hope, life, Old Testament, Reflection, theology, Uncategorized, women

Birthing the ‘Other’

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1: 1-2
 In “the World of the Trinity” of Jurgen Moltmann, he tries to explain how God can create from a formless void when God was understood as omnipresent and omnipotent. As all powerful and ever present, how can there even be a time and space where God was not present? According to Moltmann, God’s ‘self-limiting’ in the act of Creation to create “the Other” and allow the other to evolve with freedom explains our capacity to reason and act independently, the suffering which is the consequence of individual sin and structural evil; and the characteristics of our relationship with God which is consensual, liberating and empowering. 

 Pursuing this discourse, I would like to articulate from a feminist perspective: God is like a good mother who conceives a child in her womb, infusing the unborn with all her gifts, creating from the best characteristics and possibilities. God is pleased with the creature in God’s womb. It exhibits God’s fertility and God knows the child is of God. But God does not conceive to hold, to possess and to control. God creates out of love and to liberate. And so God suffers in the birth of “the Other” in a moment and in a space where there is uncertainty and vulnerability. At birth, God looks at “the Other” and sees that which has been created is unique and separate even if is in the image of God. God expresses love so that the Other can respond in love. God honors and respects God’s creation so that the Other can honor and respect in return. God liberates so that the Other can also be liberating. But God does not create the Other for God alone. God creates so that the Other can also love, honor and liberate other Others. 

 

We often characterize God as powerful, willful and in control. This discourse of a self-limiting God is a profound theological understanding. God denies self, creates space for others, honors the evolution of the Other and liberates. To be in God’s image is not just hold power and perfection but also to limit self and to be vulnerable. For the males and females, elder and youth, leaders and followers, this way of relating enables egalitarian, mutual, and life-affirming relationships where the power is not possessed by one but shared. In Moltmann’s discourse of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Creation, God does monopolize power but empowers. This is an important theological understanding for church and society today.

 Pregnant Woman doula by AlishaVernon

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BTR, children, hope, life, Old Testament, sermon, theology

CRYING-OUT, RESISTING, ASSERTING, CELEBRATING

A Spirituality of Taking Sides and Solidarity

Introduction

When my children, Lauren and Noah, were eight and four years old, they would quarrel very often. When Noah who is younger cries, I would scold Lauren because she is the older one. One time she confronted me, “Why do you always scold me when Noah cries? Why do you always think that I am the one at fault?” After some thought, I asked her, “So do you want me to scold Noah more than I scold you? Do you want me to tell him to just let his “Ate” have her way so that there will no longer be any quarrel? Do you want me to remind him that “Ate” is bigger and stronger and so he should just be quiet and submit to her all the time?” Lauren was not happy with my response but I think she understood better why she as the older and stronger sibling must be held accountable, and why Noah, the younger and smaller child, must be protected and defended. As parents, we share this sacred task of teaching our children to protect and take the side of the weak. Justice and charity begin in our homes.

On a larger scale, Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Furthermore, the very essence of our faith is about taking sides. In the Exodus narrative, God chose the Hebrew People because they were slaves, the poorest and most oppressed. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor….” It was not followed by, “and then blessed are the middle-class or the rich.”Jesus only and always took the side of the poor. Today, in the face of injustice and inequality, hunger and suffering, we must take sides. Matthew 25: 31-46, explicates that in the Day of Judgement, those who helped the poor, hungry and suffering will enter the Kingdom of God, while those who did not will suffer eternal damnation. Especially in scriptures, it is very clear what is demanded of us in the face of inequality and injustice. Laws may be used against the poor, but the Bible is clear about God and Jesus taking the side of the slaves and the poor.

It is simple. But is it really? 

This Bible Study on II Samuel 5: 1-18 will have four phases or movements: Crying-out, Resisting, Asserting, Celebrating. It is intended to challenge us more deeply to look at the text and to determine whose side we must take. Because often, even people with the greatest intentions fail to see the most vulnerable and who needs God the most. The text is familiar to us as it narrates the story of the healing of Naaman, the victorious commander of the King of Aram, from leprosy. He and his people are enemies of the Israelite people and had in fact taken a young girl from her family and home in Israel as a booty of war. Without a doubt, she is just one among many. Despite her situation as a slave, she proposes healing for Commander Naaman, saying, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”(v.3) Her desire for his healing brings together the most powerful men in the land. The King of the Arameans and the King of the Israelites, despite their distrust of each other, put aside their fighting to cure a military man from leprosy. At a time of war, two political leaders create an alliance for one man. A third man, the prophet of God, Elisha, consummates this act. 

Who is crying-out?

There have been many interpretations about this text but I think there is a need to re-readthe text. Let us begin by asking – Who is crying-out in our text? In Christian tradition, the narrative is interpreted as the conversion of a commander of the enemy by a slave-child. Thus, we say, it was all for a purpose. God’s purpose. Her cries are drowned in the triumph of our faith. But really, what does it mean for the slave-girl-child to be taken from her home? Were her parents and siblings killed as they tried to protect her? Was her house burned down so that she will not have anything to return to? Was she violated and abused so that she would submit? Was an entire village destroyed to subdue her people? Were they dispossessed of and driven from the lands that they have lived off for generations? Who is the nameless and forgotten slave-girl-child among us today? In Old Testament times and today, she is not one but many. 

Last month, the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao brought in our midst about 700 of our Lumad sisters and brothers. They travelled long and hard, and endured the sun and rain, the heat and cold, to be heard by us in Manila who do not know their suffering. They cry-out to us, their Filipino sisters and brothers, to stand with them as they call to “Stop Lumad Killings,” “Save Our Schools,” “Pull Out the Troops from Mindanao,” “Disband Paramilitary Groups,” and “No to Mining.” These are urgent cries following the brutal killings of three men in the presence of their relatives and friends inside a Lumad community school campus in Surigao del Sur on September 1 this year. Emerito Samarca was the school director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. (ALCADEV) Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo are indigenous leaders. The Lumads are crying-out. To God and to us. 

The Hebrew word for ‘cry-out’ is ‘za-ak.’ It is not a cry that is weak and hopeless. It is a cry that demands justice. Thus, it is followed by resistance. 

Why should we resist?

Resistance is grounded in the Biblical texts. In the Exodus story, the Hebrew people in slavery cried out to God and resisted. Shiprah and Puah, Jochebed, Miriam, and Bithiah, all resisted when they conspired to save Moses. Their escape from Egypt, from an oppressive power, was an act of resistance. Jesus’ preaching, feeding, healing and forgiving were all acts of resistance to the Roman Empire. In fact, every time Jesus proclaimed that he was the son of God and preached about the “Kingdom of God,” he was resisting Caesar, who also declared himself to be the son of God, and resisting the powerful Kingdom of Rome. 

Christians should not be fearful of resistance or a resisting reading of the Bible as an uncorrect or unfaithful reading. According to a literary critic,“the most faithful reading of all is a resisting reading.” It has been practiced by peoples struggling for dignity, justice and life. A spirituality grounded on resistance is an essential expression and movement towards the reign of God. 

