God is not sexist
Poor Ted Yoho.
The Republican Member of Congress from Florida has had a tough week. He thought it started out well, putting that “f — — n’ b — -h” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) in her place, and showing his fellow Republican Roger Williams (R-TX) how it’s done.
But things didn’t turn out quite how he expected. Rather than praise for his manly take-down of the 5 foot 4 inch Democratic Socialist, Twitter and the media pounced on his disrespectful behavior. Indeed, Twitter lit up with women describing times men had called them a “b —h.”
Following standard damage control advice, Yoho decided to give a speech the next day on the House floor “apologizing” to Ocasio-Cortez for the “misunderstanding.” I put the words in quotation marks on purpose. As Adam Raymond of New York Magazine pointed out, his speech was a “terrible apology for the ages.” In fact, it really wasn’t an apology. As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out the next day, Yoho’s speech was really an effort to “make excuses for his behavior.”
Indeed it was his speech that prompted Ocasio-Cortez to savage him in one of the most epic take-downs in Congressional history. Not since Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with a cane over his opposition to slavery has a Member of Congress been left so bloodied in the Capitol.
Ocasio-Cortez called Yoho “a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women.” She called him out for using his wife and daughters as a shield against criticism for his disgraceful behavior, arguing that “having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments won accolades from many corners, as well as knowing nods from most women, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Columns in The Guardian, The Boston Globe, USAToday, and CNN, to name a few, praised her response. Sunday’s New York Times included two columns cheering her actions, including one by the renowned columnist Maureen Dowd, and their editors were flooded with letters. A Christian organization asked Yoho to resign from their board. As I said, it was a bad week for Yoho.
It must have been particularly galling for Yoho to be put in his place by a woman of color from New York. It’s not just her commitment to democratic socialism that outrages Yoho. To him, she is the kind of person who doesn’t even belong in Congress. As a result, his humiliation at her hands must have been particularly mortifying.
The basis of Ocasio-Cortez’s assault on Yoho was his use of his daughter and wife as cover for his bad behavior. Indeed, she was quite correct that this use of his family as an excuse was outrageous. Furthermore, as AOC correctly pointed out, his behavior would embolden other men to similarly belittle his daughters. Accordingly, it was for this reason that AOC took to the floor to criticize his comments.
But Yoho did not only use his wife and daughters as an excuse for his disrespectful behavior. He used God. “I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my God, my family, and my country.”
I wish someone would explain to me how loving God is a basis for disrespecting any woman, and especially one so deserving of respect as AOC is.
Jesus, of course, was non-sexist. He had several women who played prominent roles in his ministry, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, who had accompanied him during his ministry and supported him out of their private means (Luke 8:1–3). Jesus frequently cited women as examples of faith to be emulated, and in the Sermon on the Mount, he urged men to value their wives such that they not even “look at a woman lustfully.” (Matthew 5:28)
Jesus the teacher even learned from women. According to one story, an unnamed Gentile woman taught Jesus that the ministry of God is not limited to particular groups and persons, but belongs to all who have faith (Mark 7:24–30; Matthew 15:21–28). Remember, this was all said at a time when women were routinely devalued.
The early Church was dominated by women. In his letters, Paul greets Prisca, Junia, Julia, and Nereus’ sister (Romans 16:3, 7, 15). He tells us that Prisca and her husband risked their lives to save his. He praises Junia as a prominent apostle, who had been imprisoned for her labor. Mary and Persis are commended for their hard work (Romans 16:6, 12). Euodia and Syntyche are called his fellow-workers in the gospel (Philippians 4:2–3). Constantine’s mother Helena is widely credited with converting the emperor, resulting in Christianity becoming the religion of the Roman Empire. It is sad that later on, women were relegated to lesser roles in the Church.
Christianity is not the only religion whose founder railed against sexism. Muhammad taught that men and women are equal before God. As a result, Islamic law grants women divinely sanctioned inheritance, property, social and marriage rights, including the right to reject the terms of a proposal and to initiate divorce. Similarly, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, permitted women to join his monastic community and fully participate in it. Thus, according to those closest to God, all people are equal in God’s eyes, regardless of sex.
It is a sad state of affairs that in America, Christianity has become so associated with right-wing politics that we often forget about the true intentions of Jesus. It is only within that context that Yoho can claim his passion for God excuses his mistreatment of another person. Perhaps, rather than equating their religious beliefs with politics, they should equate their politics with their faith. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would approve of the politics of America’s right-wing, especially under the leadership of Donald Trump. America would be in a better place right now if all people of faith asked themselves what Jesus would do whenever they enter the ballot box.