I used to be a leftist. Many life experiences, including a lecture by David Horowitz, turned me into a former leftist. I never thought I’d vote Republican, then I did. I went from being the bleeding heart teacher who bent over backward for my students to being a drill sergeant. Two things have not changed. I was a Catholic before, and I’m a Catholic now. I think I was probably a feminist in the womb. I’m a feminist still.
There’s debate about whether or not bra burning ever happened. If it did, it was a small number of women.
Most big name feminists have been married to men they loved, and who loved them. Pioneering eighteenth-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women. When she met William Godwin, she argued with him all night long, and he didn’t like her at all. Yet he fell in love with her. His wife, “dissolves us in tenderness, at the same time that she displays a genius which commands all our admiration.” Of their marriage, Godwin wrote, “It would have been impossible for the most minute observer to have said who was before, and who was after. One sex did not take the priority which long-established custom has awarded it.” Wollstonecraft died of childbed fever after giving birth to their daughter, who would grow up to write Frankenstein. After Wollstonecraft’s death, Godwin wrote to a friend, “There does not exist her equal in the world … We were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.”
When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in villages without electricity or plumbing, I used to haul water from a stream, and warm it by the embers of the fire over which I steamed my lentils and rice, and shave my legs.
I’m a big proponent of the nuclear family and the presence of both biological parents in the home for the sake of growing children.
“You feminists are responsible for trans extremism!”
Men invade women’s sports and women’s bathrooms, beat us up, and rape women in women’s prisons, and it is somehow not the fault of those men, but of feminists. Feminist Elinor Burkett published one of the best dissections of trans extremism I’ve read. Julie Bindel, Kathleen Stock, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, JK Rowling, Maria MacLachlan, and Helen Joyce are just a few of the feminists who have been on the front lines, and been violently attacked for their activism. Trans extremists’ ultimate slur is “TERF,” or trans exclusionary radical feminist.
The feminists who see no difference between men and women are wrong and they are destructive. There are jerks in every group. Most of us, whether we know the label or not, are “difference feminists” who recognize that men and women are different. Two difference feminists are worth getting to know. You may have never heard of Josephine Butler or Bertha Pappenheim, but you should have. Butler was a devout Christian English woman; Pappenheim was an Austrian Jew. Both were born in the Victorian Era, and both campaigned against rampant sex trafficking and sexual enslavement of women and girls.
How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
ONE! AND IT’S NOT FUNNY!
I get laughs with that joke, and others, which suggests to me that I am not humorless.
My feminist manifesto is below. See if you don’t agree.
Women should be able to vote, to own property, to have their own bank accounts, to inherit, to bequeath, to choose their husband and to decide when and whom to marry, to use birth control, to leave abusive relationships, to hold jobs for which they are qualified, to receive the same compensation as other equally performing male colleagues, and to travel solo. Women should not be bought and sold. If a woman is raped or otherwise sexually harassed or assaulted, she should receive respectful, effective responses from the law.
Trivialization of women, by men or women, disgusts me. Women are more than the physical features that arouse men. Women who aren’t particularly sexy but who, say, win two Nobel prizes, like Marie Sklodowska Curie, or who, in spite of Nazi torture, rescue 2,500 Jewish children, like Irena Sendler, or who make a contribution to discovering the structure of DNA, like Rosalind Franklin, or light up the Middle Ages with their accomplishments in multiple fields, like Hildegard von Bingen, or who write timeless novels, like Jane Austen, deserve the same admiration that men who achieve such feats receive.
If you agree, by my definition, that makes you a feminist. “But those positions are just normal,” you may be thinking. Alas, the positions listed above are not “normal” at all. For much of history, and over much of the world today, women and girls could not and cannot travel solo, attend school, or choose whom or when to marry. Female infanticide is as old as history and it continues today – see here, here, and here. Statistics strongly suggest that sex-selective abortion occurs in the United States. A doctor recently told me that she knows a pregnant mother whose parents stipulated that if she produced a grandson, she’d receive ten thousand dollars. A granddaughter would bring a one thousand dollar gift. That we think that human rights for women, including the right to life, are normal is a heritage we owe to feminists.
