the havoc that abstinence-only education wreaks

girlsreuterspicOk, so you probably do not know that I, Ms. Erosophy, am quite the avid reader-of and researcher-into anything to do with women’s sexual and reproductive health. This stems from my feminist education that revealed to me just how much women’s bodies are still controlled by patriarchal power structures and also from my own erosophic understanding of the importance of looking at people in a holistic way that addresses us as embodied, sexual selves.

This weekend a friend reminded me of the dire situation that many women in the United States find themselves in when it comes to being able to address their basic sexual health needs, with pharmacists being allowed to deny women access to contraceptives and women’s health clinics being held to unreasonable high standards in order to make their job that much more difficult. I was also reminded of the general ignorance of many people when it comes to understanding things like the difference between emergency contraceptives (i.e. Plan B) that are basically just a large dose of the classic birth control pill in order to prevent pregnancy, and an abortion pill (i.e. RU486) that actually terminates a pregnancy, both of which provide women with safer, healthier options for maintaining their reproductive health and freedom.

Of course, young women in the US (and I’m just talking about the US here because things are very different in Canada, and though some problems are similar, the US situation is much more dire, though on further reflection, the situation of young women in the developing world is even more dire and frightening…) are possibly the most ignorant population when it comes to their sexual health since so many have been schooled in abstinence-only approaches to sexual education.

I was dismayed and yet not surprised to see a Reuters headline today that reads “Quarter of teen girls have sex related disease“. Quarter. 25%. That is a lot. That is too much. That is what happens when people engage in irresponsible sexual behaviour without regard to their own safety. True, there is really no such thing as “safe sex”, but rather just “safer sex”, but still, there are so many preventative measures that can be taken if young people are taught what those are.

Young people are bound to experiment and want to test-drive their newly formed sexual selves, hormones are crazy things, and we all know this, and we have known this for a long time, so why oh why do people still refuse to equip young people with knowledge that can save their lives!?

And so that is my rant of the day, I don’t make rants often, so take note that this news story must have really hit my heart, else I would not have written about it.

Good websites with genuinely helpful sex education info:

sexualityandu.ca: sex ed from Canadian gynaecologists who really know what they’re talking about. There’s specific info for teens, adults, parents and teachers.

scarleteen: “Sex Education for the Real World” – A site that has been around for a very long time with tons of resources and answers to pretty much any question about sex that you could come up with.

Planned Parenthood USA: the classic source for information and safe places to go for help and info.

Planned Parenthood Canada (aka Canadian Federation for Sexual Health): ditto above for Canada.

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on the most depressing day: ten reasons to be happy

I keep reading news stories that say that some scientist has determined that January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. Now, other accounts say that it was actually Monday the 22nd that was the most depressing this year, either way, here are some things to be happy about, in order to counteract the cloud of gloom that supposedly surrounds this week.

1. Apparently Newspapers are thriving in Asia where increased incomes and literacy rates are resulting in people who are ravenous for free media. “Read all about it” here.

2. It’s sunny in January in the Pacific Northwest – how often does that happen? Spend some time taking in the gorgeous views.

3. Kenyan political rivals Kibaki and Odinga have met and are pledging to resolve the crisis that their country is facing in the wake of their December elections. (cbc.ca)

4. There is a great magazine called Ode that is dedicated to solely reporting good news. Check it out.

5. “Scientists appear to be a step closer to transplanting a kidney without the need for a lifetime of drugs.” Full story here.

6. We still have two more Sundays of Epiphany/Ordinary Time in the Christian calendar before Lent starts, so live it up before you give it up folks. Listen to a great Epiphany reflection here.

7. Jim Wallis’ new book The Great Awakening, which contains tons of good news about how people of faith can take stands on issues that are important is now available.

8. If you live in Vancouver, there are still a few days left to enjoy the gastronomic delights of our town at special prices. Dine Out Vancouver restaurants have prix-fixe 3-course menus for $15, $25, $35. Visit this site for more info and to make a reservation.

9. Despite what some may say, food, I believe, in moderation, can be the ticket out of the winter blues zone. Imagine pairing two great comfort foods into a delectable loaf of, get this, chocolate bread. (You’ll find a recipe at the end of the NPR article that the chocolate bread link will take you to.)

10. Happiness has a strange way of popping up in the most random of places and people. Be on the lookout for happiness and you’ll probably find a lot of it.

waking-up our religious sensibilities

Yesterday I attended a fascinating lecture by Ari Goldman on ‘Covering Religion’ at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. Goldman talked about why, in his view, religion is the most important “beat” there is to cover today. Religion has become a major part of nearly all the issues and stories that headline our papers these days. Even here in Canada our papers shout headlines about the US presidential race, where religion has come to play a major part in voters’ decisions. Understanding religion, said Goldman, is key for understanding why people do things, it helps us understand their motivations and see why stories have evolved in certain ways.

He focused on the importance of learning about and reporting on different religions in order to show people why and how the Other is not scary. Journalism, for Goldman, ought to primarily take on an educational function, teaching people something. Goldman emphasized that he does not take a neutral stance on the notion of faith, he always advocates for faith as something that can do a lot of good, something that ought to be encouraged.

great awakening coverDuring the question and answer period I asked about how moderate religious voices can get their stories heard by media who primarily focus on the sensational stories of religious fundamentalism and extremism. His simple answer was: “you can’t, you’re sunk.” I pushed back a little, asking him to instead say something about how groups such as Sojourners, with Jim Wallis as their main spokesperson, have managed to change the discussion of what constitutes a religious value, reminding people that issues of well-being such as poverty, immigration reform, and peace are moral issues for religious people, and not just the issues that the loudest evangelical, fundamentalist voices proclaim to be “moral”. Goldman got an excited look on his face and enthusiastically jumped in to say how much Sojourners really has shifted the debate in the US. He helpfully pointed out that they have shifted the debate by positioning themselves against the voices of the extreme right, saying that the religious right does not speak for all people of faith.

