Zoom Meeting Sermon May 21 2023

 Topic: Recommended Reading: The Handmaid’s Tale

Today we will be talking about The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published in 1985, and the distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to.”

In the novel, the narrator talks about “freedom from.” She and her sisters are held captive by the patriarchy, forced into reproductive servitude until they can no longer bear viable children. But they are free from random sexual violence, so they can fulfill their “biological destiny” in peace. This “freedom from” comes at the cost of bodily autonomy and self-determination. Every woman is given a role, and anyone who cannot bear children but also cannot serve in another capacity is relegated to a concentration camp. There is no place in this dystopia for the disabled, the transgendered, or the queer. There is very little ethnic diversity described in the book, although the dramatization includes women of color and an interracial relationship.

The scariest thing about this vision of the future is that there are quite a few people, some of them women, who would not have a problem with it. Some Protestant denominations seem to want to take us all back to the 1950’s, when women stayed in the kitchen, gay people stayed in the closet, and black people sat out of sight in the back of the bus. They do not want us controlling our own reproductive systems and choosing if and when we want to have children. They do not want to acknowledge disabled or trans people and would prefer never to see them. And they love the idea of a hierarchy that puts them at the top.

As liberated women, we have “freedom to”: To govern our bodies – at least, we did up until very recently – to determine our own sexual journeys. To select our own partners and wear pretty much whatever we want. We are sometimes subject to violence at the hands of those partners, but it is the price we pay for the “freedom to.”* Our forerunners, pioneers of the feminist movement, fought many battles in order to give us those freedoms. Some women enjoy the freedoms we have without thinking about those who came before or realizing that we must keep fighting those battles with every new generation, because those who would see us lose those liberties will never stop trying to roll them back.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, they opened the floodgates for all kinds of intrusive abortion bans. Idaho made it illegal for an out-of-state doctor to provide an abortion to a minor residing in Idaho. They literally want to prosecute doctors residing in other states, many of which are abortion-friendly, for doing their jobs and treating their patients. This is the kind of thing that we are facing in this country, and it is truly terrifying. The Path teaches us that we have bodily autonomy, and laws like this violate that autonomy.

Do you think that women in America will ever throw off the shackles of the patriarchy for good and take control of their lives? Do you ever wonder what such a world would look like?

*This trade-off is in the book. It is not the opinion or doctrine of the Path. There should be no price for basic bodily autonomy for women, any more than for men.

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