I’ve probably been spending too much time on Twitter recently, it’s not the best for mental health. It’s hard to feel peace when you are constantly faced with misogyny and other kinds of prejudice users of the internet feel free to rationalise and verbalise as they troll threads on issues important to minorities. Two things in particular in this week’s news really affected me emotionally: 1. was a heartfelt tweet by American Christian Feminist author Rachel Held-Evans as she discovered yet another Christian male leader refusing to believe young women sharing their stories of harassment in the recent #metoo movement; and 2. was the news report that the Sydney Anglican diocese spent $1 million of church money in support of the ‘No’ campaign for Marriage Equality in Australia — and only $5000 on investigating a widespread problem of domestic violence (including marriage rape) amongst clergy in that church.
Of course these kinds of news tweets bring out all the people who have something to say that has been said many times before — the Australian thread quickly and predictably turned into a ‘tax the churches’ thread; Rachel Held-Evans faced the usual ‘you lump all evangelicals together’ accusation as she wondered if anything she had been taught as a Christian child was true. I felt angry, and indeed, embarassed to see these Christians more concerned for a particular brand of conservative politics than women’s safety from sexual violence. It is sometimes too shameful to be a Christian in these times, when the so-called leaders in the church consistently and intentionally seem to miss the point, using their positions to hurt and discriminate and justify violence against women ?
Yet trolls were not the only ones present in the conversations that ensued on social media. What also came through was an immense solidarity — by the time I got to Held-Evans’ tweet some 346 people had already replied, and the tweets in solidarity continued to grow as I watched. What struck me in the in these two examples was this: the struggles of women for recognition and belief in circumstances of abuse of power are not separate from the struggles of the LGBTQI community. Why? Because LGBT people in particular are consistently painted as sexually deviant and immoral by these Christian leaders while at the same time the leaders support men in acts of sexual violence and even paedophilia against women and girls. This is what makes me angry, embarassed, sad, and actually — frightened.
I am a big believer in contemplative prayer and meditation. I think taking the time to connect with the Christ-presence dwelling within is essential in maintaining some semblance of peace in the stress of my work and life. Yet in this case, I think peace is not yet where I can go. I think there is also value in sitting with the anger, the embarassment, the sadness, the fear and contemplating those things.
When I sit with these for a while I think of Psalm 62:
How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.
Where, of course, in my mind the persons of prominence are women and LGBTQI people struggling to be seen and heard in their pain. The verses that follow can then be read in the light of my anger at this, especially…
Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your heart before God; God is a refuge for us.
Despite the verses where the author ‘waits on God in silence’, this isn’t a quiet sending of thoughts and prayers. This a heart-wrenching pouring out of anger, fear, sadness, love, respect, desire for change. ‘Trust’ here isn’t a platitude for doing nothing, for waiting and hoping for some older white straight man to change his mind about his years of patriarchal privilege. For me the ‘trust’ here is related to the pouring out and the refuge.
Can I trust in God at all times even as I speak out against Christian betrayal and wrongdoing and misguidedness? Can I trust enough to put myself in the firing line, like Held-Evans and others? Can I take my refuge in God alone, knowing that I will be reviled and trolled and sermonised to by those who think they have the sole truth? Can I then return to a place of stillness and silence to recover, to wait for results, to gather myself for the next incident?
I think the answer is getting closer to “Yes, Lord”. What about you?
Kelly Dombroski is an academic and writer who also blogs at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com