Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Mother

I went to the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary yesterday to experience the laudation of my mother, who served back in the 80s as the chairman of the board of directors, the first and only woman to hold the position as evidenced by the photo panel to the left. It was an overflowing of love for her, mostly by women, mostly - of course - Lutheran women of faith. My mother was an ardent and sometimes radical Feminist, radicalized by crashing into the walls of the prison into which women had been placed (and to a fortunately less extent still are) by the American Culture and the Church, which lagged even further behind the culture and was a majorly patriarchal institution. My favorite story was that she was told she couldn't teach the Bible, as that was reserved for men, although she could be a missionary and teach the Bible to third-worlders, a statement that masterfully wraps together the worst of sexism and racism into one big lump. But, coming from inside that world, she fought for equal representation for women, for the ordination of women, and, even more shockingly for the time, the same for women of all sexual orientations.

I had to tell a story or two, and one was the story about the time she told me that women "might have to take up arms against men" which made a strong impression on my tween brain, especially as I was a member of the male species at the time. We used to have theological discussions late into the night, where she would point out the particular Hebrew word for the divine with a feminine ending, and the fact that maybe one of Paul's letters was written by a female disciple, and ask me whether the resurrected Christ first showed himself to a man or a woman. But she was very practical in the real world, starting day nurseries in all the churches she served, a place for working women to leave their children, at a time when people spoke out against the idea of a working woman, using the same arguments we hear today against the latest movements towards equality: that it would destroy the family, destroy traditions, destroy the nation. Traditions, we should always remember, are just things that happened in the past, and just having happened in the past carries no weight.

Unfortunately, at 92, half-blind and crippled with Parkinson's, she couldn't make it, so her most atheist son was sent as a representative, a sheep or wolf among the group of older, smart, attractive and somewhat maternal-to-me women.  I did sing the hymns heartily and even took communion for the first time in decades, as I believe in religion-as-performance & religion as one of the biggest collaborative artworks ever. Yes, it is the opiate of the people, but it stands there along with all other entertainment, no worse, with TV and video games and the perils of the Interweb.
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