The Common Good

Rebels FOR a Cause

St. Joan of Arc, Rebel for a Cause. (Illustration by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners)

“In order to serve our world," Bono once said, "we must betray it."

I’ve always wanted to change the world. I’m inspired by stories of people who have left their fingerprints on the very face of culture. I want to be a historymaker. I want to be one who people remember as a person who revolutionized her world.

As noble as this sounds, I’m afraid that up until a few years ago, this has come from a very self-serving motivation. I truly did want to love people and make a difference for their benefit, but I also wanted the credit. Visions of winning a Nobel Prize danced through my mind; dreams of becoming the “woman of the year.” I’ve thought out speeches just in case.

I can’t believe I just admitted that to you. I must really like you.

I had to come to a broken place in order to be ready to bring about the change I so desired to initiate. You see, transformation, no matter how small or big, is never about us. It’s not about the recognition we will receive or about the merit badge that will feed your need for approval. No, it’s the most selfless thing we will ever do. We need to be trustworthy to lead such efforts.

All it takes is a heart that truly cares for others — that’s it. Once your eyes are off yourself, you become incredibly useful! What a thrill it is to add benefit to others and get no credit for it.

It makes you giddy like when you were a child hiding where no one else could find you. You know what that giddiness is called? Joy. And when you’ve got that kind of joy, no one can steal it. It’s the real deal. It brings strength to your bones.

Women who are in slavery to self-objectification rarely rise to be leaders and world-shakers — even though they carry this very DNA inside of them. Here lies the greatest rebellion of all  —rebellion to ourselves.

Being a rebel for a cause will take a few more mental switches, switches such as these:  

From Cluttered to “Holey”  

Question: What are we cluttering our minds with? Your mind is like a closet. If we took a microscope into your mind, would we find it spacious and full of beneficial things in their perfect places or a chaotic mess filled with litter and garbage spilled everywhere? 

You are being exploited by media, and you’re doing nothing about it. Don’t believe me? Open your eyes to the hundreds of ads you see on average each day. Apparently, your body is assisting the billion-dollar marketing industry of products that are only feeding our insecure, sexy-craving culture.

We see this trend on a daily basis within the context that the media portrays women in, namely that we are meant to be viewed and that our value comes from how we look. It teaches men to view us as such as well. It subtly forms values we consider “normal.” Values such as the following:  

  • A new wardrobe will make it all better!
  • It’s time to cover up the gray.
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to not be an A cup? There’s an operation for that.
  • Split ends are a dire situation that can be solved by “this” product.
  • Flabby arms, legs, butts, and abs are never to be seen in public. Ever.
  • Wrinkles equal “not sexy.” Do whatever it takes to stay young-looking.

And we fall for it. In the film Miss Representation, they state, “In the world of a million channels, media tries to do more shocking things to break through the clutter through sometimes even violent, sexually offensive, and demeaning messages.”

According to the film, the average teen spends 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours listening to music (heard today’s top forty lately?), three hours a week watching movies, four hours a week reading magazines (do you really think they mean TIME Magazine?), and 10 hours a week online.

I don’t allow my family to watch The Simpsons. Okay, that sounds a bit severe. It’s not that I don’t “allow” them. I just frown on it. I tell them that the show steals brain cells, to which my hubby answers, “But it’s hilarious!”

There are many shows I think suck the brain cells right out of us: The Hills, Jersey Shore, Desperate Housewives, South Park, among many others. I can’t begin to tell you how much I despise shows like that. Not only do I believe that they steal our brain cells, but I also believe that after they steal them, they replace them with ones that look and sound like their characters.

And don’t get me started on music and its power over the brain. I’m a dancer. I listen to lyrics because the words and the beat dictate my movement. You tell me to loosen up my buttons. Well, I just might. 

If media isn’t going to shape culture, what will? I have a crazy alternative to offer. What if the below defined women instead?  

