Monday, May 12, 2014

No More Silence, No More Violence

Tamar’s story is never heard. (For those who wish to read Tamar's story you can read it here:
We don’t read this story in worship.
We don’t study it in Bible study.
You can hear why this morning.
It is a hard story to hear.
It is about things that we don’t really want to hear about on Sunday morning.
We don’t want to hear about rape, and domestic violence.
But I think Tamar’s story must be heard.
It must be heard because it is a story in the Bible.
It is like Noah’s ark, David and Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea, Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the Lion’s den, or any other beloved story we know from the Bible.
But this one is trickier isn’t it, because those stories seem to have discernible points.
We know why there is a story about David and Goliath, because God shows us true strength comes from faith.
What could possibly be the point of this Tamar’s story?

I find it odd that it is in the Bible at all.
But that is the real wonderful thing about the Bible is that it just doesn’t have nice stories where there is a rainbow at the end.
It contains difficult stories where the people are flawed, and they do bad things.
Amnon does a very bad thing, it is an unacceptable thing.
And that is what domestic violence is a bad thing.
It is sin.
In this case Amnon real sin is his need/desire to possess another person, to control someone else.
Domestic violence starts with someone trying to possess someone else, and then deciding to use violence as a way to control someone.
We simply cannot accept this in our community, in the Church, in the world.
We are talking about domestic violence today, because my hope is to speak out so that it is clear that this will not stand.
We will not and cannot allow this to happen.

And for too long I think the Church has been silent about it.
We have made this a private issue that happens in families.
But when 80% of people in prison have experienced some form of domestic violence or sexual assault then we have a problem that affects all of society, not just families.

I would like to talk for minute about families.
It is clear that Tamar’s family has some real problems.
As do all of our families.
But the act of violence within families destroys them.
This story ends with all those involved hating each other.
We might have some form of dysfunction in every family, but families are supposed to be the safe place for us to be loved.
Families are the place that we go to when we need shelter.
Domestic violence ruins that trust for all involved.
It ruins it for the victims like Tamar.
It ruins it for people that are witnesses like Absalom.
Or people that know about it like King David.
And yes it ruins it for perpetrators too.
Amnon has no more family either; his brother Absalom will kill him for what he did to Tamar.

Domestic violence ruins families.
But it does not only ruing someone else’s families, our families too.
I was thinking about daughter, and that time in her life when she will start dating.
I have tried hard to be a good role model of what a man should be.
I have tried to let her know that a real man treats woman with respect, and does not try to control others but loves them.
I have tried to tell her everyday that I love her so that she will find a partner who will treat her as good as her father does.
I want her to have a partner with someone who will love her as much as her father.
I can’t say that I am perfect on this matter, but I do try and it is always on my mind when I am dealing with my daughter.
But I know that there are people in the world who do not share my values.
I know that there are people in the world who think that men should be powerful and domineering.
I know that there are people in the world who think that violence or harsh words will solve problems.
This is why I am involved in this issue to make the world safer for my daughter to date.
To make the world safer for my daughter, if she does decide to marry to find someone who will love and respect her like she deserves.
That is why all of us should care about this issue, because it affects all our families when there is even one person in the world who think that it is ok to solve our problems with violence.

Amnon thought the way to get what he wanted was through lying and ultimately violence.
We can’t be silent about this and give the impression that this is true.
We have to drag this into the light.
Because what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians is true that all bad things need to be exposed to the light.
Only then will the darkness go away.
Only when we talk about this issue, when we name it, when we believe those who have been victimized, will we begin to heal it and make this a better world to live.

In preparation for today I read a lot of stories by people who have survived acts of domestic violence.
Their tales are chilling.
It is true that what people do in the cover of darkness is to horrible to mention.
But we must force ourselves to talk about it.

I read a story about a woman named, Sandra Silvestre, she was married at age sixteen to a man ten years her senior.
Within the years she experienced many episodes of domestic violence.
But she didn’t know it!
She thought it was normal what was happening to her and her four children!
It wasn’t until she started working for Lutheran Health Care in Brooklyn NY.
While there she attended a conference about domestic violence at that conference for the first time she began to realize that what was happening to her was not normal.
It wasn’t until that conference that she even had a name of what was happening to her at home.
While at the conference she heard someone drag the issue into the light and give voice to her experience.
From that time on she began to make plans to change her life and leave her husband.
When he found out that she was planning on leaving he tied her up.
She managed to escape and leave.
And today she is starting again, and working to help other survivors of domestic violence.
What struck me about her story was that someone had to name it for her.
Someone had to drag what was being done in secret, in darkness, into the light.
That is what we are called to do.
To bring light into the darkness, to speak hope to the hopeless, to name evil for what it is.

The resurrection story is about these important things.
Jesus walks on the road with his followers who were sad because they thought he was dead.
Like Jesus, we can walk with those in darkness and bring light that exposes what is happening.
And that is why we need to hear Tamar’s story.
It is why we have to talk about things that are uncomfortable, and that we would rather not talk about it, because by bringing things into the light we slowly begin to change things.
We begin to give hope to people like Sandra.
We begin to tell people living with domestic violence that it does not have to be this way, because we believe them, and we want to change things.

We are in Easter time, the time of great hope that God has crushed the power of sin and darkness.
May we ever tell this Easter message.
May we not be afraid to speak to the powers of evil that want to kill us, and our communities.
May we be silent no more, but expose every act of darkness so that we can live in the light.

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