Carriers of Life | March 13, 2022 by Dr. Dorsey Blake
Joanne Polk reminds us of the lunacy of patriarchy. The denial of a public platform to Amy Beach for the expression of her brilliance as a pianist is indicative of its insanity. It is not merely insanity, however, for the patriarchy has systemic power that can exploit, depersonalize, control and ruin. I am immeasurably grateful to Dr. Benton for her informative and powerful message that helped me to understand patriarchy with a new breath.
I have been wrestling with the attacks on voting rights and women’s control of their own bodies. I keep wondering why men of the patriarchy with systemic power are so demon-possessed with establishing legislation outlawing a woman’s choice to end her pregnancy. It seems to me that that should be a decision of personal conscience.
Why is there a fury to pass such restrictive laws? According to sources I have consulted, compared to bills introduced from January through mid-March 2019, medication abortion restrictions and bans from January through mid-March last year tripled to 33, anti-abortion constitutional amendments tripled to 14, and state legislatures enacted 12 abortion restrictions compared to just one during the same time period in 2019. State legislatures introduced 516 abortion restrictions.
I have been appalled by the attempts, many of them successful, to deny the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy. I don’t understand why mostly male legislator have the gall to interfere with this right. That would seem to me to be off limits. Why is this legislation so important? Why is so much time and money spent on developing legislation and strategies to have the legislation passed? I do not have any great answers; but I know that patriarchy is always threatened, always feeling the need to defend itself, to ward off possible usurpers of its authority and control. Would there be changes in policy that women might bring? There is something larger than the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy that impels such calculated strategies. I think it is the need to control a significant percentage of the population that could do things differently and thereby erode patriarchal control and profits.
Could there perhaps be a different approach to the nation’s domestic and foreign policies?
I remembered a passage from Olive Schreiner, one of Dr. Howard Thurman’s favorite writers.
There is, perhaps, no woman, whether she have borne children, or be merely potentially a child-bearer, who could look down upon a battlefield covered with slain, but the thought would rise in her, "So many mothers' sons! So many bodies brought into the world to lie there! So many months of weariness and pain while bones and muscles were shaped within; so many hours of anguish and struggle that breath might be; so many baby mouths drawing life at woman's breasts; –all this, that men might lie with glazed eyeballs, and swollen bodies, and fixed, blue, unclosed mouths, and great limbs tossed–this, that an acre of ground might be manured with human flesh, that next year's grass or poppies or karoo bushes may spring up greener and redder, where they have lain, or that the sand of a plain may have a glint of white bones!" And we cry, "Without an inexorable cause, this should not be!" No woman who is a woman says of a human body, "It is nothing!"
And this idea would also nourish a sense of promoting the general welfare of the nation.
Would there be more consistent projections of ending hunger, of providing adequate housing, of making accessible excellent healthcare a priority, of clothing the naked. Dorothy Day said that she saw the face of Christ in all who came to the threshold where she worked. The message of Jesus might be manifested in creative, nurturing ways: for I was hungry and you shared your food with me; I was thirsty and you shared your water with me; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ragged and you clothed me, sick and you nursed me; I was in jail, and you stood by me. (Matthew 25:35-36, The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Clarence Jordan)
Jesus is talking about the new order of living that he is announcing, an order where there is more love, peace, commitment, prayerful co-existence, and accountability.
I was avoiding the news because I was already sad but today I listened long enough to hear the sirens in Ukraine.
And it reminded me that there are sirens everyday though not all of them are audible.
(the siren of always hungry) (the siren of constant fear) (the siren of despair)
I got stuck there for a while, in the echoing sirens. Because I have heard the stories and they are all true.
And God sometimes I can hear you in the courageous wailing and the unexpected quiet.
Sometimes I can hear you in the stories of your people, a living, breathing testament to resilience beyond all reason.
And then sometimes I can’t hear you at all.
Until someone who should be deaf from a lifetime of sirens says: “Can you hear it?
Yes, I have suffered, Lord knows I have suffered. But God has been so good to me. God is still so good.”
And then I begin again, with eyes to see and ears to hear.
And for a while, I can see both the pain
and the transcendent. For a while, I can hear the love songs underneath the sirens. And then, for a while,
I can tell the story of how you are here with us in both the depths and the rising.
– Rev. Kathrine Kenyon Henderson
We live in tragic, frightening times, times of rampant militarism, materialism, and confiscation of life on many levels. I sense that we have lost our sense of the tragic and evil. This loss allows us to accept what is wrong without being tortured by conscience. People died in the quest to secure rights that are now jeopardized. This alone should cause us to be outraged by the pernicious plans being put forward.
Julie Ward Howe, as Olive Schreiner did, reminds us of the tragedies that are part of our living and sketches a strategy for women to address them.
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Georgia Harkness taught at Pacific School of Religion among other institutions of higher education. In fact, she was the first woman to teach theology in an American seminary. She wrote our closing hymn.
In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.
I encourage you to listen to a podcast featuring Rev. Dr. Janet Wolf when you have time. It’s about 45 minutes long and renewing.