In this week's coverage of the scandalous words of Representative Todd Akin of Missouri (see: Akin, "legitimate rape", "shut that down"), his frantic retraction, and the push from other Republicans for him to step down from his race (not because he was wrong, but because he was public)... I have run through a gamut of emotions.
I have revisited how I felt when assaulted by men who did not heed my words to stop and how I felt for friends who experienced far worse assaults than I did.
I have pondered what I will say to the child I currently carry in my womb regarding rights, women, and America.
I have been angry at the attempts to discuss abortion instead of the very real rights and bodies of women- women who are currently alive, women who (theoretically) have constitutional rights, women who are not magical vessels for pedestals or damnation.
All of these emotions swirled in my mind until I had this exchange with myself, in my head, while driving:
I'm so angry about this. I want to write about it, but I don't know how.
What specifically are you angry about?
Being made to feel helpless.
How will you expand upon that?
I would discuss previous times this has happened.
Well, I could... talk about it makes me feel depressed and vengeful when men tell me what I can and can't do with my body.
To whom does your body belong?
What about R (your husband)?
No, except through my consent and our mutuality. My body belongs to me.
What about your children?
See above re: husband.
What about to Christ- think of your baptism?
Ugh. Now Jesus is just another man, laying a claim on my body.
WAIT A MINUTE.
This is where I nearly wrecked my car. I could not believe the sentence about Jesus ran through my head- exactly like that. "Now Jesus is just another man, laying a claim on my body." I pulled into the parking lot at work and sat, attempting not to hyperventilate, and thought about that sentence- several times.
The thing is... I do believe that my baptism into Christ's death and resurrection does have a claim on my body.
AND NOW I AM RESENTFUL OF ANYONE WHO WOULD DIMINISH THAT RELATIONSHIP BY ATTEMPTING TO PLAY GOD WITH MY PERSON.
That's right, Akin and other supporters of fetal personhood over maternal/female personhood, by attempting to abort my status as a person via amendments and rhetoric, you nearly came between Jesus and me.
It seems that you'd like to think you're God- knowing the ins and outs of human bodies and minds, but it ain't necessarily so. In fact, it necessarily ain't so.
You are not God.
You are not God. I am not God. You are not me. You are not a mediator in the relationship between God and me. You do not get to claim that your work creates me, saves me, sanctifies me, redeems me, or frees me.
You don't own me. Or any part of me.
What you have not made, what you have not saved, what you are not making whole... you may not claim. You cannot claim. You will not claim.
Jesus appreciates that women can think. I refer you to his conversations with the Canaanite/Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15, Mark 7), in which Jesus yields to the reasoned argumentation of a woman who pleads for the healing of her child.
Jesus believes that women have strength and that women who do not have or may not have children are worthy participants in community life. I refer you to Mark 5, in which a girl who is not yet bearing children and a woman who may be past child-bearing are both healed and restored to their families/communities.
Jesus understands that social situations may lead a woman to make poor choices or to feel trapped by circumstance. Thus, Jesus tells the woman caught in the act of adultery (brought forth without her male partner in John 8) to go and sin no more- granting her the personhood to be bigger and resistant to the male forces that would shape her world. Jesus gives hope to the Samaritan woman at the well, in talking with her as a person of intellectual being, capable of seeing her way to new life, new choices, and renewed hope.
Jesus affirms that women can handle and do handle many types of jobs and tasks. Sometimes they sit and listen, like Mary in Luke 10, to learn and to be part of discussion. Sometimes, like Martha in the same story, women play the role of host- making guests comfortable and providing a gracious space.
Jesus inspires the gospel writers to understand that women are an integral part of the salvific act of resurrection and sharing the good news. All four gospels have women playing significant roles in the spread of the resurrection story. Not as gossipers, but as evangelists- sharing truth with all whom they encounter.
As I consider this Jesus, this Jesus whom I claim to follow, this Jesus in whom I am said to be clothed, this Jesus whose story still brings hope to me and many... this Jesus is a man whom I am willing to allow to lay claim to my body.
Because He sees it.
He knows it.
He saves and renews it.
Furthermore, if and when there is a time when I feel separated from God, because of what has happened to me, because of what I have done, because of choices or actions... I can trust that Jesus will be with me. He will not abandon me. I am and remain a person to (and through) Christ.
But you, Akin and others, ... you do not see me. You do not know me. You have no claim on me. And you have dared to attempt to come between me and God, by way of my uterus, my vagina, and my identity as a woman.
Do not offer your words regarding my potential child or other fetal life. Do not offer hasty retractions- apologies for having been caught, not for your actions. Do not wring your hands about loss of life, when you are so clearly willing to dismiss my life as being less than.
There is one man who can make claims upon my body. That man also happens to be God.
And you, your ilk, your fellow travelers, your co-conspirators...
You. Are. Not. That. Man.
Good reading from this week for includes:
Martha Spong on Old Husbands' Tales
Julie Craig on To Be a Girl, In this World