When I began in ministry, men took the time to advise and counsel me. There were few women, and the ones who were there were far away from the rural swamp where I served. They were in more urban areas, miles from the lectionary group where we sipped chicory coffee. It took me years to sort out that I needed to consider the source. I was dealing with different issues than the pastors surrounding me.
It would be easy for those of us who lean to the left of the political spectrum to dismiss the right by saying that they are waging a war on women, but that would deny the whole picture. What about Sarah Palin? What about Michelle Bachmann? And what about the other Grizzly Mamas who are being plucked, groomed and prepared as we speak?
There is a particular authority that comes from privilege. When a white man steps into the place where he belongs, he has an internal power with which he was born. He is entitled. Like royalty, he sits on the throne naturally, because that place is caught in his blood. But an entirely different power emerges from women who have been told that they are not allowed to speak in church—and suddenly rise behind the pulpit. Something flares up from deep inside of them, and when they have a safe space, the words can come out of them with force and fury.
Every significant act of protest has its iconic image: the barricades in Paris in the 1960s, the Berlin Wall in the ’80s, the roadside war-protest camps leading to George W. Bush’s Texas home in recent years.
Growing up in a Mennonite conference in Pennsylvania that didn’t ordain women, I met plenty of folks like my mother: women and men who resisted the patriarchy of their church but who couldn’t bring themselves to leave.