Monday, January 23, 2017

March On, Sister

"Oh my soul, march on with strength."
 (Judges 5:21)
That's what Deborah said.

It was her victory march, her conquering song. She led a march against oppression - the oppression of God's people. She marched alongside a reluctant man. She gave praise to God. She attributed the victory to Him

"Hear, O Kings! Give ear, O princes!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel." 
(Judges 5:3)

I kept thinking of Deborah on Saturday. What would she think of this march?  Those posters? Those hats?

"Thus let all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
when it comes out in full strength."
 (Judges 5:31)

Would she have been able to sing that on Saturday? Would there have been solidarity around those words?

I also thought of Miriam.

"Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all of the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing." 
(Exodus 15:20)

All of the women. All of the women went after Miriam singing and dancing. It wasn't to demand their rights. It wasn't to require respect. They were dancing to raise awareness of the Majestic One, the Holy One.

"Miriam sang to them: Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea." 
(Exodus 15:21)

She led them to rejoice in the goodness of God. They were delighting in their deliverance by His hand. Would Miriam have gone to Washington? Would she have taken her daughter? Gathered the other Hebrew women for this event?

I thought of Lydia.

"On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth.  
She was a worshiper of God." 
(Acts 16:13)

I thought of the way Lydia chose to gather with women - in prayer. I thought of how this businesswoman is memorialized in Scripture - as a worshiper of God.  As one whose heart was soft to the things of God and to the men of God.

I thought of Esther.

"Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish."
(Esther 4:16)

I thought of how confused Esther might be by the women who marched on Saturday. No fasting? No praying? No risking of life in approaching the authorities? This is how you plan to garner safety for your gender? Respect?

Maybe I'm putting words in Esther's mouth; I don't know. Maybe she and Deborah, and Miriam, and Lydia would have all shown up and worn their p---y hats. I'm just having a hard time reconciling the marches, the songs, and the gatherings of my heroines of the faith with the women who marched on Saturday.  I'm having a difficult time understanding why my Christian sisters participated. And I'm having the toughest time with my Christ-following girlfriends who very eagerly and proudly posted photos of themselves on social media marching when the same eagerness and pride is not given publicly to Jesus, the object of their faith. Isn't He the only way, truth, and life?

Where are your Jesus posters?
Where are your public invitations to church?
Where are your links to great sermons?
Where are your gospel hashtags?
Where are your smiling photos from your small group Bible study?
Where are your protests on behalf of the persecuted church?
Where were your outcries on behalf of the pro-life women who were excluded on Saturday?

Will you also be at the March for Life in March?
Will you take your daughter to the next Christian women's conference? Prayer gathering?
Will you tell your daughter that Bill was no better than Donald when it comes to objectifying women?
Will you teach her the beauty of being single from I Corinthians? The beauty of marriage from Ephesians? The high calling of motherhood from Proverbs?
Will you spend your money to support a female missionary who risks her life on behalf of third world women who are truly marginalized?

Saturday's march also brought these verses to mind...

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Matthew 10:32-33

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Mark 8: 38

Participants in Saturday's march received the praise and affirmation of the world, but Christians are called to be different. In the world, yes, but not of the world. Jesus says the world will hate us as it hated Him, but many don't seem willing to take that risk. And it's not that I don't struggle with the fear of worldly rejection, I do. It's just that I felt a little abandoned by some of my sisters on Saturday. I thought we were in this together.

So, Saturday was disheartening to me (as was Friday), because I also long for right views of women, proper treatment, equality, safety, protection, honor, and justice.  I missed the inauguration (which is no great loss), because I spent the morning with a woman suffering in an abusive marriage. I encouraged and supported her in drawing a firm boundary (as in him out of the house), for her protection. I spent much of the day today corresponding and problem solving with a single mom doing the very best she can, but still in need of basics like a car, food, and tuition to complete her education. I sat in divorce court a while back in support of a friend making a difficult, but necessary choice for her own safety and the well-being of her kids. And I've wept with many women over the abuse of their fathers, the assaults of their boyfriends and even brutal rapes by complete strangers. (That last woman stayed a week at my house this summer - we prayed, we cried, we talked, we spent a day in the E.R.)

I'm just not sure marching on Washington (or Boston, or Chicago, or Los Angeles or wherever) is the answer to these deeply grievous situations.

In fact, I know it's not, and so I'll keep marching right here - for Christ and for women, too.

For the deep healing He offers them.
For the high value He bestows on them.
For the great dignity He instills in them.
And most importantly, for the precious salvation He purchased for them.

