lamenting

Recent events have led to a heart-breaking hashtag trending on the internet: #metoo. Women around the world are using this to speak out about the misogynistic or abusive treatment they have received at the hands of men. It has taken the immense courage of the women who have made allegations against such a high profile and powerful person as Harvey Weinstein to break down the floodgates of fear and empower and en-courage others to speak out in this way.

Sadly we know that this scandalous treatment of women is nothing new – we even find it in the Bible with the rape of Tamar and the unfair treatment of the unnamed woman dragged before Jesus with a baying crowd ready to stone her for allegedly being caught in the act of adultery while the man was not similarly accused. This is not how God created men and women: we were made for complementary relationships not exploitative ones. We were created to act out of love not lust. God’s law speaks of (and Jesus enacts) the responsibility to protect not exploit, to raise up the fallen not trample on them, and the responsibility to use power to help the most vulnerable not gratify yourself.

I have felt deeply moved about this and have not been sure what to do with the range of emotions that I have been feeling until I thought about lamenting. I think that this is one of the times where the Biblical concept of lament is called for – whether you use the words of laments such as Psalm 102 or create your own. A lament is not simply a cry of woe, it’s an honest cry to God against injustice, oppression, violence and evil. It’s a heartfelt and defiant call to the Lord and into the world that despite the circumstances faith is not extinguished and that good will prevail over evil despite how things appear. It’s an invocation for God to do something. It’s a reminder that this is not how God intended things to be and they will not always be this way. It’s a call to action to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So this week I lament:

I lament for those who are victims. Many friends of mine (both women and men) have posted #metoo this week to say that they have suffered abuse. I cannot begin to understand the pain and hurt that they have carried with them caused by others whose treatment of them was degrading, dehumanising and disgusting but I lament for them.

I lament at the scale of the scandal but the sheer numbers are cold and heartless: each one is a story of someone made in God’s image but treated as less than that.

I lament that we live in a world where those who are victims feel so intimidated, afraid or ashamed that they have not been able to speak out until now (and many more won’t have even felt able to use the hashtag). I lament for the silent and voiceless.

I lament that men have done this and that we have built a patriarchal society that not only allows this to happen but has seemed as impregnable as the walls of Jericho – may God use the movement of his people to break it down.

I lament that it is not how God intended us to be with one another. I lament at the distortion of God’s creation that we were created to love one another not exploit and abuse one another.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to not only unearth and expose the evil but also to restore the dignity, honour and self-worth that has been stolen from those who are victims.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to restore his Kingdom values in his world so that we see one another as he sees us and that we love one another as he loves us. I lament and resolve to play my part in that movement for change.

Will you join me?

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

(This bloggage was previously shared as a Thought for the Week with Ministers of the Eastern Baptist Association)

the gender agenda

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So, yesterday was a big day for women in the UK. The Church of England General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of appointing women bishops (never mind that our BUGB ‘Archbishop’ (aka General Secretary) is the brilliant Lynn Green and we have had women in national and regional leadership for many years). And David Cameron has done a cabinet reshuffle that went something like this (with apologies to my magician friends).

**Prime Minister shows 4 playing cards – all kings**

**Prime Minister shuffles the cards (perhaps using some sneaky moves)**

**Prime Minister drops the kings**

**Prime Minister picks up the cards and reveals them to be 4 queens.**

**Prime Minister takes a bow.**

Now I have a problem here. You see I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Church of England has agreed that it can appoint women bishops and I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Prime Minister has reshuffled his cabinet and appointed more women. Before you brand me a bigot let me explain.

I don’t think we should be rejoicing because it should not be an issue. It should be a given that women have an equal role in society. It should not be unusual that women are appointed to leadership roles. It should not be headline news. It should be a given. A person’s gender should not matter at all. It should not be a factor in making decisions of the sort that were made yesterday.

And yet I also want to shout a loud ‘Woohoo!’ because these are two more steps in the right direction. These are two more public bricks being knocked out of the wall of prejudice and discrimination. These are two more examples of gender justice.

And, if I am confessing to the cage of confused hamsters that are spinning the wheels in my head at the moment, I also want to say that it does matter immensely. Because while gender should never be an issue and we should never discriminate on the basis of someone’s gender (or other factors either) at the same time a person’s gender is inherently part of who they are. I am a male human. It is part of what makes me me. I would not want to erase my masculine attributes or deny them because that would be to erase or deny part of my identity.

So when I say that “a person’s gender should not matter at all” at the same time I want to say that it matters completely. It is part of who we are. It is part of our identity. Reclaiming our gender identity and refusing to be conformed by stereotypes and prejudice is an essential part of being human and being a follower of Jesus.

And while the hamsters are still spinning those wheels let me try to make some sense of all of the above. I think it is possible to hold all of that in creative tension.

I think we can say wholeheartedly that gender should never make a difference by way of prejudice and discrimination. And we can say wholeheartedly that gender does make a difference as part of who we are. And we can say that until gender is not a cause for discrimination we must fight for gender justice and celebrate every step in the right direction.

When God looks at us he does not see our gender as an issue: he does not discriminate on the basis of gender. And when God looks at us he sees our gender and affirms us in it, celebrating who we are. And when God looks at us and simultaneously celebrates and ignores our gender he sets us the task of doing the same.

Be blessed, be a blessing.