Friday, May 11, 2007

Celebrating Mothers

There are mothers, who may be celebrated, and then there is the Mother of us all, who should be remembered daily. But before we get to the mothers, the foundation must be set.

In 525 BC the Persian Cambyses invaded Egypt. He was a brutal ruler who had no respect for the Egyptian deities. A series of Egyptian dynasties tried to force the Persians out for 200 years following their invasion, all to no avail.

Then the Macedonians invaded Egypt, conquering the Persians. Egypt welcomed Macedonian rule, even the plans of its leader Alexander. He envisioned a world in which there was no war because all peoples were inter-married. He was, if you will, ecumenical sort of guy. Why would a fierce, independent, and proudly nationalistic people like the Egyptians welcome the rule of someone like Alexander? Simple: Alexander overcame their enemy, the Persians. The Egyptians were living by the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Now of course it can be argued that this is politics as usual. Hitler was a welcome relief to depression-ravaged Germany because his bureaucracy created jobs. Under Mussolini the trains ran on time. There is good to be found in every harsh rule, especially at first. Alexander, despite his lofty ideals supposedly borrowed from the Greeks, eventually expected to be treated as a god. He ordered the death of men at will. He killed one of his own generals at a banquet. This so offended the Greeks under him they threatened to leave his command. No Greek would behave in such an uncivilized manner. The Greeks were learning a hard lesson from the one who had conquered them, and with whom they were now so friendly as they went about conquering others: Lie down with dogs and you get up with fleas.

Now on to the mothers…

Elizabeth Cady Stanton celebrated motherhood, and not just her own. The letters and writings she left as a part of her legacy leave no doubt that her work on behalf of women and the unborn indicate she considered every infant as precious, and abortion as a crime against humanity. When feminists today turn from the culture of death bequeathed them by the so-called Second Wave feminists and reject abortion, what can anyone do but rejoice? And here Stanton may be used as a reminder of what is right and proper for women who are to be mothers. Women do not kill their own infants. Rather, they bring them to life, and nurture them.

Still, there is a point of departure to be made with Stanton, for she is a mother of another sort for feminism, too. She is not merely a mother in feminism, she is the mother of feminism—modern feminism, that is. So when she is held to be an icon of motherhood, and feminists are asked to reclaim their feminists roots based on what she did as a mother, more is being said than is clearly spoken.

There is another Mother, the one who begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God. Stanton was no friend of that Mother, for she was an enemy of the means by which that holy one is created, sustained and fed. Mother Stanton recognized that her most formidable enemy was the Bible itself. Not only were Pauline proscriptions being used by men against her quest for woman suffrage, women themselves would not join the fight with her because they were still adhered to their religious upbringing. In order to overcome her enemy she decided to revise it. She said in an interview, “In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the bible. It was hurled at us on every side” (Gaylor, A. L., Ed. (1997). Women Without Superstition: "No Gods-No Masters". Madison, Wisconsin, Freedom From Religion Foundation., 172). She wrote, “It is one of the mysteries that woman , who has suffered so intensely from the rule of the church, still worships her destroyer and ‘licks the hand that is raised to shed her blood.’” (An Honored Place for the Bible In English Literature,” New York. Sunday, October 5, 1902. American and (?) (Gaylor 1997, 175). Stanton wrote a commentary to a Nebraska newspaper lauding a court decision barring bible-reading from public schools as both religious and sectarian exercise. “Inasmuch as the Bible degrades woman in innumerable passages and teaches her absolute subjection to man in all relations in the State, the Church, the home and the whole world of work, it is to her interest that the Bible in its present form, should be taken from the schools and from the rising generation of boys, as it teaches lessons of disrespect for the mothers of the race” (Gaylor 1997, 157).

Mother Stanton also linked a woman’s emancipation in politics and society and her ordination in the church so that the one was inseparable from the other. If the former was granted, then the latter must be given also. Her principle was simple: “Get political rights first and religious bigotry will melt like dew before the morning sun”... (Gaylor 1997, 194-5). The Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848, which Stanton helped write, contained not only a petitions for the political and social emancipation of women, but also this one: “He [men in general] allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.” For Stanton, the key to gaining authority for women was through the political process, but she believed her efforts would succeed only after the Bible was revised to favor women’s emancipation.

Revise it, she did. The result was The Woman’s Bible, and an entirely new perspective for doing theology. Stanton provided the political character and necessity for biblical interpretation. This means the personal political agenda of the interpreter drives the interpretation of the biblical text. The debate no longer centered on women as makers or a part of biblical history, but on the authority of biblical revelation. Stanton’s desire for women’s emancipation drove her revision of the Bible, resulting in The Woman’s Bible. This set not only the foundation but also the context for feminist hermeneutics to come.

