Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune offers analysis and commentary on issues that concern the work of FaithTrust Institute.
“As gun rights advocates push to legalize firearms on college campuses, an argument is taking shape: Arming female students will help reduce sexual assaults.” I will tell you exactly what will go wrong. Here’s how it will go. Undergrad Sally is given a handgun by her parents on her birthday. Sally attends an abbreviated gun safety class which includes target practice. Sally now carries her gun in her backpack on campus. She says she feels safer. Two possible scenarios:
First, a confession: I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey nor do I intend to. I have not seen the film nor do I intend to. When I choose a novel to read or a movie to see, I pay attention to reviews or suggestions of my friends. The thought of spending time reading second rate prose about dominant-submissive heterosexual sex or of watching soft-core porn in a theater just doesn’t seem very appealing. Life is too short. But I am intrigued by the apparent popularity of this book, now movie, and the discussions it has engendered. Sounds like a raunchy romance novel of the Twilight genre, expertly marketed and hyped to an adult female audience. Feminist? Anti-feminist? Liberating? Depressing?
In a spirit of full disclosure, it’s true: I am a fan of the game of football. In my hometown, that means the Seattle Seahawks. And that means the Super Bowl on February 1. Having said that, of course I have to comment on the intersection between the NFL and domestic violence. Particularly in light of events this past season, which involved high profile cases of NFL players assaulting family members. As we approach the Super Bowl, the urban myth regarding the increase in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday will once again make an appearance. It is a myth, by the way, that there is more domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday. We don’t know where it started; probably it was someone’s hunch way back when. But the numbers don’t support it.
Each day seems to bring another report of tragic gun violence. The latest three incidents: Sydney, Australia: Man Haron Monis held hostages in a Sydney café for 16 hours until police stormed the café leaving Monis and two hostages dead. Monis had been charged earlier with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and also with sexual assault of a woman. Eagleville, Pennsylvania: Bradley Stone shot and killed his former wife and five of her relatives before killing himself with a knife. New York City: Ismaaiyl Brinsley ambushed, shot and killed two police officers sitting in their patrol car. Mr. Brinsley, 28, then fled down the street and onto the platform of a nearby subway station, where he shot and killed himself. He had come to New York from Baltimore where he had shot his former girlfriend. Fortunately, she survived. Actually these seemingly disparate events had a lot in common, namely, gender based violence.
My favorite hymn of the season is “In the Bleak Midwinter” written by the English poet Christina Rossetti in 1872. It begins by describing the environs that we in the northern hemisphere experience in December: “In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter Long ago.”
On this day after the announcement by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, it is cold, dark and rainy here in Seattle. The weather seems fitting somehow to reflect the despair and hopelessness that so many people are feeling. The announcement that there would be no Grand Jury indictment of the police officer who fired 12 shots to kill a young black man in Ferguson, MO, was made under the cover of darkness because it was shameful. The justice system failed.
“From Peaceful Homes to a Peaceful World” is the theme of 16 Days. Take a moment to reflect on where we would be if the vibrant, curious girls of the world had been able to develop and grow as God intended. Imagine the things they could have accomplished had they been spared their suffering. Celebrate the amazing things we have accomplished, despite it all.
Every day seems to bring a new chapter in the National Football League's drama of discovering the urgency of addressing domestic violence in its ranks. Team sports are about statistics. Football is about yards gained/lost, touchdowns scored, passes completed, third downs converted, etc. Here’s a statistic: conservatively speaking, 1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence at some time in her life.
A Reflection for Rosh Hashanah: There is an old Jewish blessing offered as the New Year arrives: “May the old year and its troubles end, and the new year and its blessings begin.” A beautiful and hopeful thought, until you think: each new year begins with aspirations of change, redemption, blessing, and healing, and yet each ends with disappointment, struggle, and challenge. Perhaps this is the human condition.
I confessed my enjoyment of football last year when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. I also understand that football (and the National Football League) is a huge part of the fabric of American culture, for better and for worse. It is certainly a primary factor in the socialization of boys and men in our society. So, yes, I do read the sports page every day. Sometimes a story jumps from the sports page to the front page. This seems to be the case with the Ray Rice story.
The recent death of Joshu Sasaki Roshi and the publication of an extensive article on John Howard Yoder raise once again the contradiction of beneficial teachings and abusive teachers. What legacies do these prominent faith leaders leave?
A 14 year old child goes to her priest and tells him that an adult parishioner has been initiating sexual contact with her. She asks the priest what she should do. “The child testified during deposition that [the priest’s] advice to her was to handle the issue herself because ‘too many people would be hurt.’ Court documents also say she testified, ‘He just said, this is your problem. Sweep it under the floor.’"
I realize it may be a waste of time to even comment on your uninformed “advice” which you continue to dole out without reservation. But some days I just can’t let it go without comment because there are still people out there who listen to you. Your latest opinion offers an opportunity to clarify once again how a faith leader or friend can help a battered woman, and how an uninformed response risks perpetuating a violent, dangerous situation.
The 200 plus girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria are not home yet. Despite efforts by Nigerian military, U.S. military, and the United Nations, the girls have not yet been rescued from the terrorists.
I had trouble keeping up this past week. We saw a barrage of commentary in response to a troubling Op-Ed published in the Washington Post on Wednesday. In an apparent homage to Fathers’ Day, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson offered their opinions under the title: “One Way to End Violence Against Women? Married Dads.” The critical response and push back to the article have been almost instantaneous. That’s the good news.
In the wake of the Santa Barbara murders, I had been waiting to hear men’s voices respond. Actually I had been waiting for reasoned, thoughtful men’s voices. This is my favorite so far: Arthur Chu’s piece in The Daily Beast, “Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds."
Is “misogyny” [the hatred of women] listed in the DSM V? Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage last week in Santa Barbara was horrific. Seven dead and thirteen injured. But his YouTube message and Manifesto served to multiply the horror. Scary as it is, he did leave us with insight into the mind of a young man who hated women.
Perhaps this is all we can do now. The story of the kidnapping of hundreds of Christian and Muslim school girls in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram has outraged the entire world. And the misuse of Islam by Boko Haram leaders to justify their actions, claiming they are being directed by Allah, only magnifies the outrage. Boko Haram using the name of Islam in this way is like the Ku Klux Klan or Fred Phelps using Christianity to propel their actions of hate and violence.
Dear Pope Francis: I want to commend you for owning the painful fact of sexual abuse of children by priests as part of your Good Friday comments. Lent is surely the season for such a public acknowledgement. You named the reality of the abuse; you asserted the necessity of stringent sanctions; you acknowledged the profound vulnerability of children. All of this suggests that you are serious about acting to rectify the harm that has been done, to bring justice where there has been injustice, and to bring healing where brokenness remains.
Orthodox Jews can divorce but, under Jewish law, the husband controls the document known as a “get” which finalizes the divorce. If he refuses to give his wife a get, she cannot remarry under Jewish law. In a recent case, Meir Kin, who divorced his wife seven years ago under California civil law but still refuses to give her the get, has remarried. Many familiar with this case consider Mr. Kin a bigamist. Having multiple wives is forbidden under Jewish law. But refusing to give a wife a get is allowed. The wife becomes an agunah, “a chained wife.” Mr. Kin divorced his wife but then refused to give her a get. There is no reason to do this except to continue to control one’s ex-wife and make her life miserable.