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The Deep, Difficult And Joyous Spiritual Journey Of Sister Joan

Sister Joan Chittister has spent her life speaking up for women in the church.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop=COURTESY OF BENEDICTINE SISTERS OF ERIE, PENNSYLVANIASister Joan Chittister, center, with Native women in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1998.


Veteran Catholic writer Tom Roberts thought he knew Sister Joan Chittister – the maverick Benedictine nun who dares speak her mind to her church.

He didn’t.

When Roberts, editor at large for the National Catholic Reporter went to interview her three years ago in Erie, Pa., at the community where she entered religious life at age 16, a secret she’s held for a lifetime came to light.

In the peculiar journalism tradition of preparing obituaries of prominent people while they’re still alive, Roberts was there to update an obituary on Sister Joan.

As they sat to talk, she leaned forward, blue eyes downcast, voice slow, and poured out a story she had never told anyone before about her early life as a terrified child of an abused woman, trapped by her husband, her church and her society.

Suddenly, instead of an updated obituary, Roberts was hearing a new story — the forces that shaped one of U.S. Catholicism’s most influential voices. That conversation begins the biography by Roberts published this month, Joan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith.

She told Roberts “it’s time” she opened the hidden door to her early life because both her valiant, devoutly Catholic mother and her abusive, alcoholic stepfather had died. She was free to speak of a childhood of poverty, insecurity and “ceaseless fear.”

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop=COURTESY OF ORBIS BOOKSJoan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith book cover.

But Chittister — now 79 and very much alive, thank you — has another reason why the time has come.

“All my professional life, I have spoken my heart out for the role of women all over the world. It’s a theological thing, a deeply moral thing, the determining issue for the integrity of the church and the advancement of any state,” she told Religion News Service in an interview about the book.

“It’s time to acknowledge that this material is not just theological and rhetorical. It’s real. I’m not just talking from compassion, from a world I don’t know anything about. I’m talking about myself — and all social classes, all kinds of people,”

“I saw it as maybe my last major presentation on behalf of women who are trapped by circumstances of religion, law, custom and culture,” said Chittister.

In the book and in interviews, she tells of joining the Erie Benedictine community “not as a refuge or escape from life, but for the kind of life I thought was possible — a Christian community as a model of peace.”

Little did she — or her sisters — know.

It started simply. Within months of moving from the upheaval of her parents’ home to the Benedictine community house, Chittister was struck with polio. The same relentless determination and fierce focus that helped her survive her family, strengthened her through years of therapy until she could walk again.

She took her veiled final vows and became a teacher while studying for her undergraduate and graduate university degrees on nights and weekends.

Roberts described those years as a time when Catholics were certain their church had all the answers — until many, like Chittister, discovered it did not. That’s why the book is subtitled “Her Journey from Certainty to Faith.”

Then came the ’60s and the Second Vatican Council reforms that gave a fresh charge to women religious (as nuns and sisters are known) to find new ways to live out their calling. Chittister moved into two decades of leadership roles within her community, her order, and the Leadership Council of Women Religious, the group that represents about 80 percent of U.S. Catholic sisters. During a decade of upheaval, she traveled the nation giving talks with titles such as “Self-understanding through change.”

And change they did. The Erie Benedictine community transformed from a teaching order to a social justice force with education, workforce training and child development programs in the poorest corners of Erie. Her explanation of how this happened was deceptively simple: “I didn’t start anything. I allowed our sisters to start what needs to be done.”

Through every step, Chittister told Roberts, the Rule of St. Benedict guided her. It begins with a command to “listen” — to each other and to those they served.

“Listen” is the crux of the book, the crux of her life in a church that, she says, still refuses to listen to women.

“I came to feminism through faith,” Chittister told Roberts. And herein likes the central conflict of Chittister life in a church controlled by men who think they alone can define Jesus and God’s plan.

Roberts’ book walks readers through contemporary Catholic conversations on women’s ordination. The neat summary of the Vatican view is “No.” Not only “no” but, as pope after pope has said, the subject is closed.

In 2001, the Vatican forbade her to speak on discipleship at a women’s ordination conference in Ireland. Chittister spoke anyway.

