When I was in second or third year I was sitting in a seminar at Brock and we were talking about the history of oppression of women.
I was frustrated with the way the conversation was going. I didn’t know why but I think in hindsight (10 years later) I know what bugged me. “Oppression” was rightly being characterized as an injustice, something that causes sorrow and despair.
Yet here I was sitting within a modern Western culture that was being lauded as the salvation of women – with money and opportunity and the most equality ever achieved to this point, educated and speaking freely – and I knew sorrow and despair. I knew things weren’t “right” yet.
So, I said something that made me look like an idiot: “I don’t believe women have always been oppressed.”
What I meant was, we can’t be honestly suggesting that oppression is some sort of monolithic blanket of evil that shriveled the entire corpus of the human spirit until about 100 years ago and now modern Western culture is the pinnacle of progress and peace, creativity and joy…
Of course, a more nuanced answer might be, I don’t believe oppression is the whole story.
“Oppression” is an incomplete picture of what’s really been ailing women in the course of history. The thing we still need, the setting right of all things wrong, is not something that we can achieve if just given enough time and effort. We can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and save the world. We can’t raise the dead and tell them, “Hey, remember how the whole world didn’t value you? They were wrong. You are so wonderful and beautiful inside and out and you are loved for exactly who and what you are!” Where is the hope for them?
Women have been oppressed by their brothers, and sisters, too. The human family is dysfunctional. Cain killed Abel for doing nothing wrong and the Cains of the world haven’t stopped killing innocent Abels. What underlies all that ails us, however, is sin. And then we die. Every one of us. We yearn for more than this world can offer us. We imagine and envision peace and justice and fairness … and life everlasting. Why? Because we were created for more than this world can offer us.
…into this world of darkness and oppression and death…
…came a Light.
The Light. The way, truth and life. In a screaming little infant our God came down from the highest point of heaven – where God’s will was done – into this mess. He moved in. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He set captives free. He walked to the Cross and laid down his life – a perfect offering, the shedding of innocent blood – to pay the price on our heads.
And he defeated death. It may be the worst this evil world can dream up, the worst they could do to him. And he walked through it so that our final resting place would be the Peace of Christ. Our “Rest in Peace” is not a hole in the ground but in the life of Christ. He is alive, and we are alive in Him. He is our home.
We can imagine and envision peace and hope and justice because we were made for that – we were made for the Prince of Peace and a Lord and Saviour who is a just judge, merciful and kind. We can (and should!) work towards that picture of heaven-on-earth, doing for one what we wish we could do for all, participating in the sanctifying work of Jesus (renewing, healing, bringing order, making things right, etc.) that continues by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus talked about, that is both now and not yet. Something not fully realized, but nevertheless something we can glimpse.
But that day when all things wrong will be righted, when all things sad will become untrue, when truth will reign for women and men? That’s judgement day, the return of the one True King, who defeated death and set us – captives to sin and death – free. The resurrection of the dead, life everlasting, a new heaven and new earth.
Crazy. Good. Crazy good news.