Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lent One: Embracing Hunger

My childhood faith tradition was dismissive of Lent and its practices. Why would God care if we gave up chocolate? Or fasted on certain days?
When God led our family into a more liturgical congregation, we discovered the value of spiritual disciplines and the joy of a liturgical calendar. Lent is an essential part of both.

Lent offers a time to pause and review, to consider what we’ve been feeding ourselves, to examine the values that hold us most tightly.

Food seems like a small part of that, yet giving up even something as simple as chocolate can become a daily reminder.

For years I’ve given up sugar during Lent. That necessitates giving up chocolate, sweet desserts, sodas, even coffee. It forces me to read labels, rethink menus, and acknowledge, yet again, that for me “sweet” too often equates to nurture.

Giving up sugar, chocolate, Facebook, whatever the choice, is a good way to peel ourselves free from unhealthy patterns, and a way to remind ourselves that it’s okay to want and not have. We won’t die if we don’t feed every desire. In fact, deprivation of harmful desires is an essential first step toward health.

This year, though, I’m not giving up sugar.

I’m reaching toward something deeper, though still a bit unclear.

Lent points us back toward Jesus in the desert, in his forty days of fasting and prayer.
Temptation of Christ in the Desert, 12th Century France

And I’ve been praying about that first temptation: 
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’  (Matthew 4:1-4). 
Set that beside Jesus’ statement, just days later: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

What does it mean to live by more than bread alone?

How do I live in a way that is nourished more deeply by the daily word of God?

And here’s the question that’s been troubling me: what am I most hungry for?

Last week I wrote about confession, and shared the Ash Wednesday prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

I’ve been pausing on the first section of that prayer, and puzzling over the realities of my own daily life:    
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
 Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.
 
I reread some of that and think “Well, no, I’m not really that self-indulgent.”

Or “my love of goods and comforts is not nearly as intemperate as some people I could name.”

But that’s not the point.

In fact, to even begin that conversation suggests an inordinate hunger: for self-justification? Self-righteous vindication?

It occurs to me that our hunger, almost by definition, is focused on self: looking good to ourselves or others, feeling fed, nourished, comfortable, safe.

It’s all about us.  

And how could we help it, in a culture that tells us from morning to night that we’re worth it, that our every wish deserves to be met, that we should never have to wait for service, never take second-best, never sacrifice our own demands? Even our churches (some, not all) allow us to imagine that it’s all about us: music we like, sermons that “feed” us, God’s blessing for us and only us.

Even salvation: is salvation about a happy future for ourselves, or a healed and whole creation for us all? 

Is it all about me?

What do I really hunger for?

And what Lenten abstinence will free or satisfy?

I wrote two years ago about “hungering far past rightness": 
:Righteousness," to me, was a competitive activity, with a strong punitive edge.
 Who would hunger and thirst after that? And what would it mean to be satisfied?
Dig a bit, and it turns out the original Greek word used in Matthew’s gospel, “dikaios,” is the same as the Hebrew word "tzedakah", a word used throughout the Old Testament to describe the character of God and God’s restorative actions: justice, truth, compassion, kindness, making right, renewing, restoring, ensuring good things for those without, restraining the powerful, lifting up the weak, repairing ruined vineyards and fields, ensuring wise governance and an equitable economy.
We have no word that comes even close. 
As part of that post I attempted a paraphrase of Matthew 5:6-7 
 Your greatest joy, benefit, health, will come from trusting God’s plan, and doing your best to live it, without insisting on your own rights, your own needs, your own safety.
And your greatest joy, benefit, health will come not from simply wanting God’s plan in your own life, but longing to see it revealed in the world around you, in the health of creation, provision for the poor, restoration for those mistreated. As you long to see God’s goodness revealed, you will, in fact, have that longing fulfilled. 
Reading back over those words, I can see I missed some important elements, highlighted in commentaries that explicate this passage:
Hungry Children, Creative Commons Cate Turton
 Department for International Development

First, hunger: my knowledge of hunger is sadly lacking. I’ve never been in a situation where my very right now. I’ve skipped meals, even on occasion fasted for days, but there’s always been food nearby. The word “hunger,” as used by Jesus, would have meant something much deeper than I fully understand: a desperate longing. A craving that consumes all attention and directs every ounce of energy.  An overwhelming neediness waiting, and watching, for foor.

