Feb. 8, 2017
If you were in worship on Sunday you heard some of my personal story, bits and pieces of a past still alive in the present. I shared about an experience I had while on a mission trip, as a teenager, to the Philippines with a fundamentalist evangelical Christian group when I was “silenced” for being a woman, and was told that I was “not to speak at all”.
Last night during another intense debate where Democratic Senators held the floor for 24 hours, this time protesting the nomination of Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General after having just endured the election of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass) stood up in protest and read a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, written in 1986, in protest to Jeff Sessions nomination to the judgeship. Not only was Warren rebuked, but in a brief telephone interview with MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," a program watched loyally by many Warren devotees, she explained that, "I've been red-carded on Sen. Sessions, I'm out of the game of the Senate floor. I don't get to speak at all.”
So many women, men, young and old have been silenced so that I might speak, have been silenced so that my voice, our voices can be heard. This week is not unlike so many others in our nation’s history where the souls, the bodies, the minds of our children have been compromised, the dignity of women across the globe, the decency of humanity threatened by our own self-interests.
This morning when my own words are full of rage and revenge, I am reminded of the beautiful Malala Yousafzai who so graciously empowered us to dig deeper, to hold onto the only thing capable of speaking truth to power, love to violence, peace to pain. In her address to the
UN General Assembly following her attack she said,
“Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me……This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.” (you may read the full text here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-full-text-malala-yousafzai-delivers-defiant-riposte-to-taliban-militants-with-speech-to-the-un-8706606.html)
May it be so this day and all of our days,
Rev. Jenny Shultz-Thomas