Sunday, October 20, 2019

Nevertheless, She Persisted

“Nevertheless, she persisted” has become a popular political slogan. It is oft quoted and seen blazoned on T-shirts and other similar items of apparel.

The quote originated in 2017 when Senator Elizabeth Warren was reading a letter penned by Coretta Scott King. It was objected to, but Warren was allowed to continue reading until finally after another objection a vote silenced her. In summing up the reason she was silenced Senator Mitch McConnell explained, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” (see below)

“Nevertheless, she persisted” immediately caught the public’s attention and has been used multiple times since. Persistence in the face of adversity is seen as a good thing. Maybe, “good” is too mild a word, maybe I should substitute excellent or exemplary instead. Over the last two years as a practice, persistence has been highly esteemed.

As I read the lectionary passage for today the phrase came to the forefront of my mind and thinking. The parable is the tale of a judge and a widow (Luke 18: 1-8). Persistence is exactly the virtue being celebrated in the text. The story tells of a judge who feared and respected neither God nor humanity and a widow who wanted justice against an adversary. Ultimately the widow received justice only because she continued to badger the judge. It could be said of the widow, “Nevertheless she persisted.”

The text continues telling those early disciples to persist in a like manner, crying out night and day until, ultimately, they will receive justice. This may be manifested as the return of the child of humanity. 

An interesting parable As I read it through, it seemed to me that this particular passage was a later addition to the gospel. It reads like a story added to encourage the people who were by then under severe persecution.  They were not to give up crying out to God. Their hope was that they would eventually receive justice. This text was to encourage them on their journey through persecution.

Yet, like most texts read, it will yield a blessing. I think the blessing here is to be found in encouraging the virtue of persistence especially in the face of adversity.  Adversity can describe anything from life-threatening persecution to mild discomforts. It is part of the human journey, and persistence can bring great reward.

I think most people reading this will have heard me tell a little about our hike in the summer. It was an incredible experience. The first day on a cliff top path we struggled through high winds (my sister and I were both blown over) and driving torrential rain. We needed persistence to continue. The ensuing rewards of warm and shelter when we reached our first night destination were great.

Of course, that example is a little flippant as we chose to hike for pleasure (although we did hope for better weather!). More seriously, Elizabeth Warren must have felt devastated. It must have seemed that she had been treated unjustly when she was silenced. Yet, look how her persistence turned out. Warren was given “a far bigger megaphone than if they had simply let her continue speaking in what had been a mostly empty chamber . . .”  (see below)

Many times, the adversities we face are not of one’s own choosing. Yet, the message of this text remains the same — persistence. 

“Nevertheless, she/he/they persisted” has become a wonderful adage to live by.