-- Micah 6:8Why now? What is it about this moment that women are speaking out against harassers and abusers? Is it the high profile of the abusers or the accusers? Is it the ability to be instantly heard by thousands on social media? Is it some new knowledge or insight that has led us as a society to see how unjustly imbalanced power is distributed in our society?
Growing up in a household with no sisters, I didn’t do a lot of thinking about what women experience. I loved James Bond movies, despite the uneasy feeling I got from the way women were used in them. I knew women could be strong and achieve whatever a man could, but figured many just chose not to try. It never occurred to me how much they had to overcome, how much they had to fear.When my mom went to seminary to become a pastor, I watched her work hard and struggle – not just with the schoolwork, but also with people’s attitudes. The assumptions ran deep – pastors had been exclusively men for so long, people just assumed that was the way it was supposed to be. A few of those people changed their minds after knowing her and hearing her preach. But she was faced with colleagues in a career field who felt the same way. Some of them who sat in halls of power were able to put major roadblocks in her way.
The biggest shock of all came in the one counseling class I was required to take to become a pastor. The professor had us all put our heads down and close our eyes and asked the women in class to raise their hands if they had ever been sexually abused. He told us that a quarter of the women had raised their hands. Later, a good friend told me she was one of them. I was stunned and wondered what it meant for my classmates and what it said about our world.
Many people feel the Bible is the culprit. After all, doesn’t it say that women were made to stay home and make babies? Actually, it doesn’t. Doesn’t it say they are to keep silent and keep their heads covered? Well, in one particular case, the Apostle Paul says that to one particular congregation. Doesn’t it say that wives are to obey their husbands? Yes, in the same passage where it tells husbands to love and honor their wives as Christ loves and honors the Church. Since the Bible came out of a culture where men were more likely to be literate and employed, they were naturally expected to be the head of the household. But this same Bible is full of examples of capable and heroic women. Think of Sarah and Mary, Esther, Ruth, Mary Magdalene and Hannah (and don’t forget the daughters of Zelophead in Numbers 27). The Bible also describes households like Timothy’s, where the mother’s line was far more influential than the father’s.
Our ELCA denomination has been putting together a series of Social Statements, explaining our positions on various topics from the perspective of Biblical and church teaching. If you go to this link: http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements you will find documents on abortion, caring for creation, the death penalty, education, and other major issues. The ELCA puts together a task force to draft each of these statements, and in the process they ask for input from church members and congregations. These are used to describe our ELCA’s position on these major topics, for use in teaching and developing policies.
This year, the ELCA has put together the task force which will be writing a social statement on Women and Justice. They invite you to participate by reading the first draft of the statement, either individually or with a group. This draft is available online at www.elca.org/womenandjustice and includes a response form with questions. You are encouraged to send in this form with your own thoughts and opinions you’d like to contribute to the discussions. Forms need to be in by September 30.
Big change doesn’t happen overnight. It may begin like an earthquake, but may take years of aftershocks to reach its full expression. In the #MeToo movement we have heard brave women speak out against abuse. We’ve seen harassers and abusers in power positions fall like dominoes. By using their voices, they have made real change happen in our world. Here is a chance for you to have a voice, and perhaps have it magnified in the megaphone of a social statement. Let me know if you’d like more info, or if you’re interested in putting together a group to study this issue at Atonement.