On the Women’s March, My White Fragility, and Embracing Ambiguity

It’s been a roller coster week which has sparked a great deal of thinking and wrestling with what I like to think is my liberal self. While I was trying to fool myself that I am strong and optimistic, truth be told, I was “in the depths of despair”, wondering what our future would look like. Then, Saturday morning, as I wondered if I truly even had the emotional energy to make it out of the house, I forced myself to what I thought would be a small gathering of a handful of women at the riverfront, but my spirits soared at what I was to discover. For here in Peoria the people turned out, and it was beautiful. The incredible organizers arranged a diversity of speakers who one at a time spoke to each line of the Women’s March platform. Refugees, muslim doctors, and Latina high school students one-by-one took to the microphone, quelling my concerns that this might be a one-dimensional movement led by white feminists. The joy and pride began to soar. As I returned home, I was met with the remarkable coverage of my sisters across the world. I began to imagine a new reality, quite different from the one I had feared.

Then something all too familiar began to happen, my news feed filled with clear descriptions of the shortcomings of the march. The pussy hats, once so cute, were named a symbol of cis-privilage. The questions of where were our sisters when…echoed over and over. While many of these concerns had been voiced to some degree prior to the march, I began to struggle with all those who would rain on my white-feminist parade. Friends, I confess that I needed this, I wanted a win, a moment of joy, a symbol of hope, a glimpse of true solidarity. So what was I to do if it wasn’t all that? And if this wasn’t a beautiful sign of hope, what was it?

By Sunday night as I struggled to sleep and I turned these questions over and over in my head, it seemed that there was only one option…so I devolved into liberal-white-lady-self-pity. I chided myself for not recognizing the vaginal references as exclusionary while arguing at the computer screen over the intersectional merits of defending reproductive choice. I became defensive around my own activism around Black Lives Matter and the Dakota Pipeline. I nursed my sadness that this effort wasn’t good enough. Then I reflected on my own white fragility and the recent article I had read on the subject. As I gave into self-loathing, I was filled with guilt for my downward spiral of self pity. What could be more privileged-white-feminist-liberal than this whole line of thought, I wondered.

And so, friends I confess, that I am all of what one might believe. I am the sad broken white lady in the SNL skit, devastated by Trump’s win. I giggle at signs and t-shirts that depict a uterus giving Trump the finger. I seek to support my sisters who are womanist, latina,  muslim, and transgender, and I fall short. I want to do better. I want to be part of a movement in which all are included, a movement in which we all stand together for justice. I want us to turn out together and #sayhername, fight against unjust bathroom bills, support Planned Parenthood, seek to ensure that all from Dakota to Michigan have clean drinking water, and so much more. I want a movement in which my sisters of color, and transgender sisters know that their voices are heard and valued. I also want a movement in which those who are imperfect activists are able to find a place. I want a movement in which when someone shows up for the first time in their lives to a protest, they are welcomed and celebrated for their willingness to step out of their comfort zones. I want us to critique ourselves to seek a more inclusive movement, but I want that to include those who are new to this work.

Even as I write this, executive orders are being signed. These orders seek to re-start construction of the Dakota and Keystone Pipelines, “investigate” “voter-fraud”, and deny women across the globe access to full reproductive choice. As I write this, the EPA is being gagged by the executive office. As I write this, John Gore is being named to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.  As I write this, the President is threatening to send ‘the feds’ to Chicago, and tweeting about a certain wall. As I write this, I worry about what is to come. The arts, environment, and voting rights are under threat. The supreme court nominee will be named shortly.

I am convinced that we need everyone, and so I implore us to find ways to welcome new activists to our movements without discouraging them for not showing up sooner, or more enlightened. I implore my white sisters who may feel discouraged or challenged to hang in there and keep showing up. Have courage and lean into uncomfortable truths. Embrace shortcomings as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable character flaws (’cause they’re not). I encourage all of us to Trust Ambiguity, holding space in our hearts and minds for those who felt as though they had a place in activism for the first time AND for those who felt they were being squeezed out and excluded. Both can be, and are true. Let us celebrate how far we have come, AND let us seek to embrace intersectionality more deeply and authentically. Let us hold each other up, because in the days and months ahead, we will need everyone to turn out AND to understand more deeply the ways mechanisms of systemic injustice divide and oppress. Let us do our own difficult work of challenging our own bias and privilege, while being assured that we are supported by our sisters. Let us come through this stronger, better, and ready to fight!