Going back to our text, Naaman’s slave also resisted. We must remember that she was a foreigner, a girl, a child and a slave. It took courage to speak out as the most marginalized person in the household of Naaman. She proclaimed her faith and the power of Elisha, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria…cure him of his leprosy.” How many times did she have to say it before she was heard? How many people rejected her before somebody listened? What kind of humiliation and persecution did she have to endure to even propose such knowledge to those who believed they knew more? Every word she uttered was an act of resistance to those who wanted a slave to be silent. Resistance is vital in our task of working towards liberation. Resistance is essential to uphold life and dignity for all. 

In Mindanao today, over 500,000 hectares of land are covered by mining concessions. Over 700,000 hectares of Mindanao land are covered by banana, pineapple, oil palm, rubber and other plantations. These lands are ancestral lands of the Lumads which are now militarized. Over 50 % of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are now deployed to Mindanao to secure the interests of investors in the government’s Oplan Bayanihan. Furthermore, over 20 indigenous paramilitary groups called Alamara, Magahat, Bagani Force, among others, have been unleashed by the AFP and are sowing terror and division in Lumad communities. The Lumads claim that they are the targets because of their resistance to the plunder of their lands. Over 40,000 Lumads have already been forced to flee their own ancestral lands due to militarization. Their livelihood has been disrupted and their communities, schools, clinics and farms have been destroyed. And out of the 71 indigenous leaders killed under the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino, 56 are Lumads.  They are peace-loving people and their act of resistance is to flee. The Lumads are not very different from the Israelites who escaped Egypt where they were oppressed. These acts of resistance are necessary to defend life and dignity.

For whom do we assert?

Now we go to ‘asserting.’ Elisha asserted his authority as a prophet of God. Showing no prejudice against a commander who had killed his people, he summons  the commander to come to Israel, saying, “Let him come to me that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” Then orders him, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” An assertion of authority is never intended to exhibit power but to manifest God’s vision of wholeness for all. In this act of healing, Commander Naaman proclaims,“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”(v. 15)

The education of Lumads have been neglected for years. For decades they requested for schools to be established in their communities because their people have been left behind in their development. There were cases where they experienced being cheated and robbed of their lands because they did not even know how to read and write letters and numbers. In recent years, in partnership with religious institutions and other non-government organizations, they established alternative schools to equip and empower their people,especially their children. About ten years ago, they were even awarded and acknowledged by the Department of Education for their brand of alternative education. The Lumads take pride in how they have built up their own schools without the help of the government. They thought the government would celebrate their initiatives and triumphs. Instead, after a few years of success, their schools were attacked. To date, 87 indigenous schools in Mindanao are being attacked by the military through encampment and outright demolition and burning of their buildings. There are also over 230 documented cases of human rights violations perpetrated against Lumad children. Finally, the Department of Education Memorandum 221 empowers the military to teach and occupy the Lumad schools!

It is necessary to critique Elisha in our text.  Elisha’s assertions fall short in our task of working towards liberation. When he was being offered gifts by Naaman to thank him for the healing, he could have asserted for the freedom of the slave-girl-child. Instead he says, “As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will receive none.”(v. 16) When the Department of Education asserted their power to educate the Lumad children, their act only exhibited their power but failed to do what is right. Like Elisha who failed to hear the cries of the slave-girl-child, the DepEd Memorandum denies the call of the Lumads to “Save Our Schools.” They no longer need a school from the government. Much less a school run by the military! They assert their right to an education that is truly for the development of the Lumad children. The Lumads assert and demand to “Save Our Schools!”

What is there to celebrate?

In the healing of Naaman, our traditional interpretations celebrate the two kings, a prophet and a general. Even God proves to be the one true God who denies no one mercy and healing. But they forget the cry of a slave-girl-child. Perhaps, when she voiced out the healing through Elisha, she envisioned her own liberation from slavery. For how can she wish for the healing of her enemy and not want freedom for her oppressed self? The most powerful men in two kingdoms and the most powerful prophet of God came together to heal a man of privilege and yet do nothing for a slave-child. 

So what is there to celebrate? A celebration of life must include ALL. Not just of commanders, prophets and kings. True celebration is not a celebration of privilege but a celebration of life and dignity for all.

The Lumads cannot celebrate. We too cannot celebrate. Like us, they pray to go home to their lands, see their children get an education, have confidence that everyone is safe in their communities and obtain justice for the families of those who have been killed. Like us, they envision a future where their children can inherit the earth and live in peace. Until the Lumads can celebrate, our celebrations are only a celebration of privilege. 

Possible Guide Questions:

Who is crying-out in our churches? In our communities?
Is it an issue of life and dignity?
Who is responsible for their suffering?
How can we respond as individuals and as a church?

For the Philippines Annual Conference
United Methodist Church

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BTR, children, hope, human sexuality, lilith, eve, adam, theology, deconstruction, women, Old Testament, theology, Uncategorized, women

Beyond Israel, Beyond Eden

David and His Women
I am not a great fan of David, the so-called “Greatest King of Israel.” In fact, one of the biblico-theological reflections I have written and am most proud of is on David and is entitled “The Conspiracy of a Dynasty.” It scrutinizes the rape of Tamar, the only daughter of David, by her half-brother Amnon, who was the heir to David’s throne, who was eventually killed by Absalom, another brother and second heir to the throne, who initially silenced Tamar to protect the dynasty, but eventually killed Amnon so that he would be the next in line to the throne. (Game of Thrones ang drama dito!) I then asked the question, “How could this happen to David’s household? How could David, the greatest king of Israel, have raised a rapist and a murderer?” The paper ended pointing to an earlier narrative where David himself raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. The narratives expose how the males in a household, even in the household of God, rape women and murder their own to protect and perpetuate their power.

Bathsheba is not the only woman in David’s life and if you look closely at the stories you will feel uncomfortable about how he treated women. He was given Michal as a reward by her father, King Saul, “at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” (2 Sam. 3:14). The text explicitly says, “Saul’s daughter Michal loved David” (1 Sam. 18:20) Nowhere in the text does it say that David loved Michal. In fact, soon after, in Chapter 25, David woos and marries another woman, Abigail, the wife of Nabal, who David wanted to kill when he was not given the proper respect by Nabal. Furthermore, in 2 Samuel 3, six sons were born to David by six different women. The birth of the six sons of David meant that the House of David was strengthened. And as both of the children of King Saul, Michal and Jonathan protected and took the side of David, the House of Saul weakened. David had wives, sons, Jonathan and Michal. With the turn of events, Saul, the charismatic king is rejected as king, even by God.

From a tribal confederacy under Saul, David’s military prowess and political ambition created a dynasty. According to the narrative, God establishes the dynasty of David saying, “… I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. …Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16) David became the “it” male. The ultimate heterosexual lover, the virile king, the supreme male, the chosen one.

Yes, David was a great lover. But not of women.

David and Jonathan
In 1 Samuel 18:1, after David defeated the Philistine, Goliath, the text reads, “…the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” In 1 Samuel 20, Jonathan, the son and heir of Saul, made a covenant of faithful love with the house of David, to his father’s detriment and his own. He surrendered his father’s monarchy and his own right to the throne. This exhibited his great love for David. The text explicitly reads, “Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.” (v. 17) After Jonathan revealed to David his father’s plan to kill David, the text reads, “…and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.” (v. 41) In 2 Samuel 1, after the death of Saul and Jonathan, David mourns for Jonathan saying, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”

Seven women loved and bore sons to David. Jonathan and Saul both loved David. But David loved only Jonathan.