The monologue of the religious right in the US is indeed over, and voices proclaiming that people of faith care about what goes on in the world, care about the well-being of the world, because of their faith-based values are getting heard more and more.

In his soon-to-be-released new book The Great Awakening, Jim Wallis of Sojourners makes a case for the notion that the US is in the midst of another Great Awakening, a religiously-fuelled movement toward change. Spiritual revivals in the past led to the abolition of slavery in the US, the end of slave trafficking in the UK, the beginning of publicly-funded health care in Canada, movements toward democracy in Latin America and the continuance of hope for people in Tibet.

Wallis describes in his book how religion has led to revivals in the past, what is changing today, provides some theological foundations for Christians to base their movements toward change on, and then presents a possible new framing of public dialogue with a moral centre. His writing is accessible, yet not simplistic, and he grounds his work in solid theological concepts that are central to Christianity, rather than a generic humanist stance.

And I think that perhaps Goldman’s analysis was just a little bit off, because what is going on under this new awakening is not just people standing up against evangelicals, but evangelicals themselves standing up and saying that a few loud voices are not representative of what they, as people of faith, believe. The Great Awakening will hopefully help people better understand the shift that is going on, and set it carefully amidst a long tradition of people of faith who refuse to separate what they believe from how they live their lives.

new yak podcast

YAK logoThere is a new edition of the YAK (Young Adult Koinonia) podcast that I’m involved in, available now via iTunes or on the YAK website: http://www.youngadultkoinonia.org

I’m particularly pleased to share about this edition because it is all about the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. I had the opportunity to contribute to the podcast by interviewing someone I admire very much, Rod Downing, who is a member of my home congregation and a devoted activist on many social justice fronts. Rod shared about why we should pay attention to what is going on in Darfur and what people can do to help. His suggestions were varied and addressed the broad scope of the various issues at play. Rod has a real gift for seeing the big picture, seeing all the aspects of an issue, and not losing sight of the actual bodies on the ground, the people whose lives are affected on a daily basis by what is going on.

I hope you can take the time to enjoy the podcast, it also features a Community of Christ minister from Africa who provides insight into the issue from his viewpoint “on the ground,” much closer to what is going on.

YAK – Young Adult Koinonia – A community of young adults forming connections, sharing life, and inspiring transformation.

yak

YAK logo

I’ve been working with a group of Community of Christ young adults on a podcast for young adults called “Young Adult Koinonia” or “YAK”.

Please check it out: http://www.youngadultkoinonia.org

(You’ll notice yours truly on the ‘contributors’ page with the oh-so-humble title of ‘Digital Diva of Divinity’)

faith in democracy

Monks protesting in BurmaYou have likely heard about the protests that Buddhist monks in Burma have been engaged in for the past week, ignited by the doubling of fuel prices by Burma’s military government. What is fascinating to me is that while reporting on the protests has been banned by the government, images, video and stories have been seeping out anyway. This article talks about how the Internet, websites like YouTube, mobile phones and instant messaging have become the modes of transmission for reporting on events as they transpire. Bloggers outside of Burma, where they are safer, are then posting all of this information so that it is available for those who want to know what is happening on the ground.

I’m finding this whole story of people of faith marching in defiance of an oppressive government to be very inspiring. I recently heard a lecture where it was noted that we have lost much of the democratic spirit that is so central to our western governments. Cities have been de-politicized to the point where the expectation is that all citizens will be satisfied and no one will be unsatisfied enough to raise any question or attention about an issue. But central to the function of democracy is the right and even responsibility of the people to not be satisfied with the way things are and to always push our governments to be even better. Why are we so content to sit back and think “well, at least it’s not as bad as in Burma”? I am sure that we can think of a myriad of ways that better public policy could improve the lives of ordinary citizens: climate change, poverty gaps, access to affordable housing, food sustainability…

So instead of looking at Burma as a place of injustice, why not look at it remembering our own democratic rights that we don’t take full advantage of. I wonder if we even know what it means to be democratic citizens anymore. People of faith in Burma are willing to die for the right to a democratic government – are we?

birth announcement

Did you know that there is a new star being born? I just learned from this BBC News article that astronomers are watching carefully as a new stellar system is born to see how the process works and what they might learn about how our solar system was born.

Water vapor pouring down supersonically in vast quantities, matter spinning wildly, extreme hot and cold temperatures, extreme pressure – sounds like an awfully intense atmosphere in the stellar delivery room.

But births seem rarely to be quiet, passive, calm processes. There is uncertainty, there is pain, there is intensity, there is chaos; new life does not arrive quietly and unobtrusively. The image of a stellar birth seems closer to human birth than the image of a green plant slowly, quietly pushing it’s way through soil.

But possibly there is room for many birth metaphors, many images of new life. Sometimes in my life new birth arrives slowly and quietly like the green plant, and sometimes arrives with chaos, uncertainty and pain. And yet new life always comes, and re/birth seems to arrive regularly. Awesome.