Oh, and by the way, as a former leftist, I can let you in on a little secret. Misogyny is alive and well on the left. Some-not-all leftist men feel personally inadequate. They conduct a perpetual, spiteful war with authority. When a woman speaks or acts with authority, they feel especially intimidated. They attempt to buttress their shaky manhood by lashing out against women in ugly ways. Misogyny is a major, and so far ineradicable feature of the New Atheist Movement, several of whose celebrity leaders have been credibly accused of sexual harassment and assault. On the other hand, Some-not-all right-wing men feel confident in their manhood. These self-confident men can enjoy, rather than feel threatened by, smart, strong women.
“Okay. You’ve convinced me that a woman can be conservative and a feminist. But Catholic and feminist?”
Yes. Rodney Stark details how the early Christian church was literally a life-saver for women. See his 1994 Paul Hanly Furfey Lecture, “Reconstructing the Rise of Christianity: The Role of Women.” Christianity’s emphasis on imago dei and the full humanity of each person made it, according to Celsus, the religion of women, and children, and slaves. Celsus was a second-century Greek Pagan, and he thought that by associating Christianity with women, children, and slaves, he was delivering the ultimate insult. Christianity granted rights, and full humanity, to those who in the Pagan world had few to no rights at all.
“But don’t the Bible and the Church oppress women?”
Misogyny is a universal; it exists inside and outside the Church. Feminist Christians like me believe that the Bible, as a whole, is a liberatory text. For example, yes, there are verses that appear to offer no resistance to slavery. But if you pull the focus back from isolated verses, and look at the entire text of the Bible, you see that Exodus is the major narrative in the Old Testament, and Exodus is all about God liberating slaves. Jesus is the central figure of the New Testament, and he came to set humanity free; see Galatians 5:1 2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:32, etc. Given the big themes of the entire book, it can’t be argued that the Bible is pro-slavery. The Abolition movement, unique in world history in its successful opposition to slavery, was a Christian movement.
Just so, there are verses that are used to call for suppression of women. But if you pull the focus back and look at the entire Bible, you see a document that is absolutely unique in the ancient world, a document populated by named, average women – not goddesses, queens, or personifications of abstract qualities like the Native American Corn Mother, or the Buddhist Guanyin, the embodiment of compassion. Flesh-and-blood Biblical women are key players. Further on in this essay, in discussion of 1 Timothy 2, I’m going to demonstrate this to you – I’m going to look at one chapter close up, and then pull back the focus and place that chapter in the context of the entire Bible. I’m no theological authority, and my interpretation is just mine. But I want you to know that, yes, someone can be both a feminist and a Christian.
“But I’m not religious. Why does any of this matter to me?”
I agree with atheists like Douglas Murray and Tom Holland. The Judeo-Christian tradition is one of the sine-qua-nons of Western Civilization. Those of us who inherited and benefit from that tradition should understand it fully, especially now. We diminish ourselves when we allow those hostile to our tradition to define it for us. Christophobes assert that Christians and Jews who support human rights simply ignore the Bible. I believe, along, again, with Murray and Holland, that the West’s concept of human rights is rooted in the Bible, and that the Christian Abolitionists who fought slavery, and religious feminists like Josephine Butler and Bertha Pappenheim work with, not against, a tradition that is millennia old.
Further, you may not be a Christian, but people around you, who have an impact on your life, certainly are. When someone wraps a religious cloak around misogyny, that eventually has an impact on you.
In the Land of the Blue Burqas by Kate McCord is an almost unbearable read. McCord lived in Afghanistan for five years. Most of the world knows that Islam pressures Afghan women into invisibility. We are all familiar with images of Muslim women entombed in stifling shrouds: burqas, abayas, scarves, and niqabs. In her 2012 book, McCord informs the reader that Islam also pressures women into inaudibility as well as invisibility. An Afghan explains to McCord why a woman should never be heard. If a man hears a woman, “He will think her voice is beautiful and will lust after her. Maybe he will be on the street separated by the wall … maybe he will never see the woman who sings, but he hears her voice. If that happens, he will want her. It’s her fault. She has sinned. She made him want her. The sin is hers. She will be punished. That’s why a woman should never sing even in her own courtyard.” If only the silencing of women were limited to Afghanistan. It is not.
In June, 2023, The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting disfellowshipped churches with women pastors. Women had been pastors for some time in the Southern Baptist Convention. Addie Davis was ordained as a minister in 1964. By 1981, almost thirty percent of Southern Baptist seminary students were female. In 1984, there were 250 women pastors. In 2023, according to Rick Warren, “at least 1,928 SBC churches have women pastors.”
