Every Sunday during Lent, we will be taking time to wrestle with our place in the culture of sexual violence within our society. While this is, unfortunately, one of many sub-cultures of a broader culture of violence in our society, we have chosen to name this one during Lent because it is not necessarily an evil that we have named before at ubc. I’ll be the first to admit that this is difficult, but we will face this difficulty together.
The litany included in this post is taken from a liturgy in protest of sexual violence that you can find here, and the women who put that together are putting out more material and resources here. This group is also hosting a series of liturgies on Baylor’s campus over the next month. The next service will be “A Space for Hope” on Tuesday, March 29th, at 8pm in Elliston Chapel.
Posted below is something I read during church on March 13th. It is the second of several pieces we will encounter in our liturgy over the next few weeks You can read the first piece here, the second piece here, the third piece here, and the fourth piece here. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see here, please email me at Jamie@ubcwaco.org.
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent, and we are continuing our reckoning with our place in the midst of a culture that is marred by sexual violence. If you haven’t been around for the past four weeks, the things I have read during this time are available on the ubc blog, under the title, “The Mirror in the Wilderness.”
I want to return to an idea that I’ve mentioned before—that perhaps when we see a particular kind of violence hold a prevalence in our culture, there are certain ideas or assumptions that are engrained in our culture that in some way help this broken part go unmended, or perhaps normalize it. For us, that also means there are ideas and assumptions engrained in us that make it difficult for us to be the presence of Christ within our culture. Last week, we began dreaming together about what a culture that does not authorize or pave the way for a prevalence of sexual violence might look like, and I urge you to continue asking that question of yourselves.
I want now to begin thinking on a much smaller scale and ask what a version of each of us might look like within that culture. This is difficult because we don’t necessarily know how to be any other way than we are, but this tension is the Christian life, is it not? Old things being made new? But that means that we might need to question things that we have taken for granted in the process—things that we’ve never really thought were that big of a deal—little things we let slide. What do you let slide?
Is it comments people you don’t know make to other people you don’t know? Comments that are perhaps in poor taste—crude, yes, unwanted by the addressee, yes, but not necessarily harmful? What if those comments really are harmful? What if allowing them to go unchecked makes them normal, and what if this normal authorizes a broader culture of sexual violence? Should you say something? Would the stranger even care what you have to say? Maybe it doesn’t matter if they internalize it. Maybe it just matters that it’s spoken out loud. But this is uncomfortable.
What about when it isn’t a stranger? What about when it’s someone you love, or at least care for, making the comment, the joke, the behind-the-scenes insult, and you know they don’t mean any harm by it? How do you know? And how do you know that something small like this won’t snowball over time? Maybe the people you love do internalize the things that you say. Maybe you help form them. But this too is uncomfortable.
And what about yourself? What do you let slide off your own tongue that steals power from other people, that makes light of what is decidedly heavy, that minimizes the cries of people who have been wronged, that normalizes aggressive behavior, on and on? You likely wouldn’t know unless you have been told or have taken time to look. So in this fifth week of Lent, I’m asking you to look. And it will likely be uncomfortable, but that’s Lent.
Now, we will participate in the litany of commitment that we have taken on the past couple of weeks, in the hope that it will continue to shape us.
As a community of faith we will not forget those who are hurting. We will listen carefully. We understand there are those among us who suffer in silence. And so...
We will not further silence our neighbor
with platitudes or should-haves.
We commit to hold their pain gently.
We know we must continue to challenge the power dynamics in our world that make abuse prevalent, even when these dynamics and systems benefit us.
We will not worship ideas or institutions.
We will love God and love our neighbor above all else.
We struggle to understand how the world can be so broken, but we will not let this deter us from seeking justice.
We will not cease praying for your Kingdom come.
We commit ourselves to the journey ahead.
Our friends will walk alone no longer.