As I reflect on the meaning of icons, I always seem to turn of late to the effects of the rules and history of the church on Christian Feminism.
Many women are restless and dissatisfied with the Churches refusal to dignify women. They find no benefit from their long devoted silence. No matter how much female devotion and dedication to the teachings, the Church institution continues to limit the service of women. Most women active in today’s church have come into contact with those in control who refuse to re frame the outdated “ancient” teachings institutionalized by men. Women and tired of always getting permission form a man. Bias changes too slowly.
In 1960 the Roman Catholic Church changed celebrating mass in Latin to each countries native language, before that it was Latin everywhere. It was a necessary alteration in the mass. People had changed and many no longer studied or spoke any Latin anywhere. In addition for centuries Catholics were encouraged not to read the bible independently for fear of false or misleading interpretations. The church had to change a long tradition to suite the times. This was a magnificent change opening communication and debate and thinking. How the church treats Women is a similar landscape which also needs change. Imagine men went to the moon in 1964 but after 2,000 years only a few nations are beginning to ponder the position of women in today’s church or society.
TRUTH Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
Catholic Theological Society of America,“Tradition and the Ordination of Women”
Some biblical text defend the absence of Women’s voices. It began with Adam and Eve but remember they both got thrown out! Words fuel theological debates but without reflection and new perspectives we are victims of living in a sate of ignorance about our contemporary world. Centuries ago women were accepted as inferior to men and considered unworthy, poor things were easily led astray. In the 2nd century Tertullian, said of woman: “You are the devil’s gateway”; in the 3rd century Origen wrote: “What is seen with the eyes of the creator is masculine, and not feminine, for God does not stoop to look upon what is feminine; in the 4th century Epiphanius said: “The devil seeks to vomit out his disorder through women.”
YUP outrageous, Harsh words indeed!
The early Gnostic influences must have really threatened the mainline developing church institution during the first two centuries. The teachings were decidedly unacceptable, too radical, too inclusive, too mystical to teach and therefore rejected, ridiculed and squashed. Many of the texts highlighted commonality and common spirit within all of creation. Yet, the church chose to shape the cultural prejudice against women making them inferior to men by nature and by law. A male dominated church rose and kept the control. As late as St Thomas Aquinas 1250, we have a well developed attitude: “… the individual nature, a woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power….”. Theology like this altered the agenda of the day.
Ladies, if you have ever wondered where the teachings came from, the framework for our continual debasement, the doctrines which have been hailed as word of God, these kinds of text held to be truth are it. If the men are so enlightened and want to teach the word of God, those in power will have to recognize the error and make amends, for too long we have failed to see accurately the God given blessed commonality within the male/female relationship. Those in power have the power to omit the words and teaching which do not serve but only hinder and separate women. The passed has passed and we are fast coming into a new age of awareness. We are waking up to a new world. The sky and the mountains and the oceans have always witnessed truth, only humanity has failed to see clearly how balanced creation is and how it fits together as a whole.
We Can Allow Change.
It is not heretical to think there is equality with difference between the sexes. We are by no means finished learning to be one body in Christ, we have yet to fully develop and honor the feminine side. Our leaders must condemn sexual discrimination in their congregations on every level and work to put an end to the subordination of women in every community and societies around the world
I think that we should all reflect on the meaning of our religious icons and how they affect women, but more importantly, how we can change that idea.