The Problem with 'Women's Spirituality'

A segregated spiritual subculture does women no good, even if it does have adorable butterflies in the logo.

There are lots of things to like about being Eastern Orthodox-incense, liturgies, all the baklava you can eat-but you know what I like best? None of that stupid "women's ministry" stuff. No simpering "gals only" events advertised in voluptuous purple italics and threatening to do something to your heart (open, touch, heal, re-calibrate and change the filter). No color-saturated photos of beaming, hefty middle-aged gals (gals who look like me, that is, but with a dye job and a whole lot more makeup). No unique opportunities to Explore God's Precious Promises in an environment that offers all the sober tranquility of a manic-depressives' convention.

And the hugging! Well, actually, I don't mind hugging. It's hugging in front of a convulsively applauding, tear-spattered audience that has me groping for the Pepto-Bismol.

Not only is there no "women's ministry" in Orthodoxy, there's no "women's spirituality." No lofty ephemera about women's unique spiritual sensitivity, like we're delicate canaries sniffling in a hallway. No giving Hildegard of Bingen the kind of gushing adoration she'd prefer we gave her Lord. No sour, resentful whining about how women's unique contribution to the faith was trampled by the bad, bad patriarchal church.

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"Women's ministry" and "women's spirituality" appear to come from opposite poles of the Christian compass-one is mostly evangelical right and the other more liturgical left. But neither appears in Eastern Orthodoxy, for which I'm mighty grateful. Soon after I converted I mentioned to a friend that I was looking forward to learning the Orthodox take on women's spirituality. She looked puzzled. "Why would it be different?" she asked.

That sums it up. Women and men just aren't that different. Oh, we're different in some intriguing ways, and it can be fun to band together for all-gal or all-guy projects. But when it comes to the tragic mess Christ came to heal, we're pretty much the same. Men and women stand on level ground at the foot of the Cross, "working out our own salvation" in repentance and humility and without a lot of self-centered blather. Women don't need to have our own little corner of the church where we can feel precious or, alternatively, cranky. In every essential thing, as far as life in Christ is concerned, the differences between men and women are irrelevant. So why make a big deal over them?

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