Recap from worship on September 30
“Sit next to them.”
“Ask them what they need.”
These were the answers some of our children gave in the children’s sermon two Sundays ago when I asked them what are some good things to do when a friend is going through something hard. I honestly thought we could have ended the service right then and there, saying, in the words of Jesus, "Go and do likewise."
Presence, asking about their needs, offering physical comfort if that's what's need. These are exactly the right ways to respond to someone's pain. And yet they're also so often what we rush past in a hurry to fix or explain or debunk the hurt. Or even shift the focus to our own hurt. Is it really so surprising that Jesus would tell us to stay close to the children, for they have something important to teach us about the kin-dom, the family, of God breaking loose in the world?
Sunday, September 30, was hard. Taking such a focused look at domestic violence and sexual assault is not, and was not, easy. And yet in talking with many of you who were with us in worship, there is wide agreement it was the right and necessary thing to do. I'm grateful for Susan Johansen and Jamie Bormann for introducing us to the work of Crisis Line & Safe House, and Kathy Manis-Findley for offering us a hard but powerful message about the need for justice in the family.
I'm also grateful so many were able to stay following worship for our Global Women's Circle led by Dr. Karen Bray from Wesleyan College. Karen helped us place this conversation about specific forms of violence within a wider culture of patriarchy, or male dominance, that’s often so pervasive we scarcely see it until it pops through the surface in painful ways. While conversation about violence and abuse often veers toward women—what they should do or not do, how they should act or react—at the heart of these things is our culture’s confused, unhealthy, and often destructive understanding of masculinity.
Shaun Kell, a friend and church member who is also a marriage and family therapist, tells me he often helps clients see this conflict by asking two questions:
What does it mean to be a real man?
What does it mean to be a good man?
The difference between those two answers speaks volumes about our culture’s toxic or, as Shaun puts it, “schizophrenic” views on what it means to be a man. I fear asking a third question: What does it mean to be a Christian man?, would only confuse us more.
There is much more to say about these things and more work for us to do as a congregation as we create a safe and supportive space for victims and survivors of violence, but also think critically about the ways we in the church assume and perpetuate these toxic power dynamics. We’ll continue to do this work together as we seek the kin-dom in which “there is no longer male nor female,” but oneness in Christ Jesus, praying that this new way of belonging would shine through in us.