Tag Archives: gender equality

Michael Kimmel: Why gender equality is good for everyone – even men

Filmed at TEDWomen 2015, sociologist Michael Kimmel made a strong, and often funny, case for gender equality.  I encourage you to watch these sixteen minutes and then share with others.  I’m transcribing my favorite quotes below:

“That’s how privilege works. Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

“White men in Europe and the United States are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called ‘the history of the world.'”

“Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity. So the question I’m often asked in companies is, ‘Boy, this gender equality thing, that’s really going to be expensive, huh?’ And I say, ‘Oh no, in fact, what you have to start calculating is how much gender inequality is already costing you. It is extremely expensive.'”

“It turns out that the more egalitarian our relationships, the happier both partners are. Data from psychologists and sociologists are quite persuasive here. I think we have the persuasive numbers, the data, to prove to men that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win. Here’s what the data show. Now, when men begin the process of engaging with balancing work and family, we often have two phrases that we use to describe what we do. We pitch in and we help out.  And I’m going to propose something a little bit more radical, one word: ‘share.’

“Because here’s what the data show: when men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. Their children have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement. They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. They are less likely to see a child psychiatrist. They are less likely to be put on medication.  So when men share housework and childcare, their children are happier and healthier, and men want this.

“When men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier. Duh. Not only that, their wives are healthier. Their wives are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be put on medication, more likely to go to the gym, report higher levels of marital satisfaction. So when men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier and healthier, and men certainly want this as well.

“When men share housework and childcare, the men are healthier. They smoke less, drink less, take recreational drugs less often. They are less likely to go to the ER but more like to go to a doctor for routine screenings. They are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be taking prescription medication. So when men share housework and childcare, the men are happier and healthier. And who wouldn’t want that?

“And finally, when men share housework and childcare, they have more sex.”

So, what we found is something really important, that gender equality is in the interest of countries, of companies, and of men, and their children and their partners, that gender equality is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a win-lose. It is a win-win for everyone. And what we also know is we cannot fully empower women and girls unless we engage boys and men. We know this. And my position is that men need the very things that women have identified that they need to live the lives they say they want to live in order to live the lives that we say we want to live.”

In 1915, on the eve of one of the great suffrage demonstrations down Fifth Avenue in New York City, a writer in New York wrote an article in a magazine, and the title of the article was,Feminism for Men.’  And this was the first line of that article:Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.'”


Thanks for watching this video!  We have more great resources throughout our blog and Facebook page for learning about gender equality.  Unlike this TedTalk, most of the resources we share come from a Christian perspective.  But Kimmel’s message applies to the Church as well.  Gender equality in Christian families and ministry is good for men too.  The Gospel is not tarnished by treating women as equals and giving women equal opportunities in ministry.  In fact, the Church’s patriarchal stance is a stain on the Gospel.

The Beauty of Womanhood

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Desiring God has a new post on their blog today written by Abigail Dodds on “The Beauty of Womanhood” (I am curious to know what percentage of their blog posts are on “biblical manhood and womanhood”?).  Dodds’ writing is lovely but her description of ideal womanhood is a one-dimensional picture of privilege that diminishes the beauty of women who do not fit the complementarian mold, and is also disparaging of men who practice gender equity.  Rather than celebrating the multi-faceted, diverse beauty that exists in global expressions of womankind, Dodds places middle- to upper-class 1950’s-esque Westerners on a pedestal of “blinding beauty.”  I am certain that her intent was not to be unkind or dehumanising to others, but that is essentially what occurs when fundamentalists create firm boundaries around what a woman or man may or may not do.  Those who do not conform are less-than, or in Dodds’ words, “grotesque.”

Dodds describes a woman’s influence as “found primarily in the soil of the home,” and glorious feminine beauty as being found in a woman “who presides over her domain with strong arms and resourcefulness (Proverbs 31); daughters that are corner pillars, whose strong support could only be matched by their exquisiteness (Psalm 144:12).”  Dodds suggests that it is our culture (liberalism!  feminism!  egads!) that draws women away from the home to run on a treadmill of expectations in pursuit of rewards “that don’t require diapering.”  Let’s not mention the treadmill of expectations that come with complementarianism!

