OUR OPINION: World's future depends on full role for women

By NEMS Daily Journal

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

Sometime Monday the world’s population is expected to reach and surpass 7 billion, a number almost incomprehensible as a mass of people inhabiting “this fragile earth, our island home” in the universe, as a Book of Common Prayer liturgy describes it.
Considering such huge numbers requires examining the quality of life all of the individuals and families can expect, and the disparities defining economic and educational classes in the various cultures are as important as the commonalities.
The great binding reality worldwide, of course, is clearly defined in the Judeo-Christian ethic that every person bears God’s imprint, and it follows that all deserve the opportunity and right to live life to fullest.
It’s also not suprising that in too man y cultures a general enlightenment about possibilities of all people living to the fullest is not recognized, particularly in lines defined by gender.
Donna Gray, Minister for Children and Families at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, wrote this week for her church’s devotional esources, about the transformative encounter of Jesus with Mary and Martha in Luke 10.
She observes, in part, “Mary, who certainly knows that her expected role is to be in the kitchen, chooses instead to sit at the feet of Jesus in the same way a disciple would sit at the feet of a rabbi, to learn from him. Mary chooses to take in the goodness of Jesus. Martha reminds Mary that her reputation depends on what she does in the kitchen, but Jesus enters the conversation and takes the role of women to another level, reforming and transforming their roles and identity.
“Women of Jesus’ time were not allowed to learn at the feet of a rabbi; they were relegated to the lowest level of society. But Jesus, as he did so many times with so many people, takes the last and elevates them to a position of honor. … In affirming Mary’s desire to learn, he gives permission and encourages Martha also to step out of the expected role of women.”
In a similar, secular assessment, macrobiologist Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and author of the 1968 best-seller, “The Population Bomb,” concludes in comments written for MSNBC, that a good future depends on women:
“Women in every country should be given equal rights and opportunities with men …”
It is noteworthy that women are stirring with powerful political energy in cultures historically hostile to equal rights, including the male-dominated cultures of the Middle East, Africa and in some parts of Asia.
Coca-Cola Chairman Muhtar Kent wrote in 2010, “I think there’s another way of looking at this as well – one that goes beyond national comparisons. In fact, I would say that real drivers of the ‘Post-American World’ won’t be China … or India … or Brazil – or any nation for that matter. The real drivers will be women. Women entrepreneurs, women business, political, academic and cultural leaders – and women innovators. The truth is that women already are the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today.”
Add the historic moral force of women to full economic participation and the world’s future becomes more hopeful.