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Women as spiritual equals to men

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You wouldn't think that the idea of spiritual equality would be controversial in the Christian Church, but if you think that, you actually are mistaken. The relegation of women to second-class status, which is obvious in Judaism and Islam, the two other "revealed" religions of the world, is alive and doing damage to women in Christianity as well.

I think the whole situation is rooted in the days when politics and religion were basically the same thing in Western Europe. Now that religion is an option in life (and getting more optional all the time), it seems that church authorities are having trouble seeing women as human beings just like they did in the days when women had little-to-no status in their worldview.

This quote is commonly used as a proof text against women's status in the Church:

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." [St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy:2:12-15]

In reality, St. Paul did not write this; he may not have written the entire letter. There is legitimate academic doubt about this and the authenticity of the letter itself is in question. The sentences do not appear in our earliest copies of I Timothy that date from the Second or Third Century (because the original biblical manuscripts no longer exist). But since it serves the purposes of dominating male Christians, it is falsely represented as the writing of St. Paul. But Paul also wrote this in an authentic letter credited to him:

"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." [Galatians 3:23-29]

This quote, presented here in context, destroys the idea of male supremacy in the Church, but it is simply ignored in its application to male and female. But if Christianity is to be believed as a faith for anyone, we are all one in Christ Jesus, nothing more or less.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just excommunicated one of their own, Kate Kelly, who heads up a group called Ordain Women in the Utah Mormon church. The Mormons, who developed their theology (such as it is) in the Nineteenth Century, have basically replicated the social structures of their time in their faith. Women "serve at the pleasure of men," as it were, being "allowed" to perform certain functions as their prophet in Salt Lake City sees fit, or may receive an epiphany about it from time to time. Although this isn't the major doctrinal problem with the LDS faith (Chapter 9 of III Nephi is), it is obvious that few women who enjoy their civil rights would convert to it nowadays.

The LDS Church may count everyone who ever practiced their faith in their impressive membership figures, but there are other indications that it is a paper tiger with an actual attrition that contradicts their inflated official statistics; this is going to come out all over again with the excommunication of Kelly and the women who hoped (why, I do not know) that they could answer a call to ministry as the LDS hierarchy comes to their senses. This is still a coming attraction.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis is living up to the pessimism about his papacy that I expressed when he was first elected. He conducted himself well in his first few months--even impressively--but he has let women down in three important areas. First, he refuses to consider women for ordination, even though it is apparent that women served in a ministerial capacity in the early Church. Second, he refuses to revisit the idea of birth control even though this is costing the Catholic Church the lives of women and children. It is a reflection of his appalling indifference to women's actual existence. Third, he continues to persecute nuns who ought to be in discussions with authorities over their views.

When nuns perceive their Christian duty to be serious, they may come to conclusions that the local cardinal doesn't like. The answer to that, however, is not a crackdown. It ought to be the subject of earnest conversation and negotiation in order to keep these most sincere believers within the church. The "my way or the highway" attitude of the Pope hasn't gone away, as I predicted it would not. Pope Francis may hang a veil over his attitudes, but they will come through anyway. The effect on attendance and the number of candidates for the priesthood and women's orders is being felt every day; seminaries have few applicants and most of the nuns you see are old women.

It is difficult to deal with change as the passage of time pushes on social convention, but if you try to take your morality out of the Old Testament you are doomed to failure. The idea that human ethics have not changed since prehistory is farcical--and you will see that idea mocked on programs that deal in farce and satire every day. I am sure that when the producers of the film Noah released it, they were confident that it would be overwhelming in its scope and the devastating indictment they thought they were making of mankind's sinfulness according to the Book of Genesis. But the result was more like Bill Maher's remark that God was portrayed as a psychotic mass murderer, which most people can understand even if they don't agree with it.

There are many people who try to abide by both the Old and New Testaments, because they don't understand the passage of time and what it represents in religious history. Why don't religious people offer blood sacrifices today? Because they don't work, as the atheists from prehistory could tell you when they observed that very thing in their day. Sacrifices were made to make friends with the Wind God, and then the hurricanes and tornadoes came along in their due season anyway. Sacrifices were made to the God of Water, and the floods and tidal waves appeared despite the sacrifices. You couldn't help but notice, even though you may have been intimidated enough not to put it into words, but sacrifices just don't work.

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong found it devastating when his wife, a lovely woman by all accounts, died of cancer. But it was also deeply disturbing to him that people kept telling him that she was in their prayers. Why would God work a miracle to save her life from cancer, and "let" another person die--what does that say about the nature of God? He, and we, have to liberate ourselves from the concept that "God is in charge" or that "everything happens for a reason" before we can accept that causality is random and that some things are beyond human intervention. As we do that, we approach adult theology--and we are not there yet. Nor can we ask the Pope or the patriarch of Salt Lake City (two self-proclaimed infallible authorities) to ask us to accept primitive faith. Any God who can be discredited ought to be discredited. Then we can approach spiritual reality.

For more info: check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/kate-kelly-excommunication-acti... for the original story about Kate Kelly.

You can also visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patricia-miller/three-ways-pope-francis-h_... for commentary on the Pope's inaction on women's spiritual equality.

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