She is in the Bible.
She was a queen.
She was respected.
She was banished.
Do you remember her? Queen Vashti was married to King Ahasuerus before Esther became queen. Most readers know of Esther because she was the one to stop the total destruction of the Jews by going to her husband and telling him that she was Jewish and that Haman (his right hand man) was going to have all the Jews killed. The King stopped the annihilation and Esther has always been spoken of as brave and courageous.
But what about Queen Vashti?
Queen Vashti was beautiful, she was loved. Her husband, the King, decided to drink some wine with some friends and asked the Queen to come out in her royal crown in order to show the people and the officials her beauty.
She said no.
She did not want to be paraded around, perhaps touched or fondled by the drunken men. She said no because she didn't want her life to be about her beauty and she did not want to be taken advantage of.
And she was banned.
She was banned and her title of Queen was taken from her.
Women have been blamed and lost their titles for years- all the way back to the beginning of time. If a woman doesn't want to be paraded about, if she doesn't give in to her employers demands if she tells that there is sexual harassment going on, she is punished. She is blamed and she is held accountable for the actions of her perpetrator.
So what about her? What about the she that speaks out? Or the one that stay hidden? Or the woman that bears it all of her life and finally says something, finally has the strength to confront her abuser/perpetrator/the one that assaulted her. What about her?
What happens to her? I would like to assume that our world has advanced from the days of Queen Vashti. That our world has learned to listen to women, that our world has learned to hold perpetrators accountable but that is not the case. In our own city, right here in Kansas City, a Judge, Judge Hughes, sat on the bench ruling over city domestic violence cases and always- ALWAYS- was very lenient on the abuser. I could never quite understand it....until the day he too was arrested for domestic violence.
How does that happen?
How do we allow people to be in power and to make decisions that impact our lives and our country that are abusive or sexually assault women?
I want to be clear, that as a Pastor I believe in the power of grace. I believe that we have the ability to forgive those that have trespassed us. I say that prayer every week and I believe it. Yet, I also very strongly believe that as a society and a culture people, ALL people, have to be held accountable for their actions.
So what about her?
What do we do about the woman that speaks out and is told that she isn't believable because she was talking like a child? Or because she couldn't remember exactly when it happened? Or because she didn't know where she was or because she said she had been drinking?
We believe them.
We fight for justice for those that can't fight for themselves.
We follow our living God and Jesus Christ and fight for the oppressed.
Isn't that what the Gospel is about? When God created this world, God created it for people to take care of it. God created it for us to love one another and to do God's will. Jesus preached this everywhere he went. He knocked tables over in the temple, he challenged the Pharisees and Scribes, he held hands with the leper, he touched the bleeding woman, he stopped the woman from being stoned. Jesus fought for the rights of others; for ALL of us to be heard and for those that need to be held accountable to be so.
I haven't used the name or the situation that is triggering this post yet we all know why I am writing this. Yet, this is nothing new for me to say. Nothing new for me to write and my views on violence against women will always remain the same. To simply believe. To understand that women have the right to say no, that trauma survivors will often forget things and details due to the trauma of what happened and that women often risk everything when they say enough is enough and stand up to the one that is hurting or has hurt them.
Queen Vashti said no. She refused to be treated in that way and it cost her everything.
I pray today that all women know their strength, know their power and that we all come together as people, simply people, trying to do what is right in this world.
Our one commandment- to love God with all our heart mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I blare this song daily on my way to work, I blame my sister for that. But know you are brave, that you are held and you are loved.