Entangled Relationships, Confused Desires
How a Twitter Hashtag has Opened Up Women’s Humiliation at Work
How Jesus Hangs ‘All the Law and the Prophets’ on Loving Your Neighbor
Ronan Farrow, the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, wrote the New Yorker article that broke the Harvey Weinstein story, after years of rumors and a number of lawsuits settled out of court.
Farrow was assigned the Weinstein story by the New Yorker’s editors. Which may seem odd because he is so young, 29. But Farrow has a law degree from Yale, and he grew up amid major scandals about inappropriate sex. His father seduced his adopted sister, Soon Yi, and then divorced his mother to marry Soon Yi. After that, Ronan’s sister Dylan alleged ongoing and strange, as well as abusive sexual behavior by his father had taken place with her when she was five.
So Farrow is no stranger to such sordid messes. And he is wise far beyond his years in contemplating what happened, from both legal and personal points of view. He writes that he believes his sister. The legal world did not.
After a pre-publication release of Farrow’s article, a worldwide focus on Weinstein began, with more and more women telling more and more variations of sexual intimidation, humiliation, exhibitionism and rape.
And then the hashtag #MeToo appeared on Twitter, inviting women everywhere to share their stories of workplace harassment by men.
Sexual demands, insults, put downs, nasty jokes, and bullying have all been delineated by women, in business, academics, the law and the movies.
So the focus began to shift from Weinstein, America’s No 1 creepy guy and bad actor, to American culture, in which women get routinely kicked to the curb, in one way or another.
The gospel reading for next Sunday follows on the story about paying taxes to Caesar, a trick question Jesus turned back on his questioners by noting that Caesar was an idol as well as an emperor, and asking everyone to decide what part of their lives belonged to Caesar and what part belonged to God.
Next Sunday the reading continues, as another group will tries questioning Jesus: What is the most important law? someone will ask. And Jesus will quickly say, Love God with all your heart, soul, mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.
But then he will add a bit we don’t often cite: he will ask them the question: Whose son is the Messiah? And they will all answer, David’s. And Jesus will ask them, Well then, how come David calls the Messiah Lord? Would he call his son his Lord?
It’s the confusion of relationships Jesus is pointing up. Relationships always seem so simple. Are you related? Your answer names the relationship and the naming defines the power of it. Fathers rule over sons, etc. But it is never that simple.
Jesus points out that the longed for Messiah is not that clear, nor is the relationship of God and people that simple. Nor are loving one another and leading one another that simple. Nor are employing one another and abusing one another that simple.
Harvey Weinstein is, in a way, a distraction from the issue of what happens to women at work in this country. Yes, he is a monumentally horrible creep. But by the monumental nature of his creepiness, he stands alone. No one else has been quite as brutally exhibitionist.
Woody Allen, Hugh Hefner, and Donald Trump have done creepy and horrible things to women, but they did more conventionally creepy things. After an initial gasp, America has shrugged their behavior off as unseemly but not life-altering for them. And their lawyers managed to keep all these men from serious consequences.
Their behaviors, though different, establish who is Lord in the relationships they have had with women. Allen, Hefner, Trump, and Weinstein have insisted on being Lord.
None of their behavior has been loving in a sacred way, loving in the way that Jesus asks us to love one another as the image of God upon which we depend. Jesus asks us to love others as we love ourselves, and we do see God’s image in ourselves, and we even see that image in our children.
What Weinstein, Allen, Hefner and Trump do, is suck the holiness out of the air by disempowering women, in Weinstein’s cases, at work; in Allen’s cases at home; in Hefner’s as a means of doing business; and in Trump’s cases as the work of furtive hands and tweeting thumbs.
Well, the law cannot construct a theological premise for good behavior in the workplace. And without reform of the culture in which such actions are both tolerated and ignored, no law will be able to apply.
Here is our dilemma, and in America it is a religious one: even though Christians are shocked and repulsed by these deeds, 81% of Evangelical Christians in America voted for Donald Trump. And 61% of Mormons, who place a heavy emphasis on family life, voted for Trump. 60% of Hispanic Catholics and 58% of Protestants voted for Trump.
And until this tacit acceptance that includes muttering that women must have asked for it, that women shouldn’t be too pushy, or too intellectual, or too ambitious, or much else besides trying to please and stand by their men, until all this is stopped in its tracks, hanging the occasional creep is not going to change anything.
We all know American Christians overlooked Trump’s behavior because they wanted Trump to enact laws preventing their neighbors from having abortions or gay weddings.
Jesus does not hang ‘all the law and the prophets’ on abortion or gay weddings. But American Christians did, at the bidding of their clergy.
It’s worth noting that only 24% of Jews voted for Trump, only 26% of religiously unaffiliated people (the fastest growing group in America) and 29% of Other Faiths.
So Trump really was elected by Christian Americans. And Weinstein, Allen, and Hefner have been tolerated, even celebrated, and greatly enriched, in a Christian America which overlooks their sexual proclivities.
I feel tired at the thought of posting the details of my own #MeToo experiences. There were academic incidents of being asked for sexual favors by professors. But more painful than those were remarks about the world not really liking intellectual women, about the need to always smile in public, about the pastor being there to please everyone. More painful was approaching local interfaith clergy associations which were open to all ordained clergy – but were not open to women – and learning they would not admit me without lengthy conversations first between the men already in the association who were reluctant to include women, and the men who were open to that. Some of these things no longer happen, but resentments unspoken are still there, and the memories linger.
The love that has the intimate relationship of beloved child and the powerful relationship of Lord, which is the love Jesus advocated and said he embodied, has always hung on a fragile branch of faith. Jesus himself was accused of over-reaching and of unbridled desire for power.
What is often missed, though, is the sonship/daughtership part of the Lordship role. The daughter part of women is never forgotten, but the Lord role for women is despised. This double standard keeps women from breaking through glass ceilings in politics, academics, board rooms, and CEO positions.
Matthew says, after Jesus pointed out the sonship/Lordship conundrum, no one asked him any more questions.
Perhaps that is because we want the questions to be easy and the answers to be simple. It all comes down to: Who’s in Charge?, we say, forgetting that it needs to be a beloved daughter, a cherished son, who loves us with a whole heart, and not with a lust for domination.
Images: MeToo Twitter image.
Harvey Weinstein. Wikipedia image.
Woody Allen, wikipedia image.