An online firend of mine, Anna Aven [Update: Anna Aven is now Anna Aven Howard, my wife 🙂 ] from Deep Soil has recently posted her thoughts regarding womanhood, and I think they are definitely worth the read and some reflection.
Here’s a bit to whet your appetite:
If the cross of Christ is equally effective in redeeming men and women, then there are no differences in equality or in what positions of leadership that men and women can have. I am not knocking that there are differences in men and women. Any of my beach walks shows that there are ample differences as I pass people and hear snatches of their conversations. If it is two women walking, they are generally discussing men. If it is two men, they are generally discussing women.
Some of her comments hit at the heart of the reading I’ve been doing over the past couple of years, and which I’m still (as a white male) trying to get my mind around. Consider these comments:
The primary years for research and publishing to secure one’s position are in your twenties and thirties, the same years that women have children. So it would seem that we are either asked to sacrifice having a family for career, or to sacrifice having a career for a family. This is some gratitude for being the ones to actually carry and deliver the next generation into the world. What man has ever made the choice between career and family? It is not asked of them.
This is certainly true, and as such it is an indictment. It brought to mind several selections that I culled from some texts for possible use in a paper that, as of yet, has not materialized, the arguments I was going to make in it being divided among several smaller essays. The following selections are from Nicholas Boyle’s Who Are We Now? Christian Humanism and the Global Market from Hegel to Heaney:
Sexual preference, once detached from the process of bodily reproduction, loses touch with the necessities and enters the realm of play-it becomes part of the entertainment industry, a choice to be catered for, but not a constraint on producers. Indeed, worldwide consumerism makes use of homosexuality as a means of eliminating the political constraints which regulate our role as producers: if marriage is redefined as a long-term affective partnership, so that it may be either homosexual or heterosexual, the essentially reproductive nature of male and female bodies is no longer given institutional (and therefore political) expression. Bodies are seen as the locus only of consumption, not of production; production is thereby repressed further into our collective unconscious; and producers, particularly women, are deprived of the political means of protest against exploitation. (It becomes more difficult to maintain, for example, that certain working practices are destructive of the family, for “having” a family is treated as the “Choice” of a particular mode of consumption.)
These thoughts seem reminiscent of some of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s criticisms of abortion and its effect on women (for example, in Touchstone). The sexual revolution and the decades following haven’t been all that they were cracked up to be for women or anyone else. Women have in effect, been forced to open a second front in their war for equallity, but rather than winning their struggle against patriarchy, they have been maneuvered by the market into competition with thier own children, a situation which is rapidly spreading to people of both sexes: choose what the market wants, be good consumers or suffer the consequences. In reality, our choice making has been so short-circuited as to move from the freedom to will what God wills to the freedom to choose between a multitude of unjust and qualitativly poor scenerios.
Any why aren’t Christians at the forefront of a resistance? Is it because we are too divided, too convinced that we understand which issues really matter to the Gospel. i.e. I know that gay unions will ruin society or I know that drilling in ANWR will destroy any hope of a Christian existence. We have, actually, allowed ourselves to become co-opted into the political process, to be divided and thus to be all but neutralized as a possitive force for change.
And all of this, while we can’t even provide a possitive witness in our own lives of what it means to live in a loving relationship and marraige as Christians without all the baggage of abuse and misogyny. Anna mentions in her post that she’s uncomfortable witht he label feminist…perhaps with reason given some of the more radical elements in feminist theology–but, in spite of all that, I don’t think she should be ashamed for standing up for the basic tenets which gave rise to feminism. In fact, I would consider myself a feminist in that I agree with the “radical notion that women are people.” Indeed, I think anyone who has studied historical documents to deny that we are in a much better place today after the women’s movement as far as equality between the sexes go, than we were before. And I for one have no desire to return to the past, I have no rose-colored glasses in this respect. I remember doing the research for my senior history thesis and running across a court case in a 19th century newspaper, where they used to publish the minutes from court the preceeding week. In this particular case, a man was charged with beating his wife because she had thrown a party with music while he was gone. When he came back, he beat her for it. The judge in the case cited scripture when he found the man not-guilty, stating that it would be well for the woman to remember that the man was the head of the household and that the man was the head of the wife as Christ was head of the Church and that he therefore, she should adhere to her husbands wishes in all things. The next court case involved the same man–this time he’d gotten drunk and beaten his mother: he was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
No one should countenance a return to such a time, yet for the men who support equality, it becomes more and more difficult to do so as we are told to accept more and more blame, as contemporary males, for the evils perpetrated in the past. Not only that, but feminsit theologians have radicalized and have begun attacking doctrines which, in thier view have supported and even created the situation that led to the abuse of women.
service in the Church
All of this leads to an important question, which is even more pertinent given some of the questions raised by Anna in her own post: why are women excluded not just from ordained ministry, but from positions of leadership in so many denominations?
For myself, I freely admit that the oridination of women as it originally progressed in ECUSA was animated by what I believe to be a spirit of rebellion, a spirit whcich I believe is alive and well in our church’s current conflict. That being said, I do not believe the negative motivations of a few voids the ministry and practice of so many.
Indeed, more and more the arguments against women’s ordination seem to be less convincing. While I have at times considered the possibility that it may not necessarily mean the same thing to ordain a woman as it does a man (indeed, it doesn’t mean the same thing to ordain one man as it does another, as every call is distinct.) Yet I am still somewhat uncomfortable with this line of thought and don’t feel that I can properly articulate it at the moment. Suffice it to say that there isn’t a distinction as to office, only as to reflection upon it. I will continue thinking of this situation, as well as others…. I’m not sure what I can offer to my women friends, but maybe something helpful will come soon. . . .
In the mean time, read Anna’s comments.
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