This week’s Torah portion is Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22). In it, the Isrealites are preparing to enter the Promised Land, as the last of the sinful generation have died. Most of the parshah consists of Moses recalling the divinely sanctioned wars they undertook and the mass murder they committed in order to possess the land.
Yet, it is more problematic than that. The deity is understood to be a warrior as are the Israelites. Verses 1:30 reads, “The L-rd, your G-d, Who goes before you… will fight for you, just as G-d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes.” In addition, this warrior mentality requires the Israelites to fight as well. G-d hardens the hearts of Sihon which requires the Israelites to fight (1:27). Thus, war and mass murder become divinely sanctioned methods which G-d and the Israelites use to further the sacred promise of the Land.
“A Day of Silence” occurs tomorrow, April 20th. Created in 1996, University of Virginia students wanted to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment of issues that LGBT students faced on campus. Since then, A Day of Silence makes a statement against those who have tried to silence LGBT teens and young adults in school through harassment, bias, abuse, and bullying. Participating students, led by GLSEN, will hand out cards that read the following:
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”
The issue of bullying LGBT teens resonated with the world when Tyler Clementi took his life in 2010 after his roommate secretly transmitted via webcam Tyler’s sexual encounter with someone of the same sex. Tyler’s suicide brought national attention to the issue of bullying and harassment that LGBT people face. To my chagrin, while writing this article, another victim fell. Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr., a 14-year-old gay teen, committed suicide because of the intolerable harassment and bullying he dealt with at school.
“I…liked how we were neither dogmatic in our judgments (i.e., no one played the role of feminist fashion police), nor laissez-faire in thinking that ‘anything goes’—after all, feminists were the ones who had popularized the slogan the ‘personal is political.'”
At the most recent Society of Christian Ethics annual meeting, I got into an impromptu late night discussion with several women friends about why some of us participate in “beauty culture” and how we feel as feminist Christian ethicists and moral theologians about our decisions. Each of us shared why we have chosen to wear make-up (or not), keep up with fashion (or not), dye our hair grey to mask the signs of aging (or not), or put in the effort to maintain a certain physique (or not). We also addressed what role our own mothers and larger communities have played in our decision-making processes.