There was a backlash against these women. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary ejected its female faculty member. It now offers “special programs” for women. Women are taught to “love and support their husbands,” “donate gently used clothing,” and also “how to conduct a ladies Bible study.”
Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life. The book was a bestseller for 90 weeks. It has sold tens of millions of copies in 137 languages. Warren’s megachurch, Saddleback, has over 23,000 members. The Southern Baptist Convention ejected that church. Saddleback is not just a model of successful evangelizing; it is also a source of funds. Some of those 23,000 people tithe. The SBC doesn’t want Saddleback’s success in spreading the Gospel; it doesn’t want Saddleback’s money. Saddleback has women pastors. The SBC’s move disproportionately punishes and handicaps black churches, because black churches have more women pastors.
Freedom of conscience is a core value for Baptists. “A passion for religious liberty and freedom of conscience runs in the veins of Baptists … Our forefathers and mothers fought and suffered for this inalienable right because they understood to truly love and worship God is to love and worship Him freely. Coerced love is an oxymoron.” So wrote Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Exactly because of that Baptist emphasis on freedom of conscience, Baptists from one congregation have no authority to pressure Baptists in another congregation to appoint or reject this or that pastor. Forty years ago, there were hundreds of women pastors. Suddenly in 2023, Baptists disfellowshipped any congregation with a woman pastor. What prompted this shocking move, that gives every appearance of violating the cherished Baptist ideal of each congregation’s autonomy?
In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News began exposing sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches. The Southern Baptist Convention published a lengthy report in 2022. “It makes you ill,” one pastor said of the report. “Top church leaders suppressed and mishandled abuse claims, resisted reforms and belittled victims and their families.” The report is “an apocalypse” revealing “a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be” said Russell Moore, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm.
One of the features that allowed the abuse to continue was the Baptists’ commitment to congregational autonomy. There was no central authority to handle abusers. “Southern Baptists believe that the local church in New Testament times was autonomous, and thus our local churches are autonomous,” Executive Committee President Morris Chapman said. Thus, “The denomination’s Executive Committee would not support the creation of a database of sexual offenders.” The same entity that insisted that each congregation is autonomous, and, thus, no congregation can interfere with any other congregation’s hiring of a known sex offender as a pastor, later went on to argue that it does have the authority to disfellowship congregations that appoint women as pastors.
Beth Moore is “arguably the most prominent white evangelical woman in America.” In May, 2019, after the exposure of abuse, Moore tweeted, “I am compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit … to draw attention to the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety & bearing the stench of hypocrisy … we must search the attitudes & practices of Christ Jesus himself toward women. HE is our Lord. He had women followers! Evangelists! The point of all sanctification & obedience is toward being conformed to HIS image. I do not see 1 glimpse of Christ in this sexism.” Pastors subsequently attacked Moore. She left the SBC.
These events broke my heart. I mentioned my heartbreak on Facebook.
Facebook friends “John” and “Gloria” went on the attack. John mentioned New Testament verses attributed, controversially, to Paul. For example, 1 Timothy 2, tells women to be silent, to be submissive to men, never to teach, never to have authority, and to suffer all this because God created Adam first, and Eve ate the fruit and Adam was not deceived. Eve proves that all women are more susceptible to Satan than are men. The chapter goes on to say that women are saved through bearing children. John challenged me to disagree.
I responded, “John, you assert that because you have a penis and I don’t, I am unworthy to so much as speak to you, never mind to teach you, or anyone else, anything at all. And yet you challenge me to speak to you and teach you.” John unfriended and blocked me.
Is John correct? Isn’t it Christians’ job unquestioningly to believe as literally true and to obey whatever a given Bible verse says, and to bash anyone who isn’t on board? No, it is not. There are Bible verses that Christians certainly do not unquestioningly apply. There are Bible verses that, when unquestioningly applied, have resulted in individual or mass death. See for example Matthew 27:25, Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:13, Numbers 5:11-31, Leviticus 18:19, 29, Mark 16:18, and Acts: 4-5.
No Christian denomination obeys the entirety of 1 Timothy 2. In addition to ordering women to be silent and submissive, the chapter forbids women from braiding or styling their hair, and from wearing gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. Mary Kahler Mohler, wife of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, appears wearing gold, expensive clothing, and with professionally styled hair in the institution’s publication.
