Christianity and Rape Culture (A Glimpse)

Readers,

Do you ever read something or watch something on TV that so disturbs you that you’re filled with anger and you feel the need to tell someone about it? That happened to me yesterday.

I read an online post about the 2018 Golden Globe awards and the writer criticized these stars for wearing black, thereby protesting sexual assault/harassment, while still dressing “immodestly” and “allowing themselves to be objectified.” She went on to say that women of Christ should dress “modestly” because it “respects and loves our brothers in Christ.” Jesus said that whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28). Essentially, by covering up our bodies, we help our brothers in Christ stay away from sexual sin.

I’m hesitant to dive right in to this topic because there are so many layers and different opinions. I can’t say that my opinion is absolute truth. I’m sure there are areas that need to be illuminated by someone else with a wider view of the issue, but I must share my thoughts on this because this type of rhetoric is incredibly damaging.

 

Growing up in a semi-Christian environment, I was taught that my body needed covering. If I wanted to be a “good Christian girl”, I needed to cover my breasts, thighs, and butt. Why? Because Christian men might become aroused by my tight dress or pants. I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts that came above the knee. Because I developed breasts at such an early age, my mother was hyper-aware of how I dressed. There were many shirts that would fit my body normally if it were not for my breasts. Everything I wore was deemed borderline inappropriate. I never put two-and-two together and realized that the clothing wasn’t in the wrong; my body was. If I were thinner and smaller chested, would my clothing choices be such an issue? Absolutely not. So essentially we are saying that curvy women should hide their bodies because men will be attracted to them because of their curves. 

 

I grew up with the mentality that my body was naturally sexually suggestive and would always need careful guarding. I was bustier than every other girl I ever knew and would therefore have to cover up a little more. This way of thinking was further enforced by a staff worker on my India trip. In India, I was thrice sexually assaulted by strange men on the street. My breasts and butt were touched against my will. What was I wearing? Not American clothes, that’s for sure. I was dressed in Indian clothes. I was “modest”, according to Indian social rules. But, I was still touched. In fact, I was touched the most out of my team of ten women. While thinking about and mourning these assaults, I decided to rebel a little. No longer did I want to wear my dupatta over my breasts, after seeing how my female teammates neglected to wear them before leaving the apartment. If they could go without one, why couldn’t I? I asked my staff worker and she grimaced a little. I could see what she was thinking. She said, “Gabby, they don’t really need to wear one. But, you really should…” My eyes probably gave away my initial angry reaction. She followed up with, “Because they work in the city and you’re more in the suburbs, the slums. Things are different there.” Okay, she was right about that. I’ll give her that one. But, I also know that I was initially forbidden to go without a dupatta because of my breasts. But, even when I wore a dupatta, which was every day, I was still looked at and touched. Did the dupatta actually do anything for my protection? Absolutely not.

Let me just say it here once and for all: A WOMAN’S CLOTHING DOES NOT INVITE SEXUAL ASSAULT OR JUSTIFY A MAN OR WOMAN’S ASSAULT ON THAT WOMAN.

It also does not disqualify a woman’s protest of or thoughts on the topic of sexual assault in the workplace. A woman could stand in front of a crowd stark naked, speaking out against sexual assault, and her words would still be valid. Why? Because her worth and contributions to the discussion are not determined by her clothing. She is valid because she is human. 

Let’s go back to what Jesus said about looking at a woman with lust. He said it equates to having sex with her. That’s pretty intense. The Lord knew that men are visual and will easily engage in mental fantasies with an attractive woman. But, let’s be honest, men can sexually assault a woman, a man, a child, an animal…anything. We’ve seen this. We’ve known this. Many of us have personally and painfully experienced this.

Note that Jesus did not mention that women should cover themselves in order to avoid the male gaze. Not once did Jesus talk about anything remotely related to the whole “Modest is Hottest” movement that has been so strong in our churches. In fact, the only mention of women’s dress in the New Testament, which is the new covenant that we are under, is a mention of women dressing modestly in terms of expensive clothes.

