April is both National Minority Health and STD Awareness Month. This month we will feature blogs that focus on what we are faithfully calling, “Sexually Transmitted Silence.” The contributors will explore various aspects of silence deeply rooted in the black church and community as they relate to our sexual health and specifically STDs. Topics will include theology of silence, examining the role of shame and self-worth, the sin of silence, exploring silence as a perpetrator for the spread of STDs, and the silence of ignorance. The first blog in the series was “Deathly Silence” written by Reverend Toni Kemp. Below is the second, The Sin of Silence, written by Reverend Penny Willis.
Rev. Penny Willis
The Sin of Silence
This post is more than simply my blog for the series; it is a glimpse into a conversation between God and I, a result of the Holy Spirit working within me.
As I sat in church on Communion Sunday a few weeks ago, thoughts of writing this week’s blog interrupted my concentration on worship. I was expecting God to give me some ideas of what to say. I was hoping God would meet me in the sanctuary of my mind as I sat in the sanctuary of the church house trying to focus on worshipping God with the other saints gathered in that place. I wanted God to give me a way to frame the thoughts that have been on my mind for the last month and that have led to this series, Sexually Transmitted Silence. I was looking for confirmation that my thoughts were Spirit-inspired and indeed God-breathed. I invite you to read this post with that understanding.
First Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ is the day we take Communion. Before we engage in the ritual of acknowledging Jesus and his atoning sacrifice, we are asked to stand together as a congregation and corporately recite our church’s Confessions of Sins. It was during the reading, the metaphoric space between paragraphs, that God showed me what questions to pose in this blog:
Almighty and Most Merciful Father, we come before You, acknowledging our sins, our shortcomings and our breaking of our Covenant with You.
April is both National Minority Health and STD Awareness Month. This month we will feature blogs that focus on what we are faithfully calling, “Sexually Transmitted Silence.” The contributors will explore various aspects of silence deeply rooted in the black church and community as they relate to our sexual health and specifically STDs. Topics will include, theology of silence, examining the role of shame and self-worth, the sin of silence, exploring silence as a perpetrator for the spread of STDs, and the silence of ignorance. We begin the series with”Deathly Silence” by Rev. Toni Kemp.
This month is National STD Awareness Month, a national health observance sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help break the silence and alert everyone to the growing crisis of STDs in America. Public awareness and knowledge are both critically important to combating the epidemic levels of STD infections in the U.S. and worldwide.
The Bible tells us that we are all God’s creation and workmanship. Psalm 139 states, “that we were knitted together in our Mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made.” But the Prophet Habakkuk also enlightens us with truth; telling us, “that the people shall parish for lack of knowledge.”
According to The American Social Health Association, Did you knowit has been estimated that:
- One in two Americans will contract an STD at some point in their lifetimes
- An estimated 65 million Americans are living with a viral STD
- STDs are spreading at a rate of 19 million new cases each year
- One in two sexually active persons will contract an STD by age 25
- One in four teens contract an STD each year
- Less than half of adults ages 18 to 44 have ever been tested for an STD other than HIV
- Over 6 million Americans acquire the virus that causes genital warts each year
- An estimated one in four Americans (50 million) have genital herpes; and, about 1.6 million new infections occur each year
- More than $8 billion is spent each year to diagnose and treat STDs and their complications
This information is both staggering and alarming, particularly when we know that this can be prevented!
Rev. Penny Willis
“They overcame the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11
“Three words, eight letters, three syllables I waited my entire life to hear I…Love…You. For a guy to say these words to me and mean it, that’s all I ever wanted…so when he told me I was beautiful, when he told me that he loved me. When he pulled up Drake on his iPod and put the headphones to my ear and whispered that I was The Best He Ever Had…I got lost. I got lost in his “I Love You”…because that was all it took. One I Love You to flow. One minute before my virginity broke…for him to give it. One day for me to get it. One week for me to get tested. One year before I could accept it…One second for me to process that I had it…That I laid down hoping for love and got up with HIV instead.”
This excerpt from a play written by Yorri J. Berry and performed by a 16 year old female during a performance of the Backpack Monologues at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ (CBUCC) on this past Saturday, is a reality for many African-American girls and women including African-American church going, Bible-believing, God-fearing African-American women and girls. I know this because I sit in places where I hear the testimonies of women and girls who have looked for love, trusted their bodies and spirits to the “I Love You’s only to end up HIV positive and/or pregnant and HIV positive.
