Friday, October 24, 2008
The heat is on - and getting hotter.
Three things happened this week which are not unconnected to what is happening on the national level.
First: Drew University has been sponsoring "The Clothesline Project" - a very powerful display where women 'air their dirty laundry' about the 'dirty little secret' of domestic violence.
They have been encouraging women to sign their name or the name of someone they know who has been a victim of domestic violence on a T-shirt (in other places, the article of clothing has been women's underwear - bra's, undies and nightgowns). The T-shirt is then hung on a clothesline which has been strung in The Commons.
Fifteen of the T-shirts were stolen this week. A note was left which read, "Where does God fit in?"
Second and Third: I have a bumper sticker on my car which reads: "The Religous Majority in NJ is prayerfully Pro-Choice."
On Wednesday and again today, Friday, while my car was parked in front of the Shop Rite in the Chatham Township, notes were left on my car. Wednesday's note read, "Shame on you! Baby Killer!"
On Wednesday, I looked at the note and laughed out loud, crumpled up the note, threw it away, got in my car and drove off.
Today the note read, "Does God want dead babies?"
Today, after I took the note off my car, I looked around and spotted a woman coming out of the CVS with a particularly sinister smile on her face.
My body started to move before my mind clicked into gear and I approached her with the note in my hand. I looked her in the eye and said, "Does this belong to you?"
She looked at me, smirked and said with great conviction and an undeniable amount of joy, "You are going to burn in hell, you know."
I was quiet for a long time - and found myself suddenly in prayer.
That seemed to unnerve her. When I looked at her again, her face was grotesquely contorted and she said, just a decibel or two under a scream, "You don't believe me? You are going to burn in hell for killing babies, you know."
I found myself continuing to pray - for guidance and strength.
I was startled into paying attention to her as she screamed, full throat, "Are you a clergy? If you are, that doesn't protect you. If you are clergy, there is a special place in hell for you!"
At this point, I was aware that there was a 'gathering' around us - not exactly a 'crowd' but it was, after all, shortly after noon on a Friday. I was also aware that a man had joined her side - I'm assuming her husband, but it could have been her 'significant other.' It's not for me to judge.
I continued to be in silent prayer, continuing to ask God for the right words to say, and if there were none, to have the courage to be silent.
Someone in the 'gathering' said, "C'mon, lady. It's 2008. Women have the right to say what happens to their bodies."
Someone else said, "Life is not lived in black and white. It's shades of gray."
Yet another voice said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."
Or, words close to that effect.
At this point, the woman collapsed into tears. Her husband/significant other put his arm around her and tried to lead her away. She raised her fist at me and screamed, "You will burn in hell! You will burn in hell".
In a matter of seconds, I caught her eye and got her attention. I heard myself say, quietly, "I just want to say this." She and her man stopped dead in their tracks, attentive to every word I was about to say."
"God doesn't want dead babies. God wants babies to be wanted and loved."
She looked at me for a few long seconds, then collapsed into her man's arms as he lead her away in tears, he shooting looks of apology over his shoulder.
I report all of that to say this:
As we move closer and closer to the election of the first President of the United States to be of African-American descent, more and more of the 'Religious Wackadoodles' - at every point on the religious spectrum - will be out in force.
It's really, really, really important to not feed into the hysteria. As repugnant as some of the things they will say and as reprehensible as it is to take down T-shirts of those who have had the courage to tell the truth about their experience (even if second-hand) of domestic violence, nothing is to be gained by meeting repugnancy with repugnancy, hatred with hatred.
Nothing is to be gained by attempts to silence the truth, in whatever form it takes, from whatever end of the spectrum it comes.
Pray for the religious tolerance on which this country was founded.
Pray for the courage to say the things which will not incite anger, the silence which will allow for the variety of expressions of truth, and the wisdom to know the difference.