It is the week when at some level the light of Christ’s birth shines brightly in the dark corners we tend to avoid and compels us to look at them before the New Year begins. We consider how we have lived during the past year and what we hope will be different as the new year comes. We make resolutions, we start diets and exercise programs. We create plans to get debt free, save more money and renew our spiritual lives.
In October of this year the #metoo lit up our social media feeds. News reports called it a movement. But in reality, it is a movement that began back in 1996 when Tarana Burke, a youth camp worker, heard a shocking story of sexual abuse from one of her young campers. Ill equipped to respond and triggered by her own story she cut the little girl off and gave her the name of another counselor who could “help her better”. This encounter was the impetus for Tarana. In 2014 at the Philadelphia March Against Rape Culture she wore a t-shirt with the words “Me Too” on the front while speaking about the importance of reaching back to open the doorway for another girl or woman when you have experienced healing from sexual abuse. She tweeted #metoo with a link to her speech to help young women of color who had survived sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. *
As I consider 2018 I know I will to continue to walk into the mess of changing church culture around #metoo and #churchtoo, as part of the movement tied to #Silence is Not Spiritual. I am not ill equipped, in fact I am well equipped and with that equipping comes responsibility.
I recognize that I am not connected enough to sisters of color. This must change for me, and likely for many of you too.
I, we, can no longer simply hold the parts of the narrative that are more comfortable and easy. I have my own story of sexual abuse from a church youth leader and the incredibly damaging response from the pastors of that church; and I am a white woman born into a privileged life. I share a survival story with every other woman who has known the pain and shame of sexual abuse and I also bear the responsibility of stewarding my white privilege.
If I continue to simply live my life in the way I have until now it will unfold in largely the same way, with plenty of opportunities to sit and care for a predominantly white group of women and men. Because it is easy to live in a homogenous white world. I recognize I haven’t done enough to grow a more racially diverse circle and that is my responsibility. I want 2108 to be marked by my being intentional in reaching back to open the door to healing for women of color both locally and globally.
For me, #Silence is Not Spiritual, birthed out of #metoo and #churchtoo requires that diversity marks my world in new ways in the coming year. There is much work to be done for the corporate church to earnestly begin its journey of recovery from silencing and indifference. I will play a part in helping to facilitate that in the coming year.
Red Tent Living is a space where every story belongs. We want this space to continue to grow in its diversity and impact and you will see that unfold in 2018.
I know there is no more tender space to consider reframing your femininity than the ground in your soul which was charred by the scorching fire of sexual abuse.
My own recovery process revealed the hunger in my soul for safe spaces where women could gather and share their life stories in meaningful ways. I learned that having another person bear witness, in essence be affected by the story and offer a caring response, is incredibly healing.
Red Tent Living offers a starting place where a woman can come to carefully begin the work of exploring her story more. Come and read other women’s stories, engage in bearing witness, and hopefully risk telling a piece of your own story and experience other women bearing witness in return.
Ultimately, the physical space of the Red Tent Dinner is what I believe can provide the best setting for communal healing to take place. Women sitting face to face with one another, sharing a meal, and their stories while caring and building real community with one another is what will change our churches and our world.
I hope each of you will take some time in the next few days to consider for yourselves how you want 2018 to be different. How will you respond to the movement of #Silence is Not Spiritual? Where will you grow the diversity of your own table? Is this the year for you to find a friend and host your own Red Tent Dinner? May this be the year for us to shine our light bright and reach back to open the door to more healing and more restoration for our communities and may it begin one woman at a time.
*Cassandra Santiago and Doug Criss, “An activist, a little girl and the heartbreaking origin of ‘Me too’”, CNN October 17, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/us/me-too-tarana-burke-origin-trnd/index.html
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 30 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. She writes about her life and her work here.
Thank you Tracy, for this post. #Silence is not spiritual rings true for me. “Courage is spiritual” would more accurately say what we need. Shaming and blaming women for what happened to them has created a culture of silence–and that is more about fear than trust, about despair than hope. Spiritual is more about trust and hope and giving voice to those who were disenfranchised. I hope 2018 is the year of women moving past shame and into spiritual freedom.
I hold that hope with you Madeline!