beginning to reclaim the word tremendous

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ruin things for me; whether it be restaurants, boots, wearing the color white, my initials, scripture, games… It rubs me the wrong way. A few years ago I decided I was done with the seemingly irredeemable and contentiously started reclaiming certain areas of my life. I reclaimed places I went with an ex, started wearing boots again, began looking more critically at scripture, and started this blog. Reclaiming is a part of my process and journey in life.

This post is almost a week late, but better late than never. The below is something I tweeted during the second Presidential Debate. Mr. Donald Trump, I don’t even want to go into my feelings about him and sexual assault right now, kept using the word tremendous.

After watching Trump in two debates, countless speeches and parodies (nailed it Alec Baldwin), I realized during the last debate that perhaps the word tremendous needed to be reclaimed because whenever I hear the word now I cringe.

But what does tremendous really mean? I felt so gaslighted by Trump I had to look it up to double check.

 very large or great or very good or excellent

Merriam-Webster

Or…

a combination between horrendous and terrible

Urban Dictionary

I feel that America is associating tremendous with the less classical definition aka the one from the always delightful Urban Dictionary.

However, proper uses of the word are as follows:

  1. He has a tremendous amount of energy.

  2. The engine’s power is tremendous.

  3. She is a writer of tremendous talent.

  4. We had a tremendous time.

Merriam-Webster

Trump when speaking seems to use tremendous about himself in the Merriam-Webster sense of the word, but factually, he probably should be using the Urban Dictionary form of the word. He isn’t a very good or excellent politician, his businesses aren’t doing excellent, and his morals are horrendous and terrible. Yet, he keeps saying he and the things he does is so very tremendous.

So how do we stop cringing when the word is used in vain? Does reclamation need to wait until after November 8th? Or maybe we need to start using it more. Here are some of my attempts of reclaiming tremendous.

  • Hillary Clinton is a tremendous politician.
  • The work that Hillary Clinton has done has tremendously helped women in America and all over the global community.
  • Hillary Clinton will be a tremendous President.

It feels pretty good reclaiming it, but at the same time, tremendous is such a great word that maybe it should be used sparingly. How would you reclaim tremendous?

guest post: i signed because i am passionate about the future of this church

Last week we got the news that the executive committee of the Council of Bishops has identified 29 nominees to the special commission on A Way Forward but that only 8 of them, a piddly 28%, are lay persons. As a response to that news, I joined with other lay colleagues to launch and sign an open letter calling out this lack of lay representation on the commission and expressing the need for more laity.

Many people had expected that this commission would be made up of approximately 50% laity and 50% clergy. I, on the other hand, find our preoccupation with such a 50/50 split to be intriguing. Historically, it derives from our origins of annual conference and general conference representation being made up exclusively of clergy. I take note of these historical details in order to provide some perspective. We have this history because clergy are members first of the annual conferences (and annual conferences are represented at general conferences) and laity are members first of local churches, and along our historical way it was recognized that we needed to have laity representation in our top decision-making bodies in part in order to make good decisions. Because the church is ultimately made up of laity, and laity have a vested interest in what happens to and within the church.

In terms of this special commission, however, there is no special rationale for why we need to have a 50/50 split. On the contrary, The United Methodist Church is made up of >99% laity. There is no particular justification for bishops and other clergy getting equal representation to laity on this body, way out of proportion to their composition of the membership of the UMC.

With that said, I’m no proponent of proportional representation by membership, which in my experience is a politically-motivated idea, but it is worth noting that laity make up >99% of the membership of The UMC in order to get some perspective on just how ludicrous it is to stack this commission with over 70% bishops and other clergy, thereby squelching the voices of the laity.

Bishops and other clergy may feel that they spend their days steeped in the church and thus have a tremendous stake in its future, whereas laity can come and go, from one church and denominational affiliation to another, or even to no church at all. I, however, am a home missioner, part of the deaconess and home missioner community, and we have committed our lives to ministries with marginalized communities in settings largely outside the local church but always maintaining a relationship with the church. This experience of being in ministry in non-local church settings–for me, that has meant nonprofit settings–often in contexts where we are surrounded by people who are not active members of local churches, if they are members of a church at all, gives us particular perspectives. Specifically, it gives me a lot of time to think about what it means for the church to try to be relevant to the world of people outside the church, most of whom think the church is irrelevant to the world today and that the church utterly lacks credibility due to scandals and hypocrisy. Focusing in on such matters is critical to the church’s existence and purpose and critical to the church’s future.

