A wise Sierra Leonean proverb has been my guiding statement since 2002: “She who upsets a thing should know how to rearrange it.”
It has guided me well, keeping me from unwise actions. The proverb was important in my ministry with abused women and children.
In that role, I was constantly trying to upset systems and radically “rearrange” state and city governments, law enforcement and judicial systems, penal and rehabilitation systems, mental health and child protection systems.
Virtually every system I encountered needed to be upset, turned upside down, and prodded to rearrange systemic practices that violated human rights.
I needed that proverb as a safeguard against unwise actions that could create disastrous consequences.
Apparently, the United States Supreme Court also needs the proverb’s important warning. Today, I offer it to them, with a slight paraphrase: “Those who would upset a thing should know how to rearrange it!”
The Supreme Court’s apparent intent to overturn abortion rights will upset many things and will likely result in unbridled chaos, certainly in the lives of women.
The crux of the situation is based upon the Supreme Court’s vote to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion.
POLITICO describes it like this, “The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision — Planned Parenthood v. Casey — that largely maintained the right.”
Serious rearranging will happen throughout the land, but the rearranging that is most troubling will happen to women. They have lifted up their arms in despair and protest. They have taken to the streets to make sure their voices are heard.
Black women, white women, brown women, LGBTQ+ women — all women and the men who care about them — have literally joined hands to protest this assault on their humanity.
At this moment in history, white women aren’t standing in one place while Black women stand somewhere else. No Latinx women stand isolated on yet another piece of ground, and no LGBTQ+ women are standing alone. In this moment, they stand holding hands, mingling their voices, together.
Large groups of women have gathered around the Supreme Court building, and around state government buildings throughout the country, raising their voices in anger, disgust, shock, despair.
Black and brown women, in particular, are asking what more could be overturned to diminish their rights.
When any right is dismantled, there is always fear that other rights could be overturned — voting rights, women’s rights, immigration rights, health care rights, LGBTQ+ rights, civil rights, victims’ rights.
While writing this article, I watched several men installing a security fence surrounding the Supreme Court building.
Perhaps with crowds of people surrounding them, the justices are nervous about potential attacks. Perhaps they do not know that “those who would upset a thing should know how to rearrange it.”
Perhaps they did not think about the reality that every upset brings consequences. Perhaps they do not care that women will push hard against the abolition of a law that has protected their rights for almost half a century.
The Supreme Court’s current deliberation of Roe v. Wade was based on partisan politics, not on a thorough and impartial judicial review.
Smart people say that dismantling Roe v. Wade will bring waves of repercussions in sectors not yet considered — most importantly, the medical community, the economy, penal institutions, child protective services and foster care providers.
Passionate voices are heard on the airwaves and at the sites of protest. Most everyone has an opinion about abortion rights, but opinions about abortion rights are not the same as opinions about abortion.
The opinions that matter most in this unfortunate debate are the opinions of a girl terrified that she is carrying the baby of her father or a woman devastated that she is carrying the child of a rapist.
What do we say to women who need an abortion because their lives are at risk? What should we advise a pregnant woman who is a victim of military sexual assault? What hope is there for a teenage girl impregnated by a trafficker? Sweeping ramifications!
There are also sweeping ramifications for churches and for people of faith. Because we are a compassionate community, we weep with those who weep. We pick up the pieces when someone’s life is turned upside down.
We are the ones who will be the holy re-arrangers, helping women and girls put the shards of their lives back together. Christ’s church and her people will try to keep women out of the back alleys where lethal abortions are performed.
When political advocacy is needed, we will stand for the rights of every woman. When compassionate care is needed, we will always be present.
Yes, this current threat reminds us again of the need for institutional and structural reform. Perhaps such reform is beyond our capabilities, but we know about reform as it relates to one person in need.
People of faith must know how to rearrange upset things. This struggle calls out to us all. It is about the passion, not just the legislation.
People of faith are the entrusted ones who possess unwavering passion for justice, protection and compassion. May God strengthen our passion to rearrange for all that is right.
A semi-retired pastor, hospital chaplain, missionary, trauma counselor, victim advocate and nonprofit executive. She is a member of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, and is the author of two serious books, one Kindle novel (just for fun) and a curriculum on racial justice. She is currently a minister-at-large, a watercolor artist, iconographer, liberation theologian, preacher and blogger who still writes about “all things church.”