Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This one's for you, Alana :)

My we-go-back-a-long-way, real-life-friend Alana left a comment after my last post. Part of it said:

As someone who is no longer part of the protestant world, phenomena such as Vision Forum and the patriocentric movement are things I'm just now learning about and quite frankly, from where I sit, they astonish me. Part of what astonishes me is how very very fringe and "out there" these movements are when they are compared with 2000 years of Christian history. Same definitely can be said for the Pearls and the Above Rubies stuff. I'm glad I got out of where I was when I did.

I have been turning this comment over in my mind for a few days since first reading it. I'm surprised to hear you say this. Our time getting familiar with conservative Mennonites certainly gave us a new perspective on both a heavily patriocentric form of Christianity, as well as fringe beliefs and practices.

Since you're the one that has done all the heavy lifting in terms of learning the ins and outs of church history, I'd be interested to hear more about what your perspective is on how the historic Christian church has handled issues such as women's rights and family dynamics. When I read what you had to say in your comments, what I thought of was this video and all of the quotes from history about the attitudes and beliefs about women in Christianity. Knowing that it was even a matter of debate at one point in history as to whether or not women had souls is enough to shake me from thinking that there has been some excellent, fair-minded perspective on women in 2000 years of church history. I believe there was serious tinkering going on with the translation for the King James Bible as well, thanks to people with an agenda that wasn't exactly God's word.

From my perspective, it seems like Jesus was a revolutionary feminist, but once he was off the scene, women were treated like crap for most of the last 2000 years, and in many cases still are today. So, tell me what you know, girlfriend. :) I could use some good news.

I have seen this video many times, and it grips me each time. What woman would want to sign up to follow a religion like this? (clickety-click on the video to go watch it in the right width at youtube. Much better.)


**Post Edit: Alana generously shared her response in the comments. Please check them out! Thank you, Alana. I appreciate you taking the time to share. I'm going to look all of this over and think about it. Maybe it will result in a future blog post. :)

12 comments:

~B said...

People are so sinful... and we have to remember that..... Jesus wants us to follow him, not his people.

I just lead a Sunday school class and we did a "Nooma" series and it was about how God created us in his image--woman and man. Not just man.

It reiterated what the Bible says, comparing Him to a womb and that he would comfort us like a mother comforts her child.

He is both man and woman. We have to remember that he is everything. And he loves women just as much as men.
: D
~B

~B said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7IL6gz_juI

Here's a short clip of that series we watched. : )

Alana said...

I can only answer your question as an Orthodox Christian.

http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/misc/seraphim_role_of_women.htm

This article is a nice very brief summary of the role of women in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church.

As far as that video goes, I'd like to point out that Plato was not a Christian, that Tertullian left Christianity for a heretical sect (he gets quotes so much because he wrote so much but he's really not a good source), and that the other theologians quoted in the video are all following in the footsteps of Augustine, whose writings had a ton of influence in the western parts of the Church (because he wrote in Latin), but who is pretty much ignored by the Eastern Orthodox, because of his skewed perspective on lots of things, but especially sexual matters.

Alana said...

part 2

My experience in Orthodoxy has been that women are honored. This starts with honoring the Mary, the Mother of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. She is the “new Eve” as St. Paul writes, and it is her “Yes” to God that has re-imagined and restored “womanhood”, and whenever Eve who disobeyed God is mentioned by the Fathers, Mary who obeyed God is also mentioned. It is never forgotten that the salvation of our God was made possible by a woman's “yes”. It is never forgotten that it was women who proclaimed to the Apostles the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. It is never forgotten that is was the women disciples of Christ who were at the foot of the cross. There are many women saints who were preachers and missionaries who are called “Equal-to-the-Apostles” for bringing the Gospel to unreached people groups. St. Nina the enlightener of Georgia comes to mind as an example. There are countless others.

Within a context of a faith that seeks to remain always faithful to its foundations-the teachings of Christ through the Apostles, the Holy Scriptures, the Church being the pillar and ground of truth, it might seem amazing that I would write these things about the role of women. Here I am, a woman with a seminary degree, an M.Div. And yet I have given up any potential to be a “minister” in the ordained sense, by joining a Church that does not, has not, nor ever will ordain woman. And yet I boldly make the claim that there exists no institutional misogyny. The reason for this is as follows: The priesthood in the Orthodox Church is seen as a spiritual fatherhood role and follows in the footsteps of the Old Testament priesthood for much of its character. The idea is that a woman can't be a priest because she can't be a father. She can be a mother, but that is something entirely and intrinsically different and good in it's own right. In fact, I have heard monastics quoted as saying that in the home, it is the mother who is the spiritual leader and who directs the spiritual direction of the home, of her children, of her family. My experience has been that the passages that in protestantism are often used to establish a patriarchy (such as 1 Cor. 11) or a hierarchy of submission are simply NOT the main thing. These passages indeed ARE balanced out in the Scriptures...you know, where it says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church and that “so also is man born of woman”... and since they are balanced in Scripture, they are viewed in a balanced way in the teaching of the Church. It's like that line in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”...where the Mother says something about the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck that can turn the head. 2000 years of pragmatism (and none of the nauseating “help-meet-speak” found in such places as the Mennonite literature and Above Rubies, etc. It's just not to be found.) ;-)

Alana said...