It's a march I believe my sisters Deborah, Miriam, Lydia, and Esther would lead if they were here today.

I think their prayer would be, their poster would read:

Oh my sisters, march on in strength.
The joy of the Lord is your strength!

(P.S. Came across this video. Do you listen to Beyonce? Watch Friends reruns? If so, you may be contributing to the problem. Check it out:  You Didn't Vote For Trump - Or Did You?)


Aimee Gould said...

Amen! Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful words, once again. xoxox

Jana Bickham said...

Your message resonates with my spirit, Melanie & I appreciate your scripture references. Our sisters need our prayers for eyes to see Truth.

Eskimomongoose said...

Wait--I don't get it. Why is marching a bad thing? Is it better to stay silent when you see people oppressed? Are democracy and prayer mutually exclusive?

Melanie said...

Hello Eskimomongoose ~ I'm so sorry, I don't remember exactly who you are, but I know you've commented before. Forgive me if I'm forgetting an obvious acquaintance!

I don't think marching is bad. I've marched and held vigil with many on behalf of the grieving and marginalized and oppressed. (Our town vigils for the Newtown shooting victims and Pulse Nightclub massacre come to mind.)

The march on Saturday, however, was laden with vulgarity, the exclusion of pro-life women, and an overall anti-Christian sentiment. My discouragement came from seeing the eagerness with which some of my Christian friends posted about their participation when they don't also post explicitly about their faith -which we believe is the answer to oppression.

Democracy and prayer certainly go hand in hand. On Saturday, though, that was not an obvious correlation in my opinion.

Kim K said...

Thank you for this. Love you

Anonymous said...

Melanie...thank you for sharing your heart. You spoke what we believe and it encourages us. We continue to take it all to the Lord in prayer, first and foremost. Love, K&J

Anonymous said...

Melanie, I attended MERCYHouse when I was in college in the aughts. You always struck me as someone of deep kindness and conviction, and I appreciate hearing your thoughts here, especially as most of my circle was incredibly supportive of the Women's Marches (including myself). Thank you for your graciousness and thoughtfulness.

I would gently push back on a few points you made. For one, what does it matter to the current moment "that Bill was no better than Donald when it comes to objectifying women"? Bill is no longer president, and he wasn't the one running this time. Donald admitted - indeed, bragged - about sexually assaulting women and has been accused of assault by over a dozen people. He is a serial philanderer. He told Howard Stern that it was okay for Howard to call his own daughter, Ivanka, "a piece of a--." I'm certainly not apologizing for what Bill did - but I'm completely horrified that a man like Donald was able to ascend to the presidency after saying and doing the things he's done, in this realm and so many others.

Also, when you talk about pro-life women being excluded, I understand why many were upset by this. But pro-life women themselves weren't excluded - rather, a single pro-life group was removed as a sponsor. Anyone at all could have participated in the marches, and many pro-life women did - and I am really impressed that they chose to bear witness to their beliefs in this way. (I am a pro-choice feminist, but I also believe that people of good will can fall on either side of the abortion debate, though I am strongly opposed to efforts to take away the legal rights that all women - including you and I - have been granted.)

I'm no longer a Christian (or a religious believer at all), and I think that the Church has failed in recent years to be clear that it should stand up for all people: all oppressed people, all suffering people, people of every race and color, people of every creed and orientation, men and women, refugees and prisoners. If all are made in the image of God, then people of faith should be working on behalf of all. Far too often, I think, Christians (especially conservative and evangelical Christians) have argued for the pro-life cause above and sometimes to the exclusion of every other justice issue. I understand that if one believes that abortion is murder, it makes sense to fight against it - but there is so, so much other suffering in the world too, and too often these same Christians will support policies that only deepen that suffering, rather than alleviate it.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts! I am very, very proud of all the women (and men) who marched on Saturday. But I'm also very touched by the work you have done in your own life to help people in need. I know you might pray for me - I no longer pray, but wish you and your family all good things, and encourage you to keep an open mind and heart towards the women (Christian and non-Christian) who spent Saturday decrying injustice, arguing for equal rights for women around the world, and speaking out about a president who is anything but a man of God.

Anonymous said...

I was not aware of this event until it had already happened, and was disheartened to see the vulgarity and disrespect towards men in the published videos. Rudeness does not help further any cause.

Thank you for pointing out the positive role models we have had through the ages for influencing good change.

Amy Zeng said...

Thanks for sharing the scripture verses and encouragement. Wonderfully written..

I came to Christ at Smith and attended mercyhouse (and also baptized that time) when I was a student at Smith. I am thankful for the ministry of mercyhouse.

Melanie said...

