Guest Post: For the women who have been held back because of their gender

women

This is for all the women who have ever been held back because of her gender:

I am a woman.

Beautiful, strong, and kind.

Teacher. Leader. Educator. God lover.

Spiritual. Emotional. Trying not to be cynical.

Because there are people who don’t see me for the person that I am – inside.

They see me as one-dimensional. Daughter of Eve. High heels. Tight jeans.

Sometimes I like red lips and too much mascara.

They see my womanhood as a threat. A temptress. Seductive.

Even with 30 extra pounds and graying hair, I’m a distraction. A nuisance.

Am I a disturbance? Someone to put on a shelf. Not needed. Not appreciated. Not valued. Not included.

No.

I am feminine. I am a mother. Daughter. Friend. Human being.

My voice matters. My opinions are valuable and significant. My ideas are worthy and creative.

I am NOT Charlie Brown’s teacher – open your ears and listen.

My existence should be praised. Honored.

If my presence makes you uncomfortable, that is on you – not me.

I will not apologize for my body type and my hair length.

Women are not just curves and shapes in clothing.

We are brains, strength, power.

If you would see us for who we are, not what we look like, you could learn.

I could teach you.

You could see that we could have a seat at the table. SHOULD have a seat at the table.

The lies need to be silenced and you should awaken to the truth, that I – that women – can do and be ANYTHING.

We are enough. I am enough.

Man – YOU are enough.

If you believe that, you wouldn’t be threatened by ME.


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This beautiful post originally appeared on my friend Amber Jone’s Facebook timeline, where she regularly ministers with inspiring and encouraging messages.  Her husband Dale and my husband Logan grew up together and remain close friends.  Both Amber and Dale are pastors at Forest Park Church in Elizabeth City, NC.  Her bio on their website says:  “[Amber’s] role is to provide creativity and style to Forest Park, during the weekend services and online. Amber has a passion for the Arts and is talented in many aspects, including music, drama, design, fashion, and social media. She has been singing in churches since she was eight years old and has served on Praise and Worship teams since she was a teenager. She is passionate about seeing people recognize the love and grace that is offered through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Her other passions include her family, music, Ecuador missions, friends, and shoes. Amber married the love of her life, Dale Jones, in May 2001. They both share the love of music and have ministered together through singing since they met. They both serve as Worship leaders in the FPC Worship Band. Her heart also belongs to two other guys – her sons Barrett, born in 2004, and Chandler, born in 2007. Amber earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and was employed by the Elizabeth City Pasquotank Schools from 1999-2004. In 2004, she became a stay-at-home mom. Amber’s favorite passage of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!'”

Her post also included this disclaimer: “This is not about the men close to me. I am surrounded in my inner circle with men who are very supportive of me and women in general.”  What a gift!

And I can’t leave this post up without also blessing you with Amber and her brother Ricky Braddy’s beautiful singing in a service at FPC (posted by their mom, of course!):

How Second Chance Africa is Providing Innovative Therapy to Trauma Victims in Africa

When I was a student at Gordon College, I attended church in Beverly Farms, near another liberal arts institution, Endicott College. A beautiful, artistic, Brazilian poet from Endicott also attended church there and we hit it off like Anne-and-Diana-style Kindred Spirits.  I remember horsing around with Jana at church retreats and attending poetry readings, musical performances, and more together.  When she graduated, I got to meet her family from Brazil and celebrate her milestone with an American Idol themed Karaoke party.  I promise to come back and insert a picture of the two of us when I am able to locate my college album!

As we moved on in life, we stayed in touch occasionally through email, and then two years ago my globe-trotting friend was back in New England and made a special visit up to Maine.  While she was here, she received her acceptance to her Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at the University of Sydney, and she also had a promising Skype meeting about a non-profit she had begun in Liberia called Second Chance Africa.  It was an honor to share these mountain-top moments with her!

sankofa birdYears ago, Jana had embarked on a back-packing adventure that brought her through Africa and face-to-face with lives torn apart by the trauma of war.  She was moved with compassion, so she stayed in a refugee camp and helped, and recognized that little was being done to address trauma.  She began Second Chance Africa in 2008 and has operated on a shoe-string budget through crowd-sourcing, offering therapy to over 7,000.  And now she has developed an innovative therapy app that will extend her life-changing therapy groups to thousands and hopefully millions in the near future.  Jana is calling this the Sankofa Project, after the sankofa bird that walks forward while looking back over its shoulder, representing the importance of reflecting on the past in order to move ahead into the future.

Watch this short video for a quick description of the Sankofa Project:

I’ve had the great honor of joining the Second Chance Africa board as the Secretary and state-side rep to assist with banking needs and receive mailings.  Last week, I met Jana at the airport and we accomplished tasks big and small (banking, printing, laundry, etc.) in a matter of hours before she flew to Liberia to launch her app with trauma therapy groups.  She is relying on crowd-funding once again to make this project successful. Donations can be made here.   This is an opportunity where even a small donation can make a big impact, and I assure you that Jana and her team are motivated by tremendous love and a desire to change lives. Please share their mission with your friends and family!

sankoka jana

Jana providing therapy to refugees in Liberia.

On her website, there are moving testimonials from people who have already been treated through Jana’s organization, Second Chance Africa.  Here are just a few:

“I really wanted to write you in the second week that you left, but I really wanted to see if the transformation that took place my life was something real or magical. I am convinced that it was something real that took place in my life. I want to be grateful to God who directed you in Ghana to the Liberian Refugee. I am grateful that I ever met you. There’s no more nightmares, bad dreams running every night for safety. I can see myself as somebody still useful in life. I believed that there is hope for the future me. I know that with your traumatic therapy treatment you can heal anybody who have been living with trauma for twenty to fifty years. I am saying this because of what took place in my life. I have been living with trauma for the past sixteen years and for you to make me overcome my trauma in less than a month it is something I can’t still believe. However, I am bit sad because there are many Liberians who are going back home still traumatized. UNHCR have been doing well for REFUGEE all over the world but we need more trauma counselors to help these people going back home. Many Liberians do not want to go back home but they do not have any choice. For now there is no more resettlement program for Liberians refugee by UNHCR, therefore they have go back home. It is my prayer that you will be able to get help from other people”. – S.G.