  • Impressive character
  • One whose husband trusts without a doubt to not sleep with every man on the block (and not to spend their life savings on Starbucks)
  • One who speaks well of her husband—even in the midst of catty women complaining about their “useless” hubbies
  • Inventiveness
  • Creativity
  • Hardworking
  • Generous to the poor, embracing them rather than shunning them
  • A good investor
  • One who doesn’t give in to mass consumption for herself but invests wisely, thinking about her family’s future
  • One whose family weathers financial storms just fine because she’s smart with her money
  • Someone you won’t catch watching The Real Housewives
  • Hardly lazy
  • One who has great style that is bought without a credit card and shows her worth and dignity
  • One who considers wisdom to be better than status
  • One who embraces her age
  • One who knows that beauty will fade
  • One who cares to pattern her life after God and receives identity from Him instead of falling for the messages media tries to sell her

This woman described in Proverbs 31 is a picture of an outstanding role model for all us women, young and old. However, after they read the passage, most women say, “I could never live up to that kind of standard,” and head off to try to measure up to the standards the media places on women’s beauty and worth. Umm, okay … but do you see how stupid that is, or is it just me?

I remember listening to a tape (yes, a tape) of Tony Campolo when I was sixteen. I listened to that tape so many times I had it memorized. One of the things he said on the tape referred to women and sin. It has never left me. Before the word “sin” makes you shudder with all the preconceived ideas that go along with it, bear with me. He stated that the Greek word for sin was hamartia, which means, “to miss the mark.”

Interesting. It doesn’t mean to break the rules. Here’s what he stated about women after he this definition:

“For a woman to not become all that she was meant to be is sin. She’s missing the mark. When she dumbs herself down to not threaten the insecure male, she is forfeiting all that God created her for.”

It is my responsibility as a woman birthed for such a time as this to be a walking, living alternative for others to see. How are women to see we were made for so much more if we, too, are buying into all the junk and deception the media throws at us?

There’s nothing like a good de-clutter session; I call this a “chuck fest.” When we go through our house and throw out all our junk, we make room for new junk (well, at least that’s how it seems to go). What’s preferable is after a good chuck fest, there should be room to walk, breathe, and for anything useful to again be able to find its place. Sometimes we have to do the same thing with our minds in order for a new mindset to be able to take place. This has been referred to as “a renewing” (Romans 12:1).

Take some time to think about what you watch. Does it influence you?

No, seriously, stop the justification and really think about how you behave.

What about the music you listen to? What does it feed you?

There was a time I had to make a switch from top-40 radio to our “family friendly” station because I realized I was becoming incredibly focused on being sexy. The word “sexy” was in over half the songs I was listening to, and I was living to bring sexy back. I didn’t change stations out of any legalistic thinking. I did it because I value my mind and my heart and realized that whatever I let into my eyes and ears feeds my soul.

I want my soul focused on what’s eternal and real. “I’m Sexy and I Know It” is just too temporal for where I want my heart to be.

Time to get “holey,” people!

If I want to bring anything back, it’s a commitment to holiness.

I don’t know what image of Hutterite-type living just entered your mind, but get it out right now. All that means is that I care about what God cares about.

The reason I spelled it “holey,” by the way, is because of a story I heard about a young man who took scissors and cut out every mention of wealth, loving the poor, and feeding the hungry from his Bible. He stood in front of a crowd, showing his Bible full of holes. He then stated,

“Brothers and sisters, this is our American Bible. It is full of holes. Each one of us might as well take our Bibles, a pair of scissors, and begin cutting out all the scriptures we pay no attention to.”

That got my attention.

In the book The Hole in Our Gospel, where I read the story I just described, the author, Richard Stearns, calls the gospel a “social revolution.” But I can’t even comprehend that, let alone be involved while I’m sitting there watching yet another one-night stand and wishing I looked more like Sarah Jessica Parker.

Friends, it’s time to wake up and get off the couch. It’s time to perform a “chuck fest” on our souls.

Connie Jakab is the author of the blog, Culture Rebel. She is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out. The founder of WILD (women impacting lives daily) as well as Mpact, a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues, Connie drives her passion outward into the arms of those wanting something more radical and meaningful in life. Connie is an active speaker and worship leader, and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She can be found on Facebook and on twitter @ConnieJakab. This post is an excerpt from Connie's new book Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives, released last month from West Bow Press.

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