Women across the world have broken open, offering their stories of abuse and assault in a shared scream, searching for a new normal so our daughters and sons won’t have to deal with the same. The response we see from men in leadership has been a series of temper tantrums at the prospect of having to change learned behavior.
I slowly came to understand that if I was going to remain a Christian, I needed to find a path that had room for the rage and grief I carried with me as a rape survivor. Rage is the only human and rational reaction to the trauma I’d experienced, and I could not smother my humanity in order to remain a Christian. It was around this time that I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This past Tuesday, after we read Martin & Malcolm & America by James Cone, my seminary professor asked “what elements of Malcolm’s theology could contribute to Christian theology?” and my answer was immediate: holding space for rage.
For America’s ruling class – the lawyers, judges, doctors, and other Ivy-League graduates who run many of the institutions who shape the fabric of American life, the witness of Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a moment of reckoning. When it comes to the issues of power, privilege, and gender that shape our behavior every day, churches, once considered some of the most potent moral forces in American society, have been largely missing in action.
Christian leaders, on the whole, have failed to address the abuse and assault experienced by more than half of all Christian believers. When was the last time your congregation dedicated a sermon or service to sexual harassment, assault, and abuse? If you are fortunate enough to have experienced such a service, you’re the exception to the rule. Despite attending all sorts of churches within a variety of denominations and despite sitting through countless sermons, I have not once heard violence against women addressed in any significant capacity. I’ve heard homilies on the Leviathan, the Nephilim, and the dimensions of Noah’s ark. I have not heard a single sermon confronting a problem that affects nearly every woman in every congregation, and around the world
Start here: “You are beloved.” “You will recover.” “God is with you.”
“Worse health outcomes, especially among pregnant women. A jump in emergency room usage. More communicable diseases. Higher poverty and housing instability, including among U.S. citizen children. Lower productivity. Reduced educational attainment. And ‘downstream and upstream impacts on state and local economies, large and small businesses, and individuals.’ What are all these terrible things? They’re all potential consequences of a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule—according to DHS itself.”
On Thursday Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recounted her experience of sexual assault before a committee comprising mostly older white men. Women and other victims of abuse held their collective breath. The details were familiar. The resulting trauma — anxiety, fear of flying, claustrophobia — resonated. Survivors listened — and they recalled their worst experiences.
Much more than a depiction of self-imposed self-work, Nappily Ever After, directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, challenges viewers to wholeheartedly release the things that chain them. It is a story about rejecting whom others say we are and celebrating the person we know ourselves to be.
As I look back, I can now see how these transitions had been significant in my caminata espiritual as well as in discerning my call to serve God and God’s people. These different encounters with places, peoples, and cultures, have been crucial in my attempt to foster the conditions for visible signs of Jesus’ kingdom to be a present reality and not only an eschatological affair.
In America’s children, we often see hope for a better future, especially when it comes to reducing racism. Each new generation of white people, the thinking goes, will naturally and inevitably be more open-minded and tolerant than previous ones. But do we have any reason to believe this? Should we have faith that today’s white kids will help make our society less racist and more equitable? Previous research has had mixed findings. So in order to explore more fully what white kids think about race, I went straight to the source: white children themselves.
For me, clerical sexual abuse is personal, professional, and institutional. It has haunted my service of the church for more than five decades, involving the abuse of people, power, and trust and a clerical culture that enabled it and covered it up. My experiences have taught me several lessons that I believe will be helpful as the church moves forward.
Women have the right to live free from violation to their bodies. There is nothing profound about this statement. I want to believe it holds no hint of hyperbole, that this is a commonly held belief, that it is in fact true But in light of the rhetoric circulating in recent weeks, I’m not so sure.
It is an ethical imperative to consider the circumstances under which traumatic memories are recalled, whether in the course of therapy, during police investigations, court hearings, or public testimonies. Recalling trauma may be a part of the healing process or may lead to re-traumatization, persistence, and continued detrimental effects from traumatic memories.
I doubt the evangelical response to Tamar would have been as enlightened even though she had “proof.” The rhetoric would look more like this: Tamar took advantage of Judah at a time of grief for her own economic gain. She should have had her father speak to Judah about his negligence first and given him a chance to defend his action. They would cite what a good family Judah came from, being the son of Jacob and the great-grandson of Abraham. Except for selling his brother into slavery, he’s been a model citizen. They wouldn’t dare validate Tamar’s subversive act as a form of social justice, as a call for repentance and redemption
I constantly ask myself if I’m betraying my family by responding to the rituals and traditions they so earnestly sought to escape. But then I think about their conversion stories and how they made these decisions to become closer to Jesus.
This is not the first time a South Asian activist has been punished for speaking out against the government. Southeast Asia has some of the largest democracies in the world, and yet under the current climate, every voice of defiance is pegged as a coup, or a smear campaign. There have been countless activists, journalists, and others who speak up that have been relentlessly targeted.
Contemporary society often seems disconnected from these ideals. Our leaders refuse to admit to indiscretions, or having admitted them, refuse to apologize. They regard an apology as a sign of weakness rather than a show of moral strength. This is worse than myopic; it is a dangerous indifference to what is right. The truth is that it takes courage to apologize, and accountability is not the same as capitulation.
To his credit, Reitman tries to humanize the characters on all sides of the issue, in an attempt to cast some shades of gray. It’s an admirable idea, but the lack of commitment to a particular perspective sinks the film. It also goes pretty easy on Hart, and one gets the sense that Reitman and his co-writers Matt Bai and Jay Carson (themselves experienced both in running campaigns and political reporting) seem to think it’s a real shame that media scandal tanked a campaign that could have done some real good. That may be, but it’s impossible to ignore that if Hart had stuck closer to the morals he claimed, there wouldn’t have been a scandal to report. Whatever good qualities he may have had, he’s just as guilty as the people who brought him down
Recently my mother told me that if the authorities had stopped her family at any point as they fled from Poland, she would have been separated from her parents. They would have survived the horrors of the Holocaust only to face the fresh hell of a Communist regime. That image immediately brought to mind the heart-rending photos from earlier this year of over 2,600 children, from infants to teenagers, being forcibly separated from their parents as they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border due to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration.
This is the burden of black women who carry the cargo of worshipping Jesus under the leadership of sexist men. This is the heavy load that Aretha carried throughout her life – being ostracized by men for singing the “devil’s music” while clinging desperately to the message of her father’s teaching. Throughout her life, Aretha paid her tithes and offerings to churches that failed to embrace her full humanity. They elevated the perception of her unholy ways while accepting those checks.
Gabriel: How do we navigate the differences between faith based and secular organizing?
Gomez: There is some power in faith based organizing. I saw 13 or 14 ministers and rabbis show up at the Oakland Airport, and hold an action, literally did a sit down around deportation, and the police did not mess with them at all. And so, I think that there's power in that. There's power in saying we are God's people and we have chosen to participate in an action, on whatever issue it is. It says if you touch us, know that what you're actually doing is you are touching the people of God. And so, I do think that it's a strategy.
But I find it very ironic when I see people of the cloth who are fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people, knowing that the Bible is often used as the deterrent to actually accepting LGBTQ people. And yet we need that, right? If we're ever going to change the face of what is good and holy, we need those people. We need those people to have our backs.