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Issues of Gender & Sex in Christianity - What is the root of the problem?Birth Control in the Catholic Church
Lynda
December 17, 2002, 03:47 PM
Issues of Gender & Sex in Christianity - What is the root of the problem?
quote:
The result of this history is that the Christian Church today is still one of the most sexist institutions in Western civilization. The patriarchal man wants purity in his wife, as well as a mother for his children. The Virgin Mother filled that need, but she was hardly an ideal woman. What man wants to be married to a permanent virgin? We need to remember that the world that proclaimed the Virgin Mary to be the ideal woman treated all women as second-class citizens.

Today, one cannot help but note that in the nations of the Western world that most honor the Virgin Mary, the status of woman remains low. She has not been an asset in the quest for the emancipation of women. If I were holding before my daughters or my granddaughters a model for their lives, and my choices were the Virgin Mary or Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman would win hands down.

If the goal of organized religion is to call people to the fullness of their humanity, as I believe it is, then perhaps church leaders ought to look at those they hold up as role models. Both Wonder Woman and the Virgin Mary are mythological figures. The church does not like to admit that, but it is true. Neither woman, as we have come to know them, ever lived in history. Only one of them pretends to be historical, the other freely admits she is not.

But Wonder Woman has done more to break the culturally imposed boundaries on women than the Virgin Mary ever did. Wonder Woman has shaped, freed, and transformed more women’s limits than the Virgin Mary has done in 2000 years. If it were possible to do so, I would nominate her for sainthood.



from Bishop J.S. Spong at BeliefNet
Hugh
(hugh.oregan_NO_SPAM@pobox.com)
Member
December 17, 2002, 07:10 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Lynda:
But Wonder Woman has done more to break the culturally imposed boundaries on women than the Virgin Mary ever did. _Wonder Woman has shaped, freed, and transformed more women’s limits than the Virgin Mary has done in 2000 years._ If it were possible to do so, I would nominate her for sainthood.



For me I will stick with the Theotokos. You can keep Wonder Women. While I am more than willing to cross swords with Christ's Church and to argue theology with the Supreme Pontiff himself. I find myself incapable of arguing with Mary, The Mother of God.

<Serious Grin> Chalk this reluctance up to my being Irish Catholic.

Hugh
Editor
Member
December 17, 2002, 07:59 PM
LOL! I'm with you on that one, Hugh.
Susan
Member
December 18, 2002, 06:05 AM
Lynda,

I think a lot of the problem with Mary lies in the interpretation. Mary was a woman who was willing to be involved in one of the greatest scandals in history. The scandal of a very great Love. The scandal of being pregnant during betrothal. She was willing to say 'yes' to her inner direction despite all the externals that said otherwise.
She said 'yes' to her sexuality. She said 'yes' to her vocation. She said 'yes' to her understanding of what God was asking her to do.
Only in some reductionistic renderings must virginity have to do with sexual intercourse. Interpretation makes a great deal of difference.

Susan
johnboy
Member
December 18, 2002, 06:33 AM
Not that I don't like Wonder Woman
Lynda, There's not much that captures my interest in the ABC discussions nowadays but this thread definitely caught my eye. I have read one book and many articles by and about Bishop Spong. My personal opinion is that his theology is rather reactionary.

There are some things he has said and written that I very much agree with. For instance, he and I might both be considered panentheists. But there are many others in the science and religion dialogue who say things much better than he does, in my opinion, like Catholic theologian Jack Haught from Georgetown. I suspect that many theologians find Spong's scholarship lacking and this assessment is separate and apart from the fact that his major positions are considered outright heresy, not only by evangelical and fundamentalist denominations but even by most progressive Anglican and Roman Catholics. For example, he has not only demythologized the Virgin Birth but has also done away with The Resurrection.

I have taken Spong seriously enough to read a fair sample of what he has written. However, there is so much chaff mixed in with his wheat, I have found, that I don't read him much anymore. Neither do I share my "Why Christianity Must Change Or Die" book by him very widely. When I introduce my children to progressive ideas, Spong is not my author of choice.

