FYI: Lots of People Get Raped

I’m watching a video from CBS This Morning and they’re saying there’s a new movement called #WeAsOurselves, whose purpose is to acknowledge that Black women get raped. I guess the point they are making is that Black women don’t acknowledge it for complicated reasons. If you’re being oppressed everywhere, I guess personal abuse is the last thing people think about. If there’s pressure to not talk about the community you’re apart of because White folk will blame your entire race, that’s a complication that they think should be taken into account. As a therapist who counsels Black women, I can assure you Black women get raped. Why? Because they are alive, they are women, and they know horrible people who do horrible things to them. I don’t know if the perpetrators are Black, White, or any other color. I don’t care. If you are a Black woman and you have been raped, I’m sorry that happened to you. It shouldn’t have. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. You need to talk to somebody about it, so that you can process it. I don’t care if that person is professional or not, though I think it’s preferable that they are. They must be someone you trust. Your community (however you define it) needs to know you’re in pain, so it can deal with it and make sure it never happens again. If you’re not up to that, okay. It’s your life. You deserve to be healed. You deserve to feel safe. Your deserve to feel loved.

While I’m on the subject, though, I want to tell you that there are plenty of people who get raped that you probably can’t imagine. Men, for instance, get raped when they are boys or sometimes when they are men. They just do. I know men who have been raped, or sexually abused. I don’t care if they’re supposed to not be. They are. Men face particular challenges about being believed because 1) Myth says “men want it all the time”; 2) Myth says that men have all the power in society; 3) Myth says that men can only be raped by men; 4) Myth says that gay society is worse that everybody else on the planet. I suppose if you’re responsible for climate change because you’re gay, or the collapse of Western civilization, then that makes sense — except you’re not responsible for those things, either!

Trans people also get raped. Gay people get raped. White people get raped. Asian people get raped. Native Americans get raped. Children, teens, and seniors get raped. Rape is a thing that happens. In absolutely no case is it their fault. Rape is the fault of the rapist. It may be suggested as acceptable by a certain culture or another. It’s only a suggestion. Most men don’t rape. Most women don’t rape. Most Black people don’t rape. Most children don’t rape. Most gay people don’t rape. Most trans people don’t rape. Most people with any sense of compassion at all don’t rape. In fact, most people who survive rape don’t go out and rape. There is no excuse. If you were raped, it’s not your fault. If you did the raping,you need to take responsibility for your actions. It’s as simple as that. The people who are responsible for it happening are the people who are responsible to make sure it never happens again.

Are there societal structures that make it more or less likely? Sure there are. Even they aren’t totally to blame. They must become less likely to lean toward rape culture. But those structures will never change until we accept that rape happens to a lot of people within them.

Resisting rape with Peace,

John

A Lenten Reflection For The Politically, Psychologically, or Religiously Inclined

[Author’s introduction: I find myself pulled in three directions these days, each of them a form of service and caring: As a therapist, I care deeply about my clients. As an American, I care deeply about my country and its politics – especially regarding the lives of those very same clients in the area around Springfield, Massachusetts. Underneath it all, or over-riding it all, is my faith in Jesus of Nazareth and his expression of God’s will for us in the world. I treat my clients in the ways I think Jesus would want me to. I treat my country in the ways I think Jesus would want me to. I treat Jesus in the way I think he would want and deserves. Since I don’t have a church right now, I write this as an expression of my belief in that Jesus of Nazareth and the faith which he inspires in me.]

The Christian church has two periods of year specifically for reflection, in preparation for a biblically Big Event – The Birth of Jesus (called “Advent”) and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus (The events of Good Friday through Easter, called Lent)

On this day where Donald Trump has been impeached twice and not convicted either time, it seems like a good time to reflect on the first text often used in Lent:

Matthew 4: 8 -11

“…The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

The text is about knowing who seems to run the world, who inevitably does run the world, and the choices I think we all have to make in our lives about the two.

To be clear: Donald J. Trump is not a bad person because he is a Republican. He is a bad person because he is a bad person. One can make the case that is the logical extension of Republican politics in the same way that murder is the logical extension of anger. While Republicans traditionally have stood for Conservative Values, Trump stands for Fascist values.

He embodies everything that is wrong in the world and he is loved by parts of the world for it, including people in my own beloved faith. Trump’s brand is about saying hateful things to people who live in fear and hate. Trump’s brand is about raping women, because he believes he is in a position of power. Trump’s brand is about running the country not “just like a business”, as many churches do, but with the worst that Capitalism has to offer. Trump’s brand is about saying he’s a Christian, but never acting like it. It’s about holding up the Bible as a symbol of force and authority, but never having the good sense to open it up and read it. Trump’s brand is about oppressing anyone not exactly like him… and everyone is not exactly like him. Racism? Trump loves it. Sexism? Trump loves it. Wealth, especially at the cost of others? Trump loves it.