 

And what does it offer in return? Women who strive against themselves, at war with the seeming redundancy of two X chromosomes, in a competition we were never made for, and in our hearts, don’t really want to win. For when a woman sets herself up alongside a man — as made for the same things and without distinction — the result is not uniformity, but rather, a reverse order. Indeed, in order for her to become like a man, he becomes less and less like one. And that’s something that most women, even the most ardent feminists, recoil at in their heart. Not because femininity is detestable, but because on a man, it is grotesque.

But wait, there is more!  Dodds says that women who “forsake our feminine glory in pursuit of the uniqueness that belongs to men…become usurpers, persistently insisting that our uterus and biology are equal to nothing, irrelevant.”  Women are meant to “make good men great.”  We mimic our Savior by submitting to another’s will (many complementarians believe in the heretical doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son.  I don’t know if that is what Dodds is referring to here, but I wonder if women are to mimic our Savior by submitting, what are men to do?).

God’s design outlined in the Scriptures is a vision for womanhood that is not just right and to be obeyed, it is experientially better than all the world has to offer. And it doesn’t just apply those who are married or mothers. Single women of any age are meant for full godly womanhood. To be a mother in the deepest sense — that is, spiritually — nurturing and growing all God’s given her.

Complementarians will often say that living a patriarchal life is the most wonderful way to live, without truly listening to non-complmentarians about their life experiences or to complementarian women who suffer in their subjugation (read this! and this!).  It is a black and white issue for them and anyone who believes differently has been influenced by “the world” and could not possibly have acceptable reverence for God’s Word which clearly subordinates women.  I do not know Abigail Dodds personally, but methinks she may not have any direct experience living outside of a complementarian context.  I would guess that she was raised in a patriarchal culture and socialized to see the world through a patriarchal lens.  It makes sense to her, she has a great marriage and a lovely faith community (with male leadership, of course), and she wants others to live as well as she does.  Staying home is financially possible for her family and she does not recognize that this is not the case for most families, that this is privilege and not biblical womanhood.  Her motivation for writing a piece like this is commendable and her heart is pure, but frankly, complementarianism’s rigid gender roles limit both men and women from exercising their full humanity and spirituality and from mutual flourishing.

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I myself fit Dodds’ description of “blinding beauty” for most of my life.  Complementarianism is all that I ever knew and I believed it 100%.   Six years ago, while I was still complementarian, God spoke to me clear as day, calling me to pastoral ministry.  I was blown away.  I knew without a doubt that I had heard directly from God but his call directly contradicted my patriarchal world-view.  That day, the chapel dean from my college days posted a link to “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Ministry” on Facebook, so I ordered it and began my journey to egalitarianism.  For six years, I have been reading on a nearly daily basis from scholarly works defending egalitarianism (e.g. this one or this one) and articles depicting the plight of women living in patriarchal cultures (like this one).  I post what I am reading to The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors FB page. Listening, listening, listening.  Learning to pay attention to the least of these, who have no privilege and power, describe the consequences of patriarchy in their life.  An article like Dodds’ seems benign until you consider it in the larger context of the suffering of women and girls around the world.  President Jimmy Carter’s book, “A Call to Action,” is an excellent place to begin acknowledging the plight of disenfranchised and powerless women.  In my review of his book, I said,

President Carter’s book is a “call to action” to reverse the widespread gender violence that is a result of patriarchal systems that devalue women, an epidemic touching every nation.  He makes a case that denying women equal rights has a devastating effect on economic prosperity and causes unconscionable human suffering that affects us all.

The world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights…Women are deprived of equal opportunity in wealthier nations and “owned” by men in others, forced to suffer servitude, child marriage, and genital cutting.  The most vulnerable, along with their children, are trapped in war and violence…A Call to Action addresses the suffering inflicted upon women by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare.  Key verses are often omitted or quoted out of context by male religious leaders to exalt the status of men and exclude women.  And in nations that accept or even glorify violence, this perceived inequality becomes the basis for abuse. [dust-jacket description]

So what do I believe is beautiful about women?  The Imago Dei in them.  By that alone they are astoundingly, blindingly beautiful.  Is it grotesque when my husband diapers the children or supports my work and ministry life?  Not at all.  His love for me and our family is astoundingly, blindingly beautiful.  Our mutual love and submission to each other is what I would wish for other marriages.

