Dixie Darr

Archive for July, 2017|Monthly archive page

Venus Envy

In Church, Prejudice, Resistance on July 31, 2017 at 6:36 am

“I wouldn’t go to a church with a woman pastor,” a relative told me.
“I wouldn’t go to a church that didn’t allow women pastors,” I replied.
One of the reasons I chose my church is because it had a woman pastor.
Years later, when she left, the (female) bishop assigned a 30-year-old male pastor to our church. I had misgivings, first about his youth.
During the interim period between pastors, we had a guest preacher, a man, who told us we should be really happy about the change because “You’re getting what everybody wants—a male pastor.” I was furious and not inclined to like our new young, male pastor.
I’d been fighting this male bias all my life and at 64, I was long past sick of it.
Luckily, when he came, he won me over right away. As my 80-something friend said after his first sermon, “That boy can preach.” Indeed he can. Another friend thinks he’s “a real man of God.”
He showed me that men can support women and women’s issues just as strongly as women can. Other men in our congregation confirmed it. In my church male or female is a nonissue, as is gay or straight, young or old and other dichotomies that will probably occur to me as soon as I post this.
I can’t say the same for the world outside our church doors, although last week was a good one for women, starting with Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski breaking with their party line and voting against the draconian health care non-bill, even though Johnny-come-lately McCain was (typically) given all the credit. Senator Collins was greeted with applause in the Bangor airport when she returned home to Maine, something that has never happened before in her twenty years in the Senate.
It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Then we got to see Democratic Representative Maxine Waters repeatedly “Reclaiming my time” when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to squander her allotted time and avoid answering her pointed questions.
It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Most of the (straight, white) men in charge of almost everything still see women as “less than.” But more and more men accept and treat us as equally worthy, and they’re raising their sons and daughters to do the same.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch.


Old Friends

In Friends on July 28, 2017 at 6:34 am









Chris and I were best friends in high school. In our sophomore year, we were in French class when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot and at lunch when Walter Cronkite told the world he was dead. Assassinated.
One month later, Beatles music came to America and that, as much as anything, pulled us out of a slump.
Our junior year, we took the train to Quebec with the French Club, where I had my kleenex-on-the-head meltdown.
So we went through a lot together.
After graduation, she went to an exclusive liberal arts college in Illinois, and I went to CSU, which I hated and quit after one year.
We both married young. She moved to New Jersey to teach elementary school, I went through some bad times and maybe so did she. Our lives diverged and we lost touch.
Flash forward 35 years. I wanted more than anything to reconnect with Chris but could find no trace of her on the internet.
One night, I was teaching a class in research methods and decided to give my class the impossible assignment of finding her. Maybe, I thought, they’d have some ideas I hadn’t thought of, although I didn’t expect much to come of it.
I told them what I knew about her and her family, and within about 30 seconds, one student told me she thought she knew Chris’s brother.
And so, as a result of asking a futile question in a lost cause, I was able to reconnect with her. That was 2004. We’ve gotten together a few times when she’s come to Colorado. (I don’t travel.) She has lived her entire adult life in New Jersey and feels much more comfortable there than here, while I cannot imagine living anywhere but Colorado.
She’s still one of the smartest people I know. We have identical political views and social values, and we both love books more than people. I always look forward to seeing her on Facebook.
It’s a cliché that true friends can go years without talking and still pick up right where they left off. I never would have thought that a friendship started when I was 15 would still be strong today, especially after a gap of 35 years.
I don’t remember how we first met, but some people you just click with. You know right away that something special connects you. Time doesn’t matter. Distance doesn’t matter.
There are, at a minimum, 47 different kinds of love. This is one.

