Over at a tumblr page called Public Shaming, the latest article there features a picture of the girl holding her sign as well as internet images from Facebook and Twitter chronicling negative reactions to her sign. The reactions were varied in their accusations. What got my attention was the overall prevailing assumption that because this girl made a statement about vaginas (one that clearly relates to recent actions by legislators to make abortion access more difficult), she must be sexually active (and, more particularly, must be promiscuous or otherwise a slut/whore/prostitute).
A secondary assumption that caught my eye was that this young woman was in some way taking the Lord's name in vain. (As the author of the tumblr page notes, however, she's saying Jesus isn't a dick, rather than saying he is--a rather clever part of her double entendre, in my opinion.)
Christian conservatives are behind much of this negativity. Sometimes I wonder how I keep company in the same religious tradition as people such as these. How is it possible that I claim to follow in the path of the same Christ they claim to follow? How can I call myself a Christian when this is what Christians are like?
Søren Kierkegaard, a devout Christian and famed existentialist philosopher of the 19th century, distinguished between what he called "Christendom" and following Christ, where the former had to do with falling in line with the polite (or, in this century, impolite) opinions and practices of Christian society, and the latter had to do with discerning for oneself, from one's own prayer and study of scripture and tradition, what it meant to take up Christ's cross in one's own circumstances. Kierkegaard would not look kindly on the religious right of 21st century America, I imagine--he would probably denounce it as full of unkindness, full of fear about change, full of unwillingness to imagine the world from the perspective of someone as politically insignificant as a 14-year-old girl.
To debunk the power of this girl's Christendom-threatening message, many right-wing Christians who are anti-abortion and pro-vagina-legislation are attempting, in their social networking comments, to discredit her by slut-shaming her. What is slut-shaming? "Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog" sums it up well: "Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings." To acknowledge one's sexuality (in this girl's case, her vagina) is to be a slut, according to the slut-shamer. Unfortunately, that's not just a logical fallacy. It's a non-sequitur made by a politically powerful crowd, America's modern-day Christendom, to rape a non-powerful person of the most powerful tool she has: her right to speak. Obviously, if she's a slut, she cannot have any authority--at least not in this God-fearing Christian country--to talk about vaginas or what goes in and out of them. (But really, when does any woman have the right in a God-fearing country to talk about vaginas? Vaginas and the people who have them only lead to sin unless God-fearing non-vagina-bearing-people are in charge of them! Right?)
As a Christian particularly and a religious person generally, I am dismayed by the way in which right-wing Christians are lashing out at this young woman. Those Christians don't represent me. More importantly, they don't represent Christ. They represent a "Christian" crowd that apparently prides itself on being no less chauvanistic than the most chauvanistic elements of the Bible, rather than practicing compassion as Christ did.
I challenge my fellow Christians to take a second look at this young woman--without resorting to slut-shaming--and see what it is that she's driving at. Why would she want to keep the anti-abortion legislation of American Christendom "out of her vagina"? What might be at stake for a 14-year old girl in 2013? Imagine for a moment that she's not religion-bashing or Christ-bashing or pro-promiscuity or anti-babies. What key message does she bear about her sexuality, her ability to bear children, and her vagina? What does she have to say that religious people in this country need an open heart to hear?