|Stevenson Memorial, by Abbott Handerson Thayer (Smithsonian American Art Museum)|
The key to writing a column is to say some things and not others. You can't explore every tangent. There isn't room, or reader interest. Make your point, move on.
Often, however, nuance is lost. In Monday's column, for instance, on religion and sexism, when I was listing the ways various religions hold women down, I originally gave the Baha'i a pass—they actually do stress the equality of the sexes. That seemed fair. But there wasn't room, so it had to go. Nor did I have the luxury of mentioning that, along with regularly oppressing women, faith also sometimes enriches them.
One reader stepped up to point that out, in a way I felt went beyond the standard "What about the Clintons?" response, and since she did so lucidly and sincerely, I thought I would share her remarks:
Dear Mr. Steinberg,
As a woman, mother of three daughters, and grandmother of 5 granddaughters, I feel compelled to respond to your article today by adding another view.
I have found freedom to be all I want to be, respect for the unique qualities inerrant in being a female human being, and courage to stand up to those who would disrespect my womanhood all in my faith as a Christian.
Jesus elevated the status of the woman he came in contact with through his time of ministry. He dispersed a crowd ready to stone a woman "caught in adultery" (where was the man she was caught with?) by asking her accusers "he who is without sin, cast the first stone".
Jesus encouraged women to learn from his teachings alongside the men who also followed him at a time when women were not part of formal spiritual or intellectual training. Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Mary Magdalene were some of those women who followed Jesus.
Jesus engaged in conversation with a woman who was an outcast (a Samaritan) and offered her the "water of life". He used a poor widow as an example of true sacrificial giving, in contrast with the wealthy Pharisee of the religious establishment.
My Christian faith has given me a strong sense of my worth as a person. I am free of the stigma any cultural bias may project on me based on my ethnicity, community, education, economic status, or any other designation. I am a child of God, the Creator of the Universe.
Have men dominated women under the supposed authority of religion? Absolutely, much to their shame. Have men hidden behind their "religion" to perpetrate acts of sexual abuse? Yes. Does the current administration contribute to a tone of "consequence-free misbehavior", as you stated? Most likely.
Yet these sins against women and abuse of authority are not rooted in true Christianity. The word "Christian" means "Christ like". Jesus Christ taught "the greatest love is to sacrifice your life", and "do unto others as you would have them do to you".
Does this sound like institutionalized repression? I think not.
Gayle Barker Woody