I spent a few minutes this morning getting exasperated about sizeism and sexism. A man I follow on Facebook -- a writer, a Christian contemplative -- commented on a picture he had seen on the internet of "obese women eating a huge pizza." It made him "sad" and, moreover, he felt it represented "American consumerism." Later, a few minutes upstream, he opined to the effect that everyday is a new opportunity to practice compassion.
It reminded me of another fit of pique I'd had some time ago when another man I follow -- this one an accomplished musician, social activist and ardent atheist/skeptic/secular humanist -- reposted an image from an atheist Facebook page: a very obese woman, flag in one hand food in the other, that was somehow supposed to represent Christianity.
What a moment of stunning reconciliation: Christian and atheist finding common ground in a shared horror at women's bodies. These men, I thought each time, should know better.
Have you noticed that in religion, women are the drab birds, but that in the secular world, we are the gaudy sex ? Juxtapose the gorgeous ecclesial images from the New Liturgical Movement website -- crowds of splendidly attired prelates, and an occasional drab nun -- with photographs of female news anchors -- young, bright-and-stylishly clad women with plunging necklines beside their drab male counterparts. It's enough to make the head spin. What is it then ? Object of horror ? Object of desire ?
Object of scorn ? Of dismissal ? Of pity ? Of fear ? Does it depend on what's being sold ?
And, this morning -- maybe because it is Sunday and I am unchurched -- I am in the mood to hurl a j'accuse at one of the foundational texts of sexism and its kindred -ism, heterosexism -- the Holy Bible, in this case, at least in widespread practice, a stone of shame hung upon the limb of the arc of the moral universe that has to do with gender.
Women are a derivative afterthought, we are unclean, we are property, we must cover our heads in church, we must not speak out in church or, for that matter, anywhere else where men are present. We must produce quiversfull of babies, we must recognize what God's natural law teaches about "complementarity" and procreation; we must understand the convoluted, absurdly literalized gendered metaphors that make it unthinkable that a woman be a priest (Jesus as spouse of Mother Church, priest as alter Christus, wait isn't that incest ? And if a nun is a "bride of Christ" does that make Jesus a polygamist ? But heaven forbid a woman priest enter a gay marriage with Mother Church !) In church, anatomy is, more than anywhere else, destiny. A fully genitalia-and-family-unit-based moral theology has supplanted the soaring, ungendered -- transcendgendered ! -- mystical heart.
At least in some influential circles.
And (needless to say) the Ineffable Ground Of Being -- if He wasn't already smitingly masculine enough -- acquired a male mini-me in the form of Jesus, who, let's face it, is the star of the Christian show, the hypertrophied homunculus of the holy trinity.
Navigating among these intrinsically male-privileged images is like trying to swim with an anchor shackled to your leg. Merton spoke of standing on one's own two feet ? How about gnawing off your own foot to escape the shackle -- granted, a fully baby-and-bathwater overboard gesture, but sometimes you just have to throw in the towel. (I will mix and match my metaphors with Mother Church's any day !)
If there is something that can be reasonably termed "God," I am interested in what this something was at and before the Big Bang -- not just at the cosmic eyeblink of human history. And if one can (again, reasonably) speak of incarnation, how can it be other than always and everywhere ? And doesn't unconditional, ungrasping, un-manipulative love occur outside the paradigm of looking at others as if they were Jesus, or, conversely, looking at them through the eyes of Jesus ? Of course it does. Did we need to deify a loving, suffering Jesus because (let's face it) the pre-Big Bang "God," far from loving and adoring us more than we will ever know simply does not give a shit.
So, a la TS Eliot, I arrive back at the place where I began -- the woods, now spring time, myself happy to be outdoors, watching two-gold-fringed ants tussling on an opening bud,
reading the psalm on the blue barn door
hearing the April duet of red blood and green fuse
letting the wood anemone bow its head and clasp its hands
because, at least for the moment, I can't.