Twice Liberated: A Personal Journey Through Feminism

[Touchstone, Summer 1994] When I joined the college newspaper as a shy freshman many years ago, the editor gave me my first assignment: “Find out what’s all this stuff about women’s lib.” I was baffled as to how to do that; reports of feminism (which was then usually called “women’s lib”) were just beginning to titillate the public, just beginning to show up in Johnny Carson jokes about “bra-burners.” Was it possible to dig up any local “libbers”? My editor had a suggestion: go to the Student Union and have them announce over the loudspeaker, “Anyone representing the women’s liberation movement, please come to the information desk.”

Men Need Church, Too

[Christianity Today, May 24, 1999] Next time you're in church, count the number of adult heads and divide by the number of pairs of pantyhose. If the pantyhose contingent makes up more than half the total, there's a word for your church: typical. “Every sociologist, and indeed every observer, who has looked at the question has found that women are more religious than men,” writes Leon Podles in his book, “The Church Impotent.” (Ouch; the stentorian title makes me wince. Once inside, however, it's reasonable and well-written.) Podles cites a deluge of statistics: in 1986 church growth expert Lyle Schaller observed 60% female to 40% male churchgoers, a split which has widened since. Jesuit theologian Patrick Arnold says he's found a female-to-male ratio ranging from 2:1 to 7:1, and “some liberal Presbyterian or Methodist congregations are practically bereft of men.” Even in churches that have an all-male ordained leadership, the inner circle of laity that actually runs things is likely to be mostly female.

The Dangers of Fantasy

[Unpublished; Spring 1998] “The more I think about it, the more it bothers me,” my husband said. He had spent the morning with our teenaged son playing paintball, a first-time experience for both of them. This sophisticated version of “capture the flag” pits two teams against each other, each armed with modified guns that shoot a non-staining liquid. Anyone “killed” must retire from the game. My husband’s concern was that the game was too realistic. It’s the closest thing imaginable to actually killing people, he said. “I support the military, and I understand their need to prepare,” he went on. “There’s a reason for soldiers to play war games. But I’m not sure its right for civilians to do it, just as a form of entertainment. You shoot someone, see liquid explode on his body—it’s not the sort of thing a Christian should enjoy.”

Who’s That Idiot Next to the Potted Plant?

[Religion News Service, November 26, 1996] Has this happened to you? You’re watching some talk’n’politics TV show, a few people sitting around a table with a photo backdrop of the U.S. Capitol, and one of them is a total idiot. You’re thinking, “I can’t believe what the one next to the potted plant is saying,” and “Did you hear that? How’d she/he get on this show?” and “I could do better than that — in fact, my labrador retriever could do better than that!” Well, that would be me.

Not Quite a Perfect Fit

[Prism, September-October, 1994] It was November 1988, election day, and my husband was miserable. He'd been a Democrat, or further left, forever: in 1964, when his precinct went 12 to 1 for Goldwater, Gary was county chair of Teens for Johnson. He participated in teach-ins, marches, and rallies, and worked two simultaneous jobs in the old War on Poverty. We first met at a steelworkers' strike, and were married in the woods, flowers in my hair and a vegetarian spread on the reception table. But over the years, as our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ had grown, we had become increasingly persuaded that abortion was wrong. We had opposed so many forms of violence and injustice; eventually we had to admit that, no matter how difficult pregnancy made a woman's life, dismembering her child was a violent and unjust solution. The realization that 4500 children were dying every day forced this issue to the top of our list. No other social evil had such a bloody toll.

Howard Finster

Howard Finster’s fame has spread far beyond American shores. The day of this interview found a Japanese camera crew double-booked for the same time slot (“We’ve been planning this for months,” the only English-speaking crew member said, apologetically). This brings something else to Finster’s mind, and he asks the girl at the cash register when the people from a London magazine are coming. “They should put it on the TV news,” he observes. “They could make a little film of it.”

Green Linoleum Floor

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 24, 1998] An hour before worship my husband and some guys from church arrive to set up, going down the alleylike passage to the side door, past cigarette butts and soda cans. It isn’t a church building, and it isn’t ours, except on Sunday morning; the rest of the week it’s a day care center for adults with psychiatric disabilities. Since we’re Orthodox Christians, creating a worship space takes some work.

Virtual Water Cooler

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” July 12, 1996] Someone somewhere is sitting in a car. She's just left the office and is trying to get home, but the traffic is backed into a snarl.The setting sun cuts through the windshield, steaming the car and wilting the collar of her blouse. It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be another, all summer, all winter, year after year.

Adoption and Abortion

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” May 8, 1996]On the issue of abortion, I’ve been around the block. At one point, I believed that abortion was necessary to set women free from the burden of unplanned pregnancy. But gradually I changed; I realized that abortion is at root an act of violence, killing children and violating women’s bodies--and their hearts. As such, I couldn’t accept it as a legitimate way of solving social problems. Unnecessary surgery that kills your own child is a cheap substitute for providing women with life-affirming alternatives.  But perhaps because I’d been on both sides of this issue, I still had sympathy for my pro-choice friends.

Progress

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” November 18, 1997]What will life be like in the 21st century? A recent survey by Maricopa Research discovered that 31% of respondents, almost a third, believe that scientists will invent a way to beam people back and forth, like Scottie does on “Star Trek.” On the other hand, less than half that figure, only 15%, believe that in the next century we’ll find a way to end political corruption.