Monday, 3 June 2013

A problem with Protestants (specifically) and women


Reflecting on my previous post...

and arguing from a background that patriarchy (male leadership) is necessary to long term stable or thriving institutions (patriarchy as the rule, but not ruling-out specific exceptions)...

it suddenly struck me that there is a problem mostly for Protestants and women - because when the inner ring is a leadership circle, and therefore all-male, then devout women have no special role or place.

So, the problem for Christians is to combine 1. patriarchy with 2. a 'mystery religion' - to enable distinct and a higher life of faith for both sexes, within a patriarchal context.


When monasticism is the ideal in the Catholic denominations (Eastern Orthodox, and as a sub-dominant but significant strand in Western Roman- and Anglo-Catholicism), then there is a place for especially devout women as nuns - indeed there have usually been more women in 'religious' orders and monasteries than men.

And Mormonism is a Temple religion, with the same access and status for devout women and men (via marriage and the family).

But in rejecting monasticism, Protestants removed a higher path open to women.

In theory, that is to say in Protestant theology, this does not matter to salvation and degree of sanctification - in practice, it probably does matter a lot to that minority of devout women who might in other denominations become nuns.


The answer would, I suppose, be Protestant nuns (and monks)

although that might prove difficult/ impossible to square with the foundational anti-clericalism of the Reformation as it survives in some of the Protestant denominations.


dearieme said...

And yet the post of Supreme Governor of the C of E has been held by Elizabeth I, Mary II (jointly with her fella), Anne, Victoria and Elizabeth II. Only under the last mentioned could it be said to be falling to bits.

Meantime the Roman church has been governed by a series of lamentable males, almost all of whom (I will except the Polish chap) have earned the scorn and derision of Christians and non-Christians alike.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - Yaaas... insofar as the example really is applicable, and the monarch is not merely a figurehead (who has had all relevant powers - such as appointing Bishops or approving the prayer book - usurped by the Prime Minister, parliament or faceless bureaucrats) it falls into the category of 'exception' (in that female monarchs are, or at least were until a few months ago, exceptional, by default).

And monarchy doesn't really provide a realistic pathway for the especially devout female Protestant, does it?

Wurmbrand said...

Monasticism survives in the Lutheran world, although certainly few are involved.

Gnecht said...

This theme of monastic / communal living for non-Catholic, non-Orthodox... how about the Hutterites?

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

Good conclusion to your other posts on the subject. Rejection of God-appointed patriarchy is indeed the main problem of Protestantism, while patriarchy in Mormonism, for example, is probably what constitutes its main truth and appeal.

Devout life in or out of convent:
I don't know about Orthodox or other churches, but Roman Catholics not only have various types of religious orders, but all sorts of affiliations and memberships are possible for those outside religious orders to participate more closely to formal religious life.

ramram said...

Regarding alternative for Protestant monasticism there are a few examples of "lay orders" in the Roman Catholic Church that could be easier to implement for Protestants.

One example would be Memores Domini:

C. said...

Protestantism also fails to provide a place for women who (for whatever reason) prefer not to marry and have children. In fact the reaction of modern Protestants is usually to deny that this type of woman exists.

I think I've said it before on this blog - the failure of most Western churches to provide places for women outside of the nuclear family model is a bigger problem than it seems, because these women are disproportionately powerful and influential in society.

Bruce Charlton said...

@C - Agreed; but to clarify, it is a 'life' that is needed, not a job - and opening the priesthood/ leadership is simply not an option (the evidence is overwhelming that this is a suicide pill without antidote for any institution).

C. said...

Oh, I agree completely! I was referring to monasticism.

Have you read any of Thomas Day's books? Oh the surface it's all about post-Vatican-II Catholic liturgy, but he makes a lot of deeper observations on the nature of worship and monasticism. One of the interesting things he talks about is the way that post-Vatican-II-style worship actually damaged the way women saw themselves in the Church: traditional masses were focused on God and just happened to have a priest walking around mumbling things in Latin, whereas modern masses, being "freer", focus almost entirely on the priest's (male, human) personality.

I'm Orthodox but occasionally attend Catholic services for geographical reasons - and I find that the "more patriarchal" religion consists of a guy who's mostly behind a screen the whole time and out-voiced by the choir, while the Catholic one is a lone guy on stage with a microphone talking about whatever the hell he wants to talk about for an hour. I can definitely see why Catholic women would start to wonder why they can't be the one up there on stage talking about football or whatever. That doesn't make them right, but it's understandable.