You know what I think is grotesque?  Pharisaical, prescribed gender roles.


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Egalitarians on Twitter using #CBMW16

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood just wrapped up their T4G (Together 4 the Gospel) conference yesterday.  The conference was headlined by prominent Evangelical pastors and there was a separate women’s conference headlined by prominent complementarian women.  The theme was “The Beauty of Complementarity” and sessions included “God’s Design for Women,” “Bound for Life: Following Your Husband Through Life’s Challenges,” “Raising Godly Sons,” “Fitted for Flourishing: How the Bible Creates a Happy Home,” “Workers at Home: The Temptation to be ‘Mom Plus,'” etc.  According to CBMW, their hashtag #CBMW16 was used 2.4 million times throughout the conference, as attendees live-tweeted quotes and reflections…

…and as egalitarians responded with challenges to complementarian theology.  I am sure it was frustrating to the CBMW that they could not control the Twitter-sphere the way they could control the mic at their patriarchal conference.  Here are some of my favorite egalitarian tweets:

 


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Was Jesus Really a Complementarian???

In an article published today on The Gospel Coalition, Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in Michigan, writes that Jesus was simultaneously pro-woman and complementarian¹.  He shares a long and beautiful list of interactions that Jesus had with women throughout his life and ministry, and then points to Jesus’ 12 male disciples as the proof that although women were of equal value to Jesus, he reserved leadership for men and was therefore complementarian (i.e. traditional, hierarchical, or patriarchal).  TGC is almost synonymous with complementarianism, posting regularly on God’s design for gender roles, even positioning gender roles as a critical part of the Gospel – generally understood to be the Good News that Jesus came to restore his creation and redeem us to right relationship with God…and to our gender roles for all eternity?   

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I certainly agree with DeYoung that Jesus’ interactions with women were revolutionary.  It is often these same interactions that plant a seed of doubt in the mind of complementarians who come around to an egalitarian² theology.  If this is how Jesus treated women at a time when Jewish men daily were thanking God that he did not make them women, why do our churches treat them any differently?

In “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”, DeYoung says,

Out of a cultural background that minimized the dignity of women and even depersonalized them, Jesus boldly affirmed their worth and gladly benefited from their vital ministry. He made the unusual practice of speaking freely to women, and in public no less (John 4:27; 8:10–11; Luke 7:12–13). He also frequently ministered to the needs of hurting women, like Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30–31), the woman bent over for 18 years (Luke 13:10–17), the bleeding woman (Matt. 9:20–22), and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24–30).

Jesus not only ministered to women, he allowed women to minister to him. Women anointed Jesus and he warmly received their service (Matt. 26:6–13; Luke 7:36–50). Some women helped Jesus’s ministry financially (Luke 8:2–3), while others offered hospitality (Luke 10:40; John 12:2). A number of women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Mary and Martha—are mentioned by name in the Gospels, indicating their important place in Jesus’s ministry. Many women were among Jesus’s band of disciples. And perhaps most significantly, women were the first witnesses to the resurrection (Matt. 28:5–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:2–9; John 20:1–2).

DeYoung could elaborate on his mention of John 4 – the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, who Jesus ministered to despite cultural taboos (and even contradictory to the much-followed complementarian “Billy Graham Rule” of never being alone with a woman), who then went into her city as the first missionary, converting many.

He could mention that Jesus submitted, at somewhere around 30 years old, to his mother’s wish that he turn water into wine at the wedding at Cana, his first miracle.

love that women were the financial backers of Jesus’ ministry.  There is no mention in the Bible of any men doing so.  Complementarians generally assign finances to the role of males, as a source of power and authority that transcends the domestic duties of women.

At a time when women were not eligible to give witness in a court of law because of their lowly status and questionable ability in the eyes of the patriarchal culture, Jesus first appeared to women at his resurrection.  Let that sink in.  If women are not to teach men, as complementarians believe that teaching is a form of authority, and women are not to have authority over men, should they have gone back to the 12 grown men and told them, or held the Good News under their hat until Jesus spoke directly to the men who could then spread the Good News to others?

