Monday, May 08, 2006

Woman

I’d like to begin with a rather lengthy quote from Fr Alexander Schmemann, excerpted from his homily on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. It is quite beautiful, yet bittersweet in a way, because what he is offering here as a kind of last hope for humanity is already being destroyed, though for his sake I’m glad he never lived to see its most grotesque manifestations. This reflection takes as its point of departure the tender love and loyalty of those women who sought to anoint the body of Jesus early on that first Easter Sunday.

“Today, I think, we are especially in need of recovering this love and basic human loyalty. For we have entered a time when even these are being discredited by harmful concepts of the person and human life now prevailing in this world. For centuries, the world still had the weak, but still flickering and shining, glow from that faithfulness, love and co-suffering which was silently present at the sufferings of the Man cast aside by all. And we need to cling, as if to a last thread, to everything in our world that still thrives on the warm light of simple, earthly, human love. Love does not ask about theories and ideologies, but speaks to the heart and soul. Human history has rumbled along, kingdoms have risen and fallen, cultures have been built and bloody wars have been fought, but what has remained unchanging on earth and in this troubled and tragic history is the bright image of the woman. An image of care, self-giving, love, compassion. Without this presence, without this light, our world, regardless of its successes and accomplishments, would be a world of terror. It can be said without exaggeration that the humanity of the human race was, and is, being preserved, saved, by woman—preserved not by words or ideas, but by her silent, caring, loving presence. And if, despite all the evil that dominates the world, the mysterious feast of life still continues, if it is still celebrated in a poverty-stricken room, at a barren table, just as joyously as in a palace, then the joy and light of this feast is in her, in woman, in her never-fading love and faithfulness” (Celebration of Faith: Sermons, vol. 2).

It pains me now to read: “what has remained unchanging…is the bright image of the woman.” Undoubtedly, what he says remains true in many instances. But this image of our final chance to save “the humanity of the human race,” of this last refuge of that sanity which is feminine and maternal love, has changed in recent decades, changed into something wholly unrecognizable as the image of “care, self-giving, love, compassion.”

Now this mutation of woman is not universal, nor can it ever be, but it has become widespread enough so as to change the face of modern Western society. The media listen to the loudest and most perverse voices, and they promote whatever political agenda will grease their palms most lucratively, so it is this desecrated image that is presented as the norm. I’m talking, of course, about the emergence of what is sometimes called “radical feminism.”

Many modern women do not want to be women anymore. They want to be men—not as innocent tomboys, but as fierce competitors. Yet in their misguided and strident efforts to do so, they become something that is neither man nor woman (I suppose some of them would actually prefer this). They have become the anti-icon of all the beauty, depth, and inner strength that Fr Schmemann mentioned above. These are the “un-women” that one author recently wrote about. Instead of the loyal and loving myrrh-bearers we now have phenomena such as “dykes on bikes” (a loose confederation of lesbian motorcycle gangs). While they may not be quite mainstream among feminists, they are the natural outcome of the aberration.

To be the ones that build and destroy civilizations, to be the ones that create a world of terror despite other successes—that is what they want. So now we have a new generation of economic, political, social, sexual, and even spiritual terrorists: the “liberated” women. The havoc than men have wreaked upon the world, their cold lust for power, domination, and wealth—the women now want a big piece of that same pie, while sacrificing everything within them that could soften the jagged edges of men’s brutal ambitions and spread more love, truth, and peace in the world.

Now that the un-women have been unleashed, they are free for unhindered self-advancement, free to kill their unwanted children, free to enter the same gladiatorial arena as men, free to throw off the yoke of Christ and his Church, free to become occult priestesses and co-presiders over the destruction of family and human sexuality. That is, they are free to enslave themselves with the chains of ungodly rage and selfish ambition as they strive to be more and more like the men they hate so much. They are, as our liturgy says about Judas, thieves whose custom it is to throw away what is most precious.

This is not the place to go into the complex arguments concerning the historically unfair treatment of women in various cultures, and their right to some form of adequate redress. There is a feminism that is good and healthy and that manifests hitherto unrecognized talents and gifts for the edification of society and church. Pope John Paul II has written eloquently and at length about the God-ordained dignity and charisms of women, and of the proper complementarity of the sexes. But this Christian feminism bears no resemblance to that promoted by the witches, baby-killers, and militant lesbians of our present out-of-control society.

Let us pray that woman can still be the hope of this world, will once again be a ceaseless spring flowing with pure love, compassion, creativity, courage, and wisdom—and of intercession for the healing of the aberrations of men, which have contributed so heavily to the disasters we see today. It is no wonder that a departure from the true meaning of the complementary equality of men and women (precisely as persons, not merely according to roles or functions) has produced the bizarre sexual sideshow that irrationally prides itself on being an evolved, multi-gendered subculture—one that wants to be recognized as normal and mainstream.

“Woman,” said the dying Savior, “behold your son.” That son was the beloved disciple, who represents all disciples of Christ, male and female. The Woman who is the universal Mother of the Church and of humanity must be our guide and model and protectress and intercessor as we try to restore balance to our sick culture. Through Mary may woman shine with the glory God has chosen uniquely for her, so that all humanity may find strength and joy in her “never-fading love and faithfulness.”