My pink pussyhat!

8 02 2017

I must confess that I put it on with a bit of trepidation.  As my wife and daughter and I prepared for the Women’s March on Washington several weeks ago, stuffing our pockets with granola bars and trail mix, and donning our pussyhats, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But after spending eight hours with half a million people, most of whom were women, I found myself filled with a hope and encouragement that had been absent since the November election.

Speaker after speaker offered the truth of the Gospel, perhaps without even knowing it: and while at times their language was a little more colorful than that which comes from the pulpits of American churches, Christ-followers could learn a great deal about the teachings of Jesus from activists like those recruited to address what would become the largest march ever to hit the streets of our nation’s capital.

Two weeks later, as I waited for the doors to open on Sister Giant 2017, I felt some of the same trepidation.  Once again I was in the minority; and this time, the estrogen was all under one roof – the ballroom of a Northern Virginia hotel!  Of the 18o0 people gathered for the conference, there were not more than a couple hundred men; and at first glance, even they didn’t look very much like me.  Most were younger, and ‘edgier’, and I felt like I was intruding into someone else’s sacred, tribal space.  But fortunately that feeling didn’t last long, and before I knew it I was clapping and hollering like . . . well, a cheerleader at a high school pep rally!

The event’s hosts – author and spiritualist Marianne Williamson, and Vice-President of NYC’s Union Seminary Derrick Harkins – welcomed us into a time of learning, introspection, and coming together around an agenda of compassionate spiritual and political engagement.  And once again, speaker after speaker challenged me not to follow the pattern of hatred that appears to have been normalized in the November election, but to rather chart a new course: one grounded in a Divine love that embraces everyone, but that never acquiesces to attitudes and behaviors that denigrate or disregard community.   Williamson reminded us that ‘hatred has a perverse kind of courage’, and that any faith that gives us a path around caring for others is nothing more than ‘faux spirituality.’  She pushed us to see that standing FOR justice also means fighting AGAINST injustice; and that the practice of good citizenship is always about ‘we’ not ‘me’, and that it must grow our solidarity with a commitment to the common good.

Washington state Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal challenged us to avoid thinking that we were living in ‘normal times’; and writer and ordained Zen Priest Angel Kyodo Williams indicated that what America is experiencing today is not a political crisis but a spiritual one.  Harvard educated comparative religion scholar Vera de Chalambert quoted Bonhoeffer as she sought to help us see that peace is never safe; and author and spiritual life coach Mary Morrissey helped us to understanding that if we think religion has nothing to do with politics then we don’t understand either.  Author Jean Houston asked us to consider personal values over personal profit; and author and attorney Lisa Bloom proclaimed that action is the only antidote to anguish.  I was reminded that, in the words of Bill Moyer, “Faith-based charity gives crumbs from the table, but faith based justice offers a place at the table”; and that, in the words of Emerson, “only to the degree that we are unsettled is there any hope for the world.”

I share all of these names with you in the hopes that you will look them up, and discover what these ‘sisters’ have to say to us about our individual lives, our nation, and our world.  Their voices have been silenced, marginalized, and ignored for way too long, and we all need to hear the wisdom they have been given to share.

For millennia, wisdom has been discussed and understood in feminine terms, and yet for millennia such wisdom has been pushed to the sidelines of American life so that the male voice could be heard.  To think that women were not allowed to vote until 1920; that they weren’t allowed to lead churches in my own denomination until 1956, and that the Roman Church still denies them the right to act upon that calling even today; and that less that 20% of Congress is made up of women — friends, this should be not just an embarrassment, but an outrage.  And every one of us needs to be about the task of working to change this absurd and tragic reality.

Women have always played an important role in my life, and they have nurtured me in ways that I can not even begin to enumerate here.  Grandmothers and aunts, teachers and professors, and members of the four congregations I’ve had the privilege of pastoring; not to mention my own mother, sisters by birth, a mother, sister and daughters by marriage, and countless colleagues — many of whom I labor with today in National Capital Presbytery; and most importantly my wife and my daughter: you have all had a profound impact on my life and my spiritual journey.

So, if by chance you are one of those women reading this blog, please know how thankful I am for you!  You have ‘bettered me’, and I am grateful for the countless ways you have pushed me intellectually, spiritually, and relationally.  And that’s the reason I will treasure my pink pussyhat: it reminds that you did not come from my rib . . . but that I came from you!  And for that reason I will march for causes that matter to you.  I will learn from your experiences and be informed by your witness.  I will be quiet when your voice need to be heard, and I will submit to your leadership when you need to be the one calling the shots.  Then, not only will I continue to become a better man; but you will become a better woman, and this world will become a better in which to live.