Biblical Scholar, Seminary Professor, Episcopal Priest

Posts tagged “Nigerian school girls

Summer of Horror

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Girls, black like me, abducted to be sex slaves and not for the first time, not for the last time. Tweet this
Abandoned to their fate, all but forgotten. It looks like no one will #BringBackOurGirls. Some of them have brought themselves back.
Hundreds of people lost on a flight and then again hundreds more lost on the same airline shot down, intentionally murdered. Their bodies disrespected, left to rot in the fields for days, perhaps looted. The investigation thwarted. Justice mocked, denied.
A war of disproportionate violence targeting civilians, killing children with reckless abandon, demolishing hospitals, ambulances, schools and refugee centers. And I am complicit. My government, my tax dollars, my army, backing and funding the slaughter and resupplying ammo with one hand while lightly wagging a finger with the other. click to tweet
A black man STRANGLED (lynched?) by a police officer on a city street on video. tweet The flower of black manhood has been shot down in the street like a dog. Left to lay in his blood for hours. tweet this Followed by a police response straight out of the manual of Bull Connor. Riot gear more up-armored than US forces in Iraq. tweet
I have been stunned into silence by this summer of horror. I could not blog. I could not shape a paragraph. I don’t know if I could have preached. Instead I tweeted, I prayed, I raged – keeping vigil in the age of social media.
The story of Job came to mind: for seven days and seven nights his friends sat with him in stunned silence. They did not open their mouths in theological platitudes. They sat with him, they looked at him, they listened to him. When they did open their well-intentioned mouths spilling forth the normative theology of their day it was of no use to God or Job. Job’s rage, including and particularly his rage at and with God, was right (alright, righteous) with God.

All kinds of rage is simmering in the cauldron of this summer. It is not all righteous but some of it istweet that The Church does not have a good track record of responding to holy rage – particularly of black folk. It kills prophetstweet

May the angry words of our mouths and the righteous rage in our hearts fuel the work of our hands and be acceptable in your sight O God of Justice. Amen. tweet prayer

 


When Mother is the Hardest Word

Mother of Sorrows

My ancestors passed down this lament:

Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile,
A long way from home.

Sometimes mother is the hardest word.
Sometimes mother is a curse word ~
not the object of a profane expression, but the subject.

For some the pain of Mother’s Day is unbearable:

Those who have lost children
Those who have lost beloved mothers
Those who have been left unexpectedly to become single mothers
Those who have been forced into motherhood
Those who have been raped into motherhood
Those for whom mother was abuser
Those who long for motherhood denied by an uncooperative or betraying body or by lack of a partner and possibility.

Many will weep on Mother’s Day.
Few of those tears will be joyful.
Some are long past tears.

Mother’s Day with its crass commercialization and virtual sanctification may yet be redeemed, if we use it to reflect on the state of mothers, mothering and motherhood in the world.

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many women and girls die in childbirth around the world including in these United States?

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many infants are born dead because of maternal hunger, lack of or access to health care?

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many mothers have lost daughters and sons to trafficking?

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many girls and women are raped into motherhood as regular and recurring tactics of warfare?

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many girl-children, some as young as eight, are sold, bartered and traded into marriage with grown men, often as old as their fathers and grandfathers?

On this Mother’s Day, do you know how many women are forced to bring unwanted pregnancies to term because of the cultural, religious and political values of men and sometimes women who control their sexuality and fertility?

On this Mother’s Day I am reminded of the risk inherent in being a girl or woman on display in particular ways in parts of the world that seem distant but are connected to me by ties of blood and faith and humanity.

For all of those women who have chosen motherhood and mothered the children of their hearts and wombs and streets and those they have embraced from near and far with or without papers, I give thanks.

For all of the men who have loved and nurtured with exquisite tenderness in the absence of any other mothering, I give thanks.

With all the motherless children, and for those for whom it would have been better to be motherless, I weep.

And for the daughters of Nigeria and all other trafficked girls and the mothers who are fighting for their return, I pray and I work.

The American Mother’s Day industry seems willfully and uncaringly blind to the lives, struggles and deaths of most of the world’s mothers and their children. Perhaps now you understand why I cannot say “Happy Mother’s Day” to anyone and have not been able to do so for a very long time.


A Lamentation For Our Daughters

This is a wailing; and it shall be wailed.
The women of the world shall wail it.
Over Nubia and all its nations they shall wail it,
says the SOVEREIGN God.
Ezekiel 32:16

My Lament

My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are raped.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are sold.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are bartered.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are stolen.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are illiterate.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are unemployed.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who don’t have health care.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who can’t feed their children.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are did not consent to their marriages.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who were the child brides of adult men.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who live in a world, culture or society that treats them as less than human.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who did not choose their motherhood.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are going hungry.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are selling themselves.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who hate their own bodies.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who are dying of HIV/AIDS.
My eyes grieve continually for the souls of all the daughters who were killed by someone who should have loved them.

Some days that’s all I know how to do.


Trafficked into Marriage

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Today black women in the United States and perhaps some of our allies are wearing geles, traditional West African head wraps like those worn in Nigeria to call attention to the hundreds of our daughters, kidnapped and sold like the Israelite daughters at Shiloh more than three thousand years ago. Some folk still have not figured out that women and girls are neither property nor breeding stock. I often refer to that kind of thinking as Iron Age theology. In truth, all Iron Age theology is not so heinous. There are powerful, vibrant transformative religious communities in the world, including this one because of Iron Age theology. The Torah which we study offers some of the best and worst of the theology of our ancestors.

Among the worst is the reduction of girls and women to salable objects. There is renewed focus on the trafficking of women and girls (and boys and men) in sex-service industries. But as the world was horribly reminded on the 16th of April, girls have been stolen and sold into marriage for thousands of years. This story is particularly heinous to me as the descendant of trafficked peoples. The mothers of my people, were raped and bred like cattle.

To my horror as a Christian, my own scriptures commend the abduction and rape of women and girls as war booty. Nothing has caused me to wrestle with God, scripture and my understanding of the authority of scripture than the sanctioned abuse and marginalization of women in the scripture. My recent post on rape marriage in the scriptures in light of the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schools girls can be found here at Religion Dispatches.

In 2oo8 I wrote about the problematic notion of biblical marriage, polygamy, rape and incest being overlooked to invoke biblical authority on heterosexual unions to the exclusion of all others without acknowledging the reality of all forms of marriage acceptable according to the text:

Rape-marriage was a socially acceptable conjugal union in the worldview of the authors and editors of the biblical text and endures to this day in some parts of the world. While there are less vicious forms of biblical marriage, the construct cannot be invoked without sanctifying the abduction and rape of teen and pre-teen girls.

The ongoing abduction of girls and women in Ethiopia in Christian and Muslim communities and the abduction of as many as 70,000 women and girls by Hindu and Muslim communities during the partition of Pakistan from India that this on-going savagery transcends time, culture, and scripture. And there are accounts of Buddist citizens of Burma/Myanmar and Hmong Vietnamese in the U.S. abducting brides according to their ancestral traditions.

Today, there are contemporary prophetic voices crying out against the continued deployment of biblical marriage as normative social and religious construct. Challenging religious leaders or would-be religious leaders about what kinds of unions are divinely sanctioned, even biblical, is dangerous subversive work. They may call you names, they may even invoke the name of God, but your name will be written in the book of life and will never be forgotten.

It is well past time for all of us to raise our voices.

Will you use all of your resources to bring pressure to bear on our government and the Nigerian government to pursue and rescue the nearly 300 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls and to provide safe haven for them if and when they are rescued?