Winding Up Women’s History Month (Oh, Must We?)

Indeed, we must.

I can almost see the eyes rolling . . . “Women’s History Month?” Who cares, and why bother?

My response, of course, would be to kindly remind my eye-rolling, shrugging readers that Men’s History occupies the entirety of the Western sociohistorical record, as well as the other eleven months of the calendar — history, as it is, being written by the victors. So let’s enjoy the last few days of Women’s History Month with your mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and the mothers of the Church, and praise our Lord Jesus for the life and ministry of a woman I have deeply admired for decades, Sojourner Truth.

As has been the case at times, I am indebted to Christians For Biblical Equality’s Arise e-zine for some of this biographical information; this is from the March 23, 2011 edition. Born in 1797, Sojourner Truth a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as such was known as an abolitionist, suffragist, and social reformer. This was at a time when preaching the Good News of reconciliation to God through Christ Jesus entailed, if not required, working for justice, calling for a Biblical equality that abolishes divisions in church, society, and home based on race, class, and gender, and condemning, both from the pulpit and in the preacher’s personal life, any forms of bigotry indulged in by the Church. Sadly, those days, echoed later in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, appear to be long gone as the Church embraces as elders and statesmen those who apply a ludicrous pretzel logic in expounding on and embracing all manner of injustice, indifference, and ineptitude in announcing the Good News.

But, I digress . . .

Continuing, from Arise, CBE’s e-zine:

“Sojourner Truth, or Isabella, was born a slave and remembered hearing her mother cry long into the night as she mourned the loss of her children who had been sold away. Isabella’s mother reminded her remaining children, ‘Oh, my children, there is a God who hears and sees you. He lives in the sky and when you are beaten or cruelly treated or fall into any trouble you must ask Him to help because he always hears you.’

“Isabella was sold away from her parents, and ‘married’ to a slave on her plantation at the age of seventeen. After giving birth to five children, Isabella decided to run away, convinced that God affirmed freedom for the slave. She hired herself out as a house servant to a Quaker couple, and for the first time, she earned money for her labor. She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth because,

‘My name was Isabella, but when I left the house of bondage, I left everything behind. I wasn’t goin’ to keep nothin’ of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ being a sign unto them. Afterward I told the Lord I wanted another name, ’cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth because I was to declare the truth to the people.’”

(A question for my freedom-loving Christian Libertarian readers: Would you defend the slave’s heartfelt appeal for liberty, freedom, and self-determination at least as much as you decry government intervention into your private property rights? Or would you deny her her right to seek freedom by clinging to a couple of Scriptural passages that counsel the slave to accept her condition, even when Isabella’s state was nothing like that of the Hebraic or Roman slavery of the first-century world but, instead, a violent and wretchedly permanent, race-based, life sentence nurtured by the manstealing condemned in that same Scriptures? I’m just asking, seeing that your embrace of liberty appears so all-consuming of late).

Her commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ required that she align herself on the side of Biblical justice, and she was renown for her stirring defense of women’s rights and her stark condemnation of slavery. She addressed the wrongfulness of patriarchy in the name of Christ by answering a critic with this now-famous passage, again borrowed from Arise:

“‘I born my children and seen most of them sold to slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me — and aren’t I a woman? Then that little man in black there, he say women can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ weren’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with him.’

“Lest you think this uneducated woman was not theologically astute, this same reasoning was used by Karl Barth in which he argued that there is a subtle judgment on men in the birth of Christ, who was conceived without their involvement.” (CBE Arise, March 23, 2011)

This woman fought for righteousness in the trenches, preaching the Word of God without fear, without hesitation, and, sadly, without the support of the larger Christian Church in America, whose gender-, race- and class-based embrace of comfort and conformity to the culture inured them from both the desperation of the suffering as well as from the desperation of their own moral vacuity. She is a hero of mine, along with Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and countless more women and men whose names you’ve never heard of, but who molded society and the Church more into the image of the God of reconciliation and righteousness while shattering sinful barriers that strangled and suffocated the marginalized and lost.

I am a feminist because I am a Christian; as I’ve said before, if I were convinced that the Word of God required and endorsed patriarchy and other social divisions, my submission to my Lord and Savior would require that I enthusiastically jettison any of my beliefs that conflicted with his Word. But I am convinced; I passionately believe — and not because it feels good, or even right, but because of my study of the Word — that the biggest victory Satan has wrought at the expense of the Body of Christ is our being blinded to the truth of Biblical righteousness, Biblical equality, Biblical justice, and Biblical reconciliation. We’re crippled because of it.

To me, it’s a matter, really, of which side you’re on — culture or the Church, enjoying the spoils of patriocentric victory or renouncing un-Godly gain and privilege, ignoring the continued marginalized status of those on the outside and embracing the comfort of being on the inside or defending the poor by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them against their oppressors . . . That sort of thing. And as for me and our household, we believe we side with those mothers and fathers of the faith, like Sojourner Truth, because they were on the side of the One who is all Truth.

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