By not spending the overwhelming amount of our time within local church settings, many laity come to gain perspective on such matters that can often be different from that of clergy, and especially different from that of bishops.

We stack the commission with bishops and clergy, giving laity an almost token minority position, to our peril.

So, to the topic of why did I sign the laity open letter? I signed because I am passionate about the future of this church. I am passionate about the church’s relevance and credibility. I am passionate about the importance of the voice and perspective of laity in church decision-making in order to make good decisions as we look toward crafting a path toward the future of The UMC.

And I also signed because I am passionate about how we live out Christ’s ministry to the marginalized. How we live out Christ’s message of God’s character being one of love, justice and compassion and how we are called to be likewise. I am passionate about the grave harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual children of God at the hands of the church. I find this grave harm to be unconscionable, and I recognize that Christ would view it as a grave sin and he would have a blistering message to the church today over it, like he did with the Pharisees in his own day.

Stacking the commission with individuals vested in the institution of the church, rather than with people passionate about the church as an expression of seeking to follow Jesus’ message about God’s character and live out his example, is a recipe for bad decision-making. This commission needs people willing to take risks, not people invested in protecting the church’s assets.

It is my hope that more lay voices would provide balance in perspective, helping us to best take advantage of the wisdom of our ordained church leaders while also protecting against institutionalism. It is my hope that more lay voices would lead to more willingness to take risks to follow God’s will wherever it may lead, keeping an eye on a certain degree of protecting the institution of the church from those who would do it harm, but not substituting the institution of the church for God.

Click here to sign the letter today!

Kevin M. Nelson is a home missioner and activist who works to use his white, male privilege for righteous insurrection against unjust power structures that serve to marginalize other individuals and communities.

guest post: why i signed the open laity letter

We have heard Jesus say – to all persons without exception – “follow me.” Yet the Commission on Homosexuality says otherwise. When the numbers came out of the representation of the Commission on Homosexuality, I was absolutely horrified knowing that the 3 categories I represent were disproportionally unrepresented (laity, young people, and LGBTQIA people).

Laity are the building blocks and the glue that stick the church together. Laity are the ones you see helping on Sunday morning at church with everything from coffee hour, being a greeter and usher and, speaking the litany and scripture during the service. Yet, that’s not all laity do; they also help with service projects both near and far. Laity like us have been at the disaster sites of Hurricane Matthew from the start and will be the last people to leave. Laity are ordinary people doing extraordinary things both inside and outside church walls.

Time and time again I hear that the young people are the future of the church. Well I hate to burst your bubble we (as a young person of the church) are the now of the church. If we aren’t involved now in the church, or don’t feel like we have a place in the church because we are looked down upon for being young we aren’t going to stay in the church. This quote from the 2008 GC Proclamation says what I have seen with my peers “The young notice. They notice the church denying, refusing, threatening, removing, closeting the lgbtq people who faithfully serve the church.” The young notice their peers and friends leaving the church because of lack of acceptance of their queer siblings and because of the failure to recognize the young people as the now of the church instead of being just thought about the future of the church.

Queer people are in our churches and have been from in them from the beginning whether you realized it or not. At General Conference this year a list of called out clergy was released by Reconciling Ministries of 111 clergy, and candidates for ordained ministry the list is now up to 141 clergy. As a queer person myself (I identify as non-binary and use they/them/their pronouns) I know we have people willing and wanting to be on the commission of homosexuality which in reality is really a committee on debating the human worth of the LGBTIA community both inside and outside the church. Yet, queer people need to be on the commission in order to show people on all theological spectrums that we want to be in this church and we need the church just as much as you, and we can create a common good together.

The United Methodist baptismal liturgy calls all of us to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It is our duty – our baptismal covenant – to stand against the sin of the church, to stand for God’s freedom and power, to affirm God’s entire body of Christ that is the church.

