Health & Spirit

The Leadership And Legacy Of Women

Rabbi Steven Engel, Imam Muhammed Musri and Rev. Bryan Fulwider on

A record number of women were elected to the United States Congress in the midterm elections of 2018. The event caused many to dub 2019 as "The Year of the Woman." March is Women's History Month, and the Three Wise Guys talk about what all of this means for the United States and for the human race.

Imam: The statistics are pretty clear: Women are still paid substantially less than men overall in the United States. Domestic violence against women, by men, continues to happen, and at alarming rates. And women's reproductive rights are under assault in ways that they have not been since the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.

Rev: That certainly outlines many of the issues that women face in society. But there are of course many more. When we talk about the behavior toward, and the attitudes about, women, I believe we are discussing a fundamentally spiritual issue.

Rabbi: And let's not forget, religious organizations and institutions have often been notoriously oppressive of women. For centuries, and still in many cases today, women have been excluded from leadership, and even more egregious, treated in disrespectful ways. Religion has to take its fair share of the blame for the way women are treated and thought of in society.

Imam: Unfortunately, that is too often true. And it's hard to believe because women are the mothers of society and humanity. They should be respected and revered.

Rev: Of course, I agree with you, Imam. However, I want to say that often the idea of simply respecting and revering women has left them no better off. In doing so, women are too often and too easily objectified. In many ways, women are treated and seen as second-class citizens. In Christianity, when we pay attention to the deepest studies of the text, we become acutely aware of the significance and importance of women as leaders in the faith and thought in the early church.

Rabbi: As a Reform rabbi, I am proud of the fact that the Reform tradition within Judaism was the first to embrace women as rabbis and leaders in the faith. But we have to admit that is still fairly recent in regard to the long history of Judaism.

Rev: Well, I did not mean to indicate that the early church, or even the modern church, is stellar on this issue. In fact, more often than not, the opposite is true. Christians in ancient times and in modern times have frequently used religion as a weapon against women in regard to equality and justice.

Rabbi: This is just one more reason why the idea of progressive revelation is so important. Religion continues, when we are at our very best, to learn and grow and reinterpret our sacred texts and traditions so that they more fully represent the true spirit of justice and inclusion.

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Imam: Yes, and much of the oppression and mistreatment of women within religion, my own included, is a result of not following the actual beliefs and laws of the religious teaching. Rather, too many people change the teaching of the faith to fit cultural biases and societal norms that are often neither healthy nor just in regard to women.

Rev: We recently talked with a woman faith leader and scholar who wrote a book not too long ago titled "Trust Women." And while in that book she is particularly discussing reproductive justice for women, she gets at the larger issue that is so often destructive and disheartening, many times coming from religious types, which promotes a terrible theology of not trusting women, not giving them full agency, and promulgating the idea that men have to protect women from themselves. It's truly a disgusting notion and has no place in the faith community, ever.

Rabbi: Rev, I agree with you -- we must call for an end to that kind of attitude and thinking in regard to women. We must all work for a level of respect for women that supports in every way a woman's full and complete right to equality and respect. Women must be understood as having complete and full decision-making rights and protections for themselves, in every way.

Imam: No second-class citizens mentality! People of faith should be leading the way, with men continuing to learn from women how to best build a partnership of equality, fairness and justice. Not only during Women's History Month, but every day, of every year. We must fight for this to become a universal understanding and practice.


The Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steven Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri are The Three Wise Guys. Their website is at You can email them at

(c) 2019 Rabbi Steven Engel, Imam Muhammad Musri and Rev. Bryan Fulwider

Distributed by King Features Syndicate



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