Recently my daughter sent me a text while I was in a meeting at work. She’d dropped her children to school that morning and had been horrified by a t-shirt another parent was wearing – it had a large photo of a barely dressed woman on it.
My daughter believes that what we say and do, and in this case what we wear, in public affects the community. She’s convinced, quite rightly I think and social scientific research would agree, that gratuitous sexual images of women anywhere, let alone on a parent’s t-shirt at school drop-off time, are offensive and contribute to many social problems. Problems like violence against women and the ongoing treatment of women as second-class citizens.
Now the reason my daughter was texting me that day was certainly to tell me the story of what had happened but mainly to ask if her planned response was the right one. She said, “If the parent is there this afternoon I am going to have a friendly chat… that’s the right thing to do as a first step, isn’t it?”
My initial thought was “No! Don’t do that! You might get punched or laughed at or ignored.” I texted my daughter to say, “Why not wait and see if it happens again – maybe the message will get through to the parent another way and the t-shirt won’t reappear.”
My response was a protective, mothering one – I was concerned for my daughter’s well-being. But my response was also a fine example of the problem. You see the well-being of our communities is undermined when individuals act as if they can say and do what they want without any reference to how it affects others – and it is going to take individuals with courage, like my daughter, calmly, kindly and firmly calling out what is damaging to our communities. If we want to live in good community, then someone has to be responsible.
This reminded me of what a long-ago follower of Jesus wrote to some people living in the ancient city of Corinth. Paul told the people "all of you, take responsibility; do what God asks you to in the situation God has called you to."
Of course, we always need to be careful and very mindful of sensible precautions, but if my daughter doesn’t speak out for the sake of the community she lives and serves God in then who will?
What about the communities that you and I live in? What do you need to speak about calmly, kindly and firmly for the well-being of the people you live amongst?
Lead Pastor - Lesmurdie Baptist Church