Friday, November 18, 2005

"monstrous" woman of the week

Welcome to the seventh in a series of biographical sketches that I plan to publish on Fridays. The title of “monstrous” has been given to these women as a rebuke to those who have labeled all women who do not follow their agenda for women as “monstrous.”

These entries will briefly tell about women I believe have done many things to further the cause of Christ in America, and some even around the world, and have maintained a godly femininity while doing so. They will be women whose choices in life have also disqualified them from being given the godly woman status in some of today’s hyper-patriarchal circles, though the hypocrisy certainly has escaped some of these list keepers! Hence, the title of “monstrous” has been given to these women as a rebuke to those who have labeled all women who do not follow their stifling agenda for women as “monstrous.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy! Oh, and feel free to emulate.

This week’s “monstrous” woman is Rosa Parks. Known as the mother of the modern civil rights movement, her story is one of inspiration and encouragement for all those who face oppression and discrimination today. It is also a testimony to God's grace in the life of one person who sought to make a difference within the culture she was given.

Born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Ala., on Feb. 4, 1913, the daughter of a carpenter and a teacher, Rosa attended rural schools until she was 11 and then attended Miss White’s School for Girls in Montgomery where she was trained in the skills necessary to be a domestic. Later she dropped out of high school to care for an ailing grandmother and did not graduate until she was 21.

In the early 1950s Rosa Parks found work as a tailor's assistant at a department store, Montgomery Fair. She also had a part-time job as a seamstress for Virginia and Clifford Durr, a white liberal couple; they encouraged Rosa Parks in her civil rights work.

The segregated seating policies on public buses had long been a source of resentment within the black community in Montgomery and in other cities throughout the Deep South. African Americans were required to pay their fares at the front of the bus and then to get off and then come back on through the back door. The white bus drivers, who had been given police powers, frequently harassed blacks, sometimes driving away before African American passengers were able to get back on the bus. During peak hours, the drivers pushed back the boundary markers that segregated the bus, crowding those in the “colored section” to provide more whites with seats.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks took her seat in the front of the “colored section” of a Montgomery bus. The driver asked Rosa Parks and three other black riders to relinquish their seats to whites, but Rosa Parks refused even when the other three gave up their seats. The driver called the police, and Rosa Parks was arrested. She was released later that night on a $100 bond.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, the announcements were made from the pulpits of black churches and in the black newspaper, The Montgomery Advertiser, that the city buses would be boycotted. Some road in carpools, other took taxis owned by black drivers who only charged the bus fare. However, 40,000 black commuters walked, some over 20 miles to their jobs. The boycott lasted 381 days and during that time blacks were harassed and physically abused. But their tactics worked and segregation of public transportation was brought to an end. Rosa Parks, commenting on the day she rode the bus, said “I didn’t get on the bus to get arrested. I got on the bus to go home.”

There is another side to this story, however, according to Doug Patton, whose columns can be found at The Conservative Voice. Rosa Parks' faith in Christ was the driving force behind her actions.

“It is unfortunate that few in this generation who honor Rosa Parks know about the spiritual dimension of her long life, because it was Christ who was the guiding light of her years on this earth.

"As a child," she wrote in 1994, "I learned from the Bible to trust in God and not be afraid. I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face."

Once, knowing that her presence would overshadow a lesser known author at a joint book signing, Mrs. Parks requested that her colleague switch seats with her so that the public would talk to him first. That kind of humility cannot be conjured from a human heart devoid of God's influence.

When civil rights icon Rosa Parks died last week at age 92, she passed into history as a woman who stood up for what she believed in and refused to back down at a pivotal point in our country's evolution toward racial equality. Her one act of defiance was a catalyst that sparked a movement and brought about unprecedented changes in our nation.

Upon her passing, her body lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol for the public to pay their respects, an honor normally reserved for presidents and Supreme Court justices. Before she could even be laid to rest, a bill had been introduced in both houses of Congress to erect a monument to her in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Every politician and news commentator spoke of her with a reverence akin to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II.

Ironically, hardly a word was said about the true impetus behind her actions on December 1, 1955.

Yes, she was exhausted that day. Yes, she chose not to give up her seat, knowing fully well that she might be arrested. But by her own admission, she would never have had the courage to remain seated had it not been for her unwavering faith in God.

This is more than just an historical footnote, and it is not just a case of tangential nitpicking. She understood that her faith and her God were greater than the white man who wanted her to move to the back of the bus, greater than the Montgomery police, the mayor, Jim Crow, the whole structure of institutional racism and oppression….Rosa Parks has passed into history. More important, she would have told you, her spirit has passed into eternity with Jesus Christ. “


At 10:07 AM, Blogger | redhedrev | said...

Nicely done - appreciate the viewpoint.


At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Kevin said...

Some of the little bio-pieces have lately mentioned a little bit about her spirituality, but you added a lot to them. Thanks.

Keep rolling with these!

At 7:39 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

We also watched The Rosa Parks Story and The Long Walk Home which were movies that addressed the bus boycott. I got them both from Netflix and they were both so well done and powerful. I was talking with my mother today about the fact that she can still recall so many things from World War II and then I realized that the civil rights movement was within my own life time and I am amazed. I also want to remember what happens when one group of people thinks it is superior to another.

More monstrous women coming.....

At 7:40 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Mike, I continue to pray for your family during the big change to a new church. I look forward to reading your blog as you pastor your new flock. Many blessings to you....

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

Thank you so much for the woman of the week. It is wonderful to see opposition to the pap of the Doug Phillips patriarchal ilk.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...


You are more than welcome.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

I met Rosa Parks once. She worked in the office of a local congressman in Detroit. She gave a talk to a sociology class I was attending at Oakland Community College. She was a tiny woman, with a great aura of energy, and great, understated humor.

She was firm in her beliefs, but not strident, and I thin that eveyone in the room came to admire her immediately.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Oh I am actually met her! What a great story that you can pass along to your own grandchildren one day!


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