Saturday, December 29, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Plenty of lengthy explanations for a biblical understanding of gender equality exist, on the web and in print. I would still like to offer what I hope will be a brief summary of my own framework for a scriptural understanding of equality. Let’s start with some myth-busting.
Myth: Egalitarians believe “equality” means “same.”
Of course men and women are different - in significant, and not-so-significant ways. Women carry babies. Men have more upper body strength. (I’m already thinking of exceptions.) There are differences in brain development, in hormone excretion, and in socialization. Christian egalitarians are not interested in obliterating the genuine differences between women and men. We are concerned with, to quote Rebecca Grouthuis, “what difference the differences make.” Broad generalizations about what men are like or what women are like usually aren’t helpful. They don’t fit very well. They don’t account for personality type differences or cultural differences. They reinforce stereotypes. They marginalize the exceptions. And they erode the foundation for unity, reconciliation, and intimacy that women and men need with one another. An extreme emphasis on difference (like my classmate’s declaration that we are “100% different”) erodes mutual understanding. Historically it has been a foundation for misogyny. Considering the biblical emphasis on unity, the practice of emphasizing our common humanity as a basis for relationship seems like a pretty sound starting point.
Myth: Equality means the woman is in charge instead of the man. I’ve spoken with many people who believe that one person in a marriage must be in charge, and if it’s not the man then the woman takes over. Equality is about a partnership of equals who share power and mutually submit to one another. It’s not a cover for male subordination by women. (Ironically, if you look more closely at some of these male headship marriages, the person who is really in charge isn’t the man. Power will try to balance itself out, in subversive or manipulative ways if more direct ways are not available.) Incidentally, egalitarians don’t think it’s any better for the wife to be in charge of the husband. We really believe in equality.
Myth: The husband must be the final decision-maker and this is biblical. This is bunk. It’s not biblical and even really literal approaches to interpretation can’t reasonably substantiate this claim from scripture. And in practice, two loving adults who are equally vested in the outcome of a decision can share that decision and reach consensus. One person having the power to trump all decisions is not healthy. Once I had a conversation with a man who felt really strongly about being the “final decision maker.” I asked him why, if there must be one, it should be him. Is he smarter than his wife? Is he better at solving problems than his wife? Is he more important than his wife? No. no. no. “It’s because I’m the MAN.” But what about being the man makes you more qualified to make decisions? Is there a special decision-making device in your, um, male accessories? No. I asked him to tell me about some decisions he had made to trump his wife when they couldn’t agree. He hemmed and hawed, but couldn’t come up with any. In desperation he said, “Doesn’t the bible say the man is supposed to be the decision maker?” He doesn’t have any respect for the bible, but knows I’m a Christian, so he tries to use scripture to justify his fragile male authority. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” is a great starting place for making tough decisions together in a marriage. And that IS biblical.
Okay – that’s more than enough for now. Stay tuned for more on equality and the scriptures.
Monday, December 03, 2007
It just keeps coming up, like a disease that won't be cured. The subordination of women in the Church and in the family. I was surfing the website of a cool church that I've admired from afar for awhile. Neat church, involved with wonderful ministries, has great ideas about how to do church. And then I took a look at their leadership. All male elders, all male pastors. A female administrator and a female children's worker (not pastor).
A similarly cool church just recently posted their official position on women, in which they try to give women lots of opportunities, but are careful to make sure a woman is always under a man's authority. I appreciate that they are gracious to those who don't agree with their position, but I find their reasoning to be very flawed and their use of scripture inconsistent.
Josh and I have a traditionalist friend at school. Being a Foursquare pastor, he affirms women in pastoral ministry, but is adamant about hierarchy in marriage. He made the statement in class today that men and women are "100% different." (!!!!) He thinks that us egalitarians believe men and women are 100% same. But we don't, and the seemingly deliberate choice to misunderstand our position gets frustrating after awhile.
Some friends were just sharing the other day how they left a big church in town because of the consistent message of women's subordination. They didn't want their children growing up in a church where they would experience the demeaning of women in the name of being biblical.
Josh and I are starting up a church plant and we haven't spent much energy on this gender business. We've got ministry on our minds and this just isn't our issue. We are co-pastors and it just seems natural for us to work as a team. The full equality of women and men is a basic assumption that we share. But sometimes we almost forget that this isn't the way it works in lots of other churches. And I forget too, that lots of people have never heard a biblical case for gender equality. Maybe it's time to revisit this issue.
(credits: I stole this fun cartoon from deconversion dot com)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I've always said that whenever it fell on me to make a Thanksgiving turkey, we'd be having ham. I'm pretty squeamish about that whole corpse-in-a-bag thing. But thankfully :) Josh isn't. He made a special spice rub and applied it under the skin (:::shudder:::) and now we can already smell the savory seasonal scent of roasting turkey. My morning job, other than moral support for the turkey guy, was to roll out the cinnamon roles and get them rising and in the oven. I love making cinnamon roles almost as much as eating them. Kneading the dough is therapeutic, and there is something beautiful to me in the way yeast rises and in the swirl pattern of the roles when they are sliced and placed in the pan.
