Linda Downing

2,000 years of male vanity is enough

I consider neither Pope Francis nor myself infallible, but on the issue of women in the church I lay claim to being light years ahead of him. After more than 2,000 years of church history, the pope recently spoke for most of the church world when he said without apology: "We don't yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church." Why not? And if the theology is not deep, is it shallow? Could it be that male vanity trumped scholarship and common sense and dismissed the topic as unimportant? The poet Robert Frost once made an interesting observation: "Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice/From what I've tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire." I've felt the flame lately. The burn on my cheeks is anger. Wait. As a Christian, I should call it "righteous indignation." That means what I'm experiencing has to do with God's feelings. Granted that probably 99 percent of our anger is for our own sakes, there is that one percent chance that this woman thing is getting on God's nerves.
Back in April at the Women in the World Conference in New York, Hillary Clinton said women's rights are "the unfinished business of the 21st century." She stressed again that women's rights are human rights. For me, that is something that should have been a moot point since the days of cavemen. Former President Jimmy Carter blames mistreatment of women across the world on leaders from all religions, including Christianity. He says they perpetuate misguided doctrines that are "theologically indefensible." In June, Carter hosted leaders from 15 countries at the Mobilizing Faith for Women conference held at The Carter Center. He believes both men and women avoid or deny this issue instead of addressing it head-on. Carter would call himself a layman, not a theologian; but, as a Christian, he knows his Bible. As a thinker and humanitarian, he knows the dangers of pulling passages out of context and subjugating more than half of humanity with them. Toss "women keep silent in the church" or "it is a shame for a woman to usurp authority from a man" in front of Carter and expect him to know chapter and verse, put it into the context of the whole Bible, and present a godly, well thought out explanation. The pope would do well to do the same. So would we all. Political activist and columnist, Pat Buchanan, calls feminist ideology "a surrender to the spirit of our age." I believe there is more evidence for a world surrendered to a doctrine of demons that have placed "keep women subservient" at the top of their list of goals. Earth's temperature is rising. Researchers, looking at 60 studies on topics ranging from historic empire collapses to police shootouts, just released a common thread: Hot temperatures raise tempers. Biblically speaking, Frost was right: We could be heading for a hot ending. The last thing the world needs is the continuing rift between men and women. New Testament theology on women in the church is simple: "There is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). It is plain, fair, and, if heeded, might do more to prevent us all from going up in smoke than anything else. 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