It is also the context for feminist morality. If the feminist political agenda drove biblical interpretation, which resulted in questioning the authority of biblical revelation, then it was merely a side-step to feminist morality being driven through the needs of the woman alone. When the First Table of the Law falls, the Second Table cannot stand. Mother Stanton’s hatred for the church is as well-documented as her love for her own children. Her success in separating women from the Word of Life is so complete that feminists now celebrate women’s experience as a grace event. Can there even be need for a Savior now that the judgment upon mankind had been removed from the Bible according to Stanton? She taught that if there had actually been a fall in an actual Garden of Eden, then “when Eve took her destiny in here own hand and set minds spinning down through all the spheres of time, she declared humanity omnipotent...” (Gaylor 1997, 134). Ethics for feminism is now deemed as whatever validates the full humanity of the woman. Refusing a woman any freedom to act as she wills is denying her full humanity; therefore, abortion-on-demand must be among a woman’s most cherished prized possessions.

Our own current worldview validates daily that feminism has won the day. The feminist method of interpretation and use of the Bible as a political tool undergirds the way we live. Even Peter Singer’s ravings hearken back to Mother Stanton, “Once challenged, the traditional ethic crumples. Weakened by the decline in religious authority and the rise of a better understanding of the origins and nature of our species, that ethic is now being brought undone by changes in medical technology with which its inflexible strictures cannot cope.” (Singer, P. Rethinking Life and Death. New York: St. Martin's Press,1994. 4.) Singer wonders that because at a comparable gestational age a pig has more cognitive abilities than does a human, why do we rationalize eating pigs, but not humans? Why do we have no problem killing pigs, but are still having troubles with abortion, or euthanasia?

With the collapse of respect for God’s Word as God’s Word, and instead thinking of it as man’s words about his god, ethics have likewise fallen to a code of self-made standards. Mother Stanton shares responsibility for her part in this. However much she loved her own children, her hatred for the church was meted out on generations to come after her.

It is one thing to say Stanton was a good mother. It is another to hold her up as an icon to emulate. Even many pagans are good and kind to their children, but that doesn’t mean we ought to join with their other practices. The enemy of my enemy is still very often an enemy. This is true with Stanton.

Feminism is still feminism. It can’t escape what it is, no matter how hard it tries, and the feminist biblical interpretation still applies. While some feminists are shedding themselves of the practice of abortion, what can be said of the other practices feminism holds dear, such as lesbianism and lesbian motherhood?

[The following is taken in part from an essay written for the Tell the Good News About Jesus Convocation, Jan. 2007, Casper, Wyoming. It has been edited.] The feminist news journal, off our backs, praises motherhood, but it is motherhood without fathers– most particularly motherhood for lesbians– that it prizes. One of these mothers celebrates a particular aspect of her ability to bear and raise a child with her partner.

We made pre-impregnation covenants with the biological fathers covering such things as no parental duties for the father other than agreeing to be available to meet the child when, and if, [my partner] and I decided it was appropriate to acknowledge paternity directly to the child. The whole agreement was based on the premise that “we are looking for a [biological] father, not a daddy.” (Vicki Angeline Dennis, “I Did It My Way,” off our backs 36, no. 1 (2006).)

So motherhood is fine, but not the sort that includes fathers. This is rather indicative of the whole feminist scene, is it not? A father’s influence is welcome only by the permission of the woman. Until then, he’s not even considered to be the father at all. It’s up to the woman to determine whether the father’s influence will be authoritative in the mother’s or child’s life at all.

This is also iconic of what Mother Stanton and feminism have done to scripture. Men are necessary only in regard to what is practical for the advancement of woman’s needs. Of necessity is the full humanity of woman. Consider this from Mother Stanton:

And so long as we base our religions on the fundamental error of a “male God” it is in vain to struggle for woman’s equal status in the church; and until her equality is recognized, all talk of establishing a religion of humanity is idle since one half of humanity is in social, religious, political, subjection to the other. I have often thought that we should take the first step for women’s freedom, & that for humanity–when we shall have outgrown the popular idea of a male God in the skies or elsewhere: Then we might see & worship God in humanity; Then might love home and deify each other...

When woman discards its creeds, dogmas, & authorities she too will be free, & a free enlightened woman is a divine being, the savior of mankind.... (Gaylor 1997, 156-7).

That’s right. Mother Stanton was feminizing the Trinity long before the widespread practice of women’s ordination in the late 1960’s, followed by the “legitimization” of feminist theology. What seems to be radical now was on Stanton’s agenda in the earliest days of feminism. There is truly nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9).

Let’s not get misty-eyed about what Stanton was up to, though. She had no designs on reforming religion for women. What she desired was that women use and trust their own intellect instead of religious dogma. She preached a "religion" of human intelect informed by human reason over human intelect formed by faith. In other words, she both founded and advanced the secular feminist religion we know today. She preached,

I believe we have reached a point where the world of thought is ready to accept anything which can be proved to be true, whether it is endorsed by the church or not. That is a great step in advance. People no longer ask is this in the Bible, or according to Bible teachings, but is it true? Is it according to the nature of things? Nor does God’s word in a book, nor does the church affirm or deny this, but does god’s [sic] human reason say it? is it according to logic & mathematics? Then, can it be proved practically? does it tend to make us happy? will it work? will it pay? These are the questions we ask to day; they are the signs & tokens of an extended emancipation that has come so gradually that we hardly realize it.

