After September 11, 2001, the news was bursting with reports of women in Afghanistan, who were required to follow a restrictive dress code, banned from working outside the home, and denied access to medical treatment and education.
While I was grieved and angered by this information, I understood the situation in a new way after watching the movie Kandahar, directed by Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The movie tells the story of Nafas, an expatriate who attempts to return to Afghanistan to reach her suicidal sister. In one scene, Nafas bribes a man to allow her to travel with his family, disguised as one of his wives.
Before the family leaves, they gather for a photograph — the man and his three, now four, wives in the back, and the seven children in front. As the camera clicks, the film captures the tragic absurdity of the photograph: The four burqa-clad women have tightly-woven grills across their faces and are completely unidentifiable.
At that moment, I suddenly could imagine the horror of living as a faceless being, unnamed and unknown to those around me. What I previously understood as grotesque yet remote human rights violations suddenly became personal and painful abuses.
We celebrate the power of art to touch minds and hearts at CBE. While we are grateful for the meticulous scholarship providing a foundation for biblical equality, we have seen the arts crack open windows in the minds of people previously opposed to the idea. For this reason, we have incorporated the arts into CBE’s ministry, by offering fiction in our bookstore and having a presence at Cornerstone Festival, a conference celebrating the arts.
In this issue of Mutuality, you will meet artists committed to biblical equality, including acclaimed author Walter Wangerin Jr., award-winning recording artists Don and Wendy Francisco, and mural designer Brian Bakke. These artists give us a glimpse into their creative processes and help us understand why art communicates so powerfully.
Our hope is that these articles will spark new ideas about how you can reach your community with biblical equality. Perhaps you could start a book club or incorporate drama about women of the Bible into your church service. Even hanging provocative artwork in your living room could lead to important one-on-one discussions with guests.
Like my experience with the film Kandahar, these efforts in communicating through the arts may provide others with the experience and emotion they need to gain a greater understanding of biblical equality. Please let us know about successes you have, and feel free to share any of your ideas with us at CBE!