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"Pray for the Dead; Fight Like Hell for the Living."

Oct 03, 2007 — Categories:

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” These words from Mother Jones come to mind as we celebrate October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States.

As we participate in workshops, fundraisers, vigils, etc. during this month, I am reminded  once again that this is our task. The battered women’s movement in the U.S. is nearly 40 years old.

Where once there was silence, now there are many voices.

Where once there were no services, now there are over 1,500 shelters to provide safety and support.

Where once there was no notice from the federal government, now there is the Violence Against Women Act and the Office on Violence Against Women in the Dept. of Justice.

Where once there were no judges, police, doctors, or clergy who understood, now there are many who are trained and aware.

Where once there was the illusion that domestic violence didn’t happen in communities of faith, now there is the truth that it happens in all our communities.

Where once there were no laws to protect women and children and hold abusers accountable, now there are many.

Where once one never heard a sermon addressing domestic violence, now there are many (at least during October!).

Having said all that and remembering how things used to be, the bad news is that domestic violence remains common in all our communities. The numbers are still at least 1 in 3 women who will experience violence in her lifetime, frequently from domestic violence. We cannot rest until only 1 in 1,000 women experiences violence, until domestic violence is an odd, peculiar, unusual tragedy in our midst.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Bishop of El Salvador who was assassinated in 1980 because of his resistance against the political repression by the military in his country, made these observations:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work . . .

No statement says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes our mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted . . . We are prophets of a future that is not our own.”

And so we follow Mother Jones’ lead to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” not out of despair or resignation. Rather we do so living in faith, doing what we can with what we have, and letting God do the rest.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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