We’ve been hearing a lot in the news media lately about women’s bodies. Just when we thought the messy fight over contraception was over, Democrats and Republicans are butting heads again over renewal of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, a once widely supported bill that is now being met with opposition from Republicans due to new provisions that “would allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence,” according to the New York Times.
Yet again, Republicans and Democrats both are using issues related to women’s bodies as fodder for political debate, hoping to leverage support for their sides despite what may be lost for those in greatest need. As a woman with strong opinions about contraception and violence, I can easily get lost in political debate, frustration, and hopelessness. But, as a Christian, I know that I need as much time to breathe outside of the political arena as I can afford.
This afternoon, instead of feeling defeated and fed up, I am thankful for the many examples of courageous women in scripture — for Naomi and Ruth who stood by each other despite harrowing societal circumstances; for Esther, whose bravery and wisdom saved her people from destruction; for the strength of Hannah, Abigail, and Deborah; for Mary, whose perseverance, faith, and love defied all time and place; for the heart of Anna. And the list could go on and on. Instead of feeling helpless in a male-dominated political structure, I find comfort in Jesus, our greatest advocate, who stood firmly for women’s rights — who defended women against male perpetrated violence, who healed and forgave us, walked beside us, and welcomed us into his resurrection.
Thinking about the outcomes of these heated political debates is scary, terrifying even. In the next few months I fear that polarized debate over issues concerning the lives and bodies of women will continue to stifle political and social progress in this country. Shame on Democrats and Republicans.
My hope is that people of faith can bring to the table the stories of our traditions and the wisdom of our scriptures. Perhaps we as a faith community can model the transcendence we hope for in Washington.
Anne Marie Roderick is an editorial assistant as Sojourners.