assault is the fault of…

…the woman?(1) Never.

However, as I listen to the recriminations of those and their supporters who seek to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and assault (even casual, uninvolved observers commenting on the news), I hear words and phrases that, in 2017, surprise me.

Words and phrases that, in my view, belong to a bygone, long-gone era of patriarchal hegemony (never, I believe, God’s intention, but rather the corrupted generational heritage of a fallen humankind) when men were rulers of their realms and women were chattel.

Words and phrases that reflect the wide influence of power and privilege, affecting the attitudes and biases not only of those who bear them, but also those without them, which is to say, the whole of society.

Words and phrases, even more, that reflect how power and privilege never are relinquished by the hands of those who bear them without a struggle.

Words and phrases, still more, that reflect an ages-old, biblically-bankrupt view of Eve (more on this at another time).

Words and phrases like: “It happened because she…
• dressed and acted provocatively.”
• was out late.”
• was in that part of town.”
• didn’t say, ‘No’.”

Women can dress and act as they choose as expressions of their sense of and comfort with self. Women can choose to stay out late. Women can choose to be in any part of town. Women can choose to say “No” with words or with wordless social cues, whether demonstrable or subtle.

Sexual harassment and assault happen because men choose to act on their power of position, physical strength, anger, misogyny, or all of the above and more.

 

Footnote:

(1) Sexual harassment and assault observe no genderal boundaries either in regard to the perpetrators or the victims. However, here, I define (and confine my commentary on) sexual harassment and assault as that which is committed by men against women.

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a baseball classic

This year’s Major League Baseball World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, with Houston leading 3-2 in a best-of-seven game format, already has been declared by some sports pundits as a classic. Both teams possess great pitching and batting, the Dodgers perhaps leading in the former and Houston, the latter, and two of the five games have extended into extra innings with the last at bat determining the winner. Born and raised in St. Louis, I grew up watching and loving the Cardinals and this series brings back fondest memories of regaling in the finest moments of America’s national pastime.

However, a non-baseball-related, but rather a manifestly cultural incident, one that hovers over the current roiling waters of societal discontent, has riveted my attention.

This past Friday, in game 3, Astros player Yuli Gurriel, after hitting a home run, motioned toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent. Gurriel placed his hands on the sides of his face, pulling and slanting the corners of his eyes.

Unsurprisingly, the reactions have been swift.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Gurriel would be suspended without compensation for five games at the beginning of the 2018 season; believing it would not be fair to the Astros team to exact the penalty during the current series…

The Astros management, expressing shock at Gurriel’s behavior, supports Manfred’s ruling…

Gurriel has apologized to Darvish, declaring his respect for him as a player and as a person and for the Japanese people…

Some, interpreting Gurriel’s action as a racist slur against Asian Americans, are outraged…

Others consider Gurriel’s gesture a-caught-on-camera-adrenaline-fueled-in-heat-of-the-unfortunate-moment…

Still others have seen the incident as a display of minority-vs.-minority stereotyping; and, viewed through that lens, all the more regrettable; especially in Houston, one of America’s most ethnically and racially diverse cities.

In a tweet, Darvish wrote: No one is perfect. That includes both you and me. What he (did) today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and moving forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.

Mr. Darvish, your words, for me, are a classic expression of compassion, comprehension, and consideration. May your hope be fulfilled.

“go and come”?

The choral anthem planned for tomorrow’s service at Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, is a rendition of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; the great Isaac Watts’[1] paraphrase[2] of Psalm 23.[3] Chosen by our fabulously gifted choir director, Randall Traynham, it is a lovely piece (though the highest note of the tenor part is F above middle C; not the easiest climb for my voice early in the day or at any time!).

This morning, as I continued to learn my part (Randy says “It’s easy!”, but that’s easy for him to say!), I found myself studying the text. It’s familiar. I’ve sung various versions of Watts’ wording many times. And that’s the thing. Over the years, I’ve learned that when I am faced with well-known lyrics set to a new tune I have a tendency to focus more on the notes and less on the words, thus potentially missing the essential mark of singing with meaning. So, again, I spent a quiet moment or two reflecting on Watts’ words and I noted something previously unseen by me that had been present all along. Or perhaps better said I thought for the first time about something I’d seen countless times…

Watts’ verse 3, his interpretation of Psalm 23, verse 6, bears words nowhere found or even hinted in the psalm: There (in God’s house) would I find a settled rest, while others go and come.

Psalm 23 is, for me, among many things, a song of confidence in the steadfast goodness and kindness of God, which attends the faithful pilgrim’s trek through, verily, in “the house of Lord”, that is, in God’s presence, both in this world and the next.

So, I wonder. Who are those to whom Watts refers as the “others (who) go and come”, who, as I construe his intent, depart and return or arrive and depart from God’s house, who, either way, are, perhaps, transient seekers of and dwellers in God’s presence?

I don’t know. Though I would hazard a guess that Watts was criticized in his day by detractors who could not have imagined, much less dared, and might have considered it blasphemous to add words to scriptural texts. I also think that Watts, the biblical scholar and theologian, knowing that the Psalms, as a part of the Hebrew scriptures, were not written with a Christian consciousness, felt free to amend psalmic texts, particularly for Christian worship, to reflect his belief in Jesus Christ.

When I think of it that way, then I behold something characteristic about me and God.

About me? I, as human, alway subject to flights (and fits!) of unfaithfulness, am one who goes and comes, in and out of God’s presence.

About God? God, who loves me unconditionally, allows me, in my freewill, to go and come, in and out, and, so far, akin to the blessed father figure in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, alway welcomes me home.

Believing, knowing that this is so, I will sing this anthem tomorrow as a prayer that I, with Watts, will find in God’s house my “settled (unwavering, everlasting) rest.”

 

Footnotes:

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

[1] Isaac Watts (1674-1748), English Christian minister, hymn writer, and theologian; recognized as the “Father of English Hymnody” and credited with over 750 hymns, among them, Joy to the World, O God our Help in Ages Past, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

[2] The full text of Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 23:

  1. My Shepherd will supply my need: Jehovah is His Name;

In pastures fresh He makes me feed, beside the living stream.

He brings my wandering spirit back when I forsake His ways,

And leads me, for His mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.

  1. When I walk through the shades of death, Thy presence is my stay;

A word of Thy supporting breath drives all my fears away.

Thy hand, in sight of all my foes, doth still my table spread;

My cup with blessings overflows, Thine oil anoints my head.

  1. The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;

O may Thy house be my abode, and all my work be praise!

There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come;

No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.

[3] Psalm 23, King James Version:

  1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
  3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
  5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.