The Color of His Skin

In Church, Prejudice on July 27, 2017 at 6:02 am

“I don’t know why they assigned a black preacher to a church in a white suburb,” she said. “It’s not like he’ll attract black people when there just aren’t that many around.” I agreed that he would not bring more diversity to a congregation in an area that has less than 1% African Americans, but her comment bugged me. I saw the red flag of racism in it and tucked it away. I had things to do and she was a friend. I didn’t want to deal with it.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m ashamed of myself.
I do not know the man or the church in question, yet I know that people are more—much more—than the color of their skin. I should have said so. The church hierarchy strives to put the right person in the pulpit based on his or her skills, talents, and experiences. The right fit will lead to growth, spiritual growth, of both the church members and the minister.
The reasoning probably has little to do with his race.
Or maybe it does. Getting to know people of different ethnic groups increases understanding and decreases prejudice.
This might not always be a lily-white suburb. People of color may very well move here. It’s been known to happen. If it does, the people of this congregation could lead the way to embracing diversity instead of fighting it. Maybe they’ll understand that diversity leads to stronger, richer life experiences. Maybe they’ll learn to celebrate our differences. That would be a wonderful thing. Maybe they already are that congregation.
This minister, who holds a doctoral degree, posted his personal mission statement: “To Help God create loving, open and affirming, diverse and inclusive communities that bring joy to the hearts of all men, women, and children as they discover and claim their rightful place in the family of God.”
But, hey, let’s focus on the color of his skin.
That’s what’s important, right?
It’s the only thing that counts.

First the Bad News

In Learning, Resistance on July 26, 2017 at 6:05 am






We talked about the good old days when the news consisted of more than whatever atrocity the man in the White House committed that day. You remember. Last year. Before DJT.
One friend said she wondered if the mainstream media doesn’t go too far in trashing him, thereby turning off his supporters even more.
I said I didn’t think they were “trashing” him, just reporting the truth, and the truth is that he and his fellow republicans keep doing some truly despicable things.
Someone said he knew other things were still happening in the world, and he wants to hear about them.
I’ve been thinking about it. I do that sometimes—speak first, think later.
So I paid close attention to ABC News tonight and found this: The first seven minutes of the newscast focused on whether or not Trump will fire Attorney General Sessions and on Senator McCain’s return from brain surgery to vote to take health care away from tens of millions of people. Okay, that last part is my editorializing.
In the six minutes before the commercial break, they covered five stories, including a child’s death at a summer camp, a company that’s microchipping its employees and the future of microchipping for things like medical records and passports.
After the next break, they had a story about the death of a baby orca whale at Sea World. One minute and another break.
Next came five short stories in two minutes before the last break.
America Strong, a final inspirational story, featured the rescue of a pet dog from a fire in Bakersfield CA and how a group of Girl Scouts raised $2400 to buy special pet oxygen masks for every fire station in the city. Notably, this was the only positive news presented in the entire show.
While Washington politics dominated the first and longest slots, ABC News did present several other stories, albeit briefly. They could have easily spent less time on the political crap (more editorializing) and either lengthened the other pieces or added more.
My concern at the end of the show, though, dealt with how, except for the final signature feature, all the news was negative. No wonder we’re so depressed. I know that good things happen every day; why are they not considered newsworthy?
To counter all this negativity, I started following the Good News Network. I can see their uplifting stories every day, and on the weekend I watch CBS News Sunday Morning. That’s always good news. Too bad it’s only on once a week.

Reading Roundup

In Books, Learning, spirituality on July 25, 2017 at 7:23 am

Here are the books I’m currently reading. I never read just one at a time.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
A mystery set in a thinly disguised Tattered Cover Bookstore in Lower Downtown Denver, one of my favorite places. This book has everything I love: a bookstore (the best one ever), Denver, quirky characters, an imaginative mystery, and terrific writing. I’m about a third of the way through and trying to balance my wanting to know what happens next with my desire to go slowly and make it last. He can’t write his next book fast enough to suit me.
The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs
A secular Jew, Jacobs decides to explore religion by taking a deep dive into the Bible a year trying to obey all of the 700+ rules documented there. One of my favorites is his difficulty in finding clothing that doesn’t mix fibers. He also carries pebbles in his pocket looking for an opportunity to stone an adulterer. The often contradictory and nonsensical rules lead him to a funny and thoughtful spiritual journey. I first read this when it came out ten years ago and chose to reread it (this time on audio) to accompany the next book.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
This is not an instruction manual.
Evans, raised in an evangelical home in Dayton, Tennessee, site of the Scopes Monkey Trial, now writes progressive Christian books and blogs. Using humor and compassion, she explores Biblical heroines and wrestles with passages that encourage misogyny and violence against women. I just started reading it on Kindle and look forward to accompanying her as she remains silent in church (some advice I definitely won’t be taking) and moves into a tent in her yard during her “unclean” times.
Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
I’ve followed Goins’ career since he came to prominence through his blog several years ago. This is just the sort of book I ought to like, but I’m finding it a difficult slog. He has some good ideas and an interesting perspective although too much of the book is rehashed from other books I’ve read and liked more (see Austin Kleon). He comes across just a little too earnest and humorless for my taste. I may manage to make it through before its due date only because it’s a short book.
There you go. What are you reading?