A Good Friday Devotion: The Weeping Women of Jerusalem

The Weeping Women: a Holy Week Devotion

Luke 23: 26-34 (CEB)
As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

On Good Friday two thousand years ago Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem to his death upon a cross. As he walked crowds gathered. Yet amongst these crowds, his disciples, friends and family were nowhere to be seen. He was surrounded instead by strangers. Strangers who lined the roads. A stranger who was forced to carry the cross. A group of strange unnamed women from Jerusalem. These women came to mourn. They followed Christ to Golgotha wailing and beating their breasts. But who where these women? Why did they weep so? 
Perhaps news of Jesus had long ago reached these women. Perhaps they had heard the stories of Jesus and how he was willing to talk with, to touch, to heal, and to forgive other women just like themselves. Among them may have been women suffering from malnutrition and illness who struggled to support their growing families year after year and had heard of this man who gave strength and healing to Simon’-Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). Some may have been destitute widows forced to bury their children, in need of hope; these women may have heard of some strange events that had occurred in the far away city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17).  Still others may have been outcasts, declared unclean because of some sort of gynecological problem, they would have yearned for a human touch that could heal their body and restore their honor (Luke 8:40-48). Whatever these women’s specific situations one thing is certain; they lived in dangerous times. These women, valued for their ability to bare children would risk death year-after-year as they labored in unsanitary conditions with few resources. They would watch sisters die in childbirth. They would bury their children. They would stay up nights wondering how they were to feed their families. They may have had little hope that their children’s lives would be any better then their own. 
The stories of Jesus may have reached them and given them hope. As he was led to his death, they may have seen this as their last chance to experience his healing touch. Strangely, when he encounters these women Jesus does not offer them healing. Instead he hears them cry for him and in turn laments their fate saying, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’…” 
In the years following Jesus’ crucifixion the economy in Judea would continue to decline, Roman oppression would intensify and unrest would grow leading to an eventual revolt: that Jewish revolt would be crushed, the temple destroyed and the people sent into exile. Jesus may have foreseen such events when speaking to the women. He knew that any life they would bring into the world would likely know only suffering and death. Women at that time were forced to bare children year after year whom they could not support. They were forced to raise children who would only know war. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no woman should have to struggle to feed ever growing families. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no women should have to give birth to children which she will be forced to bury. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no woman should have die simply so another could know life.
On Good Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus died that we might live. On his way to that death he spoke to the women of Jerusalem who followed him to the cross. Now, two thousand years later women are still mourning and wailing. Now, two thousand years after Christ’s crucifixion women are still going to the cross; dying that others may live. Every year, 4 million children die within a month of birth. Every two minutes somewhere in the world, a woman dies of compilations during pregnancy or childbirth. These deaths are largely preventable. In Christ’s name, we can offer these weeping woman a healing touch, simply by ensuring they have control over their own bodies. When a woman delays pregnancy at least two years after the birth of her last child, she is much more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. When women can control the timing and spacing of their children, they can better ensure the health of each child.
This Good Friday, let us listen to the cries of women. Let us share the hope Jesus offered so many of the women he encountered: opportunities for strength and healing, access to medical care and family planning, and hope that their children’s lives will be better than their own. By helping women control the timing and spacing of pregnancy we can honor the women of Jerusalem. By ensuring that women who want it have access to the methods that will help them control the timing and spacing of their pregnancies we can honor Christ’s life and death. 
Quick Facts about Maternal Health


  • Globally, every two minutes a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Nearly all of the 287, 000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world.
  • Annually 4 million infants die within a month of being born. When a mother dies, it dramatically increases the risk of death for her baby.
  • Women account for nearly half of all people living with HIV and are disproportionately affected by new infections. This could be reduced if women and men had access to contraception.
  • When a woman delays pregnancy at least two years after the birth of her last child, she is much more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
  • Healthy mothers have healthy babies. Spacing children lowers the risk of infant mortality. Unmet need for family planning affects many women and families.
  • Worldwide there are more than 222 million women who would like to avoid pregnancy but lack a family planning method.
  • As a result, there are more than 80 million unintended pregnancies each year. More than half result in abortion, many of them under illegal and unsafe conditions.
  • Investing in family planning reduces unintended pregnancy and increases health for women and children.
Ephesians 1:3-14 A Call to Love in Troubled Times