Thank you so much for your words of kindness and encouragement.

To the former church member/student - Thank you, also, for your comments. Maybe you didn't leave your name on purpose or maybe it's just a blog posting issue, but I'd like to respond a bit. I, too, am horrified by the man our current president is. I did not vote for him and have difficulty understanding how others were able to. I just struggle with the double standard there seemed to be regarding the sexual ethic of the two families.

Oftentimes (not always) when the church is accused of not standing with various people, what they mean is that the church won't condone their lifestyle. Personally, I've never been a part of a church that did not stand with those suffering, struggling, sick, marginalized, abused ~ and of any ethnicity, orientation, religious background, etc. I could tell you many stories of walking alongside those who are gay, transgender, unemployed, abused, depressed, disabled, bisexual, in adulterous affairs, going through divorce, addicted to drugs, grieving great loss...and the list goes on. So much of what the church does, does not make the headlines, but any Scripture or doctrine that does not fall in line with liberal politics typically does.

Being Christ-like means offering both grace and truth. Jesus was merciful toward all, but did not alter His teaching to conform with the cultural tide. It often feels as if this is what is expected of the church today, though.

My post was mainly concerned with those women who claim to follow Christ, but are more eager to align with political causes than those specific to the church. It's a little tricky to explain to someone who doesn't share our faith, but I suppose it could be likened to a fellow and seemingly passionate pro-choice feminist who was unwilling to publicly proclaim that part of their life, but was willing to champion the causes of other groups. It was simply a call to reevaluate how they present themselves and to be unashamed of their Savior.

Lindsey Roberts said...

Thank you. Convicting for Christians.

Ancien Régime said...

Liberalism began with a philosophical revolt against God. Its roots go back to the Enlightenment in which French philosophers advanced new atheistic thinking to overthrow God, His moral order and the revelation of scripture and replace Him with human reason. Rousseau rejected original sin and held Man was inherently good; Voltaire ended his letters with "crush the wretch!" (i.e. Jesus). Ideas of the philosophes led to the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, in which revolutionaries, liberated from God and his commandments, guillotined not just the nobility but also tens of thousands of Christians. The atheistical spirit of Liberalism later manifested in Socialist / Communist revolutionary regimes [Liberalism / Socialism / Communism have the same root, rejection of God] that murdered 100 million people. Any ideology that rejects God will end in totalitarianism and mass murder. God says, "those who hate me love death" (Prov 8:36). Herod-like liberals have butchered 58 million U.S. babies since legalizing abortion. Despite liberals having participated in beneficent justice and rights movements, the general thrust of Liberalism has been to push society ever further away from God. Contemporary Liberalism, exemplified by the Democratic Party, doesn't advocate biblical "social justice" but stands for mass murder abortion and euthanasia; hedonism or sexual "liberation" promiscuity, promoting homosexuality and "gay marriage", leniency on crime and radical feminism. Now liberals assault God's created order by attacking gender itself, deconstructing norms and promoting "fluidity" and "transgenderism". The arts ought to honor God but liberals, in the name of "free expression" have promoted depravity and entertainment is now a cesspool used by demons to encourage sin and lead people to destruction. Instead of the eternal laws of God, Progressives push moral relativism - doing what's right in one's own eyes. Liberals attack language itself, with their theories holding that words have no fixed meanings -- this frees them to reinterpret the Constitution to suit their whims. Progressives push for a radical autonomy of the individual that is hostile to the Christian belief in our necessary dependence upon and obedience of God. Liberalism is the most important contributing factor in the collapse of our society, in its decadence and moral rot. The core principles of Liberalism are incompatible with Biblical Christianity, thus "liberal Christian" is a contradiction. Your supposedly "Christ-following girlfriends" are ensnared in a syncretistic faith, with Liberalism rather than Christianity being the dominant part of the mixture - this explains why they post march photos rather than promoting Jesus on social media and why they went to such a hateful, anti-Christian gathering, where speaker Gloria Steinem stated: "the Goddess is in connections! We are looking at each other, not up. No more asking Daddy!" [as she pointed up toward the sky indicating "Daddy" as God]. It's hard to imagine a more anti-Christian message. Liberalism is now the dominant worldly philosophy and the leading false religion in our society; your girlfriends, either wholly or partially, subscribe to this false and evil belief system that exalts man and wars with the gospel and they want the approval of the world. This false religion and its syncretistic accompaniment is a grave danger to the eternal salvation of its adherents and so it must be exposed to the light of Biblical truth and refuted in the church generally and at MERCYhouse.

Ifeoluwa O said...

