Friday, October 26, 2012

A Time to Remain Silent and a Time to Speak

Sometimes we men need to simply shut up. Especially male politicians. We need to recognize that there are topics on which we are not qualified to speak. Instead we need to remain silent and let those speak who are qualified. For those who have not followed the news recently, yet another male politician, Richard Mourdock—a Republican senatorial candidate in Indiana, opened his mouth and stuck his foot way down his throat earlier this week when he said:

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." (emphasis mine)

I hope those words leave you feeling as sick and angry as they do me. Unfortunately Mr. Mourdock is not the first politician to make such asinine statements. Remember Missouri candidate Todd Akin earlier this year? Remember the comments about “legitimate rape”? As if these comments by politicians were not bad enough Mark Galli, writing for Christianity Today affirmed Mr. Mourdock's statement. He wrote:

"It almost goes without saying that for Christians, while rape is a terrible thing, in the providence of God, this too can be redeemed, a tragic event from which love can emerge. And yet we live in a society in which many find this view intolerable, outside the bounds — anathema. This is a delicate conversation we're a part of in America, one that requires us to eschew the cheap advice or platitudes of Job's counselors, to be sure. Then again, it may be even more "disrespectful to the survivors of rape" to fail to tell them about the wondrous redeeming power of God, even in the most horrible circumstances." (emphasis mine)

I wasn't going to comment on this, because many excellent bloggers have already spoken strongly and clearly about these comments, among others: Danielle at From Two to One, Dianna Anderson, and this article by Lynn Beisner which explores the theology behind statements such as Mr. Mourdock's. But after reflecting on this issue I realized that we do need men to speak out as well, not to proclaim our great wisdom on matters such as rape, but to denounce such statements alongside our sisters. We men need to also be saying that views such as those espoused by Mr. Akin and Mr. Mourdock have no place in our civil discourse. They certainly have no place among those who will pass the laws which govern our society. These men are entitled to hold whatever opinion they want, but they need to learn to keep silent about them rather than speaking and exposing their foolishness. I am reminded of the oft-quoted phrase: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Men, we cannot just see this as a “women's issue” and allow other men to devalue the trauma faced by women (and men) who have been raped.

In fact I need to modify my earlier statement. We men do need to be silent if we are inclined to speak about rape as if we really know anything about it. But we should not be silent in that we must acknowledge our complicity in a culture that devalues women and exalts men in such a way that rape becomes seen as a women's issue. It's not a women's issue in that most rape is perpetrated by men. So it's a men's issue as well. We don't have anything to say to survivors and victims of rape, other than to come alongside them, listen to them and offer our support in whatever way they need it. But we need to speak honestly and openly about the patriarchal culture which we support and benefit from that objectifies, sexualizes and demeans women, such that rape becomes legitimized in some perverse fashion. I am not saying that most of us men are rapists. But we tacitly and often actively perpetuate a culture in which the women around us live in fear. We go so far as to place the blame on them for the actions of men, telling them that if they only dressed more modestly and behaved differently—if only they would not “tempt” men so much, they wouldn't likely become victims. We need to stop teaching such crap to our sons. We need to stop perpetuating these lies through the media. We need to stop believing them ourselves. We need to accept responsibility for our own actions and then we need to consciously choose to act differently toward women. When we stop seeing women as different than us, as weaker than us, as needing our protection; when we stop relegating women to second (or lower) class status, then we can begin to transform society and, more specifically, the mentality that supports the culture of rape. We must let go of our power and privilege—rape after all is another means by which we men exert power over women (and other men at times)--and embrace women as fully equally partners in society. These are the things we need to be talking about. But we should remain silent on how victims of rape should behave and how they should view their situation. 

For those who call themselves by the name of Christ, we need to do all this even more so within the church. Unfortunately in many churches that status of women is lower than in society as a whole. Yes, we affirm that we treasure and value “our” women, and in a very real way we do. But we often do so by relegating them to a certain sphere of life, asserting that as long as they remain within their God-given roles they will be less likely to encounter the evils that befall women such as rape. We often implicitly accept the idea that good women won't find themselves in such situations, so therefore those who do must obviously have been doing something wrong (i.e. immoral) and therefore in some sense “got what they deserved.” There is no place for such language or thinking within the church. The church needs to affirm the full worth and dignity of women and speak out against evil in all forms, including the evil of rape. We need to stop condemning those who are victims of it, along with any condemnation of their choices afterwards. The church should be a place of healing and restoration and we men need to do our part to make it so. Again this includes releasing our hold on power and privilege and inviting our sisters to participate fully in all aspects of life.

Finally, we men need to vote in such a way that men such as Mr. Mourdock and Mr. Akin will not be in positions to write laws on issues such as rape. These men have no business influencing such laws and as voters, we need to use our vote to make sure they don't. In this small way we can also stand alongside our sisters against the evil of rape. It's time we men learned when to speak and when to remain silent.

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen this one:

    More evidence to prove your point: Sometimes we males just need to shut our mouths.