THIS FAR BY FAITH?
Religion, Gender, and Efficacy
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen.
—Hebrews 11:1 NKJV
EARLY IN 2008, I went to a women’s meeting with a friend at a local church not too far from where I live. Those in attendance at the meeting fully reflected the rich mosaic of African-American religious life. In the same room there were medical doctors, attorneys, engineers, psychologists, and college professors fellowshipping somewhat seamlessly with others who in social scientific language would be classified as “the underclass”—women with no or low-paying jobs, some from housing projects, others with miraculous testimonies of survival—all sharing the word of faith. There were young women and old, married women and single, some with children and some without, all assembled to learn how to be more effective—as women—in their lives.
Before the service, in the informal network that was my pew, I heard (and participated in) a rich debate about whether it was more logical and advantageous to support Hillary Clinton to be the first female president or Barack Obama to be the first African-American president. There was even one woman in the row who suggested the Republican agenda of John McCain might be more consistent with the principles of our faith. The only clear consensus that emerged from that conversation was that these were exciting times and that everyone should get involved and participate politically.
The service began. A female minister (women can be ordained at this church) spoke for about an hour on the power women can possess if they understand the role of authority in their lives. Indeed, the minister explained that if women remain submitted to God as our Father, submitted to our husbands, and submitted to ministerial leadership, then we will remain in a position to be blessed. In the next segment we learned some