PREACHING #ME TOO
By Rev. Konnie Vissers
ChristianityToday released an article this week entitled, “The #MeToo Movement Has Educated Pastors. And Left Them With More Questions.”(September 18, 2018) It’s an interesting read into the problems of the church today, particularly in a time and place where many accusations have come up out of abuses within the church.
While the trends from LifeWay research show that many churches and pastors still are not facing the issues related to sexual assault or domestic violence, the importance of it has never been clearer. They permeate every area of public and church life.
Depending on how your congregation selects texts for preaching, it is fairly easy to draw on a breadth of stories from scripture that highlight issues of violence against women. Spend some time looking at the women of the Bible and praying through what God may be speaking to your context through that specific narrative: the woman at the well, the woman “caught in the act,” Dinah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Sarai, Mary, Hagar. You don’t need to preach a feminist series to confront the issues of violence against women, you simply need to not avoid preaching the passages that give voice to the cries of the oppressed.
For women who have struggled with sexual abuse or domestic violence, the story of Hagar may be quite helpful. It’s also quite a helpful story for any congregation that needs to gain an awareness of a prevalent and timeless human right’s issue. When churches read Genesis, we traditionally read it through the lens of the Abrahamic lineage, and the covenant promises. But we can’t forget the rights abuses lifted up in canonized Scripture!
In Texts of Terror, Phyllis Trible explores Hagar’s narrative, “As one of the first females in scripture to experience use, abuse, and rejection, Hagar the Egyptian slave claims our
attention.”(1) In some sense this passage illustrates God’s continual love and care for the individual suffering under oppression. Identifying the unique and individual personhood of a victim of violence can be the first step toward healing. The hurt and neglected are not alone in their experiences, but find their stories reverberated in the Bible. Trible concludes,
“As a symbol of the oppressed, Hagar becomes many things to many people. Most especially, all sorts of rejected women find their stories in her.”
The story of Hagar, like so many others in scripture, highlights the needs of the oppressed and the God who acts on behalf of the oppressed to deliver and provide. The Bible brims with stories of people struggling in this world who are deeply loved by their creator and redeemer.
What better way of engaging in a movement of hope, than to preach the hope found by the oppressed?! As pastors, as writers, as Christians, and as humans let us not forget the cry of the persecuted; but let us give voice to the voiceless, and reflect hope to the hopeless of this world!
1 Trible, Phyllis. Texts of Terror: Literary Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, 9.