Conversations with myself: For Whom the Bell Tolls!

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Today I have been inspired to write by an article published in The Cape Times (8 March 2013) written by Rev Alan Storey entitled “Churches must break silence about historical abuse of women”. I tried to personalise this article in my conversation with myself so here goes . . .

The article starts off with a little story about the “Silent Bell” – in the tower of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town is a massive bell weighing three and a half tons. For safety reasons, this bell has not pealed since the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. It was silenced because, when it rang, it shook the foundation stones of the church and surrounding buildings and consequently threatened their structure. It is now known as the “Silent Bell”.

I’m now asking myself the question: are we like this bell, largely silent about promoting equality among women and men? Maybe it’s because we know that making our voices heard would not only threaten the structures of society but would also threaten the foundations of our male dominant structures?

When we do speak out, do we speak out in the tone of male patriarchy? This false sense of superiority is what abuse of women is generally based on. Let’s see . . .

• Eve is jokingly blamed for eating the forbidden fruit and feeding it to Adam
• Some church leaders believe that women should be silent during worship. In some churches women are not allowed to speak from the pulpit
• We are raised to believe that fathers are the head of the household and they are the breadwinners
• We are raised to believe that wives should submit to their husbands, however, we are not told that submission does not mean we have to be his doormat

As women we are often told by church leaders to “go back and forgive your abusive partner” because the Bible says you must forgive, but nowhere in the Bible is anyone told to tolerate abuse. To forgive abuse does not mean you have to tolerate its occurrence, or the conditions that make it possible.

Do we confuse forgiveness with reconciliation? Reconciliation will always require forgiveness, but forgiveness does not necessarily end in reconciliation. Sometimes the journey of forgiveness includes moving on and not returning to the way things were before.

The shame of being abused by one who says “I love you” is enormous. This shame has the power to silence us into submission. We need to break the silence against violence against women and children.

Maybe we need to shake the foundations that support the notion of male superiority and male domination and female subservience which lies at the heart of gender inequality.

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