Sunday, March 15, 2020

All are Equal . . .

This has been quite a week! I will start my blog with my thoughts from a few days ago when I read the lectionary passage in preparation for writing this. Then I will add a couple of thoughts about the current emergency situation.

This week another well know passage is offered by the lectionary for the reading. The story is usually entitled The Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42). Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the well and asks her for a drink. A conversation ensues where Jesus reveals that he is the one, the Messiah. I have blogged about this several times before.

I have also talked about the later conversation with the disciples where the talk is of worship, truth and mission. But this week as I read the passage one sentence really stood out to me. It was the one that recorded the reaction of the disciples on seeing Jesus with the woman. 

They “were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking to her?’(27).”

Maybe, the disciples had learnt enough to not question Jesus’ treatment of women. Good for them! Yet, the fact the narrator included the sentences they could have voiced, reveals that they were there, in the forefront of the author’s mind. 

As I read ‘Why are you speaking to her!’ I could almost hear the disdain in the narrator’s voice, and I found it really sad. It reveals patriarchy, sexism and racism — she was a Samaritan. I could excuse it by saying this was penned in a time with different social expectations regarding women and race. But today I will not do that.

I think it is even sadder to realize that although things have changed for the better, there is still a long way to go. Perhaps, my thoughts were influenced by the fact that as I read the verses to ponder over during the week, I had just heard that Elizabeth Warren had dropped out of the presidential race. Many reports I read referred to a root of patriarchy and sexism. I have heard it said that the country isn’t ready to accept a woman president!  Truthfully, I wasn’t that surprised. Yet, it is shameful that in 2020, almost two thousand years after the words of the text were penned, I can still hear the echo of that question with the same disdainful tone. 

Women are still viewed in certain areas of society as inferior and less able than men. It is said that women are equal, yet events show that is often not true. Perhaps summed up best in the famous words of George Orwell, “All are equal, but some are more equal than others.” (adapted from Animal Farm).

The above were my thoughts from earlier this week. I hope anyone reading this will pause to ponder why it is that men are often thought more capable than women!

But I can’t end this blog without a few short comments about the unfolding events of the last few days. What a week it has been! Every day has been filled with media reports that cause uncertainty, stress and often fear. We are currently in Covington, Georgia, visiting our son and daughter-in-law, and it has already crossed our minds that we may have to leave hurriedly if bans on interstate travel start to be imposed. In Georgia, the four of us are mindful of staying away from any large social gathering —enjoying lots of walks together.

I don’t want to make any comment on the actual virus— there is enough sensible medical reports out there for all to read. My advice is follow them, and be as safe as possible.

What has caused me to ponder is people’s reactions to the virus. A crisis always brings out both best and worst in people. Perhaps, I could even say it even becomes a test of human nature.

I just saw on Facebook a comment which read, “God, please put a hedge round my county so we don’t get the virus.” My instant thought was, why? Why is one person’s county or one person’s ministry more important than that of anyone else. It felt such a selfish response. As is extreme hoarding, which ultimately deprives others in need. Yet, as a balance, I have seen great generosity. I have read of people offering to share what they have and to help those in need. 

There will probably be a difficult few weeks ahead for everyone. Lots of uncertainties abound. One of the things we talked about at the community ZOOM chat last Monday was kindness. Kindness is important especially in times of crisis. So maybe, in the next few weeks, there will be many opportunities for kindness to be shown. Kindness matters!