Nevertheless, She Persisted

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, February 7, 2017.

1986

President Reagan nominates U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions, Alabama, for federal district judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds contentious  confirmation hearings that produce significant opposition testimonies of Sessions’ record of racist remarks and civil rights violations.

Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., writes a letter to Strom Thurmond, committee chairman,  imploring the committee to deny Sessions the appointment because he “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”

Mrs. King’s letter of objection is not read into the record even though such letter reading “into the record,” whether from proponents or opponents, is common. In the end, however, the senators block Sessions by a 10-8 vote.

Thirty years later, President Trump nominates this same Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. The hearings, again, are contentious as the allegations of racism and civil rights violations resurface.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stands at the senate podium to read aloud into the record Mrs. King’s 1986 letter. However, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not allow it by using an arcane procedural rule that senators cannot impugn fellow senators.  This, despite the fact that everyone who watches the hearings witnesses plenty of “impugning” going on.

In defending the chamber’s censorship, McConnell says, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Within hours, McConnell’s tongue-lashing becomes a rallying cry for men and women who believe that Sen. Warren was more a victim of chauvinist cowardice than of senate procedures. Ironically, Mrs. King’s letter catapulted from the dusty vaults of forgotten, thirty-year old history to the top of the news and newsfeeds all across the country.

It’s reasonable to imagine that had Sen. Warren been allowed her right to read that letter into the record, it would have been news for a day. However, because so much of the country judged McConnell’s scolding as inappropriate and Sen. Warren’s persistence as strength, the words he meant to demean are now an overnight industry of t-shirts, coffee mugs, car decals, window clings, jewelry, journals, buttons, and magnets.

If you read Rhoda: The Mad Woman of Acts 12, you know at least two of the countless numbers of women in humanity’s marvelous history who wouldn’t shut up. Who persisted. One was told she was mad for speaking a truth too miraculous for others to believe. Another was told she was rude for speaking a truth too painful for others to believe.

Don’t shut up. Persist.

Rhoda. The Mad Woman of Acts 12

And they said unto her, “Thou art mad!” But she constantly affirmed that it was even so.” Acts 12:15

c. 45 AD

Imagine this young servant, perhaps a teenage girl really, maybe 14 years-old: She’s a pagan with a gentile name, Rhoda. She is probably from Cyprus, a Greek island devoted to Apollo and Aphrodite, but now lives in the Jewish city of Jerusalem. We don’t know why or how this came to be.

In fact, we only know about one night in Rhoda’s life.

This maiden Rhoda is employed by a wealthy Jewish widow named Maryam. Maryam has a son called John Mark, very young like Rhoda, who works as an assistant to the apostles Paul and Barnabas in their mission work. Like them, Maryam believes that Yeshua is the Mashiach, the Messiah, and has opened her home to mission-weary apostles for respite between journeys, and as a safe place for the persecuted believers to gather in fellowship and prayer. Tonight they are praying for the apostle Peter’s release from prison before King Herod executes him as he has James.

It becomes clear in Acts 12 that Rhoda has heard Peter preach often and that she is with those praying. We have every reason to believe that Rhoda, too, is a believer and likely is praying with the others until there is a knock on the door.

She slips away from the group to answer the door. These were dangerous times for believers, however, so before opening it she shouts from inside, “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Peter,” the man’s voice is urgent because the Roman guards will be searching the streets for him. “Hurry up and open the door!”

Rhoda recognizes his voice but, overwhelmed by her own pure, youthful, joy-filled excitement, she doesn’t open the door. Instead, she spins on her heels and runs back to the others. “Oh my God! It’s Peter, everyone! Peter is at the door! God has freed him from prison just as we prayed and he’s here! He’s here!”

Rather than praising God and rushing to let Peter in the house, they don’t believe her and call her manais, “mad woman.” Imagine this young servant facing a room full of her elders calling her mad.

But Rhoda doesn’t back down. She knows what she knows is right. She is not intimidated into silence. She is persistent. “It is Peter!”

“It’s probably his ghost,” someone says. Which would mean, of course, that Peter is dead.

So it appears that it is easier for these folks to believe in ghosts knocking on doors than it is to believe that God in fact just answered their prayers.

Nevertheless, Rhoda persists.

For another persistent woman, read Nevertheless, She Persisted.