NOTE: Ruth Everhart, a Presbyterian pastor, an author, and a member of Monasteries of the Heart who led our online 2014 Lenten eRetreat, A Lenten Pilgrimage with Ruth Everhart will soon release a memoir called Ruined. Ruth shares one small piece of her story in this Monks in our Midst reflection. To learn more, please read our summer intern, Breanna Mekuly’s, book review and her her interview with Ruth.
When I was attending seminary, one of our elective Bible classes was called “Heroines & Harlots: Women in Scripture.” At least the subtitle was something to that effect—I confess that I tripped over the two “H” nouns and hardly noticed the other words.
I learned later that the words Heroines and Harlots were meant to be tongue in cheek, a sort of dry commentary on the stereotypical roles women are too often assigned in sacred story.
The intended humor was lost on me. Even all these years later, the title seems a poor attempt at humor. It’s a bit like asking an African-American to smile wryly over a turn of phrase about the history of Jim Crow. Oppression isn’t amusing. You cannot undo, or even soothe, a long painful history with a bit of alliteration.
Why do people of faith feel the need to slot women into two camps?
Heroines or Harlots. Virgin or Victim. Pure or Impure. Mary or Eve.
The boxes are too small and too neat. Women’s lives are much more complicated than these words suggest. Why does society want to stuff our stories into such tidy slots?
I refuse to fit into the boxes. I am neither a heroine nor a harlot, though some might want to tag me with either title. My story is complicated. It includes virginity and also victimization. It includes purity and also impurity. And always, it includes the love of God.
In short, my story is as complicated as your story. My hope is that reading my story will help you see yours with more loving eyes.
Ruth Everhart is a pastor who, for more than two decades, served Presbyterian churches (PCUSA) in upstate New York, Central Illinois, and Northern Virginia. Presently, she lives in the metro DC area with her husband of more than 30 years and a spoiled cat. They have two grown children who live nearby. To learn more, click here and to purchase the memoir, click here.
What titles have people tried to assign to you and in what ways have you embraced or rejected them?
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Monks in Our Midst: writings by monks from the 3rd to the 21st centuries.