Love as an act of defiance

by Cheon Young Cheol

CWM welcomes and gladly partners with the Thursdays in Black movement, with its roots in the women’s movements, peoples’ movements and ecumenical movement. At its meeting in Singapore in Feb 2019, the CWM Board reiterated its commitment to building homes, families, churches and communities free of violence through its member churches. CWM commits to making available resources in accompanying member churches in preventing and eliminating all forms of violence, and the culture of violence which may lead to changes in churches’ constitutions and policies, especially as they affect the lives and dignity of women and children.

CWM uplifts this movement and resolution on Valentine’s Day noting how the roots of Valentine’s Day lie not in romance but in defiance. The Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men because he believed that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Valentine was a priest and physician. As someone who ministered to the bodies and souls of his people, Valentine realized the injustice of such a decree. So, he defied Claudius’ decree and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine embodied defiance of empire and militarisation but also, rooted within it, patriarchy’s presumed power over the bodies of its subjects.

We know that many women, men and children continue to embody this blessed defiance to the demands and desires of empire and patriarchy. But at deep cost. We stand with the vulnerable communities who are so often the victims of violence: women, children, people of minority ethnicity in their community, sexual minorities and people with disabilities. We stand together with the victims of violence and demand that this violence cease. We are committed to loving acts that heal these harms:

The harm to women and men through sexual violence and rape.

The World Health Organisation indicates that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide has experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

The harm to children, inside the home, and most shamefully of all, inside churches, through all forms of abuse. Nearly three out of four children experience violence each year, around 1.7 billion children experience some form of abuse over the course of a year, according to a 2017 report by the organisation, “Know Violence in Childhood”.

The harm to sexual minorities, especially when many churches are complicit and even vocal in homophobia. Only one country in 10 actively protects the human rights of sexual minorities. In 2017, 23 countries have legalized same-sex marriage, yet 71 countries still criminalize same-sex acts.

Churches must play their part in ending the violence against these communities and people God made in God’s image and love.

In 1 Cor 13, Paul doesn’t prescribe who can love, but advocates what love looks like and feels like if it is to be recognised as love. Thus, love is uplifted as a blessing, as creative, healing, gentle, transformative. Christians often claim to be loving, even and especially of those with whom they disagree. But it is not for Christians to make such a claim, rather it is for those they disagree with. For many, Christian’s claim to ‘love’, is a noisy gong and clanging bell, concealing hatred and discrimination.

We live with economies, systems, cultures inside and outside our churches, which claim our bodies and souls causing hurt and harm to women, men, children and the Earth. CWM calls on its member churches to mark Thursdays in Black and challenges them to living commitment to the action and transformation which comes from radical love which defies oppressive imperial, patriarchal and religious powers. We are followers of one who embodies an uprising of love: the Christ who is the overflow of the Trinity’s love, sweeping up the oppressed and marginalised into a tide of transformation which pulled the powerful down from their thrones in the palaces, board rooms, bedrooms and church offices of our world. And in this, “Love never gives up”, and faith, hope, and patience never fail.

Learn more about the World Council of Churches’ call to join the Thursdays in Black campaign here

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