David is the “it” male. The ultimate heterosexual lover, the virile king, the supreme male, the chosen one. He was all that in Israel. He was all that for Israel. Israel and it’s monotheistic God required this ultimateness, virility and supremacy.

Beyond Israel
As a feminist, I have always taken the side of Bathsheba, Michal, and Abigail. These women’s lives were sacrificed in the creation of the greatest king of Israel. But an effort on a queer reading of the text reveals that, to be the ultimate, virile and supreme males, in the obligation to keeps wives and concubines and in the reproduction of sons and heirs, male lives are also sacrificed.

Beyond Israel David did not need to be king.
Beyond Israel David did not need to have wives and concubines.
Beyond Israel David was not burdened with producing sons and heirs.
Beyond Israel David could love Jonathan fully.
Beyond Israel David did not need to be ultimate, virile and supreme

Going beyond Israel is about resisting power and patriarchy.

I would like to end my critique on David with his acts of violence against the sons of Saul. The story in II Samuel 21: 1-14 begins with a famine of three years during David’s reign. In the narrative, when David asked God what caused it, God said that Saul was guilty over the killing of the Gibeonites. David, then, asked the Gibeonites what it is that he can do so that they may have justice, and they answered, “let seven of his sons be handed over to us, and we will impale them before the Lord….” (v.6) David, the king, handed them over. The king took the sons of Rizpah, the concubine of Saul, and the five sons of Merab, the daughter of Saul. And the Gibeonites impaled them, a form of torture where a victim’s body is pierced with a stake, like an animal for roasting. Seven sons from the house of Saul were tortured and killed.

Going beyond Israel is about resisting power and authority, and alongside it, the inclination towards violence and oppression. In a final act of ultimacy, virility and supremacy, David annihilated the sons and heirs of Saul. Perhaps it can be said, when males are consumed by the need for power and authority, they lose their own humanity. How much kinder would David have been if he had no desire to embody the power of Israel? How much kinder this world would be if males (and females) could allow themselves to become human, vulnerable, and, yes, sexual? How much kinder David could have been if he knew that there is a world beyond Israel?

The second part of my sharing is about escaping Eden.

Escaping Eden

The Perfect Garden
The Garden of Eden is a construct. In the Christian traditional interpretation of the text, Eden is the perfect place created by God. The perfect place with the perfect couple – Adam and Eve. In Genesis Chapter 2, the narrative gives an account of how Eve is created so that Adam, the man, “should not be alone.”(v18) Then, not only is her creation a response to another being’s need but she is a derivative. The origin and host is the male. (v22-23) Finally, the text reads “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (v24) The man, of his own free will, leaves his parents and becomes a separate entity, while the woman is subsumed and loses her self-identity and self-determination. In the creation myth in Chapter 1, the narrative states that humankind was created in God’s image and God created both male and female. (v26-27) Then, both are blessed and given stewardship of creation. (v28-30) In the creation of humankind in Chapter 1, there is no essential difference that separates the male from the female. This a sharp contrast to the Adam and Eve narrative where Eve is created second only to Adam, is a product of Adam’s body, and is then made one-flesh with Adam. In this creation story, there would be no Eve if there was no Adam.

With a critical perspective one can really posit some very relevant questions: Why should Eve be merely a derivative of Adam? Why could they not have been birthed or brought forth from a tree at the same time like in the myth “Si Malakas at si Maganda?” Whoever said that Adam and Eve are made for each other or must remain together just because their lives began together? What if they were not attracted to each other? On another note, why would they want to spend their life naming animals and plants; sustaining and nurturing them? What if they wanted to do something else? Finally, what if the garden was too small for them? What if they wanted to experience life beyond Eden? What if this departure from Eden is not as a punishment by God but an act of resistance of Adam and Eve? What if Adam and Eve escaped from Eden?

The idea that someone wants to escape from Eden is not new. Lilith, in Jewish myth, was the first wife of Adam. She, according to the Midrash, was created in the Genesis 1 narrative where males and females were created together. Lilith believed that she and Adam were created equal. One day, Adam, to assert his power over her, insisted that she be beneath Adam during sexual intercourse. She resisted, because she believed they were equal, and escaped from him. Adam, both angry and lonely, asked God to send out three angels to bring her back. They found her in the Red Sea but she did not want to go back to Adam. In response, the angels threatened her that hundreds of her children will die everyday. The myth ends with how Lilith is the spirit that causes infants to die.

Escaping from Eden is not a new idea. But, then and now, escaping Eden is considered a sin.

Beyond Eden
Marcella Althaus-Reid, spoke of “beyond Edens” in her book, Queer God. She says that we have limited God’s presence to Eden. Eden, to us, may be family, marriage, heterosexuality, a doctrine or the church. Eden represents all that we hold sacred. The problem is God is contained, limited and held captive. She argues that God can be found beyond Eden, wherever we experience life and fullness. And then she says, God is in the alleyways, inside the closet and in the darkest space; in the wilderness, the deserts and the most treacherous places. God is not just in the Garden of Eden. God can be found beyond Eden.

What is beyond Eden? In an effort to answer the question, I found a poem I wrote entitled “Wild and Free.” It reads –

If I feel the wind in my hair,
I must be flying free
If I can see beyond the borders
I must have gone where I have always wished to be
If I can run with the eagle above me,
I must have been riding strong.
If I no longer feel the ground beneath me,
I must be wild and to the universe belong.

All creatures have a wildness in them
Before they are tamed and caged.
They see a world without any borders
Follow the voice within and feel brave.
And then they find someone who steals their spirit
Possessing the wings that once soared
They are forced to the ground to kiss the earth
And feel fear as sharp as a sword.

The hunger for freedom is a wound that never heals
It summons the spirit to find courage.
It begins with a dream and a vision,
And it is nurtured by a healing spirit or a deep rage
All creatures have a wildness within them,
With a song they will weave courage and strength
The moment will come to leap and stride again
To feel the wind, to run free, in a journey that has no end.

That is my proposition, there is a wilderness and wildness beyond Eden. And we want to escape Eden because it places us on a leash, in a cage, in a box. It domesticates and tames us. We lose our powers and our very identity. We deny who we are and all we can be.

In the field of psychology, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, a Jungian analyst and a cantadora or myth-maker, celebrates the ‘Wild-Woman’ as the archetype of wholeness for the modern woman. She says,
A healthy woman is much like a wild wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life-force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving. Yet separation from the wildish nature causes a woman’s personality to become meager, thin, ghostly, spectral. We are not meant to be puny with frail hair and inability to leap up, inability to give chase, give birth, create life. When women’s lives are in stasis, ennui, it is always time for the wildish woman to emerge; it is time for the creating function of the psyche to flood the delta…It means to establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride regardless of the body’s gifts and limitations, to speak and act in one’s behalf, to be aware, alert, to draw on the innate feminine powers of intuition and sensing, to come into one’s cycles, to find what one belongs to, to rise with dignity, to retain as much consciousness as we can.

The Garden of Eden narrative has been interpreted as a source of truth for centuries even when there are un-truths in it. It defines that male and female are created for each other, that human beings are sinful and in need of God’s grace, and that we are stewards of the earth. But feminist theologians have pointed out how Eve being created from Adam’s rib is a direct inversion of reality. Everyday, women give birth to bring forth new life. Men do not. In the narrative, God says that anyone who eats of the fruit from the tree of life will die. Adam and Eve eat but do not die. That was not true either. Actually, the serpent, the very embodiment of evil in the narrative, was the only one who was genuinely truthful in the story. The serpent promised that they would become wise and that they would not die. These two were proven to be true. Our constructs of Eden and sin has denied us all life and dignity. We must re-capture our wildness and, more often than not, we will find that it lies beyond Eden.

