Life in the church Honduras has helped me to both simplify and complicate my understanding of prayer, liturgy and worship, and what it means to be Presbyterian. “For God chose us in Christ,” the letter to the Ephesians reads, “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love God predestined us to be adopted as God’s children through Jesus Christ.” This chosen-ness is both eternal and immediate, having taken place before the beginning of the world, and taking place again and again with every immersion of baptism, with every anointing, with every choice we make to follow the rocky road, up a creek bed, in search of Jesus Christ.
Adapted from a reflection written for San Francisco Theological Seminary during Advent 2017.
Over the past ten years in Honduras, Berta Cáceres successfully organized her indigenous Lenca people’s community against a World Bank- and private business-funded dam project that was implemented with little or no input from local inhabitants of the Guadalcarque River. In 2015 she was awarded the prestigious Goldman environmental prize, as the dam project was stalled, and investors fled. In 2016, Cáceres was shot to death in her home, in a town called La Esperanza, which cooincidentally in Spanish means “hope.” Eight men have been arrested, but the murderers have not been brought to justice. Many murderers in Honduras are not.
I imagine that Berta’s heart cries out. But with joy? With hope? Hope for what? She hopes for what she never will see.
The violence menaces still. Honduras is among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, for environmental and political activists, for community organizers, for women. Dozens of activists are killed each year, hundreds of women, with impunity. In three weeks leading up to the national election on Nov. 26, at least four political activists, from various parties, were attacked and killed. At least one protester, a 19-year-old woman, has been killed in the weeks since the election.
I work for the church, a U.S. Presbyterian mission co-worker, partnering with the Honduran Presbyterian church. I do not know what I ought to pray for. Is it enough, surrounded by such menace, to say that we care for our congregants’ souls, and we leave “politics” out on the church steps?
As She—Mary, Berta, Spirit—intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words, we do not know what we ought to pray for. We hope against hope, though we die. The world is about to turn, the hymn says. Until the world turns, creation groans, the earth groans, our very bodies groan, and the body of Christ groans for the redemption that has been promised today, not tomorrow, not after death, but now, in the turning of the world.
I’m mulling these lyrics from Lady Gaga’s new album, Artpop, and trying to decide how upset I should be. I usually appreciate the Lady’s message about ownership of our identity and our bodies, and her own love-hate relationship with fame. This song, Do What U Want, opens with an indictment of the press for its attitude of ownership of stars.
And in the chorus, Gaga sings:
“You can’t have my heart
And you won’t use my mind but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want with my body
You can’t stop my voice cause
You don’t own my life but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want (with my body)”
I appreciate the ownership of mind, heart and voice that Gaga is celebrating, but I disagree that our bodies, women’s bodies, can be sacrificed with no consequences to psyche or emotional well-being. I think women must claim as much ownership of our bodies as we do of our minds and hearts. The one is as valuable as the others.
Will the message of the song be received in the “F-U” spirit is is given, or will the chorus be sung over and over with no sense of irony and attitude that is usually evident in Gaga offerings? I’m not sure. If her performance on Saturday Night Live with duet partner R. Kelly is any indication, Gaga is morphing the line between public and private life, and public and private bodily behavior. That conversation is one that needs to happen more often. I hope that women are encouraged to strive for harmony and not damaging disconnection between body and psyche.