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” (I Timothy 2:9).

Clearly Paul is saying that women should not arrive for fellowship time dressed in the finest clothes with the most decadent jewelry and elaborate hairstyles. Oh wait, this actually sounds like most of our churches today. Don’t women try to look their best on Sunday? This means the best clothes, the nicest jewelry, and every hair in place. Have we misunderstood Paul’s words here and actually behave like this during our church services? Many church women who are decked out in designer clothes have looked down on a woman whose skirt was ‘too short” or whose dress was “too tight”, unaware of the fact that she herself is offending Paul’s cry for modesty in dress by how expensive her clothing is. 

Also, cultures greatly differ on what’s appropriate and inappropriate. When I was in India, I could’ve rocked a sari every day, showing my stomach and back. That was appropriate. In my culture, American and Puerto Rican culture, that is absolutely not modest at all! I remember watching some Indian women work one day and thinking, “My God they’re showing so much skin. But, that’s modest in this culture.” I swear my mind was blown to Mars and back at the thought that stomachs and backs are acceptable but breasts, butts, and legs are not. Indians take great lengths to cover the breasts with a dupatta and their shirts are loose and are as long as knee-length dresses, effectively covering the butt and legs. In American and Puerto Rican culture alike, showing cleavage or wearing a tight skirt is not inappropriate. See how the cultures vary? There is no such thing as a standard way of modest dressing. In fact, in some cultures, women can walk around topless and that’s the norm! What do we do with women of those cultures when we evangelize? Do we tell them to put on a bra and a loose t-shirt after they’re saved? No we don’t. That’s a colonialistic way of thinking. Tear it down.

If we keep this rape culture narrative going, it will spiral. If a woman is assaulted or cat-called, she’s asked:

“What were you wearing?”

“Why did you go out that night? Why did you go alone?”

“You knew men would be attracted to you, didn’t you?”

“Why did you accept the drink he offered if you didn’t want him?”

“Why did you drink so much?”

Readers, a woman’s behavior is no justification for a man’s actions. We firmly plant all of the culpability on a woman’s shoulders by repeating this lie to ourselves and each other. Countless Christian and non-Christian women have had shameful coals heaped on their heads by family members, friends, and church leaders in this way. Stop it. This is evil.

A woman can wear whatever she wants, but a Christian woman should honor God with her clothing. She should honor God in all she does. When I get dressed, I ask myself a few questions that I hope are helpful to other women who want to dress in a God-honoring way:

  1. Why am I wearing this?
  2. Am I wearing this to attract men/use my femininity to get something from them?

If my answer to the latter is “yes”, then I either change my outfit or rewire my thinking. I remind myself that I like how this red dress fits my curves. I like the way this red lipstick makes my lips look. I do it for myself and not for men. 

 

 

I’m going to close out this brief glimpse into Christianity and Rape Culture by including my comment to this person’s blog post:

I think if a woman chooses to wear a dress that’s see-through in certain places or has a slit, that’s her choice. How a man reacts is his choice. Yes he will immediately be drawn to her, but what happens next is on him. Our brothers in Christ can literally be attracted to anything. Some men get turned on by feet, for example.

Also, regarding cultural sensitivity, there are certain cultures where dressing in fewer garments is actually the norm. In India, for example, women show their midriffs and backs every day. Here, that would be considered “slutty.” There, it’s modest. In Korea, wearing miniskirts is totally normal. Here, it’s seen as “slutty.” So if we should dress a certain way to help our brothers in Christ, then how should we dress? Because I don’t think it’s the same all around.

Regarding the women, each woman has an individual story and belief system regarding her femininity and what that means/how to express it. We can NEVER judge people who behave in the way they’ve been taught to behave. This is what women are taught. I can guarantee that 99% of the women on that Red Carpet do not know Christ. Why are we expected to hold them to the standard of a woman who has been walking with the Lord for years? It is unfair to judge them in this way.

