A Holy Rant

Why is it that most Christians assume that spirituality is a unisex reality?

Why have I, in 55 years of church attendance, never heard a sermon on gender differences in spirituality and only one that even acknowledged it as real (thanks Bob C.)?

Why is it that in a culture where we talk more and more about gender difference in how we shop and have heart attacks and think, we neglect to talk about how we experience God differently?

Why is there not a course in gender different spirituality in each and every seminary? Don’t clergy need to know about this, talk about this, wrestle with this?

Why is it that when women notice how different their experience of God is than the men they know, they think they are “wrong” or that the difference is unimportant?

Why is it that many women who have continued to grow spiritually have left the church and the church has been okay with that loss? In fact, tragically, many times the church has  said “good riddance” because the women used their visions and voices to challenge the status quo.

Why is it that we as women are generally the only ones apologizing for the complications created by gender difference? Why do we often see our perspectives as secondary?

Why is it okay with any of us to limit the authentic voice of anyone, often through hierarchy or through an assumption of a unisex spirituality?

Why is it that many men feel they know more about the stories of women in Scripture than do the women in their lives?  And why do many women think the same thing?

Why have we let the fear of boxing people into categories and narrow ways of being  stop the conversation completely? Using this conversation about gender difference to limit individuality is a real and dangerous possibility.  Caution is important.  At the same time, I believe we can name these dynamics in ways that free us and do not bind us.

So, what do you care about enough to dare a rant?


  • http://theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    I hope you don’t mind a link, but for whatever reason your rant brought this to mind:

  • http://janetdavisonline.com Janet Davis

    Thanks for adding your voice… and you write beautifully! I would love to hear more about the connection you sense between the two pieces.

    • http://theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

      I think it’s the issues of intuition, imagination and wisdom. Wisdom in scripture is feminine. But when wisdom is presented in the church, it’s likely to be met with, “chapter and verse, please.” I always want to say, “fine – I can give you chapter and verse. But if you can’t stop to absorb the wisdom being offered to you, to allow it to touch your heart and shape your understanding, all the chapter and verse in the world won’t matter. And once I give you chapter and verse, you can just nod assent and move on, unchanged and untouched.”

      The other day I posted something about the widow’s mite and I wrote a bit imaginatively asking what if she was giving not out of reverence but out of protest at her lot in life. “Throwing Pennies at God” I called it. Someone left a comment explaining how the story fit into the context of the stories around it and what Jesus was really communicating in the story. It was like the three dimensional picture I was trying to create and offer which could speak to where many of us find ourselves in our faith walk was irrelevant because here’s what it REALLY says. All nice and flat and easily handled, just the way it’s supposed to be.

      And then there’s the red-headed step child of the trinity – the Holy Spirit. At times in the Christian tradition the Holy Spirit, like wisdom, has been understood to be feminine. Which goes a long ways towards explaining why Christian leaders (being mostly men) don’t know what to do with it or how to fit it into their theology.

      I think the connection with the piece I linked is that it shows this flattening of the world into the known, the explainable, the dismissable which in the process deprives the world of deeper truths. And in the process it marginalizes women who tend to be the most reliable bearers of the gifts of intuition, imagination and wisdom. And as you say – even now that women are being given more wisdom and more access there’s still this lack of understanding that it’s not just our differing life experiences which we bring. It’s also an ability and a need to interact with theology and faith in an entirely different way then men do it. And if we’re really going to give women not just access but allow women to be co-creators and shapers of our theology and faith, then that’s going to have to mean letting in the red-headed stepchild of the trinity. Of valuing wisdom as scripture says, “more precious than rubies; and all the things you can desire are not equal to her.” And not compulsively flattening everything into “what it really means” to keep everything nice and tidy and easy to handle.

      • http://janetdavisonline.com Janet Davis

        It reminds me of what I wrote about Lady Wisdom in my first book The Feminine Soul:

        But what really opened my eyes was Lady Wisdom’s first cry in chapter one:
        20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
        she raises her voice in the public squares;
        21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
        in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:

        22 “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
        How long will mockers delight in mockery
        and fools hate knowledge?

        Did she say what I thought she said? Could it be that simple is not always better? That complexity is a part of wisdom, in fact, an essential element? Could it be that my complicated perspective is actually a gift from God to be celebrated and used… even at the expense of simplicity and efficiency? The more I studied Lady Wisdom, the more I heard her initial cry expounded.

  • Bill DeForest

    Rebecca T. and Janet D.: you give men too much credit and too much power in your “Holy Rants.” The fact is that men are less wise and less well informed than women are when it comes to spirituality. For a man to try to elucidate the differences between genders in spirituality would require a degree of foolhardiness that even the most naïve (male) preacher would not attempt. The secret is that that’s why most male clergy support women clergy-we know we can’t so we hope that they will. It reminds me of a sermon given by a student preacher at Iona School of Ministry recently. She is a young mother with three young children. Her sermon was of Advent. The underlying tones were anticipation, yearning and rejoicing. In her very being, she incarnated the Madonna Good News of the coming Christ Child in ways that no male clergy could, no matter how educated or pontificated by position or title he may be. So my suggestion for more feminine spirituality in the pulpit or elsewhere in the church would be to support your sisters and don’t take your brothers too seriously. P.S. Rebecca, the Holy Spirit is neither red-headed nor a stepchild, at least in my experience. She is the life-giver; life-sustainer; truth-speaker; without whom this dance would be infinitely less worth living.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetdavis/ Janet Davis

      Thanks for your thoughts and affirming words, Bill! I agree that it is wonderful for women to be given the place and opportunity to use our voices to say what we see… and we as a gender must answer that calling. At the same time, I have come to know men, like yourself, who can discern and learn these differences and make a powerful difference in opening doors of understanding for the church. My dream is that ultimately it will be a two gender conversation and exploration. And just by adding your voice here you are helping that dream come true! Thanks!