Still, none of what I wrote above engages his particular thoughts on Mary in that specific article whatsoever. So, let me say something toward that end. When I read it, I could see where he was coming from and, as usual, I could agree with some of it. Nonetheless, I think my previous awareness of Spong's overall thrust interfered with my objective assessment of what he was trying to say in that particular article because, truth is, that article left me feeling kind of empty, not at all resonating with him.

Sometimes, I think the secular order is put off by the virtue of humility because it confuses unobtrusiveness and hiddenness with ineffectiveness and powerlessness. When I look at the Creator God, the Father, from the perspective of both Cosmic and Darwinian evolution, I feel immersed in a very tacit but still very influential dimension. When I look at Jesus and His kenosis, I experience an unobtrusive power. When I look at the Holy Spirit, I feel a gentle but efficacious force. When I look at a panentheistic God through a Thomistic metaphysic, I see efficient causation guided by an invisible formal causation.

So, too, when I look at Mary, in her hidden life with Jesus and in her apparitions throughout the centuries, I feel led to follow her example of unobtrusive effectiveness. His Word goes forth and accomplishes what it was sent to do with no breaking of bruised reeds, no quenching of smouldering wicks, no shouting in the streets, no clinging to Divine attributes as if they were something to be grasped at. It's not a gender thing but an approach we might all consider.

This is the type of efficacy and power and effectiveness and influence and force and causation and accomplishment that I have experienced, personally, from the Baby in the Manger and the Man on the Cross and I'll take the hidden and unobtrusive approach of the Lady in Blue over the one with the Red, White and Blue Costume anyday. After all, all she was doing was imitating the Father, her Son and the Holy Spirit. That's not a Patriarchy to run away from. Jesus wasn't the type of Messiah that Judas and the Zealots were looking for then and Mary isn't the type of wife and mother that the radical feminists are looking for now. Not that I don't like Wonder Woman.

pax, amor et bonum,
jb
momof3
Member
December 20, 2002, 02:15 PM
My vote is for Mary
Lynda,
I do have some issue with the way the male dominated hierarchy of our Church runs things and somewhere women need to be more present. So I get your point alittle bit.
However, I'm not a big fan of wonder woman.
Mary has provided me with a spiritual kinship. After having 3 kids I wouldn't look good in the wonder woman outfit. Mary bore a son Jesus Christ and He rose from the dead on that glorious Easter morning. It's not mythology. I know because I have met Him and know Him.

What you said caught my attention....
"The patriarchal man wants purity in his wife, as well as a mother for his children"

Well, I want a pure man and a father for my children. Praise God I got one!!

Peace to you, momof3

momof3
NF
December 20, 2002, 03:09 PM
quote:
I do have some issue with the way the male dominated hierarchy of our Church runs things and somewhere women need to be more present.


Here we go again. frown

So --- what are your issues? I'm having trouble keeping up:

fascists
genitally fixated
adolescents
power hungry
thinking types
male celibates

Gosh, they've gotten so much wrong (the evil male-dominated hierarchy)! You think the Creed might be erroneous, too? After all, why should they get THAT right and everything else wrong? I guess the Holy Spirit just up and left Dodge after the Council of Nicaea? Or maybe there are deeper explanations than the hierarchy being dominated by INTP misogynists for centuries? Just maybe? wink

Go deeper people (if you can).

NFH
I' outta here 'til P6 returns mad
Patricia
December 21, 2002, 06:26 AM
institutionalization and social sin
Even as we give the benefit of the doubt to individual members of the Church hierarchy, and at many levels consider them individually exculpable, for NF's points were well made regarding oversimplifying these issues, at the same time, could anyone deny the collective culpability and the social sin that pervades the Church? Rather than loosely tossing around pejoratives like fascists and adolescents, could we perhaps use the catch-all word sinners? For this is a word that describes us all, individually and collectively. Ours is a pilgrim church and it is a creature of its heritage, which is rather imperialistic. The charge of imperialism runs both ways, however, against both those who wield the power and those who would to wield it, if only they could. We can become like our enemies in the worst sort of way. Something tells me that some of the hierarchy is victimized by the institutionalized Church, that we are all victims of this fossilization. There is another way to look at the problems in the Church that avoids name-calling and over-simplified analyses. It is ecclesia semper reformanda and an ongoing call to constant conversion and penance, starting with the wo/man in the mirror.

