When I mention my frustration with how some in the church view women to my friends, I often get bewildered looks. I often get dismissed because people see this as one of those things that gets debated but doesn’t really matter. It might be interesting for me but it’s just not their thing. And I get that. I know my interest in politics, theology, history is not shared by most of my friends.
Except that these things do matter, they impact our every day lives without us even noticing it.
The theological underpinnings of a book that speaks to our hearts and needs, doesn’t seem important if the book itself helps me. The truth though is that the underpinnings, the basic core beliefs of the author/speaker, the decisions they make in their interpretation of Biblical passages absolutely informs their writings on “lifestyle” issues. We take on their Biblical interpretation, we shift our view of God and our place in the world, without even realizing it. It’s not overt. It’s insidious. And that is what makes it scary.
It is subtle shifts.
It is a major evangelical group reshaping the trinity from one-being, one-God, whole and Holy to a submission of the Holy Spirit to Jesus and Jesus to the Father. Bringing the idea of division and submission into the one true God, a place that idea does not belong. But once it is there it is used as an example of submission as God’s intention for the world. Except hierarchy was never in the Garden of Eden. Hierarchy did not arise until the fall and the curse. Until then, Adam and Eve were partners, were walking and communing with God himself, face to face. It wasn’t until the first sin, the fall of man, the outcasting from the Garden when God said to the Eve:
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)Jesus ended the curse with his death and resurrection. We no longer live under the law, we live in grace. Jesus turned the traditional world upside down. Power was no longer something to attain but to give. The power of love, of self sacrifice. Hierarchy has no place at Jesus’ table. And yet some are putting it back where it doesn't belong. Subtle Shift.
It is a call for men to be men, a railing against the feminization of church, the calling out of effeminate worship leaders that distorts our understanding of God’s creation. Yes, there are gender generalizations that ring true. But generalizations do not make a Biblical mandate of how men should be men. Looking at the men of the Bible and we see how uniquely made an individual is. David wrote and played music. Jacob, worked for seven years to earn his love, and then when he was deceived and given Leah instead, he worked another seven years to get his Rachel. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness with complete disregard for fashion and hygiene. Jesus consorted with the least of these, he turned the other cheek, he gave his rights away. Men, like women, are not one big personality conglomerate. And yet, there are those in the church that are teaching, how men are supposed to be as if what they are saying is Biblical Truth with a capital T. Subtle shift.
It is The Gospel Coalition, a group that espouses a form of complementarianism that seems main stream and many of my friends believe as well, posting a blog on their website that included a defense of a passage from Douglas Wilson’s book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man that states:
"...However we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed."There are so many things wrong with this passage, starting with the fact that it is not founded on Biblical truth. Rachel Held Evans does an amazing job explaining how off this excerpt and the entire blog post is from what Jesus teaches. Subtle shift.
I don’t like to get in this debate. I am comfortable in my role in my marriage, my work, my church. I know who I am in God. And I know that I don’t know what God is teaching my friends, where he is calling them to lead and to submit, to speak and to show grace. I know I don’t know best. And I would prefer to focus my time and writing on other things. But when I see my friends being slowly pulled into a christian worldview that at one time may have been based on Biblical teachings but has slowly been pulled deeper and deeper into a power struggle that will destroy them and us, I feel I need to speak up. When I see my friends losing themselves, losing what God has for them to do, when they are diminishing their gifts or not being confident in their strengths, it breaks my heart.
I don’t know what is best for you but I know that the Bible is a book to be read as a whole, not piece-mealed and parsed for passages that support the world view you have been given. And I know that Jesus is the point of the whole story. Everything we read, every worldview we embrace should be one that Jesus would as well.
So if the question is based on how Jesus actually interacted with men and women, what would Jesus say about the role of gender in today's church?