Women must wonder when they get their turn



No social justice column in a Catholic paper could go too long without addressing the unjust treatment of women. If Christian justice has to do with seeing that everyone gets her or his just due, then women must wonder when they get their turn. Feminism is the acknowledgement of the equality of women and men, whether one is talking about a female or male feminist. I contend Jesus was one. Among his public gestures in favor of women, who were subordinate in his culture, was his allowing Mary to sit and listen to his teaching while Martha was out in the kitchen unaided. The Gospel event has little to do with Martha’s problem. To sit with a teaching rabbi was the prerogative of men only, as Jesus knew. But he refused to cave in to society’s usual unfairness, despite Martha’s objection. And has anyone noticed that the risen Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and not to his cowering male friends?

Pope Francis has irritated some Catholics by his many calls for fairness in society, including his rejection of machismo, the preferential dominance of men. This disorder reigns not just in his native Argentine but worldwide. One has to ask whether there are women among Catholic traditionalists. Do they think it is God’s will that women be subservient? I interpret the Adam and Eve parable as teaching that sex (forbidden fruit, Eden’s nudity) is good and created by a loving God. But the ancient Hebrews affirmed that the sex drive has to be managed since it is so powerful. Ignoring this leads to a lot of heartache. Yet this parable gets misread each time it is used to blame women for humanity’s sin.

I think psychologists have found that insecure males invoke machismo most often. Not sure of their own gender, and worried that people will think them weak if they do not affect a guise of superiority, they try to pull some kind of rank. Is there a corresponding insecurity among women? Do they have to over-emphasize their femininity at the expense of relationships with men? I doubt it. After adolescence, a healthy person should be secure in his or her own gender role, so that neither man nor woman has to keep pushing it obnoxiously. The insecure man has to learn to take for granted that he is physically and mentally male. This should come with maturity. Maybe the fact that females mature sooner than males explains why there is less a need among females to exaggerate their gender.

Shakespeare said that the devil can quote Scripture to his purpose. Note the temptations of Jesus in the desert. Misusing the Bible allowed slavery to flourish for centuries among good, God-fearing Christians. The Hebrews were allowed to enslave captives who were warring with them, but not each other. Yet to say that some behavior is allowable because it is in the Bible is absurd. Murder and adultery and theft and lying are all in the Scriptures without any condoning of them. So much wrong has been done in two millennia of mangling Scripture that perhaps they ought to put the Bible back in chains, allowing only professionally trained scholars access, as was the case in medieval Europe. Poor Englishman John Tyndale was executed in 1536 by the crown for the crime of translating it into English.

How can a man rationalize the abuse of woman? He can see it hurts someone he claims to love, and that it devastates a family. Is he worried that his male friends will mock him? There has to be a reason why 92 percent of America’s prison population is male. Testosterone-driven violence all too regularly becomes the street credibility for males, especially from macho-affected homes. And in no way is this confined to inner-city neighborhoods. Parents are the primary educators of children in the ways of the faith and of the culture. Only they can supervise the child’s choice of entertainment, friends and influences. Conscientious teachers are aware of their sway in the classroom, but they lament the failures of parents when they see the damage done to children.

Is there anyone who can challenge the masculinity of Jesus? He took pity on suffering and sinful people without worrying about his reputation as a wandering rabbi. He publicly encouraged the love of people that the Hebrew Scriptures mandated. Why, if he were here today, he would not fear calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.