Lilith escaped from Adam and she is a symbol of those who want to be wild and free. Eve remained with Adam and is a symbol of those who will defend marriage and patriarchy. And I have been asked the question again and again of how I want the next generation to be. So I wrote down this poem entitled “Lilith Eve.” I don’t know if you will agree with me but this vision of a girl-child also brings to mind a boy-child that many of you may have wanted to be. I hope that as I read it, you will know that we have a shared vision for tomorrows children to be true to themselves, to dream beyond Israel and escape Eden for a more loving and fuller humanity.

LILITH EVE
Lilith Eve is the child of our tomorrows and eons past,
The daughter of Eden and earths beyond it.
She is the fruit of souls touching, of sacred pleasuring,
and of dreams of an unlimited universe.

She will be warmed by her mother’s fire
and lulled in the waves of her father’s song.
She will burn with passion for those whose only hope is the Divine
and slowly erode the oppressive lies and structures with both
gentleness and fierceness.

She will dance like a flame and enchant like her mother.
And inspire people of different ages like her father.
She will play with goddesses and mortals
and welcome them in the sanctuary of her universe.

Lilith Eve is the child of the universe.
She whispers to the stars, kisses the flowers,
touches the tenderest creatures, and charms the strong and the wild.

She will run to the mountains and explore the deepest seas,
sleep under the moon and swing on the boughs of trees.
At times she will be restless and want to be alone and free.
But there will be many moments when she comes to lay between you and me.

Poster by Metropolitan Community Church in Quezon City, Philippines

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BTR, hope, human sexuality, Old Testament, theology, women

Pangitain, Pakikibaka at Pagdiriwang

Isang dialogical keynote
Para sa Ecumenical Women’s Jubilee Conference 2013 ng NCCP

Ngayong umaga, bahagi tayo ng isang makasaysayang pagdiriwang. Sa gitna ng pagdadalamhati ng bansa dahil sa karahasan sa Zamboanga, sa pagkasira ng mga bahay at mga buhay sa Bohol, at sa napakasakit na karanasan ng napakarami nating kababayan dahil sa bagyong Yolanda, sandali nating alalahanin ang ating mga pinagtagumpayan, upang magbigay kalakasan sa bawat isa. Sa maraming nang naisulat tungkol sa kapanganakan ng mga bansa, mga kuwento ng mga bayani at mga rebolusyonaryo, mga parangal para sa mga nagtatag at nagpatibay ng mga iglesia, mas madalas sa hindi na ang bahagi ng mga kababaihan ay hindi binibigyan ng pagpapahalaga, at kung minsan nga’y hindi pa naaalala. Sa Bibliya nga, sa animnapu’t anim na libro, dadalawa lamang ang nakapangalan sa mga babae: ang Ruth at Esther. Sa maraming relasyon: bilang mag-asawa, bilang mga diakonesa at pastor sa iglesia, bilang kamanggagawa na babae at lalaki sa mga secular at relihiyosong mga institusyon, madalas natin’g hinihintay ang pagkilala ng mga kalalakihan sa ating mga kababaihan. Ngayong umaga, makasaysayan at makahulugan na tayo bilang mga kababaihan mula sa iba’t ibang iglesia, iba’t-ibang sektor ng pamayanan, at iba’t-ibang edad at antas sa lipunan, ay nagdiriwang hindi na ayon sa pamantayan ng mga kalalakihan kungdi ayon sa ating pakakahulugan sa ating buhay at ministeryo bilang mga babae sa gawain na pang-ekyumenical at lipunan. 

Tayong kababaihan ang kalahati ng lipunang Filipino. Hawak natin ang kalahati ng mundo. Kalahati tayo ng gumagawa ng yaman ng bansa, kalahati tayo ng pwersang magbabago ng mundo. Nararapat lamang na tayo ngayon ay magsama-sama’t magdiwang bilang kababaihang may sariling buhay at natatanging pangangailangan at karanasan

Sa mahabang panahon, ang kahalagahan ng mga babae, maging sa Bibliya, ay nakakabit sa pagkatao ng mga kalalakihan:
Kay Eba na ayon sa kuwento ay nanggaling sa tadyang ni Adan. Kahit na sa araw-araw ay alam natin na sa sinapupunan ng babae nabubuo ang isa pang tao, at tanging ang babae lamang ang nagluluwal ng tao at hindi kailanman nakakapanganak ang mga lalaki.
Kay Miriam na naaalala natin na kapatid ni Moises na hinirang upang maging bayani ng bayang Israel, samantalang nakakalimutan natin na tinawag si Miriam na propeta sa Exodo kung saan siya ay sumayaw matapos ang pagpapalaya sa mga dating alipin.
Kay Esther na naipagtanggol ang buhay at dignidad ng mga kababayan bilang reyna, habang siya ay nanatiling alipin ng isang hari at asawa na sinusukat ang kanyang pagkatao batay sa kanyang kagandahan at kakayanan na aliwin ang isang lalaki.
Kay Ruth na pinaniniwalaan natin na pinili ang tamang Diyos sa pagsama niya kay Naomi, samantalang iniwan niya ang kanyang sariling bayan at tuluyan nang kinalimutan ang kanyang pinanggalingan nang kanyang sinabing “Ang inyong bayan ang magiging aking bayan.”

Tayo ay nagdiriwang dahil sa ating kalagitnaan, sa limampung taon ng ekyumenical na pagkilos, ating naigpawan ang limitadong pagkilala at pagpapahalaga sa atin bilang mga babae.

Tayong kababaihan ay bahagi ng gumagawa ng kasaysayan.

Bago dumating ang mga Espanyol, mga babaylan ang ikatlong haligi ng mga sambayanang Pilipino. Sila ay nanggagamot, ang nagsasabi kung kelan magtatanim at mag-aani. Sila ang tulay ng tao sa mundo ng mga espiritu. Sila ang repositoryo ng kaalaman ng buong angkan. Inusig, pinaghuhuli’t pinagpapatay sila ng mga Kastilang mananakop.. Sila ay nag-alsa upang ipagtanggol ang komunal na pamumuhay ng kanilang pamayanan.

Patuloy nating nilababanan ang dayuhang pananakop.

Si Gabriela Silang, ang unang Heneralang Filipino. Pinamunuan niya ang hukbong naiwan ng asawang si Diego laban sa sobrang pagbubuwis ng mga Kastilang kolonyalista. Kabilang sa Katipunan si Agueda Kahabagan, ang tanging Henerala sa Hukbo ng Republika ng Tagalog, si Teresa Magbanua o Nay Isay, ang “Joan of Arc ng Bisaya”, si Trinidad Tecson, ang Ina ng Biyak na Bago. Nandiyan rin si Gregoria de Jesus, lakambini ng Katipunan.
Kabilang sa mga sundalong namatay sa pagtatanggol ng Pilipinas sa mananakop na mga Amerikano ay mga Filipinang nakadamit at nakagupit lalaki na ikinagulat ng mga Amerikanong sundalo.
Si Valentina Vidal ng Colorum at si Salud Algabre ng Sakdalista ay kabilang sa mga sa mga nag-alsang magsasaka dahil sa lupa sa panahon ng commonwealth.
Ang unang aksyong military na inilunsad ng Hukbalahap laban sa Hapon ay pinamunuan ni Felipa Culala alyas Kumander Dayang-Dayang.
Nandiyan rin sa Lorena Barros, ang tagapagtatag ng MAKIBAKA or Malayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan, na napilitang mamundok nang ideklara ni Marcos ang Batas Militar.
Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, tayong kababaihan ay nasa unahan pa rin ng maraming laban – para sa lupa para sa magsasaka, kontra-kontraktwalisasyon, para sa pagpapababa sa presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilihin, kontra-VAW, para sa pagbasura sa Visiting Forces Agreement ng US.