“You cannot order Catholics not to think,” she said in an interview recalling that confrontation with church authority. “I remember thinking then, ‘You can’t scare me. You have no idea where I’ve been.’”

For Chittister, the role of women raises “theological, scientific, sociological and human questions that you cannot stop thinking about. You have to open the door to the conversation in the name of the integrity of your theology.”

But even these conversations yielded yet another surprise for Roberts — “how much of a traditionalist she is.

“Because she has the label of dissenter and maverick, you think she would be wildly innovative and experimental, but what I found out is that she is so respectful of tradition that she approaches change slowly, and with enormous intellect,” he said.

Today, said Roberts, Pope Francis has been calling for a deeper theology of women, and women such as Chittister are saying, back to him, “It’s done already! Stop telling us who we should be. Let us tell YOU who we are!”

Women’s ordination has never been her focus, Roberts writes and Chittister confirms. Other issues take precedence for her: education; economic opportunity; health care; civil rights and the right to self-determination. For the past 20 years she’s been writing, speaking and traveling to places of conflict with the Global Peace Initiative of Women, including days in Iran during the nuclear pact negotiations.

Even that is not enough, to her mind.

There are more books. Published in October: “In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics” and “Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life.”

She’s recently launched a new website, Monasteries of the, to offer Benedictine spirituality and online community to people who may never reach a church.

And Chittister, once a lonely only child in an isolated family, has one more ministry. She writes thousands and thousands of letters, answering the people who write to her.

“I see my sisters do the most beautiful things every day of their lives. I never hear them complain,” said Chittister. “I said to myself, ‘What do I do?’ And this is what I can do.”

In Honor of Maya Angelou: The Caged Bird Sung and Sung

Maya Angelou was raped as a child. Visiting her aunt and uncle, she was frightened to tell them about the rapist for fear her uncle would hurt this man. She decided to use her voice; she decided to tell. Some time afterwards a sheriff knocked on the door to report that they found the man dead. Maya, at age seven, concluded in her child’s mind that she was responsible.

In response to the “deadliness of her voice” she decided not to speak. She didn’t use her voice for over six years. While I don’t think she killed this man; I do think there was immense power in her voice. Anyone who listened to her couldn’t help but be profoundly moved. The unfolding and life-giving power of that voice would change the course of millions.

In her silence she created an alchemical chamber where the power and absolute beauty of her voice unfolded and flowered. Her grandmother, whom she called “mama” never tried to correct Maya or “heal” her from her wound. Instead, mama kept telling Maya that she would be a great teacher someday. Mama knew something that very few would even consider — that the soul, spirit, and nature of this young girl were transforming and needed to be held in a radical faith and love. Maya suffered great insult not speaking as a youth — she was teased, criticized and mocked as she wrote her words for others to see instead of using her voice. She spent much time under mama’s porch feeding on poetry, both black and white.

One day, six years later, mama said, “You’ll never appreciate those words until you hear them rolling off your own lips.” [1] She took Maya to church to speak before the congregation. Maya let some poetry pass over her lips, but it was not a black poet as most would have expected. Here are her words:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

This is Sonnet 29 from William Shakespeare. When asked why she didn’t recite a black poet, why she recited Shakespeare, she said, “I knew that was written for me.”

Maya knew, as a black girl, a silent child, what it meant to be in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes; I’m sure, often, she “alone bewept her outcast state.” But she also knew that nature made her, even in her trauma, more than a king.

The first time I saw Dr. Angelou she was in her 60s. She told the story of her rape. Some people and counselors thought that she needed to let this part of her story go, but I was inspired that she didn’t ‘heal it away;’ instead, she made it into something. Life, mama, and Maya made that story into something gloriously human with all the potential we all have to make the deepest humanity out of our pain and suffering. I can hear her saying, “I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.”

The next time I saw her was around 10 years ago; I suppose she was about 76-years-old. She asked to be introduced as Dr. Maya Angelou. She had earned her doctorate, spoke seven languages, and had many honorary doctorates as well. She said something that amazed me — that it was not easy for her to ask others to use the label “doctor” to refer to herself. It was easy for mainstream America to see her as a poet, an author, and a dancer, but to see her as a doctor – many were still having to get over their prejudices to be comfortable calling a black woman “doctor.” I think this is still true. Here was one of the grandest intelligences America had to offer; here was a black woman six-feet-tall, wearing heals and a sleeveless blouse, standing before thousands who came to hear her speak and still she was growing into her full self, her full powers. What a model!

