The Churchwomen

The Anglican women who arrange the flowers for Sunday communion like to pretend that they are performing an unsung service entirely pro maiore gloria Dei. It may well be true that the men take their work for granted, but the other core females of the congregation know perfectly well who has done what and that the primary purpose of decoration and upkeep of the church is to poke one another in the eye. It is the same sort of deal as baked goods in Desperate Housewives; the reward is not so much in heaven as here, in the resentful admiration of the female peer-group and the chagrin of the defeated. The churchwoman who dusts the pews so as to proclaim her place in the hierarchy, and who arranges the flowers so as to grind the faces of her rivals into the flagstones, is thus the last descendant of the priestess raising a bloody knife above the altar of human sacrifice. Vae victis!

The performance does not, however, escape the closed female coterie for the entire community until we move from the ancient established churches to the charismatic movements. The moment you allow for things like prophetic gifts, you have opened wide the door to the female competition for the limelight in the more public mode of standing up and wittering on at inordinate length. Of course the men play the prophetic game too, but in my experience differently: when men bring Words from the Lord, it is generally about how they ought to hold office and how other people ought to do as they are told. That is, it is all about power. Male prophecies often resemble the ranting of the tabloid editorials against the designated social-evil-of-the-week; perhaps there is a hitherto unsuspected reciprocal influence here.

When women bring Words from the Lord, however, there is less frequently any obvious power agenda, it is more about attention for its own sake. The whole object of the exercise appears to be to stand up and have everyone listen to you, even if you are not actually saying anything, secure in the knowledge that you are delivering a Word from the Lord and that anyone who tries to shut you up is therefore Quenching the Holy Spirit. In addition, if anyone tries to dial you down, you may retort that the churches are otherwise male-run and that this prophetic gift is the only time women get to do anything in public. There is undeniably something to this; assuming, that is, that we believe that churches exist primarily to gratify people’s need for attention goodies, and that the prophetic word need not have any actual content. It is really quite remarkable how God seems to have nothing better to do than to rehash Isaiah’s best one-liners through the mouths of the same women every Sunday.

Posted on February 5, 2010 at 22:22 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Emotional Tech

Leave a Reply