Ipinaglalaban natin ang mga isyu ng ating sector habang hinaharap ang ating mga isyu bilang babae sa isang lipunang malakolonya pa rin ng US kung saan ang ekonomya sa kalakhan at agraryo’t atrasado..

Ang tekstong pinagbatayan namin sa pagkilala sa naiambag ng mga kababaihan sa ekyumenical na pagkilos ay Hukom 4 hanggang 5. Isa itong kuwento kung paano ang isang babaeng propeta, hukom at mandirigma, na nangangalan ng Debora, ay kumilos upang palayain ang Israel mula sa dalawampung taong pangaapi ng Hari ng Hazor na si Jabin. Ang hukbo ni Haring Jabin, na pinangungunahan ni Sisera, ay may siyam na raang karwahe ng bakal at libo-libong mga kawal. Kung paano pinagtagumpay ng Diyos ang bayang Israel sa pamamagitan ni Debora ay isang patunay sa tatlong kalakasan ng mga babaeng matapat na tumugon sa ekumenikal na pagkilos. Ang tatlong kalakasan natin ay nakapaloob sa tatlong P -Pangitain, Pakikibaka at Pagdiriwang.

Pangitain
Ang pangitain ni Debora ay isang karunungan na bunga ng tatlong mga intentional na  mga hakbang: 
Una, Si Debora ay nagsuri sa kanilang kalagayan. Sa kanyang kaugalian na maupo sa ilalim ng palmera kung saan siya ay pinupuntahan ng mga tao upang magpasya sa kanilang mga usapin, napagtanto na ni Debora ang paghihirap ng kanyang mga kababayan at ang kanilang kahandaan para lumaban tungo sa kalayaan. Malinaw din  kay Debora na kalooban ng Diyos na mapalaya ang Israel. 
Pangalawa, dahil si Debora ay nakababad sa kalagayan ng mamamayan, alam niya ang kalakasan ng kanyang mga kababayan. Siya ang nagsabi kay Barak na pumili ng sampung libong kawal. At malinaw niyang ipinahayag na sila ay magtatagumpay. 
Ikatlo, buong-buo ang kahandaan ni Debora para sa pakikibaka. Nang sinagot siya ni Barak ng pupunta lamang siya sa pakikipaglaban kung kasama si Debora, may kasiguruhan ang tugon ni Debora, “Kung gayon, sasama ako, ngunit wala kang makukuhang karangalan sapagkat si Sisera ay ibibigay ni Yahweh sa kamay ng isang babae.” (4, 9) Ang pangitain ni Debora ang unang hakbang tungo sa pagbabago at pagpapalaya ng bayan.

Ang Pilipinas ang may pinakamabilis na lumalaking ekonomya sa Asya. Pero, Bakit 3 sa bawat 10 Pilipino ang walang trabaho? Bakit 3 sa bawat 10 Pilipino ang nabubuhay ng “below poverty line”? Bakit ang nadagdagan na naman ng isang milyong ang dami ng pamilyang nagugutom? Bakit pito pa rin sa bawat 10 magsasaka sa ating bansa ay walang sariling lupa?

Dahil ba ang 60% ng kita ng bansa ay napupunta sa 16% ng pamilyang Pilipino samantalang ang natititing 40% ay pinaghahatian ng walumpu’t apat na porsyento?
Dahil ba ang kaban ng bayan ay kinukurakot ng mga nasa katungkulan at pati ang pera para sa mga disaster na dulot ng lindol at bagyo tulad ni Yolanda?
Dahil ba mga dambuhalang dayuhang korporasyon ang nagpapasasa sa malawak na likas yaman ng Pilipinas na sa kanilang pagmamadaling ubusin ay nasisira nila ang kalikasan?

Tayong kababaihan ang mukha ng kahirapan.
Sa pagtaas sa kwarenta pesos ng presyo ng bigas, sa dagdag na P1.24 sa bawat kilowatt hour ng kuryente ngayong Nobyembre bumaba ng ating kakayahang pakainin ng sapat ang ating mga anak.
Ang demolisyon ng ating bahay ay kawalan ng silungan at proteksyon mula sa sakit para sa ating mga anak;
Ang kawalan ng panlipunang serbisyo tulad ng serbisyong pangkalusugan dahil sa napinpintong pribatisasyon ng mg ospital ng pamahalaan ay karagdagang pasanin sa ating balikat.

May bigat ring dulot ang patuloy na dumaraming insidente ng karahasan sa kababaihan o VAW.
There is the writing on the wall; may nasusulat sa pader at ito ay dapat nating bigyan ng pansin.

Walumpu’t walong porsyento sa ating kababaihang Filipino ay mula sa batayang sector ng magsasaka, manggagawa at panggitnang uri. Ni katiting ay hindi nila nadama ang sinasabing pag-unlad na ito sa ekonomya ng ating bansa. Sila ang nagbibigay tapang, tagtag at komitment sa mga organisasyon ng kababaihan tulad ng GABRIELA na pursigihin ang pagbabago ng lipunang Pilipino.

Ang kasunod ng bawat Pangitain ay – Pakikibaka
Ang pinakamahalagang pangyayari sa kasaysayan ng Israel ay nakasulat sa libro ng Exodo, at ito ay nagumpisa sa isang pangitain kung saan nakita ng Diyos ang pagkaalipin ng Israel at Siya ay nahabag sa kanila. At ang pangitain ng Diyos ay nagbunga ng isang pakikibaka. Isang pakikibaka tungo sa pagpapalaya ng bayan ng Israel. 

Ganun din sa kwento ni Debora. Ang kasunod ng mga pangitain ay pakikibaka. Ang pagtanggi natin sa pakikibaka tungo sa pagpapalaya ay pagtanggi sa kalooban ng Diyos. Sa teksto, si Debora ang nanguna sa pakikibaka. “Sinabi ni Debora kay Barak, “Lusob! Ngayon ang araw na itinakda ni Yahweh upang gapiin mo si Sisera. Pangungunahan ka ni Yahweh.” (4, 14) Pinangunahan ni Debora ang pakikibaka ng bayang Israel. Subalit ang pakikibaka ay hindi lamang pang-kolektibo. Sa kuwento, may isa pang babae na hindi inaasahang maging bayani. Si Jael.  Kung si Debora ay lantaran na naging magiting na tigapanguna ng isang hukbo, si Jael ay matahimik at palihim na isinakatuparan ang layunin ni Debora na tapusin na ang pangaapi sa bayang Israel sa ilalim ni Sisera at Haring Jabin. 

