We are our sisters’ keepers

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For the most part, I like to think I have a crafty way with words. For the last 7 years of higher education, I have been trained how to write clearly, effectively, and persuasively. I’m good at it, and I’m proud of that.

But with this, the subject of human trafficking and rape as a systematic tactic of war, I struggle. I humbly submit that I just do not know how to put into words what I know to be true.

I have yet to be able to properly express how so strongly and deeply this hurts. It burns. And, most of the time, I feel completely powerless to change the world that allows for it. The only reason I can think of to understand our inability to adequately communicate this vicious attack on human rights is that we just don’t have the vocabulary to make clear how dangerous it is to be a woman in most of the world. This is pragmatic, I would argue. Sociologically speaking, if you cannot name the problem, if you cannot even name the monster against whom you are fighting, you can’t change it. And until we can actually name, really name, the pandemic of human trafficking and rape, we are powerless to stop it. The people who perpetrate these crimes against humanity benefit so greatly from our lack of definition and their secondary goal, secondary only to what must be the goal of destroying an entire population, is to keep the rest of us ignorant. And for me, for a very long time, religion was the mask behind which those who were profiting could hide. Or the illusion they could use to distract the fools.

I hated religion so hard. I had a rock solid testimony that religion of any flavor allowed for and justified hate and torture.

Remember, I thought that God hated my family. Even though I believed just about nothing that came out of the mouth of a religious conservative, I somehow trusted them that God only loved wealthy straight white men and their perfect Stepford wives. These people, I decided, were hypocrites, and I hated them. Many religious public figures would spout out scripture and Christian theology to back their fear-mongering rhetoric that damned all people who weren’t exactly like them to a life of misery and an eternity in hell. These, to me, were also the people in the same group who raped children, destroyed the lives of women, and benefitted from the exploitable labor of people they couldn’t care less about.

And you know what? I believed them. I didn’t believe that what they were saying was true, or even remotely civil. The very vitriol that seemed to flow freely from the mouths of anyone holding a Bible made my blood curdle to a breaking point I thought would kill whatever I thought a soul was. I did, however, believe that God was the powerful, hateful, judgmental, cruel being they all made Him out to be. He hated my family, gay people, black people, all women, poor people, and generally any defenseless population against whom atrocities of genocidal proportions were committed.

So, I told God to go screw Himself.

I yelled at Him a lot. I asked him, “What did my family do to deserve to be treated like this? Why do you love these people who are so full of hate and prejudice so much more than my family? Why do you let these women in the Congo suffer? Why are Indian women trafficked as if they are items to be bought and sold? WHY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO LET THIS HAPPEN MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU? WHY IS MY SISTER’S LIFE NOT WORTH FIGHTING FOR!?”

I’m going to go ahead and rank, in no particular order of degree of disgusting, what I believed to be the top five most offensive and ignorant Christian excuses for social inequality (feel free to add your own in the comments section):

  1. God will take care of everything.
  2. I have faith it will work out in the end.
  3. We don’t have all the answers/God has an eternal perspective.
  4. Everyone has their own free agency
  5. Why should we worry about their problems? We have our own.

I would like to bear my testimony that this was not close to enough for me. Not even a little bit. In fact, hearing these made me want to run even further and faster away from religion, because clearly, to be a religious person, meant that you lacked the compassion or soul necessary to be a freaking human being.

Before I continue, please consider watching this clip. It will undoubtedly offend the faculties of your soul, but it is the very real reality we help to create and sustain.

These are our sisters. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 400,000 women are raped at year. Or about 48 women per hour. The DRC is known as the Rape Capital of the world and is considered by the United Nations the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman. When I use words like “horrible,” or “torture,” or “brutal” to talk about school exams, traffic jams, or heat waves, I am left with very few effective words to describe the status of women in the DRC.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Christians, those who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, were the first people to stand up and walk out on these women, who would stand up for them? If God was not the one to fight to the death for these women’s lives, who was? I also knew that if God wouldn’t fight for these women, and Christians were turning their back on them, then I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. I wanted to be as far away from them as I could get. I believed that to be baptized was to give up on these women and to join the ranks of the rest of the world in ignoring their suffering. To put 100% of my faith in a Being or Power, who I had no reason to trust, to solve this disgusting reality was not an option for me.

But I was so. very. wrong. I haven’t yet reached the point in “my story” of when I experienced the most humbling paradigm shift of my existence, so I have to skip ahead and just tell you the consequences of this new perspective. I now understand that it is not behind religion that we hide from the realities of the atrocities committed against women and children, but behind culture. Doctrine has taught me that not only is Heavenly Father aware of these women, but that the Gospel of Jesus Christ commands us to fight for their lives. It is our responsibility as brothers and sisters to be the risky and radical love that stands up and shouts out that this is not acceptable. Like Peter Luckey said in his sermon, Magnificent Defeat, “unless all of us are free, none of us are free.”

Tonight, at Night on Broadway, we started learning a song called “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables.

It reminded me of Zephaniah 3: 14-20:

  • Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem
  • The Lord hath taken away thy judgements, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
  • In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
  • The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
  • I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
  • Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
  • At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather for you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.

To the women and children of the Congo, and to women and children around the globe who are bought and sold as property to be raped and destroyed: Our Heavenly Father is in the midst of you and He is singing the song of people who will not be slaves again. He is working through people who are risking their lives to save yours. We, your brothers and sisters, are standing with you in the fight to give you the right to be free.

My academic training has taught me where we need to be; the Gospel of Jesus Christ has given me the road map of how to get there. Jesus Christ took upon himself the anguish and pain and sins of the world so that we could be free. He submitted himself to be crucified so that we could live. He gave his life so that we would have the right to be free.