Contrast this with Jesus: He embodies everything that is right in the world and he was hated by parts of the world for it, including people in his own beloved faith. Jesus is about saying kind things to people who live in fear and hate, and challenging those who do the hating without fear. Jesus never raped anyone, though he knows he is in a position of power. Jesus didn’t run anything “just like a business”, and in fact owned nothing. Jesus is Christianity incarnate, but never acting like he’s above anyone. Jesus is the Bible as a symbol of authority, but not as a symbol of oppression. Jesus is about caring for anyone not exactly like him… and everyone is not exactly like him. Racism? Not Jesus.  Sexism? Not Jesus. (Jesus argues with a woman of another nationality, and loses the argument, and gives to the woman anyway. Trump, is, notoriously never wrong.). Trump’s wealth at the cost of others? Nope, not Jesus, not even. They are opposite sides of the same coin: power and authority.  Jesus uses his for justice and healing. Trump uses his for injustice and hurt.

At the end of Lent, just before Jesus is crucified, the people of Jerusalem will be offered a choice between Jesus, the Son of the Father/God and Barabbas, literally, “the son of the father” in Hebrew. The people of that day chose the lesser version of the two – the criminal Barabbas. We are offered the same choice. Kindness, justice, caring, truth, and love for all or the “earthly” values of power over others, injustice, indifference to pain, lies, and hatred.

The choice is about who we think is running things here. If we think that Trump runs the world, we accept the offer to bow down to him and hope he will give us what is his because that is what he promised. If we think that God runs the world, like Jesus, we won’t take that bet. Jesus knows who he is, and who ultimately will have the final say on everything.

So what does this have to do with my clients? Everything. I see so many people who are victims of trauma and oppression. Some have come to oppress themselves through addiction, and forget the truth that lies within them. But all of them are oppressed. It is my job to show them who they really are, where their power is, and what they can do in the world. If they know how incredibly and wonderfully made they are, they experience that love can rule their lives. Survivors of all forms of oppression — physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual — come to realize that they are more powerful than their oppressors, whether that is a single person, a group of bullies, or a system. They ultimately outlast their oppressors and they ultimately see themselves as worthy of a rich life. And, I believe, at the next life, they experience all of the beauty and potential that they were born with and deserving of, seeing where they ultimately fit.

In political systems, it is our job to do the same – to value, and not disparage, all of God’s people, to let them experience and speak the Truth as they know it. A fully functioning democracy is a place where all people are free to (in the words of Virginia Satir) “see and hear what is here, instead of what society says should be, was, or will be, to say what they feel and think instead of what the system says they should, to feel what one feels, instead of what others say they ought to, to ask for what they wants, instead of always waiting for permission, to take risks in their own behalf, instead of choosing to be only ‘secure’ and not rocking the boat”.

From those freedoms, we can make democracy or society all it can be. Those freedoms, that mental and physical health, that spiritual ability all come from believing that we (because we are worthy of God’s love and mercy) can take charge of our lives and be more powerful than The Oppressor, who convinces us that they have it all and that we should bow down before them.

That caring, because of The Powers That Be, will insure our suffering at times, much as those who told the truth suffered Trump’s wrath. The more oppressive the systems created by people are, the more goodness looks radical. At times, it may look like the Trumps, or Mussolinis or Hitlers of the world will win. January 6th was one of those days. Maybe today’s acquittal seems like one of those days, but – like all days – we have a choice. We can feel our worth and tell the truth, or we can forget our value and give in to cynicism, racism, sexism, phobias of all sorts and believe they won. Certainly, the temptation has been there, but we can also experience the calm and joy of a more diverse system that attempts to care for more people. Let us know who is really in charge of our lives, and let us choose wisely. Amen.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Why Impeachment Matters In America

I can’t speak about other governments, but it seems to me that American government was supposed to be a different than the rest of the world. We used to speak of American exceptionalism. I still do. American exceptionalism doesn’t mean we’re better just because we are American. It means we have an exceptional form of government and we’re all a part of it, and important to it. As I understand it, it was inherently different at its inception because it was the first and only “democracy”. We had decided in our Revolution, we weren’t going to have a king anymore. Why is that?

