|Jesus. Not exactly GI Joe.|
I believe in gender equality and I believe that God loves gay people no differently than he loves me, someone who is, purely by biological luck-of-the-draw, a heterosexual.
"I believe in" doesn't communicate my commitment to these truths. I would die for them. They've always been self-evidently true to me.
Their opposites – the denigration of women, misogyny, and hatred of homosexuals – are evil. Misogyny is one of the foundational evils, one of those root evils like greed or narcissism that inspires much other evil. If we could uproot misogyny, we'd be so close to paradise we could smell the flowers.
I'm a tomboy. I'd rather be in the woods than just about any place else. I almost never wear dresses or makeup. I hate to shop for anything except food. I'm not afraid of spiders, snakes, or political debate. I've worked as a carpenter, and I own tools. My sister and I joke that we are "the best men we know." We both think it's because our mother had so many boys before us and there was lots of testosterone floating around our first home.
Male bodies arouse me sexually. I'm such a tomboy my own insistent heterosexuality amazes even me. It's pretty obvious. I was born this way. I don't hurt anyone by being this way. Same thing with gays. They were born that way, and they don't hurt anybody by being that way. What's the big deal?
Every now and then Christian Facebook friends, sometimes people who have never talked to me one-on-one about anything else, people who have never talked to me about my own job search or world peace, will send me urgent, private messages.
"Danusha. You say you are Christian. But it's clear from your Facebook feed that you have gay friends. Don't you realize that they are sinners and are damned and you shouldn't be associating with them?"
Just once I'm going to write back. "Gee, heck, you're correct. I've got my Bible right here. Leviticus 20:13. I've got a pile of stones. Want to join me in stoning my gay Facebook friends to death? Say, this afternoon around five? After that we can shower and then catch a movie."
Yesterday a conservative Catholic conversation about women's status flowed through my Facebook feed.
A male poster mentioned that nowadays people are "tired of crazy sexual politics."
A woman wrote, "We are not equal. We never will be… Please leave Jesus alone. Don't make him wear rainbows or have a woman portray him…Santa Claus is a man not a woman."
A male poster wrote, "You love your children equally even if they're not equal in accomplishments or talent."
Another male poster wrote, "the idea of female priests is ridiculous because the priest is standing in for God and in that relationship God acts as the bridegroom and the church (all of us) are the bride and therefore female. Having a woman do it destroys the symbolism of god giving and us receiving."
I said that I am Catholic and I wish we had women priests.
One of those discussing the matter called me "diabolical."
This conversation upset me because it was cake icing on a cake baked with cyanide.
The invocations of God and virtue are the cake frosting. Misogyny is the cyanide.
None of it is biblically supportable. In fact the insistence on gender stereotypes uber alles is entirely Pagan.
"God wants women to be fluffy and nurturing and bad at math. God wants men to be gruff and to eat barbecued ribs while watching the Super Bowl. And that's why only men can be priests" So says chapter one verse one of the Book of … wait. No Biblical verse says any such thing.
I'm sad that some think that God took on human form and suffered crucifixion just to keep women in their place. Jesus really didn't have to do that. The Ancient Pagan world was a highly gendered place. The Roman paterfamilias, or father of the family, had the power of life and death over his own children. Women were to be unquestioningly obedient and to stay at home. Pagan religious rituals were highly sexed; temple prostitution was a frequent method of connecting with the divine. If God really was so invested in docile, obedient, domestic women, manly men, and biologically gendered church services, He had that in the Ancient, Pagan world.
What Biblical evidence do we have that God wants to make sure that male babies wear blue and that female babies wear pink? And never vice versa?
Not much. Jesus was a gender outlaw. He never married or had children, requirements for Jewish men. He took money from Mary Magdalene, who supported his ministry financially. Jesus described himself as a mother – Matthew 23:37 – and he washed his disciples' feet, a very feminine, caretaking thing to do. It was, previously, a woman who had washed his feet. Jesus described himself as shattering traditional family life – Luke 14:26
The early church had women preachers and apostles, like Junia. Early Christian women, moving from Paganism to Christianity, described that move as one from a Pagan world where gender roles were strict and their status as female was all that mattered, to a world where a woman was, above all, an equal child of a loving God in whom "there is no male nor female." Galatians 3:28. The Acts of Paul and Thecla describes this move vividly. Thecla was a Roman virgin who felt stifled by her Pagan milieu. She became a Christian and felt liberated.
The Bible describes the perfect woman in Proverbs, chapter 31. The perfect woman is a mover and shaker. She buys and sells, she makes and does, she teaches and inspires. She is strong.
The belief that God is deeply invested in people conforming to gender stereotypes has inspired great crimes. Think of the martyrs to that worldview. People like Alan Turing, who played a huge role in helping the good guys win the good war. Turing was a code breaker. "Winston Churchill said that Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany" (Wikipedia). Turing was tortured – by the very good guys he helped win – for being gay. He killed himself.
Think of people like Mother Theodore Guerin. Mother Guerin founded an order of nuns in Indiana. When she left her post on a business trip, Bishop Célestine de la Hailandière ordered Mother Guerin's nuns to elect someone else as their leader. They, defiant, re-elected Mother Theodore. The bishop then denied Mother Guerin permission to enter her own convent. At one point the bishop locked Mother Guerin in a room to prevent her from being who she was. Her crime? She was an effective leader – so much so that she is now a saint.
And of course some women have simply been burned at the stake for violating gender norms, like Joan of Arc, a transvestite, a bossy female, and a great saint.
I suggest to those who oppose women priests – Okay, let's start now. Let's get rid of the women priests we have now.
We have women priests now?
Because of the priest shortage, women in the Catholic Church now do almost everything male priests do, except consecrate hosts and accept the status that accompanies the priesthood.
Women in the church minister to the sick, read from the altar, teach, preach, and conduct the day to day running of the church.
If women priests are such bad things, let's get rid of the women doing a priest's work right now.
Except we can't. Because without women functioning more or less as priests, the Church would grind to a halt.
Bottom line: there are very few male priests, and there numbers are getting smaller every day.
There is a crisis in the Catholic Church. We have few to no priests. There are thousands of parishes worldwide that have no priest at all. The number of priest-less parishes is increasing rapidly. The ratio of Catholics to priests is also increasing rapidly. There are over a thousand Catholics to each priest in America today.
We Catholics feel the priest shortage in our day to day lives. I have repeatedly attempted to make contact with a priest, including right before surgery that might very well have ended my life. No priest would minister to me before this surgery. I was seen by a New Age freelance minister, a wonderful woman. As much as I appreciate her services to me, I would have preferred to encounter an equally loving person of my own, Catholic faith. There was none.
The crisis of priest-lessness does not exist in Protestant denominations that allow female and married clergy.
Maybe that's why – thank you God – most Catholics aren't like the conservatives I ran into yesterday. Most American Catholics want women and married priests. A recent poll by The Saint Leo University Polling Institute reports that approximately sixty percent of Catholics want women priests and married priests. You can read results of that survey here.
But Catholics are not getting what they want. And they are leaving their church. My beloved Church is hemorrhaging members. One third of Pew Forum survey respondents who say they were born Catholic no longer are. That's huge. That's heartbreaking. Only immigration from Latin America keeps Catholic Church doors open – and those immigrants often leave soon enough, as they assimilate and their ties to Catholicism weaken. No, our church should not be a popularity contest. At the same time, any of us who chooses to ignore the hearts of the faithful is a traitor to his church.
Finally, if our goal is to be a member of a religion that really keeps women in their place, why not go all the way? Let me close with this youtube rendition of "No woman no drive" from the singing sheikhs of Saudi Arabia.