Jesus does not speak of the end of the world, but of frightening times that will take place within our time.
He says this as a corrective to the awe his friends are feeling at the ordered graceful beauty of the Great Temple of Jerusalem, God’s home among people, or so the temple teaches. Jesus says instead that their home, and God’s with them, is in their times, and will be in days of fear and trembling, in desperate times. And they will be alright, he says, in those times.
Desperate times are, in part, a matter of opinion. New beginnings can be desperate times. Necessary endings can be insurrections. I watch people, fellow citizens, at Trump rallies, shouting Lock Her Up! and I realize that they are as fearful of a Hillary victory as I am of a Trump win. So whatever the outcome on Tuesday, it will be for some of us Americans desperate times.
The beautiful temple of American democracy, which we long to see as decorous and adorned with civility and generosity, has not looked that way lately, if it ever did, and it likely will not look that way on Wednesday, either.
Part of life in the temple of democracy is a continual beating of the bars for change, for the extension of freedom and opportunity to pursue happiness to those who do not yet have it. And all of these rattlings of the chains of oppression are fire and smoke and omens of destruction to some.
Ninety six years ago the fire and smoke that was shaking the nation was an active movement for women’s suffrage.
My mother often recalled going as a small child of three, four, and five, on the train to New York with her mother and brother, to march for suffrage. They lived in what is now suburban Connecticut, and it was an easy journey. My mother remembered that she had a little sash and a white dress just like her mother’s, and her brother a similar sash over his white shirt. And she held her mother’s hand tightly because there were always men who jeered. And she remembered that her mother and grandmother argued about the children going, and her mother insisted they needed to be there. Her father was a strong supporter, a progressive man, who went to work while his family went to march, but when the vote came for women, he joined the celebrations.
But my father’s aunt was married to a man who disapproved of suffrage for women so strongly that, a half-century later, when she died, I found, under the drawer liners in her sideboard, nearly a hundred newspaper clippings about suffrage events and hopes, clippings she had hidden there, printed words that spoke to her about what she could not say out loud in her home but longed for in her life.
My grandmother was the first woman in our town who drove, but my father’s aunt’s husband would not get in a car with a woman driving.
The new world of God is not born in peace and beauty, but lives through insurrections and wars, loud decrying and destruction. And no harm is done to those who endure in faith.
So many dire predictions were made, in pulpits and in newspapers, by politicians and pundits, about the ill effects of suffrage for women. The extra use of their brains, said some doctors, would divert blood from their wombs and render them infertile. The same doctors warned against sending women to college. Others just said women were unfit for a thinking world.
These opinions live on in somewhat altered form, today, among those who believe the most important issue facing America is to force women to bear unwanted children and to urge women not to work but stay home. In the pro-Trump White Nationalist movement it is dogma that working women take jobs away from men, an offense, they say, against nature.
Hillary is running for President. If she wins, women will be a stronger force than ever in American culture. And, for far too many, her win will be apocalyptic, shattering and shaking their carefully adorned temple of cultural values. What will be true, as Jesus predicted, is that their temple will fall.
If Hillary does not win, there will be great sorrow in the land among many. But the women’s march to the White House will continue, for this dream will not die, and justice will be done, if not on Tuesday, then one day soon.
And all will be well, for nothing can stop the world that is coming, and nothing can stop the rising of women in the world.
Image: Women’s Suffrage Parade, New York City, 1912. World Digital Library.