“While at the Monrovia Central Prison, an organization by the name of Second Chance visited the prison and we were helped by the means of their training, such as exercises, counseling and lectures. I personally benefited, there were exercises we were introduced to that when you are down or depressed, it helped you lift your spirit. It helped me many days to relax and have a good night rest despite my problems at the prison. It made me at times to even think that there was a second chance in my life. And I will like to encourage them to keep up the good works, because it made people feel important, that whatever problems in their lives is not the end of their lives. May the good God bless their effort and keep them strong”. M.R.

“She guided through the trauma healing and from that healing today I am able to recover, I came to myself, I came to my senses. I really feel good that now I am a human being, and I am safe, I feel fine in my body” –  F.D.

sankofa bono

To Jana’s great delight, her friend Bono has been wearing a yellow Sankofa Project bracelet and plugging Jana’s work on U2’s 2017 Joshua Tree Tour! Here is a picture of him wearing the yellow Sankofa Project bracelet.  When it is available, I will update with a link to purchase your own. For only $10, you will receive a pack of 10 bracelets and sponsor a full trauma relief program in a post-war region in Africa, for a group of 10 participants during our field implementation phase in 2017-2018.

To read more about Jana’s work through Second Chance Africa and The Sankofa Project, please visit http://secondchanceafrica.org/sankofa/.  And again, please consider giving to her work here and sharing this project with your friends and family.  Thank you!


P.S.  In addition to her amazing, loving work for trauma victims, my friend is also a brilliant artist.  Check out this painting she showed in a RAW Sydney exhibit last year!sankofa artIn the RAW Sydney post describing her art, they said,

Jana’s work arises from the need to give a voice to her thoughts and ideas that may speak louder through silent speech. Her paintings are not meant to be pleasant to the eye nor serve as a decor piece. Her colours are bold and aggressive. Her aim is to create discomfort and challenge one’s misconceptions about themselves and the world. She is a self-taught artist, and a PhD student specialising in post-traumatic stress. The stories she has heard and the violence she has seen while traveling, working and living in war impacted countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia deeply affects her artwork imagery and aesthetics of advocacy.

Adam Galinsky: How to speak up for yourself

Here is an inspiring and apropos Ted Talk for the Beautiful Kingdom Warriors to learn from.  Adam Galinsky is a social psychologist who “teaches people all over the world how to inspire others, speak up effectively, lead teams and negotiate successfully.”  In these 15 minutes, he explains why being a woman creates a low-power double bind, and offers research-based tools for expanding your power/acceptable range of behavior:

Here are my top takeaways from the video (I’ve sliced and diced and emphasized the full transcript):

Each of us have something called a range of acceptable behavior. When we stay within our range, we’re rewarded. When we step outside that range, we get punished – we get dismissed or demeaned or even ostracized. Or we lose that raise or that promotion or that deal.

Your power determines your range. When we have lots of power, our range is very wide. We have a lot of leeway in how to behave. But when we lack power, our range narrows. We have very little leeway. The problem is that when our range narrows, that produces something called the low-power double bind – if we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, but if we do speak up, we get punished.

The gender double bind is women who don’t speak up go unnoticed, and women who do speak up get punished. Oftentimes we see a difference between a man and a woman and think, “Biological cause. There’s something fundamentally different about the sexes.” But in study after study, I’ve found that a better explanation for many sex differences is really power. The low-power double bind means that we have a narrow range, and we lack power. 

We need to find ways to expand our range. And two things really matter. The first: you seem powerful in your own eyes. The second: you seem powerful in the eyes of others. When I feel powerful, I feel confident, not fearful; I expand my own range. When other people see me as powerful, they grant me a wider range. So we need tools to expand our range of acceptable behavior.

The first tool I’m going to give you got discovered in negotiations in an important finding. On average, women make less ambitious offers and get worse outcomes than men at the bargaining table.  Except when they advocate for others, they discover their own range and expand it in their own mind. They become more assertive. This is sometimes called “the mama bear effect.”

But sometimes, we have to advocate for ourselves. One of the most important tools we have to advocate for ourselves is perspective-taking. It’s simply looking at the world through the eyes of another person. When I take your perspective, and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want.

Another way to be assertive but still be likable is to signal flexibility. When you give people a choice among options, it lowers their defenses, and they’re more likely to accept your offer.

When I’ve asked the question around the world when people feel comfortable speaking up, the number one answer is: “When I have social support in my audience; when I have allies.” We want to get allies on our side. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways is be a mama bear. When we advocate for others, we expand our range in our own eyes and the eyes of others, but we also earn strong allies.

Another way we can earn strong allies is by asking other people for adviceWhen we ask others for advice, they like us because we flatter them, and we’re expressing humility. And this really works to solve the self-promotion double bind – if we don’t advertise our accomplishments, no one notices. And if we do, we’re not likableBut if we ask for advice about one of our accomplishments, we are able to be competent in their eyes but also be likeable.

Another time we feel more confident speaking up is when we have expertise. Expertise gives us credibility. When we have high power, we already have credibility. We only need good evidence. When we lack power, we don’t have the credibility. We need excellent evidence.

And one of the ways we can come across as an expert is by tapping into our passion. We give ourselves the courage, in our own eyes, to speak up, but we also get the permission from others to speak up. 

