The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.42.42 PM

2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.43.07 PM

After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

The Good Place: Sexual Abuse, Church, and Why Everything is NOT Fine

Netflix cheating and shows about Hell. 

My husband and I have a very strict rule in our marriage:

No Netflix cheating.

If you do not know, Netflix cheating is when you watch episodes of certain series without your significant other present. I struggled with remaining Netflix faithful during summer vacation; I just had so much free time.

My solution to keep myself Netflix monogamous is to get deep into shows my husband has no interest in watching; I can binge watch in peace, and the hubs isn’t subjected to watching 8 seasons of The Gilmore Girls.

My new alone-time binge series is “The Good Place.”

To serve the purpose of a rant I am going to go on shortly, here are a few spoilers from the show. You have been sufficiently warned.

“The Good Place” is about a woman named Eleanor Shellstrop who, in the pilot episode, dies and goes to The Good Place. However, a problem arises when Eleanor realizes she doesn’t actually belong there. She has lived a terrible life, and has accidentally taken the place of another Eleanor who was in turn sent to The Bad Place. In an attempt to remain in The Good Place, Eleanor begins taking ethics lessons from her friend (and soul mate) Chidi.

Okay, so all of this info is in the general description of the show, but here’s the spoiler: at the end of season one, Eleanor makes a frightening discovery:

The Good Place is actually The Bad Place! 

Michael, the architect of The Bad Place, created a unique form of torture for Eleanor and three others, to put them through mental and emotional torment.

The show is downright hilarious, and actually quite thought provoking, so even though I have kind of ruined the big plot twist, you should watch it anyway.

I promise I have a good reason for the spoilers.

Fake news and a real shame

Over the last week, I wish Trump was right, and everything I was reading in the local news was fake.

*Side note: Should be the only time I ever utter the words, “I wish Trump was right.”

This past week, news broke of a local pastor and his wife who have been charged with 28 sexual abuse related charges. Sadly, these charges were no surprise to my household because, for a short time, my husband and I attended the church in question.

My husband and I had left the church by the time these charges came to light. Several other issues had came to our attention regarding the leadership and the treatment of the congregation which urged us to leave. We were upset to hear the stories from the girls, and about the charges laid, but we were by no means taken aback. The behaviour described by the girls, and inferred by the charges, are in line with behaviour we witnessed when we attended the church.

I have no doubt in my mind; these are not false accusations.

I watched interviews with the senior pastor (the accused’s father) on local news stations whilst screaming, “LIES,” at the television screen. He stood in front of his church building, claiming all these charges were a huge surprise to him, and included that he’s refusing to choose sides. He said this while also lamenting about how his son’s education will now be rendered useless.

*I interrupt this broadcast for a dose of reality: Hey, guess what? If a teacher, who went to school for teaching, started beating their students, they would no longer be permitted to teach. This kind of behaviour would be considered inappropriate and they would have to find a new profession. I would say the same should be true for a pastor who sexually assaults and spiritually manipulates their congregants. If you want a job where this kind of behaviour is appropriate, become a pirate, not a pastor.

As news came out, I had two conflicting thoughts:

  1. Good! These people should not receive anymore anonymity or enabling for their crimes.
  2. Bad! Why is the “church” so often the hub for this nonsense?

“Wait a second, THIS is The Bad Place!”- Eleanor Shellstrop 

tenor
https://tenor.com/view/nbc-the-good-place-the-good-place-gifs-holy-mother-forking-shirt-balls-kristen-bell-gif-9684992

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize this situation. I attended the church in question long enough to witness this Christian-Phenomena happen many times. When the accused were arrested, their pastor/father took to Facebook to write, “If you know us and our church please pray. We are under attack like never before and we need the accuser of the saints to be silenced and Truth prevail.”

Two days later he wrote, “Thank you to everyone who is praying for us and expressing love at this time. You are making a difference. This is a time when we must not believe with our eyes and ears but with our spirits. Let God be true and every man a liar. Can’t be specific at this time but your prayers are making a difference.”

Other news posts on Facebook were peppered with comments from people saying things like, “The devil is running rampant,” and “These pastors are under attack.”

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize things. But what if we didn’t?

Young girls were spiritually manipulated and sexually assaulted by their pastor and his wife.

This couple has also been enabled to behave like this for many years by their parents (and senior pastors), which also points to their abuse of spiritual authority.

There is no need to find flowery Christian language to frame this situation in an effort to protect the church.

What if we just said it? THIS is a Bad Place!

Pobody’s Nerfect!

170105_3449893_What_s_My_Motivation___Extended_Cut_anvver_1
http://www.spoilertv.com/2017/01/the-good-place-whats-my-motivation.html

I have never been so critical of my own discernment before. How could I have been friends with these people? How did we attend this church for any amount of time? How did I let myself be so manipulated by this couple? Because I was all of those things, as painful and embarrassing as it is to admit. I was their friend, I was a volunteer in their church, and I was spiritually manipulated by them.

My experience at this church was particularly painful as it was my grand return to church after several years. The pastors appeared compassionate and welcoming to me when I was at a personal “church-low,” and so, despite several red-flags, I stuck around. When it came time for my husband and I to step down from leadership, we were slandered and gossiped about. Instead of announcing our stepping down from leadership on a Sunday while we were still attending, the pastors waited until we were gone to proclaim to the congregation, “Well, we thought we heard from God about those two, but I guess we were wrong.”

The church is never going to be perfect, because people, in general, are a mess. There are churches with good protocol, safe leaders, healthy accountability, and trustworthy financials. There are some churches that, may not be perfect, but they are good places. However, let us not be so naive or so proud to think that because we are in a church, it is a safe, healthy place to be.

Welcome. Everything is Fine. 

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/09/the-good-place-review-kristen-bell-ted-danson-nbc-season-1-1201726723/
THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

In the finale episode of “The Good Place,” Eleanor thanks her friend Chidi by telling him, “It’s like I was dropped in a cave, and you were my flashlight.”

Throughout scripture, Jesus is referred to as a “light,” and it is true, He is. It is not “the devil” who reveals sins. The darkness is about lies, and hiding. It is the light which reveals sin and creates opportunities for the sinner to either seek repentance or a darker corner to hide in.

Spiritual manipulation can really leave a person grappling with their faith in God; wondering what “side” Jesus will be taking: the victim or the pastor. Some Christians would say that Jesus is not taking sides; he’s somewhere in the middle. I would have to disagree with this sentiment. It sounds a lot more like Jesus’ character to seek justice for those who are oppressed than it is to believe He is passively standing in the middle shrugging his shoulders.

The ladies who have stepped forward about their abuse and their abuser, who had the bravery to say everything is NOT fine, are the flashlights in the dark cave. They have not only revealed the sins of the pastors, but they have also lit a path for others who have not yet been able to step forward and name what has happened to them.

Being the first ones to come forward, to be the whistle blowers, is not an easy place to be in. It is a hard place to be, it is a vulnerable place to be… but it’s a good place.