Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mariam & McCandlish

Two causes I deeply believe in: Christianity and feminism.

Each lost a writer and advocate this past week: McCandlish Phillips, age 85, and Mariam Chamberlain, 95.

These two very different people each lived in Manhattan and devoted a lifetime to passionate work for change.

McCandlish achieved fame as a writer for the New York Times but resigned at age 45 to preach the Gospel on street corners, primarily the Columbia University campus, founding the New Testament Missionary Fellowship.

Mariam, program director of the Ford Foundation from 1971 to 1981, granted funds to launch women's studies courses and programs in colleges across the country.

Her contribution was "incalculable," states Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "It's hard to imagine how bad things were when she came on the scene.  Women's suffrage was not taught in most American history classes."

I thank God for each of these earnest, hard-working, insightful human beings, so different from each other.

Mariam, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, completed high school and attended college against the objections of her father, who felt that women didn't need education.  She earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

McCandlish, whose father was a traveling salesman, did not attend college, instead starting as a copy boy at the New York Times.  He made a commitment to Jesus at a church service while he was a young man in the Army.  

His greatest moment on the Times was reporting that the Grand Dragon of the New York State Ku Klux Klan and former national secretary of the American Nazi Party had been born and raised in a Jewish family. 

Neither of these two left behind children.  Mariam married but divorced in 1970.  McCandlish never married, and his missionary fellowship lists "pornography, drugs, abortion and any form of fornication (including premarital sex and homosexuality)" as sins.

Mariam probably came to accept same-sex relationships, along with most of us in the women's movement, so she and McCandlish lived at opposite ends of this ideological spectrum, as perhaps they were on women's issues and on the Pentecostal approach to Christianity.

Each found important truths and fought for them, but neither had the whole truth.  I need to remember that.  

As hard as I fight for both feminism and Christianity, I do not have all the answers. Others will come after me, reflect on my life, and compare it to that of someone else whose life parallels mine.  

They will notice where I was blind to other important truths.

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