I Am a Woman, a Feminist, a Christian.

Fellow Patheosi, Tony Jones, who blogs at Theoblogy, published one of those slap-in-the-face posts last week that really get people humming.

Tony called for a schism in Christendom, or at least in Christianity.

He wants to part company with those Christian communions who don’t allow women to “preach and hold positions of ecclesial authority, support complimentarity, or that do not affirm women as leaders, speakers, teachers.”

Since that sounds like he’s describing my Church, the Catholic Church, I was interested. Since Tony was speaking about something that I feel to the core of my being, which is the equality of women as full human beings, I was very interested.

I am a woman, a feminist, a Christian.

I am a woman who has spent a good bit of my life working for women’s rights. I am a woman who has made some serious mistakes in pursuing women’s rights; mistakes that I would not be able to live with without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

I am also a woman who encountered Christ in what I can only describe as a knock-you-down-in-the-middle-of-the-road conversion experience that left no doubt in my mind that God is real and that He loves us with an ecstatic love that is beyond our comprehension. But I don’t want to write about that conversion today. I want to write about what came after.

Conversions of the type I experienced are not long on explanatory material. People like Leah Libresco and T. S. Elliot, who reason their way to God, probably walk into Christianity with a more formed understanding of what they’re doing that I did. All I knew was that God is real and that He loves me and is with me every moment.

The rest of it was a learning experience that took years and is still on-going.

I walked into my encounter with Christ like a prize fighter with his arms down, and it knocked me flat. When I got back up, a hand reached out to help me, and I began a journey of discovery and inquiry.

I entered the world of faith with a lot of baggage from my life before faith. Odd as this may sound, it was not the things I had done which ultimately proved most difficult to deal with, but things that had been done to me. It was a long, slow walk from the woman I was when God filled me with His love, and the woman I have become and am becoming because of that love.

What does all this have to do with Tony’s call for schism among the faithful? What does it mean and how does it apply to the question of his assertion that those who believe in women’s rights should no longer associate with those who do not? What, in fact, does his assertion that the definitions he uses actually separate those who believe in women’s rights from those who do not?

Do the things he lists say anything at all about women’s rights? Or, are they window dressing that dances around the real issues of violence and suffering that are far too often woman’s lot in this life? And finally, what does my conversion experience have to say about that set of delimiters?

Just this.

I understand where Tony is coming from. I do not know what life experiences have led him to this passionate espousal of women’s human dignity and full equality before God. But I would venture that they are not any more profound and powerful than the life experiences that led me into a prolonged and ultimately failed anti-God period in my own life.

I didn’t just espouse leaving those who did not accept the full equality of women behind. I did it.

I did it in a way far more thorough and absolute than any of the atheists who fill their blogs with endless chatter about faith and Christianity even begin to approach. I cut off my contact with that other world with a cut as final as amputation.

And I meant it.

I meant it all the way through.

When I ran headlong into the living God that day, I was unprepared, did not imagine, and could not comprehend the power of the love and joy that Being poured into me. I was home and I knew it.

I also knew that this God I had met and Who was now walking with me every step of my every day, had very little to do with the god I’d heard about in sermons when I was a teen ager. He had nothing at all to do with the denouncing, loveless god I’d been taught to think was God.

That little g, woman-hating god I had been shown as a teen was more like a shade of the devil than a glimpse of the real God I encountered at my conversion. I had met the real God and He was love.

But the baggage remained.

I spent years, thinking and praying through all the contradictions between the real God and the god of the pulpit. My eventual conversion to the Catholic Church intensified these questions.

I remember, not too long after my conversion, that I asked Him if He hated women. It seemed to me, based on what I had seen and known, a fair question. It still does.

I don’t always or even often get direct answers to my prayers. But I got one then. I don’t want to describe it in a blog, since it was a heart to heart experience of breadth and power, but I’ve known ever since that anyone who preaches and teaches violence and harm to women is not of God.

It is as simple as that, and I would guess that a similar insight may very well be what is driving Tony Jones to make his call for separating from those churches that don’t live up to his understanding of how women should be treated. I will never fault anyone who evinces a genuine concern for the welfare of womankind.

I will, however, offer a bit of advice. That advice is to slow down and go back to the God of love Who made us all and use Him for a reference.

