Naming Can Be Powerful

“If we think of it in terms of race, we would not hold a debate over whether it was appropriate for blacks to be pastors.”

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Transcript for Naming Can Be Powerful

I did at least for a time want to be a chemist. It was not fashionable, and in my case, um, I was battling, uh, both the issue of being the first in my family to go to college, um, as well as gender issues. It was a big enough leap to think about college, um, and my religious background was very very conservative. And so, um, you know, I always expected that what I would do would be to marry and raise kids. And I’ve done a lot of that.

In my late thirties, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Jerusalem. Uh, my first husband was at a chemistry meeting there, and uh, in preparation for that, I went through a series of steps and taught myself modern Hebrew. And we had a chemist friend that I had, uh, been quite close to, and we went to the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are, and he took me to the big Isaiah Scroll, and he took me to a portion of it, uh, where he knew the words were simple enough that I would be able to read them. And this act of reading words that someone had written two thousand years ago was life changing for me. And so it was not long after that that I began making the move toward going to seminary and then eventually getting my Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible.

Absolutely, my being a woman has shaped my experience here. I for instance am an ordained pastor. I’ve had to face the reality that I labor with people who still think that that’s an appropriate subject for debate. So, a couple years ago at Martin Luther King Day event, I was asked to participate and I did participate in debates about whether it was okay for women to be ordained. And if we think of it in terms of race, uh, we would not hold a debate over whether it was appropriate for blacks to be pastors, or whether it was appropriate for blacks to be uh, senators, or, or to be lawyers or to be doctors, or to…but we’re, we’re still at a point where we think it’s okay to debate whether women should hold that role.

I don’t ever deal with problems, at least not anymore, by keeping quiet, but by a realistic understanding of what I can accomplish. So naming is often as much as I can accomplish. But, you know, I have seen, among my colleagues, men of good will, who nevertheless until I’ve named something, didn’t notice it. And so naming can actually be a powerful first step in, in moving things.