To be a Christian, we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. We must let them know that their lives are worth fighting for.

We are our sisters’ keepers.

With so much love,

The LadyMo

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9 responses »

  1. LadyMo. This is breathtaking.

    ” Our Heavenly Father is in the midst of you and He is singing the song of people who will not be slaves again.”

    That took my breath away. THAT is the God I came to know on my knees, in pain. THAT is the reason I cannot abandon religion despite all the reasons in my head screaming for me to just run away.

    That, that, that.

    I hope God is there, where you say. And you expressed the feeling I have toward these things so perfectly. Just a helpless, hand-wringing, “What do I do?!”

    Marx’s view on religion was somewhat complementary to this. Most people think he was really anti-religion because of the whole “religion is the opium of the masses” thing. But if you think of opium as the painkiller it was then, not as the hallucinogenic we think of it as now, it makes a lot of sense. When your children are starving, and you are being raped by your landlord, and your body is broken from the debilitating work you’ve had no choice but to do your whole life…. God is pretty much all you have. And nobody in their right mind would try to take that away from you.

  2. Oh, and other religious excuses for not getting involved….

    My sister and I argue all. the. time. about this.

    “The meek shall inherit the earth.”

    Being poor on earth is a reward because you will be richly rewarded in heaven. God wants them to experience this trial to learn something. If he didn’t want them to be in that situation, they wouldn’t be in that situation, so they are going to be there until they learn what God wants them to learn.

    I can’t even express the level of heartbreak I feel when it is my sister saying these things to me….

  3. I’m with you on this. I am actually a huge fan of the Beatitudes, but not as a justification for poverty and oppression. I can’t tell you how so very much I wanted to punch a missionary when discussing these themes, he could only say, “God has an eternal perspective.”

    I try to think that maybe that’s the only answer he had for me at the time. I try to believe that if presented with a temporal solution, he’d act on it.

  4. I like your critique of Marx’s argument about religion. Putting it in a historical and cultural context makes his comment more… descriptive? is that the right word? I know that he’s super critical of religion as a social construction, but it does make sense that this very famous “opium of the masses” go-to phrase is more of an observation than a “you stupid stupid people” analysis.

    Hm. I need to rethink some things.

  5. To be fair, it isn’t my idea. I ripped it off from someone else. It’s a fantastic podcast about Marx and Religion. It’s by Rachel Morgain at a Socialism Conference…. I’ll try to figure out how to email it to you.

  6. This was interesting to read today. At least, I think it was today that I pondered the “evils” of religion. I was just a few days ago involved in a discussion about all the bad that has come forth from religion. Well, it wasn’t as much of a discussion as it was a person sending out a quote stating this idea, and my brother responding to it. It was meaningful for me that my brother responded to this. See, my brother is gay. And he recently left the Church, but he’s one of my ward’s most active members. He’s an active, gay non-Mormon or something. 🙂 And he’ll be the first to defend our faith, and religion. Anyway, so I thought about this stuff. And I thought that so much evil has been done in the name of religion. But that those acts are usually not connected with the teachings of their religions. Islam is actually such a peaceful religion in its doctrines. Covering women up is not part of their teachings. I thought about other religions I’ve studied and realized the same thing. So, it’s sad that humans will take whatever they can and twist it into any justification that will fit their need to commit atrocious acts. I’ve always been a bit surprised reading about God weeping in the scriptures. But I’m not so surprised anymore. Of course, it would hurt to see how truth gets messed up into horrible things that end up hurting his children instead of being the blessings they should be. 😦 I think it’s a real challenge at times, but also a real gift to see through the deceptions of humanity, and recognize God in his truth.

    Anyway, I don’t even know what I’m saying. I am curious to read your story. Les Miserables is such a freakin’ awesome musical by the way. And anyone who thinks that we do not have an obligation to help those who suffer are just.plain.nuts! That’s such crazy talk. I can’t even get into that right now because I always get so frustrated with how disconnected we seem to be from the reality of the rest of the world (me included). Urgh.

    Well, great posts. Great comments. Thanks.

  7. Ohhh, and as for Marx. People are so silly. Marx is awesome, and people are just clueless. Especially members. I mean, do you personally know any Germans who aren’t supercool? It’s just what we do. And Hitler doesn’t count because he was actually Austrian. Hahahaha…

    Really though. I think if people would hear a lot of Marx’ philosophies and ideas in proper context and maybe without his name attached so they don’t start thinking of communism right away, at least a lot of members would probably really like him and consider him “inspired”. I personally think he was. But that’s just my biased, liberal opinion.

  8. Lady Mo, I really enjoy your outlook on issues. I think as a religious people, we should do what we can in the plight of those in need. After all, WE are his hands here on earth. Of course there are many situations that seem just unreachable and we may not be able to help as much as we would like, but there are plenty of issues and situations all around us that we can address. There is suffering in all forms all around and we can help in some way and not wait for “God” to do his magic. I believe that we all are inspired by God to help others and should do what we can if we can. Go Get em Lady Mo!

  9. By the way, Les Miserables is the best musical ever. It touches my soul in so many ways. I’m glad you’re singing that song, it is one of my favorites. “When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drum, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes”. These lyrics have so much hope, courage, and strength. We are all going into battle everyday, and the things we are passionate about will be the drum beat that echoes the desires of our hearts. Hopefully we will feel a call to war or to get up and do something, or anything to push our cause along. I hope we can all be as passionate as those school boys were for a cause they believed in. Not sure if any of this makes written sense, but somehow it makes complete sense in my mind. Oh well

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