I have been writing a column for the Denton Record-Chronicle for more than 10 years now. I’ve sought to write thoughtfully about various factors influencing the religious world, about our triumphs and scandals, our celebrations and traditions, our problems and our future.
I’ve written a great deal about the worldwide interplay between religion and politics. I have sought to offer the perspective of a theologically trained and educated female in a highly male-dominated field.
Many in this conservative city have not liked my columns. Multiple letters to the editor have reflected their dislike. I no longer have the weekly platform because some of those voices prevailed. The conservative male voice, massively dominant in religious circles, gets equal time.
In these years, I’ve offered occasional snippets of my personal life. However, I’ve been careful there, protective of family, friends and my privacy.
Today, I depart from that writing philosophy. I depart because the last few weeks in the political world have brought up for me memories long set aside. I write, afflicted by hives and dried out by tears, both outward expressions of my inner turmoil.
I was raped in college. Typical date-rape situation. Yes, I had a drink and was not accustomed to alcohol. I was utterly shocked, however, by what happened. I doubt seriously, however, if the young man involved has any memory of it — just a routine date for him.
I don’t remember where. I don’t remember when except I was 19. There were no witnesses. No one can support my account. I do remember being raped. And I am 100 percent sure who did it.
I never said a word. As a perceptive columnist in The Washington Post noted, one reason was that I didn’t want to hurt my father, who knew the young man in question. I didn’t want to see his anguish or experience his anger. I didn’t want him to go out in a murderous rage and bring disgrace on our family.
I buried it. It stayed buried for 20 years, my hidden trauma, my hidden shame.
One morning, on that 20th year later, I was sitting at the breakfast table reading the morning newspaper.
I saw an article about teaching young women self-defense skills.
In those classes, the women were taught to scream “NO!” with all their might as they learned to go for the tender areas to fend off a male attacker. The women in the class practiced these techniques with tears streaming from their eyes. They fought their demons of unwanted memories.
Suddenly, I slammed my fist on the breakfast table. I screamed, “NO, NO, NO!” My psychic pain ripped my soul apart.
The entire scene replayed itself over and over and over again. I still did not speak of it. I had a husband and three sons to care for. Silence remained the safer choice.
About this time I began to pursue what I knew had long been God’s call on my life: to enter the ministry. It was also part of my quest to make sense of a religious world that seemed to value me, as a woman, very little.
During this journey deep into the Scriptures, my first marriage irretrievably dissolved. My increasing skill at reading and interpreting the Bible, primarily because I was one of those who easily mastered both Greek and Hebrew, challenged his spiritual authority.
Also, as I read the Bible in languages far closer to the original texts, my eyes opened to the male bias in our most popular English translations.
I became angry. That anger, my skill at biblical interpretation, and my willingness to challenge authoritative church structures, threatened the delicate balance of my marriage. I made it work until then because yet again I had chosen to silence myself about the dangers to me of our private dynamic.
My anger, something most men find unacceptable in women, spilled over. He responded in kind, far more skilled in his use of it. My choice: either I continue to silence myself to keep my husband happy or, well, yet again, it is better to keep silence.
I became severely suicidal. To keep silent meant denying my brain, my studies, my deepening relationship with God, the essence of my soul. To keep speaking led to utterly unacceptable outcomes. Eventually, my physical death seemed the only way out.
In the end, I chose life, but it was a close call. In the process of ending my marriage, my pastor, one of those conservative theologians who felt that women needed to be only in “complementary” roles to their husbands, phoned. He called me an “evil and rebellious woman.”
I moved on to discover grace in the United Methodist Church. Ten years later, I was ordained, having gained a Doctorate in Ministry, deepening my educational foundation. I served with joy as a clergy until my retirement in December 2013.
In these years I have spent nearly every waking hour, and many sleeping hours, seeking to love God and love people, to do as much good as I can, to avoid evil, to be a healing force in a broken world.
Last month, one lone woman, utterly terrified, offered the world the vulnerability of her memories. The world of white male — often Christian — privilege heaped anger and shame on her. They, yet again, silenced her, saying her voice carries no weight.
Everything cracked apart for me. Yet now, yet again, the world makes no sense.
I have often thought about putting aside my writing life. In the most unexpected circumstance of my retired life, I met and married a truly wonderful man, a man whose primary life purpose is to spoil me and make sure I never want for anything again.
He’s doing an admirable job in his quest. Our companionship spills over with love, joy, charity, fruitful work, romance, travel and enough adventure to keep our minds stimulated and our bodies moving.
It’s a beautiful life.
But as my anguish grew in these last few days, I posted on Facebook about the situation with the hives. I knew only too well that many who read my posts, most of whom call themselves Christian, those who support Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, would rejoice in their triumph and laugh, at least secretly, at my suffering.
I also received in return beautiful, kind, and comforting words. And many came from those white, older Christian men who are utterly appalled at current events. They came from tender hearts of strong, vocal men who are not afraid of strong, vocal women. They asked me to keep writing.
The world, to be healed, must learn to listen to the female voice and the voices of all who have been oppressed and silenced.
Anger helps here. Anger that, in this case, most properly reflects the anger of God who, in the Holy Scriptures, expressed wrath on those who afflict the already afflicted, who silence the already silenced, who rob from the already poor.
That is righteous anger. That is energizing anger. That is holy anger.
And so, I choose on this day to keep writing. And, yes, you may expect some anger.