I’m Not There Yet

In Church, Learning on July 24, 2017 at 5:30 am

Forgiveness is not my strong suit. Holding a grudge is more my style, which is definitely not the Christian way to behave. Let me illustrate.
Last year, several people from my high school class (50+ years ago) friended me on Facebook, and I soon discovered many of them were right wing nut jobs. Is that language too prejudicial? Well.
One guy hated President Obama—all the RWNJs did—and the worst thing he could think of to belittle him was to say repeatedly “he pees sitting down.” I responded, “Steve, if you think it’s a horrible insult to call someone a woman, I sure hope you don’t have a wife or daughters.” He sneered and called me a “Liberal!” I said, “Thank you for noticing.”
See how sweet I can be?
One of the women had emailed me a few years back to ask for my email address.
Theirs is the level of intellect I was dealing with.
It only took my pointing out the error of their ways a few times before they unfriended me. Oddly, I didn’t cry.
After the election, the tears came. I was grief stricken and heartbroken as were my friends and family. I know we’re supposed to forgive, but I cannot forgive the people who voted for the monster in the White House. I’m not there yet. As I write that, I think the “yet” is inappropriate because I don’t know that I’ll ever be there. The damage they’re doing to our country will last for decades, probably longer than I will last.
I looked up forgiveness to make sure I understand it correctly and found this little tidbit. “God does not forgive people who are guilty of willful, malicious sin and who refuse to acknowledge their mistakes, change their ways, and apologize to those whom they have hurt. (Proverbs 28:13; Acts 26:20; Hebrews 10:26) Sounds like Trump supporters to me.
Even without forgiving them, I can refuse to be consumed with anger. That’s hard because while I’ve forgotten most of the early atrocities committed by Donald and his cronies, they dream up new outrageous acts every day, several times a day.
I can barely let go of my rage about one thing before the next occurs. Does anyone know a trick for a rolling, relentless forgiveness without ceasing? I could use some help here.
Solace comes in my friends, my books, and my church. Without them, I just don’t know how to get through this.

What He Said

In Church, Learning, spirituality on July 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, wrote many wise things, among them this criticism of Christians. “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Another wise man, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

It occurs to me that we know the Beatitudes only in a very general, fragmented way, so I’m posting them here.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I don’t pretend to understand what all of these mean, and I’ll leave it up to you to look it up if you’re interested. Right now, I’m struck especially by the fifth one, “Blessed are the merciful” and the last one, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” What dismays me the most about the religious right is their almost complete lack of mercy and their mania for persecuting people.

As if Nothing Has Changed

In Learning, Resistance, spirituality on July 20, 2017 at 5:59 am

My life rolls along smoothly. I make meals, read books, chat with friends, cuddle my cat, work on writing projects, and go to church as if nothing has changed. Then I’ll put a load of laundry into the dryer, and suddenly I remember.
Donald F**king Trump was elected president.
I still can’t accept that.
I read the news and hear, as Shepard Smith said, “lie after lie after lie” and listen to republicans make jaw-dropping excuses for his (and their) behavior and I wonder how can we make it through this disaster?
They are systematically dismantling our way of life, trying to do away with the free press and freedom of religion, the human rights of LGBTQ and minority people, destroying the environment, denying health care to millions. Etcetera.
I remind myself that the Chinese symbol for crisis contains both the words danger and opportunity. The danger seems stark and clear, but I can’t find the opportunity. How can we possibly use this catastrophe in our country to create something better, something whole and good?
Every day I see the face of evil and hit the panic button. Then I breathe and tell myself we need to shake things up once in a while. Yet all I see is Danger, Will Robinson. It feels as if we are lost in space.
All we can do is proceed with caution and proceed with love, knowing that tens of millions of people, including my friends, are putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day by living and breathing resistance.
Today’s musical accompaniment takes us back 50 years to another time of darkness. Listen to Stevie Wonder sing A Place in the Sun.  Back then, we marched, we sang, we resisted, and we stopped a war. We brought down a president.
We do the best we can trying to find a way through the muck to a better world. We can’t quite see it yet, so we act on faith that it’s out there.
Sometimes living my life, loving my friends, and finding pockets of happiness seem like the most radical things I can do.

