Some years ago I went to church with the family of my boyfriend at the time. It was Mother’s Day, and his mother wanted to be the one at church with the most children in attendance. During the sermon, though, the pastor complained about women working outside the home. When we got back to the house, I was shaking with anger. How dare he? Why did he have to use a woman’s special day to offer a Neanderthal opinion of what women should be doing? How come no one else in the family was as incensed as I was?
The answer was simple and shocking. No one else heard it. Over the years they had just tuned the guy out. They dressed up on Sunday, went to church with a big smile, and then spaced out until it was time to go home and have a big family dinner.
Now we are in the midst of a debate being presented on one side as women’s reproductive rights, and on the other as religious freedom. Yet many Catholic women practice birth control. How many? It’s hard to say. According to some, the 98% figure being bandied about is an inaccurate representation, but it’s obvious that families overall, including Catholic families, are smaller than they used to be, so do the math.
To me, the deeper issue is the power we give to religious organizations, often by default.
Overall, church attendance appears to be down, so maybe there’s less of this quiet hypocrisy than it appears. Even Catholicism, so prominent in the current political climate, admits to declining attendance and observance of church doctrine.
Still, in a country with religious freedom and a separation of church and state, religion has inserted itself in the debate, and the opinions of religious leaders, in power in part because of the passivity of their flocks, are being given more weight than they have the right to. Why? Why do we just ignore what’s being said from the pulpit or bimah? Why aren’t the people rising up and demanding more from their leaders, when there is obvious disagreement about their principles?
When Darrell Issa had his little “panel” to convene about religious freedom and insurance coverage for contraception, the panel was entirely made up of males. Some females actually defended this, saying it was a religious freedom issue. Really? Then why weren’t there female religious leaders? What religious freedom does a woman actually have in these organizations? What about the religious freedom of the women working in religious organizations who are not members of that religion? What about the religious freedom of the women to practice birth control without feeling guilty about being untrue to their church? Where are the leaders from religions who don’t have a problem with birth control? Finally, where was the religious freedom of the children who were sexually abused by clergy who now claim moral authority over women’s bodies?
It’s easier to stick our heads in the sand and to make our religions a buffet where we pick and choose what we want. The problem is that in our silence, those leaders think that we agree with them. Yes, some do, but it’s a minority — and that minority is now trying to control our political discourse. This is a problem that we have created collectively, and it’s a problem we must solve in the same way.
Wonderfully written! Thank you so much for this.
Thank you! Thanks for visiting!
I agree. There is so much hypocrisy. And we are part of the problem. People live their lives according to their morals and principles, even if it differs from what their religions dictate, but yet, they support the religions’ stands. I used to work as a health educator in a public health department. The social workers told me that many women came for care and consultation that they could not get at their Christian university. They made decisions about their lives that they had the right to make, but would get thrown out of school for, and yet, they continue… Read more »
Wow, Tina, thanks for weighing in on this. Your experience and observations are more direct than mine — me, I’m trying to sort the wheat from the chaff with all the media reports and shouting. I’m always wondering, what am I missing here? Is it that we fear some Biblical retribution, or maybe risk family disapproval? It’s just a shame that we think we have to sneak around to get our needs met.
I grew up amidst a lot of the fundamentalist views of God and women, and I don’t understand it. Maybe when I characterzied the “male-dominated, women-controlling religion,” I should have said “brand” of religion or “interpretation” of religion. I’m not knocking religion–my spiritual life is very important to me. But so much wrong can be done in the name of religion. It can be used to control others for no godly reason.
I agree with you — I spent many years exploring a variety of religions and eventually committed to one that spoke to me…I just couldn’t commit to something that I didn’t believe in with all my heart. I think religion can be a great thing in one’s life. I think if we speak up more, then maybe our respective religions can evolve. Women’s voices must be a part of that dialogue, IMHO.