This is advice I should take myself. I can get pretty riled up over issues and come across far harder and more inflexible than I actually am. I’ve been thinking about that after reading Pope Francis’ Evangellii Gaudium. It’s a convicting document. I say that in the best sense possible.

So, my advice to Tony and all the other Tonys reading this, is the same advice I’m trying to give myself: Slow down and go back to the God of love. You know the one. Go back to the God Who made women in His Image and Who loves us with a love that, if you’ve ever experienced it, you have no words to describe.

Go back to Him and realize that He’s leading each of us Who tries to follow Him by the hand, each at our own pace, like precious little children. He is gently guiding us toward a time when we will be able to do more than just accept that love that defies description. He is leading us to an understanding and a conversion so deep and so real that we can pass that love on to one another.

I am not going to argue with Tony about the things that trouble him. I will, however, point out that the answer to our differences is not schism. It is love.

Go back to God, Tony. Ask Him if He hates these other Christians who you find so confoundingly unkind to the female half of the humanity He created.

The answer will change you from top to bottom.

Pope Francis and the Role of Women in the Church

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Pope Francis made a few comments today on one of my favorite topics: The role of women in the Church.

I think this is an area that needs a little work. My primary concern is the worldwide plague of violence against and exploitation of women. This evil is so endemic that we take it as a given. I have been praying for years that the pope — whoever the pope might be — would address this with the force and uncompromising moral clarity that it deserves.

The Holy Father did not address violence against women today, but he had a lot of other great comments, just the same.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Pope Francis met with experts on women’s issues today in Rome, affirming that the Church must continue to work for a more profound understanding of women and their roles.

“Also in the Church it is important to ask ourselves: what presence does woman have? Can it be valued more?” the Pope asked.

He met with experts who had participated in a seminar marking the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic letter, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” The two-day seminar was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of the Laity.

Pope Francis said the presence of women in the Church is “a reality that is very much on my heart.” He said he wanted to meet the seminar participants “and bless you and your task.”

He noted that John Paul II’s apostolic letter teaches that “God entrusts man, the human being, to woman in a special way.”

“What does this ‘special entrustment’ mean?” asked Pope Francis.

“I think it is evident that my predecessor refers to motherhood,” he explained. “And this is not simply a biological fact, but it involves a wealth of implications both for woman herself, for her way of being, and for her relationships, for a way of extending respect for human life and for life in general.”

The Pope then warned of two ever-present dangers, “two extreme opposites that degrade woman and her vocation.”

“The first is to reduce motherhood to a social role, to a task, however noble, but in fact sets apart woman with her potential, not fully valuing her in the construction of the community,” he noted.

The second peril is that of “promoting a type of emancipation that, in order to occupy the space stolen by the masculine, abandons the feminine with its priceless elements.”

He said women can help provide better insight into the nature of God.

Real Feminism Begins at Home

This video addresses what I’ve long believed is the forgotten core need of women: the ability to have a family and a home and still use their full capacities in life.

Ironically, this is also a core need of men.

People need home and family. The deepest fulfillment in life is looking in the face of your own beautiful child.

How did we get so turned around that we think these things are burdens rather than gifts?

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Endangering Women’s Lives in the Name of Women’s Health

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I published this post about 10 months ago. I’m re-running it today because of the combox discussions on birth control.

I am, as I’ve said many times on this blog, a feminist. I’m also no spring chicken. I remember back when feminists actually agitated for safer forms of contraception for women and criticized the marketing of dangerous chemical birth control to women without regard for their health and safety.

No more.

The “feminism” of today equates any form of chemical contraceptive — no matter the health dangers to women — as not only ok, but an absolutely imperative and vital part of “women’s health.” They have turned the phrase “women’s health” into a synonym for abortion and the massive application of a chemical band-aid to the sexual exploitation of women and sexualizing of young girls.

They are, in short, exactly who they used to oppose.

Remember Yaz?

I’ve lost count of the Yaz commercials I saw. Here are a couple of examples. Notice the lack of warning about side effects and the age of the girls this pill is marketed to in the first one.

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And another ad pushing Yaz, but this time with warnings:

 

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And the FDA finally takes note of the young women who are dying because of this totally unnecessary medication:

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The important thing to remember is that none of this is necessary. Yaz is not being used to treat cancer or any other illness. It is marketed for mild teen-age acne, pre-menstrual emotional upset and to prevent pregnancy. It is an entirely elective medication with fatal side effects, being marketed directly to young women and girls.

