Rebecca Solnit wrote in The Guardian, Tuesday 30 December, about the unprecedented power women’s voices assumed in 2014.
She asked why the issue of violence against women has finally come to the fore. Why has something that’s long been tolerated become intolerable – or rather, why are the people for whom it’s intolerable finally part of the conversation? Why is it possible to talk about what has long been hushed up, glossed over, trivialised and dismissed?
The world in which rape, sexual assault and violence against women happened has already changed, she says, and it has changed thanks to the ground-breaking work of earlier generations so that feminist voices on crucial issues have become normal and more or less mainstream.
Another factor in the change is the rise of social media. At its best, social media is what users make of it, and activists have created a sort of Greek chorus to the dramas of our lives and world. Social media can build arguments comment by comment, challenging, testing, reinforcing and circulating the longer arguments in blogs, essays and reports. It’s like a big barn-building for ideas to which people bring their experiences, insights, analysis, new terms and frameworks.
Down the road, what was once a radical idea becomes so woven into everyday life that people imagine that it is self-evident and what everyone always knew. But it’s not – it’s the result of a struggle – of ideas and voices, not of violence.
We in the Church have not yet reached this critical point. We are living with an international epidemic of Christian homophobia in the Anglican Communion, rampant in parts of Africa and fuelled by strong support from deeply prejudiced individuals and organisations in North America and parts of the UK. Anglican homophobia is tolerated by too many in Western democracies where equality for LGBTI people has become or is becoming properly normative.
The Shared Conversations in the Church of England are being constructed on the basis that less extreme anti-gay voices must have a place in the Conversations. This is why we are having the Conversations in the first place – because some Anglicans think LGBTI people are not entitled to full and equal inclusion in the Church. And it is because of the requirement to include anti-gay voices that I am so hesitant to offer my full hearted support to the process.
In truth, this is a shocking place from which to start and would be seen as intolerable if it were a conversation about violence based on race or violence against women.
The use of Scripture to justify homophobia is shocking. We need to remind Archbishops and bishops over and over again that they abuse the Bible to justify intolerance towards and the abuse of LGBTI people.
We need to remind them over and over again until something that’s long been tolerated become intolerable and the people for whom it’s intolerable finally become an integral part of the conversation in this and every Province of the Anglican Communion, talking about what has long been hushed up, glossed over, trivialised and dismissed.