In combating the crime of rape, the way we see each other can be a major factor. As a news article in today's Monitor indicates, stereotyped views of womanhood and manhood contribute to incidents of rape and to the way a community deals with the crime.
In these stereotypes manhood is defined by aggressiveness and womanhood by vulnerability. And the two are seen to be mutual victimizers. Unchallenged, these stereotypes would form the scripts, not just for some television drama, but for the streets in our hometown.
How do we challenge these destructive views and their effects? We allow God, Spirit, to define for us the true nature of manhood and womanhood.
This defining isn't something that occurred at some point in mortal prehistory, nor is it the result of some interminable social process continuing to set male against female. This defining is actually the appearing to human thought of God's own nature.
God is Father-Mother. That's an insight Mary Baker Eddy n1 had in the latter half of the last century. Prayerfully searching the Bible for a deeper understanding of God and of the works of Christ Jesus, Mrs. Eddy came to see the motherhood and fatherhood of God as not in conflict but in harmony. Hence true manhood and womanhood are unembattled. She writes, ''Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God.'' n2
n1 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 516.
We see exemplified in Christ Jesus' life the ideal of manhood and womanhood - the completeness of spiritual individuality. This individuality is inviolable. It is not pushed around by fashion or tradition, by fear or insecurity. It feels the tenderness and strength that God gives, and it is satisfied.
Jesus' God-given understanding of man's perfect spiritual individuality enabled him to heal disease, reform sinners, and even raise the dead. The Christly understanding of true individuality comes with power today as it did in Jesus' day. It still transforms human thought and action.
As a single woman often traveling alone, I have come to rely on this Christ-power. I find my strongest defense is a prayer to understand more of the wholeness of true individuality. It's not good enough to think of myself as a vulnerable little person seeking God's help. Or even as one of a few spiritual thinkers in a violent world. I find I must grow in my love for the undivided spirituality, the true, God-created selfhood, of each individual. That view of man and woman helps me really begin to love my neighbor as myself.
Every act of kindness, courage, purity, we and others do gives us a glimpse of our real, spiritual individuality. As we love this nature in ourselves and in others, it takes over in our lives, and we begin to feel the nature of God defining our nature.
Then increasingly we cannot be manipulated by stereotypes. They don't tempt us or terrify us. We can't be made to violate even in the smallest way our own or another's individual worth. We recognize the images of aggression, domination , and seduction as worthless fakes in the presence of true manhood and womanhood.
What we are looking for and what the members of our community are looking for is an understanding of this spiritual individuality. There's no substitute for it, because it alone can bind us together in mutual respect and spiritual love. As Paul writes, ''There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free , there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.'' n3
n3 Galatians 3:28.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Great glorious cheerful chaotic city! Even the honking of your horns sounds cheerful. Your holiday spirit is everywhere gliding all drabness with a tinge of glory. You know nothing of the granite-fray day-to-day oppressiveness of other cities. The great are here: they make their presence felt. Your song is always humming under the surface of things and your ceaseless rhythm, never ominous, is the heartbeat of hope. Under your shifting chaos is the solid rock you are built on. Doris Kerns Quinn