I highly recommend you watch the video and think about how you can expand your own range of acceptable behavior – by advocating for others, gaining allies and social support, seeing things from others’ perspectives and offering flexible solutions, and asking for advice.  Good stuff.

img_3767I was obviously connecting the dots on how women are subjugated in patriarchal religious denominations under the assumption of biological differences, when the real problem is lack of power.  Women are punished for their “ambition” to follow the call of God on their life.

I have seen the power of advocating for other women in the Church to have opportunities and credibility.  I love being a mama bear in the Church and encourage you to speak up for others as well.  Think your “Director of Children’s Ministry” should have the same “Pastor” title as the other staff members?  Speak up!  Think your friend has the gift of teaching?  Speak up!  See gifts in the women around you?  Tell them!  They probably aren’t hearing that from many others.  In doing these things, your own confidence will grow.  And couldn’t we all use more confidence?


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  If you’d like to keep up with our posts, Follow us here!  We also post links from around the web every day on our Facebook page.  Be a mama bear with us!!  It’s a fight worth waging. 🙂

#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear trended on Twitter this week

This Tuesday night, Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, started the hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear and it took off.  Here are my favorites:

This is a drop in the bucket on contributions to this thread.  Definitely checkout the hashtag and scroll through the sobering collection.

Then Christians began redeeming the conversation with the hashtag #ThingsChristianWomenShouldHear:

This is my prayer too:

Amen.


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.  We are a community of Christians who believe that men and women are equal in the Kingdom and indispensable partners in Kingdom building and restoration.  Follow us hear and on Facebook!

It’s Okay to Walk Away

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I’m a nail biter and drink my coffee sans foam art, but otherwise this is totally me.

I made a rash decision yesterday to comment on a Desiring God post by John Piper about the decline of male headship theology.  He was saying that “Christlike headship will endure because it is true to God’s word,” and in explaining its decline, he said that those who are becoming egalitarians are being influenced by secularism or are bitter.

This was my comment:

I can tell you why I became an egalitarian, if you are really curious. I grew up Conservative Baptist, went to an Evangelical college, went to a reformed seminary, maintaining my complementarian worldview/interpretive lens. Along the way I met some egalitarians who deeply loved God, had beautiful marriages, and held to the Bible’s authority with a high view of Scripture. Not like I had been taught egalitarians were like. Then one day, as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, I was sitting in a Bible study and heard God say loud and clear to me: “I want you to co-pastor with your husband.” I was not reading “liberal” theologians, I had little “secular” influence in my life, and I was not bitter about my role. I am naturally a submissive, quiet person. So I started studying the issue of women in ministry and was convinced by egalitarian interpretations. I think it is helpful to talk to actual egalitarians about why they believe what they believe rather than speculating and painting them as secular or bitter. The Bible tells us to consider others better than ourselves, so in the least, we can give others the benefit of the doubt rather than mischaracterizing their motivations. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of our complementarianism/egalitarianism, so let us love one another.

I regretted this comment pretty quickly, after receiving the first two comments:

Ken Edwards: Anytime someone says they’ve heard from the Lord I always hope they’ll compare what they’ve heard with scripture. If the two don’t line up one might be wise to question who was speaking.

Annie Carder: Your definition of “submissive” is off. There’s your problem.

I sat on these comments for an hour, telling myself, “You don’t have to reply.  You can walk away,” then I replied,

I realize I posted in complementarian territory, and we all don’t know each other from Adam. Just wanted to say that the overall premise of the argument that egalitarians are influenced by secularism or bitterness is 1) unloving, 2) counter to my experience knowing many egalitarians, 3) untrue of my own change to egalitarianism. Just wanted to make the suggestion that y’all talk to egalitarians as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than maligning them and never engaging with their actual arguments.

At what point do you walk away?  I should have trusted my instinct.  I was in an unsafe place.  When complementarians comment on posts on The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors FB page, I always treat them with respect, kindness, and hospitality.  It is rare that I am treated well on complementarian playgrounds.  They assume that I am worldly and bitter, so they gift me with “tough love.”  Like this man who emerged next…

Steve Hulbert: But then you’re not engaging with what’s being said to you…

I took the bait.

To Ken Edwards: I definitely did. Had to read egalitarian theologians and pastors to understand their interpretation of headship, creation order, women in ministry, etc. Have been taught the complementarian perspective all my life and it always seemed clear and right to me, so I was shocked by the idea of co-pastoring. Also have never experienced anything like that before or since. The next day, someone recommended the book “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership” and this article by Dr. Walt Kaiser, and I haven’t really stopped reading since then (five or six years). http://www.walterckaiserjr.com/women.html

To Annie Carder: Didn’t realize I had defined submission in my original post. Was just trying to say that submitting to my husband as the head of the family was not hard nor was it making me bitter or power hungry. I find that egalitarians take submission further, with mutual submission.

To Steve Hulbert: I was regretting my post, feeling gun-shy about being the odd one out in this comment thread.  I appreciate everyone’s kindness.

Then Steve started in.  He stuck around until he told me to get lost, pretty much.  But here’s how he began:

Steve Hulbert: I’m reading that link and it’s pretty much what I would have expected: poring over many small details and blaming mistranslation for what the text appears to say. It doesn’t make any sense in the context of Corinthians 11 to say that the sign of authority is a sign of the woman’s power when the preceding verse has said that woman was created for man and not vice versa, and earlier that the man is the head of woman. I’m no expert to interpret that passage but I notice he’s only referred to one verse and nothing about the rest of the context.

To which I replied,

Thanks for reading the article! I hate debating but can send links at light speed if anyone ever wants more info. Another egalitarian resource is newlife.id.au. Here’s her post on 1 Corinthians 11: http://newlife.id.au/…/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11…/

Then got this gem, which I ignored:

Enoque Júnio Calado: So did Mohamed, so did John Smith. All have claimed they heard the voice of God and created false religions. No further revelation apart from the bible should be made into doctrine, and those who plainly deny the scriptures should be anathema.