The last time I saw Dr. Angelou she told a story of a white woman who came up to her after one of her talks. The woman thanked her saying that her daughter was suicidal but changed the course of her life after hearing Dr. Maya Angelou speak. And then the woman did something unexpected; she said that she was surprised to learn that this influence on her daughter’s life looked like her — a black woman. My eyes teared; my gut cringed; how would this model of humanity respond? I imagined she would see this woman for the ignorant child she was. Instead, Maya said that she went home and cried much of the weekend. She cried; even though we “shouldn’t take people personally,” “Shouldn’t suffer fools,” etc. She cried; that meant that I could also. I was in law school at that time; I was in my early 40s. I cried many evenings after class. Maya told me it was ok.

I remember reading an interview she did with Dr. Cornel West where she told the story of being on the set of the film Poetic Justice. A fight ensued between two men and threatened to become violent. People on the set backed off wanting to protect themselves. She stepped in, put her hands on one of the men, and said, “Let me speak to you. Let me talk to you. Do you know you’re the best we have? Do you know we don’t have anybody better than you? Do you know everybody has paid for you, and they’re all dead?” [2] The man started to cry and she walked him away from others so he would not be ashamed of his tears. She didn’t know at the time that the man was Tupac Shakur. When asked in an interview years later why she did that, Dr. Angelou said sometimes we have to put our hands on another person and remind them how precious they are; to remind them that they are the best we have.

In honor of Dr. Maya Angelou, may I say in my own voice, a voice empowered by hers, you are the best we have; each of us are the best we have.

[1] Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (New York: Bantam Books, 1969).

[2] Cornel West, Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), 199.

Jimmy Carter:  Ukraine, Israel and addressing injustices faced by women around the world



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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a conversation with former President Jimmy Carter.

His newest book is “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”

I spoke with him late today about the commitment by him and the Carter Center to fight discrimination and violence against women and girls around the world. That followed our talk about current news developments.

President Jimmy Carter, thank you very much for joining us.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Judy, it’s good to be with you again. Thank you for letting me come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’re here to talk about your book. And we are going to talk about that, but, first, just a few questions about what’s in the news, starting about Ukraine.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you believe that President Putin and Russians are paying enough of a price for going in and taking Crimea?

JIMMY CARTER: Judy, I never have thought that anything could have deterred Putin from taking over Crimea.

No matter what the Western world had done, he would still have done this, because Russians have always considered Crimea to be part of theirs. And, as you know, a majority of the Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia, so that was inevitable.

But I think now he has to be stopped and prevented from taking any further military action. And I don’t really think he’s going to. I may be wrong, but I don’t think he’s going to. I watched his speech very carefully.

And I think he’s going to seduce the Eastern Ukrainians who speak Russian about how attractive Russia is by banishments and loans and grants and trade concessions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you don’t think any further punishment for taking Crimea should happen?

JIMMY CARTER: I don’t think so. But I think, if he escalates, then yes, but, at this point, I don’t think so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What if he does though go into another country, what should happen there?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don’t want to tell people what to do who are in office now, know more than I do about it, but I remember what happened when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in — Christmas Day, 1979.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you were president.


Well, I was very forceful, because I saw the danger of them going further. And that’s similar to what it is now. And I sent Brezhnev a direct message that if you go any further, we will take military action, and we will not exclude any weapons that we have. And I almost broke diplomatic relations. Through my ambassador, I declared an embargo against him.

And I began to arm the freedom fighters in Afghanistan who were repelling the Soviet troops. So, I took a lot of bold and very aggressive actions, some of which I think would be excessive now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Excessive? So…

JIMMY CARTER: I think so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … shouldn’t — should not happen today?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I think we — it is perfectly legitimate, in fact, I think it would justified to arm the Ukrainian military effectively and let everybody know that they’re being armed, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me — there’s a whole lot to talk about with Ukraine, but there are a number of other things I want to ask you about.


