Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Giving Voice - singing a new song

Psalm 96:1

O sing to the Lord a new song...

When I was a teenager, I loved to sing in the choir. Actually, I just loved to sing, but the choir was a particularly good place to do it. Singing took me away from the mundane and allowed me to glimpse something beyond. You could say, it was spiritual experience. It was available. It was accessible. It allowed my voice to get out of my body.

The Choir at my school was a joy to be a part of... there were several choirs and each held joy for me. Two weeks ago, I attended my 35 year reunion and I was reminded that Choirs (and the friendships made there) were a highlight. The Choirs sang interesting works. Some of them made me think... not just about the words, but about beauty and possibility. The songs helped me to believe in hope and heaven. They also provided my earliest theological fodder.

The school I went to had been shaped by some of the finest Australian feminists: Betty Archdale and Kath McCredie and a raft of brilliant and dedicated teachers... many of whom I still count as friends. They taught, stretched, questioned, cajoled, cared and blessed us by drawing us out. You always get a few dodgy teachers, but, on the whole, they liberated our hearts and minds to embrace the world. Seeing so many fine women thirty-five years later, we are strong and proud.

Last weekend, my voice was questioned and criticized. I was attacked not only for what I say, but also for being a woman saying it. I was shocked and angry. In gradually letting people know about this violation of identity, I have been grateful for the support and empathy of many friends and colleagues. I also have a heightened consciousness about who responds as a friend and who uses their influence and power to combat such behaviour in our society and our particular communities.

(My work, undertaken with a male colleague, was also criticized publicly with allegations of a flawed approach to the use of the Scriptures. This, coming from people who had not read our actual work.  Our publications stand on their own merit and cannot be interpreted in that way. I have previously experienced this same type of criticism from male academics who have seen fit to criticize my work without reading it. When called out, they revert to... ‘well, that is what someone said to me...’)

Many of my friends are in positions of respect and authority. They have the opportunity and capacity to give voice to justice and rebuke those who diminish us. In reality, we all want to speak up for ourselves, but sometimes it is those beyond (allies and companions), whose voices in harmony allow us the liberty of singing out. As a woman, I invite men to speak up. For people who are marginalized (whether it be migrants experiencing racism or people who identify as LGBTIQ who experience homophobia), I encourage ‘others’ to speak up, stand with, and provide harmony. We should not leave people alone in their struggle for inclusion love and acceptance.

So, just to respond to those who have contacted me, in whatever capacity - I will not shut up.

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