Post Author: Stephanie Sorge
With great understanding,
Wisdom is calling out
as she stands at the crossroads
and on every hill.
She stands by the city gate
where everyone enters the city,
and she shouts:
“I am calling out
to each one of you!
Good sense and sound judgment
can be yours.
Listen, because what I say
is worthwhile and right.
I always speak the truth
and refuse to tell a lie.
Every word I speak is honest,
not one is misleading
-Proverbs 8:1-8 (CEB)
The allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct continue to mount in every sector of society. In response to the allegations against Senate candidate Roy Moore, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I believe the women.” These four words hold extraordinary power, and the fact that they are so extraordinary points to how necessary they are.
The word of a woman is often questioned – including by women themselves. In the wake of #metoo, one thing we’ve seen is just how much women have internalized our victim blaming culture. Many have been reluctant to name sexual misconduct for what it is, or have felt partially responsible for it because they had been flirting, too, or they had enjoyed a drink with a friend. There is an inner voice asking, “Was this somehow my fault?”
In a culture that prizes women who are nice, sweet, and submissive, calling out harassment is strongly discouraged. For many women, speaking out would be detrimental to their careers or advancement. There is a pressure in many industries for women to be able to keep up with the men, to prove that they aren’t too emotional, too difficult, or any number of negative stereotypes that would prevent them from fitting in to the dominant culture. Louis CK’s sexual misconduct opened up dialogue among female comedians, who find that “not being able to take a joke” when it comes to sexual misconduct is a real career killer. Where men continue overwhelmingly to dominate certain industries, where “locker room talk” is actually the talk in whatever rooms of power – board room, green room, Senate chamber – women are under pressure to prove that we can take it, that we can hang with the best of them, while allowing the dominant rape culture to define the “best.”
Certainly, there have been, at times, false accusations made. But the vast majority of allegations of abuse and harassment are not false. Women have very little to gain in accusing men – particularly the rich and powerful – of misconduct. When women do speak out, our word is doubted, our character maligned, or worse. Women who have spoken out against powerful men have received death threats and lawsuits. It’s no wonder so many keep silent.
Scripture speaks soundly against a dominant culture that does not believe women. In Proverbs, Woman Wisdom cries out in truth. The first witnesses of the empty tomb, and the first ones to whom Jesus gave the command to go and preach the good news, were women. God tells us to listen to, and believe the women. Even so, the majority of Christians in the world today are members of churches that don’t allow women to preach. The voices of women are still silenced. The Word that they bear into the world is not believed.
As we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, we are reminded that Mary literally bore the Word of God into the world. Mary is voiceless in her culture, and yet, in an impossible predicament, she shouts the truth. She declares the greatness of the Lord, and asserts that in her unusual situation, all generations will call her blessed. Of course, Joseph didn’t believe her. Not until he was visited in the night by a messenger from God. Still today, the word of a woman is under question and scrutiny until it is backed up by a man.
The Reverend T. Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), writes, “We generally don’t believe women because what they have to say hurts us. If they told the truth – as many currently are – our notions of the inherent goodness of people would be irreparably shattered. When women speak, humanity is exposed.”
When women speak, humanity is exposed. When wisdom calls, she exposes injustice. When Mary sings, she prophesies an upheaval of the dominant social order. She proclaims the coming of God’s reign of justice. When another Mary runs from the empty tomb, she exposes the lie that death and decay have the final say. She, too, bears the Word into the world, exposing humanity for the sake of redemption through Jesus Christ.
I, too, believe the women. I believe Mary when she proclaims that the hungry will be filled with good things, that the humble will be exalted, and that God’s mercy is available to all generations. I believe Mary when she proclaims an empty tomb and a risen savior who will return to usher in a final reign of hope, peace, joy, and love. Believe the women. You might just experience a Christmas miracle.
The Rev. Stephanie Sorge seeks to bear God’s Word into the world through her calling as Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Stephanie is surrounded by non-women every day, including her two sons.
Image by: Caravaggio
Used with permission