1 Timothy 2 says that women are not allowed to teach, period. Translations say, as this one does, “I do not let women teach.” Christian denominations certainly let women teach. Without women teachers Christianity would not have continued for two millennia. Every woman who publicly supports the disfellowshipping of churches is herself a teacher. Southern Baptist women are publicly whipping out their Bibles and citing verses to attempt to persuade others of their interpretation of scripture which is that they should not be allowed publicly to whip out their Bibles and cite verses in attempts to persuade others of their interpretation of scripture. Their very behavior contradicts the position they promote.
Gloria supported John. Gloria first contacted me almost thirty years ago. We’ve been in continuous internet contact ever since. Gloria is a Jehovah’s Witness. She is the most aggressive, relentless woman I’ve ever met. In her first emails to me, she told me to become a Jehovah’s Witness. I declined. She’s never stopped. Gloria adduces Bible verses and disseminates them to bring people around to her point of view. She does this to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people a year. I mentioned to Gloria the disconnect between her aggressive proselytizing and her insistence that women are to be silent and submissive and never to teach. She said, yes, she is silent and submissive when in the company of Jehovah’s Witness men. I observed that that policy is a caste system that elevates JW men, and puts me, a Catholic woman, in a lesser category, one Gloria can verbally bully.
1 Timothy 2 says that women are especially guilty because Adam was created before Eve, because Eve ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden, and “Adam was not deceived,” and, therefore, women are more susceptible to Satan’s lures than men are. There are two creation stories in Genesis; in the first, God creates male and female at the same time. Genesis 3:6 reports that Adam was deceived. 1 Timothy 2 disagrees with Genesis on two points.
1 Timothy 2 says that women are to achieve salvation through having children. This passage, controversially, and not universally attributed to Paul’s authorship, directly contradicts Paul elsewhere, for example in Romans, where Paul insists that the sin of Adam is erased for Christians through the sacrifice of Jesus. The idea that women need to have children to achieve salvation is heretical. No one takes it seriously, including Gloria, who has never had children. Baptists are Protestants, and Protestants believe in sola fide. Faith in Jesus alone, rather than any works, saves the sinner. 1 Timothy 2 contradicts foundational Protestant theology, Genesis, and Paul’s own statements.
1 Timothy 2’s insistence on silent and submissive women is repeatedly contradicted by the Bible itself, and by early Christian tradition. It is hard for us in the twenty-first century to recognize it, but the New Testament smashes conventional attitudes towards women. Anna, a childless woman, identifies the baby Jesus as the Messiah. Mary, a woman suspected of giving birth to Jesus illegitimately, orders Jesus to perform his first miracle. He obeys her, and turns water into wine at the Cana wedding feast. Jesus allows a ritually impure woman with a constant hemorrhage of blood to touch him. Jesus’ longest recorded conversation is with The Samaritan Woman at the Well. After they finish conversing, she returns to her village and evangelizes the population. They believe because of her speech and her teaching. Jesus saves a woman from a stoning she earned according to canonical understandings of the law. Mary Magdalene was the first to witness Jesus after his resurrection. She is the first to share that good news; she does so by speaking to and teaching male disciples. She is dubbed “The apostle to the apostles.” Priscilla, a woman, “explains the way of God accurately” to a man. She speaks; she teaches. Paul mentions Junia, a woman, as an outstanding apostle. Thecla, a early Christian saint, was called an apostle and praised by men. Acts 2:17-18 calls men and women equally to public testimony to God’s greatness.
This is amazing stuff. Mary, Jesus’ mother, could have been stoned to death for becoming pregnant outside of her betrothal to Joseph. The Samaritan woman was an adulteress and a member of a despised group. The woman with a hemorrhage rendered Jesus ritually unclean just by touching him. Anna would have been looked down upon because she was barren. That Mary Magdalene, a woman, was the first to witness the resurrection is actually used to support its historicity. No one inventing such an outlandish story would make a lowly woman the first to see and the first to report.
In elevating a barren woman and an unclean woman, and in protecting a prostitute from stoning, the New Testament’s revolutionary rescue of women from misogyny is stunning. This rescue is dramatically depicted in numerous works of art, including Rodolpho Bernardelli’s statue of Jesus protecting the Woman Taken in Adultery, whom the elders attempt to stone.