Nelson Jerome Pierce, Jr.
Sometime late last year, inside a trailer given out for emergency shelter in Cleveland, Texas an 11 year-old girl was gang raped by at least 18 males between the ages of 14-27. Apparently several of the perpetrators chose to record this assault that took place over several hours on their cell phones. As of the last news update, the police arrested the 18 males: thirteen adults and five adolescents that were strongly believed to have been apart of the vicious act, and stated that there may be more arrests to come. Several of the family members of those arrested and a few other residents of Cleveland, one of them a well-known community leader, have started a media campaign whose primary agenda seems to be to discredit the victim. They have made statements to the press saying that she wears make-up, that she dresses provocatively, and that she talks about sex on her Facebook page. The mother of a 19 year-old boy who is accused of the rape even went so far as to say that the real injustice of the issue was that the girl’s mother should have known her whereabouts at the time of the rape and did not.
I believe that God is interested in the wholeness and the redemption of all people. When applied to this 11 year-old girl, I believe that her need for wholeness and redemption is not because she has done something that needs to be “fixed”. She is a surviving-victim; to assign blame to her is to victimize her all over again. The present need for wholeness exists because she has experienced a tragedy, and whenever tragedy occurs there is a need for us to be healed from the resulting scars. It is also imaginable that she has heard the attempts of those in her community to blame her for being raped, and that she may begin to internalize their attacks and blame herself. If that occurs, that internalization can lead her to carry feelings of guilt and shame that could lead her to isolate herself from God’s healing and transformative love. It is from this internalization and isolation that she needs to be redeemed.
Rev. Antoinette Kemp
Last week I attended a forum and participated in a panel discussion regarding issues of reproductive justice at a well known university in the south. The discussion was full of energy, questions and comments in discovery. As a woman of color and leader in the faith community, I must admit my disappointment, but not surprise in the lack of attendance from the black community. White women, Asian women and a couple of White males who acknowledged their particular interest in the conversation were present at the table. I was grateful for one participant who invited us to read a recent article printed in the New York Times, entitled “The War on Women”. I took her advice and after reading the article my disappointment reached a deeper threshold of concern. The article shared quote “the House of Representatives [is] mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases”. These egregious cuts are included in the house resolution to eliminate the support for Title X. (The Federal Family Planning Program for low-income women).
Nelson Jerome Pierce, Jr.
If I had to select one word to be emblematic of our current political landscape, that word would be, division. There are the noticeable divisions such as those between the economic classes and those between political ideologies. There are also less noticeable divisions, such as those that exist within the Christian community among political lines. While denominationalism makes many divisions in the Christian church very apparent, the political divisions are often less apparent to those who do not pay attention. However just because people may not be able to name these divisions we would be naïve to think that they do not hinder our witness about God and the unity that we share in Christ.
On rare occasions, and normally in the wake of a crisis such as Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti, we can see examples of broader cooperation among churches and Christian organizations that would normally disagree. However, there is a need for more such examples and for a greater level cooperation; especially in today’s fractured political environment. I believe that perhaps the best place for the church to begin to demonstrate such cooperation is in the fight to end the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS has had on America and the world. As we enter into the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, I offer three reasons why this struggle is the perfect one to unite us.
- Rev. Antoinette Kemp
I don’t know about you but there have been many times in my life when I have experienced the Beloved Community, “the Church,” as an institution of isolations. There have been moments when the Community appeared to take a leave of absence from living out what it means to be a community of love. When the later happens, it is often because churches continue to perpetuate the social sickness of the culture and fail to fully address the realities of life. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about celebrating who we are just as we are, and learning to love ourselves in order to truly love others. I was poised to encourage reframing our understandings of Love, and all the societal untruths we are constantly bombarded with in regards to who we are as a people created by God, and in the image of God.
Perhaps some of you may be able to relate to my reflection today. I attended a worship service on the Sunday prior to Valentine’s Day. I sat there, attentive to the message and the comments made reflecting on Love and Valentine’s Day that echoed the nature of God’s love within us. In response to the message, married couples were invited to the altar for prayer that God would strengthen, protect and reign in their relationship. Each couple turned to each other and offered a beautiful affirmation of love to one another.