Next Tuesday, Aug. 26, is Women’s Equality Day, marking the 1920 moment when the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It took too long for the U.S. to grant women the first steps toward the equality inherently theirs since humanity’s creation in Eden. It took too long for women to understand the price paid to be recognized as adults. The battle still rages.
The Church representing Jesus Christ, men and women launched together and equally in the first century, not only needs to wake up to a lifestyle it proclaims superior to all others but also to model that life before a world bogged in an antiquated patriarchal system. Using isolated biblical passages intended to address specific cultural situations can no longer mask selfish agendas promoted by biblical ignorance.
The General Synod of the Church of England voted in July to allow women to become bishops. Those against the measure once again pointed to isolated biblical passages rather than taking the whole of scripture. Once again, naysayers accused promoters of being guided by secular ethics. Sadly enough, some 2,000 years since its inauguration, that non-biblical opinion holds sway in much of the church world, even among those who claim otherwise.
Those of us who know better must speak for those who do not and speak against those who consider women “less than” in any arena. Most of us were outraged over two episodes in July in which three women accused of adultery were stoned to death by jihadist in northern Syria. Even in a place where such a cruel interpretation of righteousness holds sway, the men executing the sentence on women exempted the men involved in the so-called crimes.
Change, within and without ourselves, does not come easily. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert says women are more reticent to ask for what they really want than men. In the July Oprah magazine Gilbert recommends persistent asking even against all odds. That is what the early suffragettes did in the face of real persecution: imprisonment, societal shunning, religious excommunication, and even torture and beatings. Gilbert urges: “Just freaking ask.”
We get bolder as we get older—if we are wise. Margaret Mead, renowned anthropologist and women’s rights activist, called it “postmenopausal zest.” Maya Angelou, writer and champion for women, hated complaining and promoted action. Roxane Gay, author of a new collection of essays called “Bad Feminist,” says: “Complaining allows us to acknowledge the imperfect without having to take action—it lets us luxuriate in inertia.”
Columnist Roger Simon just wrote a political piece entitled “Hillary not comfortable in her own skin.” His point was that politicians need to conduct themselves straightforwardly in all situations rather than program their agenda according to their comfort zones. That is a challenge only met when we break the world’s mold for us, and that is the cause celebre of Women’s Equality Day.
I let my own Aug. 26 birthday remind me of the equality I share with all humans and of our worth to God. That’s something of what Paul meant when referring to himself as an apostle “born out of due time” but “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15: 8, 10).
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.