Rodney Stark writes,
“In Romans 16:1-2 Paul introduces and commends to the Roman congregation ‘our sister Phoebe’ who is a ‘deaconess of the church at Cenchrea,’ and who had been of great help to him. Deacons were of considerable importance in the early church. They assisted at liturgical functions and administered the benevolent and charitable activities of the church. Clearly, Paul regarded it as entirely proper for a woman to hold that position. Nor was this an isolated case. Clement of Alexandria wrote of ‘women deacons’ and in 451 the Council of Chalcedon specified that henceforth a deaconess must be at least 40 and unmarried (Ferguson 1990). From the pagan side, in his famous letter to the Emperor Trajan, Pliny the Younger (1943) reported that he had tortured two young Christian women ‘who were called deaconesses.'”
Given that Paul himself salutes women who speak and women who teach men, it’s clear that one must carefully interpret 1 Timothy 2 in the context of the whole Bible. One such careful approach is available here.
Those who insist on unquestioning obedience to 1 Timothy 2 are selective. Acts 4-5 states clearly that early Christians lived in a communist economy. “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had … those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed.” A husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, contribute only some, not all, of their money. Peter reprimands them. They both immediately drop dead. I’m unaware of any Christian church that demands that its congregants adhere to a strict communist economy in the model of the first century church as described in Acts 4-5.
“But, wait! Aren’t you Catholic?” someone asked during the Facebook fracas. Yes, I am Catholic. Like the majority of my fellow Catholics, I yearn for the day when women are recognized as priests (see here, here, here). The Catholic Church has suffered, and has caused much suffering, in recent years because of sex crimes committed by men. As we Catholics confront these atrocities, it’s unclear how anyone can argue, in line with 1 Timothy 2, that women are more susceptible to Satan than men are. In any case, I say that women should be “recognized as” rather than “allowed to become” priests because women do much, if not most, of the pastoral work in Christianity. Histories of what nuns have accomplished in the US are awe-inspiring. See a short version here. The question is not when women will be allowed authority. The question is when women will be recognized for the authority they have long exercised.
Meanwhile, as a Catholic girl, in church and school, in the home and in the wider community, I was surrounded by powerful women. Nuns were ten feet tall. In church, in front of me, was a statue of Mary, the Queen of Heaven, the Woman Clothed with the Sun, standing on a globe, crushing a serpent with her foot, crowned with stars, see here and here. I used to gaze at a stained glass image of Saint Cecilia, calmly playing the organ as a blade pressed against the abundant hair on her neck. I always thought she was getting a haircut; it’s only recently that I realized she was being martyred. In the wooden carvings depicting the Stations of the Cross, Jesus was shown interacting with women in the fourth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth stations. Veronica wiped his face with her veil, thus comforting him and also “photographing” the event. In the final station, women prepared Jesus’ body for burial. In school I learned about Therese, the Little Flower, Bernadette of Lourdes, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Joan of Arc, who weren’t just female, they were young girls like me. No, we don’t yet have women priests in Catholicism. But we have always had plenty of powerful female role models.
“I’m not a Southern Baptist. Why should I care about any of this?”
Because misogyny can’t be contained within the walls of a house of worship. When I walk in my city’s Muslim-majority neighborhoods, I confront street harassment. I’m not a Muslim, but gender apartheid affects me. The insistence that women must be silent and submissive because they are more susceptible to Satan’s lures was a key support for the Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of Witches, a 1486 book written by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor. Malleus Maleficarum helped spark the witch craze and the murder of tens of thousands of innocent victims, mostly women.
The association of women with Satan is not a thing of the past. August Boto is “one of the most powerful men” in the Southern Baptist Convention. In an internal email, he described the work against sex abuse in his church as a “satanic scheme … the devil being temporarily successful.” He cited Christa Brown and Rachael Denhollander. Christa Brown was sexually assaulted by her youth pastor when she was a teenager. That pastor has been accused by others, including church officials. When teenage Christa Brown attempted to defy her pastor’s demands for inappropriate intimacy, he called her Satanic and said it was “God’s will” that they be intimate. After Brown reported him, he was simply moved to another congregation. Boto was also referring to Rachael Denhollander as “Satanic.” Denhollander is an attorney and author opposed to the sexual abuse of women and girls. Denhollander was the first to publicly accuse gymnastics coach Larry Nasser of sexual abuse.
