Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Feminism to me is the crazy belief that women and men are both created in God’s image and that each of us deserves a life of freedom and opportunity inside or outside the Church.
It began like any other day by logging on to the internet, as I gratefully sipped my coffee and slowly woke up.
Scouring various sources, I saw a new book on women was out titled The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? (I have to admit that is a clever title.) It has women’s stories of their experiences in the Church written by a man? Giving it very little further thought, I wrote this comment on Facebook:
“While I find it highly ironic that it requires a man to tell these women’s stories to in order for them to be heard, and though I have not obviously read this book since it is not yet out, still there must be something important here if he does as he alleges and has listened to women talk about their experience in the Church. It seems sketchy to me though …”
I copied a few friends and that began the banter, then a lively discussion about women and access, why women don’t trust their own voices, why it takes a man for women’s stories to be “heard”, how men (may) self-promote more than women, and why the only thing women are invited to write and speak on are soft topics, and we even discussed our theological grounding for our perspectives. It was much more civil than many internet discussions, as several of my friends across the globe, and locally, began to discuss!
But I have to go back, even further.
This story really began a few weeks ago as I sat perched on the edge of my chair, once again at the computer. I was trying to gather my thoughts. Sighing deeply and knowing that being on the computer was the last thing I needed. I needed time alone.
And the lack of it was weighing heavily on my spirit. I knew that what I really needed was to turn it all off, especially the technological barrage, and find – time – to – think. And not time while doing last night’s dishes, or throwing another load in, or while picking up the endless socks, books and dog toys. Not time driving my son to the doctor or waiting. Time spent on the responsibilities of home life can be a meditation, but not what I needed.
I needed noiseless, exclusive solitary time with Yahweh.
How often do we really find this kind of time? I cannot underscore how important solitary thinking time is for me spiritually and creatively. It helps me be less impulsive. It centers me. It makes the anxiety, anger, and disappointments of life fade away, lacking the importance I might have given them. My priorities sift and sort and I am more circumspect. In that place, I find my quavering voice.
Here’s what I had been thinking about. When it all first occurred I definitely tried to ignore it. I kept thinking how obsessive I was being. I kept telling myself I was being ridiculous, absurd, unreasonable, and even disagreeable. Doubting my own inner voice is a frequent problem that I have. I had tried to ignore the nagging voice inside me until finally I accepted that this was not going away!
I’ve been thinking about the lack of presence and example of women in the Church. That Sunday at my church in particular, women were simply spectators, the audience, the bystanders, the recipients and beneficiaries.
And the more I thought I could not remember the last time one of the teaching pastors suggested a book they were reading written by a woman. Women are never quoted in my church. Female theologians or scholars are never referenced or even mentioned, probably because the pastors don’t read them. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor in my church has suggested or referred to or quoted a female theologian, religious author, or historian. Am I the only one that notices these things?
The entire thing makes me very sad. And so tired. I am tired of the male dominated culture on the platform, as authors, as experts, as theologians, as speakers at conferences and in the Church at large. Considering women are half the church (some would say more) I do not buy the argument that there aren’t capable women to select from, though I’ve been told that very thing. “The women haven’t risen up who have the gift of teaching.”
Risen up? To be honest, one would think in a service-by-gifts based church there must not be any qualified gifted female teachers. I attend an EFCA church of 5,000. You do the math.
I would guess that many people, but especially women, will not put themselves forward (i.e. rise up) because of self-doubt, true humility or a combination of motivations.
I think it is very likely that there are gifted, wise articulate women who are not yet comfortable with their own voice, but have natural instincts for leadership or teaching that could be taught, mentored, helped to find their voice. Who knows?
Will we ever know if they are not given the opportunity? And what a loss not to hear from them!
I believe it harms us to rarely hear the spiritual voices of women and for me personally, it hampers my faith and my journey with Christ. Thank God that we have the example of Jesus who took risks for women, ministered with, received from and listened to women. He was our example of reconciliation and grace in the lives of women. If only the church modeled their behavior toward women after Jesus. Sadly the Church is ignoring the stories of women in the Bible, and of women historically and in the Church worldwide today. Women have been actively participating in the work of the church since its inception. Women are missionaries, teaching in seminaries, running nonprofits and leading in higher education. Women are writing and want to write on more than “soft or women’s issues.” But in the Church women are still finding their voice.
I have to confess that I do not want my feminist radar (that’s what my daughter calls it) to always go off in church. It is distracting, sometimes painful and it is utterly exhausting. It steals some of the joy out of my spiritual life, like recently when we attended a one man show at church. The actor introduced us to eight characters (both in the Bible and fictional) who had met Jesus. It was powerful. Curt Cloninger is supremely talented. Sadly, in the entire two and a half hour show, women were invisible – utterly missing – other than being mentioned as briefly as whores and spinsters. I tried hard, I really did. I used all kind of energy that night trying to forget that I was the invisible woman and simply experience the show. And it worked — almost.
Yes, I tire of voicing what I believe. And I have considered asking God to take it away – this feminist awareness – to either shut it up or get me out – but for now I stay. And I continue to work to find my voice and listen, getting those times alone so that I can have something solid to say with a circumspect and healthy heart. I hold on tight to Jesus in those moments when I want to quit the Church. And I consider that as long as I can think out loud on my blog and places like Provoketive and as long as I have a few people in my life that I can express my pain and rancor to, I’ll survive, for now.
Photo Credit: Llima Orosa