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 Anger” on Tuesday, March 15th, at 8pm in Elliston Chapel.
Posted below is something I read during church on March 6th. 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, and the third piece here. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see here, please email me at Jamie@ubcwaco.org.
This is the fourth week of Lent, and we are continuing to reckon with our place in the midst of a culture that is marred by sexual violence. If you have not been around for the past three Sundays, the transcripts of what I’ve read about this are available on the ubc blog under the title “The Mirror in the Wilderness.”
We’ve been creating space for the Spirit to shape our imaginations when thinking about what it looks like to come alongside people who experience sexual violence, and how to combat the prevalence of this violence in our culture.
We talk about imagination at ubc from time to time because our capacity for imagination is a gift from God. Imagination allows us to dream of worlds that are different than our own. It seems like the concept of imagination got narrowed in our culture at some point to point to worlds of magic and unicorns and the like, as though imagination is merely an avenue of entertainment or escapism, unrelated to the truth of things. This is somewhat different than what we are aiming at when we talk about the Spirit shaping our imaginations. The conceiving of worlds different than our own that we are talking about is instead centered on the idea that perhaps the way things are is not the way things have to be. Though we are inescapably the product of the way things are, and sometimes don’t know how to be anything other than people of the way things are, God has given us the gift of imagination so that we can be transformed into people of the way things could be, knocking about until the way things are changes. It’s at the heart of the Christian story, because God is not the God of the way things are.
Imagination is also at the heart of Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God: the kingdom is here--among us--and yet, of course, we look around and see a world that is not driven by the selfless love of the kingdom of God, and we look in the mirror and we see people who are prone to place their own desires over the desires of others, but the Kingdom is nonetheless here because Jesus told brain-breaking stories about what it is like, and he has given us a lens to see what it all could be. And if we let that dream guide our own dreams about the way things could be, we might find ourselves as people who no longer accept the way things are, and instead become people who let the dream of the Kingdom become our waking life. Our imaginations help us call the norm into question and drive us to rage against systems that hold the world as we know it in place, and ultimately build new ones.
And so, over the past few weeks, we have called into question the veracity of the self distancing our culture has taught us regarding whose problems we should call our own, and we have called into question the rationalizing we have learned how to do that implicitly casts blame in the wrong direction.
Perhaps we should now zoom out a little bit and raise a question: What if our culture is seeded with ideas that authorize the prevalence of sexual violence that we see around us? Ideas that turn a blind eye to injustice. Ideas that lead to selective hearing. Ideas that normalize aggression.
And what if it could be otherwise?
What might that culture look like? What kinds of conversations would take place there? How would people interact? How would authority structures maintain order? How would people view themselves? How would they view other people?
Let’s take on imagining that world together, and lean into it. Because the systems that we are a part of will struggle to stay the same if we do.
We will now participate in a litany that is a part of the Liturgy in Protest of Sexual violence that we have been using the past few weeks. We read this litany last week together, and we will continue to do it, because it seems in line with the kind of world that we are imagining together, because perhaps in lingering on these words, we will found ourselves molded into people who better embody them. I’ll read the light print, you may respond with the bold.
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.