Well . . . the Buckeyes lose another big game behind archaic play-calling and a brand of conservatism that makes Rush Limbaugh look like a Rachel Maddow wannabee followed up by the train wreck that is the Cleveland Browns (but did you catch that small smile that parsed by lips as I changed the channel just long enough to see the Bronco’s long tipped bomb sink the Bengals!) . . . let’s talk theology!
I have not blogged on the issue of gender in awhile, and it has been hitting my heart especially hard lately. I come from a heritage that has been extremely traditional in their teaching and practice of a woman’s place in both the home and the church. In the ten years or so growing up at the Defiance Church of Christ, a woman never graced the front of the congregation. Never. They were “permitted” to speak out if asked a question, but their role was limited to teaching children’s Bible classes (until a male was baptized) and pretty much run the church behind the scenes. They organized the potlucks, cooked the food, set up and clean up. The church had no elders and the minister was a lay-volunteer (paid, I think) and all decisions were made in closed door “men’s business meetings.”
It has become my belief that “men’s business meetings” are the absolute worst idea ever created for church leadership. It required a terrible misreading of Scripture for the idea to ever have become a reality, and it permitted ungodly oppression and misuse of power. Certainly, God works in mysterious ways and created good from evil, but as we analyze and reflect on practices, this is one that begs for rebuke.
My dad has never really come to church (he had what I call a “marriage baptism.” So, for the most part, it was my Mom draggging the three of us to service. My aunts also went there dragging their husbands along (that’s overstating it). Something that I will always remember is that my mom was never permitted a “say” in the business of the church because of the “men’s” requirement for permittance in a “men’s business meeting.” My mom, like yours, wasn’t a man (still isn’t as a matter of fact!) This left us without a family representative at the business meetings. That is, until I was baptized (at 14), then I counted. Now . . . that’s messed up.
You don’t have to turn to a book, chapter, verse to realize the fallacy here. However, to be fair, this practice shows the hermeneutical flaw of those who continue to press a male-dominated agenda in Christianity. If women aren’t equal, there not equal. If the man is the head of the household – he’s the head. As the traditional understanding of marriage and gender roles continue to be challenged, this dilemma continues to endure onslaught.
I recently heard on the nightly news that, one of the results of the reduction in manufacturing positions in this country, for the first time ever, we are approaching a time when more women will be working than men. Women’s wages continue to be a great deal less than men’s (a discussion for another day, but a reality no doubt reinforced by the traditional Judeo-Christian male prejudice), but the reality remains: more women will be working than men. Women continue their fight to the top of some of the most important and powerful companies and positions in all the world. It won’t be long, surely in my life time, that a woman will assume the role of President and the barrier thrown asunder for African Americans will also be cast aside for woman.
So . . . picture this, Hillary Clinton now President of the United States, unable to serve communion in my congregation – and not just because she’s a Democrat 🙂 Newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, unable to offer a prayer publicly in our service because of her gender. If Taylor Swift placed membership she would be relegated to our praise team, and not allowed to lead the congregation in singing because she was born with the wrong chomosome.
I’m afraid that in the minutia of our discussion in regards to the role women are to play in the kingdom of heaven, we get so caught up in minor points that we fail to step back and consider the implications of our teaching and beliefs. I don’t know have all the answers for some of the more challenging texts about women remaining silent any more than those on the other side don’t have the answers for the texts challenging their perspective (Deborah, after all led the entire nation of Israel in Judges, Phillip had four daughters who prophesied in Acts – seems as definitive as 1 Tmothy 2, and on and on), however, perhaps the best argument is to provide some big picture biblical common sense on the issue. That can only be done by considering the story.
What is wrong with a woman leading a man? The onus in on the other side to deal with this question. Are we arguing for something evil here? Are we inciting the rage of God by imporing others to do something contrary than what he has created us for? If this is the case, then we need to go on a crusade against the rising numbers of women in the work force – they are slowly taking us over! We must overcome this sacred/secular divide that is NOT biblical, as if leadership outside of church is ok, but forbidden inside of church. That doesn’t even make sense. How many of our men come home from being led at work by women and then maintain a priveledged position of leadership over them in the church? Why? Because they understand spiritual things better than women? Because she ate the fruit from the forbidden tree? Because she was cursed through Eve? We better have some better theology than that.
This issue is of primary importance for me. I have two daughters that will challenge my action in this area for the rest of my life. “Daddy, why can’t I lead a prayer?” “Daddy, why can’t I share my testimony?” I am not prepared to answer those questions because I do not have an answer. Perhaps I am being duplicitous remaining at a place that cannot move forward in this area, but, patiently and faithfully I stick it out, hoping God’s grace can fall and change hearts and attitudes. My wife has the gift of prayer and intercession. She is unable to share that gift as freely as she should due to traditions and oppressive ideologies – and these from good people.
So what are we to do? What is she to do? O the raw talents that go unused each and every day because of oppressive thoughts and practices and staunch rejection. They are waiting. God is waiting. I am impatient . . . my prayer is that His patience will endure . . .