After Yaz had been on the market a number of years, and probably damaged the health of many young women, ABC News finally wrote a story about it.

The 2011 ABC News article reads in part:

The blockbuster birth control pill with benefits, Yaz was pitched as the choice for women desperate for relief from severe PMS and acne. But now, new independent studies have found that Yaz carries higher blood clotting risks than other leading birth control pills.

ABC News investigated whether tens of millions of women switched to a more potentially risky pill that, as it turns out, was never proven to treat common PMS.

In 2007, Carissa Ubersox, 24, was fresh out of college and starting her dream job as a pediatric nurse in Madison, Wis. On Christmas day, while working the holiday shift, her boyfriend surprised her at the hospital with a marriage proposal.

Wanting to look and feel her best for her wedding day, Carissa said she switched to Yaz after watching one of its commercials that suggested this pill could help with bloating and acne.

“Yaz is the only birth control proven to treat the physical and emotional premenstrual symptoms that are severe enough to impact your life,” claimed the ad.

It “sounds like a miracle drug,” Carissa said she remembers thinking.

But just three months later, in February 2008, Carissa’s legs started to ache. She didn’t pay much attention to it, assuming, she said, that it was just soreness from being on her feet for a 12-hour shift.

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By the next evening, she was gasping for air. Blood clots in her legs had traveled through her veins to her lungs, causing a massive double pulmonary embolism.

Her fiance called 911, but on the way to the hospital Carissa’s heart stopped. Doctors revived her, but she slipped into a coma for almost two weeks.

Carissa’s only memory of that time is something she refers to as an extraordinary dreamlike experience. She said she remembers a big ornate gate and seeing a recently deceased cousin.

That cousin, Carissa said, told her, “You can stay here with me or you can go back.”

But, she recounted, he told her if she goes back she’ll end up blind.

“I just remember waking up in the hospital and I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I chose to stay,’” Carissa told ABC News.

Like her cousin in her dreamlike experience foretold, she actually did wake up blind, and remains blind to this day.

(Read more here.)

Feminist, as in I am a Feminist. Feminist. Fem. i. Nist. (And I Blog at Patheos.)

There.

I did it.

I said feminist.

Before I came to Patheos, I had a brief flirtation with that other biggie in the religious blogosphere. I actually debated with my silly self as to which was the best way to go.

Then today, I learned that, if I had decided to go to that other place, a large number of the posts I’ve written here at Patheos might very well have been round filed. Of course, I don’t know that they would have been round-filed. I’m just guessing, based on this article.

The reason for this possible round-filing of my deathless prose would, if I am making the right connections here, be that I use the word “feminist.”

I not only use it in connection with a socio/political movement that goes by that name, I use it in connection with myself.

As in, I am a feminist.

I am you know.

A feminist, that is.

The way that women are battered, beaten, raped, tortured, bought, sold and murdered around the globe outrages me. I am a feminist, and I will remain a feminist until our casual acceptance of this mass brutality ends. In fact, my question to every Christian reading this is Why aren’t you a feminist, too?

Do you really think that this sickening degradation and brutality directed toward the life-bearers, the mothers, of humanity comes for anywhere besides the deepest pit of hell?

Every time I say I am a feminist I am saying it for those women whose bodies lie in the dump, the lake, the woods and the shallow grave. I am saying it for the baby girls who are aborted for no reason other than that they are baby girls. I say it for the battered wives and the raped girls who feel shame when it’s the rapist who should be ashamed.

I am a feminist; a pro life, catechism following, Jesus loving unreconstructed feminist who will not give one inch on issues of human rights for my half of the human race.

There.

I said it.

In print.

On Patheos.

Where I can say anything I want.

Pope Francis: Mothers, go forth with this witness to the living Christ!

Pope Francis Washes Feet of a Muslim Woman in Unprecedented Easter Rite Pope Francis reached out to women in a powerful way during Holy Week. 

First, there was his wonderful action on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of two young women. He spoke of women as the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection during his Easter vigil homily and then on Tuesday, he spoke again about Mary Magdalene.

Yesterday, he delivered a powerful reflection on unique role of women as mothers.

