this past weekend i finished reading a thousand splendid suns by khaled hosseini. whoa. i had read the kite runner and seen the movie over christmas. both of them were beautiful and i had heard that this new story was even harder, more painful. well i can vouch for that being absolutely true! a thousand splendid suns focuses in on the lives of women in afghanistan. there were some pages where i honestly had to just set it down for a few minutes because it was so painful to witness vicariously this kind of brutal oppression and complete lack of dignity towards these women. it reminded me that in some cultures women are lower than low. they are cattle, meant to be used, abused, and cast aside. sweet little baby girls born to mommies who had hopes and dreams for them, who nurtured and loved them, wanted more for them than their culture would ever allow–with no voices, forced into marriage to men 20 years older then them, meant to be slaves and really nothing more.
i know i speak out all the time about the oppression of women in the church, that women are disrepected, don’t have a voice and the value that they should, and how contrary to the kingdom of God i think that is. and of course inequality isn’t just in the church; the united states has a long way to go in terms of equal rights. but when you read something like this a voice goes off inside that says “you have nothing to complain about, look at them.” and afghanistan is just one of many countless countries who devalue women to the ‘nth degree. i’ve got it pretty good in comparison.
but here’s why i fight off the voice: injustice to another human being means injustice to all of us. i do believe we are all connected, all of humanity. when i read paul’s description of the body of christ in 1 corinthians 12, that we are a body, each part connected, i take it seriously–and beyond just “the body of Christ”, as in only people who call themselves christians. to me, when one human being hurts, we all hurt. i can’t disconnect myself from the pain and suffering of my brothers & sisters (no matter what their belief systems are, that is irrelevant to me–we are all created by God, in his image, his precious children, worthy of dignity, valuable. christians don’t have the market cornered on being made in God’s image.) when a woman, whether it be across the ocean or next door to our house, is getting the shit kicked out of her, the pain must ripple over to me…i cannot disconnect myself from her hurt, her struggle.
and at the same time, when one of us receives healing and freedom, we all somehow benefit. a victory, an injustice made right, means a victory for me, too. and when we gain a little ground here–when one of my friends finally leaves an abusive relationship and begins to realize her beauty and worth and live from a new place, well, that flows towards others, too. it’s a victory for everyone, not just her. “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the part are glad” – 1 corinthians 12:26
there will always be injustice in the world. i get that. i acknowledge full well the reality of genesis 3 and what it means for us. but i also take Jesus’ words very seriously–God’s kingdom come, will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
i’ll say it again: any injustice to one of our brothers and sisters is an injustice to us. we can’t just turn a blind eye and say “well, that’s in their culture, there is nothing we can do about it”…“well, that’s how the church has always been so there’s nothing we can do about it”….”heaven awaits and then it’ll all be made right.” and reality is that i’m not heading over to kabul anytime soon to change the way women are being treated there (but there are some really cool organizations giving it a try, i don’t have time to research all the good stuff going on there but feel free to try a google search and learn more.).
but here’s what i can do: stand up for injustice in any way i can right where i am. in the crazy church system i am loosely attached to, keep calling out the weird ways we stand by and let injustices permeate christ’s church. fight for my friends who are in abusive relationships to find the courage to leave. treat an illegal immigrant with dignity and vote on behalf of them. encourage my daughter to stand tall and live out her dreams and not allow herself to be disrespected. teach my boys to be men who love and respect women as equals, teammates, not someone just to serve them and give them babies. stick up for my friends who are being bullied. refuse to give money or time to systems that perpetuate injustice.
oppression is not beyond us. yes, as elie wiesel says, there are many injustices we can never prevent. but we can always, always, always try. we can protest, use our voices, vote with our feet, allow ourselves to feel others pain instead of ignoring it, refuse to distance ourselves from the plight of the afflicted, fight the tide of indifference.