The Weaker/Stronger Sex
“A leader is one who can make ordinary people do extraordinary things. “ Those words were tweeted by Dr. Arvind Sharma, a Canadian college professor and author of many books on religions and philosophy. Few people would disagree with his definition and yet, many still are determined to identify leadership by basing it on gender.
The three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all have at their core a belief that all humans stand before their deity as equals. Yet, women are considered lesser in all three religions, subservient to their male counterparts who are thought to have superior intellect.
In 2006 the Episcopal Church elected a female as Presiding Bishop. Katharine Jefferts Schori was not only the first such bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States, she was also the first female primate in the Anglican Communion. Her presence caused great dissension and such continues today, even though other Anglican congregations now have female priests and bishops.
Such a reaction should not have surprised anyone. In the Torah which is also known as the Old Testament, Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 16 women are given the following instruction: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” The Quran states: “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other.” IN the New Testament portion of the Holy Bible, Book of Ephesians, Chapter 5, verses 22-24, women are also told: “Wives, submit unto your husbands…Let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Bishop Jefferts Schori was not the first such female leader in a religious community, however. As far back as the twenty-sixth century BCE, females were leading in a spiritual capacity. Enheduanna was the first woman to be called “En Priestess”. Historians agree that others held such a position before her but she is the earliest for whom we have a name. Her name translates as “high priestess adornment of the god, An”.
Now right about now you might be asking yourself what did Enheduanna invent? My answer to you is a simply one word – opportunity. She left behind a vast volume of literary works including several personal devotionals and a collection of hymns. Her Sumerian Temple Hymns are considered the earliest attempt at a systematic theology. Her writings, many of which have survived on a series of thirty-seven tablets unearthed raise the issue of female literacy at the time and are considered proof that women were learned in such things as reading and writing.
As a religious priestess, Enheduanna held power in her hands. She lived according to her faith and not according to her gender. Her example creates opportunity for us all. Washington Irving once wrote that “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” Enheduanna exemplified this as the world’s first priestess, inventing opportunity for all who would follow her example.