In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Friday, June 11, 2010


A reflection on 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a and Luke 7:36-8:3 for Proper 6C by The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski

Over the last few weeks I found myself engrossed with hockey. (OK, I know...I can hear you now, wondering what the heck hockey has to do with Feminist Theology. Maybe nothing, we’ll see where this ends up going....). In particular I watched the Chicago Blackhawks in their efforts to win the Stanley Cup, the championship of hockey. Wednesday night, in a nail-biter finale, the series ended with a Blackhawks win in overtime. As a Chicagoan I was thrilled but not as emotional as one of the sports announcers who commented on the game and broke down in tears, post game. I don’t know this man’s name but I found myself thinking about him and the open tears he cried on live television. One of his co-announcers mentioned his emotion and the man replied something like this, “Yes, I am very emotional. In the years I played hockey I played in a Stanley Cup series with the Blackhawks, but we lost. This is a very moving and proud moment for me.” Spoken, I thought by a man who loves this team and loves this game. Then, I thought about how the world has changed, for a man to cry in such an open and public way. I don’t know, maybe it has always been culturally “ok” for a guy to cry over sports? But in the moment the emotion of this man struck me as touching, authentic, and a reflection of a changing world. The irony is that hockey is a violent sport, one where pushing, shoving, power and aggression are not only valued but allowed as part of the game. This aggressive power was contrasted by a Chicago announcer who described the Blackhawks players as humble, respectful, and gracious. When I think of all the post game commentary what comes to mind are images of love and power; the power inherent in the sport itself, the love of those who play the game, and the love of those who support their team.

Love and power are themes in our readings this week; one might say they offer us examples of the power of love and the love of power (see RevGalBlogPals Lectionary Readings comments, Tuesday, June 8 for a conversation on this idea).

The reading in 1 Kings continues the story from last week’s readings of Elijah, Jezebel and her husband, Ahab, the king of Samaria. Then we reflected on the impact of misguided faith in the worship of Baal and the punishing drought and famine. The roles of Jezebel and Ahab in the story are examples of the love of power propelling people to murder and theft, all done in order to gain more power. Elijah stands in contrast to Jezebel and Ahab, as one who brings the power of love. He brings the power of the love of God to a people who have been mislead and are suffering. This story shows us a woman, Jezebel, who is clearly smart and knows how to maneuver a powerplay and win the vineyard for her husband, the king. She’d be a valuable player if the game were hockey. Likewise she’d be a valuable leader in today’s politics or corporate world. That is, except that her love of power costs a man his life and leads the people down a hopeless path. As a woman she becomes an example of what people fear will happen when a woman gets power; that her “manipulative ways” will lead to misguided, self-serving, and conniving leadership. But more to the point I think she stands as an example of what can happen to any human being who places a greater value on power than on love. Team sports give us an example of people who understand the importance of strong leadership and yet value playing for the good of the whole and not the individual. (Of course there are problems comparing God’s love to team sports since there remain in sports, winners and losers. But the idea of team work striving for a the good of the whole is nonetheless exemplified in sports).

In contrast to Jezebel our Gospel reading offers us an unnamed woman, a sinner, a more classic role for a woman than one who has power, voice, and leadership. And yet this woman brings with her an amazing power. She is determined to do what she thinks is right for the good of the whole, for the love of God in this world. This love of God is known to us as Jesus, and she intends to anoint his feet regardless of the scrutiny and hostility of those around her. (Would it be pushing the example too far to suggest that she is the MVP and Jesus is the team captain? Probably...).Those around her accuse her of having selfish motives, of spending money poorly instead of on the poor. Simon, who thinks he has a place of power and position in his relationship with Jesus, is given a good dose of humble pie when he realizes that he has not shown Jesus some common love and courtesy. Perhaps full of his own sense of “pride of position” Simon thinks too much of himself and loses his compassion for others. This is a risk we all face when we begin to love power for its own sake more than the power of love.

In the news this week we have also learned of a record breaking number of women being lifted up in American politics. Five women won their state primaries for elected political positions that will be decided this fall. Women are gaining, ever so slowly, a more powerful voice. For me, the reality that in the same week a hockey player, now sports announcer, can cry openly on public television and five women win their state primaries points to the potential of interesting times. Even more interesting is the fact that two of these women candidates are affiliated with the new “Tea-Party,” a fact that may point to a more narrow understanding of love and power than one would otherwise assume with a woman candidate. I hope, though, that it means we are moving toward a more balanced world, one that recognizes the potency of power and the grace of love and combines them with compassion. That we are moving towards a world where both women and men have voice, name, and a role in working toward a just balance of power and love. If so, that’s a winning goal for all of us.


altar ego said...

I've been thinking about this since first reading it earlier this morning. For what it's worth, these are some reflections.

First, the hockey part, and the mix of power and gentleness. The revelation of tears by the commentator speaks greatly of what hockey is behind its perception. The game isn't violent per se. Violence can stem from it, yes, but when you play a game on ice and travel at speeds unlike other games played on foot, there is no gentle way to run into someone. Arms being raised with sticks held high is as much about protecting oneself from impact as anything else. Part of what is fascinating about the game is the balance of speed, momentum, abrupt stops followed by redirection and pursuing speed, and the grace and skill with which all of that comes together to accomplish a goal. Literally. I don't think observers of the game appreciate that dynamic sufficiently, if at all, when it comes to then comprehending the genuine need for teamwork and relationship. The power that is part of hockey isn't for the purpose of power "over," but power "for."

As for women and power, I hope that the success of women in politics is connected to better balance in our society as a result of utilizing and appreciating the different skill sets that women bring to the arena. I fear, however, that too many women of ambition learn to play the man's game by taking pages from their books, masking that approach with lipstick-coated smiles and distracting attention from those techniques by what might be known as feminine wiles.

Having said that, there are many women that hold positions of power of other kinds. They achieve those positions through the genuine use of their gifts without compromise (or much compromise--is it possible to get anywhere in life without it?). I think of Oprah, for instance. I wish other names came more readily to mind, but they are out there, as are countless other women who have the capacity to influence without power, or in spite of it. Women have definitely made strides, and the world does reflect better balance. The current political climate suggests to me, however, that we still have a long way to go.

Mompriest said...

Altar Ego, you raise some excellent points. I am not an avid hockey fan and have always had the impression that it is a violent sport - so this playoff season has been interesting to me on a number of levels, not the least of which is the degree of graciousness I observed, and then the obvious love and tears....

Women. I really hope we can raise the bar on fair and just, but sadly women can also slide into greed and power. Sarah Palin is for me the worst example of what can happen. sigh.

thanks for stopping by, and for your reflection.