Feminists have thrown motherhood over in many ways. I have sympathy for the reasons they did this. Pregnancy and motherhood was used as an excuse to limit women and to discriminate against them. This is true in some respects even today. However, instead of demanding change in this regard, they ended up settling for the horrible quick fix of abortion. In this way abortion became an accommodation to and an extension of misogyny.

Motherhood has always been degraded, or I should say, it always has in my lifetime. Women themselves degrade motherhood. We try to deny the demands it places on us for fear that we will be given short shrift in other areas of our lives. What too often happens because of this denial is that we end up doing the all-important job of mothering our children less well than we should.

Motherhood

In truth, motherhood is uniquely female. We are the life-bearers of humanity. We are the nurturers and shapers of each succeeding generation of people. Women are equipped for this work by temperament and talent. Yet our society has gotten so turned on its head that we not only devalue motherhood, we challenge women who do it.

“You are wasting your life,” I was told when I was a stay-at-home mom. “Your kids are too dependent on you,” I heard when my toddlers clung to me in strange situations or ran to me when they skinned their knees.  These sentiments are ubiquitous throughout our society.

Back when many mothers stayed home with their children every mother had a built-in support group, right there in her neighborhood. Now, stay at home moms are isolated islands, all alone in seas of empty houses while everyone else is off at work. What that means in practical terms is that stay at home moms have it harder now than they did in any generation before. They do not have the coffee klatches and the over-the-fence conversations that mothers in earlier generations had to sustain them emotionally during the long days alone with small children. Their husbands, who are poorly equipped for it, have to meet this need for human interaction and girl-talk all by themselves.

We have isolated our families with moves and chasing jobs so that many times the husband and wife are going it alone in a big city just as much as a pioneer family living in a soddy out on the prairie ever was. In a fractured society which has lost its sense of community, children need to be more tightly bonded to their mothers and their homes, not less. We live in a society that is hell bent (I meant that literally, by the way) on its on deconstruction and moral unraveling. Our media pushes it on us. Our schools teach it to our children.

Without families, without mothers and fathers, children will be raised by this dishonest, sick, larger culture. They will themselves become sick and dishonest.

It is not enough to shuttle our children from one lesson, one activity, to another. It most certainly is not enough to live in the “right” school district and dress them in the latest fashions. Children need their parents. They especially need their mothers. They don’t need chauffeurs. They need mothers who read to them, talk to them and are with them.

Pope Francis spoke of this during his reflection Wednesday. At one point, he departed from his prepared text to say, “Mothers, go forth with this witness to the living Christ.” I didn’t hear it, but I like to think that he was referring to the fact that women were the first messengers of the risen Christ when Mary Magdalene took the news of His resurrection to the disciples and that the pope is urging mothers everywhere to be the messengers of the risen Christ to their families, in particular their children.

The Holy Father gave a beautiful reflection on women and the value of mothers in the world.

Here is part of it from Vatican Radio, emphasis mine:

Today, however, I would like to dwell the second, on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels. First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women. At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (Mk 16:1). This is followed by an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, he is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). The women are driven by love and know how to accept this proclamation with faith: they believe, and immediately transmit it, they do not keep it for themselves. They cannot contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their heart. This should also be the same in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! Let us also have the courage to “go out” to bring this joy and light to all the places of our lives! The Resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty, it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this beautiful certainty with others! It’s not just for us it’s to be transmitted, shared with others this is our testimony!

Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however! Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands. In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.

After the apparitions to women, there were others: Jesus becomes present in a new way: He is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; He did not return to an earthly life, but a new condition. At first they did not recognize him, and only through his words and deeds were their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen Lord transforms, it gives new strength to faith, an unshakable foundation. The Risen Christ also reveals Himself to us with many signs: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other Sacraments, charity, these gestures of love bring a ray of the Risen One.

Let us be enlightened by the Resurrection of Christ, let us be transformed by His power, so that through us the signs of death give way to signs of life in the world! I saw that there are many young people in the Square! Young boys and girls, to you I say bring forth this certainty the Lord is Alive and walks beside us on our life’s journey! Bring forth this hope, be anchored in this hope, the hope that comes from heaven! Be anchored and bring forth the hope! You witnesses of Christ bring forth hope to this world that is aged by wars and sin! Go forward young people! (Read the rest here.)


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