It’s an old joke. You will see just how old when I tell it to you.
“In my house,” said the man, “I make the important decisions and my wife makes the unimportant decisions.”
“Oh, really?” said his friend. “What are the unimportant decisions?”
“Where we live. Where the kids go to school. What we eat.”
“And what are the important decisions?”
“Who should be president. Whether Red China should be admitted to the U.N. What to do about the Middle East.”
Well, that last bit still works.
It’s funny because, obviously, this man isn’t really making any important decisions. He isn’t making any decisions at all. He’s just posturing.
His wife, meanwhile, is making decisions that really affect his life and the life of every member of their family. It’s just because a woman is making them that they are considered unimportant.
It’s an old joke that still works because of stuff like this.
A recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune explained how the Relief Society, a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that women are allowed to run, is expanding a nutrition and wellness initiative it launched in the Philippines in 2019 to include more nations in Asia, Africa and Central America.
The rationalizations offered for the Relief Society taking the lead on this project sound pretty stereotypical, if not downright sexist. Women, the church tells us, are just better at this sort of touchy-feely-nurtury kind of thing.
“This project is something that comes naturally to women,” said Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “Relief Society sisters are already nurturing others in their homes and communities.”
What the church is really saying — what its Relief Society leaders are getting away with telling us — is that women are much more likely to do the truly Christlike bits of religion. Of seeing to the needs of the least of these.
“Whenever we do anything to bring relief to others — temporal or spiritual — we are bringing them to Jesus Christ and will be blessed to find our own relief in him,” Relief Society General President Camille Johnson said in a news release. “We are grateful for the opportunities God gives us every day to love our neighbor.”
Meanwhile, in Utah County, the county’s first attempt to help its homeless population — and it does have one — get out of the cold is being led, not by any government agency, but a handful of churches. Churches conspicuously not LDS (though that body is coughing up some cash for cots, toiletries, etc.). Churches and nonprofits where women lead.
Adventist Community Center chaplain Linda Walton told The Tribune, “You can argue about religion, or politics or whatever, but why would you argue about taking care of people?”
So, while the women of the LDS Church (and other religious organizations) are following the basic commandment of Jesus Christ, what are its men, who aren’t so good at that sort of thing, or who find it all beneath them, up to?
Among other things, amassing billions of dollars in investments that get sunk into for-profit ventures like insurance companies and upscale shopping malls.
Going to court to defend said investments from current and former church members who say they were bamboozled into thinking that their tithing — giving the church 10% of their incomes — was going to charity rather than to business deals.
Building more and more temples that are magnificent offerings unto God but do bloody little to help the hungry, the cold, the lost.
And, most heinous of all, defending its leaders from a charge that they failed to inform police that one of their members had confessed to repeated sexual abuse of his own daughters. Convincing an Arizona judge that the normal legal requirement to report such knowledge was outweighed by a religious privilege.
The LDS Church, like many other churches, does provide money to charity, locally and around the world. It can sound like a lot of money, and some people’s lives have surely been improved, if not literally saved, by this generosity.
But, as the church’s financial critics note, it is the bookkeeping equivalent of you dropping a dollar in the cup of the homeless person you just passed on the street.
By shunting the real Christlike work of a church over to its Ladies Auxiliary, male leaders of the LDS Church may not realize that they are giving the women the real work of faith. The kind of activity that, were churches more invested in them from top to bottom, might reverse the popular trend away from organized religion.
Maybe let’s not tell them. Their fragile egos couldn’t handle it.
George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, once received some good advice from a friend. If someone asks you to join a do-good organization with the promise that you won’t really have to do anything, don’t join. It’s a fake.
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