While there are several blog posts and articles that I really must write, I’m struck by the power of this article by Eve Ensler in the Huffington Post. In this article, she refers to recent news that I just can’t quite absorb. They are the headlines I’ve skimmed. They are the news items I can’t comprehend. And so I keep them at a distance. It’s the last stat in the article that leaps off the screen to me. There are ONE BILLION women in the world that have been violated. With the United Nations recent population count, that means that one-seventh of the population has been violated. One-seventh. How have we allowed this sort of violence to amass? How can this be possible? What aren’t we doing especially when the World Council of Churches spent the past ten years trying to overcome violence? Were any of us paying attention?
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself as I just finished Sarah Sentilles’ A Church of Her Own: What Happens When A Woman Takes the Pulpit. In this reflection on women in ministry, Sentilles asserts that there is a lot of violence against women seeking ordination. Of course, she doesn’t think this ends with ordination and adds a flurry of stories to prove the point. Many of these stories are horrible and I wish they were peppered more with positive stories — but maybe it’s really true that not every woman has a mostly positive experience seeking ordination. Maybe. There are only a few of these stories that are actually violent. Many of the women were betrayed by their systems — but very few were actually violated. This is a very different kind of violence. It’s a kind of violence that I don’t often see. It’s something I rarely encounter in my ministry and so I admit I’m silent. I haven’t spoken out. I haven’t remembered my sisters in the Congo or Bosnia or even Washington DC.
And yet, this book called to memory one of the best Valentines Days I have ever spent. On that night, I gathered with other single women in the chapel of our seminary and we read the monologues aloud from the Vagina Monologues. It was powering to speak these stories. It was marvelous to be in the presence of women who were struggling through the systems of church hierarchy. We all knew we were still trying to fit ourselves into a structure that worked best for men. While we might be demure and polite at other times, this was a night for our passion. This is a night where we told the truth through stories that were not our own — but could have been. I wrote a prayer for that evening. I felt we needed something that reflected the heart of who we were as preachers and scholars. So I prayed for our pussies. (Yes. Pussies.) When these same women organized an official V-Day event — with an actual audience and monologues were memorized — they read the prayer to the whole seminary community. Now, after reading about this book where another clergy woman wrote her own monologue for Mary, I wonder what story I might tell. I wonder how I might not only pray for myself — but for those that I rarely see. I wonder if the church would be so brave as to let me make the most horrible texts come alive so that maybe (just maybe) there will be ONE BILLION women who are much safer.