Sola Scriptura

And this,

Jason Warner: Such a facinating discussion. As I see it…evangelical comps and evangelical egalitarians essentially function in the same way. Russel Moore has commented on this as well – regarding the inconsistency of comps on paper and in function – that comps want to check the comp box. Piper and Grudem created the comp concept, as we know it now, within the last 30 years. But even those within the Reformed camp do not agree on what it actually means or how far to take the concept (home, church, work, Trinity, etc.). Last year’s ESS uproar is an example of the “infighting.”

I liked that one.  Then got this,

Joye Stewart: Found this on the internet..

The place to begin in this, as in other biblical questions, is to ask, “What does the Bible say?” Even a cursory reading of the pertinent texts reveals three important observations: 1) there were no known women pastors in New Testament times; 2) none of the instructions regarding church order include instructions for women pastors; and 3) some texts on church order explicitly forbid women to occupy that role. Paul, in 1 Tim. 2:12, states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (NIV) . This verse is introduced by a statement that women should learn “in silence,” and it is followed by the statement that “she must be silent.” The word silence means being possessed by a calmness of spirit and peaceful disposition. It is set as the opposite to “teaching” and “having authority over a man.” Paul does not expect that women will not or can not learn or teach (compare with Titus 2:3-5 and 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14,15). He states that they cannot teach or have authority over men. Thus, they cannot have a pastoral position, or perform the pastoral function, for that puts them in authority over men.

If the scripture says women are not to teach or have authority over men, then I would follow the scripture over the voices in my head.

I didn’t have to sit around deciding whether or not to reply to this comment.  Outright misinformation needs correction, for the sake of silent observers.  I said,

In reply to point 1, there are many known women in ministry in the New Testament, even in relation to men. Junia, Lydia, Peter’s daughters, Phoebe, etc. https://godswordtowomen.org/pastors.htm

Per point 2, many instructions have been interpreted with male pronouns where the original text was inclusive. The Holy Spirit descended on men and women at Pentecost, the gifts of the Spirit are never gender specific. It was prophesied that “your sons and daughters will prophecy” and that has come to pass.

Per point 3, I believe the egalitarian interpretations of those passages are compelling and align more with the overall message of Scripture – men and women are both fully created in the image of God and were both given dominion and authority by God. Both men and women are told to submit to one another and to serve and make disciples. The first missionary was a woman (the Samaritan woman at the well evangelized her whole city), and the first person to preach the resurrected Christ was Mary.

Jason Warner commented again, and he seems to be a super nice complementarian. Very kind and gracious.

Jason Warner: Ruth – comps have strong biblical support as it relates to some specifics (elders, etc.) too. You bring up good points to consider though. The idea that women in the Bible didn’t always operate within the modern “comp” structure is an example of how difficult it is to pinpoint what comp actually looks like on any consistent level. Once one gets past elders and pastors (Catholics would then be comps too if that’s the measuring stick) it become merely, in my view, much about talk and labels. I’d like to see Piper and OT Deborah work this out together …now that would be interesting!

Me to Jason Warner: yes, I agree. Comp theology always made sense to me….until it didn’t anymore.

And then Steve got back to me.

Steve Hulbert: So you don’t have an answer to my point then.

Please don’t spam this page with questionable links.

Does Steve run the Desiring God page?  Did he even open the link?  Marg Mowzcko’s blog is a highly rated Bible scholarship website.

Got these lovely comments next:

Julie Castin Cordeiro: praise the Lord!!! I am getting a master in theology…my husband is a 3year convert. God has called me to ministry not him.

Ruth dont waste your time…God has called you be happy and submit to His calling. If these who object you can prove your gifts are from the devil, then ok…otherwise praise the Lord and serve . And by the way ridiculous those who compare your quiet time with the Lord with Mohammed…like they never read and heard God speak!!!

Rosie Turner: Thank you for sharing Ruth, I agree with you 100% and it is encouraging to hear your voice on this thread and after reading such an upsetting article from DG. Thank you.

And these not-so-nice comments:

Darnell Turner: That was Satan not God.

Joye Stewart: Sorry but I don’t buy into that Ruth. You’re forgetting your place. Whenever someone says God spoke to them I always cringe. The devil is a liar. The best lies are the ones that are mix: ed with a little truth. It doesn’t say that you should be a doormat in the Bible but you are not equal with men and you’re not to have authority over them. You’re making up your own gospel to suit your fleshly desires. The devil was proud and wanted to be equal too, he wanted to be God and he was cast down for his rebellion. The devil spoke to Eve and she ignored Gods instruction seems like a mistake a lot of women nowadays are making.

Steve likes Joye’s comments.

Had the conversation with myself again, “What are you doing here?  Walk away!”

Didn’t listen.  Things went downhill quickly from here.

To Steve Hulbert: Walt Kaiser was the president of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, where Tim Keller went. Not a scholar to dismiss, someone to engage with and consider. I got the feeling that you were trying to find the weakest argument in his article that you could defeat and I am not interested in debate. I find that debate is not a fruitful endeavor when both sides are in defense mode rather than listening to understand. My primary beef with the original article by John Piper was that he was maligning egalitarians to complementarians who are eager to agree. If you really believe male headship will stand the test of time, you can defend it without tearing down your “enemies,” who are actually part of the Church. I shared another article on the passage you asked about because if you want to understand egalitarian theology, an actual theologian will explain it better than I can.

