I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.
(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)
From Chapter 10: Kingdom Come
How can you take part in the redemptive movement of God for women around the world? What hurt are you drawn to heal in even the smallest way?
Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.
One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.
Today, Tamara Rice is responding to our question.
Trigger warning: child sexual abuse.
As a female Bible major at a conservative Christian college, my ministry dreams were limited. If I didn’t want to work with kids, women’s ministry was mine by default, so I took the class—the class where we learned this ministry was about putting on retreats and planning teas, neither of which was complete without a proper Bible lesson. So my kingdom calling seemed obvious …
Teach her. Teach her.
But I was young. This proved difficult. I had not yet earned the right to be heard by the women around me. I lacked seasons of serving and seasons of suffering. (Oh, thank God, no one let me be a teacher.)
Then, by the time my babies came, my faith surroundings had changed. The women of our new church embraced a variety of roles out in the world, but they shared one commonality: they knew how to love. A few of them taught, sure. But mostly they loved, with hands and feet. They knew how to roll other people’s socks, rock other people’s babies, and put dinner on other people’s tables. It was beautiful, this kind of love, and suddenly I felt my kingdom calling shifting …
Love her. Love her.
Repeatedly, however, life put me on the receiving end of love instead, no matter how I aspired to give it away. The days of my psych ward stay I know by heart, the number of chemo rounds comes quickly to my lips, but the number of my surgeries by age 35 … I have to stop and count every time. I can never quite wrap my brain around the sheer depth of my need for the hands-and-feet love of others in that decade.
And then three years ago, the events of my childhood on a Baptist mission field in Bangladesh began to surface. An American missionary physician had had a thing for girls young enough to be his daughters … then his granddaughters. My childhood friend had exposed his evil in 1989, and for her 14-year-old courage she’d been forced by the mission board to sign a confession of adultery, while he was simply sent back to his home state where he continued to practice medicine.
“Don’t talk about it,” her family had been told. “It’s gossip,” others had been warned.
Justice is underrated, and the need for it doesn’t always fade with time. Twenty-plus years of injustice takes its toll, just ask my precious friend. And three years ago it became clear the man’s victims on that mission field had been many, and a proper investigation—and end to his medical career—was long overdue. My kingdom calling began to shift without warning …
Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.
And working toward justice was the only thing I could offer her from 2000 miles away, but how? American victims of other American citizens on foreign soil prior to the Protect Act of 2003 have no legal recourse in the US. Options for victims are extremely limited, and the mission board that knew of this man’s guilt refused to expose him, no matter how many adult female MKs (missionary kids) came forward.
As their stories began to emerge first over the phone, then through a blog one victim started, missing puzzle pieces were revealed. My own encounters with this man, who was my childhood pediatrician, began to make awful sense. My 20-year struggle with anxiety and depression began to make awful sense. Slowly, I realized that in attempting to bind the lifelong wounds of my friend and other women, I was actually binding my own.
But the frustration of fighting injustice within the Church has often gotten the better of me. Though we eventually succeeded in preventing our abuser from practicing medicine, the hopelessness of trying to elicit sincere change in this mission board overwhelms me and has left new scars.
But I’m not alone. To date, the advocacy group MK Safety Net reports that dozens of American and Canadian mission boards and boarding schools for MKs have mishandled cases of child abuse abroad during the last 50 years, with the horrific details of the abuses, the number of abusers, and the subsequent mishandling—lack of investigations, lack of reporting, lack of accountability—often staggering.
And when I started writing more recently, on my own blog, about this struggle for justice, I was startled by the overwhelming response of those who’ve been fighting abuse in Christian environments, like local churches, much longer. Men and women alike, Catholics and Protestants, and those who’ve left the Church, resonated with my laments and my hopes. This was much more than “women’s ministry,” much more than pretty teas and retreats. In finding my voice, my kingdom calling grew with every sentence …
Bind their wounds. Bind their wounds.
While those abused outside the Church have sometimes found healing within its walls, those whose abusers have been among the holy have too often found the Church itself to be the wall—a wall of injustice that cannot be penetrated.
But I beg you to see that these beloveds from whom the Church has too often knowingly withheld justice are a bleeding artery in the Bride of Christ. If you are the Church, every tear shed against that wall of injustice is blood leaving your veins, and I beg you to reach with me for the bandages. You have the power to unleash healing in the body.
Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.
Tamara Rice is a lover of words and Jesus and family, though perhaps not in that order. She is a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for mental health and for victims of sexual abuse. She was a contributor to The Way Bible (Tyndale) and did dabble for a time in women’s retreats–but the best part was always the remarkable women, not the retreats. Tamara blogs now at HopeFullyKnown.com.