The fact is, a woman could be walking around naked and A. be dressed appropriately in some cultures and not asking for it or B. if it’s not appropriate, still not be asking for it.

Asking women to cover up their bodies before talking about sexual assault is giving in to the patriarchal mindset and rape culture narrative that women are indeed asking for it. Why don’t the men cover up? Bulging muscles and tight pants draw attention to their bodies as well. Why are women blamed for being women and having curves? This just plays into the old rhetoric of the female temptress.

Gabrielle G. 
And, yes, I chose that picture of myself very intentionally. 🙂
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Thoughts on a Plane

I need Christ. I need more of Christ. I need more of His regenerative power. I need to trust Jesus and His plan for me. I need the Holy Spirit to change me more and conform me to the image of my Lord. I am tormented by my sinful nature. Like Paul said, “I want to do the right thing, but I can’t. I always do the wrong thing.” And yet, I don’t feel that God is angry with me. I feel that His heart breaks for my brokenness.

If only I would offer up my heart and mind to Him for divine healing…If only. It’s so hard to come to the cross of Christ and offer up my life to Him. I must do it every day. It’s much easier to hold onto my past traumas and current pains. Releasing it all into Christ’s hands would be so liberating…but it requires much faith.

And who would I be if I couldn’t identify by my pain anymore? What kind of identity does Christ have for me? I sense Him pulling up these traumas and pains and separating my identity from their twisted roots. They’ve mangled their way around my little heart, squeezing and hurting me.

The Lord’s operation hurts as well, but I know that it’s best for me. Others can call this rotten growth up and smooth a salve over it, but none can extract it, thereby healing it. I’ll gladly repurchase the salve, increasing the thickness each time I apply it, satisfied for the moment. But, a complete removal is too costly, too painful, too risky. It’s an investment.

Lord, help me to make that investment and take that risk. I know who my Doctor is. He is the One who formed my body and fashioned me in my uniqueness. I can trust Him with my body. I can trust Him to honor and respect my body even more than I can. My body is His home. My sinful self houses my Lord, yet He does not point out each dirty corner and piece of old furniture. He simply changes it all. He tears it down to build a mansion of little old Gabrielle G.

 

 

New Yorkers and Homelessness

How to be a typical New Yorker when a homeless person comes on the train:

1. Look away
2. Scoff at their personal story as they’re sharing it
3. Roll your eyes
4. Move away completely and act like they don’t exist
5. If you give something, give out of pity and give a dollar or your leftover food

I’ve seen this behavior from followers of Christ and non-believers alike. Followers of Christ, do not think you couldn’t be in their position in a MOMENT. Do not become so secure in your earthly possessions that you look down upon those who lack possessions. Do NOT forget that Christ had nowhere to lay His head and He repeatedly told us to give away our possessions and care for those in need. If you typically do any of the above things when you see a homeless person, check yourself.

 

I think this behavior is so rampant and so identified as a New York thing because we, as New Yorkers, have become so cynical. We see homelessness every day as we commute to our jobs or schools. I probably encounter 10-15 homeless people each day, whether that’s on the train or on the street. As I took an early bus yesterday to the LGA airport in NYC, a homeless woman came on the bus and asked for money. That was my first time seeing a homeless person on a NYC bus; I think it’s easier to get onto the trains.

New Yorkers have witnessed so much evil in human hearts: the 9/11 terror attack, the ways Wall Street has flaunted its wealth and taken advantage of people, and the segregation of people of color in our neighborhoods and schools. We’ve witnessed too much evil. Almost every day we hear about some type of terror attack or stabbing or shooting or rape or mugging or embezzlement and it just becomes exhausting.