JUDY WOODRUFF: You — so much of your presidency was devoted to making peace in the Middle East.

You of course were responsible, you and Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, for the Camp David peace accords. A number of presidents have tried to do more since then. Right now, Secretary of State John Kerry very focused on that area. Do you think he’s making real progress?

JIMMY CARTER: He’s making more progress than has been made, I would say, in the last 15 or 20 years. And he has done it almost on his own, apparently.

And I stay in touch with him. I give him some subtle advice by e-mail what I think might be done. But I hope that he will be bold and aggressive and lay down a so-called benchmark or a working process guidance by which they can be — both sides can be persuaded.

But I think that he, by himself, can’t do anything in order to be effective, at least in Israel. The president of the United States has to be directly involved and get the whole weight of the United States government behind any controversial proposal. In that case, I think they have a chance to succeed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You said last night — you told Charlie Rose in an interview last night you don’t think the Palestinians will ever agree to the Israeli demand that they be — that it be declared a Jewish state.

And you said that — that you didn’t think the Israelis would ever agree to give the Palestinians right of return. I mean, that basically says the current talks aren’t going anywhere.

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don’t know what’s going to be proposed by Secretary Kerry.

But I think it’s almost impossible for an Arab who lives in the West Bank to agree that Israel is a Jewish state, because about a fourth of the population of Israel itself are Arabs. And they can’t deny their own fellow Muslims just because they live across the border.

And I never have thought that it was possible at all for Palestinians to be permitted to come back into Israel in any sort of unrestrained way. I think their best alternative there is not to let them come back into Israel, but into the West Bank and Gaza, and then to pay those in Israel, maybe, if the international community decides to, some reparations for the property that they lost.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to also ask you about spying by the U.S. government. It’s a story…


JUDY WOODRUFF: … that is very much in the news these days.

We know — we learned more this week about what they’re doing. But you said in an interview just in the last few days that you expect that the NSA, the government’s been looking at your e-mails, listening in on your phone calls, so when you have got something important to say, you say you send it by snail mail.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you sure no one is reading your snail mail?

JIMMY CARTER: I can’t tell — I can’t guarantee that.

But I don’t feel paranoid about it. But it’s been generally acknowledged that every telephone call made, every one that you make, every one that you receive, by e-mail including, is recorded. And they claim that they don’t read those messages, but they know that you made the call and to whom you made it and how long it lasted.

And if they later want to see your particular call, they can do so. And I think that’s very excessive. And I had to deal with that when I was president as well by passing the so-called FISA Act, and that was designed to prevent any American intelligence agency from monitoring any single call of an American. And now, of course, they record them all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let me move on.

JIMMY CARTER: All right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the book, it’s titled “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”

You have said this is the most important book you have ever written.



JIMMY CARTER: Because the crimes against women and girls exceed almost anything that I have known in my lifetime as far as human rights abuses.

And it goes all the way from intense commitment of slavery, human trafficking in this country and around the world. About 100,000 girls in the United States of America were sold into slavery last year, according to the State Department, 800,000 in the world across international borders.

And I think the most horrible statistic that’s included in this book that is quite accurate is that there — there have been about 160 million little baby girls killed in this generation by their own parents because they didn’t want to have girls. They wanted boys.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By abortions, you mean?

JIMMY CARTER: And that includes most recently abortions, because now, with the advent of sonograms even in the poorest countries, they can detect the sex of a fetus when it’s being developed, and they abort it.

Otherwise, they just wait until the girl is born and then strangle her to death. Now, 160 million is compared to, say, 30 million or 40 million people that were killed in the Second World War. So, there’s an entire generation of females that are no longer living, about 50 million or 60 million of these in China and India.

In fact, there’s one area of India where, for every 1,000 men living, there’s only 650 women living. And they have been killed by their parents. And now there’s a great shortage of brides to marry men in some of those countries, China, even South Korea. And women are now sold excessively as slaves around the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m curious, President Carter, about why, at this stage of your life, your career, this is something you want to focus on.


JUDY WOODRUFF: How — how did you — this is, what, your 28th book and…

JIMMY CARTER: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And why this, and what do you think can be done about it?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the Carter Center has been active in 79 countries around the world, very active. We have had specific projects in that many countries.

