God and Her (Female) Clergy

Dr. Jones argues that over time women will come to dominate religious leadership and that this will powerfully reshape Americans’ understanding of God from stern father to more of a maternal healer and nurturer. “It changes the way you think geopolitically about the greatest truth,” she says.

.. It’s a disgrace to humanity that for millenniums we’ve placed a divine stamp on discrimination against women, insisting that inequity is actually sacred. But just as religion was initially used to justify slavery but later to inspire abolitionists, faith is now evolving from a rationale for suppressing women to a means for empowering them.

..  she does acknowledge that she’s uncomfortable with passages in the Bible that seem homophobic or misogynistic. “If I was giving advice to women who wanted to be clergy, I’d say, ‘Be O.K. with being uncomfortable, because there are always going to be things in your religion that make you uncomfortable,’ ” Barton said. ”Sometimes you just have to live with your discomfort.”

.. Women clergy can mine the Bible for plenty of strong women role models and for passages that suggest real equality. One of ancient Israel’s leaders was a woman, Deborah (Judges 4-5), and later Esther saved the Jews from slaughter by the Persians. As for the New Testament, the first witnesses to the Resurrection are women. And here’s a quick quiz question: In the Bible, who is the only person who out-argues Jesus in a public debate?

The answer is an unnamed gentile woman. Both Mark (7:24-30) and Matthew (15:21-28) tell how she approaches Jesus — in Mark’s version, she barges into the house where he’s staying — and begs him to heal her daughter.

Jesus is initially dismissive of her, saying that he will help only his fellow Jews. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs,” he says (calling someone a dog was a serious insult).

“Yes it is, Lord,” she replies. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

She talks back! She’s feisty! But Jesus then praises her for her “great faith” and heals her daughter. The story can be read as a celebration of a woman who, er, persisted.