Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pontifex Minimus, or The Ecumenism Of Being Ladylike

Lutheranism is a tricky spot on the Christian map. We don't really like being called Protestants, but if we could get along with the Bishop of Rome we wouldn't be having this sentence.

So one thing we can do is feel alienated, misunderstood, ill-defined, and grumpy. Or we can be happy about the unique position we're in to understand the people on either side of us a little better, and maybe even do a little bridge building in a small-p pontifical way.

This is why, although Christendom is full of books about females who are totally OK with being females in the way that humanity has understood that until the last ten minutes of human history, LadyLike is out there. Part of it is that it's nice for anyone to be able to read a book that, for her, comes without asterisks. If I read a book written by someone from a different corner of Christianity, I know there will be some ideas that I don't share, or a framework of thought different from the one my mind uses.

Anyone from outside the Lutheran tradition will find that LadyLike has some asterisks for her. I hope it can offer her something helpful anyway by representing a Lutheran perspective on a shared belief: that male and female He created them; that she is a helper fit for him; that between them is a distinction with a difference that is more than a necessity of biology or an accident of history.

Women, as a subject and as a population, are quite ecumenical. Christians who hold to a biblical paradigm for men and women in family, church, and society have that as a powerful bond of peace even when they disagree about many other things. 

I don't agree with the Roman Catholic church's designation of Mary as the co-Redemptrix, but I gained a much better understanding and even appreciation of that teaching from reading The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort. Broadly defined Evangelicalism is neither a theology or a piety where I can hang my hat (or headcovering), but Elisabeth Elliot's invincible grace and gentle wisdom in Let Me Be a Woman make for one of the best treatments of Christian femininity I have ever read. I learn from both Simcha Fisher (a Roman Catholic) and Aimee Byrd (Presbyterian, PCA). I'm really, really glad they're out there.

Outside of some CTCR documents, whose significance in the universe remains unclear, confessional Lutherans have been skittery about putting up much in the way of, "This is what we think about chicks" (although Dr. Biermann at the St. Louis seminary is handling it menschfully). It is very humbling to have been the people who got a chance to say that, in a small and kind of silly way, with LadyLike. I thank all ladies from other Christian traditions who are willing to read a book with some asterisks attached for the sake of the different facet of unity to which it may contribute. And I hope it will be a real help and comfort to women in my own tradition who can never get enough solid statements of how we understand our place in humanity on the basis of the Lord's revelation to His people in His holy Word.