WARNING — this is a lot longer than my normal modest posting. It is also a complex and troubling issue worth commentary.
The questions of woman and men, violence against women, patriarchy, equality vs. complementarity, have beenon my radar recently. The world still waits to see what will happen to the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Closer to home people are grappling with the violence perpetrated by Eliot Rodgers against women and men but in the context of a manifesto against women that has echoed around the world. My Twitter feed has been filled with heart-breaking, soul-baring, and shocking revelations by women about the violence and misogyny they have experienced (If you are on Twitter, the hashtag for these posts was #YesAllWomen. If you didn’t see it, you need to take a look).
As a husband and the father of both young adult women and a teenage boy I have a conflicting mix of emotions and thoughts. We have taught our girls to be independent and stand up for themselves. Both of them have faced violence from boys they dated who thought it was fine to behave in such a way. Thankfully nothing like the things I have seen and heard on Twitter of late. But a frightening and troubling in and of themselves.
As the father of a son I am convicted that I have not been more forceful and clear with our thirteen-year old about this issue. Or as a pastor and a Christian. A friend and colleague posted on Facebook yesterday (which I am quoting at some length here with her permission):
“Men who are raising sons: where is your voice? in the news
What are you teaching your sons in word and example, so no women is ever speaking of them when they tell their stories of harassment, fear, danger and violence?
Women are fully human people. They are in charge of their bodies and their lives. They owe you nothing just because you are a man. Women are not objects for your self-gratification. My sons grew up in a household of equal human partners as parents. “
I couldn’t have said it better myself… but I have not said it myself enough. Nor, and this is where I feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, have I examined my life and marriage and parenting and relationships for these insidious and corrupting ideas. Where have I perpetuated in humor, for instance, these beliefs that lead to violence? Where do the things I say and do reinforce the views that allow men to do such horrible things to women? Have I done them myself ? Not at the same level of violence but in word and silence? I am not sure I like the answers.
There is more to consider here and I thank the aforementioned colleague and friend for dialoguing with me a bit this morning. She always makes me think and I am seeing where some of these issues of power, position, control, etc. are bigger than this question alone.
My personal theology is grounded in a large degree in Genesis 1 where we hear these words:
“God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 CEB)
This glorious beginning very quickly falls to pieces. Far too often we have lived in the story that follows rather than into God’s desire to renew and redeem and restore this heritage that comes from our very being made in the divine images – men and women, male and female. God spoke and it was so. Too ofter we – I – have lived out of the Old Adam’s tale rather than the New Adam of Christ.
It is past time we speak and seek more to make it so. More on this one later…