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 first will be “A Space for Lament” on Tuesday, February 23, at 8pm in Elliston Chapel.
Posted below is something I read during church on February 14. It is the first of several pieces we will encounter in our liturgy over the next few weeks. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see here, please email me at Jamie@ubcwaco.org.
If you were able to attend one of our Ash Wednesday services, you heard me read a selection from Barbara Brown Taylor in which she talks about Jesus as a Mirror in which, when we catch a glimpse of ourselves, we see just how profoundly flawed we are. When we measure ourselves against Jesus, we see a great difference, and this difference serves to lay our sins bare before us. The knee-jerk response to seeing such a horror is to smash the Mirror—which is what the Romans and Jews did, what Judas and the other disciples did, and what each of us find a way to do. In Lent, we are practicing resisting the urge to smash the Mirror, but instead to lock eyes with the Reflection—to let it sting, and to seek with God’s help to close the gap of the difference between us and Jesus in some way—to be transformed.
Much of what we see in the Mirror is likely different for each of us—we don’t necessarily share all of the same flaws, but we are cultured people. By that I don’t mean that we are fancy, but rather that we are people who are the products of a particular time and place, and so we likely share many of the same problems. Unfortunately, it’s the problems that we all share that are sometimes the most difficult to acknowledge. It seems fitting in Lent to drag some of these into the Light together. The particulars of these problems are legion, but we likely catch many of them in confessing that violence has too ubiquitous of a place amongst us—and not just the violence that causes hearts to stop beating or leaves scars and bruises—it’s violence that causes hearts to go numb, that leaves scars and bruises we might never see, namely sexual violence.
If you’re a person who has not experienced violence like this up close, you might be tempted to feel as though you have the luxury of viewing a situation like this from afar without it being your problem, distancing yourself from any responsibility to minister to those affected, to see them, to listen to them, or to do whatever people who are truly appalled or horrified by an event do. But we would be hard pressed to find a single situation related to the dignity of a human person of which Jesus thought He had the luxury to say “it’s not my problem.” And when we look at Him, and look at ourselves, we see a difference, and though we scramble to find a way to say that that is not so, it is, and this difference is sin. This, this self-distancing, is the sin that tries to keep itself hidden in our culture of violence. And during Lent, we are going to look into the Mirror, let what we see sting, and say, “this is a problem, and we must change.”
So we are going to take several moments over the next few weeks to confess and pray together, grafting this into our liturgy over time rather than relegating it to a single week—because that somehow seems to be a more honest way to bring to light evils that extend beyond single events in the lives of those who are the receiving end of them. We will carry this weight with us, praying for transformation in our systems of justice, but also praying for personal transformation so we can ourselves become instruments of change. Today, we are going to read a litany together that was written by a group of women in town, four of whom are a part of ubc—Heather Mooney, Sharyl Loeung, Natalie Webb, and Emma Wood—and I’d like to thank them for gifting us with their words.
We pause this day
to recognize there are
many among us who
have been wounded by violence,
exploitation, coercion, or manipulation.
There are many among
us who are suffering and grieving.
There are many who need
support and healing,
who need their voices heard,
and their stories acknowledged,
and their experiences validated.
The weight of oppression is heavy,
and the effects of trauma
are real and long-lasting.
We pause this day
all of us are impacted
by the culture of violence.
All of us are impacted by the culture
of impatience and hostility
in which we live.
By listening to one another,
may we become instruments
of justice and peace.
We're going to take some time now in silence for this to sink in, and for the Spirit to minister to us, to reveal to us our complicity in our culture of violence, and to begin to shape our imaginations for enacting change.