Thursday, November 14, 2013

Twitter fight with a Christian Misogynist

Remember my puzzlement over "Jesus Feminist?"  I was trying to see how-admittedly, without reading the book of the same title--the idea worked in my faith tradition, Catholicism.  Now I know a lot of people who feel that the Catholic Church, of which I am a proud though not always fully compliant member, demeans women due to its patriarchal hierarchy, lack of women priests, and emphasis, at least in this country, on speaking out against abortion, birth control, and gay marriage.  For the record, the new Pope has told the American bishops, and the American bishops have reported to their congregations, to knock it off: quit emphasizing ideology and start pushing mercy, grace, and love.  Yea, Francis!  It's also pretty well known that most Catholics use birth control at exactly the same rates that non-Catholics use it, and that more and more American Catholics, exactly in line with Americans in general, support gay equality and gay marriage.  In other words, the patriachy starts at the top, but probably doesn't work all the way down to the bottom. 

What I'm starting to realize is that in some traditions, particularly the Evangelical Christian tradition, which is pretty huge down here in the south, there is a lot more oppression of women than in Catholicism.  And some of the pastors feel that the oppression is biblically based--that God thinks women should never be allowed to preach to men, for example.  The arguments put forth for this viewpoint sound a lot like the arguments put forth 150 years ago saying that God thought black people should be enslaved.  Funny how God, specifically Jesus, who in His lifetime preached and ministered continually to the downtrodden, disenfranchised, and oppressed, now in modern America has totally switched sides.

Or not.  If, say, you're a Jesus Feminist.

Anyway, I've taken to following several of these Jesus feminists online, and yesterday gender issues within the Evangelical church hit the fan.  Rachel Held Evans, a well-known Christian speaker and writer (who is coming to Bristol in February), pointed out on Twitter that The Nines, a big evangelical conference, had exactly 4 women speakers out of 110.  There followed this exchange, in which the conference organizer, Todd Rhoades, said, "A female leader adds new perspective on important female specific topics such as pregnancy, abortion, and marriage."  And, apparently, that's all.

Blogger Kristen Howerton suggested that he forgot menstruation, and I, unable to keep my mouth shut, added childcare.  And a lot of people wrote about the subject.  Here.  Here.  Here.  If you're interested.

So here we go:  pregnancy, abortion, and marriage are "female-specific"?  Because my marriage, my pregnancies, certainly involved two people, and one of them was not female.  My husband had better be concerned about his marriage, his children. 

And what about church issues: evangelization, social justice, spreading the Gospel?  Those are "male-specific"?  Not in my world.  I decided to do a bit of searching this morning regarding Catholic conferences.  These are all either 2013 or early 2014 agendas.

National Catholic Bible Conference:  11 speakers.  2 priests, 2 women.

Midwest Catholic Family Conference:  21 listed speakers.  5 priest, 2 brothers, 2 couples or mixed groups, 8 women.

Focus National Conference (for college students):  28 speakers. 5 priests, 9 women.

National Catholic Collegiate Conference:  3 speakers.  1 priest, 2 women (one black)

National Catholic Youth Conference:  3 speakers.  2 men (1 black), 2 woman.

National Catholic Singles Conference:  5 speakers.  1 priest, 2 men (1 black), 2 women

Catholic Social Tradition Conference:  6 speakers.  2 priest, 2 women.

So of these conferences, the speakers are 65% men (1/3 of them ordained) and 35% women.  And when I look at the programs, it doesn't seem that women are being relegated to "women's issues."  Take Kerry Robinson, whose title is Executive Director, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management.  She doesn't seem to be sitting in the corner to me.

I haven't felt silenced in my church.  I've been invited to run for pastoral council.  I've argued with my priest.  I've not be compartmentalized.  But I feel myself taking on the title Jesus Feminist.  I always have trouble keeping my mouth shut.  I guess I might as well speak for my sisters.

You?  How do you see the role of women in the church?  Now and in the future?  What does Jesus say to you?