part 3

Within a context of a faith that seeks to remain always faithful to its foundations-the teachings of Christ through the Apostles, the Holy Scriptures, the Church being the pillar and ground of truth, it might seem amazing that I would write these things about the role of women. Here I am, a woman with a seminary degree, an M.Div. And yet I have given up any potential to be a “minister” in the ordained sense, by joining a Church that does not, has not, nor ever will ordain woman. And yet I boldly make the claim that there exists no institutional misogyny. The reason for this is as follows: The priesthood in the Orthodox Church is seen as a spiritual fatherhood role and follows in the footsteps of the Old Testament priesthood for much of its character. The idea is that a woman can't be a priest because she can't be a father. She can be a mother, but that is something entirely and intrinsically different and good in it's own right. In fact, I have heard monastics quoted as saying that in the home, it is the mother who is the spiritual leader and who directs the spiritual direction of the home, of her children, of her family. My experience has been that the passages that in protestantism are often used to establish a patriarchy (such as 1 Cor. 11) or a hierarchy of submission are simply NOT the main thing. These passages indeed ARE balanced out in the Scriptures...you know, where it says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church and that “so also is man born of woman”... and since they are balanced in Scripture, they are viewed in a balanced way in the teaching of the Church. It's like that line in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”...where the Mother says something about the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck that can turn the head. 2000 years of pragmatism (and none of the nauseating “help-meet-speak” found in such places as the Mennonite literature and Above Rubies, etc. It's just not to be found.) ;-)

Alana said...

part 4

The best and highest calling of any Christian is to be a saint-be be so filled with the Holy Spirit of God that we become by God's grace, what God is by nature. That is our goal in following the Christian path. (Analogy: Like a sword put into the fire takes on the nature of the fire as long as it remains in the fire, but as soon as it's removed from the fire becomes mere metal once again). And this path is open equally to women and men, elders and children. In every Church service, we honor those who belong to “that great cloud of witnesses”-men and women alike-whom the Church remembers for their holy Christ-dedicated lives and deaths.

Hearing this, being marinated in the liturgical prayers of the Orthodox Church for the past decade, in its simple and straightforward proclamation of the gospel and its holding in it's memory the lives of the saints-both men and women has been such a breath of fresh air for me. I don't feel like I have anything to apologize for, being a woman, nor do I have anything to prove. Here, I can just rest in God's goodness and be “me”. There are no “new trends” or “new teachings” and you just don't see the phenomenon of people establishing their own para-church “ministry” to promote their own private interpretation of the Bible (I'm thinking Gothard, I'm thinking Vision Forum, etc.) and sell materials etc.

Is it possible to find quotes from Orthodox guys who are misogynists? For sure. Some would argue that the fact that woman are simply not even allowed in to visit some mens' monasteries would be misogynistic. I would counter such notions with pointing out that these men are monks and have taken vows and it is our duty as Christians to help them in every way possible to keep their vows. I personally don't view such things as being “against women” per se.

I'll end with recommending the below-linked article to you as well. It is rather thick but worth wading through. I hope you know that any and all of this is merely scratching the surface of what has been written and of what could be said.

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/women.aspx

Genevieve said...

Alana, I think you answered this really well. When I became Orthodox, it was, in part, because I found that the Church has a very high view of women. It was very refreshing, having come out of evangelicalism, to find that the whole gender role issue just isn't all that prevalent in Orthodoxy.

In fact, the person we are all called to emulate more than anyone else (besides Christ) is a woman: Mary, the Mother of God. Women AND Men are to be like her.

I've seen some pretty rank quotes from some of the Church Fathers about women, but that is usually only one side of the story. Usually, within the same writing, the point is also made that through woman, and through the choice of that woman, came redemption to the world.

I've been writing about this very issue on my blog, White Washed Feminists. If you're interested in reading, start with this post, and work your way forward.

http://wp.me/pgiel-bS

Otherwise, Alana, you've said everything beautifully :-)

Athanasia said...

Found my way here from Alana's blog and echo what she has written so eloquently. I would only add that if one looks at history, for example Russian history, it was the women who kept the churches open and women the ones who prayed and women who kept the Christian teachings alive in their homes, teaching their children in secret, at the risk of jail, etc., etc.

I feel that any Christian teaching that favors men over women (or visa versa) is not Biblical or Christ-like. It is a matter of balance, which is what Christ taught.

Coffee Catholic said...

I agree with you, Alana. I was all caught up in that crazy Protestant "submission" world. I did a lot of damage to my reputation here locally because of what I was blogging about as per the Protestant patriarcal "submission" mindset.

Then I learned about the real angle from the Catholic faith and I feel I'm finally on the right track.

Justin said...

If I could point out a few things about the video: Tertullian was declared a heretic... his sect was known for its extreme sexual abstinence. Plato was not a Christian. He lived about 400 years prior to the rise of Christianity during a time when pagan priestesses abounded. What this video describes is a male dominated *world*. You could find worse quotes than these in Islam and Judaism. You could find worse attitudes in other religions and cultures.

Japan- with Shinto and Buddhist heritage- is notoriously resistant to Christian conversions and continues to be one of the most male-centered cultures in the world. Chinese culture is very much the same way. Hindu/Buddist India is far more misogynistic than the Judeo-Christian western cultures.

I feel that Male-centrism is more a product of our evolutionary biology, where gender-specific neurophysiology predispose males to being highly aggressive and competitive.

It should be noted that in the pre-Christian culture, a woman's role was identified with property and ultimately her destiny was determined by men, so when Christian women established *their own monasteries* (called convents in the West), they kept no personal property, thus removing themselves from the control of males. In fact, to this day, when my priest visits an Orthodox convent, he must kiss the hand of the Abbess because she is entitled to the same honor as a male bishop. This is not being "progressive", this is the ancient Christian tradition.

I am new to this blog so I hope i have not offended.

- DavidS

Justin said...

Also,

Alana, you rock!

Alana said...

Thanks, Justin!