Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Church Condoms

Good morning God,
I read this morning about a new 'Gel Condom' being developed for women who find it impossible to use a condom. The majority of these women are married and are afraid to ask their husbands to use a condom even if they know that their husband is HIV positive or suspect that he is. The fact that they are married, gives the man certain 'rights' over the women with regard to sex - apparently.
I don't regret the fact that I am female - but I do regret the fact that being female is considered second-class by so many people - especially religious people! I worked in the computer industry as a consultant and technical director for many years, yet never felt the need to stamp my feet once. It took the Church to make a feminist out of me. Only in the Church have I encountered the sort of discrimination which has made me want to weep, scream, lash out and, worst of all, walk away.
It's not just about calling and the privilege of presiding at the sacrament, (although it is pondering on this weeks gospel lesson which has set me to thinking and reflecting on this issue) it is also about worth, value and relationships.
The married woman's life is surely worth as much as the man who seeks to impregnate her, surely she has equal value in your eyes, if not in the eyes of the world - so how should her relationship with her husband be based on her relationship with you?
Gender is not an accident, you clearly designed it. We carry our gender in our blood - it is written in our flesh, encoded in every cell of our body. But you also chose to not allow us to be defined by it. Our gender is not all that we are:

John 6:56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

When I partake of the sacrament, I am partaking in the full humanity as well as the full divinity of Christ. I am celebrating what it means to be more than the sum of X and Y chromosomes, more than my, or someone else's understanding of gender. If I abide in Christ then I am utterly different from anything that I can conceive. I am not merely a woman who has received a foretaste, I am 'In Christ' and united to Christ in such a way that nothing in life or death can separate us.
But so too is any man.
We are equal in that.
Men do not receive more grace from God in the Sacrament, they are not made more male, or given any more authority.
This is mystery and liberation. In Christ the difference of who we are is removed, transformed into an equality of who we are to be. It's no wonder that people struggle to understand it.
So God,
to return to my concerns of gender...
Can you please explain to me why so many Christian women are so reluctant to own their faith and the knowledge of their gift of equality in grace and in your Kingdom? Why do so few use it to transform the society that surrounds them? Why is discrimination in the Church more rampant than in the wider world? What is it that allows us to make bigots of your people and slaves of ourselves?
Could it be that we don't receive often enough from your table, from as many and as varied hands as possible - for, of course, the same argument applies to race, age and sexuality too!
Would we learn greater respect if the sacraments were not 'presided over' but were instead blessed and shared amongst us by a child? Would we discover greater equality if we learned to take bread from hands that are black, or brown or covered with HIV lesions?
In laboratory tests, the condom gel has already been proven to stop the HIV virus as well as semen. The virus is simply too large to pass through the gel.
The sad fact for many women God, is that the Church is in need of such a condom - for although it is with joy that it repeatedly gives birth to new children of God, it is also at the same time regularly infected with the killer virus of prejudice and injustice. And this virus, once it has entered the system, infects the blood that you offer us in Christ.
In a wicked parody of the Pharisaic puzzlement, some Churches are still asking - 'how can this person give us Christ's flesh to eat?' I suspect that this happens God wherever the blood has become so infected that it is generally only given to those who already have the virus, to those who cannot conceive of equality, either on earth or in heaven, for your children.
No I'm not sorry I am a woman God, but I am sorry that so few of your children know how to value the simple fact that YOU made me woman, and that makes it a GOOD thing to be - there is nothing finer. I do regret the need for Gel condoms, for any woman or any church.. and, yes, I hear you saying, now is the time for change..

You abide in me, and I in you -


  1. I'm sorry that the Church has disobeyed "her" (our) call to continue Jesus' mission, which was TO THE marginalized, not "to marginalize". Jesus was definitely pro-woman, much moreso than any of his contemporaries, and we would be well-set to be as well.

    The one quote that I really came away with a deep appreciation for was the one about "presiding over" communion or, better, blessed and shared by a child. It sounds like something I remember someone once said, "Unless you become as one of these little ones, you will never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven..."

  2. Thanks,
    It's quite disconcerting to discover how much of a 'power game' we have made of the celebration of the Eucharist.. I am convinced that there should be some way in which we can recover the grace and humility in this shared act of communion with Christ.