by Christine Sine
I It’s Sunday afternoon and I am still struggling to put my Monday Meditation together. It will be October 1st and my plan was to write to start our new focus “Getting Ready For Advent and Christmas with a post on simplicity and sustainability but this week’s events totally derailed that idea…. or did they? They have encouraged me to think about how Jesus’ mother Mary was treated by her society too.
Like many of us I have been riveted to the screen as Dr Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified before the Senate committee. I tried to listen with an open and impartial mind but as the events unfolded I realized that is impossible. All of us are shaped by pre-existing beliefs and values and that always colors the ways we interpret events. I posted some of my feelings on Facebook and have been both horrified and intrigued by the responses. I found this BBC article (thanks Jennifer Porter) and this one both gave very helpful information to those who are still suffering with traumatic memories.
Here is some of what I am mulling over as this investigation continues.
- None of us are impartial in events like this. I wanted to weep as I listened to Dr Ford share respectfully and lucidly to an all male and obviously hostile committee who seemed to have no respect nor belief in what she was saying even before she said it. *h contrast Kavanaugh’s appeal to power and his conspiracy theory comments as well as his anger and lack of control in front of a committee that was obviously already receptive to what he said appalled me…. but that of course is my opinion – as a woman and as won who has been abused both by physical violence and by the use of power.
- Women hurt and often wait years to be heard. Whatever happens, this very painful, public hearing has encouraged many women to “come out” about their own pain. Some shared openly on my Facebook post. Others messaged me privately. Others posted their own or shared on YouTube. Evidently hotline calls spiked 150-200% during the hearings. Most have hidden these assaults for years. Some didn’t want to say anything “because it wasn’t rape”.
- Sexual violence of all kinds can have life-long effects and should be taken seriously. It was heartrending to read some of these reports, even more horrifying to hear that many of these victims were disbelieved by their families and friends. Some have not spoken to parents and siblings for years as a result. Some have faced violence as a result, just as Dr Ford and her family have faced. That they have had to leave their home is horrifying.
- Many still see women who are raped and assaulted not as victims but as perpetrators. Part of what amazed me was how many called Dr Ford “a party girl and a slut” and therefore she needed to accept the consequences. No such allegations were leveled at Kavanaugh for his heavy drinking and heavy partying. He was not expected to accept the consequences of his out of control behavior.
- Most of us are unwilling to really listen with an open mind to those who think differently from us. I have tried to read all the reports that people have referred me to with a willingness to have my mind changed, but so many others do not seem to be willing to do the same. In his sermon this morning, our rector Rich Weyls reminded us that we are called to be path clearers and obstacle removers. Part of what it means to follow Christ is that we clear away the obstacles that prevent others coming closer to Christ. Tragically the response of many Christians to this debate has created obstacles rather than destroying them.
How did Mary’s Society Respond to Her?
As I reflect on these things today I realize that this is probably a very important place to start my preparations for Advent and Christmas. How was Mary treated after she announced her pregnancy?
- Was Mary forced to stand in front of the village elders for her “crime”? In Palestine 2,000 years ago adultery could condemn a woman to death by stoning – only the woman mind you. Who I wonder saved her from that fate? Was it her family? Somehow I doubt it as they are never mentioned in the story of Jesus birth. Was it Joseph who stood beside her? If so he must have been an incredible man to go against his society in this way and to believe the unbelievable story that she told about Jesus’ conception.
- Was Mary labelled as a slut and a loose woman? I wonder if Mary was spat at and called a slut as she walked down the street in a heavily pregnant state. Did she have to face the advances of men who wanted to take advantage of her as she moved towards birth, and even after? Was she violently attacked by men who thought she should have been stoned? How could she possibly hold this story to her self. Yet, to tell the story of what had really happened would have been considered blasphemy and for that too she could have been put to death. What an incredible woman she must have been.
- Who were the safe people Mary could go to and share what had happened? I wonder as I read the gospel account of Jesus birth in Luke 1 if her cousin Elizabeth was her safe person to talk to. She lived about 90 miles from Nazareth where Mary lived. That is quite a journey for a young girl to make. Did she go because her parents rejected her and she knew her cousin would welcome her?
- Was Jesus thinking of his mother when confronted with the woman caught in adultery as told in John 7:53–8:11? I have often wondered about this. This story is a poignant story of the forgiving and loving nature of God. It is also the story of a young man who loved his mother deeply and, I suspect bore much of her pain.
The hearing this week has brought a new and very human dimension to the story of Jesus birth for me. It has taken me away from the rather sterile images of a glowing Madonna and child to the realities of what it must have been like for this mother and her infant. Why God came as a vulnerable infant to a vulnerable and possibly despised woman at the outskirts of a powerful and corrupt empire I don’t know. How this divine infant survived until birth and then beyond as his family fled as refugees to Egypt is amazing. Makes me believe in the power of divine intervention. How about you?