So we disengage. We look away. We keep our money in our wallets, because we don’t believe the homeless person’s story. We are on high alert at all times, knowing that at any moment a person, homeless or not, could pull out a weapon and end our lives. A bomb could explode in the train station. So much could happen. Therefore we ignore each other, distrusting every person we see, especially the homeless.

Lord, redeem this. Ignite our hearts for the homeless. Help us take risks in the way we extend love to others. Even if we get duped while giving a dollar to someone who invents a false personal history, does it really matter? I believe the Lord looks at the heart of the giver. No matter, what we give, whether that’s money, food, a sympathizing glance, or encouraging words, we must give it all with joy and love.

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.'”  – II Corinthians 9:7

Find some practical ways that you can love your neighbor. Because that homeless person on the train or street is your neighbor. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Behold, He is coming soon. Let’s be ready to meet our Lord and regale Him with tales of our devotion and action. Jesus is calling.

 

Blessings,
Gabrielle G.

Ishi

You’ve been my One and only for over a decade.

Throughout my difficult stages of life, You held me tightly and whispered sweet promises over me.

At night, You gave me songs to raise to You. Songs to ground me.

When others tried to take Your place, or to disparage the masterpiece You made,

You gave me the courage to say no, to advocate for myself, and to choose You

over false imitators of Your love.

 

Because my Ishi, You have shown me love.

We both know that my parents’ marriage demonstrated what love shouldn’t look like.

You don’t want that for me.

My Ishi, You’ve etched the carvings of Your character on my heart.

It pumps and beats in tune with Your word.

My Ishi, You have loved me perfectly.  Perfect love casts out fear.

 

You are the only One I allow into the dark spaces my mind goes.

I have felt what seemed like Your absence and it ripped me apart.

I missed You, I missed feeling Your arms around me,

Your nail-scarred hands, touching my cheek when I cried.

 

Ishi, I knew You were there.

You were hiding and I was searching.

You waited for me to lift my eyes to Abba’s right hand,

to call upon Your name,

and to trust in You for an answer.

 

On the days that my depression left me in bed for every moment of daylight,

my Ishi was there.

When my lips couldn’t form the words to express my despair,

You formed them for me, interceding for me.

 

Ishi, You are with me wherever I go.

I know what it’s like to feel as if I’ve lost You, my best friend.

You are the only One I simply cannot live without,

as You are the One who twice breathed life into me.

But, You promise to be with me always, even until the end of the age.

When Friends Betray You

Lord, this is difficult. I know that all of you have experienced betrayal at some level, in some way. We all know what this feels like. Yet, it hurts just to talk about it.

Without going into too many details, I was recently betrayed by a friend who has been my sister-in-Christ for three years and roommate for one year. We’ve seen each other through sickness, heartbreak, family drama, money issues, school stress, other friendship drama, etc. You name it, we’ve been through it together.

What caused this betrayal? I’m sure she feels betrayed by me just like I feel betrayed by her. But why did this happen in the first place?

I honestly don’t know all of the particulars. What I do know is that when it comes down to a person’s survival, they will choose themselves over you even if that subjects you to danger. Even if it’s not morally right, they will choose themselves.

Some people are a little more aggressive than others and they will protect themselves in such a way. Others, like me, are a little more subtle and willing to be put out for the sake of a loved one.

 

What hurts is that after three years, a friendship has to end. Betrayal happened. A love destroyed. Sisterhood abolished.

 

I hope some day we can reconcile, but we may not. What hurts the most is that sisters-in-Christ are no longer friends-in-Christ.

 

“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win we know the pain reminds this heart that this is not our home” – Laura Story

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

When God Diverts Our Path (Literally)

This morning, I woke up so early to get to two doctor’s appointments. I rushed around the city, hopping on and off of buses, lugging around my heavy bag, and just wishing I could get back to my apartment.

But, God had other plans. Of course!!

