Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Had you heard?
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, there was a total absence of love hearts, pink, flowers, red, chocolate, and glitter at my house yesterday, but I did read one article that got me thinking about Valentine’s Day in a different way.
One of my former students, lovely Jo, wrote a post for the Christian Aid Collective blog, talking about the One Billion Rising campaign. You can read her article here.
Because whilst the Valentine’s Day brand is splashed across TV and magazines and window displays and internet pop-ups, some women aren’t feeling the romance, just another day of violence at the hands of those who are supposed to love them.
Here’s a fact: 1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s a lot of people, about 1 billion in fact, hence One Billion Rising.
You can read all about it here, but the short version is this: to protest against the reality of this everyday, but horrendous, violence against so many, they wanted 1 billion people to join in a global dance. A protest, a show of solidarity, and an opportunity to raise awareness.
But I never know how to feel about these kind of campaigns.
This is a subject that hurts to think about and to talk about. It is real, and awful. It is wrong. But I’m reluctant to sign petitions saying that I disagree with violence against women, because I feel like it’s such an obvious thing to disagree with that signing a petition saying so is foolish. What kind of reprobate doesn’t disagree with violence against women?
And yet, just because something’s obvious doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say it.
You see, I don’t really think that the 1 Billion Rising campaign will work – if the aim is to end violence against women. Violence against women (and men, and children) is going to stop; but not until we’re living on a new earth, with changed hearts, tears that are wiped away, and no more mourning, crying, or pain.
The sickness in our hearts that causes men to rape and beat women is not going to be fixed by One Billion Rising.
But. Maybe, One Billion Rising can do something else. Maybe it can tell those 1 in 3 that what has happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen is not good, or right, or acceptable. It is wrong. It is bad. It is not deserved. It is not to be expected. It is not to be tolerated.
It is evil. And something ought to be done about it.
So, where’s God in all of this?
One of my favourite verses in the Bible (I have a few), is in the beginning of the book of Exodus. God’s people are suffering great evil and violence at the hands of pharaoh and they cry out in their anguish for a rescue. Chapter 2 ends with this line.
“God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”
When I read that verse I feel like I’m pausing at the top of the waterfall, peering over the edge, waiting to drop. Those words, ‘God knew’, are heavy with terrible anticipation: He knows and he’s ready to act – to save, and to judge. Cue Moses, 10 Plagues, death of lambs and firstborn sons, a divided Red Sea, and rescue to a Promised Land.
That rescue only points towards a greater one, one which has already begun: another lamb, another son, and another rescue. My heart is evil and full of violence, but Jesus takes it and gives me His; he steps into history and sorts it all out. He hears the cries for rescue – and he knows.
Where is God in all of this? He’s the one who’s beaten, even though we’re the ones who deserve it. He’s the one who waits to return as the Judge; ready to put an end to the pain, and bring in something new.
I’m waiting too. But while I wait, I’m going to stand up and say that that 1 in 3 statistic is not okay. There is better, there is good, there is real love.
Let me tell you about Him.
In summary: belated Valentine greetings.