Women In Spirit and Flesh
Put Ruth on the Supercommittee
Although the required practice of gleaning is given as a law for the ancient Hebrew community, we get the clearest picture of a named lead character engaging in this practice in the book of Ruth. This should come as no surprise. When economic times are difficult, the burden disproportionately falls on women and their children.
Thus I am concerned when I learn that the "supercommittee" of the U.S. Congressional twelve who will make proposals about reducing our debt has only one woman. A recent Washington Post article, "Debt Supercommittee Lacks Diversity," reminds us that not only are women 51% of the U.S. population, but "56 percent of Medicare recipients are women and a large portion of Medicaid funding goes toward supporting nursing homes—facilities where the vast majority of residents and workers are women." After a lifetime of unequal pay, women have an even greater need for guaranteed healthcare when work is done.
Gleaning—as struggling for work and common resources now—often comes at great risk to women. Boaz has to tell Ruth that he will protect her from the men of the field. This suggests that a woman on her own—without the protection of male patronage - may be victimized or abused. If the representation of the supercommittee is any indication, poor women will only be protected if some men decide to look out for their interests.
I'm dismayed that we have to be so concerned about our government sharing resources with those who may need them most.
I see hope in Ruth. I'm impressed that an ancient scripture models for us—in both law and specific practice—what it means for a society to practice sharing. Ruth did not have to ask for special arrangements; she entered a system with those who had long practiced sharing with those who did not have.
I don't know that sharing comes any easier for countries than it does for individuals, but I suspect that we can follow the same process: learn while young. We could also follow the Hebrew example: make it law and live in it for generations.
I suspect that societal sharing will take some practice, but it will begin like all other disciplines—one cookie, one lesson, one harvest field at a time.
Monica A. Coleman is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. She blogs about faith and depression at Beautiful Mind Blog