Each year on December 6th, we mark 24 years since the Montreal Massacre – that horrific day when Mark Lepine shot and killed 14 women at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal. Lepine wounded 14 others, 10 of whom were also women.
Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student
It’s a dark day, and a dark anniversary. But we celebrate (as if that’s the right word) – we mark these anniversaries day in and day out. Anniversaries of death, and despair that haunt our otherwise lofty notions that our societies are so progressive and compassionate. Anniversaries of death and despair that fall very, very short of the happy ending our culture worships.
When will it end? When will it stop? Will there ever be a day we can say that all violence against women has ceased? I certainly hope so. I pray it will be so. And yet I fear that we face daily reminders that such a future is a long ways off.
“How long, O Lord? How long will you forget us?” the psalmist cries.
“How long, O Lord? How long will you forget us?” we must cry with him.
Reflecting on these things during the season of advent – that time of watching, waiting, unmet expectations and deep anticipation – I can’t help but wonder when God’s kingdom will finally be revealed in full. I wonder when this commonwealth of peace, and justice, of restoration and reconciliation will be with and amongst us.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article for the magazine Faith Today. As part of my research, I had the chance to venture onto the streets with REED (www.embracedignity.org) a group of modern-day abolitionists taking a different approach to the realities of prostitution and violence against women in Vancouver, British Columbia. That evening, as we shared communion outside of one of the city’s high-end sex clubs, bread and wine were passed around, as we celebrated the Eucharist.
As I stood there, I started to get a clearer sense of what it means to celebrate Jesus’ broken body and spilt blood in this world.
Maybe you’ve seen House of Cards, the Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey. In one episode, Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood shares:
“A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.”
Standing outside a sex club, sharing bread and wine, and celebrating a Saviour battered and bruised, we started to make the connection between sex and money and power.
And in that moment I’m aware of the ways in which our own churches play into the same power-filled dynamic. Even as churches celebrate a self-giving, self-empyting Saviour, many of them also exert power of “strong” over “weak”, man over woman, clothing it in soft words meant to cloak the reality.
“But ours is a soft patriarchy.”
“It’s what the Bible tells us is right.”
“It’s just the way God created the world. Who can argue with that?”
These are the voices of the captors. The power-brokers. The dominant.
And they are, far more often than we’d like to admit, the voices of those living with a patriarchy-induced Stockholm Syndrome.
It may be a soft-patriarchy, but violence is violence. And violence must stop. With the Montreal Massacre on my mind, I’m all too aware that much violence in our world is directed towards women. That too must stop. In our churches. Out in the world.
Interviewing Jonathan Wilson, ethics professor at Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver (and father in-law of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), he said this:
“[One of the things] I’ve learned…is that as soon as I speak, I’m speaking from a place of privilege and authority. It’s just very difficult to work against that. But this is the hard work I [and all men] have to do in the same way that women have to do the hard work of finding your voice, and silencing the voices that tell you you’ve said too much, or you’re being too opinionated.”
This is something I have to learn. It’s something I think we all have to learn. In this advent season, as we await the birth of a child whose life starts in obscurity, and ends in humiliation, we might be forced to concede that this whole Christian thing is about power flipped on its head.