I can’t imagine joining a religious organization that treated me as a second-class citizen, and yet tens of millions of women do just that. A new report by the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that women are far more religious and religiously active then men, and yet three of the four largest Christian churches in the United States, the Catholics, Southern Baptists, and Mormons, prohibit women from becoming clergy. So paranoid is the Southern Baptist Convention that last September they removed all copies of Gospel Today magazine from the racks of their LifeWay bookstores because the magazine featured a cover story on women clergy.
Why do women stick with these religions? I can only think of two reasons. Either they really don’t care about gender equality in the clergy, or they accept on faith that this is the way God intends things to be. And maybe it is.
According to the Catholic and Southern Baptist hierarchies, had Jesus wanted women to be clergy he would have had at least one woman among his twelve apostles. I know this will startle some of you, but I think they are right.
Jesus broke so many cultural taboos that one is hard pressed to argue that the traditions he adhered to were chosen lightly. If Jesus had wanted to have women apostles he would have had them. Yes, I know about Mary Magdalena, and I am more than willing to accept her as a close confidant of Jesus, but he doesn’t count her among the Twelve. So I think these churches are correct to outlaw women clergy and thereby remain faithful to the traditions of Jesus. I only wish they would be more scrupulous about it.
For example, all of the Apostles were Jews. Jesus had no Christian Apostles, so neither should the church have Christian clergy. This could open a whole new career path for Jewish men, and I am all for it.
Similarly, Jesus preferred fishermen for apostles, and so the church should require that clergy learn to fish. All of Jesus’ apostles ate raw corn, so this too ought to be a requirement for clerical positions. To the man, the Twelve were incapable of staying awake with Jesus or standing by his side when he was arrested, beaten, and crucified, so cowardliness ought to be another criteria for clergy. All apostles wore sandals, so shoe wearers have no place at the altars of the church. And they wore robes, so pant-wearing men are also out. None of the Twelve brushed their teeth, took baths on a daily basis, used toilet paper (or toilets for that matter), or vaccinated themselves against any communicable diseases. Not one apostle read the New Testament or observed Christmas or Easter, so these practices should be off limits to clergy as well.
I could go on, but I suspect the point is made. If we are going to appoint clergy based on the choices Jesus made in choosing his apostles we must restrict ourselves to Jewish fishermen with bad breath and itchy anuses. Maybe if the churches were more traditional in this way more men would get involved. I’m sure fewer women would.