NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED LUKE 18:1-8
"Nevertheless, she persisted" is an expression adopted by the feminist movement in 2017 after the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren during the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions, then president Donald Trump’s selection as U.S. Attorney General.
The expression went viral as feminists posted it on social media with references to other women and its meaning has expanded to refer more broadly to women's persistence in breaking barriers and voicing opposition to oppressive systems despite efforts to silence or ignore them.
Then Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel had taken exception to remarks made by Senator Warren which quoted Coretta Scott King, widow of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. In her remarks regarding Senator Sessions' 1986 nomination to federal court judge, Mrs. King had said:
Civil rights leaders, including my late husband, have fought long and hard to achieve free and unfettered access to the ballot box. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by Black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. Mr. Sessions' conduct as U.S. Attorney, from his politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness, and judgment to be a federal judge.
Senator Warren was silenced that day. Ultimately Senator Sessions was confirmed to become U.S. Attorney General. Following the Senate ruling to silence Senator Warren, Senator McConnell then spoke freely from that same Senate floor saying, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Two thousand years after Jesus gave us the Parable of the Persistent Widow teaching on the value of persistence in matters of social justice, we still need to hear the words that encourage us to persist in the face of attitudes of indifference that support injustice. Now, here in our own time, we need to pay attention to the voices of women – especially those most marginalized – as they persist in drawing attention to the matters that we have taken baptismal vows to protect; matters of justice, peace, and dignity for all.
The persistent widow in today’s parable is like the women of our time standing steadfast for truth and justice.
She is like the women of Auschwitz who were shot and killed as they tried to dismantle the women’s gas chamber by hand.
She is like the Women in Black groups who stand on the street corners of Jerusalem every Friday afternoon to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
She is like Jesus.
She is like the mothers of Black Lives Matter whose daughters and sons have been killed by police brutality.
She is like the mothers of children killed by gun violence in our schools, shopping malls, churches, temples, and Gurdwaras across our nation.
She is the millions of women protesting to protect their right to make their own reproductive choices.
She is like Malala Yusufzai, Valarie Kaur, and X Gonzalez. If you are not familiar with these names, you should be. They are women who are living a persistent Gospel life that is inspiring millions of people around the globe to stand and persist in efforts dismantle systems of oppression.
Luke would have us believe that this parable is about being persistent in prayer because that’s one of Luke’s favorite themes. But most all scholars agree that Jesus’ message here is not about prayer. It’s about striving for justice. It’s about being persistent in presence to the extent that it disturbs the powers that oppress the most vulnerable and systems that push people to the margins. It’s about being relentless in our pursuit of truth and standing firm in our demands for justice.
Jesus also reminds us today that the Gospel life is political. He reminds us that when he looks government or religion or society squarely in the eye and says, “Something is wrong,” we too can never accept the status quo if others are being injured or treated unjustly or marginalized because of national, societal, or religious interests.
And they persisted. These words are of high compliment to the Gospel Life.