Second: righteousness. There’s something going on in the forms of Jesus’ words that suggests an outcome both specific and complete, both immediate and in the future: “the whole object, and not a part of it”, “now in part, fully hereafter.”

The more I hunger for righteousness, the more I see the brokenness around me and realize that our brokenness is all part of the same shattered wholeness.

And the more I pray to see the world as God sees it, the more overwhelmed I am by the need, yet amazed at the glimpses of grace and great mercy. 

Puzzling over commentary highlights, I came across this:
St. Austin, wondering at the overflowing measure of God's Spirit in the Apostles' hearts, observes that the reason why they were so full of God was because they were so empty of his creatures. 'They were very full,' he says, 'because they were very empty'" (Anon., in Ford). 
Here is a mystery worth pursuing: how do we become so empty of ourselves that God’s fullness overflows?

And how do we grow past a superficial hunger to a craving for justice and righteousness so deep it reshapes our spending, reframes our conversation, redirects our every ounce of energy? My first task this Lent is to prayerfully track down the superficial hungers that distract me from the one great hunger: TV shows that have crept onto my schedule, trivial pursuits that have squeezed out better things, good things worth doing that have kept me from the best.

And then, the bigger, harder task: embrace the hunger that will never be fully satisfied, but that opens our eyes and hearts to the world's great need and daily draws us closer to the one who made and loves us all. 
"Ever filled and ever seeking, what they have they still desire,
Hunger there shall fret them never, nor satiety shall tire, -
Still enjoying whilst aspiring, in their joy they still aspire."
('Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family,' ch. 9,
 from the Latin Hymn of Peter Damiani, † 1072.) 

This is the second in a Lenten series.

Other Lenten posts:
    Ash Wednesday: Confession Booth, February 15

From 2013:

     Lenten Song: Remembering Ranan 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Confession Booth

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and a day of repentance and confession.

I’ve been posting this winter about social justice issues, ways we exclude and abuse each other, and wondering what restitution would look like: for families harmed by racial prejudice, communities shattered by unjust social policy, women diminished by unexamined assumptions.

There’s a chapter in Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz that I’ve carried with me: "Confession". Miller describes Ren Fayre week on his Reed College campus, and the idea of building a confession booth – not for the partying students, but for the small band of campus Christians:
"Okay, you guys." Tony gathered everybody's attention. "Here's the catch." He leaned in a little. "We are not actually going to accept confessions." We all looked at him in confusion.
 He continued, "We are going to confess to them. We are going to confess that, as followers of Jesus, we have not been very loving; we have been bitter, and for that we are sorry. We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and the lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishness, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell people who come into the booth that Jesus loves them."
 All of us sat there in silence because it was obvious that something beautiful and true had hit the table with a thud. We all thought it was a great idea, and we could see it in each other's eyes. It would feel so good to apologize, to apologize for the Crusades, for Columbus and the genocide committed in the Bahamas in the name of God, apologize for the missionaries who landed in Mexico and came up through the West slaughtering Indians in the name of Christ. 
 I wanted so desperately to apologize for the many ways I had misrepresented the Lord. I could feel that I had betrayed the Lord by judging, by not being willing to love the people he had loved and only giving lip service to issues of human rights.
For so much of my life I had been defending Christianity because I thought to admit that we had done any wrong was to discredit the religious system as a whole. But it isn't a religious system; it is people following Christ. And the important thing to do, the right thing to do, was to apologize for getting in the way of Jesus. 
Change starts with confession. Acknowledgement of guilt, acceptance of blame, desire to walk in a new way.


If I could, I’d build a big confession booth in the middle of every reservation.

In the most battered neighborhoods in our inner cities.

On the street corners where prostitutes ply their trade.

And God’s people would sit there and confess.

But my carpenter skills are lacking, and I haven’t figured out how to be multiple places at once. So this will have to do for now.

My confession booth:

I did not drive you from your land, but I’ve enjoyed the benefit. My own yard was once yours. Communities where my family has lived were built on the ruins of yours.

And I didn’t hold you in slavery, but I’ve enjoyed the benefit while you inherited the pain. 

