The story replays over and over again. al Qauda. Boko Haram. ISIS. Infiltrate and invade. Violate and discard women. Kill (or recruit) men. Leave.
Obviously, it doesn’t happen this way every time, but the vast number of widows and fatherless children throughout the middle east cannot be ignored.
It’s such a wild contradiction. Women are so powerful that they must be contained at every level–their bodies covered as the exposure of them alone is powerful enough to “cause” sin, their voices silenced for fear of what they could accomplish through open communication, their education thwarted out of covert acceptance that, armed with information, women are capable of changing the world, or at least the world as men know it.
But, then, in the wake of the slaughter and mass graves, they leave the women behind. Cast aside as though they are worthless, powerless, like they cause no threat at all. No more energy is spent containing all their potential. Instead, the terrorists seem to believe they have stripped these families and communities of their value. They act like burglars who took the diamonds and jewels and left behind the cheap costume jewelry.
The influence they have worked so hard to bridle they now liberate.
What the world is beginning to see is that they have left power in their wake.
Resilient and resolved tenacity.
They have created survivors.
As Americans, we see these stories and send our prayers and money, but most of us are yearning to hear some sort of solution, hope that this is not the new way of our world.
The sheer vastness of it all can be utterly defeating. None of us has influence over foreign governments, and even those who do cannot seem to use it effectively enough to create change. The soil seems fertile for extremist groups to continue to mobilize within the middle east, and possibly infiltrate countries all over the world.
It’s all so far away. And the problems are all so big.
Any effort we could make ultimately feels like one drop of good in an ocean of evil.
None of us feels like our contribution would matter much in the end.
So, we resort back to the same old tactics the extremists try.
Just as terrorists recognize potential power and shut it down, we begin recognizing potential dangers and propose limits and controls.
Ironically, those who study peace, such as the folks at the Unites States Institute of Peace (USIP), created by Congress in 1984 as an independent, nonpartisan, federally funded organization to provide analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace, have identified one key factor that is necessary, and often times ignored, in the peace process: women. In fact, in 2000, the U.N. Security Counsel Resolution 1325 acknowledged the critical role women play not only in responding to but also in preventing terror.
It is widely understood that, in order to have global conversations about peace, women must be at the table.
Without the voice of women, peace cannot come.
In their 2011 report The Role of Women In Global Security, the USIP quote Søren Pind, Danish minister of development cooperation, as saying, “You won’t find a fragile state that supports the rights of women. You won’t find a stable society that neglects the rights of women.”
This report stresses the importance of shifting “power relationships” to create lasting peace.
The key to helping a nation’s leaders share power, instead of resort to hostile takeover, is to teach the men and women that make up the individual communities of that nation to share power with one another.
Shared power creates stability.
We Christians aren’t too good at sharing power.
In fact, the vast majority of evangelical America is convinced we don’t have to.
I was reminded of this reality not too long ago in a social situation where my husband and I were out with our 3 children (all 4 and under). He was in a different room performing some sort of task with one of them (probably changing a diaper if I had to guess) and I had some information I thought might be helpful, so I piped up from the next room over. In that moment, I was reminded by someone else present that if I wanted him to take care of the task, I could not tell him how to do it.
Okay, fair enough. No one likes a back-seat parent.
However, my husband and I both work full-time. We both contribute significantly to the overall family income. So, when it comes to raising our kids and taking care of our household, he is just as responsible as I am. He is not “helping” me, he is just doing his part. He is not doing me a favor that I should simply be grateful for.
The idea that just because my husband is the person acting at a particular moment means I automatically lose my voice perpetuates of the lie that only one person can have power at a time.
So, as an evangelical culture, we stay stuck.
Because we’ve never learned how to matter at the same time without being threatened by one another.
And our division shows up in marriages broken, churches split, and denominations severed.
On this, the first day of Advent, I am reflecting on this Scripture: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Prince of Peace.
As we reflect on the Prince of Peace this season, and long for a world where peace is truly realized, may we practically connect with the ways we can share power in our own sphere of influence and wonder about how we can support the stability that comes when both sides of the Imago Dei can productively partner.