Today is International Women's Day. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
The day was first held on the last Sunday in February 1908, initiated by groups of American women for the purpose of demanding the Vote and to call attention to the political and economic status of women. It continued to be held on the final Sunday in February through 1913, when celebrations of the day began to shift to the first Sunday in March. When the Russian Czar abdicated in 1917, the provisional Government granted women the right to vote - this took place on February 23, according to the Julian calendar then used in Russia, but on March 8 according to the Gregorian calendar used by most of the rest of the world.
One of the places where the status of women continues to be appalling is within the church. Let's be honest - women have been the backbone of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith since Cain was in short pants. For every Paul proof text or citation from Torah, you can find 100 more stories of Ruth or Perpetua or any of the Mary's that populate the Gospel. It seems almost molecular that the body of Christ has a male head and is served coffee by the gals. It is beyond any sense of PC or quota - it is a perversion of the image of God, defended with violence and economic threats, handed down like a birth right from one generation of my tribe to another.
So what do we do ? Well, for me at least, the only way to change this is to surrender my pride and power to God and to do everything in my ability to strive towards the Inbreaking of the Kindom. Specifically, I wonder what impact it would have if we:
- Confessed that the brutality and sexual objectification that we men carry out (either actively or by proxy) is sin - sin of whatever highest order your general ledger of sin holds
- Embraced images of God beyond the muscular male God - the Bible is full of them, God's creation abounds with them - but sadly, they rarely make it through the narrow doors of our churches
- Ceased patronizing women by calling them articulate or strong-willed or emotional or bitchy, when the same traits in our brothers provides them with yet another step up
- Stopped exchanging the theology of dead white European males for the theology of sensitive new-age white guys. I've witnessed it in the 'gellie church, where trying to get a female voice in a theological discussion is akin to finding a women's bathroom without a line. I've witnessed it in the mainline world, where the margins are reserved primarily for women and colored folks (black, brown & yellow) who are given a free pass on Scriptural integrity or connection to tradition.
- Named the ridiculous supply and demand inequity of theological education. Mainline seminaries are chock full of women who when they matriculate will be 60% less likely to get any kind of call in a congregation. 'Gellie seminaries have a growing number of G.I. Janes, forced to repsond to their call to ministry in a culture that views them as, at best, groupies for the real rock stars or caretakers who should keep quiet. No wonder that after 5 years, more than 70% of women have left ministry - we maintain a system perfectly built for this output.
There are smaller steps as well - men actually getting the coffee & washing the dishes while the women talk about important stuff; men taking the children's ministry and pastoral care slots so women can preach and serve on the strategic planning or finance committee; men staying home while their wives take the next promotion; and the list goes on & on & on....
Before you type your flame comment, please know - I live with 3 women, I go to seminary in the people's Republic of Berkeley and I am an Episcopalian. So my comments fit whatever stereotype those things conjure up. I am not arguing for gender neutrality - there is no quicker way to render God about as boring as a civics teacher. I am not arguing for quotas or calls to ministry that do not fit the gifts God has graced us with.
Before you type your praise comment, please realize typing this post cost me nothing. I still am a loud, aggressive guy who typically takes up space that a women should have, by all rights. In the time it took to type this rant, I could have actually done something constructive.
International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
Today - on this day that remembers the struggles that me and my buddies have worked with a singular focus to create & maintain - I'll be thanking the makers of history who I am graced to live side-by-side with and walk with, on trails that were blazed by Eve and all her wonderful sisters.