To Joye Stewart: Paul said that Adam was the one who sinned. Both sinned, both were punished, and that is where hierarchy among gender began. In the Creation story, God told both Adam and Eve to rule over Creation. The Hebrew “ezer kenegdo” that is translated “suitable helper” literally means “corresponding strength.” God is repeatedly our “ezer” throughout the Bible, swooping in to “help” God’s people in battle, and is in no way subordinate to us. “Kenegdo” connotes equality, partnership. Together, men and women are a strong, dynamic duo. No gender hierarchy in God’s original design. Makes sense that God would give Adam a partner rather than an assistant for the big task of ruling Creation. Two heads are better than one, it’s not good to be unequally yoked, etc.

Steve Hulbert: I didn’t look for a weak argument. I found one on the first page.

Sarah Allen: And yet, in Britain there are women in the role of prime minister and head of police, there are women working as judges, police officers, CEOs, university lectures… everywhere there are women in positions of authority; instructing, guiding and managing the lives of men and other women. Why can equality not translate to the church?

Me to Steve Hulbert: Ok, I respect your pov. We probably aren’t going to change each others minds but I appreciate your gentlemanly engagement.

Steve Hulbert: “Why can the church not be more like the world”

I wish every egalitarian would be so honest

Me to Steve Hulbert: patriarchy is the way of the world. Although the tide is shifting towards equality in some cultures, we aren’t there. It would be nice if the Church were leading the way, as the early Church did in elevating the status of women.

Steve Hulbert: Ruth I feel rather nauseous hearing you talk about something God has clearly instituted as “the world’s way”. I think perhaps we should quit while we’re behind.

Steve Hulbert: It grieves me that godly submission is being misunderstood and resisted in the church as in the world. God led me to start taking a submissive attitude to my father and it’s been a challenge as I’ve always liked to think I know better than him. But it’s a game changer in terms of how God is able to bless you. Submission is so much at the heart of God’s way of life that you forfeit your blessings in a huge way by not embracing it. Joye will probably tell you precisely that if you listen instead of arguing. Feminism is of the enemy. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and that’s what feminist is. I’ve had to learn to put aside the MRA stuff and the bitterness it engenders which is fine for the world but not fit for God’s people. You’ll be misled into thinking feminism is better and it’s not. Entitlement culture is not God’s culture. Grasping for equality is the antithesis of Christlikeness. In fact making sinners feel or appear equal has never been a biblical concern or slavery would have been prohibited.

Since I was making Steve nauseous with my argumentativeness, I let him have the last word and will leave things at that.  I realize that I don’t have to attend every argument I am invited to, but it is a fine line figuring out when you are having a fruitful conversation and when things are becoming toxic.  It’s not every day that I get compared to Mohamed and John Smith, get called entitled, bitter, grasping.  I reject those words.

This comment thread was also a good reminder to me to watch my words so that I do not do this to others.  It is tough to oppose a doctrine that I believe is inherently abusive without demeaning those who hold to it.  How else can you describe a system that subjugates some under the authority of others due to one factor alone: gender?  Not spiritual maturity, callings or gifts.  Gender.  GENITALIA.

Hierarchy in the Church sidelines the majority and celebrates the ministry of the few, the John Pipers.  Their words have authority and power while others, who also have a relationship with God and have the power of the Holy Spirit within them, are powerless in the Church.  It is not just women but also most men who find their God-given authority and gifts unused and unvalued in hierarchical churches.

We must also consider the epidemic of domestic violence and emotional abuse in the Church.  Or the epidemic of gender violence, rape culture, sexism, FGM and femicide, financial inequality, objectification and sex slavery, etc., in our world.  Let the Church be a force for the empowerment and honoring of women and girls!  Let us heal the brokenness that patriarchy has brought to the world since the Fall!

Typing conversations is hard.  It is easy to misunderstand and hear unintended tones.  The moral of this story should be, love one another, give one another the benefit of the doubt, and if your gut is telling you to walk away, listen! 😉


Here’s a link to the comment thread on FB if you’d like to see how it has devolved since I posted this article.

Don’t miss this book sale!

17796847_10155246093601473_4651034078428381506_nChristians for Biblical Equality has slashed prices on egalitarian books in their online shop.  Most are at least half off, and many are as low as $2 or $4!  There are also several titles available in Spanish, Creole, Arabic, and other languages.  Stock your library while you can get a bargain!  And don’t forget to add the free Journals to your cart.

CLICK HERE FOR CBE’S SALE

Happy shopping. You’re welcome. 🙂

R.C. Sproul on The Role of Man and Woman

I often say that we need to listen to others who are not like us, and in that spirit, I read complementarian articles and I tune in to complementarian sermons on marriage and gender roles.  Having been raised in a comp church tradition, I know the point of view intimately, yet am still surprised every time I hear comp teaching.  The idea of gender roles was once so clear to me, but now I feel as though scales have fallen off my eyes.  I can see how my socialization in patriarchy led me to read the Bible through that lens and to accept these kinds of sermons as being Good News.

rc sproulLast week, I listened to a sermon on gender roles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, a Calvinist pastor and Reformed theologian, author of more than 60 books, and the founder of Ligonier Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons around the world. This is a theologian with a lot of influence within Christianity, so I believe it is worthwhile to test his teachings.  The Apostle Paul told us to follow Jesus and not this preacher or that preacher, because it is human nature to adopt a favorite minister and tune into their voice religiously and not balance their influence with diverse voices.  It takes diligence to wrestle with differing perspectives, panning for the nuggets of truth.  There is no perfect teacher besides Jesus – we are all prone to error.  And ideas have consequences. Compelementarian theology has consequences that often endanger women. 

