Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Intimate Violence: Light

sunrise from my attic window
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Also known as "intimate violence", domestic violence takes many forms. Domestic violence hides under rugs and behind closed doors. It lurks in relationships, often unknown to friends and family who visit in our homes. Intimate violence is perpetuated by parents, spouses, children, cousins, friends, and lovers. Intimate violence is hard to get away from, since it is closer to your skin than underwear. Intimate violence becomes a way of life that seems normal, usual, like everybody else. It fogs perception for perpetrator and victim. It tears apart one's soul.

Like roaches, intimate violence scatters in the light. But like roaches, it comes back when the light is off and the door is closed. One month a year isn't enough, but I'll take this month and blog daily on the topic of intimate violence. Today is a church day, so I'm reposting from October 2009. Fresh words tomorrow.


A group of us gathered in that October for a service focused around intimate violence--the violence perpetuated by family members, close friends, lovers, spouses, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. We meditated on what it meant to live in fear. And we remembered. You're not alone in this, but if it feels that way, make your way to my doorstep. Email is katiesmulligan@gmail.com and this meditation is for you.

October, 2009, Princeton Theological Seminary
by Katie Mulligan


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

There are days when I cannot stand being in church. This is one of them. There are days like this one when my reflection on the violence around me sensitizes me to the abuse of power, words, and bodies to the point that I can barely stand to be enclosed within four walls. On those days, when the memories of fear and shame are triggered by the everyday, careless uses of power around me, I come to church wondering how this can be a place of healing and safety. I long for wide open spaces.

On days like this, I find it difficult to submit to a narrative of power and authority, for I know that I, like many others in this room, have found my way out from under the oppression of another person’s unjust rule. I hear the words that God is all good and all powerful, and that this makes all the difference. But quite honestly, the people who perpetuate intimate violence claim also to be good in their power. On days like this, when I am steeped in the memories, I long for wide open spaces, where power and authority are flattened and equalized. The four walls of a church bear down and I fix my eyes on the door.

On days like this, even the very words of scripture wrap around me, strangling life. I read through these beautiful words of John of creation, of darkness and light, how the Word was God and with God and all things came into being through him. And while I can hear and see the beauty, I am also aware of how even in just these 5 lines the church has found ways to damage and violate sisters and brothers in the name Christ. As I read through these five lines and hear how once again God (and therefore power and authority) has been equated with a masculine figure, I shrink a little inside. I read in the study notes of my Bible this remark: “Darkness is total evil in conflict with God; it cannot overcome.” And on these days when I am acutely aware of the way in which we use words to imprison others, I think on how darkness as evil has become a way of understanding people and perpetuating violence and racism against whole groups of vulnerable human beings. 

I bring these thoughts, these fears, these memories and connections to church with me, and they are not well understood by those who refuse to reflect on the violence that surrounds us. And I shrink a little inside. I long for wide open spaces. I fix my eyes on the door out of the church.

We come here tonight, each with our own stories. Some of our stories are violent and frightening—they are stories that are not usually welcome in polite company. They are stories that we sometimes cannot tell to our family and friends because they involve our family and friends. For those of us caught up in intimate violence, our safest spaces have been violated—and we have seen for ourselves that the potential for violence and violation exists in every place and in every time. In this way we become broken and small—intimate violence, whether it is physical or sexual or spiritual strips away pieces of our bodies and souls and leaves us conscious of how fragile we are. For many of us, we are never the same again.

Tonight I wish to celebrate this one small thing that for me is everything. In the midst of violence and terror, shame and fear—even in the midst of knowing that others do not wish to discuss what has happened in our lives, we nevertheless are gathering in this chapel. We gather in this place of power and authority, where the word of God Omipotent is preached, and despite everything that has tried to extinguish life and love and trust from our souls, we dare to speak openly of intimate violence. This piece of my soul that held on to life regardless of all that happened to me and around me is a rather wild piece of my soul. It doesn’t conform well to four walls, and it has a habit of messing with scripture in order to keep from strangling.

But what I see in this scripture tonight is that where we meet God is exactly in that wild piece of our souls that holds on to life. Those of us trapped and oppressed by individuals and powers who seek to extinguish the life God gave us can find at our center a wild and raging current of life that refuses to allow the death of the soul. We gather tonight in this sanctuary, even though the wildness in our souls might prefer wide open spaces. We gather tonight to testify to life. We gather to testify to the life of our brothers and sisters whose bodies did not survive. We gather to draw strength and healing from one another—from sisters and brothers who will meet our eyes as we tell our stories of violence. Look around, because the people in this room are people to whom you can tell your stories—and I charge you all with that. If you are here tonight, you are part of that wild, raging current of life, and we need you.

In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...What has come into being in the Word was life, and the light was the liberation and survival of all people. The Word shines in the midst of violence and oppression and intimate violence did not extinguish us.

Amen.

1 comment:

  1. okay, i wrote some words and the blogspot goon ate them.

    Some images: Aslan, wild, not safe, but good.

    Life rages on, it is not simple, or kind.

    Just finished reading the Help for the second time and it was beautiful b/c the woman caught in domestic violence finally decided she was worth enough to get out. Not, I'm fed up (though she was). Not, I can't bring one more life in to this violence (though she was pregnant). No, I am something, and I am worth more than what he offers me.

    It takes us all time to get to that point of pulling out of a relationship no matter how twisted, to realize, I am me. We are stupid, so I'm unwrestling myself, turning the W to be a M.

    (Wow, I am tired and babbling. Anyways, no more crickets.)

    xo,
    SL

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