....Thanks to the law of Progress, woman is awakening to the degradation she has endured in the name of religion, & is interpreting the laws of life for herself. (From a sermon on Gen 1:27) (Gaylor 1997, 157).

Mother Stanton’s concern was the destruction of the Christian religion for the sake of women’s emancipation. It was traditional Christian doctrine and practice which held woman in her [lace socially and politically as well as in the church; therefore, Stanton’s primary enemy was the church’s doctrine in all her articles. At the very heart of this is the Gospel itself by which the children of the church are born and sustained.

The Washington, D. C., based group, Feminists for Life (FFL), says it also supports motherhood, yet asserts in their book, ProLife Feminism,

Lesbianism has been a problem of timing. It is not a popular issue with the public at large. We at Feminists for Life have not taken a stand on lesbianism because we feel an insufficient case is made for lesbianism as a feminist issue. Open support of the gay movement prior to the ratification of the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] was poor timing. (Pat Goltz, “Equal Rights,” in Prolife Feminism: Yesterday and Today, ed. Mary Krane Derr, Rachel McNair, and Linda Naranjo-Hubel ( Xlibris, 2005). 226.)

Lesbianism has been a part of the feminist scene since its inception. The same book noted of the early suffragists that, “Some openly chose ‘Boston marriages,’ life partnerships between women.” (Mary Krane, Rachel MacNair, and Linda Naranjo-Hubel, eds., Prolife Feminism: Yesterday and Today, Second ed. ( Xlibris, 2005). 18.) Still later in that book there is a quote clearly supporting lesbianism in light of feminism, “Homosexual persecution has at its roots not only social ignorance, but a philosophically active anti-feminist dogma.” (Ibid. 333. Quoted in David Bianco, “Playwright Lorraine Hansberry,” Planet Out: Queer History, <>, [9 Jan. 2005].) Calling lesbianism a problem of societal unpopularity is merely a limp agreement with the lifestyle choice of some feminist women. Labeling those who don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle as persecutors and purveyors of anti-feminist dogma further adheres homosexuality to feminism. Contending that support of homosexuality during the ratification of the ERA was poor timing does unite lesbianism to feminism. Would the ERA have passed if homosexuality had not been associated with it or if society was had been ready for such a bold social move? These things make lesbianism a feminist issue of ultimate importance.

When society as a whole normalizes marital choice through legalized homosexual marriage –just as it normalized procreative choice through legalized abortion– will the FFL then finally admit that lesbianism is a feminist issue? In fact, that is how abortion as procreative choice was normalized in the first place: Society demanded it after it was packaged as a “civil rights issue,” and statistics were provided to “prove” its “health” benefits. Women continue to be convinced that “access to abortion is ‘the most fundamental right of women, without which all other rights are meaningless.’” (Serrin Foster, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” in The Cost of Choice, ed. Erika Bachochi (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004). Foster writes, “Dr. Nathanson, who later became a pro-life activist, said that he and [abortion-rights activist Larry] Lader were able to persuade [Betty] Friedan that abortion was a civil rights issue, basing much of their argument on the claim that tens of thousands of women died from illegal abortions each year. Nathanson admitted later they had simply made up the numbers so as to secure support for the cause” (Foster, 35.)

St. Peter calls us to be as Sarah, who called her husband “Lord” (1Pe 3:6) Sarah’s husband was Abraham, to whom God had given the Promise. It was not Sarah’s obedience that saved her, but her faith in the promise given to her husband that did. For, it was by faith, this is, by Christ, that she was able to conceive (He 11:11). And if we are Sarah’s children, then we are also Abraham’s children. Abraham’s children are those in whom God’s Word finds a place, and who do as he would do (Jo 8:37; 39). Abraham’s children are those who are of the promise, the household of God. So there is nothing to fear.

As Christians we know that life begins at conception, but that’s merely a start, and a sin-filled one at that. Forgiveness of sin, eternal life and salvation begin with what our Lord commands and gives in Baptism. When the womb opens, it is God’s Word that gives New Life from another womb that begets and bears every Christian in the world. If God’s Word has no authority, to whom shall we go?

Mother Stanton’s work aborted that Gift of Life from generations of those who followed in her wake. Stanton’s work helped to set the foundation for the ready acceptance of the culture of death, and the moral rationalization for it: God’s Word has no authority.

There are mothers, who may be celebrated, and then there is the Mother of us all, who should be remembered daily. One thing is certain: When you lie down with feminism, you get up with feminist lies.

1 comment:

Weekend Fisher said...

I linked to you here. I'd be interested in your take on what I said.

Take care & God bless