There are those who want to say that America is founded on Christian principals. I believe that, as well. Even the Founding Fathers couldn’t agree on what being a Christian is, so they went with Christian principles. First among those principals is that we stand as equals in the sight of God. A king isn’t the same as you and me. They are sort of semi-human. A king was above the law. A king is above the law because the king is the law. The King decides what should be law, decides when it should be applied and when it shouldn’t apply to them. If you watch The Crown, you know that there’s part of becoming king or queen when — through the ritual performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury — where the person who was just human the minute before becomes a representative of God, a person who is infallible now, and this makes all of their laws just and right.

“So let it be written, so let it be done” is a phrase that describes the way royalty works. When the Bible speaks of God as “King of Kings”, it means God is a level above the kings of the world in the same way that kings are a level above other humans. “Because I said so!” is also a phrase that describes how royalty deals relates to law, for good or bad. Little kids have their own version of “because I said so!”: “I want it!” usually is accompanied by stomping of feet and a good cry. In either case, the person wants something to happen simply because they said so. They want to be in charge of others, just because. This is the difference between a good king and a bad king — the way they view or use their authority. It’s quite possible, depending on the people or circumstances, to get an immature king or queen. Democracy, however, requires a mature leader — one who can prove their wisdom in the day-to-day leadership that is required by the job. “Because I said so!” will not work for the President of our country. Only success and wisdom can bring authority — and then only for four years.

Say what you want about Donald Trump — mature is not the word that comes to mind. He shouldn’t be given authority to run this country. During his time in office, success isn’t the word that comes to mind, at least for me. There are those who will credit him for the economy, and for mid-east peace, and other things. That doesn’t balance out the destruction he did as President, and people can disagree about that. In a democracy, we settle our disagreement at the ballot box. The President can’t weigh in, because the voters speak and what would be the King doesn’t. When Trump and his cronies tried to, any success he might have had was over-ruled by his immaturity and fits. In short, Trump behaved like a king, and we don’t have kings. Democracy is different.

Instead, we have human leaders and we have laws. The President is no different than anyone else. The President’s a human being, has no claims to divinity, and — as a human being — is not above the law. Because we don’t see divine authority in our leaders, we rely on the authority of the law. Either there’s both law and democracy or there’s neither. There are, among our Presidents, some really good ones and some really bad ones and many in the middle. All of them believed that the law applied to them, whether they like it or not. Nixon resigned because it was apparent he couldn’t respect the law and do things in the way he wanted. The law won.

Bill Clinton, the only President to be impeached prior to Trump, also believed in the law. I’m not sure what law he broke sleeping with Monica Lewinsky, but he was impeached and he accepted that because he believed in the law. He will always be impeached, having the political version of an asterisk next to his name, because he believed the law was more important than he was. Like all Presidents, Trump could be a good President or a bad President, but he must be a law-abiding President. If he’s not, he has to be stopped. Impeachment is the way to do that. If it’s really bad, the President needs to be removed, done the way the law says.

In a democracy, human beings are all equal. The President comes out of the vast collection of humans, and goes back to being a part of the vast collection of humans who make our society better or worse. Because the highest person in our country has consequences for their illegal behavior, the person who steals or assaults or whatever can have consequences for theirs. There’s a certain logic to it.

If a President can get away with murder, and they’re “just” a human being, why should anyone else be held accountable for their crimes? On the other hand, if they can be held liable, then why shouldn’t a criminal be subject to laws as well?

Life ought to make sense– for all of us. If you or I go to work and do a terrible job, we can get fired. If a President does a terrible job, he or she should be able to be fired as well. If we do well, we should get recognition. One of the odd things that this particular former President bases his argument on is that he gets in trouble because people don’t like him. “They pick on me”, he says. People aren’t supposed to be in trouble because people don’t like us. We probably should be in trouble because we’re bad at what we’re doing. If we are the absolutely worst at our job, we will get in trouble no doubt, but it shouldn’t be because people don’t like us. It should be because we’re doing the wrong thing. If the President does well, they should get recognition as well — and they do. If the President doesn’t do well, they should get in trouble as well.

When a regular person goes to court, no one asks them if people like them. The court asks if they did something. The court seldom wants to hear why the person did this or that. Yes, Trump has been under fire since the very first day of his President, because he has done bad things from the moment he arrived. That’s not singling him out, that’s treating him like anybody else. If any other President’ or his team did what Trump or his team did, I would expect them to be in trouble.

This is why impeachment is so important: It can and should happen to anyone, not a member of a party. If we are to believe that any person can be President, than any President can — and should be — treated the same under the law.

I don’t want Donald Trump out of office because I don’t like his hair, or his wife, or his friends. I want Donald Trump out because he broke the law — from the beginning of his Presidency to the end of it. Impeach him and keep him out office forever. Prove he is one of us, despite what he says. Prove that the law means something, because it does, and we do.

Resisting with Peace,

John