200 lashes

If you’ve ever worked for a newspaper, you know that holidays — especially those that fall in the middle of the week — typically bring with them a series of jacked-up deadlines, vanishing sources, staffing issues, and other problems that make life in the newsroom so inconvenient that you start to question whether holidays are even worth the trouble.

Today being Thanksgiving, yesterday was such a circus that I didn’t even have time to read the paper until this morning, when I was clearing the kitchen table and my eye fell on this article about “Qatif girl,” a young gang-rape victim from Saudi Arabia who now faces a six-month jail sentence and 200 lashes because at the time of her kidnapping, she was sitting in a car with an unrelated man, which Saudi law forbids.

The article left me feeling like a bit of a heel for grumbling about the Thanksgiving-related hassles at work — especially considering that the Constitutional amendment that guarantees me the right to do that work also guarantees me the right to hang out with anybody I want, anywhere I want, without government interference.

The article also left me with visions of VW Rabbits and biodiesel conversion kits dancing in my head, and I began mentally composing a sharply worded “don’t make me boycott you” letter to King Abdullah to try to pressure him to override the court and rescue this girl from a lashing.

After crunching some numbers, however, I realized that the threat of one driver taking one fuel-efficient Scion off the road wasn’t exactly going to leave the wealthy Saudi king quaking in his boots.

Humanly, there didn’t seem to be much I could do about the situation. But I remembered a quote from abolitionist Wendell Phillips that Mary Baker Eddy mentions in some of her writings: “One on God’s side is a majority.” And I thought of the verse from James that promises, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

As I considered the Qatif case, I realized I’d seen variations on this scenario before.

Remember the group of Jewish leaders who caught a woman in the act of adultery and asked a popular preacher what they ought to do with her?

Two thousand years later, we’re still talking about the preacher’s response: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

In thinking about that story, I realized that I didn’t need to be afraid for this girl. While Jesus might not be standing in the courtroom, telling the judges that he who is without sin should take the first swing, the ever-present Christ is right there with all of them, speaking to human consciousness, just as it has been doing since the beginning of time.

I also found it very helpful that our Thanksgiving Lesson this morning at church included the following bits of wisdom from Mrs. Eddy:

Divine Love corrects and governs man.

Let us rejoice that we are subject to the divine “powers that be.”

I am praying to understand that better in the coming weeks as the Saudi courts consider this young woman’s appeal.

Have a good Thanksgiving, wherever you are.