I am not the one erecting walls against you, or jailing you unjustly, but I’m also not crying out for walls to be torn down, or paying your legal fees to see justice done.

I have benefited from your labor, without insisting that you earn a living wage.

I’ve assumed open doors for myself, without ensuring there were open doors for you.

I am complicit in more ways than I can fathom:

When I sit in pews in churches where women’s voices are silenced.

When I participate in programs, policies, patterns designed to please and pamper the wealthy, and disadvantage the poor.

When I enjoy the benefits of well-cared for roads, excellent schools, world class health care, while not asking why others, equally deserving, have no roads at all, substandard schools, poorly staffed clinics with outdated equipment.

And I have misrepresented God, our savior Jesus Christ, the present, powerful Holy Spirit, the glorious coming Kingdom.

I have colluded in a system that creates false standards, pretends to piety, accepts some more than others, delights in theological abstraction while ignoring human need, dares to speak for God in ways we know he would not speak. 

I have helped parcel out love in small measure, crumbs of compassion, small samplings of kindness.

I have stood on the wrong side of them versus us, been silent when I should have spoken, taken the coward’s way out, settled for easy instead of true.

Misrepresented God in speech, action, attitude: presented a flat, flimsy version that my own mind could manage, my own stick figure drawing of a reality far grander than I’ve glimpsed or taken time to imagine.

And yes, daily, minute by minute, I have judged you – whoever you are – for driving slow in the fast lane, for wasting your money for things I find foolish, for laughing too loud, eating too much, failing to be exactly like me.

Please forgive me.

I have friends who find confession oppressive. Insulting. As if admission we are less than perfect is in some way demeaning.

I find confession freeing: I am less than perfect. Far less. I fall short every day, of justice, of love, of the glorious possibility breathed into every human on the this planet.

So I confess, and celebrate Ash Wednesday, and invite you to join me in prayer that will echo around the globe this Wednesday:
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord. 

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
        (Book of Common Prayer, Ash Wednesday) 


This is the last in an unexpected series: Justice Is Indivisible. Other posts: 
Epiphany and Filoxenia: Entertaining Angels, Jan. 4, 2015
Looking Back, Praying Forward, Jan. 11, 2015
Creative Extremists for Love, Jan. 18, 2015
Selma:Stories We Need to Hear, Jan. 25, 2015
#NoMore Less Than, Feb. 1, 2015
Learning to Listen, Feb. 8, 2015 

Please join the conversation! Much as I love response in other formats (email, Facebook comments, etc) comments left here become part of the ongoing discussion. Look for the "__ comments" link below to leave your comments.   

 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Learning to Listen

In school I was taught the names
Columbus, Cortez, and Pizzaro . . . 
No on mentioned the names
Of even a few of the victims.
But don’t you remember Chaske, whose spine
Was crushed so quickly by Mr. Pizzaro’s boot?
What words did he cry into the dust?
(from Columbus Day, Jimmie Durham,
Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry)
 
Today’s post will not be an orderly discussion.

More a gathering of notes documenting my own lack of attention, my preference for pleasant stories.

And a confession.

I’ll start with confession. In a half century of reading almost anything I could find, a college degree in English and Humanities (art, history, philosophy, music), a PhD in American lit at one of our premier universities, I don’t remember ever reading anything – at all – by a Native America writer.

How is that possible? I track back through dusty lists in my mind: Barbara Kingsolver? Some of her characters are Native, but she isn't. Sorry. Tony Hillerman? I love his description of Native people and customs, but no. He grew up in Oklahoma, studied at an Indian boarding school, but never claimed to be Native American.
 
On Martin Luther King’s birthday, a friend who works with Native Young Life in North Dakota posted this photo:

In the weeks since, I’ve been turning that statement over in my mind. 

Is it true that our nation was born in genocide?

I’ve spent enough time with people carrying trauma that I’ve come to believe strongly that stories unaddressed continue to shape who we are and what we do. Until we acknowledge the ideas and circumstances that formed us, we are powerless to change them.

Last week, tracking through material about domestic violence and abuse of women, I came across troubling statistics about violence done to Native American women. Of all American women, they are most likely to be beaten, raped, murdered, or simply disappear.

According to the Department of Justice: “American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.” 

