Praying Ground

Praying today for Raif Badawi. Also for his judges and jailers. And for the victims and survivors of the latest Boko Haram massacre, and the men who killed. The older I get, the more it seems to me that it’s as necessary to pray for light to enter the hearts of those who kill and maim as it is to pray for the victims. On any given day, it’s hard to be certain of my own righteousness, so I can’t, in good conscience, assert the steadiness of my own capacity for goodness.

Also, epiphanies and the entrance of light into the hearts of the men who commit crimes against innocents in the name of a mangled god would be both the most brutal wound any being could inflict on them, at the same time that it would be, perhaps, the beginning of salvation for them. So it’s not like I’m wishing them ease.

As a blogger who is prone to be a bit blunt now and again about one or another authority in my country/culture, I will admit to finding myself more than a little attached to Badawi’s survival. The worst thing that is ever likely to happen to me is trolls, who can be plenty vile (some of the best of the fatosphere bloggers have been silenced by their vileness), but my government is never going to respond to anything I say by sentencing me to 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks. Wahabi needs to go away as a denomination of Islam. It’s extremist and, like all extremisms, nothing more than proof-texted fear and loathing.

I have a lot of atheist friends–no surprise given that I’m a writer and an academic. Some of them are kind of fierce about it–prone to mistake faith for its misuse by humans (who are terribly prone to being jerks)–and some of them are quiet about it and just find ways to keep respecting me in spite of my being openly religious (note that I said “openly,” not “consistently”). I have a lot of more-conservative-than-me religious friends. I suspect that they sometimes suspect me of being a little lax, a little fuzzy, a little under-evangelical and too-loosely-Bible-driven. I’m pretty sure Jesus thinks I’m a bit of a jerk at least 50% of the time. And I will admit openly that I do not have a very conventional understanding of prayer or its efficacy or my ability to make things change by employing my fairly flimsy praying skills. It’s sort of on that terrifyingly short list of What I Can Do About It (“it” being anything that is wounding the planet or its beings). As near as I can figure, the rest of that list consists of  “Show Up,” “Feed People,” “Behave Well,” “Be Grateful,” “Speak Truth As Best You Can,” and “Shut Up Occasionally.” Not a lot of agency in there. No superpowers.

It confuses me on some profound level when people who preach the gospels/prophecies of a God whose love manifests itself in the creation of a physical (embodied, incarnated) universe are so willing, even eager, to rape and ravage that same creation, or members of it. I desperately want Boko Haram and the Saudi authorities (and all the zillions of other religious extremists within the traditions of Abraham) to understand how they betray their God every time they lift a whip, a gun, a torch, or a stone to another body. I’m pretty sure I’m doomed to confusion here. So, however inadequately (as if there were such a thing in this context as adequacy), I pray. For both victims and persecutors, though, given a choice, I’d have my prayers land on the victims first.

Another thing I am relatively sure of is that, at its ground, feminism is about the protection of the individual body and the spirit manifested therein–about recognizing the sanctity of human bodies, regardless of gender or color or size or virtue. We call it Feminism because women’s bodies have so consistently been the sites of failure to respect the body. So what is happening to Mr. Badawi is a feminist issue, just as the mass kidnapping and rape and forced conversion and marriage of African girls is a feminist issue, and just as the murders of Black men by policemen is a feminist issue. I don’t mean to bland the movement down by over-generalizing it. I mean that all bodies come from women’s bodies, so all bodies are a feminist issue. Just as, for me at least, all bodies wear the face of Creation.

Therefore, I will pray.

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