A Prose Poem by Mackenzie Arnold
“Beloved,” he spoke, with eyes that looked to me and then to the black bible open in his hands so that he could taste the word of God in his mouth again. “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. First Peter. Chapter Two. Verse Eleven.” He had to part his jaw like a gasp, teeth grazing bottom lip, tongue rolling to form the words, “passions of the flesh.” I thought they sounded so romantic until it was my flesh that he wanted.
Afterwards I burned my own bible, and I stayed to watch the ashes stir until I realized that they must have done the same at the end of all the witch trials. The fire was already out, but tears fell from my eyes anyways and so I cried in bitter irony. I imagined they were holy water—the tears—and as they ran down my cheeks I parted my lips so that they could wash his hypocrisy from my tongue.
I realized too late that it was not God I wanted to burn, but the one who liked the taste of God’s words in his mouth—if only to trick himself into thinking that he was Divine.
I never thought much about religion as a child. Despite growing up just outside of Dallas, Texas, where mega-churches and celebrity pastors reign supreme, I remained largely untouched by the dogma of these institutions because my family simply didn’t go to church. When I began high school at a private Christian academy though, I was suddenly plunged into a very suffocating environment that made it very apparent that my existence as a girl, and any form of feminine sexuality, was wrong.
I wrote this prose poem in hindsight, looking back on my experiences in a place that was supposed to educate me, and yet insisted upon waging war on my body. In my poem, the emphasis is on the hypocrisy of the male figures I encountered during that time, and how confusing it was to be both punished and desired for my body—of which both outcomes were somehow my fault, and because of which it was often hard to distinguish between the two in the moment. These experiences led me to hate religion and any type of spirituality in general, and it’s taken me a long time to realize that it’s not these beliefs that are toxic, but some of the people that practice them. I now find it gratifying to be able to use spirituality and what I suppose you could call religion, which was so often used to shrink me, as a way to empower myself—especially as a woman.
By Eleni Constantinou
The Lord said to his disciples: “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
As united individuals trying to find solutions in today’s society, and ways to benefit humanity, sometimes we may feel as though the world is against us. The media highlights incidents where police shoot innocent civilians, terrorists decide to shoot elementary schools, and citizens vote for unequipped celebrities as world leaders.
We are all individuals, but we are part of this team called “humanity.” As long as one team member is starving somewhere, our team is suffering. We cannot deny the disadvantages a woman may have in comparison to the average man in society. We must recognize our disadvantages, and feel motivated to create a more equal playing field. Most of these perceived differences are societal constructs; their purposes are to forbid women from reaching their highest academic and occupational potential. As long as equal rights are nonexistent, we are all hurting as a massive, global society. We are all humans.
Furthermore, your twitter, instagram, or facebook may exalt the feminist movement. Which is applaudable. But have you ever sat in a classroom and realized how many people (women included) view the feminist movement as unnecessary, or dehumanizing because it “brings men down?” Have you felt like that feminist in that classroom who spoke up? Have you ever been laughed at or reprimanded because you tried shedding light on the situation?
Most people desire to hide in their current positions. They are threatened by change, even if this change will raise men and women on equal levels. These people genuinely fear feminism because this movement empowers women – something that has never happened before.
My fellow feminist, you will face hate. You will be admonished. People will say nasty things to your face. But let me remind you of centuries-old advice that still holds relevance: “love one another.” Too much hate exists. The most powerful statement is to exhibit love where anyone else may attempt to make you feel insecure and uncertain about your beliefs. Let my words strengthen you. Let me empower you. Remember that spiteful people will always exist – however, beauty lies where there is love and sympathy. If you fight for the people around you, you are fighting for the entire team of humanity. Who cares if people hate you. Just know that I love you.
His Holiness spoke out against the role of women in the Church shifting from one of “service” to one of “servitude”, as reported on Globalpost. For this, we commend the Holy Father.
However, in elaborating his point, the Supreme Pastor (a man of many names – seriously, check them out here) went on to make some points which are worth questioning:
The “sort of emancipation” that allows women to enter traditionally male domains may rob them of “the very femininity that characterizes them”.
Whatever cultural and social changes have occurred or may occur, “the fact remains that it is the woman who conceives, carries and brings into the world the children of men,” the pontiff said.
While his aim was to highlight the importance of women in society, this may not quite be the right approach, because:
- His claims are essentialist. ‘Essentialism‘ means believing that a woman is somehow truly, deep in her core, identifiable as a woman; being a woman is not simply the result of different attributes and behavior. (as described in this other Hoochie post).
The debates over essentialism rage on. Whether the Pope’s viewpoint is supported by evidence is one question; yet another is whether we should criticize the Church for its views… are the women in question not there of their own will?
I don’t know what is right – but it’s worth asking the question.
What do you think – how do feminist ideas fit in with the Catholic Church?