God’s ways do not rely on the goodness of men (or women) to work. They have a power all their own. Thus, all through the Old Testament, we see God relying, not on good men, but on people who were prone to abuse, violence, weakness, arrogance and all manner of human sin to enact his plans. To put a finer point on it, any idea about how things work which relies on the goodness of humans to work, is self-evidently not from God.
To see the difference in action, consider the difference between the fruit from the teaching of the unique subordination of women vs full equality and mutual submission between men and women. Despite having been tried all over the world, the unique subordination of women has never produced a human society where peace, justice and freedom were widely enjoyed. (Anyone who says pre-1960s America gets slapped – slavery?) The explanation for this is always the same – it requires good, Godly men. This teaching is like communism, a great idea that’s just never been properly executed.
On the other hand, women in the early church served in all areas of the church. They enjoyed rights in their marriages and as daughters not allowed or expected in the prevailing culture. That all faded away after the first few hundred years, but the remnants of this teaching carried such power that the places in the world where women first gained (pretty much) full equality and are considered the most free, most respected and most empowered are places where Christianity has deep roots. Once God’s ways are introduced into the system of humanity, they will face more and less opposition, but over the course of time, they will persist and bear good fruit.
A few years ago my family needed a new church. So we were looking a couple of non-denominational churches in our town. The problem was that I quickly learned that none of them allowed women in leadership positions. But, as my husband pointed out, it’s not like I was looking to be made pastor. And we aren’t going to agree on everything. So I figured we could give them a shot. The problem became that at each of them I had the same experience. As I was sitting in service, something in me kept saying, “get up. Leave. Walk out.” Finally, it was more like a scream and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. So I walked out and didn’t return to any of them.
When I did that, a wave of utter peace came over me. I realized that it had been the Spirit in me which was telling me to leave. And I knew that never again would I be able to look at the teaching of the unique submission* of women as something we can agree to disagree on. Like Jesus said, anyone who, having put their hand to the plow turns and looks back is not worthy of the Kingdom of God. God had already lead me out of humanity’s old ideas about women and trying to ignore that to sit under churches which were perpetuating what I had been lead out of was like looking back.
The reason the issue of women in leadership, the church and family is such a flash point is because it gets to the heart of the challenge of what it means for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest among us. It’s not just a matter of the interpretation of scripture or rules governing churches, but is a potent sign of how we understand God’s Kingdom ways. Are they improved versions of our ways? Or is God calling us to utterly abandon our ways in favor of an entirely new Kingdom’s set of rules? What we’re seeing here is actually a spiritual battle between the stronghold of of the enemy’s ways which have reigned for so long and the coming Kingdom of God. (Yes, I know it’s not nice or charitable to say that fellow Christians are actually fighting for Satan on this issue. But as you will see below, I do believe it’s well justified. And I don’t mean to say that they are evil. We’re all just learning to grow up, after all.) Continue reading →
In a more perfect world, the title of this post would be complete jibberish to all of my lovely readers. But alas, we live in a world which is in the process of being redeemed, so some of you know all too well about Christian Patriarchy and clobber verses. However – joy of joys! – we live in a world which is in the process of being redeemed and I know that some of you have no idea what Christian Patriarchy or clobber verses are. So, for the blissfully uninitiated, allow I to explain a bit.
At its simplest, Christian Patriarchy is the teaching that there is a God ordained hierarchy in which men are over women and children. A daughter is under her father’s headship until she marries and responsibility for her is transfered to her husband. Ideally in this arrangement, the man is responsible for protecting his wife and daughter from other men as well as providing for her and overseeing her spiritual, moral and personal development. In exchange for this protection and leadership, a female treats her father/husband with respect, obedience and deference. Although this arrangement has been propagated around the world and throughout time irregardless of religion, Christian Patriarchy proponents insist that this is a Christian arrangement rather than just something people have had a tendency to do. Like going to war or practicing dietary restrictions.