And a lot of them are in the developing world. And we have seen the deprivation of women’s rights much more than it is in the United States with those areas, with genital mutilation cutting, and with honor killings and something — things like that.

And so this, to me, is a thing that I might do in the remaining years of my life that be — would bear the richest dividends, if I can just get the world aroused to the actual facts about what’s happening to women and girls and get us to act in concert. In every crime against females that’s mentioned in this book, I have got specific recommendations on what we can do, particularly here in the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you are saying this is something you want to continue to put focus on?

JIMMY CARTER: Yes, I will continue that as long as I live.


And I want the Carter Center to be kind of a center for people who want to join with us in this — I will call it a crusade to protect women and girls. The United States is very culpable. You know, not only do we deprive women of equal pay, but, on our university campuses, we have probably the worst sexual abuse of any other place in America.

There are only 4 percent of the rapes on college campuses even reported, because the college — the university presidents of the greatest universities don’t want to report sexual abuse on their campuses, because it brings discredit to them. So they discourage female students from reporting rapes.

And what this does is result in a few boys on the campus, a few men on the campus who know they can rape a girl with impunity, because they’re not going to be reported. And, if they are reported, they’re not going to be criminally prosecuted for it. And the same thing applies, as you well know, in our U.S. military.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Jimmy Carter not shying away from the tough, tough subjects out there.

We thank you very much for being with us.

JIMMY CARTER: I enjoyed it, Judy. Thank you.

The post Jimmy Carter on Ukraine, Israel and addressing injustices faced by women around the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

bible stanton

Things They Don’t Tell You About Christianity

There would be no need for the women’s movement if the church and Bible hadn’t abused them.
— Father Leo Booth

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.
— Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 19th century U.S. campaigner for women’s rights

In “The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power” by Barbara G. Walker the number of witches slaughtered was estimated by scholars to be 7 to 9 million also. [Historian] Will Durant, in his 12 volume History of Civilization sets the figure also at 7 to 9 million.

Misogyny is fundamental to the basic writings of Christianity. In passage after passage, women are encouraged—no, commanded—to accept an inferior role, and to be ashamed of themselves for the simple fact that they are women.  Misogynistic biblical passages are so common that it’s difficult to know which to cite.

  • From the New Testament we find “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…” (Ephesians 5:22–23) and “These [redeemed] are they which were not defiled with women; …” (Revelation 14:4);
  • and from the Old Testament we find “How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4)
  • Other relevant New Testament passages include Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6.
  • Other Old Testament passages include Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5 and 15:17–33.

The Church and women: from early Church fathers, Saints, Popes and Reformers to today

  • What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.-– Saint Augustine of Hippo, Church Father, Bishop of Hippo Regius, 354 – 430
  • As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.— Thomas Aquinas, Saint, Doctor of the Church, 13th century
  • Although far more women are witches than men… yet men are more often bewitched than women. And the reason for this lies in the fact that God allows the devil more power over the venereal act, by which the original sin is handed down, than over the other human actions.— Henry Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Inquisitors, 1486
  • Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.— St. Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian and Doctor of the Church, 13th century
  • In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell.  –Tertullian, 2nd-3rd Century church father
  • To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure…— Saint Odo of Cluny, 10th Century,  from The Dark Side of Christianity, by Helen Ellerbe
  • Saint John Chrysostom commanded every Christian father to instill into his son “a resolute spirit against womankind … Let him have no converse with any woman save only his mother. Let him see no woman.” — Christianity and Pagan Culture In the Later Roman Empire, by M.L.W. Laistner
  • [Churchfather, venerated as a Saint up to the 17th century] Clement of Alexandria (150?-215?): “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.”
  • [Churchfather] Tertullian (160?-220?): “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.”
  • [Saint] Ambrose (339-97): “Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam… it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability.”
  • [Saint] Augustine (354-430): “Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God.”
  • Pope Gregory I (540-604): “Woman is slow in understanding and her unstable and naive mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her ‘use’ is two fold; [carnal] sex and motherhood.”
  • [Saint] Thomas Aquinas (1225-74): “[Woman] was made only to assist with procreation.”
  • [Reformer, founder of Scottish Presbyterianism] John Knox (1513-72): “Woman was made for only one reason, to serve and obey man.”
  • [Reformer, founder of the Methodist movement] John Wesley (1703-91): “Wife: Be content to be insignificant. What loss would it be to God or man had you never been born.”
  • Southern Baptist Convention (2000): “A wife should submit herself to the leadership of her husband. Leadership in the church should always be male.”
  • Local church in Holland (2004): “More and more we see women being placed in the position of Elder or Pastor in churches. Is this a good thing? Well, if your goal is to undermine the authority of the Word of God, it’s a good thing.”
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546), leading Reformer, founder of Lutheran Protestantism: “If [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth–that is why they are there.”-– Martin Luther– The Dark Side of Christianity by Helen Ellerbe
  • Orthodox Christians held women responsible for all sin. As the Bible’s Apocrypha states, ‘Of woman came the beginning of sin. And thanks to her, we all must die.’
    — The Dark Side of Christianity, by Helen Ellerbe