After a hot cup of french-pressed coffee and some snuggle time while doing a sudoku on the couch, it's time to do some last-minute cleaning, get our showers, and say a prayer together for the day.
I have so much to give thanks for today! My wonderful daughter, with her messy morning hair pulled into a haphazard pony tail who is eating a cinnamon role and reading the comics across the table from me. Our crazy dog who keeps poking his head into my lap for me to pet him, as he smiles with his dimples. And my wonderful husband, who has the ability to make me laugh even at 6:30 in the morning, and who has enriched my life more than I can say. This is our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, and it was two years ago this week that we went on our first date and knew we'd be together forever. Holidays used to have a bittersweetness about them, as they seemed to heighten the loneliness of being a divorced single mom. The burden of making things special was heavier, and my awareness of being the only adult in the room without a spouse to sit beside me at the table was always just there. I'm thankful for the blessing of such a wonderful husband this year - who shares with me the joys and challenges of life, who inspires me with his strength and courage, and who can rub down a raw turkey without gagging even once.
I'm in a bit of a sentimental mood today, and I could wax on about family, friends, hopes, dreams, and gifts for which I am especially grateful. But preparations are calling. To all of you, may your hearts be filled with gratitude for every blessing large and small that is yours today. And may we all remember and pray for those who are unable to share our joy and gratitude.
I'll close with the prayer Maria clipped this morning from Dear Abby to pray with the family today:
Oh, Heavenly Father,
We thank thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That thy gifts to us may be used for others.
and Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 12, 2007
This weekend my husband Josh was going through the paper and came across a Walmart Christmas catalog insert. It came with a ready-made wish list for kids and instructions on how to help your kids pick out all the stuff they want for Christmas. Josh had me laughing when he clutched the catalog, closed his eyes tightly and said, “I wish that Walmart would stop purchasing goods made from sweat shops, would provide just and fair treatment for their employees and adopt sustainable environmental practices.”
Last August, while walking around in the heat of the summer in shorts, we were astounded to see our first window display for Christmas. I know it always seems like it starts earlier every year, but August just seems ridiculous.
Josh gave a really poignant devotional in class this morning. While researching the effects of alcoholism on families, he was pondering the addict's experience of building up tolerance. Over time, an addict builds up tolerance to their substance and requires ever increasing amounts in order to experience the same effect. He compared this to the materialism and consumerism of our culture. As a culture we are showing the signs of addictive tolerance to consumption – we need more and more stuff to feel the same effect.
I remember being amazed reading the Little House books, how excited the kids would get at Christmas time over getting a single orange, a penny, or a cookie baked with white flour. This, compared with the Walmart catalog that says, “If you only get me 20 gifts this Christmas make sure this is one of them.” We are taught to be upwardly mobile, to seek after more money, better paying jobs, bigger houses, fancier cars, and more toys. It is completely counter-cultural to drive an old car if you have the money for a new one, or live in a small house if you can afford a bigger one, and so on. It seems that we are diseased with an addiction to consume. I would like to share the scripture Josh shared this morning that speaks volumes to us.
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded form you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 TNIV
May we learn what it means to become rich toward God!
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Lisa Domke facilitated the conversation with Sadell Bradley, Diana Butler Bass, and Ann (I missed her last name-sorry!) on the topic of dialogue with people different from ourselves. The interaction fascinated me and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear them.
I just want to pick out one little thought from the session. A woman asked a question about the tension between following one's heart on the journey of faith and betraying family and friends. Sadell pointed out that this kind of "betrayal" has always gone along with following Jesus, that Jesus himself said if anyone loves father, mother, lands, property, etc. more than him, that one is not worthy of following Jesus. Diana said that the biggest betrayal is the one to yourself. She said (and I hope I'm not misrepresenting her) that by being true to yourself and who you are in that tension ultimately you become a better daughter, friend, etc... and a better Christian as well. It reminded me of a prayer of Kierkergaard, "And now with God's help, I shall become myself."
That kind of betrayal of self - of the self created by God - is one that women have often done in order to avoid great persecution. I can think of times when I've been guilty of that kind of betrayal, but also - thankfully! - I can think of times when I've been tempted to but have learned to resist. And I think Diana is right - when I've remained true to the woman God has created me to be, it has resulted in my being a better follower of Christ, friend, daughter, etc. I can't help but think that if I had been exposed to women like these when I was growing up, that I might have learned to resist self-betrayal much earlier in life.
Friday, November 02, 2007
I’m really encouraged by this new shared space for relationship and friendship between mainline and evangelical protestants. An evangelical friend shared with me a conversation she had with a mainline friend on this subject matter. The mainline friend said, “You’ve got the fire, we’ve got the fireplace.” That might not be entirely fair, but it made me smile. I think many of us on all points of the liberal-conservative spectrum are tired of fighting all the old fights and ready to find some common ground.
Here’s the rub though. Many of the conservative folks I know are still very suspicious of all things that can be labeled liberal. And when some of us walk into this shared space and engage in relationships as Diana described this morning, we become suspect as well. I hope we will see more and more engagement and that we will learn from each other along the way.