Thursday, April 14, 2011

Psalm for the Survivor

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. I thought about posting some statistics about how prevalent child abuse is in our nation and world, but instead I will make this statement: the abuse of even one child is too much abuse.

Yesterday I meditated on Psalm 5 which was in the lectionary. I decided to rewrite it to reflect those who have survived child abuse.

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.

Listen to the sound of my cry,
my Love and my God,
for to you I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in sexual abuse;
evil will not sojourn with you.

The perpetrators will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all molestation.

You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the predators and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemy,
make straight my path.

For there is no truth in his mouth;
his heart is destruction;
his throat an open grave;
he flatters with his tongue.

Make him bear his guilt, O God;
let him fall by his own counsel;
because of his many transgressions, cast him out,
for he has rebelled against you.

But let all abuse survivors take refuge in you and rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.

For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Re-imagining, re-membering

One of the things that annoyed me most when taking the Bible Content Exam (besides failing it the first time and having to re-take it) was the question about the woman who anoints Jesus. In Mark 14:9, Jesus says "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." The annoying part of this verse is that WE DON'T KNOW THE WOMAN'S NAME! Like so many other women in the Bible, she is not honored with a name. This is troubling.

This semester I'm taking Feminist Theologies and am being exposed to so many radical ideas. My heart is full of joy in response.

One of the greatest joys of this class has been exposure to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a feminist scholar who likes to push people's buttons. She wrote a book called In Memory of Her, which looks at reconstructing our theological notions. Her starting point is with that unnamed woman who anointed Jesus. Schüssler Fiorenza argues that we must employ various hermeneutics when looking at the Bible, because traditional interpretation has many, many gaps.

Two friends and I had the assignment of giving a presentation to our class on the week when we were discussing scripture in the feminist lens. We wanted to do something different, and kick things up a notch. We all agreed to focus on our reading from Schüssler Fiorenza, because she really knows how to kick things up more than just a few notches.

We decided to follow Schüssler Fiorenza's lead by re-imagining and re-membering stories about women in the Bible. We each selected a passage of scripture that involved an unnamed woman, whether she was a main character or not. The slave girl in Acts, Samson's mother, and a woman told to wear a veil in 1 Corinthians. We each wrote a monologue on those women, re-imagining and re-membering their stories.

We were nervous about how this would go over. Were we being heretical? Rewriting Bible stories sounds dangerous, but we were willing to take that risk.

The results were beautiful. I've had a hard time articulating the experience of taking part in that class presentation. All I can say is that the Spirit was moving that day in mysterious ways. What happened was informative and yet worshipful. As we delivered our monologues, we realized that what was happening was incredibly special. I was moved to tears at several moments.

I love being in seminary where things like this are acceptable. This is a safe space where we're allowed to make mistakes, to push the limits and ask questions. I realize that writing monologues and reconstructing the Bible might not go over well in the typical congregation, but this experience has taught me that it is okay to push ourselves to examine scripture and theology from a different angle. To know that the traditional interpretation isn't the only acceptable interpretation is a relief. I hope to continue re-imagining and re-membering, giving voice to the marginalized people of the Bible.