According to the Royal Canada Mounted Police
aboriginal women in Canada are murdered or disappear at a rate four times higher than their representation in the population.  
Canadian authorities identify root causes that contribute to the risks these women face through economic poverty—: a history of discrimination that began with colonization and residential schools continues today through laws and policies. Residential schools, which were closed in 1996, were commonly overcrowded and lacked medical care, and were the locale of rampant physical and sexual abuse. This created a long-lasting cycle of trauma that continues to affect families today. 
The Missing Sisters "Save Wiyabi" Mapping Project shows indigenous women in the US are also at high risk. Why is there so little mention of this in the mainstream media? Why is there so little effort spent in finding these women, or solving their murders? 

King's genocide quote is from Why We Can’t Wait, written in 1964:
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.
Was he right? About our origins? About our lack of remorse?

Has anything changed in the half century since?

Tracking King's quote, I came across an unfamiliar hashtag: #doctrineofdiscovery.

Doctrine of Discovery?

Did I miss that somewhere?

In February of 2012, The World Council of Churches issued a “Statement on the doctrine of discovery and its enduring impact on Indigenous Peoples.” It described the Doctrine of Discovery formulated in Papal pronouncements from the fifteenth century onward: 
the church documents Dum Diversas (1452) and Romanus Pontifex (1455) called for non-Christian peoples to be invaded, captured, vanquished, subdued, reduced to perpetual slavery and to have their possessions and property seized by Christian monarchs.
The Statement summarizes the tragic impact of this doctrine across more than five centuries, acknowledges that “the Doctrine remains the law in various ways in almost all settler societies around the world today” and
  •  Denounces the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and as a violation of the inherent human rights that all individuals and peoples have received from God
  • Urges various governments in the world to dismantle the legal structures and policies based on the Doctrine of Discovery and dominance, so as better to empower and enable Indigenous Peoples to identify their own aspirations and issues of concern;
  •  Calls on each WCC member church to reflect upon its own national and church history and to encourage all member parishes and congregations to seek a greater understanding of the issues facing Indigenous Peoples, to support Indigenous Peoples in their ongoing efforts to exercise their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights, to continue to raise awareness about the issues facing Indigenous Peoples and to develop advocacy campaigns to support the rights, aspirations and needs of Indigenous Peoples.
My own church has a strong, decades-long partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, with many years of support of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Standing Rock Reservation. We’ve had many of our teens and young adults help with a summer camp for teens and invest in friendships with Native peers, and we’ve had visits across the years from some of our Dakota counterparts in ministry.

Yet somehow, I had not fully understood the dynamics still at play among Native Americans: the underlying structural and political realities that make economic development almost impossible, the lack of health care, transportation, appropriate affordable housing.

Last fall, following arguments about the Keystone XL Pipeline, I stumbled over the story of a Lakota activist arrested for singing in honor of senators who voted against the pipeline. Greg Grey Cloud, of the Crow Creek Sioux, said afterward “this was not a political stunt or a protest demonstration. As a singer, I know only one way to honor someone, and that’s to sing. I didn’t mean to disrupt the Senate, only to honor the conviction shown by the Senators. This is how we honor our heroes.”

There are interesting questions in that one small story, but it pointed me toward unresolved larger questions: who owns resources once used by all? What happens when private profit is held as a higher value than the common good of entire populations?

Or on a much simpler level: when will we decide that too many treaties have been broken, and insist that those still in force be honored?