For example, Dr. Sproul’s son, R.C. Sproul, Jr., was a Calvinist minister and advocate of Christian patriarchy, even rumored to have practiced “wife spanking”.  He was found to be subscribed to Ashley Madison when that scandal broke several years ago.  Their motto was, “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  There is a slippery slope between “purity culture” and the sex industry.  Patriarchy objectifies women.  Period.  I am not sure if there is an official connection between the Sprouls and the puritanical Head Covering Movement, but there is obvious respect for their voices in that community, as these memes suggest.

Below, I am offering egalitarian rebuttals to Dr. Sproul’s sermon, point by point.  I am doing this to explain the egalitarian point of view that Dr. Sproul misrepresents for those who may be in the midst of a shift away from complementarianism.  It is when we are in a period of transition that we are most open to new ideas, which is a truly humble stance. Otherwise, we respond to new ideas by becoming defensive, even more locked into our ideology.  This is the power of confirmation bias – we dismiss information that contradicts what we already believe, and give extra weight to information that supports our ideas. Let’s bear this in mind as we pan for God’s Good News on the topic of gender roles.


Here is the sermon description from the “Renewing Your Mind” website:

In an age when the women’s liberation movement has reached all corners of society, the concept of a woman submitting to the authority of a man finds disdain. Now, more often than not, there is misunderstanding of the roles men and women have in marriage. Dr. Sproul looks at the issue in this message entitled “The Role of Man and Woman.”

Formerly, I would have read this statement and pictured  a sinister darkness spreading across a map.  In actuality, the women’s liberation movement was initiated by Christians who were offended by the marginalization and abuse of women and children by patriarchal society.  (I once responded to the assertion that feminism is devoid of God here.)  Going even further back, women flocked to the early Church because they were treated as equals there.  I challenge you to reread the New Testament, being attentive to the stories of women prophesying, preaching, teaching, and there was even a female Apostle, named Junia. “Celsus, a 2nd-century detractor of the faith, once taunted that the church attracted only ‘the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children.’ His contemporary, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, acknowledged in his Testimonia that ‘Christian maidens were very numerous’ and that it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. These comments give us a picture of a church disproportionately populated by women.” [source]

The sermon was broadcast on February 20th, 2017 on the Renewing Your Mind program:
The Role of Man and Woman – Dr. R. C. Sproul

I thought this was a current sermon, but I found a video which places it decades ago:

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/p/1916491/sp/191649100/embedIframeJs/uiconf_id/29017082/partner_id/1916491?iframeembed=true&playerId=kaltura-player1&entry_id=1_arw4a6jd&flashvars%5BstreamerType%5D=auto

Dr. Sproul is preaching on Paul’s household codes of Ephesians 5.  I was happy to hear Dr. Sproul begin in verse 21, as most complementarian teachings on this passage begin in verse 22 after the heading. In the original letter, there were no chapters, verse numbers or headings separating topics.  Paul had been talking about how Christians are to walk out their faith in their day to day life, and in verse 21 tells everyone to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, then continues the sentence to say, “wives, to your husbands” like this, and husbands, like this.  “Wives, submit to your husbands” does not exist in the original Greek.  “Submit” occurs in verse 21 and applies to both the husband and the wife. I recommend reading Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Submission in Context: Christ and the Greco-Roman Household Codes.”

Dr. Sproul calls the idea of mutual submission an “exegesis of despair” without any explanation of what he means.  I have searched and cannot find this term anywhere.  Who despairs under mutual submission?  If you start Googling, you will find many women despairing under legalistic, authoritarian gender roles. Start at A Cry for Justice and Spiritual Sounding Board or this post from Diary of an Autodidact on why complementarians cannot actually condemn spousal abuse.

Dr. Sproul goes on to say that you would have to apply the idea of mutual submission across the entire passage, causing confusion and disorder.  You would have to say that parents must submit to children, and that Christ is the head of the Church just as the Church is the head of Christ.  My response to these assertions:

brene brown parenting

I love Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

First, I believe that reading the Bible with an authoritarian view (complementarianism is all about a hierarchy of authority) leads parents to, mostly unintentionally, teach their children conditional, strings-attached love.  This does not resemble God’s love for us.  It has also led to abusive treatment of children. Physical abuse is certainly rampant, but coercive control of others is abusive and might never be physical. Obedient, docile children are trophies in authoritarian comp cultures, objectified for their behavior. If you teach your children to recite Scripture and play an instrument and never talk back, you will be given honor in your complementarian church. Brene Brown would describe parenting like this as coming from a mentality of scarcity and shame rather than from worthiness and wholeheartedness.  Brennan Manning tells us that God loves us just as we are and not as we should be, because nobody is as they should be.  In this way, egalitarian theology honors children’s individuality, gifts and callings. Egalitarians do not clip their children’s wings by forcing them into prescribed roles that may frustrate them if they are not naturally inclined to fit into those boxes.  We watch our children to see their natural inclinations, we understand that their behavior is tied to their developmental stage and reveals real needs that we can meet.  Yes, correction is needed on a daily basis, but it should be about developing character, honesty, generosity, and kindness, not perfect behavior.  No parent is doing a perfect job (we need grace too!), but our theology deeply impacts how we respond to and guide our children. Young people are fleeing churches nowadays, and I don’t believe that would be the case if the ethos of the culture is worthiness and grace rather than power and control.

Second, Dr. Sproul brings us to the topic of headship.  In our modern context, we read “head” and infer “boss,” “CEO,” “authority.”  This was not the understanding of “head” in ancient times.  We now understand that our brains are in our heads, but then they thought the function of the head was as the place that food entered to nourish the body; it was the source of the fuel to run the machine while the gut was believed to be the seat of knowledge, etc.  In a patriarchal society, the father was the source of financial security for the family except in some cases where a single woman of means ran her own household. Men had nearly all of the privilege, education, financial control, and social power, and Paul is instructing men to care for their disenfranchised wives, to use their privilege for the betterment of his family, just as Jesus gave up his position in heaven to give his life for us. In this way, egalitarians understand “head” to mean “source.” Marg Mowzcko’s blog is full of insightful egalitarian exegesis, and her post on Paul’s use of “headship” is excellent.

