion Reece – Baptized John Morris
Mr. Tommie Morris – baptized W.A. Morris
Mr. Tommie Morris – baptized Marion Morris

Church was built on John Morris’ land in 1946 where he had homesteaded 60x23 feet – later more square feet was added on. John Morris pleased, after long discussion that one day he drove by W.A. Morris and Jon and Duane had hauled the first loads of sand and makings for foundation.

When John Morris was asked what we’d call church after it was built, he replied, “it’s Church in Wildwood for Followers of Christ.

Marion Reece married Lydia Morris.
W.A. Morris and Marion Morris were John Morris’s sons.

Prior to 1940 – George Long and George Oakley were ministers. The elders were Elliott and Reed.

Charlie Smith married Sally Morris and moved away from the church to the northwest. He ordained White and Baldwin.

The split up the Ringwood, Oklahoma church came in 1940 on the third Sunday meeting. George Long and George Oakley didn’t agree about fornication and certain teachings. Therefore, John Morris told them that he would continue to have church on the fourth Sunday meeting at a school near where he lived until 1946 when the building was built on his land.

John Morris and his son Marion Morris ordained Ed Long, John’s nephew. Elders W.A. Morris, his son, Cecil Morris Senior.

After John Morris passed away, Marion Morris and W.A. Morris, and Cecil Morris senior carried on as church elders. After the elder Jack Watkins passed away, they ordained elders Jim Wallace, Ted Nakvinda, and Gary Wallace.

Men who spoke in tongues in the past included: George Oakley, Charlie Smith, Will Nichols, Jim Hayes, Monroe Testamen, and Alva Brown.

This was verified by W.A. Morris and submitted by his niece, Joyce Morris.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who are the Watchman?

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.”
Ezekiel 33:1-6

I have an old friend who was raised in Ukraine. In that country, it was against the law to be a Christian, but this young man became a believer and attended an underground church. Being a believer and Christ follower in a place where those beliefs are illegal makes obedience to God difficult. One thing that this young man did not know how to do was to follow the great commission in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. How could he know who to trust with this secret? Who could he tell?

Years later, this man was living in the United States and attending our church in Lake Oswego. A Christian Choir from the Ukraine came to our church to perform and raise money for their efforts back home. One of the young men in the choir had been very good friends with the young man who was now living stateside. Upon their unexpected reunion the second man asked the first, “You were a believer back when we were friends. Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?”

If you had a hundred friends stuck in a burning building and you knew the only way out, wouldn’t you tell them as soon as possible? If you know Jesus, you know how to keep your friends out of the fiery pit of hell. If you care about them, tell them. Tell them if you care about being obedient to God. Don’t worry about their judgment of you – that’s nothing!

My motives for writing this blog are not always the best. It was a project I undertook as part of my graduate school thesis project. It has certainly taught me a lot. It has prepared me for the negativity that is sure come with my book’s release. But, it has also renewed my compassion for those who do not know the love of Jesus. Those who are afraid to know. Those who think they know, but have gotten off track. And, most of all, for folks who think they’re not allowed to have their own opinions.

I’m not perfect – far from it. But I know that God loves me. And that is amazing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sarah: Mother of Nations

In Hebrew, the name Sarah means “mother of nations.” Sarah was the wife of Abraham. She was ninety years old when she gave birth to Isaac. Isaac married Rebekah who was barren. Isaac prayed for his wife to conceive and she did (Gen 25:21). Rebekah, as promised, gave birth to twin boys: Jacob and Esau.

The mother of Samson was also a barren woman. She did not pray for a child but was sent a divine messenger to tell her she would have a son – and that his strength would be dependent on his uncut hair. Later, Hannah, unable to become pregnant, prayed for a son and God answered her prayers with Samuel.

Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, was elderly – long past menopause – and did not expect to become pregnant. But she did, and gave birth to John the Baptist. While Elizabeth was still pregnant with John, Mary became pregnant with Jesus – the most famous miracle birth of all time.

What these stories have in common are that they were all women who became pregnant with divine intervention. Sarah and Elizabeth were both very old women. Each of the women gave birth to sons who grew up to serve critical roles for God and His people.

I believe in miracles. I believe each of these biblical tales is true. I believe God can do anything.

In the Followers, there were a few women who believed themselves pregnant and were not. They may or may not have taken home pregnancy tests. I do not know. I never thought that one of these tests would be controversial, but perhaps some in the group think the use of these are against their religion (or maybe ignore the negative results when their intuition tells them otherwise). In each of the cases, the women were later found to have been mistaken.

I remember a few people in the group – older folks who had physical deformities. One elderly woman had a huge tumor that made her look pregnant with twins. She had borne that tumor for decades, since she was a woman of childbearing years. Her husband became frustrated with her for refusing to seek medical intervention and have the tumor removed. He left the group and divorced her. But she remained in the group until her death.

Years later, and in recent FOC history, this very woman’s daughter who was in her seventies, believed herself to be pregnant. The church midwives examined her and agreed that she was expecting. If you look at such pregnancies in the context of biblical miracles, it is not such a stretch to come to the conclusion that this woman was pregnant with a male child who would have a significant role in this group.

Many folks agreed that this woman was pregnant with a son who would grow up to become the next FOC leader and preacher. But, there were skeptics who did not buy the story. The time came when it was clear that she was not, in fact, pregnant. And this fact caused strife within the group. Those who had believed in the miracle child blamed the skeptics for their doubt, claiming that their lack of faith had caused God to withdraw this child.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

She Shunned the Wrong Sister

My sister Karin left church when I was thirteen. She was sent to live with my dad’s sister in California. The reasons were not explained, but I figured it out by snooping and eavesdropping. Like so much of our lives in the Followers of Christ, this event was controversial and used against us.

At thirteen years old, I had girls at church throw my sister’s life and choices in my face. One girl, whose dad had admitted to multiple extramarital affairs, informed me that her parents didn’t want her to be my friend because of my sister.

When I was seventeen I worked at the Oregon City Fred Meyer. Not a lot of Followers shopped in the store for groceries because we were supposed to buy our food at the W-B Food Mart, which was owned and run by Follower men.

But one day I saw a woman from church. She had been one of my sister’s best friends. I called out to her. For the sake of privacy, I will call her Danielle, but that is not her real name.

“Hi Danielle,” I called out to her as she walked by.

But she didn’t seem to hear me.

“Danielle,” I called louder this time. But she kept going.

I called her name several times and she never turned her head to look. I assumed she had really terrible hearing and went on with my life.

But a few weeks later, my sister-in-law told me that Danielle had heard me and had shunned me because she believed I was Karin. Yeah, Karin and I did look a lot alike and our voices are so identical that I can fool her children and my dad into thinking I’m her on the phone. But, seriously, a nod or simple hello would’ve been so simple. This woman really had to have a lot of self-control to act like someone calling her name was invisible.

That spring Danielle was a softball coach for one of our church’s women’s softball teams. And guess what? She picked me to be on her team. It was her way of making up for the mistaken shunning. I hated being on Danielle’s softball team. Looking back, I wish I would’ve just said that I didn’t want to play that year after all.