In 1938, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, wrote:
For nearly 300 years white Americans, in our zeal to carve out a nation made to order, have dealt with the Indians on the erroneous, yet tragic, assumption that the Indians were a dying race—to be liquidated. We took away their best lands; broke treaties, promises; tossed them the most nearly worthless scraps of a continent that had once been wholly theirs.
That practice continues: theIndian Land Tenure Foundation has begun assembling information about land management practices that hold Native American communities in poverty in direct violation of treaties:
More often than not, the federal government has failed to honor its agreements or to protect the rights of Native people. The U.S. courts, for example, have unlawfully upheld the taking of aboriginal territory without compensation. Congress refers to its power over Indian nations as “plenary” and has passed laws allowing for the termination of Indian nations and the forced, illegal sale of Indian lands. More recently, the Department of Interior admitted to over a century of mismanagement of Indian lands and assets that has been responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in real income for nearly 500,000 Indian landowners.  
For Native communities, the Keystone XL Pipeline focuses attention on indigenous land rights and broken treaties, as well as the mistreatment of indigenous women. Native communities point to “man camps,” camps of thousands of male workers brought to an area to drill for oil or construct pipelines, as key contributors to spikes in violence against women.
All the devastation that these man camps would bring to Native communities in the United States directly reflect the injustices visited upon our Aboriginal and First Nations sisters across the border. . . .The spectre of these man camps needs to be chased out, and Honor the Earth supports the calls of our sisters from the Plains, and from leaders from our own community of White Earth to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, and to stop these man camps.
According to Lisa Brunner, a Native woman who advocates for victims of domestic violence in White Earth Nation, Minnesota:
Extractive industries such as oil fracking, tar sands oil extraction, and coal mining are examples of predator economics at their worst. They treat Mother Earth like they treat women... They think they can own us, buy us, sell us, trade us, rent us, poison us, rape us, destroy us, use us as entertainment and kill us.
I find myself returning to King’s inescapable assertion: “Justice is indivisible; injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

And to John Perkin’s reminder that "we need to know more about what really goes on before we solidfiy our theoretical ideas about what a Christian "ought" or "ought not" to do. .

Much to learn.

Much to read.

Many stories yet to hear. 
You will need
To come closer
For little is left
Of this tongue
And what I am saying
Is important.
I am the last one.
(from Truganinny, Wendy Rose,
Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry) 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

#Nomore Less Than

There’s a moment in the film Selma when Martin Luther King says “It is unacceptable that they use their power to keep us voiceless. Those that have gone before us say, 'No more.'”

That “no more” became a ongoing cry: no more Birminghams, no more lynchings, no more unprovoked violence, no more sitting on the sidelines while people of color are treated as less than equal, less than human.
 
That cry continues, but a new one has joined it, a force behind an ad that will be aired during the
Superbowl this evening, part of the Joyful Heart Foundation's #Nomore Campaign against Domestic Violence.

I’ve been posting the last few weeks about inclusion and exclusion, justice and injustice, and King’s insistence that “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

He also repeated in various places: “There can be no justice without peace, and there can be no peace without justice.”

This is true in our communities, and true in our homes as well.

When relationships are about power and privilege, with one group assuming its right to control, injustice and violence are not far behind.

Read through the arguments for segregation, and they all circle back to a sense of entitlement. 

But what happens when entitlement is part of our closest relationships?

What happens when the assumption of power and privilege plays out in the most mundane matters of daily life?

Racial violence doesn’t start with a plan to harm. It starts with assumptions, unacknowledged privilege, culturally endorsed ideas about who matters most, growing anger when assumptions are challenge.. Whose streets are the police trying to keep safe, and for whom? Whose communities are we hoping to see thrive, and how? Whose country is this, and how far will we go to see that belief preserved?

On the issue of domestic violence, the statistics are staggering, conflicting, inconclusive. According to the Center for Disease Control:
  • At least one of every three women will be a victim of domestic violence.
  • One in five women has been raped. 
  • One in six women has been the victim of stalking.
  • Almost half or all women have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.  
  • 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. More than ten million children have witnessed domestic abuse.
  • More than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
  • Less than 1 in four incidents of partner violence or abuse is reported – so the real number, on most of these, is far higher than anyone can prove. 

The NFL has been receiving much attention on this issue, prompting an ad by a group called UltraViolet that shows a football player preparing for a tackle, then charging across the field full force toward a woman standing alone.  A voiceover says “Let’s take domestic violence out of football,” while on-screen text reads “55 NFL abuse cases unanswered.” It ends with the hashtag, #Goodellmustgo.

The #Nomore ad is in a way the NFL's response. Reportedly based on an actual 911 call, air time and production cost were paid for by the League. 

New York Times article describes the dynamic of NFL culture that can make wives feel trapped and unprotected.But that sense of entrapment and lack of protection is hardly unique to wives in the NFL. A more troubling article in The Atlanticdescribes a culture of abuse among police officers, too often unchecked.

And while much has been written lately about rape cultures on college campuses, the reality is that less privileged young women are far more likely to experience rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, often in their homes rather than in college frat houses.