I also worshiped at MercyHouse (then Valley Church and MercyHouse again) while I attended college in the Valley at Mount Holyoke. I must admit I had limited interactions with you while I was there so I did not know what to expect after seeing this on my Facebook feed.

The first few paragraphs of this post got me nodding my head in agreement. Yes! Examples of women protesting and leading political action in the bible. Yes. Then I got to the portion where you shamed the Christian women who attended the march and I was gravely disappointed. You could have written about how you support the idea of the women’s march but do not agree with all of the stances so you did not participate. But instead you took on a paternalistic (materialistic) tone and criticized those who did.

Did you ask any women who marched why they marched before you wrote this? This reads as written from the approach that Christians are a monolith and the default Christian is a straight, conservative white (wo)man living in the surburbs. We all have different identities that intersect with our Christian faith and that inform our everyday lives. Our struggles are different. Why should a black woman, earning minimum wage, who has an autoimmune disease, whose healthcare is being threatened not march? What of the undocumented mother who might be separated from her children?

In what way was this march anti-Christian? Where there anti-Christian chants? Or anti-Christian signs? How are you arriving at this conclusion especially since you say did not attend any of the marches? Why are you the barometer for Christianity?

Since we are doing march comparisons, black women with living, breathing children, not hypothetical unborn ones, live in constant fear that their kids will be gunned down by an agent of the state, someone whose taxes pay their salary. Did you attend any Black Lives Matter marches? Are you holding your local law enforcement accountable? Are you seeking justice for the lives lost at the hands of trigger-happy cops?

It is great that you do the things you do to support the vulnerable and needy in your community. But do your politics reflect this? Are you electing or supporting politicians who create laws that make the vulnerable you help even more vulnerable? Like the people who are pro-abstinence only sex education AND anti-abortion but vote to take away people’s safety nets in the form of government assistance, snatching food from the mouths of babies you encourage them to have despite their lack of means and support system? Are you explicitly or implicitly supporting politicians who voted against the violence against women’s act or believe in things like “legitimate rape”? What of government officials who gerrymander and make it harder for people to vote by having limited polling stations in areas where they face the strongest opposition? The ones who refuse to increase the federal minimum wage but somehow enact laws that favor their billionaire donors interests? What of the ones who support banning people fleeing the death and destruction your country orchestrated because of their religion? Does religious freedom only apply to Christianity? Why are Evangelical Christians so willing to ignore or in some cases sacrifice the living in order to legislate what people do with their uterus?

This post comes across as tone deaf and dripping with privilege. I encourage you to listen to people with perspectives different from yours. Critically examine the beliefs you hold. Do your actions support the beliefs you claim you hold? Or reflect other shadow beliefs you don't even realize you embody. Jesus stood on the margins with people the pharisees looked down their noses at. He dined with them, met with them where they lived, stood up for them. Which example is white evangelical christianity (in America) looking more like each day?

Recommended reading:

Melanie said...

Hello Ife ~ My heart was very heavy on Saturday as I watched news coverage and social media posts about the March. Even more so as I listened to the speeches given and saw the signs and posters. At the end of the day, I spent time praying about why I was experiencing that heaviness and discouragement, and the stories of those women I wrote about came to mind ~ along with the contrasting goals for which they marched. And more than shame, I see confusion in my post. (I did feel quite shamed by you, though, so if your goal was retaliation, it worked.)

I want all women to have healthcare, and equality, and justice, and respect, and opportunity, but more than that I want them to know Christ. Without Him, the benefits of those things are very temporary, and I'd like my Christian sisters to see that there's really much more at stake than a living wage. The souls of women are at stake. The hope of wholeness and eternal life are at stake.

As for your questions...I'm tempted to answer and give a list of my (and our church's) acts of justice and sacrifice and support for all different types of people and circumstances, but it doesn't seem appropriate. (And I/we could certainly do much more.) I would like to get to know you better, though. I know it's probably not that feasible if we no longer live near each other, but if we ever find ourselves in the same city, I hope that we can go over all of the questions you asked in person. I would answer them as best I could, and then you could decide for yourself if I'm truly tone deaf and blinded by privilege. We could also discuss the articles you sent - both of which I have read and thought about before. (Even had a conversation with a Muslim girlfriend about the first one you listed quite recently.) Please let me know if you are ever in the area, or if you'd like to try and arrange a coffee or lunch date sometime.(Or let me know where you reside, and I will do the same.) In the meantime, I pray for the peace of Christ for you (and me), during what I also see as a dark and discouraging time in our country.

Kevin Cox said...

Thanks Melanie for your faithfulness and wise words.