Mars Hill Forum #11: The President of NOW at Smith College and the Question of Male Chauvinism

John C. Rankin

In November, 1994, at Mars Hill Forum #11 at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), most the audience was sympathetic to a pagan feminist worldview. Probably more so than in any other venue. I share elsewhere about Patricia’s positive response to my definition of the power to give in the marriage relationship.

The topic for the evening was Feminism and the Bible: Do They Share Any Common Ground? Abortion was not a specific subject per se. But in Patricia’s questions of me, she asked specifically about violence at abortion centers, and thus the abortion subject came up as a side issue. In the process, I alluded to human abortion in its male chauvinistic realities, from my diagnosis that abortion is the opposite of the power to give.

With the television lights so bright in my face, I could not see the audience very well past the first few rows. And given my natural concentration on the subject at hand, and my focus on Patricia’s person as the one with whom I was communicating, I was not focusing on how the audience was responding. Christians in the audience, especially among the Smith students who were members of Campus Crusade for Christ, later told me how amazed they were to watch fellow students nodding their heads to my words – women whom they knew to be lesbian, pagan, feminist and/or supportive of abortion-rights.

At the end of the audience participation time a woman challenged me on how I could respect women’s dignity while opposing abortion. We were running out of time, and I only had a few seconds to give answer.

So I said [taken from the audiotape], “I think that if I had the time to address the abortion issue straight ahead, you would find that I would argue that abortion rips off women as much as it rips off the unborn, and allows male chauvinists to run free.” Before I completed the final clause, the auditorium of some 500+ people broke into enthusiastic and sustained applause of 17 seconds [timed from the audiotape] (with one discernible loud “boo” in its midst). I was astonished, and there I sat, there Patricia Ireland sat and there the dean of students, as moderator, sat – all equally surprised

This was not supposed to happen. There I was –  a white heterosexual male, an evangelical pro-life minister. Six strikes against me on a “politically correct” campus. The applause did not come because I was necessarily smart or cute, but because the image of God had been touched in these women. They knew the male chauvinistic reality of human abortion, from direct personal experience, and/or through the testimony of women friends. And perhaps for the first time, they heard a man diagnose it. I was not there passing judgment on women, but as a man I was submitting my gender to judgment first.

If the reality of human abortion as the ultimate male chauvinism can win an audience at Smith College which came to hear one of their heroines, it can win the whole culture. And with the successful presentation of this argument in politics and culture, we can demonstrate that it is Christian pro-lifers who truly respect all women equally, rooted in the mutual nature of covenantal marriage, and the “pro-choice” consensus in this nation will fall apart. The few extreme pro-abortion partisans will be marginalized by their own choice, and we will be able to build the moral consensus necessary for a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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