We have come to understand that the problem of violence against women is not a problem of individual men who are abusing individual women. The problem is a systemic one, an outgrowth of centuries of patriarchal privilege, which has defined man's relationship to woman in terms of domination, entitlement and ownership. Although the manifestations of male entitlement vary in different cultures throughout the world, it is a rare culture in which this paradigm simply does not exist. . . .Men utilize a wide array of tactics to control and dominate the women they are partnered with, not because they suffer from individual psychopathologies, but because they are socialized in cultures that encourage, support, or condone, a man's right to do so. 
A simple chart from the Dultuh Model, pioneers in community intervention, summarizes the research connecting the need to control and the likelihood of violence:



Reading the chart, I find myself grieving.

I know stories for every one of those slices. Stories told in tears on front porches, over coffees and eggs, in late night conversations when the lights are low. About marriages in trouble, explosive home situations, lingering baggage from long-ago trauma.

I read the chart and wish I had been more helpful.

Intervention is hard, support scarce, options few.

And the results of abuse are destructive and enduring.

Victims of domestic abuse can demonstrate the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as soldiers returning from violent war zones.

Unrecognized and untreated, these symptoms can add to more anger, more abuse. Even freed from the abusive situation, survivors can find themselves trapped in feelings of failure, isolation, and despair.  

No simple ad campaign will solve this.

And agreeing that domestic violence is wrong, or speaking out against campus rape, will do little to change a culture of abuse.

I’m reading in the gospel of Matthew this month, with Scripture Union’s Encounter with God.

The reading from January 21, Matthew 9:18-26, considered Jesus’ interactions with two women: the dead daughter of a man of influence, the marginalized woman who reached out to touch his robe.

The commentary, written by Fran Beckett said this: 
Tragically, misogynist attitudes can still be found today, reflected in dehumanizing practices such as the international trafficking of women and girls, female genital mutilation, abortion of girl babies, girls denied access to education, or women's portrayal as sex objects on the internet and in magazines. It exists in less overt although still damaging forms each time a woman's view isn't taken seriously because she's a woman, or despite her ability is denied workplace promotion because of a glass ceiling. Both women and men experienced profound injustice in Jesus' day and still do, and it was his positive engagement with women that marked him out as particularly controversial. Is there anything in our own attitudes to either women or men generally, or to particular individuals, that needs to change to be more like that of Jesus? 
In my experience (and according to a recent survey), our churches are no more likely to be safe havens for women than the other places where we travel. Women are interrupted, dismissed, shut down, and, behind closed doors, abused at statistically the same levels.   

Wives who seek help are questioned, encouraged to be “good wives,” left wondering where to turn.

The boys in our churchs, too often, are taught that they are “more than.” Their gifts are to be used, their ideas to be heard. While girls are “less than.” Abilities called into question, voices silenced, cry for help ignored.

Not in all churches, but still too many. 

Certainly not by all men. I’m grateful beyond words for the men in my life who listen to, affirm, encourage their sisters, mothers, daughters, friends.

Even so, the good news that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,”  is still too often withheld from those who  most need to hear it. 

The most promising developments in the effort to stop the abuse of women have not been
in the therapeutic arena. Sociopolitical responses, befitting a systemic problem, have, in fact, begun to a make a difference. A systemic response is a comprehensive coordinated community effort: every institution in a community does its part in holding perpetrators accountable for their acts, and also provides extensive supports, including shelter, for women who are the victim/survivors. When a whole community treats violence against women as criminal behavior, instead of a private, predictable and acceptable family problem, things begin to change. When a whole community treats violence against women as shameful, looks down on those who perpetrate it, and make no more jokes about it, things will change.
 
Almost eighty years ago, writer Dorothy Sayer called attention to Jesus’ example: 
Perhaps it is no wonder that women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this man. There never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made sick jokes about women; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took women’s questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out a certain sphere for women; who never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took women as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its point or pungency from female perversity. Nobody could get from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything funny or inferior about women. (Are Women Human, 1938) 
When our leaders, pastors, teachers, fathers decide to follow that example, when they refuse to treat women and girls as less than, and hold others accountable who do, we will be well on our way to ending domestic violence.


I’m waiting, and praying, and longing for that day.