The great social movements of history, some historians believe, are often born in anger. This is especially true, they say, for what has been called "the most wide-reaching revolution of the twentieth century" - the Women's Movement.
During the 1960s and '70s, many women in the United States drew strength from banding together in "consciousness-raising" groups and telling each other their stories of oppression at the hands of men. "We talked about our pain," remembers one woman, "we discovered our righteous anger."
It was this anger, many women feel, that gave them the courage to protest the unfair conditions they faced and win access to professions closed to them, as well as higher pay and protection from abuse. Now the anger has abated. But some feminists fear that without the fire of fury to drive their cause forward, their progress may languish. Younger women may forget how much remains to be accomplished before equality between the sexes becomes a worldwide reality. So to sustain the forward thrust of the movement, one leading feminist is sounding a new battle cry: "It's time to get angry again."
But will anger really sustain even the worthiest of causes? And will it be humanity's anger, or God's mercy and justice, that will ultimately set inequities right? These were questions I once struggled with.
I graduated from Smith College, which had been a seedbed of early feminism. We learned there that women could take on virtually any profession men could. So it seemed natural for most of us to want a career, as well as a family. The puzzling thing was to find, after graduation, that not everyone approved of such plans. Matter of fact, most disapproved.
Soon after college, I married and had children. And, because of the prevailing sentiments at that time, I decided it was best to forget the college teaching career I'd planned. But, much as I loved my family, I sometimes felt frustrated about this - even angry.
I longed to get rid of this anger, though. I was literally sick over it at times. And, more and more, I realized why. Anger is alien to what I really am. It's alien to what anyone really is. Because it's alien to what God is. God is Love. And the Bible says a person's whole purpose in life is to be God's representative. Yet how could I represent Love if I was angry?
Eventually, this line of reasoning led me to a new resolution: that even if I never became a college teacher, I would walk in God's love. That love, I now understood, was my very identity. It was the essence of my womanhood. A book I read frequently, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" made this so clear: "The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love" (pg. 517).
I found a unique and powerful role model in the 19th-century woman who wrote those words: Mary Baker Eddy. Her book had healed me and so many people I knew. In spite of all the restrictions binding women at that time, she became a very prominent figure. And it was holy love, not anger, that impelled her lifework.
Healing, holy love. It will propel anyone forward. There's nothing dull about it. Simply striving in that direction has meant nonstop adventure for me - wonderful family life, a teaching career, and a career in Christian healing. It has also meant supporting women's rights. But with greater charity, resolution, humor, progress. And without anger.
Monumental challenges still face the world's women: discrimination, domestic violence, cruel tribal practices. Only God's love will provide women - and men - with the courage and stamina to redress these wrongs. To win the victories ahead. Only God's love shows us how to secure and sustain real progress for women.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society