Silence is deafening.
Silence also can sometimes be construed as being in agreement with the majority. A case in point was raised in my Women and the Bible course recently when we examined the story of Bathsheba and David.
The question we were considering was whether or not David raped Bathsheba. While few students had previously heard the story before, the ones who were familiar with it had never been invited to consider Bathsheba’s perspective. Now, as they were being asked to do just that, they started to wonder what she was thinking, how she felt about David’s order, which man she may have preferred—the loyal Hittite soldier whose honor seemed unwavering or the Israelite king whose abuse of power was clear.
Some said Bathsheba’s silence indicated she was happy to be complicit in King David’s illicit plan. Others, though, said that Bathsheba’s voice was absent in the text not because Bathsheba wanted to be seen and not heard but because the patriarchal culture did not care what she thought or felt and the patriarchal author had no interest in inviting a reader to consider Bathsheba as anything other than a subject, even if a subject lesson for a power-hungry king.
Just as bringing Bathsheba into focus takes reorienting our perspective to see what is usually overlooked, I want to share a narrative that is born out of too many people being silent for too long.
I recently read about a woman’s experience within what is called The Patriarchy Movement. While much of Libby Ann’s experiences are far removed from mine, I believe she is right when she writes that this radical-sounding group is simply a shift from mainstream Evangelicalism and not significantly different. The Patriarchy Movement is different from Evangelicalism, Ann claims, only by degree.
There are many within our churches and organizations who know in their hearts the rampant sexism that exists in their language, theology, and practice. And yet, for various reasons, they remain largely silent, content to let things go along as they are, to let women step up (it is really their battle, anyway). It is this deafening complacency, however, that enables groups like The Patriarchy Movement to gain traction and to pull people in who otherwise would have known that sexism is antithetical to the core of the gospel.
I am grateful for Libby Ann’s courage to tell her story. In it I hear echoes of students and the stories they tell me about their experiences of oppression within faith communities.
While it is clear our churches and groups have been, and in many cases continue to be, places of oppression, I have hope that by telling our stories, we will overcome the silence that has been deafening for too long.
Please read Libby Ann’s story.