Paano tinapos ni Jael ito? Nang nakatakas si Sisera,ang pinuno ng mga hukbo ni Haring Jabin, sa hukbo ni Barak at Debora, napadpad ito sa isang tolda kung saan nakatira ang isang babaeng nagngangalang Jael. Inimbitahan ni Jael na sumilong si Sisera sa kanyang tahanan, dahil magkaibigan ang hari nina Sisera at ang asawa ni Jael, pinainom niya ito ng gatas at saka pinatago ang pinuno ng hukbo sa likod ng tabing. Nang ito ay makatulog sa pagod, nang ito ay walang kamalay-malay, nang ito ay walang kalaban-laban, kumuha si Jael ng maso at tulos ng tolda, ipinukpok ang tulos sa noo ni Sisera hanggang bumaon ito sa lupa. Si Jael, isang babae, ang di inaasahang pumatay kay Sisera na naging hudyat ng pagtatapos ng pangaapi nila. Ang pakikibaka para sa pagpapalaya ng Israel ay inumpisahan ni Debora, at tinapos ni Jael. Isinasakatawan ni Sisera ang kalakasan at kalupitan ng kanyang bayan, at ang kanyang kamatayan ang tanging panukat sa tagumpay at kalayaan ng bayang Israel. Dalawang babae ang isinakatuparan ang pangitain sa pamamagitan ng pakikibaka ng  buong puso at pagkatao.

Walumpu’t walong porsyento sa ating kababaihang Filipino ay mula sa batayang sector – babaing magsasaka, manggagawa, maralitang lungsod, peti-burges. Ni katiting ay hindi nila nadama ang sinasabing pag-unlad sa ekonomya ng ating bansa.
Bawat araw ng kanilang buhay ay pakikibaka – upang makaraos ng isa pang araw. Buong tiyaga silang nagtatrabaho upang makamit ang isang simpleng pangarap — magkaroon ng trabaho’s makakain tatlong beses isang araw, magkaroon ng masisilungan, mapag-aral ang mga anak, magkaroon ng magandang kalusugan. Subali’t ang kanilang pasensya ay may hangganan…
Sa mga komunidad, kasama ang kababaihang nakikipagtulakan sa demolition team, nambabato kung kinakailangan;
Kabilang sila sa mga biktima ng Pablo na sumugod sa DSWD sa Davao upang kunin ang relief na matagal na sa kanilang ipinangako pero patuloy na ipinagkakait;
Sinugod rin nila ang NFA at DA sa Quezon City upang hamunin ang pamahalaang ibaba sa P25 kada kilo ang presyo ng bigas
Marami-rami na rin ang sumunod sa yapak ni Gabriela Silang, Teresa Magbanua, Salud Algabre, Lorena Barros. Sila ay nag-armas upang makamit ang pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya.

Walumpu’t walong porsyento sa ating kababaihang Filipino ay mula sa batayang sector . Sila ang nagbibigay tapang, tagtag at komitment sa mga organisasyon ng kababaihan tulad ng GABRIELA upang pursigihin ang pagbabago ng lipunang Pilipino.

Pagdiriwang. 
Ang sumunod na kabanata sa ating teksto ay isang pagdiriwang dahil sa mga ginawa ng hukbo ng bayang Israel, ang namuno sa digmaan na si Barak, at ang dalawang babae na sina Debora at Jael. At nararapat lamang na alalahanin natin sila sa ating pagdiriwang ngayon. Ang bawat pagdiriwang ay karugtong lamang ng pagdiriwang ng mga nauna. Ang bawat tagumpay na ating nararanasan ay bunga din ng tagumpay na pinangunahan ng iba. Ang bawat kalayaan ay iniluluwal na may dugo at pawis ng mga nauna, at napapangalagaan lamang kung magpapatuloy ang pangitain at pakikibaka ng mga babaeng katulad ni Jael at Debora. Hayaan ninyo ako tumula sa ating pagpaparangal sa kanila –

Tinawag si Debora na ina ng Bayang Israel,
Isa din siyang hukom at tinawag din siyang propeta.
Isa siyang mandirigma na di natakot sa dugo at kamatayan,
Walang pagdadamot, buong buhay ang inalay sa kapwa at bayan.

Si Jael na inilarawan na isang asawa lamang.
May pangitain at tapang na hindi inaasahan.
Buo ang loob at matahimik na tinapos ang digmaan.
Pinatay si Sisera, ang kalayaan ng Israel ay ipinagdiwang.

Ang diwa ng mga babaing nagsakripisyo’t nagbuwis ng kanilang buhay upang para marating natin ang ating kinalalagyan ngayon ay nasa ating gitna ng ating pagdiriwang at pagtitipon ngayon. Ang kanilang matibay na paniniwalang makakamit rin natin ang isang magandang umaga kung saan walang umaalipin at nagpapaalipin, kung saan ang pagkapantay-pantay ay umiiral sa araw-araw na buhay ang ilaw na nagbibigay liwanag sa ating landas tungo pagbabago.

The writing is on the wall, may nasusulat na sa pader. May malaking pagbabagong nagyayari. Mabubuo ang basag na mundo. Maging bahagi tayo ng pagbabago na ito. Sama-sama nating tahakin ang landas tungo sa magandang bukas.
Kung saan may lupa ang lahat ng magsasaka
May industriyang Pilipino na nagbibigay trabaho sa lahat ng Pilipino
May pagkain para sa lahat ng nagugutom
May bahay para sa lahat ng walang masilungan
May pagkakapantay-pantay maski sa pagitan ng babae at lalaki
At may kapayapaan dahil may hustisya

Halina, ipagdiwang natin ang pagdatal ng langit na ito dito sa lupa.

Ni Gertrudes Libang at Lizette Tapia-Raquel

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BTR, human sexuality, Old Testament, theology, women

The Gospel According to Lualhati

Celebrating Sexuality
An excerpt from my MTh thesis

In “Bata, Bata…,” Lea has three men in her life: Raffy is the father of her first child, Ojie, and her legal husband who left her when she refused to leave with him to work in another place. He now had a new wife and another child. He is characterized as loving and responsible, and the one whom Lea will always love. Ding is the father of her daughter, Maya, who became her common-law husband when Raffy left her. He is irresponsible, insecure and demanding, and Lea does not have a deep appreciation of him, but she seeks to dignify their relationship, even when most people perceive it as immoral. Johnny is her co-worker, friend and ally who understood her passion as a woman and as a mother. All three men have a connection with Lea at some time in her life. She does not love them equally but she loves them all.

Lea and Raffy meet for the last time just before he leaves for America. This is an excerpt of their long conversation:

Raffy: Don’t you have any regrets, Lea? (pertaining to her failed relationship with Ding)
Lei: I did not just have sex with him. I loved him. Just like you. I really loved you, Raffy.
From the different parts of my being I will love again, with the different faces of their being.
Don’t look at me that way. I am just being true to myself.
I do what is true to me and I embrace everything that comes with it. I am not always happy but I am not always sad either.