“Rather, I think, as the consensus historically of Biblical interpreters has been…”

Yeah, let’s talk about the consensus of Biblical interpreters.  Bob Edwards provides a fascinating overview of the roots of male authority in the church here.  It is no coincidence that patriarchal theologians infused their translations and commentaries with patriarchal thought.  Edwards’ talk includes translation errors by patriarchalists that have influenced complementarian teaching.  In our post, “Quoting the Founding Fathers of Complementarian Theology,” we list some examples of sexist quotes by Augustine, Calvin, and others.  For example:

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.” (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153)

Next, Dr. Sproul says that he sees women raging about Paul’s teaching as being chauvinistic and arrogant.  He says that all authority was given to Christ, then Christ gives that authority to his apostles.  This is the law of God.  What is so controversial, Dr. Sproul asks?  Women are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, so why not to their husbands in the same way?  Dr. Sproul says that God has given a significant level of authority to husbands as the heads of the home.  If a woman resists her husband’s authority, he says she is resisting God.

Again, this comes down to different interpretations on the meaning of headship. Complementarians believe headship means “authority” and egalitarians believe headship means “source.”  Yes, Christ has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) and he gives authority to his followers, but that includes Christian women as well as men (Galatians 3:28).  And Jesus is still the ultimate authority.  There is no human that has authority equal to Christ.  In an egalitarian marriage, the husband and the wife submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and Christ alone is the final authority.  Both are always seeking to honor Christ and follow Christ faithfully as the true leader of the family.

Dr. Sproul goes on to clarify that women do not have to submit if their husband is asking them to disobey the final authority of God on a subject.  If a husband tells his wife to prostitute herself, she doesn’t have to obey.  If a husband tells her to stop going to church, she should disobey him on Sundays because God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy, but she doesn’t need to go to the Wednesday night service.  I would say that a Christian husband should not be controlling the freedom of his wife. Living in the mystery of oneness does not necessitate losing any aspect of your God-given identity.  I do appreciate Dr. Sproul’s distinction here though, as I’ve read other complementarians who say women should never disobey their husbands.

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Run away from this book!!

For instance, Elizabeth Rice Handford has said a woman should never voice her opinion to her husband unless he asks for it, and she should have an abortion, participate in sexual activities that she does not want to do and tolerate physical abuse even to the point of death if that is how her “head” directs her (in her book, “Me? Obey Him?“).

Dr. Sproul tries to lighten the burden of his teaching to women by pointing out God’s sense of humor in the translation of “submit to your own husband,” the Greek word idion being the root of “idiosyncrasy” and also “idiot.”  He offers this loose translation: “Wives, submit yourselves to your idiot husbands.”  Again, I say submit is absent from verse 22, so the Bible never says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”  Second, I understand his point is to say that men are not superior to women, but I don’t believe it is ever appropriate to make gendered jokes, period.  It is not OK to make fun of men or women from the pulpit, not to mention that this is not a true translation of Paul’s meaning.  Egalitarianism avoids stereotyping of men and women, leaving space for both to become their best selves apart from socialized gender expectations.  Many men do not feel freedom to live emotionally healthy, sensitive lives because complementarian culture rewards toxic masculinity and machismo.

Next, Dr. Sproul decries the 50/50 myth of marriage, saying “I can’t think of anything worse.”

umbrella-graphic-by-amber-dann-picottaEgalitarians do not teach that marriage requires 50/50 from each spouse.  In fact, we teach 100/100.  Bring your whole self to the marriage–there is room for two callings and two perspectives.  Decisions can be made together in loving, mutual submission.  It isn’t necessary to demote one half of a marriage to assistant status in order to function.  In every other context, we understand that “two heads are better than one” and that iron sharpens iron.  I personally have never witnessed an egalitarian marriage that seemed to be stuck in a “perpetual power struggle to get control,” even though Dr. Sproul believes this is inevitable.  Authoritarians worry about control, not egalitarians.  Egalitarians seek mutual submission to each other and ultimate submission to Christ.  Disagreeing with Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of marriage roles does not equal “vilifying” a teaching of the Bible.

Dr. Sproul says God settles the “perpetual power struggle” by vesting all authority and leadership in the man, and he doesn’t see this as a privilege as much as it is a “weighty, weighty responsibility.”  Women have been “bleeting” about this interpretation, but they need to understand that subordination never equals inferiority.  The Son is subordinate to the Father, the Spirit to the Son, but none are inferior.

Complementarians see subordination within the Trinity while egalitarians see mutuality. In Marg Mowzcko’s “Seperate Spheres & Distinct Roles in the Trinity and Marriage,” she says,

When Jesus came to earth as a human being, he voluntarily laid aside his divine privileges (Phil. 2:6-8) and became completely dependent on the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power. Jesus submitted to, and obeyed, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians believe that wives are to display this level of dependency, submission, and obedience towards their husbands. However Jesus, in taking human form, had become ontologically inferior and thus, subordinate, to the Father and the Spirit. He was even “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9a). Jesus had temporarily lowered and limited himself by taking human form for a very particular purpose and a vitally important reason: to save the world!

Wives, however, are not ontologically inferior to their husbands. That is, women are not lesser creatures than men. So it is unhealthy for wives to emulate the same degree of dependence and submission towards their husbands that Jesus had towards the Father and Spirit while he was on earth.

After describing women as raging and bleeting about wifely submission/male headship, Dr. Sproul says we should listen to women’s cries and men should not tyrannize their wives. Great.  “But we also need to hear the cries of men” who have five times more nightmares than women and feel tremendous pressure in their role of provider.

