[I wrote this a few months ago and never posted it. However, today (12/28) I was preparing to write a blog on the 5 most important books I read in 2017 and for reasons that will become clear, felt it was necessary to share.]
I know, I know. The title is ambiguous…
But it rather aptly sums up what is an verifiable and unfortunately basic norm of the vast majority of (western) Christian theology. Specter is far too weak a word for the powerful, living ghoul of past (and PRESENT!) suppression of female and non-white/non-Eurocentric lives, passions, vocations, voices, visions and prayers.
Today, I was looking for a particular book (that I never found) and was struck by the lack of diversity on my bookshelves. Shamefully, among my library of 450+ books, less than 20 were written by women.
That’s like 4%.
Appropriately, one of the few monographs I do own written by a woman profoundly begins with the following parable:
“Imagine this: two friends run into each other after a couple years apart and the first one begins a long narration about the places he has been and the strange jobs he has had. Without taking a breath, he moves from one topic to another and then glances at his watch. ‘Oh, I have to meet someone in ten minutes. Sorry. Let’s get caught up again sometime.’ The second person nods, but she feels like yelling out, ‘Wait, I want to tell you what is going on with me.'”*
This, she argues, is the plight of the woman throughout history who has not been allowed to tell her own story; who’s been consistently erased, forgotten and ignored. If, against the odds, she is remembered and written about, it’s by men for other male readers.
Yet another: “In the passion account of Mark’s Gospel three disciples figure prominently: on the one hand, two of the twelve–Judas who betrays Jesus and Peter who denies him– and on the other, the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus. But while the stories of Judas and Peter are engraved in the memory of Christians, the story of the woman is virtually forgotten. Although Jesus pronounces in Mark: ‘And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’ (14:9), the woman’s prophetic sign-action did not become a part of the gospel knowledge of Christians. Even her name is lost to us. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed and the eucharist celebrated another story is told: the story of the apostle who betrayed Jesus. The name of the betrayer is remembered, but the name of the faithful disciple is forgotten because she was a woman.”**
I confess my meager 4%. I have not listened. I am the problem. I have aided in the erasure of your experience and muting of your voice.
Yet my 4 cents is also not really the problem. The real problem is that men (mostly white men of a certain class) almost exclusively shape the narrative of western history. While obviously I need to rectify this situation in my personal reading selections—already doing some Amazon shopping!—it is the ancient program of patriarchy hidden deep in the bowels of our male-built, male-favoring civilizations rather than I that is the primary bearer of guilt. Male supremacy is the cursed gift of our forefathers, bequeathed through layers and layers of generations; an inheritance of privilege for each penis, entitlement to domination and ascendency over the weaker sex.
Does God love men more than women? What an absurd question! Nobody worth listening to would assert this as a genuine theological proposition in the 21st century. However, the history of Christianity, hell the history of our species, is plagued with the empirical reality of sexist subordination of women. And unfortunately, it’s a reality that persists.
Sexism has been engineered deeply into the fabric of our way of being. It is a systemic problem, a cultural sickness. It’s elimination is good and necessary. The presence of known injustice makes us responsible. What will we do about it? How committed are we to the liberty and justice for all that we covered our heart and pledged our allegiance to five days a week for the first two decades of life?
Intentionally reading more women authors is a small first step, but allowing people to tell their own story, systematically engaging in empathy and compassion, is undoubtedly a step in the direction of Jesus’ idea of the kingdom.
*Kristina LaCelle-Peterson. Liberating Tradition.
**Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza. In Memory of Her.