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 20th. 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, the fourth piece here, and the fifth piece here. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see here, please email me at Jamie@ubcwaco.org.
This is the final week of Lent. For the past 5 weeks, we have been reckoning with our place in the midst of a culture marred by sexual violence. If you haven’t been here, all of the readings I have done on this topic are available on the ubc blog under the title, “The Mirror in the Wilderness.”
When we started this journey together, our aim was to use the season of Lent both to shine a light on the prevalence of sexual violence in our culture and to shine a light on ourselves revealing our complicity in this broader system—to talk about something we don’t talk about. We’ve been doing this out of the conviction that problems in our culture are our problems, and that, as the church, we don’t get to point fingers at everyone else and pretend that we aren’t a part of the problem. We are.
We have noted a few ways that we might consider ourselves to be complicit in this system: the impulse to distance ourselves from stories of sexual violence whenever possible, the cause and effect rhetoric we offer to those affected, and the language we let slide in the world around us and out of our own mouths. These provide a starting point for weeding out our place in this broader system, but they are by no means the full picture. There is more work to do.
Lent is a time when we give particular interest to wrestling with sin in our lives, but it is not the only season where we do this. Shining a light on our sin is something we should ultimately always to be open to. And so, I pray that you will continue to ask the Spirit to bring to light your complicity in this system of evil, even beyond this time we call Lent. Keep asking hard questions of things that you assume are harmless. Keep seeking wisdom and courage for combatting things that you know are harmful.
Systems are hard to take down because they transcend any one person or group of people—instead they reside in ideas, in apprehensions, in assumptions, in prejudices, in culture itself—all things that shape people. But it’s not that people are removed from the equation. People are shaped and thereby become the avenue by which culture shapes other people. People live into the ideas that they receive, they pass them on—most often without mentioning them at all—and they contribute to the narrative of how things are. Thus, these ideas are sustained by our acceptance. But we’ve been talking about what happens when we don’t accept these ideas. What happens when we decide the way things are isn’t cutting it anymore. What happens when we pull back the curtain to try to figure out how these systems work. What happens when we throw a rock in the machine. When we take responsibility for our own complicity in systems of violence and seek personal transformation? When we go off script in interacting with the people around us? And when we pass this counter-system on to other generations? The system will not be able to stay the same.
We need to do this hard work for the good of our neighbor, for the good of the world, and for ourselves.
So ubc, may be we a people of the way things could be. May we be a people who search ourselves for ghosts in our own machines that would keep us from being more fully formed in the way of Christ, and who catch the wave of the Kingdom and ride it into fulfillment.
Now, if you are willing and able, please stand and join me once again in this litany of commitment. We’ve said these words many times together, but make an effort to continue to let them form you.
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.