January 18, 2010
A former president and major journalist claim that religion is oppressive to women and unless women are allowed to break into the remaining all-male clergy, the major organized religions will continue not just to oppress women religiously, but to indirectly cause the full-scale oppression of women in all areas of life. Any act of foul play by a man against a woman – and the implication is that there are many such acts of foul play – reflects this injustice.
Now let’s examine the facts. Ever since the apostles abandoned their fishing nets by the Galilee, millions of men have followed in their footsteps, taking vows of relative poverty and often celibacy, consigning themselves to austerity and reproductive oblivion, and performing spiritual and material services, at all hours of the day, for their followers, at least half of whom have been women.
A small percentage of these men acquired power and tasted luxury. Popes and bishops fathered children and drank from vessels of gold, with the full imperial regalia provided by an established church. Anglican ministers lived in genteel and undemanding circumstances, able to pursue fossil collecting and literary studies. Televangelists became rich celebrities and famous theologians altered the intellectual landscape. But, by any measure, these men represent a minute fraction of the whole. The life of the average Christian cleric is not taken up by most Christian men for good reason. It is too hard.
Now how is it possible to conclude that men have, out of animus, excluded women from this life, forcing them instead to taste the relative freedom of being mothers or daughters who were cared for by their fathers? It is only possible if one ignores the truth. Like so much of the prevailing opinion regarding male power, it is a myth. The exact opposite is true. Men have been the play things of anti-male prejudice, the widespread expectation that they must assume tasks women do not want or cannot perform and that they must give way to cultural prerogatives whatever they may be. Not only must they assume these tasks, they must perform them well, sometimes spectacularly well. Read More »