Below is an article that I find a lot to both agree and disagree. I think it captures much of the truth that everyone has been trying to get across. It also exemplifies some of the oversimplifications by using imperialism as its specific charge where I believe institutionalization would be a more appropriate generic charge.

What do you think of this:


- article by James Carroll from the Boton Globe was deleted -

[This message was edited by moderator on December 21, 2002 at 12:48 PM.]
moderator
Administrator
December 21, 2002, 12:50 PM
patricia, it's illegal to copy and paste large segments of copyrighted material without permission.

what you can do instead is refer people to the url of the article. post it below and i'll paste it into your post above tomorrow when i check the forum.
Patricia
December 21, 2002, 04:14 PM
You are right. I didn't like the article that much and I think my statements work well alone anyway.

P.
ThomasMore
February 06, 2003, 09:15 PM
I'm with NFH and Johnboy, particularly when the latter wrote: 'Sometimes, I think the secular order is put off by the virtue of humility because it confuses unobtrusiveness and hiddenness with ineffectiveness and powerlessness'.

I think this is a problem with feminist perspectives such as Spong's generally, although there are many insights to be gained from them.

The underlying belief of the Spong excerpt is the notion that true freedom lies in the traditional characiture of masculinity. The traditional male subject is not humble, does not have children and is instead engaged in his own personal pursuits. As Sidney Callahan has argued, what women are able to do intrinsically then, such as to be pregnant, becomes worthless and indeed oppressive. Spong's perspective is thus an inverted form of biggotry.

An empowered Mary, mythological or not, would no doubt have had an abortion, told that patriachal fascist Joseph to f-off and gone out into the market place to amass her own capital. This is the life that has enslaved men for centuries and yet apparently holds the most hope for women's liberation.

Like arch-conservative types who assume the evil of men's supposed inherent desires, Spong asks: 'What man wants to be married to a permanent virgin?'. We should ask ourselves what this reveals about Spong's view of men. He has reduced me to a "genus penis" in one sentence and a structurally privileged one at that (although coming from the underclass). Obviously a vision of masculinity as being aligned to the life of Mary in her service of others is profoundly warped. I don't even know why I am bothering to write this post. I should be out trying to score.

See you then
ThomasMore
oh Tom
February 07, 2003, 08:56 AM
Is this a parody of a Spongishly radical feminist position? It looks like that is how you intended it? Just want to clarify in case others missed the intended sarcasm?

An empowered Mary, mythological or not, would no doubt have had an abortion, told that patriachal fascist Joseph to f-off and gone out into the market place to amass her own capital. This is the life that has enslaved men for centuries and yet apparently holds the most hope for women's liberation.
ThomasMore
February 07, 2003, 10:23 AM
Dear oh Tom,

You betcha

Cheers

Thomas
Susan
Member
February 08, 2003, 10:23 AM
If that is an example of Spong's radical feminist position, it's lacking a lot. I think Mary was a feminist just the way she was. She had a trusting relationship with God and acted on her guidance. That means she was a feminist because she did what she thought was right! Not because she acted in a certain preconceived manner that people attribute to radical feminism. To stereotype any group takes so much away from the individuals comprising the group! It's inaccurate and leaves much to be desired.......(even when I do it.Wink)

Susan

PS A woman deciding to carry a pregnancy to term can be just as much a radical feminist as a woman deciding in favor of an abortion. This is not what defines feminism.
moderator
Administrator
February 08, 2003, 10:39 AM
susan, i don't really think Mary's life and example has much in common with the positions and spirit of radical feminism. see this link for a definition of this topic and other links on radical feminism.

while i agree with you about the harm of stereotypes, i think terms like radical feminism are denoting positions which are widely recognized.

