Sunday, August 15, 2010

Praying for Women

As I have indicated many times - I am not a real Catholic. I have journeyed a very circuitous route, via the Charismatic Movement, where we munched on "Love Buns" - to Liberation Theology, in the midst of which I once consecrated Coca-Cola.

It caused severe trauma amongst the theological students at what was then St Paul's College. They rushed out of the Mass, tears of Catholic righteousness streaming down their cheeks and badly in need of counselling.

The point I was making was a fairly simple one. The party drink in Jesus day was wine. The party drink in our day is probably, more universally, Coca-Cola. Wine, quickly came to symbolise blood in the Christian church. In our day, it is not difficult to see Coca-Cola, and all it stands for, as somewhat bloody.

In my defence, I tried to explain that in huge swathes of the Christian Church, alchohol is not used, and where it is and grapes are not available, other means are used, such as rice wine, or pineapple wine etc etc. But I was dealing with delicate theological minds, who could not see past the dog-collars they were so desperately begging for.

So, after being hauled before bishops, archbishops and the entire court of heaven, I was ecclestastically slapped on the wrist. Needless to say, I have never lived the matter down. The church has an exceedingly long memory, for certain things (and an exceedingly short one, for others!)

Now I mention this, because it was about this kind of time that the "debate" about whether or not you needed to have a penis to consecrate bread and wine became fierce within the Anglican Church. And it was about then, that I met feminism, both theologically and otherwise, for the first time.

My encounter with feminism was much the same experience as meeting Black Consciousness, for the first time, when I, along with another white colleague, was forcibly removed from a meeting. It was a damn good lesson - and one for which I will be forever grateful. The message was pretty unambiguous. It was this: "Just shut up! If you want to learn anything - then just shut up!"

And the feminists told me much the same. "Don't call yourself a feminist", they said, "You are a man - so just shut up".

Now this morning I was sitting quietly in church. It was this rather peculiar Feast of the church called the "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary". I won't go into the details of what that all means - (even if I thought I knew) - but obviously, Mary was very high on the agenda of the worship. And during the prayers, the man leading them gave thanks to God for "women", for their "ministry" - for things like their love and their care and their this and their that. I found it galling.

This is, after all, a church which never has had and (chances are good), probably never will have, a woman as a priest. Women seem not to be allowed as servers, or sub-deacons or anything else up front, except in the chior. I note also that women are allowed to bring up the collection and elements of bread and wine.

So, when we pray for them, it is basically in their role as tea-makers and equivalent. Not in their role as leaders of nations; of Bishops and Archbishops; of surgeons and nuclear physicists, no! The tone of our prayer relegates them to what is quite simply a second-rate place. Then what we do is, we cloud that all in mystery and glory and wonder in our adoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But it is a hoax!It is a complete hoax. What we are doing is patronising them - and calling it adoration. It is a clever thing we do, us men.

If I were a woman, sitting in that service this morning, I would have been profoundly irritated - no, I would have been disturbed and I would have been angry.

I am extremely glad I am not a woman, much the same as I am extremely glad I wasn't born black. Because life, really, would be a whole different ball game, if I were. That is one of the things I know for sure...

Incidently, I find what happens on "Women's day" - our South African nod in the direction of women generally as a nation, on 09 August each year, to suffer from much of the same problems. The difference between "celebrating" women, once a year and having women as equal in all respects to men - is vast.

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