Lea: Raf, are you happy?
Raffy: Sometimes.
Lea: Can you love me for one more day? We may never see each other again…Can I have one more day with you?
Raffy: What will we do?
Lea: Whatever! We can go to the places we used to visit. Let’s eat ricecake, drink Coke! Tell each other stories, tell jokes to each other! Share each other’s dreams! Come on, Raf…let’s be crazy for a moment! (Bautista, Bata, Bata…Pa’no Ka Ginawa: 230-231)

In the next scene, Lea and Raffy are in a tight embrace in bed. Both are crying. Both are celebrating. Words are unnecessary to express their love and, perhaps, regret for the inevitable goodbye. In an earlier scene, Lea laments that in the most intimate acts of love that she has shared with Raffy and Ding, she remained untouched and unknown by them. In this last scene, I think Lea and Raffy experience ‘being’ and knowing each other, which they had not experienced before. Despite the ironies and impending separation, it is a cause for celebration.

I am tempted to celebrate this scene and present it as a novelty in the life of Lea. But while it is a crucial moment in her journey, it is not “the” moment; while there is an awakening, there have been and will be other revelations; while it exhibits a fullness, it does not complete her. Lea embodies our hopes, fantasies, visions and dreams of more meaningful lives and more life-affirming partnerships. These have no finality, end or boundaries. Lea does not love one man, she loves three. Perhaps there will be more. Lea does not ask for a lifetime commitment, she asks only for a moment or a day. Lea does not search for ‘perfection,’ but is committed to live life. One man, a lifetime commitment, and ‘perfection.’ All these seem ideal, but for women like Lea they only create boundaries and limitations. Lea celebrates a life that is free from boundaries. It is not without fear, doubt or pain, but every now and then, because she is free and honest, she feels truly whole. So many women have one man, a lifetime commitment, and ‘perfection,’ but the truth is, some of them are not whole. They live broken lives.

Reading Amanda and Lea, I have seen how women can celebrate self, sisterhood and sexuality. Ruth and Esther, have no sense of ‘self.’ The former turned her back on her true identity and the latter is contained in a palace. Ruth and Esther, have no sisters. They are dominated by men in cultures where women are rivals. Finally, Ruth and Esther cannot celebrate their sexuality, their survival depends on the pleasure they give men.

Many women are still like Ruth and Esther. Many women are also like Amanda and Lea. They mirror our lives and our struggles as women and they prepare us for crying-out, resisting, asserting and celebrating.

The Gospel according to Lualhati

Mary John Mananzan defines the mission of a feminist theology of liberation:
It is not enough to analyze the situation of women in the churches or to pinpoint the roots of women’s oppression in religion. It is imperative that out of this analysis, efforts must be exerted to remedy the situation through participation in women’s movements. Women trained in theology must also re-think the discipline itself and bring about a transformation within the churches.

Many feminist theologians continue to privilege the Bible, the ‘sacred’ text. While Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza proposes a hermeneutic of suspicion and Phyllis Trible has exposed the ‘texts of terror,’ the biblical text is still ‘the’ text. But it is undeniable that “the Bible is made by men, for men, and all the women in it are constructs of the men.” In response to Mananzan’s challenge to “re-think the discipline and bring about a transformation,” it is imperative for feminist theologians to privilege ‘life,’ not the ‘text.’ I have already expounded on my critique of how women like Ruth and Esther are constructed in the text. They are not real women, and even if there are women like them, they are not able to celebrate self, sisterhood and sexuality. In privileging Lualhati, I privilege real-life women who have stepped out the box and broken the mold men, patriarchy, and the bible have created for them. In privileging Lualhati, I propose an expanding of that which we call ‘sacred texts.’ In privileging Lualhati, I privilege the struggle of women for wholeness, freedom and life.

Rosemary Radford Ruether delineates the critical principles of a feminist theology of liberation:
“The critical principle of such a theology is the promotion of the full humanity of women; whatever denies, diminishes, distorts the full humanity of women is, therefore, appraised as not redemptive. Theologically speaking, whatever diminishes or denies the full humanity of woman must presumed not to reflect the divine or an authentic relation to the divine nor to reflect the authentic nature of things, nor to be the message or work of an authentic redeemer or the community of redemption. This negative principle also implies the positive principle: what does promote the full humanity of women is of the Holy, it does reflect true relation to the divine, it is the true nature of the thing, the authentic message of redemption and the mission of redemptive community.”

Ruth and Esther have been celebrated in Christian tradition as women of faith. It is not just in the text, it is also evident in the interpretation. Ruth and Esther, if placed in our context today, are both objectified and victimized. But the text and its interpretations continue to honor them while neglecting the denial and distortion of their humanity. Consequently, Mary Magdalene and the Woman at the Well continue to be interpreted as prostitutes and adulteresses, when these are not even in the text, nor implied in the text. Centuries of interpretation have presented them as ‘bad women.’ These interpretations of Esther and Ruth, and Mary Magdalene and the Woman at the Well have not been redemptive of women.

By biblical and traditional standards, Lea and Amanda are likely to be interpreted as self-centered, wild and even immoral. But by proposing Lea and Amanda as models of resistance and celebration, I believe I promote what Reuther presented as the positive principle: the full humanity of women, true nature and true relation, redemption and community. Mary John Mananzan, when speaking about feminist theology, does not just speak about mission. She also speaks about movement. To find new ways of theologizing and interpretation, we must also give voice to women in the ‘movement.’ Lea and Amanda are not products of biblical women at the end of their stories, they are products of women’s movements and people’s movements toward transformation and liberation.

Lualhati fulfills what Mananzan asserts as the agenda of renewal — “lead to the stripping away of women’s false consciousness, freeing them to discover themselves and their potentials and to come to their full blossoming. In the running over of this bliss, they, together with all peoples of God, will use their energy towards the transformation of society into a “new heaven and a new earth.”

Finally, Lualhati Bautista says,
So many women own up the story of Lea Bustamante. Vilma said to me, “Are you sure that is your novel? It seems to be the story of my life…” I am happy to know that many women identify with my characters. When I won the GMA Telecine Bahaghari Award about a battered woman, which was produced by Pilita Corrales, she said on-stage, “Half of the story is my story.” I was so surprised. I did not even know she was a battered woman.

Lualhati Bautista is one of the most celebrated and read Filipino contemporary writers today. Both her characters in Dekada ’70 and Bata, Bata… have been portrayed by one of the most respected and multi-awarded Filipino actresses, Vilma Santos. Lea and Amanda’s characters have mirrorred the lives of so many women who have experienced sacrifice, domination, and abuse. Who among us today can still see ourselves in the stories of Ruth and Esther? Some, maybe. But in the unfolding of the stories of Lualhati’s women characters, women are able to find a connection; how can we ignore the emptiness felt by Amanda, how can one deny the feelings of need, anger, and pain of Lea over the men in her life, how can we not claim Amanda and Lea’s love for their children as the same as ours? Who can deny their hunger for love and life? We are them and they are us. Lualhati has shared with us her stories. But really, she just shared with us ‘our’ stories.

Mananzan and Radford-Reuther assert a feminist theologizing that affirms life, movement and transformation. Lualhati shared stories of women crying-out, resisting, asserting and celebrating self, sisterhood and sexuality. That to me and many women is ‘good news.’

This, then, must be called ‘the Gospel according to Lualhati Bautista.’

