I took a bit of time off from blogging to get thru Thanksgiving, and it was a great time! I hope your holiday was blessed, happy and safe. I have the same prayer for your Advent Season and celebration of Hanukkah: safety, joy and good times with friends & family!
Sexuality and Violence
I was captivated by the story this morning of two sisters in India who courageously fought back against some young men harassing them on a public bus. But, it stands in stark contrast to the tragic story of Tugce Albayrak who was murdered in Germany for standing up for two other women who were being harassed. Sexuality and it’s tragic link to violence is a conversation that we must all engage, in our homes, within our local communities, across our nation and around our world.
Women’s Sexuality and Violence
Women are whole sexual beings of value and beauty, not sexual commodities to be handled, traded, devalued or owned. I’m glad that in an increasingly post-patriarchal world we can see women’s value on the rise, but we still have a journey ahead of us. I encourage you to support campaigns like It’s On Us and Hollaback! I just started looking through the website of Stop Street Harassment, a group working to equip male allies in the struggle to end this type of sexual violence. Honestly, I’ve been a bit discouraged by the number of men I see on Facebook justifying or laughing about the problem of street harassment. We can do better.
Something that I believe men often miss is the physical and emotional stress caused by verbal violence and actions (proximity and following) which engender fear for women in public places. We’ve probably all seen the recent video highlight the problem of street harassment in NYC, but many men are missing the point. Take for instance this interview with a man who clearly has no clue what kind of violence lurks behind street harassment and defends it as something women secretly desire. Then there’s a video of a muscular man walking in NYC and receiving some similar catcalls and harassment. The creators of that video believe there’s a dynamic equivalent between the experience of the woman and the man in a similar situation. The sad truth is that women are sometimes beaten and killed for rejecting those street harassments whereas the muscular guy has a bit less of a chance of the verbal assault becoming physically violent. Let’s get real.
Here’s a quick look at the global problem of violence against women, courtesy of the World Health Organization.
LGBTQ Sexuality and Violence
One of the saddest parts of engaging the current conversations about our valuable LGBTQ sisters, brothers and neighbors is the prevalence of violence linked with their sexual identity. LGBTQ youth have a high rate of homelessness which leads to vulnerability to crime, exploitation and drug abuse. They are often rejected at home and either driven out by the stresses of nonacceptance or simply told to leave. This is sexual violence. One of the saddest parts of this picture is that religion is often cited as a basis for both the nonacceptance and for kicking these teens out of their homes.
Sadly, we’re all familiar with stories like this one from Philadelphia just a couple months ago when two gay men were harassed and beaten. These stories are all too familiar and they highlight the problem of sexuality and violence. I recently shared the video of Laverne Cox speaking on street harassment and the ugly verbal violence she has faced and the physical violence which sometimes faces transgendered women on the street.
And who can forget the preachers who have used their pulpits to incite violence, both verbal and physical, against our neighbors based on their sexuality? Some of us may want to forget them, but we should face the truth that this is our issue in the church and we still have work to do to address it and move forward.
Here’s a downloadable report on hate crimes and violence against our LGBTQ friends, neighbors and family, courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign.
Speaking Up on Sexuality and Violence
What I ask is that we learn to speak up on behalf of anyone and everyone who faces verbal and/or physical violence because of their sexuality. We’re talking about gender and sexual orientation. We need to develop reflexes as a culture and a species which react to this violence with justice and mercy. We need to be heard from our homes, phones, Facebook streams, blogs and pulpits clearly saying that this kind of violence predicated on issues of sexuality is unacceptable, not funny and unwelcome on our big blue spinning globe.
I’m mediating this week with the beginning of Advent on John’s introduction to who Jesus is as he arrives in the world, from John 1:1-4…
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Word. Powerful Word. Creative Word. We know this truth: that our words have meaning and power. As the Word was a shaping and creative force in God’s founding of creation, we have similar words to shape and make this a world of justice, peace and hope. We know the words of Jesus, who is himself the light and life, claiming that we similarly are “the light of the world.”
Are we ready to speak up? Are we ready to stand up and use our words to shape the world with God’s peace and grace? The world, every woman and man, every LGBTQ neighbor, awaits our decision. Let the light shine.
Let the light shine.