Religion has a sex problem.
Here’s the thing—all the world’s major religions say God is a guy, or if there is more than one God, then the Alpha-God is male. Oh sure, theologians and religious leaders can claim this god-talk is metaphorical, but the boy’s club mentality doesn’t stop with the divine being: the founders of all the Fortune 500 religions are men; the important leadership roles are held by dudes; and in most cases it would be unthinkable to even consider installing a woman in one of these positions. (Actually, my editor for this blog, Dr. Eric Brandt, notes that twelve of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, so the business community is significantly more open than the world’s religions, where women are unequivocally second class citizens.)
Oh sure, there are exceptions—female teachers and nuns, your Mary figure, the hints that some of Jesus’s most important followers were woman, the stories of Muhammad turning to his first wife for advice, the Goddesses in Hinduism, the Indigo Girls, and the relatively small branches of Protestantism and Judaism that allow women to serve in the minister or rabbinical role. But to focus on these exceptions is like looking at the US Senate and saying it is representative of the general population. “See—there’s one—and there’s one of those, too—and I think there used to be one of that other kind here back in the nineties.”
No, when it comes to religion, men rule almost as much as they do in the National Football League. This is not to say that women have no role in religion—on the contrary, without women most religions would simply fall apart. But this could be said of most of the enterprises of men as well as many individual men’s lives. When I was the pastor of Florence Presbyterian Church in the city of Omaha, Nebraska (motto: “We are located in the middle of the country”) I quickly learned how important the women were to the church. I think I can safely say that many churches would cease to exist if the women stopped participating. I wouldn’t be surprised if women play equally crucial yet subservient roles in the other religions. But ultimately, men rule.
What is the source of this injustice? Mel Gibson. But blaming Mel, while appropriate, gains us nothing. We need real answers. Understanding that we do not want to give up our cherished beliefs, I suggest we do a complete makeover of the leadership roles in all our religions. Everyone gets a pink slip—the Dalai Lama, the Pope, the Patriarch, the bishops, imams, priests, ministers, rabbis, pastors, monks, etc. Don’t get me wrong—we make sure they’re comfortable, give them other duties, and they can even have a satin pink slip if they prefer—they just don’t run the show anymore. Then, for a test period—say, one thousand years—we put women in all the leadership roles and see how it goes. It’s only fair that the other half should get a shot, and what’s the worst that could happen? Endless, tearful conversations about our relationships? Nine irons smashing through our car windows? These problems pale in comparison to what we’ve been through with all the religious wars and Focus on the Family.