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BTR, human sexuality, Old Testament, theology, women

Wounded Healer, Wounded leader

Wounded Healer, Wounded Leader

Jesus: the Wounded Healer
There are many slogans about Jesus – “Jesus is the Answer,” “Christ Above All,” “Jesus Never Fails,” among others. All of them depict a mighty, undefeatable and perfect savior. Not unlike Superman. So is this superman-like Jesus the same with the ‘wounded healer’ we are talking about? Perhaps, when we see Jesus as superman-like, we have a limited understanding of diakonia. Jesus just becomes a superstar who needs to be applauded and praised, and our service becomes fanatic as we swoon and shout Jesus’ name. This fixation on Jesus can cause us to turn our backs on so many people who need Jesus the most. But perhaps, when we see Jesus as a ‘wounded healer,’ we see a human being who was committed to be a healer despite his own wounds. Jesus, the wounded healer provides us an example of true diakonia or ministry which is life giving, even up to the point of death. Because we follow not just a wounded healer, we follow a crucified savior. 

The Vulnerability of Jesus
In our witness of Jesus as Christian women, we often emphasize the honor given him as the Son of God. But if we look at the circumstances of his birth, ministry, and resurrection we will find a vulnerable human being who was neither honored nor respected by kings and empires. Jesus’ life began like every human being – in the womb of his mother Mary. He was born into a colonized race, unto a people who were under foreign domination. Furthermore, the King of his own people, Herod, wanted only to ensure his dynasty, so that when he learned that a new king was born he ordered the massacre of male infants.(Matthew 2: 1-18) Jesus, the son of God, was defenseless in the face of such violence and terror.

We can rejoice in the victory of the one child, Jesus, but we must also lament and express outrage over the death of the massacred innocent children. We can celebrate with Mary but we must also sympathize and fight for justice with the grieving mothers. Today, we must ask ourselves, what are we doing as individuals and churches for the children in our communities and societies? Is there any effort to help children who sniff rugby in the main thoroughfares? Have we done enough so that all children have a proper education? What are our churches doing for mothers who can no longer feed their children? Jesus’ vulnerability teaches to stand and fight for all who are defenseless.

Jesus’ ministry, likewise, was carried out in an atmosphere of brutality and sadism. John the Baptist, the prophet who baptized Jesus, was beheaded. (Mark 6:14-29). Even Jesus was aware of the consequences of his teachings and actions for those who were hungry and oppressed. He knew that those who were threatened by his acts of justice and mercy, the powerful both in the temple and in the empire, would ensure his silence. In Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, he begged God two times to take away the suffering that was to be inflicted upon him.(Matthew 26:36-43) Jesus was punished thru the state-sponsored death penalty which was crucifixion. It was a cruel form of death which did not allow the dead to be buried. The bodies of the crucified were often feasted upon by animals and, according to scholars, the under Caesar crucified as many as 500 captives in one day.

Jesus’ wounds and people’s wounds, then and now, have a direct relationship with the principles and programs of government institutions. Jesus did not only speak against the empire, he was a VICTIM of the empire. Jesus ministry of preaching, healing and liberation in the face of brutality and domination is a concrete model for diakonia in the face of globalization and the continuing era of empire. Have you ever asked yourselves, why did Jesus preach about the ‘?’ Why did he use ‘kingdom’ and not just ‘family’ or ‘household’? According to Chris Ferguson of Peace for Life, the core of the gospel is resisting the empire, specifically the Roman Empire, for the redemption of humanity. Jesus’ message of the ‘kingdom of God’ was a direct challenge to the government at that time. And unless we realize that Jesus’ preaching was a direct critique of the powers that be, the good news of the gospel is lost.
In Jesus’ time, the empire was Rome. Today, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) has named the United States of America as the one empire that dominates over nations politically, economically and culturally. What are our churches’ position on the War Agenda of the U.S. which has already devastated nations and peoples? What is our response to this one nation that has refused to sign international policies like the Tokyo Protocol (for the protection of the environment), Children’s Rights, Violence Against Women and Children, and the like? Is our ‘diakonia’ relevant to those who are victimized by militarization, economic domination, political subjugation, and genocide.

The image of Jesus the wounded healer provides the perspective of the colonized, marginalized people who needed liberation, redemption and dignity from the domination of empires and kings. Jesus embodies the commitment, passion and spirit required to truly minister and serve the people.

Yet, while we recognize the subjugation of Jesus, the maleness and Jewishness of Jesus cannot be denied. In the patriarchal culture to which Jesus was a part of, there is a different level of violence and pain that women suffer just because they are women. When we speak of diakonia as women, we need to look at the experience of women. Let me share with you my reflection on Esther – a wounded healer and a wounded leader.

Esther: Wounded Healer and Wounded Leader

Wounded Healer
Esther was an orphan. As a female who had no right to inherit her father’s properties, she had no choice but to live with Mordecai, her cousin. She was at the mercy of Mordecai. And perhaps, Mordecai inherited the properties that should have been Esther’s. Esther was a victim of sexual slavery. When a king orders the taking of virgins from their homes into a harem, do the young women volunteer or are they dragged from their families and loved ones? What kind of treatment and training do they endure so that they will please the king? If you have watched Jewel in the Palace and Wang Jini, you will know how women’s bodies and spirits are broken to please men and kings? Women are stripped of their humanity and self-identity so that what is left is a ghost. Later, the women take turns spending the night with King Ahasuerus. How did the king approach them? Were the young virgins willing and able or did he rape them? After Esther was chosen queen, I wonder if she felt happy or sad. The tragedy of Esther is the tragedy of many women.

But an even deeper wound was inflicted upon her when she is asked to denounce her identity as a Jew.(Esther 2:10) She had no people. And her people did not know her. She only had Mordecai. And she obeyed him as she did when she was just a child. (Esther 2:20) Mordecai dictated her every move and word, the eunuchs directed her day to day treatment for beauty and the king only related to her when she was summoned. She was a woman controlled by all the men around her.  

In many relationships of men and women, men dominate over women. Women very often do not assert their capacity and right to be partners with men. Probably because they have been conditioned to be passive and have been made to believe that they are mere followers and not leaders. But when life is at stake, women come forward to offer life for others. Just as Esther did.

Wounded Leader
For me Esther is a wounded leader. When a decree was made for the annihilation of the Jews, Esther came forward and said to Mordecai,
          “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa , and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

Esther’s leadership was not dependent on position, security and gain. Unlike so many of our politicians today. Esther risked her place as royalty and gambled everything she had for the life of her people. As a woman, she claimed her identity with her people at the very time when they were to be massacred, she dared to identify Haman face to face, a favored advisor of the king, and she pleaded with the king to change an unjust decree that the king himself commanded. Every step she took was a challenge to the king and his power but she used her intelligence, courage and charm to save her people. The closing chapter of the book of Esther is no longer focused on the woman leader. Her achievements are overshadowed by Mordecai and King Ahasuerus. She is a wounded leader for two reasons: First, she is denied her place as the leader in a revolution of life for the Jews, and, second, her commitment to life comes from her experience as a wounded woman who valued life even when she was denied it.

The experience of Esther, the wounded leader challenges us to critique systems, institutions and persons that conspire to deny women choices and the right to life, emboldens us to stand up, speak up and lead in the struggle for those who are denied of life in our different capacities and circumstances affirms the creative and imaginative powers of women as co-creators and co-defenders with God.

Many of us are wounded healers and wounded leaders. We respond to those who need healing even when we ourselves need healing. There is no perfect state of health. And for us, it is when we are vulnerable and wounded that we are more sensitive to the wounds and vulnerability of others. That is the essence of diakonia.

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