In her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, Sue Monk Kidd talks about the dynamic of 'trivialization'.
When our culture or the various institutions in them employ this dynamic, it's a form of control. When women use it on themselves, it's a form of resistance.
"Trivializing our experience is a very old and shrewd way of controlling ourselves. We do it by censoring our expressions of truth or viewing them as inconsequential. We learned the technique from a culture that has practiced it like an art form."I've been thinking about 'the trivial pursuit' of women like Hillary Clinton and Katharine Jefferts Schori.
"The trick works like this. An image is created of a 'screaming feminist' with an ax to grind. The image takes on enormous negative energy in the church and culture. Branding a woman with this image effectively belittles her opinion and discredits it. So rather than risk the image being attached to her, a woman will often back quickly away. . . ."
". . . .Once, when I suggested to a woman that she stand up for women in a church situation, she said, "I really want to, but I'd hate to look like one of those fanatical feminists our minister preaches about."
Indeed, I've been thinking about the way I participate in my own trivialization. I felt myself wince recently, when someone reported recently that one of the women in one of several episcopal races was not a "team player".
The implication, of course, is that she may be a 'loose canon', someone who may be 'difficult' and can't be trusted not to 'go along with the party line.'
We are less likely to think that this is a woman who is an 'independent thinker' - much less a person who employs her God-given intellect. God forbid she may be someone who has taken a few risks for the sake of the Gospel in service of the people of God.
God forbid, she may even become 'an embarrassment to the church'.
That was the little trick pulled on me in my ordination process. My ordaining bishop retired shortly after my ordination to the diaconate. The new bishop diocesan declined to ordain me, even after the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee had given their approval and consent. However, he did allow my retired bishop to ordain me in his stead.
"The church has only just begun to speak about the ordination of women," he said (a decade after the fact), "but it has not spoken clearly about the ordination of homosexual persons. Besides," he added, "I fear you will become an embarrassment to the church."
Several years later, that self-same man was removed from the office of bishop in a settlement reached with five women who had come forward to say that, unbeknownst to the the others until much, much later, they each had had an affair with him.
It would be funny if it weren't so tragic, if lives and family handn't been ruined and an entire diocese betrayed and traumatized by its spiritual leader.
I must say, however, that at the time, at least, I was taken up short by his remark. Lord knows, I didn't want to ever be an 'embarrassment to the church'.
But, what could I possibly DO to be such an embarrassment? The more I thought about it, the more it looked as if I didn't have to 'do' anything, except be the person God had created me to be.
I slowly came to realize that his remark touched the ancient shame that is in the cultural DNA of being a woman - emotionally labile, intellectually inferior, not always in control.
I mean, we could BLEED once a month - even while presiding at Eucharist - and you know what "The Bible" says about women who bleed! We're not even supposed to touch men much less preside over something as Holy as Eucharist.
He had effectively trivialized and then dismissed my entire vocation and the journey I had made in obedience to that call. It made me feel very bad for, oh, 10 or 15 minutes and then, I got a grip - meaning, I got back in control of myself.
While I didn't exactly understand the dynamic of 'trivialization' at the time, I certainly knew that I had been in the presence of one who would stoop so low to control his own anxieties as to compromise his own spiritual integrity and diminish the discerned and tested-in-community vocation of a child of God - who just happened to be a woman, and who just happened to share her life with another woman and their children.
It's not like 'team work' isn't important in the church or in any organization, for that matter. It is. Very. Important.
So is the preservation of the Anglican Communion, but not at the sake of the imperatives of the Gospel. Indeed, the latest 'two track' scheme proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury is a good example of how "keeping up appearances" becomes more important than the core of the Good News of Christ Jesus.
Let's keep all those are are an "embarrassment to the church" on another track, while those who are "meet, right and proper" can stay huddled together 'round the dying embers of propriety and good taste.
The latest deployment of the dynamic of trivialization can be found in the recent statement of the Bishop of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence, who speaks of the “new gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity."
Make no mistake: this has nothing to do with "the Lordship of Jesus Christ," as the bishop asserts; rather, it has everything to do with the maintenance and preservation of the dominant (male) paradigm.
Nelle Morton, one of the grandmothers of feminist spirituality, once said that things are always different when you are looking "from the bottom up," which provides the catalyst for a reversal of consciousness, not only for ourselves but also for the most resistant among us.
When we stop perceiving, assuming, and theorizing from the top, the dominant view, and instead go to the bottom of the social pyramid and identify with those who are oppressed and disenfranchised, a whole new way of relating opens up.
Until we look from the bottom up, we participate in the illusion of controlling ourselves and the status quo, by trivializing what isn'tat the top.
Until we look from the bottom up we have seen nothing.
And THAT is the ultimate embarrassment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who considered the anawim, the outcast, his beloved.