As an Episcopal priest, every time I pray the words of the Eucharistic prayer “ we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies,” I think of a book my mother bought me in 1971 when I was fourteen years old, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” Some may find this blasphemous. What can I say? It happens. There I am standing at the altar, reverently praying these words from the “traditional” Rite I liturgy, words that invite us into a transformational relationship with God through the living presence of Jesus Christ, and suddenly I have a memory of this other transformational book.
“Our Bodies Ourselves” changed the lives of women of a certain age. We learned about our anatomy in graphic detail, and the door was opened to talk about aspects of our selves that were formally taboo. Who would have imagined that 42 years later the conversation on women’s anatomy and health care would devolve?
The current political discourse on women reveals an antiquated ideology that is grossly misinformed. It’s frightening, actually. And it’s not just men who are touting this stuff, some women and girls seem to believe it too.
I was born into the Mormon Church, a descendent of pioneers who settled Utah and southern Idaho. I know something about institutional leadership that insists on informing how one thinks. I understand the subtlety of controlling information and belief. And, as is evident with the Vatican effort to take over the nuns in the Roman Catholic tradition, this threat is not limited to Mormonism or fundamentalism, or Islam. From my own experience I understand how a person can be sheltered, limited, contained, controlled, and told what to think so often he or she believes it.
Like every woman I have experienced abuse in some form – mind, body, or spirit – we all encounter it. My personal stories are just like yours. I could tell you the story of my aunt who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound…or, was she murdered in her bed, a victim of spousal abuse? We’ll never know. I could tell you the story of my mother, raped in the foyer of her apartment building when she was in her forties. I could tell you the story of my college roommate who, before abortions were legal, sought out an illegal one and almost bled to death from a botched backroom procedure. These are some of the “stories” that formed me into the woman I am today, a woman who strives to be informed.
Sadly, in this political climate, the more I know, the worse I feel.
We are moving backward.
We are moving backward in time when the current draft for the GOP Platform calls for a “human life” Constitutional amendment and a full ban on abortion with NO exceptions.
We are moving backward in time when legislators spend crucial time debating archaic concepts of women’s health care, instead of addressing the real needs of poverty, hunger, unemployment, increasing violence and the need for gun control.
Actually, we are not moving backward – are spiraling through a new reality. And that reality is a nightmare.
But I have hope. I am a perpetual optimist! The Christians I know today, both men and women, are informed. We hold a progressive theology, one that embraces solid teachings of Christ calling us to acts of justice.
As a former massage therapist and now a priest with a Masters in Social work, seeking holistic health of mind, body, and spirit, for all people, has been foundational in my ministry and in my life. I believe that we have a sacred relationship with the Divine. The sacredness of that relationship mandates the health of all people, our whole selves.
Caring for ourselves is a personal matter. It is not appropriate for any institution to legislate how we care for our whole selves. However, we do need legislation that enables – and institutions that support us – in our effort to be healthy, regardless of the specific circumstances of our lives.
In the end it isn’t really just a woman’s issue. All people need access to safe, affordable, comprehensive health care. It’s about justice and respecting the dignity of every human being, loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.