A clobber verse is a verse of scripture which is used to provide definitive proof – in the mind of the person using it – that a particular idea or teaching is true, biblical and theologically unassailable. Now I have a few verses which I will use this way all day, everyday. “God is love” for example. What makes a clobber verse a clobber verse is that inevitably, they are pulled completely out of the context they were spoken into. Nearly always, on closer examination the verse in question doesn’t even say what the person using it seems to think it is saying. Continue reading →
Let me be clear up-front: I do not support a right to abortion on demand. In fact, if I were made ruler of the universe, I would make abortions enormously difficult to get. Because I’m a mean and cruel woman. No, not really – I’m actually very kind and empathetic. But I am in agreement with Mother Theresa: “it is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live”. I don’t think abortion is an answer to what is really a societal failure. I don’t only oppose abortion from a pro-life perspective. I think abortion is bad for women, worse for relations between men and women and displays a level of animosity towards women as they are – people whose bodies can start new life – which is evil and vile. If we have a society where the normal functioning of a woman’s body regularly ruins women’s lives, we’re doing it wrong. And abortion doesn’t do anything to fix that – it simply enables it. Nearly 60% of abortions are influenced by pressure from fathers, husbands, boyfriends or others with power in a woman’s life. That’s not empowering. Nor has ready access to abortion resulted in a world where people who shouldn’t have children don’t as abortion proponents used to argue. Far from it. And yet . . . the issue of abortion has nothing to do with how I vote.
Yes Democrats not only support abortion rights, but celebrate them the way most of us celebrate Grandpa’s 90th birthday. But despite using the abortion issue to garner votes for the last 30 or 40 years, Republicans haven’t and won’t do anything to stop abortion either. Sure, they’ll fiddle around the edges and I’d much rather live in a country where doctors don’t deliver a baby up to its neck before suctioning its brains, crushing its head and completing delivery. But show me one child who is alive today because we banned “intact dilation and extraction”. It’s a symbolic victory at best. The reality is that for all their rhetoric, the Republicans have shown no more willingness to do something about Roe v Wade than their Democratic opponents. If anything, I can at least give the Democrats credit for being honest about their support of abortion as birth control. But voting for someone simply because they claim to be pro-life does nothing what-so-ever to advance pro-life policies. It’s just giving my vote to the person who has set their dog-whistle to the right pitch.
Another reason abortion isn’t a factor in my voting is that abortion is only marginally a legal issue. 1.2 million women have abortions each year. By some estimates, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Including a good number of women who are Christian, pro-lifers. That’s a social problem. You don’t fix social problems with laws. Social problems get fixed with people. Continue reading →
When I first started looking at the issue of women in the bible, I wasn’t attached to any particular set of ideas about women and men. As a child of our times a more egalitarian ideal made a lot of sense to me. But I also knew that we get a lot further by conforming ourselves to God’s ways than to our own ideas. I wasn’t closed off to the idea that a subordinate role for women was something I would need to make peace with.
In fact, it was trying to make peace with a subordinate role was what motivated me to study women in scriptures. I figured that if I could learn more about what God had to say and why, the idea of being under men would not be a source of pain, but would be a source of life, as all things which come from God are. Like many, many women I’ve heard from over the years, I wanted to have peace about this subject, but something deep in me kept rebelling at the idea that God had given me the role of less-than all my life.
If you read what I have written previously, you’ll see that the more I studied the matter, the more it became clear to me that using scriptures to demand that women take their place under men was an abuse of God’s word. At a bare minimum, it was blazingly clear that there is nothing in scriptures which would bar full equality between men and women. So, you can make an argument for a subordinate position for women from scripture. And you can make many, many arguments for the equality of men and women which rely not just on a few verses, but stories and themes found all through scripture. Both arguments can be made, so the real issue isn’t which on is biblical – they both are, if you just look at it a certain way. Either way is faithful to scriptures. As always, all that is left now is our own choices.