In May, 2010, operators received a series of disturbing 911 calls. In one of the calls, a man reports that “There’s a young girl, about 14 years old, running around screaming and there’s some guy trying to follow her.”
In previous 911 calls, a woman is heard stating, “There’s somebody after me,” “They’re trying to kill me,” and “Please stop.” That caller was Shannan Gilbert. She was not, as a caller thought, 14 years old. She was a 24-year-old prostitute.
In December, 2010, police searched Gilgo Beach on the South Shore of Long Island, about forty miles from midtown Manhattan as the crow flies. Police were seeking the fate of Shannan Gilbert, who disappeared after making frightening 911 calls months before. Instead searchers found the remains of four other women. All were prostitutes.
On July 13, 2023, Rex Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect, husband, and father was arrested and charged with murder in connection with three of the corpses found on Gilgo Beach in 2010. He may be charged in connection with the fourth corpse as well, and police are currently investigating whether or not he is connected to killings in New Jersey, South Carolina, and Nevada.
When news like this breaks, women shudder. We know, whether we verbalize it or not, that there is a force in the world that wants to hurt us. I call that force misogyny. We tailor our movements to keep ourselves safe. We have nightmares. We wonder if men we know could commit such acts. We pray we never meet the man who is so driven.
Heuermann is reported to be six feet four inches tall. He is overweight. In arrest photos, he towers over surrounding officers. David Schaller encountered the customer one Gilgo Beach victim was last seen with. Schaller said that the man was a huge “ogre.” Three of the Gilgo Beach Four, as they are known, were under five feet tall and about or under one hundred pounds. According to a former employee, Heuermann hired women who were short and petite. The gigantic Heuermann seemed to delight in humiliating his tiny female employees, this male employee says. Clearly, the Gilgo Beach serial killer preferred women he could render submissive.
The Gilgo Beach killer strangled his female victims. He wanted them silenced.
After Heuermann’s arrest, New York City media, both left- and right- leaning, from the New York Times to the New York Post, from WNYC to WABC, all asked and answered the same question. Why did it take so long? David Schaller gave police very specific clues, clues they took a long time to act on. All sources provided the same answer. The victims were low priority because they were prostitutes. The New York Post, famous for its unambiguous headlines, reported that “Gilgo killings unsolved for 13 years because ‘bad dudes botched the case.'”
Gentle reader, do you think I am reaching to draw connections between my friend John, and his insistence on silencing women, and forcing them to submit, and a serial killer? If you think that, please do this for me. Go to Google. Click on “image search.” Type in the words “silent woman.” Examine the images that search turns up. You will see women wearing gags. You will see quite a few images of decapitated women. You will see a woman struggling to scream, but unable to. You will not see images that reflect the Judeo-Christian tradition’s emphasis on the dignity of each human being. Now let’s take it up a notch. Perform a Google image search of “submissive woman.” You will see one S&M image after another. Tortured women. Begging women. Women on dog leashes controlled by men. The women are naked or semi-naked. The men are clothed.
I would never join a church where men were required to be “silent and submissive” to anyone, least of all me. I love men. I love their bodies, their voices, their masculine gifts and perceptions that I can’t replace because I’m not a man. I would never join a church that would silence and force into submission St. Francis, John Paul II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Billy Graham. It saddens me that John or anyone wants to belong to a church that would silence, and force into submission, Catherine of Siena, Sor Juana, Dorothy Day, Fanny Lou Hamer, and Beth Moore. I would never join a church that demanded that black people, or children, or handicapped people, or any segment of the population be silent and submissive to some other segment of the population. The idea chills and sickens me.
I used to be a leftist. We leftists have big problems with hierarchies. I became more conservative as I realized how hierarchy was necessary in teaching. When I was teaching class, I practiced a hierarchy. But I wasn’t at the head of the class because of the anatomy I was born with. I was at the head of the class because I had devoted years of my life to mastering subject matter and pedagogy, and proved that mastery through publications and evaluations.
I never demanded that my students submit to me. I informed my students that for a successful class, they needed to cooperate with me to create a learning environment that would nourish them intellectually and professionally. No identity prevented my students from someday becoming PhD professors just like me. I was thrilled when students said that my class made them want to be teachers. As I age and face my mortality, I am gratified to know that men and women who once sat in my class will carry forward the knowledge and the skills I learned from my mentors, male and female.
I strive to be a good student of my own teacher, who said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.