Now for a Brief, Mad Interlude

In Denver, Learning on July 19, 2017 at 6:19 am










My worst date ever was more an ambush than a date. A date implies planning, an invitation, and acceptance. None of those things happened, at least as far as I knew.
In 1972, I was 24, newly divorced, and had recently learned how to smoke pot from my friend George. I heard a knock at my door and opened it to find Arnie, a high school friend of George’s and also his dealer. I’d met him once or twice. He was my age with long, greasy, blonde hair beginning to thin on top.
With some trepidation, I invited him in. He pulled a baggie of pot out of his jeans pocket and handed it to me.
“Thanks,” I said wondering why he was there.
He let me know that he wanted sex.
I said I wasn’t interested, so he took off his clothes. All his clothes.
I was appalled and ever so slightly amused and asked him to please put his clothes back on. Yes, I said “please.” I try to be polite even when the situation doesn’t merit it.
He ignored my request and proceeded to wander around my apartment in all his glory looking at my stuff as if this was a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence. I don’t know. Maybe for Arnie it was.
I asked him to leave. Instead, he plopped his naked butt on my couch and just looked at me.
Did he think that if I saw him au naturel I’d be overcome with lust? Boy was he wrong. Men can be so clueless.
Did he think I was so grateful for the marijuana that I’d sleep with him out of appreciation? Boy was he wrong.
Did he think I’d sleep with him just to get rid of him? Boy was he wrong (although I was growing increasingly desperate).
After he ignored my repeated requests that he put on his clothes and leave, I called Gail, George’s wife and described the situation to her, asking if she had any suggestions how I could get him to leave. She couldn’t stop laughing.
Eventually, I guess he realized it wasn’t his lucky night and he left.
To his credit, he let me keep the baggie.
I breathed a sigh of relief and disinfected the couch.

God Has No Religion

In Church, spirituality on July 18, 2017 at 6:14 am

I am not a religious person, although I go to church every Sunday. If you think going to church makes a person religious, you’re just not paying attention.
I’ve said before that my only criterion when I went church shopping was one that didn’t teach hate. I got lucky. I not only found that in the first church I visited, I also found one that doesn’t tell me what to believe, something I didn’t even know I wanted.
I’ve never met a rule I didn’t want to break, which is why I wouldn’t be a good Catholic–well that and the crushing sexism. Let’s hit the pause button here for a minute so I can apologize to my Catholic friends. Your religion probably works very well for you, and no religion is perfect. You may rail against some of its imperfections, just as I do with the UMC.
This, however, is the story of two times when I ran smack into first, the Catholic church and second, a Catholic church.
In 1965 I went to Quebec with my high school French club. One day we visited churches and cathedrals. At that time, the church required women to cover their heads. The girls in our group without scarves bobby pinned pieces of Kleenex on their heads. That didn’t strike me as a way to show respect for anyone, including me. I refused and had to remain outside.
I may be poorer for not having seen the architecture and artwork inside, but I’m still pretty proud of my 17-year-old self for standing up for my principles.
The second event happened decades later when I lived in North Denver’s Highland neighborhood and took long walks every day. I frequently walked past Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. It was open in the morning, so I decided to stop in to pray/meditate/think for a few minutes.
My protestant sensibilities were initially offended by all the statues (27 by my count), which I saw as graven images, but I made my way to a pew and even used the handy kneeler. After I had stopped in a few times, a priest approached me about joining the church. I told him I already had a church, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. One day he brought me a book with a charm of the Virgin Mary inside it.
I didn’t read the book and I never went back to Mount Carmel.
He undoubtedly thought he was bringing me the One True Religion. Obviously, I didn’t see it that way. I don’t believe religion comes in one size fits all. That doesn’t even work for knit hats.
In my world, all roads lead to God.