A new year, a new day is dawning for each of us individually and collectively. We are excited about all of the progress of the Girl Child Long Walk project this past year and hope you are well and finding reason for hope as we turn a page on a very hard year.
At its core, this deep dive, five-month long reading journey (which we are still in the middle of) is a journey of exodus from the oldest oppression/slavery that very much still has humanity in its chains, despite much progress. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so poetically describes, we have advanced in so many ways, but still are learning how “to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.” The word exodus means “the way out” and is the heart of the Biblical story. Yet it is also a universal struggle that belongs to the whole human family, as we collectively journey from all the ways we have enslaved and subjugated one another and banished some from the ranks of the freeborn.
As the world is observing, here in the U.S. 2021 is off to a rocky start with the insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and the subsequent attempts at a reckoning in the halls of our democracy. There are many layers to the trauma still unfolding in the U.S., but as co-authors of the reading journey we are acutely aware of the relevance of this project to this moment in time we’re living through, with all of its struggles around race, gender, political and religious extremism, social divisions of all kinds, misinformation, and the still conflicted relationship between science and faith.
The restlessness and uncertainty that came with COVID-19 lockdowns found us again turning to our hearts to lament with the Girl Child, because her woes are still far from over. The reports about increases in underage pregnacies, early marriages, and rape and sexual violence reveal that the root causes of violence against women and girls have not been addressed. These reports show us that the “nice stories” we’ve been longing to hear are in fact distortions of what has been going on all along, and they call for deeper conversation and strategies to address these huge underlying beliefs and social norms that shape our attitudes and actions against women and girls. The echoes of their voices can be heard and therefore the wilderness is accessible.
Many are experiencing a deep trauma and soul-searching as they seek to make sense of the religious overtones of this political movement that began more than four years ago in the U.S. and culminated in a violent siege in Washington, D.C. This is a reminder to all of us to really dig deep to find what is most true and real within our faith journeys. At the core of this reading journey and all we do is the value of curiosity and the belief that as human beings we are all in process as we seek to chart our course in this life and make sense of the great mystery which holds us all in Her embrace and which our limited minds can only glimpse and know on the level of the heart. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls invites us into a new way of thinking that would change our value systems and the ways in which we engage our communities.
Right now, our reading cohort is still wandering through the “Egypt” of the ancient oppression of patriarchy. We’re learning to see and feel with our minds and hearts the ancient yet enduring trauma to the human family when one gender is elevated as king and God, who owns and rules others, while the other is stigmatized as unclean, subhuman, and more like property than a full human being. As people of faith who have been following the humble example of Jesus, we continue to mourn that our own tradition has evolved over the centuries to sanction all sorts of supremacy systems. These include those based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, and also a problematic belief supremacy which has disfigured the very word “faith” to mean conforming your mind to a set of beliefs that have been used and are still being used in a colonial, imperialist way.
Thank you for being on this journey with us to cultivate a more truly free and natural faith/spirituality which can truly move mountains and sustain the indivisible, just peace we seek as a human family.
Our hope on this journey is to encourage you — and ourselves, as we journey with you — to embrace that we are still in process on our human walkabout and as we seek to live from our soul and walk by a faith that can embrace mystery and still find a place of deep inner peace to ground us in all of the tumult and chaos of our world. Know you are not alone and that your journey to cultivate both an inner and an outer freedom is the same exodus sojourn of the Israelites we see in the Bible and every tribe of the human family. We follow in the footsteps of those who have bravely thrown off chains to declare themselves freeborn human beings here to walk together side by side as sisters and brothers on a shared journey.
Blessings as you take your first steps in 2021 to live from the soul and walk freely into what is yours to do this year.