09 November 2007

The LCMS inferiority complex WRT its women

In my mailbox yesterday was the Fall issue of Lutheran Forum. I've recovered from the initial ire which one of its articles aroused in me, or at least enough to share my thoughts with an eye toward charity. This article was written by a person with whom I overlapped a bit while I was working on my MA at the seminary. As it happens, this person is female. The article, in my opinion, would be a passable piece of undergraduate work for one of those students who gets A's by working hard without being a great mind--a commendable position, I think, even if it isn't glorious. It contains the kind of puerile pedantry you'd expect from such a student: shallow argumentation, unnecessary information, disregard for well-established counter-positions, and some just plain stupid statements that might have sounded good when you first thought them and arranged them into grown-up sounding words. The article is not something that I would expect to read in Lutheran Forum unless the writer fit a certain profile: an LCMS woman whose paper carries a faint but clear undercurrent of We all know the LCMS is so parochial and silly, and one of these years we'll get women's ordination yet! The reason I'm so annoyed by this is that in another LF issue of recent memory, there was an article which also fit this profile: academically mediocre by discernibly angry LCMS female (who also, as it happens, briefly overlapped with me at the seminary. In all fairness, that issue featured articles by students and the piece I'm talking about ran as such).

The really funny thing is that the current LF issue also contains a note about "Editorial and Confessional Standards," which states among other things, "articles in LF will not contain: pot-shots, thinly veiled contempt, messy thinking . . .". Sorry, friends, but both of the articles described above contained at least two of the things on that list. LF, as a human endeavor, has an agenda. It's edited by a female ELCA pastor. So when they get a submission from a woman in the LCMS who has some academic credentials, however feeble (such as mine), and she's willing to take some subtle little jabs, somehow their high standards for fairness and erudition slip a bit.

The thing is, I know why these two women sent in articles that I pridefully wouldn't want my name on. The seminary would love to put out some really great female academics to help its own political credibility--after all, what kind of academic institution only produces male intellectuals in this day and age? So any female student who can keep from drooling on herself gets treated like royalty (thus being led to believe that she's really as smart as the seminary wants her to be). I know I got this treatment, and I know I didn't deserve it. I'm the person I described up there who can get A's if she works hard, but my time at the seminary accomplished what education should and showed me exactly where I stand: I am not a great mind, and acting like I am makes me look that much stupider. Maybe I could submit a middling article to a periodical that would accept it for political reasons rather than on its theological merits, but then everyone who's actually intelligent would know precisely how middling I am as a scholar. Frankly, I'd rather keep my mouth shut and have them keep thinking I'm smart.

But the LF and the LCMS don't get this, and in their desperation to prove that there are, in fact, female academics in the LCMS (and in the case of LF, that they are as progressive as true intelligence dictates they must be), they keep handing microphones to whatever moderately intelligent female is willing to take them and shout about the undergrad-level insight she's just had (and strangely, it's always that the LCMS needs to let women do more, or some piece of eisegesis on a stale text about women to that effect). In doing so, they make their women look that much stupider since they're always saying something redundant, banal, and totally predictable.

There are veritable female intellectuals and academics in the LCMS. It's just that none of them seem to be interested in arguing for the feminist theological agenda right now. Most of them are too busy working in labs or professing other disciplines. Maybe if the powers that be looked somewhere other than the liberal perimeter for their theology queen, they'd find she's already in their midst. But I wish they wouldn't keep damaging our beloved Synod's own scholarly credibility, and the credibility of their precious female scholars, in their embarrassed meantime.


Lutheran Lucciola said...

Holy Cow, Rebekah, this is a GREAT POST!!!

Man, you hit the nail on the head with many things here, and I love the way you think on this subject.

Seriously, I am not from the sem world, but I hear what you are saying about the treatment. The pandering thing.

Rebekah said...

Thanks, LL--this is a topic near and drear to my heart. As usual, the LCMS and associated parties of interest are committed to boomer conventional wisdom and haven't figured out that tokenism accomplishes the opposite of its intended effect. Doubtless the latest President's Commission on Women (or whatever they're calling that pointless bureaucratic working group these days), packed with the usual suspect appointments, is diligently sorting this out for us.

Reb. Mary said...


Hope this post was cathartic for you :)

All I really have to add is Amen, sister!

Hey, I know--once this blog has been going for awhile, we'll do a "best-of" and submit it to CPH in book form for publication (raucous laughter...).

Reb. Mary said...

I do maintain, however, that our back row theological triumvirate kicked butt in Confessions because we really were awesome in combined force, not because of any pandering...

'Course, my clearest memory from that class might be the midterm exam day--I had to finish the exam 20 minutes early, while consuming large quantities of water, in order to make it to our ultrasound appt. on time with a full bladder. I defy any of the males in the class to perform as well under similar circumstances!

Rebekah said...

Cathartic, rather--and hilarious that my most vivid memory from the quarter was that I caved on the day of the final and busted out the maternity clothes for the first time with Baby 2!

elephantschild said...

Woo-hooo! Good writing.

(Waving at The Gauntlets! Hi there!)

Jeff said...

Heh, great post.

The Gauntlets said...

(ElphantsChild: Waving back. :))