[This message was edited by moderator on February 08, 2003 at 11:03 AM.]
oh Tom
February 08, 2003, 12:56 PM
Does not the decriptor radical sufficiently nuance and distinguish and define many positions, which overemphasize certain legitimate values at the expense or to the exclusion of competing values?

Also, examples are expected to lack a lot in that they are usually dispositive but not exhaustive of an issue. They are merely examples and not definitions, by definition. They are also indicated by using a rather than the precisely to preempt the picking of a nit, as well as to save others from their insatiable need to exhibit their most excellent grasp of the obvious.
Susan who hasn't logged in yet
February 08, 2003, 05:02 PM
quote:
Originally posted by moderator:
susan, i don't really think Mary's life and example has much in common with the positions and spirit of radical feminism. see http://womenshistory.about.com/library/ency/blwh_radical_feminism.htm? for a definition of this topic and other links on radical feminism.

while i agree with you about the harm of stereotypes, i think terms like radical feminism are denoting positions which are widely recognized.

[This message was edited by moderator on February 08, 2003 at 11:03 AM.]
Susan
Member
February 08, 2003, 05:18 PM
Hi,

Yes, this really is Susan...with post number 4. My computer keeps eating my posts! Must be hungry.

OK, here's the essence of my previous intellectual opuses.....Smile

Thanks for the link, mod. I did read the definition. The definition subtly implies that self-determination is a fundamental aspect of radical feminism. Mary was a self-determined woman. She did not run off to the rabbis asking for a consultation before she responded to God at the Annunciation. She was a self-determined woman, which is what your definition is saying.

In Mary's case, self-determination = surrender to God's 'determination.' In some women's cases self determination may be solely based in the ego.

Your contention that this is a commonly understood term may be true in some circles, but not all.

oh Tom, you may pick your own nits. I was making a point about radical feminism and self-determination. Sorry you didn't see it.

Susan
moderator
Administrator
February 08, 2003, 06:39 PM
susan, what are these circles which posit different understandings of what radical feminism is. i've never come across any understanding which proposes it to be merely a matter of making decisions for self. it's much more "radical" than that.

what follows is what i have always understood it to be (from one of the links i referred you to which you said you reviewed).

what do you think they mean by constraints on reproductive freedom? more than birth control, i'm sure, and nothing i can see Mary going along with.

~~~~~~~~~

Main Tenets of Radical Feminism

1. Women are oppressed by patriarchy.

2. Patriarchy is a hierarchical system of domination and subordination of women by men. It consists in, and is maintained by, one or more of the following:
· Compulsory motherhood and constraints on reproductive freedom
· Compulsory heterosexuality
· The social construction of femininity and female sexuality as that which is “dominated”
· Violence towards women
· Institutions which encourage the domination of women by men, such as the church, and traditional models of the family

3. To end the oppression of women, we must abolish patriarchy. This will potentially involve:
· Challenging and rejecting traditional gender roles and the ways in which women are represented/constructed in language, media, as well as in women’s personal lives.
· Fighting patriarchal constructions of women’s sexuality by banning pornography, and rejecting traditional heterosexual relationships.
· Achieving reproductive freedom
· Separation from patriarchal society?

[This message was edited by moderator on February 08, 2003 at 10:46 PM.]
oh Tom
February 08, 2003, 07:04 PM
Yes, I thought it was more than a tad ironic that anyone would suggest that what was meant as an example and not a definition was "lacking a lot", only to immediately turn around and offer a definition that was missing even more: "she was a feminist because she did what she thought was right!" !

Cling to your own radical feminism with pride, if that's your position. Or seek to cloak it with Mary's Mantle. But if you drag Mary, real or mythological, in to your own particular outlook, don't expect anyone to take you seriously. Roll Eyes