As I made my way home, carrying my groceries and overnight bag (I had a sleepover last night), I was so consumed with trying to access RZIM’s live stream of Nabeel Qureshi’s funeral that I got on the wrong train. Realizing my mistake, I jumped off and stood somewhere on the street, waiting for the funeral service to load on my phone.

It turns out I was standing outside of a McDonald’s. There I saw a homeless woman with a sign, Diana. I felt God say to my heart, “Yes, you don’t want to miss this funeral live stream, but there is a woman who needs love.” 

I ended up buying her and her friend, Tyrone, a meal, sitting with them and talking about the crazy hurricanes and crazier Donald Trump. We just shared time and food together. I didn’t pester them with questions about their condition as homeless people. We just talked like people, humans, friends. As they left, Tyrone said, “Gabrielle. I’ll never forget that name.” 

 

Earlier that day, I was hungry and wanted to get a bagel from this deli, but I had no cash. Knowing that Dunkin’ Donuts would take my card for a $2.00 purchase, I went there and bought a bagel. A man, who used to be Muslim, sat down as I killed time by reading my Bible. He began preaching to me and encouraging me, reminding me that God will keep His promises. He will NEVER lie or not keep them. He will never forsake me. I needed that.

 

If I had gotten on the right train, if I had had cash on me, I would not have had these experiences. God let this happen so I could be ministered to and so I could minister to others.

 

Praise God.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel,
I knew you were going to a place where everything would be made right.
Your body would be restored.
Life would be renewed.

A place where pain no longer ruled
And sickness was a forgotten foe.
Where humans didn’t kill each other
Over religious beliefs or skin color.

Yet you didn’t want to go.
Not many of us do desire to leave
Although what’s awaiting some of us
Is divine glory beyond comprehension.

But, the cancer ate away at your body.
The doctors removed your stomach;
Left you bare.

I wonder if you remembered what food tasted like,
What it was like to drink something cool and refreshing.
Or had you become accustomed to the tubes
That kept you with us, although you were suffering?

Nabeel,
In this world, you left the old life for the new.
The only promise you had to cling to
Was the promise of God’s ever-presence.

We are not ensured health in this life
Nor wealth, although we try
To keep a firm grip on both.

Nabeel,
You showed me what it meant to be a Christian.
To suffer, to be sick, and to love Jesus regardless.
You’re in the Lord’s arms and that brings comfort.
But we’ll miss you and the work you did for the people you loved.

Nabeel,
You are enjoying everything new.
New body.
New mind.
New home.
We just wish you didn’t have to go.

 

 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. – John 11:25

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. – Philippians 1:21

Nabeel Qureshi is in Heaven

Nabeel Qureshi has passed away after a year-long battle with advanced stomach cancer. This morning he closed his eyes and opened them to see the face of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

I knew this day was coming, but I’m so heartbroken by his death. I have no other words to explain how I feel. He was a light shining the truth of Jesus to Muslims. I know he could have done SO much more if God had healed him. But, God has His reasons and His ways are good and just. All of that doesn’t take away from how painful it is to see someone suffer from cancer and die. Yet Nabeel is with Jesus now and that is what gives me comfort.

To learn more about Nabeel’s ministry, check out his books:

“Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”

“No God but One: Allah or Jesus?”

“Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward”

 

Brother Nabeel, you are with the Lord now. We will all miss you. The world will miss the beautiful work you did for Jesus and the love that you constantly had for the Muslim people.

I know you heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

Rest in the Lord’s arms, Nabeel. We love you.

 

 

 

 

Self-Sabotage and the Single Girl

Readers,

I have a confession to make. I self-sabotage all the time. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, I’ll find a way to make it harder for myself. Jobs, boyfriends, friends, it doesn’t matter! I self-sabotage.

This realization has come upon me recently and for a few weeks I wondered why I did this so constantly. It’s become almost second nature for me. Well, I think I have an idea why.

