Living and Growing

Short-term recognition of one gender is something we'll go beyond someday

Posted: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Beverly Smith

Living and Growing

Progress will finally bring equality for both men and women.

March brings melting snow, warmer temperatures, longer days and signs of spring. Last week I ran into a friend who was buying garden supplies, and another friend who was getting his boat ready. I could feel the anticipation for warm summer days.

In addition to being the gateway to spring, March is Women's History Month. There is a parallel between the melting snow, softening wind and lengthening sunshine, and the increasing recognition of the value of women and women's history to society. We are still in the springtime of this movement, celebrating the accomplishments of women, and working for equal treatment of women around the world. But in this case, too, I anticipate a "summertime" when the rights and accomplishments of both men and women will be fully appreciated for their contributions to the progress of humanity.

We all know women who are strong, courageous, bold, straightforward and have terrific business sense; we know men who are loving, compassionate, understanding and gracious. The qualities often associated exclusively with manhood or womanhood are really part of the natures of both men and women, and are derived from God. Genesis explains that God created us in His image and likeness, "male and female created He them."

"Father-Mother is the name for Deity" wrote Mary Baker Eddy, a spiritual pioneer in the late 19th century. She was no stranger to discrimination toward women in her day, but she overcame many obstacles, and is recognized today as "a major religious leader and a powerful voice for individual rights and human betterment." (George H. Ryan, Governor of Illinois, 2001)

At a time when it was not acceptable for women to speak out, she wrote a book on spiritual healing that is still widely read today, gave public lectures, opened a college, founded a church, established a publishing house, and started an international daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.

Mary Baker Eddy understood that the qualities we express as God's creation are not gender-specific. It was her deep love and compassion for mankind as well as her unfailing trust in God that gave her the strength, perseverance, energy and courage to achieve all she did. She was elected into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995 and has since been recognized in many state legislatures for her notable achievements.

"Worth is not based on gender; gender does not determine who we are, nor gauge our contribution," writes Rebecca Odegaard in the March issue of The Christian Science Journal. "Indeed, real progress is made by transcending gender. When we're sure of our good, whole, God-given identity, the need to assert or push, or the tendency to feel denigrated, is eased, and instead graceful appreciation grows for the unique fabric from which our natures are woven. All are liberated to fulfill divine Love's intention."

The key to our progress is acknowledging our oneness with God, and our identity as His image and likeness, balanced and free. Then listen for God's direction and watch what God does. "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfills the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'; annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed," wrote Mary Baker Eddy in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."

As we recognize and appreciate the masculine and feminine qualities in everyone, the time will come when we have no need for a special month-long recognition of women, because we will be celebrating man as God's complete creation every day. I anticipate not only a "summertime" of equality and human progress, but a continual harvest of blessings based on a new and balanced view of God and man, the sons and daughters of God.

• Beverly Smith is First Reader at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Juneau.

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