Christianity, Feminism

Rachel Held Evans Addresses Abuse and the Church

I spent the morning of my 27th birthday listening to Rachel Held Evans lead two conference sessions–the first on Gender Equality and the Church, the second on Abuse and the Church.  Three hours later, as we walked out the door, my mom said, “We should do something fun for your birthday!”

Looking at her in confusion, I said, “That was fun.  I can’t think of any other way I would rather spend my birthday.” 

FullSizeRenderRachel Held Evans is the thoughtful and humorous author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  When I heard that Genesis Women’s Shelter annual conference, Conference on Crimes Against Women, had asked her to speak, I jumped at the chance to hear her.  Luckily, my former roommate works there and my dear friend Lindsay is interning there.  They are amazing women who provide counseling to women and children who have been abused by their husbands and fathers, and I am so glad I have them in my life.  Especially when they get me into conferences on my birthday.

Rachel Held Evans’ lectures were incredible, and in the interest of spreading the word, I took some notes that I will share here.

IMG_3936Every two minutes, 4 American women are sexually assaulted, 200 are abused, and 16 are trafficked.  (Again, this is just American women.)  Worldwide, more girls have been killed in the last fifty years simply for being girls than were men killed in all the wars of the 20th century.

If the Church is meant to be a light in the darkness, surely we need to do something about this darkness!  Unfortunately, many churches are slow to realize that crimes against women is an issue that needs addressing.  And even more unfortunately, when they do address it, they often do it poorly.  Rachel described these problems, along with their solution counterpart:

Four Ways Churches FAIL Victims

  1. Investigation is handled “in house” (when they should connect with local authorities, counselors, and shelters, referring parishioners to qualified help).
  2. Victims are blamed and shamed (when they should talk openly about abuse and institute policies to prevent and respond to cries of help).
  3. Reconciliation is hurried and prioritized over safety (when they should listen to marginalized voices).
  4. Reputation is valued over people (when they should create a place of healing).

There are some churches that are doing their best to take part in helping women who have been abused and sexually exploited.  Rachel points out these markers of healthy churches:

Healthy Churches…

  1. Celebrate Women’s Lives
  2. Prioritize Women’s Struggles
  3. Amplify Women’s Voices
  4. Honor Women’s Stories

The first step toward creating and being a healthy church is to acknowledge the reality of women’s struggles and to mourn their pain.  The Australian Anglican church created this Litany of Lament in order to corporately pray for the end of violence against women.  I’ll post the whole thing here, because it is absolutely beautiful.

Hear us, Lord Jesus Christ, when we cry to you
for all the women and girls who are victims of violence.

Hear us, Lord Jesus Christ,
for they are stripped and beaten as you were stripped and beaten,
they are humiliated and used as you were betrayed and shamed.

For the beaten girls and the battered women,
blamed and bruised by angry men,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the young girls given or sold in marriage,
and for unwilling brides with no way out,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women raped as a weapon of war
and for the children they bear in grief and shame,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the victims of rape who are killed or take their own lives,
and for the rape survivors who lives with its scars,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the girls denied access to education,
told they are stupid or worthless or expendable,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the girls and women sold or tricked into the sex trade
and for sex workers exposed to disease and violence,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the mothers whose children are taken away
by armies, governments, churches or family members,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the girl-children who are unwanted and rejected,
the first to be aborted or abandoned, the last to be fed:
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women bashed in their own homes,
and for their children who see and hear the violence,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women trapped in destructive relationships,
manipulated, controlled, justifying their abusers,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women who hide their bruises and lie about their injuries
for fear of the next attack,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women bullied in their workplaces,
belittled, underpaid, threatened with losing their job,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women in prison, abused and abusing,
beset by poverty, mental illness, and addictions,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women attacked because of their sexual identity,
targets for physical or spiritual assault,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the women and girls denied religious freedom,
forced to submit by custom or law,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

For the older women, frail in body or mind,
fearful of violence, manipulation or neglect,
we cry out to you:  bring justice!

We cry to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, ourselves.

Bring justice.
Bring healing.
Bring hope.
Amen.

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