I grew up in an abusive home. My parents had a marriage void of love, respect, or shared purpose. My dad was not the best example of a father OR a husband. As a result, I’ve noticed ways I react to conflict or difficult situations that must have been learned in childhood. When there’s a conflict, I fight viciously for myself and cut ties. When it appears that someone is taking advantage of me, I remove all emotion from my words and treat that person in a professional way. When a job seems like it might be too hard for me, I quit the job or find reasons not to take it.

This was taught to me in my childhood. When my parents had a fight, divorce was threatened each time. My father would leave for the night, slamming the door and abandoning us. My mother would then go to the bank, taking out cash and teaching me how to “get what I need for myself.”

So much happened in my childhood that I’m slowly seeing how even my relationships with simple things like money or food have been distorted because I’ve never seen a healthy example of one.

What’s the point of all of this? I’m a runner. In difficult situations, I neither flee nor fight. I freeze.

But when people hurt me or appear to manipulate me, I fight with all I’ve got. It’s a positive thing that I’m a fighter. However I have to let my shield down a bit and put my sword back in its place.

Because sometimes, a person will show you that they would never treat you like how your dad used to. They aren’t that person from your past. And if they’re worth anything, they’ll stick around while you painfully and awkwardly discover that.

 

Be patient. Work out the lies you’ve believed and harmful habits from your childhood.

 

Let God heal them. Let God show you that there are people out there who will love you.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

And Then I Got Sick (God Allowed It)

Hey readers,

If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning, you know that my family has dealt with many illnesses this year. My dad had a pulmonary embolism in April and discovered that he had an enlarged heart, my brother had a severe bone infection in his leg in July, and my aunt who has Lupus isn’t doing so well.

In an odd way, I sensed that all of this was God. God allowed these things to happen for a reason. I began to see my friends and friends of friends become sick. One of my friends’ mom is undergoing a hysterectomy soon. This friend also has a friend with lung cancer. My old roommate was diagnosed with a spinal cord infection and possibly an auto immune disease. My half-sister’s grandma was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

All of this happened within the past few weeks.

So, I was kind of waiting for my turn to get sick. Now, I had been dealing with some acid reflux symptoms but chalked it up to stress from family issues and every doctor I saw confirmed this. A couple of weeks ago, my acid reflux became so painful, that I went to the ER and the doctor informed me that I could either just have terribly bad acid reflux or potentially an ulcer.

Yesterday, I had an upper endoscopy and the doctor found 2-3 small ulcers and a nodule on my esophagus. They’re doing biopsies of everything. 

I’ve never heard of a 23-year old having ulcers and nodules or anything like this. I only know one other young person who has had an ulcer. As a result of my ulcer, I need to completely change the way I eat and drink.

I’m not just talking about eating healthy foods. I typically eat very well. But there are some foods and drinks I can no longer take and if I can, they must be in small amounts.

Here’s an example:

  1. Black tea (MY BELOVED CHAI!!!)
  2. Onions (the best)
  3. Garlic (yum yum)
  4. Eggs (my typical breakfast)
  5. Anything fried (bye, bye chicken fingers)
  6. Alcohol (see ya, beloved whiskey and wine)
  7. Caffeine (adios, Coke Zero)
  8. Citrus fruits (nature’s candy)

There’s probably more, but it’s trial and error for me and my stomach.

Why did this happen to me? I don’t know. The biopsies come back next week. It may be the result of an infection and it may not be.

What I do know is that God let this happen. For some reason, God allowed me to have ulcers and nodules. What I’m resting in is the sweet sovereignty of Jesus. He is in control. He dictates what happens to me and what is kept from me. I trust Him with my life. I have to trust Him with my life. Because it belongs to Him. One day, I’ll no longer eat and be in pain. I’ll have a new, healthy body in heaven. Can God heal me of these ulcers and nodules? Absolutely. Will He? Maybe. Is He wrong if He doesn’t? Nope!

 

Let’s see what God does with this…

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.