 As I sit at my desk, writing this blog entry; I look out the window to see beautiful clear blue skies and shriveled near dead brown grass. What a shame. The need for rain is at the forefront of most people’s minds with whom I speak. I spoke with a couple people this week who recalled the depression, others with whom I spoke recalled the drought of 1988. This is certainly a troubling summer. The anxiety which this drought is causing is only exaggerated by the uncertainty of the times in which we live. 
Normally in such times, many people have turned to God and their elders; but here we may find ourselves struggling as well. Church membership and attendance is down. At the most recent General Conference it was reported that the average United Methodist is 58 years old. Churches no longer filled with children in Sunday School are filled instead with memories and worry. As we face this fact, we are forced to recognize that the church of yesteryear is no more. We are called by God and add campaigns to “ReThink Church”….but where do we begin?

As a nation, we are grieving as we watch members of what was dubbed by Tom Brokaw “the Greatest Generation” die. These are people who remember the Great Depression, lived through World War II and worked to rebuild the nation into the country that it is today. They have guided us and our parents (or are perhaps our parents). As much as we grieve them individually as they pass, we grieve something else as well: an idea. This generation represents a link to a distant past, a different time. They stand in the American consciousness like a mighty oak: a symbol of strength, wisdom and endurance. When members who were a part of this generation in my church die, I often witness others shaking their heads, asking “What will become of us when this generation is gone”. It is the end of an era.

With all this uncertainty it is no wonder that tensions, in the church and in the nation are high. We are faced with mounting problems. Old solutions aren’t working. So we lash out like a scared and hurt animal- because that is what we are. As we look to the fall and the coming election, I confess I am filled with dread. Yes, I worry deeply about what the results of the election will be when votes are tallied, but I worry as well about the cost of the election- not the financial cost (which will be unimaginably huge) but the psychological and spiritual cost of the fighting which has already begun. 

This Sunday, many churches which follow the Revised Common Lectionary will begin a study of Ephesians. As I reviewed and studied “Ephesians”, I was struck by the ways this ancient text sympathizes with and speaks to our troubled times. This letter, which most likely circulated amongst a number of churches was written after the fall of the temple in 70 AD. The destruction of the temple forced many religious communities to re-think the ways they practiced their faith, and who held religious authority. They were plunged into confusion and uncertainty. Compounding the struggle with a changing religious life was the death of a generation. At the time that this letter was written and circulated, Paul had most likely been executed. The other apostles, those followers of Jesus who walked, talked and learned with him; and who subsequently founded many of the first churches were dying. Faced with new questions and problems, the early church struggled to know where to turn. All too often they chose to turn against one another. 

Confronted with all of the frustrations of their day, the author of Ephesians opens with magnificent praise for the God of heaven and earth. We, the readers are assured that we have a God who is not removed from our problems but who instead is at work for us. Before the beginning of time, God made a plan. That plan is not broken economies, destroyed temples, failed crops or oppression. The writer explains, “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 Common English Bible). This is a plan rooted in love and advanced through grace. God has set aside an inheritance for us. 
Inheritance is given based on who a person is not what they do, we are given this inheritance not because we have always made good choices but because we are a part of God’s creation, because we are God’s children and because we are loved. God has planned this inheritance, saving it and setting it aside for each one of us. Though it is given to us it is not ours, for it was first God’s. We, as God’s benefactors have a choice: we can squander that inheritance or we can use it to honor God by participating in God’s plan. 

The writer explains that God’s design for creation is not something simply of another, heavenly realm. God’s has plans this world, this earth. God plans to see this world reconciled with one another and with God. Because of this, as we approach this election we are called to care for all God’s people and all of the issues that effect them. We are invited to labor in love and make wise decisions based not in malice but in the love God has for each of us. I know that as we near the election, my blood will at times boil. I will be filled with indignation and anger. But as hard as it may be somedays, I am not the only inheritor of God’s love and grace. I am not the only person that God blessed, chose and adopted. Indeed all of us, rich or poor, republican or democrat, of every race, gender, sexual orientation and nationality have been blessed, chosen and adopted by God. So let us then go forth endeavoring to treat one another through our words and  actions with the respect due to a child of God.