I believe egalitarianism does in fact listen to the cries of men.  We see how patriarchy harms men too, how hierarchy privileges a few at the top and tramples on women, children, and most men.  We believe a husband and wife are a team, sharing equally the yoke of responsibility of caring for their family, trusting ultimately in our Great Provider who cares even for the sparrow and the lily in the valley.  Rather than pressuring men to be Providers, Protectors and Priests, churches should encourage us all to surrender our lives and our money to Jesus.  A couple excellent books came out in the last two years addressing the very real plight of men under patriarchy: Man Enough by Nate Pyle and Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James.

Dr. Sproul correctly blames culture for imposing these pressures on men, but does not recognize that it is the culture of patriarchy that he is in fact advancing.  He goes on to explain that it has been like this since the beginning, when woman was created as man’s helpmate.  In the original Hebrew language, Eve is describes as ezer kenegdo, which has been translated (by patriarchalists) as “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18).  In the other instances when ezer appears in the O.T., it is referring to God as a helper to Israel, often in war.  For instance,

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty…Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.” (Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; NIV).

I recommend reading God’s Word to Women’s word study on ezer kenegdo in which they begin,

Usages of ‘ezer in the Old Testament show that in most cases God is an ‘ezer to human beings, which calls to question if the word “helper” is a valid interpretation of ‘ezer in any instance it is used. “Evidence indicates that the word ‘ezer originally had two roots, each beginning with different guttural sounds. One meant “power” and the other “strength.”

And conclude,

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word “mate” slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word “meet,” which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man which comes from the phrase that likely means “equal to.”

What God had intended, then, was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way “correspond to him” or even “be his equal.”

The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a “helper against him.” The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.” This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility

Dr. Sproul says he believes women have the easy role within this complementarian doctrine.  He wishes that “all he had to do was submit.”  At the same time, he recognizes his leadership ability and chooses “precious few” others to follow.

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33We are socialized to associate stereotypical masculine characteristics as leadership qualities, i.e. decisiveness, assertiveness, even lower vocal registers; whereas, the same qualities in a female are not recognized as leadership identifiers.  Girls are in fact socialized away from these qualities.  Again, egalitarians avoid stereotyping.  Each person is an Image bearer imbued with authority since the beginning in the Garden, when God gave both Adam and Eve the command to rule creation (Genesis 1:28).  Singling a few out as leaders and ignoring the gifts and voices of the majority is the common practice of churches but this does not best advance the Kingdom.  Throughout the New Testament, the message is to submit to one another, to consider others greater than yourself, to avoid lording authority over others but to become a servant of all. Serving others involves giving others opportunities to use their gifts and to follow God’s calling on their life, and having the humility to follow others.  We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Dr. Sproul says that having a husband that loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, who is willing to give his life for his wife, liberates women.  Jesus never exploits, tyrannizes, abuses or batters his Bride.  Amen to that, but would Dr. Sproul feel liberated if he was never given opportunities to follow his call to ministry?  He then says that in living out “your own part” of the passage, things naturally work out – if husbands love their wives, wives submit; if wives submit, husbands love their wives.  Then he says something I find particularly dangerous and offensive: “I think if she dedicated herself to being a helpmate, that would be returned with sacrificial love and she would never be tyrannized.”

Patriarchy fuels abuse, and our churches are steeped in a silent epidemic of hurting, hopeless women.  I believe awareness is growing, through the work of Leslie Vernick and Boz Tchividjian and many others, but pastors have been remarkably ignorant of the plight of many women in their congregations.  Dr. Sproul is placing a millstone around the necks of victims of abuse, blaming them for their own victimization.

Divorce is the ultimate evil in many churches, and when women seek advice about controlling and abusive husbands in complementarian churches, pastors frequently direct them to stop complaining about their husbands and start submitting more, essentially silencing them so that they do not ask for help again until they are in real danger.  Gary Thomas posted a powerful article about this, “Enough is Enough” that has gone viral.  We shared a Facebook post from Naghmeh Abedini exhorting the Church to face the epidemic of domestic abuse, along with several resources for victims here.

One way for a woman’s voice to find a platform in complementarianism is for that woman to tell other women to make themselves small.  Dr. Sproul gives a shout out to a “woman who understands men,” Marabel Morgan who wrote “The Total Woman.”  In this book, which is written with advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy and faithful (as though that is a wife’s responsibility), she says, “Women, here’s a secret. Your husbands don’t want your advice.  They want your admiration.”  Dr. Sproul points out that men have fragile egos, and that may very well be true for a man who is saddled with dangerous messages about masculinity and manhood, not only from our sexist, patriarchal society at large but also from his spiritual leaders in churches touting complementarian theology of gender roles.

Dr. Sproul wraps up by saying that “this isn’t a battle, this isn’t a competition for authority.  This is that place God created where the two become one flesh.  Paul goes on, this is the mystery.  My job is to nourish her.  In that, Christ is honored and marriages are made whole.”

safe_imageAs an egalitarian, I believe that Christ is honored when we love one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  I disagree that God has given husbands alone authority over their families and men alone authority over the Church, not because I rage or bleet against teachings on submission but because following Jesus with integrity means obeying him, and he has never told me to not use my God-given authority for the sake of the Kingdom.  In fact, I believe I would dishonor Christ by living in the box that complementarians give to women, and I do not want my husband to live in the box that complementarians give to men.


Sheesh, that was long!  Thanks for hanging in there to the end!  Kate Wallace wrote a beautiful poem, They gave me a box, that you will love.  If you belong to a tradition that teaches gender roles, I pray that you find freedom in Christ to live out your true identity and calling.  You are a gift to the world and God has prepared good works for you to do.  God bless!

Oh, and you can find us on Facebook if you’d like to read all the links we find from around the web concerning gender equality in the Church.