How Male Theologians Ruined Parenting

A pastor and a rabbi talk about kids, poop, and tearing down the patriarchy in institutional religion

The Bible is a man’s book. It was mostly written by men, for men, and about men. The people who then interpreted the text have also been predominately male.

No wonder there’s not much theology preoccupied with weird-colored poop and the best way to weather tantrums. Throughout history, childcare has largely been considered women’s work—and, by extension, not theologically serious.

.. What in theology is traditionally associated with women? There’s this whole realm of human experience to which our texts are oblivious—they’re not considered important because they’re not on the radar screen of the people who are traditionally writing theology.

.. And there are times when a critique is necessary, like with mikvah. There are some traditionally misogynistic undertones in the way it’s been framed and deployed throughout history. Yet, to throw out the baby with the bathwater didn’t feel right either, because it is actually probably the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever experienced. I think we can do feminist work to grapple with and reclaim, on our own terms, some of the more problematic aspects of Judaism for women.

.. one day the question popped into my head, “I wonder how many theologians throughout history have been mothers?” The answer is, of course, almost none.

.. I’ve never been big on what you call atonement theology: An angry God demands a bloody sacrifice of his beloved child. But the fact that if I said that to a kid it would give them nightmares and make them hate and fear God—that gives good reason to think of another understanding about what Jesus is all about.

.. There’s certainly a place in the tradition for folks who have vowed to be celibate to speak about intimacy and love and childbearing. If there are men who are doing the good work of parenting while doing other things, then I think, certainly, they could be bridge-builders, too. But you’d really want folks who know what they are talking about.

 .. I look at them and think, “Wow, you exist, and I’m not really sure how”—technically, yes, but not really. When I go down deep enough into my love for them, I feel like that can take me everywhere. That’s as much a portal to the holy as it was in those moments when I was in my 20s and blissing out in prayer by myself and having deep powerful meditations at three in the morning and crazy mystical experiences and all of that. I think God is at least, if not more, present in all of my interactions with them.
.. There’s sometimes been a sense that evangelical Christians were more concerned about your marriage and your kids and your family, and the more liberal, mainline Protestants were more concerned with civil rights and social justice, and those were sort of separate entities.