So, Tuesday was International Women’s Day.
I saw a spate of memes on the internet that itemized the ways Jesus honored women and treated them like full human beings, despite the misogynistic mores and attitudes of His era and culture.
Everything in these memes is true.
But why do we have to keep posting them? Why do Christian women feel compelled to “prove” that God loves them?
Women feel compelled to launch these protests in defense of their God-given humanity because arrogant men in priestly garb, men who claim they speak for God and that disagreeing with them is the same as disagreeing with God, tell women that they are second-rate, second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom and that this justifies domination, discrimination and cruelty to women throughout society.
Women feel the need to say again and again that they are human beings who are loved by God. They feel driven to this because their religious leaders tell them that they are not really full human beings and that God only somewhat loves them in a second-best, limited way.
These same religious leaders have no compunction about supporting men who abuse women. These shameless, self-anointed spokesmen for the Divine then take this a step further and demand that women accede to these women-abusing men, and the clerics enforce their demands with threats of eternal doom if women don’t obey.
Women are human beings. Women are made in the Image and Likeness of God. The vicious idiocy of 2,000 years of boys’ club preaching and teaching of misogyny, discrimination and cruelty aimed at women doesn’t change that.
Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, millenia after millennia, self-respecting women have felt forced to keep reasserting their basic humanity and value as part of the human race. Women keep putting up these memes demonstrating that Jesus regards them as fully human, even if the priests, bishops and popes who claim they speak for God say that they are not.
Maybe it’s time women stopped protesting the obvious. Maybe we should just label the sins of our brothers as the sins they are and move forward. No matter the self-deifying arrogance of men who do it, it is an arrogant and grave sin to cast half the human race into narrow “roles” and limited existences. It is an even worse sin to support and promote other men who abuse and degrade women and put these men into positions of enormous power.
If the mistreatment of women practiced by the Trumps and Kavanaughs of our society truly are God’s will, then God is not God. He is the devil.
Years ago, I read a statement by Pope John Paul II in which he was defending the all-male priesthood. JP2 was in the quarrelsome, sickly end of his earthly life, so I considered that then and I still do in my reaction to him, personally. He wrote supportive and good things about womankind in his encyclicals, things that much of the all-male priesthood he defended either ignores or rebukes.
But in this particular defense of the all-male priesthood, he seemed to be casting about for some explanation of why it was God-ordained and immutable, something that would end the debate and make it go away. First, he advanced the standard argument. All the Apostles were men, he said. Of course, all the Apostles were also Middle Eastern, Orthodox Jews who spoke Aramaic. You could pick any number of things that “all the Apostles” had in common and claim that they were limiting factors to the priesthood.
The all-the-Apostles-were-men reasoning is an absurdity, and I think the Holy Father knew it. He was, as I said, sick, old and dying. So his wits and his temper were compromised.
He came out with an argument that isn’t a deal-closer on the question of the all-male priesthood, but it certainly is a kind of confession as to the woman-despising orientation of the priesthood as it has stood for 2,000 years.
Jesus was incarnated a man, the pope told us. This argument, if you want to call it that, echoed the priest-is-another-Christ, and the Church-is-a-bridegroom metaphors that Catholic clergy have used to get away with absurd self-deification and abusive behavior toward women and children for millennia. I think the Holy Father meant this Jesus-was-a-man jab to be the coup de grace to all arguments in support of barring women from Holy Orders.
What it really did was reveal the ugly misogyny at the heart of the priesthood. If the fact that Jesus was a man really is, as he was intimating, the meaning of the Incarnation, it undermines the salvific action of Christ’s Passion and deep-sixes the universality of the Church.
If the whole message of the Incarnation is that Jesus was born with male genitals, then what are women even doing in the Church? Did God enter into human history as a man to demonstrate that human beings who have a scrotum and penis are demigods, and human beings with ovaries are their servants? Is that why Christ was crucified? Is that what Jesus was modeling at the Transfiguration?
Of course not. That comment was the ill-tempered flame-out of a saintly but very human and very sick old man. It was also, as I’ve said, a big reveal, a confession of sorts, of the deep-seated impulse to misogyny that warps the thinking and morality of our faith. And that is my point. I’m not debating the question of women priests. I am speaking against the misogyny that so completely permeates Catholic thinking that it is accepted as normal.
Misogyny was not the way we were made in the beginning. Misogyny is a not a God-given truth of our nature. It is a curse, a punishment visited on humanity as a symptom of our rebellion against and disobedience to God. There is no more fundamental hatred than self-hate, and there is no more fundamental self-hatred than humanity, waging war on itself.
The fact that religious leaders through the long history of the Church have deformed the message of the Gospel to use it as an excuse to abuse and limit women is not religious fealty. It is them, yielding to their fallen nature, enacting the primal curse, the fundamental hatred of humanity for itself.
It is not just a sin. It is the core manifestation of our fallenness. It is humanity, at war with itself, the death-dealing embodiment of the curse of the Fall. It is also the way we learn every other form of hatred by which we curse ourselves. This attack on the life-bearers of humanity is the progenitor of the violence and death that has brought us to the edge of self-annihilation as a species.
I think it’s time that Christian women stop protesting their God-given humanity and just stand on it as a fact. I think it’s past time for us to stop protesting that God is not the devil, and Jesus does not hate half the people He made.
Let’s know and trust these things as reality and fact and build on them. It’s time to take the next step and demand full humanity and human rights for women as the justice before God that it is. It’s time for us to stand up to anyone — including our religious leaders — who tries to deny this basic Gospel truth.
Misogyny, abuse of women and girls, rape, sexual assault, discrimination and second class status of women are not paths to holiness. They are satan, walking in on two feet.
Priests and bishops who support these things, who elevate those who do these things to high places in our society, are not speaking for God. They are merely demonstrating their hubris and giving voice to their own fallen nature.