2008 GC Proclamation by Audrey Krumbach and Rev. David Meredith

By signing this letter for an equal representation of laity on the commission of homosexuality you are just doing that. Will you join those who have signed and create a powerful impact by saying we are laity and we are here and we are not giving up our position in our United Methodist Church? Click here, sign, and join us.

About Reclaiming’s first guest bloggerAaron Pazan resides in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, where they are highly involved in the Conference and Episcopal Area. They are a senior at Central Washington University majoring in recreation management and minoring in religious studies. In their free time they enjoy hanging out with friends, running, writing, photography, and reading about the emergent church.

Photo is from izquotes.com.

i had a dream last night + stood up against being objectified

Two things to know: I rarely dream and if I do, I can barely remember what it was. That said, last night I had a dream and remember most of it. Also this post is overly simplistic, but this is an honest reflection of my dream from last night and part of my processing of years of systemic sexism.

I’m on a crowded city street with my oversized purse (I mean bag) hustling to my ending point. I’m side stepping and minding my own business, close to what I think is a Metro station when some bag just slaps my ass. 

I’m describing something that happened a lot starting in middle school and am not referencing walking to the Metro. Walking while girl or women is something to be cautious of though. Starting in middle school my anatomy become fair game. I had to dress not for myself, but in defense to what a boy or man may react too. For years I did nothing, laughed it off and walked away because the few things I said something there was backlash. Who in middle school wants to be labeled a prude, a bitch, or cold? I was just looking for acceptance and often remained silent.

I stop slightly shocked (I’m 32 this should be done) and check who it is. It’s a man who walks off casually because he thinks he’s done nothing wrong. I become frozen. I do not know him and the flashbacks from the years flood me.

What does a girl or woman do when it happens? The context if off for this to be an appropriate behavior, I’m in public and do not know the man. I was taught stranger danger and that I had a safety bubble (which was violated in my dream). Yet so many times in my life, this unwanted touching (thank God it’s never been a groping) has been responded with ignoring and a little laugh.

My mouth starts to open and I yell, he touched me and I ran to find someone safe. Most of the crowd ignores me, a few women notice and I’m brought to a female police officer. 

I can name off instances when I was in situations where I felt uncomfortable and just let an ass grab or something else breeze by. In fact, it got to a point where it felt normal and I never spoke up. I thank God to this day, that this aggressions never turned into sexual violence, into being raped.

I just accepted that my ass was going to be slapped, dressed appropriately, guarded my drinks at bars, watched out for my girlfriends’ safety… and all the other things girls and women are told to do so they aren’t asking for it.

The man doesn’t get caught in my dream. We look, but nothing.

I woke up this morning and as I took my shower I remembered. I rarely have spoken up for myself in those situations, but something happened in my sub-conscious last night. I’d like to think that I would have gone a step further and hit him with my oversized DC bag of tricks, but I at least said something.

But what is also telling is that only women came to my rescue. The men around in their well-fitting suits kept walking. This has been the norm for many of my gender (cis & trans). It’s okay to objectify us because, well, we are objects to be conquered. Women are not objects, we are fully functioning humans.

I have to think that this dream is related to the Presidential Election and all the backlash that Mr. Donald Trump has finally received. His bragging on sexual assault took it too far for many people (but not me) and lack of repentance even further. But what was ultimately highlighted was the systemic sexism that plagues our society. The one that teaches girls that they are not enough, that teaches boys that girls are objects. The one that makes it so a sorority girl doesn’t report rape because it will shut down there sorority on campus, that doesn’t prosecute men for sexually assaulting that woman. The one that takes it so women feel unsafe on the subway because a man feels entitled to grope her.

Now, I am not sure what the answer is, but I have a few quick suggestions:

  • Talk and teach your children about consent.
  • Teach boys and men healthy masculinity.
  • Women, start speaking up and sharing your stories if it is safe for you to do so.
  • Men, start listening to women.
  • Men, start standing up for women and telling the Donald’s in your life that they are partaking in unacceptable behavior.
  • Vote on November 8th. #nevertrump

Dream rewrite: Someone slaps my ass and I turn around immediately swinging my DC bag at the bag yelling, “did you just grab me?” He falls backward and those around me stop, check in on me, and someone has a chat with the man about his inappropriate behavior.