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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kate J Meyer, LPC

Deconstructing for Lent

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

If you've been following me for a while, you might be familiar with previous posts I've published on the idea of Lent and its associated practices. I won't restate those now, though I do invite you to scroll through the blog page of my website to explore those prior entries if so inclined. This year, I'm taking a slightly different approach.

Regarding my faith, I've found myself these last months in a season of deconstruction. Actually, looking back, I think the last few years qualify, though I wouldn't have named it as such. I hesitate even now to use that word simply because it is nearing cliché status, but when the shoe fits just go with it, right? So, for this season of Lent I decided to focus on giving a final release to certain religious constructs that, I believe, were founded not in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, but in the minds of humans, often out of a search for power and control. I believe these things sadden and anger God, and contribute to the number of people who walk away from religion and faith because the two are so intertwined it is difficult to remember that they can, in fact, be separated. To that end, I'll be making social media posts/videos throughout the 40 days of Lent, and, occasionally, following those videos with a blog. In full transparency, I don't yet know how many there will be or how often they'll be posted. Only time and the Spirit can tell.

With that background, let's get to straight to it, shall we? The first construct I'm releasing (flinging away, drowning, burning--I don't know which, but I can tell you that releasing is far too gentle a term!) is the misguided, harmful, sometimes even abusive, stance that women must be intentionally modest in their clothing choices, lest the men in their purview be sexually tempted by them.

Gah. It's sickening just writing those words.

I took the selfie attached to this blog in December 2022, prior to preaching in a local church. I took it with this blog in mind, though I wasn't sure when I'd get around to writing it; not just because life is busy, but also because this one image is fraught with a lot of (unseen) junk that is tied up in the aforementioned stance. First, the final outfit choice was just that, the final one. Getting dressed that morning took an extra amount of time because all I could hear in my mind while doing so was a conversation I endured during seminary: women, choose carefully what you wear in the pulpit because you don't want the men to be distracted (read: tempted, turned on, etc). I know I got fired up at the time and I also know I didn't feel free enough to push back. I'm annoyed with how deeply ingrained that belief, that I don't even share, is for me. So deep, in fact, that as I perused my clothes I found myself evaluating each piece. Are the legs of those pants loose enough? Is this shirt too tight? Is it cut too low? I feel confident in these pants/this shirt; does that mean it's too 'something' and I shouldn't wear it? Each of the preceding questions went through my brain with each article of clothing. Even as I settled on the outfit in the picture, I did so hesitatingly. I went with it because I do feel good in it, and after decades of not feeling good in pretty much any of my clothes, it is a nice change of pace. Second, this picture also does not show the internal dialogue that happened from the moment I took off my coat upon arriving at the church and throughout the entire morning, especially when I was in the pulpit. Throughout my sermon, a quiet undercurrent of self-doubt and questions was my constant companion. Third, and perhaps most unanticipated, is the deeper, core belief represented by this stance about the impact of what I wear in the pulpit: should I, as a female, even be a minister? Yep. In 2023, there are still a frightening number of people, of all genders, who believe that, solely as a woman, I am not fit for the pulpit, the Table, the baptism font, or any other place a pastor might be found. Again, I believe the professor was well-intentioned and, sadly, completely unaware of the harm he was perpetuating by dignifying the conversation; yet, the impact is real and remains.

The way women dressed is used against us often. It is the answer that is given as the basis for anything from an unsought comment, to a touch, and all the way up to sexual assault. And the Church is complicit in perpetuating this. Wrongly interpreted and mis-applied scripture birthed (ironic, no?) these beliefs that keep male headship in play in many facets of society, not just individual households. And, no, not just 'there'. Here. Wherever your 'here' is, this is true, whether or not you choose to recognize it.

I've said my piece. I've recorded my thoughts. I and the Spirit are good on this, and that feels amazing. So, I'm done. I'm done worrying about it, I'm done letting it consume brain space, and I'm done giving that harmful, negative, limiting voice power over me. Who's ready to join me?

If you have another topic for this series on which you'd like my thoughts, please comment or send me an email. If it resonates with my journey, I'll add it to the list!

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