See more: Martin Luther’s statements on women. For more anti-women sentiments to be found among Churches and Christians today, including the evangelicals:

It is this long tradition of bias against half of the human population that has made the Catholic Encyclopaedia declare:

The female sex is in some respects inferior to the male sex, both as regards body and soul.
… If the two sexes are designed by nature for a homogeneous organic co-operation, then the leading position or a social pre-eminence must necessarily fall to one of them. Man is called by the Creator to this position of leader, as is shown by his entire bodily and intellectual make-up.
— The Catholic Encyclopedia

Of course, the CE is generally good at obfuscating. Without retracting its statements on how woman is ‘inferior in certain respects … both as regards body and soul’ and how man is called by God to the ‘position of leader’, the CE continues that “To deduce from this the inferiority of woman or her degredation to a “second-rate human being” contradicts logic”. They are the ones who are illogical by contradicting themselves; as are those who affirm faith in such nonsense as are to be found in this ‘Encyclopaedia’.

Are women human? – voting and debating needed for Christians to decide the matter

In 584 CE, the Council Of Macon was held at Lyons. 43 Catholic bishops attended as well as 23 male representatives of other bishops. On the question of “Are women human?”, 32 voted Yes, and 31 No (that would make the remaining 5 still undecided).  Apparently, their decision was not final, as the question would be picked up again as late as the Reformation

The Original Sin and clergy against reducing pain during childbirth

In 1591 in Scotland, Euphanie Macalyane used a remedy to reduce delivery pains. For bypassing the Biblical curse of Genesis 3:16 – where God cursed Eve (and thus, women) with pain during childbirth – the devout King James VI had her burnt at the stake. Pious King James is better known for authorising the Bible’s translation into English: the KJV (King James Version).

In 1847, A British [in particular, Scottish] obstetrician, Dr. Simpson, used chloroform as an anesthetic in delivering a baby. A scandal followed, and the holy men of the Church of England prohibited the use of anesthetic in childbirth, citing Genesis 3:16: ‘God said to woman Eve, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy pain in childbearing. In pain thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.'”
— Women Without Superstition, by Annie Laurie Gaylor

Scotland’s Presbyterian Church ensured that their female flock refused the treatment, frustrating Simpson’s work. In an attempt to change the Church’s adamant stance, Simpson offered Genesis 2:21 as supposedly supportive of anaesthetics: “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam … he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh”. However, the Church, being more knowledgeable in theological matters, showed that 2:21 had happened before the Fall and thus before the Curse of Eve was pronounced, meaning the curse was still in effect. See the book: Triumph Over Pain by R. Fulop-Miller.

To relieve labor pains, as Scottish clergymen put it, would be ‘vitiating the primal curse of woman…’ The introduction of chloroform to help a woman through the pain of labor brought forth the same opposition. According to a New England minister:

‘Chloroform is a decoy of Satan, apparently offering itself to bless women; but in the end it will harden society and rob God of the deep earnest cries which arise in time of trouble, for help.’

— The Dark Side of Christian History, by Helen Ellerbe

It was only with Queen Victoria’s use of anaesthesia during her delivery that matters changed.


  • Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor
  • The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible by Ruth Hurmence Green


Mental abuse as a form of “spiritual instruction”

…an example of Christianity’s cruel brainwashing of the innocent, consider this quotation from an officially approved, 19th-century Catholic children’s book (Tracts for Spiritual Reading, by Rev. J. Furniss, C.S.S.R.):

Look into this little prison. In the middle of it there is a boy, a young man. He is silent; despair is on him … His eyes are burning like two burning coals. Two long flames come out of his ears. His breathing is difficult. Sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out of it. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle which is boiling? No; then what is it? Hear what it is. The blood is boiling in the scalding veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones. Ask him why he is thus tormented. His answer is that when he was alive, his blood boiled to do very wicked things.

There are many similar passages in this book. Commenting on it, William Meagher, Vicar-General of Dublin, states in his Approbation:

“I have carefully read over this Little Volume for Children and have found nothing whatever in it contrary to the doctrines of the Holy Faith; but on the contrary, a great deal to charm, instruct and edify the youthful classes for whose benefit it has been written.”

More from Father Furniss’ writings for children:

A little child is in this red hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out! See how it twists and turns itself about in the fire. It beats it head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor. You can see on the face of this little child what you see on the faces of all in hell – despair, desperate and horrible.
— Books for Children, by Father Furniss quoted in Atheism The Case Against God, by George Smith

If the book came back in print, many Christian parents will doubtless continue to find it very useful (“charming, instructive and edifying”) and a means to instill the fear of Hell in their children. If this book seems distinctly unpleasant, it is yet better than being forced to read the Bible at a young age, which many parents still inflict on their children.

There’s also Bible-sanctioned abuse, where parents are allowed to chastise their children with a “rod”.  From the Bible (KJV):

  • Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
  • Proverbs 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
  • Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
  • Proverbs 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
  • Proverbs 23:14: “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”
  • Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
  • Hebrews 12:6-7: “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
Today: pious Christians still beat their kids with the rod

Samuel Butler’s line “spare the rod, and spoil the child” from the 17th century had been taken up with enthusiasm by Christians. Beating children is illegal today in many European countries, yet the chastising of children by beating them still occurs in Christian families in America. This is especially the case with the fundamentalist Christian denominations, who know that the Bible is very clear on how they should correct the ways of their children.

  • About.Com – illustrates how there are advertisements to sell rods to Christian parents and there are devout people buying them. The market’s there.
  • A modern-day Christian site advocating the rod. They cite articles that support their Biblical views, although even if there were no such articles, one can be sure that the Biblical sanction is more than enough for them.
  • Spare the Child by Philip Greven.
    Greven cites many excerpts from present-day American Protestant writers to demonstrate that violence against children is still being promoted by Christian clerics.
  • For Your Own Good by Alice Miller
    In which the author traces the roots of physical violence towards children in the western world to the influence of Christianity.

See also:

The Evolving Destruction of the Female

When the Christian church really went full steam ahead in their destruction of women, the female and the Goddess within women, was during the Great Inquisition:I am quoting now from a classic academic work on the Goddesses by Marija Gimbutas, “The Language of the Goddess“…The author is a Professor of European archaeology at UCLA and the curator of the Old World archaeology at UCLA’s Cultural History Museum: On page 319: quote: “Women were called Disciples of Satan and this period was one of the bloodiest in history. The witch hunt of the 15th to 18th centuries was the most satanic event of European history. The murder of women accused as witches escalated to MORE THAN EIGHT MILLION. The burned or hanged women were mostly country women who learned the lore of the Goddess from their grandmothers.”

Listen to Episcopal Bishop C.L. Meyers: “A priest is a God symbol. God is masculine in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ was a man, masculine. That was a divine choice.” He said this at Grace Cathedral before 700 delegates fighting the ordination of women.Listen to the former Senior Minister of the one of the largest Presbyterian churches in Houston, Texas. the Rev. Dr. Charlie Shedd. He wrote this in a book called “How To Treat A Woman.” “Women are simple souls who like simple things. Our family airedale will come clear across the yard just for one pat on the head. Wives are like that. They will come across the house, across the room, across anything if you will just keep patting them on the head.”


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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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December 2021



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory