So’s your mother

So’s your mother February 15, 2012

OK, third try.

I’ve collected a bunch of bookmarks and links to various items on “women in the church.” But twice today I’ve sat down to type those in here as a kind of thematic link-dump, and then gotten angry thinking about how this whole “controversial” topic shouldn’t be controversial at all.

And then I started writing an intro to the link-dump that turned into a post of its own and never got around to the link-dump.

This is an important topic to me because it’s an important topic to people who are important to me. My wife is a woman. So are both of my daughters. My sisters are women. So was my mother. So’s your mother. And …

I’m doing it again.

OK, no more introductions, just link-dumping.

"Tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice" -- Ellen Ripley is John Piper's ideal leader.

Rachel Held Evans: “Yes, Christianity has a masculine feel. But maybe that should change…

Here’s Jamie Wright, a.k.a. The Very Worst Missionary, on being surprised to find herself a “woman in ministry.”

Kristen Bennett Marble: “I am (Pastor) Kristen

As I am given opportunity, and am placed into positions to speak, teach, share, guide, mentor, counsel, pray for, and lead with the hope, truth and love of Christ, I will, whether the people gathered are children, women or men. And in so doing, if I am called Pastor, I receive the title with honor and humility.

Christian Piatt responds to John Piper and his call for “Masculine Christianity.” Specifically, he takes issue with this from Piper:

“When I say masculine Christianity or masculine ministry or Christianity with a masculine feel,” says Piper, “here’s what I mean: Theology and church and mission are marked by an overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community. All of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus.”

Piatt notes that if you take the word “male” out of Piper’s list of admirable, but gender-neutral, qualities, then his description of a church leader isn’t too bad. The objection is his weird notion that strength, courage, decisiveness, etc., are intrinsically “masculine” characteristics.

Cognitive Discopants looks at another, equally appalling Piper-rant: “When God Goes a-Slaughterin’.”

Kathy Escobar offers a hopeful, and pragmatic, response to the pervasive sexism embedded into the church: “Plant new trees.”

“Christianity has had a bit of a sexism problem,” notes Amanda of Friendly Atheist. “I’m a Woman, Not a Sin.”

David Henson tells us the story of Jarena Lee, “The Pioneering Female Preacher You Never Heard About.”

Katie Toth of Geez magazine profiles several Christian activists: “Behind the activist celebrities is a league of great women.”

Cathleen Falsani finds a case of life imitating art, in this case The Vicar of Dibley, recounting two examples of patriarchal Christians getting upset over “Chocolate in the Baptismal Font: Things That Happen When Women Are Ordained.”

The real-life chocolate fountain was part of the Easter celebration at the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. The defenders of gender apartheid have decided, somehow, that such chocolaty joy is an example of the horrors that arise from female leadership. The leader in question, the Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber, responded to these critics, mostly men from the anti-woman Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with gracious firmness. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:

I offer you this as you are a friend of a friend. But I am called by the gospel and am in no way answerable to those in the LCMS who would deny the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I think that response is marked by an overarching godly leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community.


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  • Anonymous

    Plus 10,000 points for using a pic of Ripley.

    And I’d love to check out a service at that Lutheran’s minster’s church, there wouldn’t even need to be chocolate. 

  • Anonymous

    Man, I’m glad we don’t have threaded comments here.  Look at the Friendly Atheist link and scroll down a bit: there’s a thread that’s been replied to so many times that the columns in the last reply are like ten characters long.

  • I really need to spend more time watching and writing about Utena. T_T I still think “virtue is gender-neutral” can go a long way.

  • guest

    I’m grateful to Fred for his recent series of posts about women’s issues.  I’m laughing at him a little (when I see a middle aged man go from benign casual sexism to radical profeminism overnight I think ‘hey, they can’t do that to MY daughter!’ lol), but that does not detract from my admiration for his willingness and ability to think, write and teach about these issues, to the benefit of everyone who encounters him.  

  • Anonymous

    And to be fair to Fred he’s no overnight convert he’s been steadfast about trying to get American Christianity to let Jesus back in and as part of that has always spoke up for women’s rights. I’d admire his commitment, I walked away from religion rather than try the rigged game of being someone I’m not to please other people. 

  • guest

    Oh, I entirely agree.  But, for example, the post about Junius and this post indicate, to me, a new much deeper and more engaged understanding of feminism.

  • Tom

    Ellen Ripley… [sigh]…  If she were real and I were straight…

  • Richard Hershberger

    I find the chocolate fountain in the baptismal font to be in appallingly bad taste.  Yes, we need joy in the church.  But solemnity has its place as well.  The two need not be mutually exclusive, but the chocolate fountain misses that mutually inclusive mark by a long shot.

    That being said, the fact the the pastor who had this bad idea is a woman is irrelevant.  I have seen any number of equally bad ideas come from men.  What this mostly tells me is that this church needs a strong worship and music committee.

  • Tricksterson

    In particular the idea of thender-hearted strength and contrite courage seem more female than male.

    Also Cognitive Discopants statement of Piper’s vision of God as an uncaring and possibly sadistic brat seems pretty m8uch in line with Whatever the Creator is to me.

  • Twig

     It’s ok to be Ripleysexual.  You’re in good company.

  • I prefer to avoid gender essentialism entirely.

  • Lori

    Oh, I entirely agree.  But, for example, the post about Junius and this post indicate, to me, a new much deeper and more engaged understanding of feminism.  


    Or it could be the same understanding and he’s just writing about it because asshats are getting on his last good nerve right now. 

  • It’s true, Fred’s been beating the feminist drum more often and more stridently recently, which has pleased me. He has always been an enlightened guy, both in terms of gender and in pretty much every other way, but I don’t think it’s an insult to say that he’s grown as a feminist. Ideally, we all do, no matter how enlightened we start out.

  • Anonymous

    While I tend to agree, I think the point was that he’s not even doing a good job at being an essentialist.  He wants to ascribe his ideal characteristics as male, but the typical stereotype would say that some of them are female.  It’s like he’s got a model he’s trying to use to prove men are inherently better than women, but the model states that women have some superior characteristics as well.  Rather than admit there are places women might be better, he ignores his own model to insist all good characteristics are inherently male.  That’s the sort of tangle you get in when you’re devoted to such an inherently contradictory belief structure.

  • Anonymous

    Between 1) the rise of the so-called “Men’s Rights Movements”, 2) the social discountenancing of “feminism” in certain circles, 3) the rise to prominence of openly misogynistic and femme-phobic Christian celebrity pastors, 4) the problem of misogyny in the atheist and skeptic communities, referred to in the Friendly Atheist link in Fred’s post, and 5) the progress being made by the anti-contraception agenda in the twenty-first century, it all looks to this privileged white male like the need for feminism is growing.

    This may be an illusion?  I may be confusing my growing awareness of the problem with the problem itself growing?  I dunno.  All I know is that I can easily imagine why Fred would increase his number of posts about feminism.

  • Oh, I agree. But while this isn’t really a response to you, I do tend to have a kneejerk reaction to even positive attempts at gender essentialism. I once tried to get into Wicca and just had to stop because of all the tripe about nature having “male” and “female” attributes and blah blah blah. For people who love nature so much, they sure do want to anthropomorphize it.

  • Nope, I think what you’re describing is very real.

  • I just wanted to say that this picture owns (which is to say, it’s very awesome)

  • FangsFirst

    Honestly, I think the most badass Ripley was the one who made the hard choice–despite it being undermined–in Alien, regarding quarantine. No caricatures of ultimate ass-kicker, just thinking of everyone involved and making a confident and assertive choice, that turned out to be the right damn choice all along. No need to be wielding flamethrowers taped to pulse rifles, just making a choice an “overly emotional woman” would never make, for the needs of the rest of the crew, making her another member of the crew, rather than the (second) “female member of the crew.”

    …but then I may just be letting my distaste for the rounded edges and simplification of James Cameron’s Aliens interfere, admittedly. And it does speak somewhat to the work of Giler/Hill/Scott that O’Bannon’s original script was all men, and when this changed, I don’t think the script changed much. Worth noting, though, that Cameron did make it strictly a “Look at her motherly instinct!” thing–same kind of simplistic thinking behind most of his structural choices *coughQueenAliencough,* and in that respect a bit of a reduction from a character previously just strong because she is, not because something threatened “a woman’s weakness.”

    And I think that description fits with her Alien character way better, for that matter.

  • It’s not growing.  It’s always been there.  In fact, it’s been a lot worse; however, it’s more out in the open now.  More apparent. 

    And yes, you’ve become more aware of the problem.  We need more people to wake up to this problem, but then as more people wake up, the more desperate those with the power and privilege try to whine and destroy attempts at progress.  They’ve always tried to do this, but before it was behind the scenes.  Now it’s coming out into the open more. 

    What’s growing is an awareness of what feminism actually is and what it’s actually fighting against. 

    The so-called “Men’s movement” always existed, but because society just assumed that anyone of value was male, they didn’t need to go out of their way to stress it or shove it down other people’s throats.  Now that people are becoming more aware, to the point of questioning this idea of men being superior to women, they are forced to be more in the open about keeping the status quo.

    Does that clarify it a bit? 

    I think it kinda centers around the idea that someone who has a lot of privilege often are trapped within their privilege, unable to see what life is like for those that do not have that privilege.  When they become more aware of their privilege and how others do not share it, often they will assume the problem is growing or is new, when it never was.  You can see this not just for male privilege but also for white privilege, straight privilege, cisgender privilege, and so on and so forth. 

  • I have held one of those prop Pulse Rifles from Aliens, and I know that those things a pretty damn heavy.  So for someone to hold one of them by the grip in one arm while holding up a child in the other, as one keeps one’s knees slightly bent with the feet in a wide stance while still looking somewhat composed as you pose for a promotional still shot, well…

    I guess I am trying to say, Sigourney Weaver is really damn strong.  :D

  • Jenny Islander

    I wouldn’t use a baptismal font for a chocolate fountain because chocolate leaves stains and even if it is only set up in a metal basin, it has a durable scent.  Every baby baptized in that font is going to smell like chocolate for at least the next year.

    This might not be a bad thing, I guess, except that also, at least in my church, baptismal font = set apart thing.  It’s for baptizing, period.  Same reason the altar committee doesn’t hold meetings at the altar even though it’s a table and it’s right there.  Better to use a table in the parish hall.

    BUUUUUUUT none of this has to do with which position the pastor can pee in.