DeYoung goes on to say,

Underlying Jesus’s ministry was the radical assumption that women have enormous value and purpose. The clearest example is his mother Mary, who’s called highly favored in Luke 1:28. Moreover, Jesus used women as illustrations in his teaching, mentioning the queen of the south (Matt. 12:42), the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26), women at the second coming (Matt. 24:41), and the woman in search of her lost coin (Luke 15:8–10). He held up the persistent widow as an example of prayerfulness (Luke 18:1–5), and the poor widow’s offering as an example of generosity (Luke 21:1–4).

Jesus addressed women tenderly as “daughters of Abraham,” placing them on the same spiritual plane as men (Luke 13:16). His teaching on divorce treated women as persons, not mere property (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and his instruction about lust protected women from being treated as nothing more than objects of sexual desire (Matt. 5:28). And in a time where female learning was suspect, Jesus made a point to teach women on numerous occasions (Luke 10:38–4223:27–31; John 11:20ff).

I would elaborate on the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10, in which Jesus insisted that Mary sit at his feet alongside his male disciples, learning from him rather than serving them in her subordinate female station–which was inconsistent with what DeYoung calls “God’s original design for role distinctions”.  If it was better for Mary to sit at the feet of her teacher, in the posture of a disciple, is it not better for women today to pursue their callings in the Kingdom of God than it is to remain in supportive roles, always deferring to and serving the men?

DeYoung was doing well until this point in his article.  While acknowledging that Jesus’ treatment of women was revolutionary in his patriarchal culture, he veers off course with his assertion that Jesus’ selection of an “all-male apostolic leadership” points to complimentarianism.

First of all, if Jesus is being consistent with God’s original design for male and female roles, it is important to point out that gender roles as expressed by complementarian theology were not present in humanity before the Fall.

Complementarians say that because God made Adam first, he intended that Adam would be the leader.  But Adam was not made first.  The animals were!

When God went to make an ezer kenegdo for Adam, which is often translated “suitable helper”, he was making an equal partner to yoke with Adam.  A truer translation renders ezer kenegdo “corresponding strength.”  It is not preferable to be unequally yoked in marriage, with one spouse carrying a greater load than the other.  In most appearances of the word ezer  in the OT, it is referring to God or to a warrior in battle.  Certainly not an image of domestic servitude!

When God fashioned Eve out of Adam, he declared that she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, meaning she was the same.  None of this “weaker sex” talk here.  Women are made of tough stuff!

And God did not give Adam alone authority over creation.  The mandate to be fruitful and multiply and rule the earth was given to both Adam and Eve.  We do not see a brokenness in male and female equality and partnership until sin entered the picture.

Second of all, pointing to the fact that the twelve disciples were male does not prove that Jesus would have withheld positions of authority from women for all time.  Jesus also chose only Jewish, middle-aged men.  Are Gentiles, slaves, and elderly or young people also excluded from church leadership?

There was symbolism behind Jesus choosing his original twelve disciples, pointing to the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel and the coming of their long-awaited Messiah.  These twelve were then titled apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven, but others were also later called apostles, including Paul and a woman named Junia.  The prophesied Messiah had come, and another prophecy from Joel 2:28 was also fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and landed on all who were gathered together waiting – both men and women – and they all began to prophecy.  With God’s Spirit in each of us, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (Galations 3:28).  We are all one in Christ and equally equipped to serve God’s Kingdom.

How is complementarian theology practiced in most churches?  When looking for leaders, half of the church is immediately disqualified because of their genitalia.  From there leaders are chosen.  It boggles the mind to see spiritually mature and qualified women barred from using their gifts for the Kingdom of God, while our culture has progressed to a place where women are able to lead in secular organizations to the great benefit of all!

God became flesh in a patriarchal world where leadership was not accessible to women.  But in the early days of the Church women played pivotal roles as leaders.  Christianity can be credited with progressing the equality of women throughout culture at large.  And so it is ironic and sad that hierarchical Christianity today is a leading force in subjugating women.  Complementarianism may seem benign to many who have not examined their life-long assumptions about gender roles, but to those of us who have been exposed to the plight of abused and marginalized women around the world and in our own backyards, we are horrified that the Church is not stepping up to honor women in the same revolutionary way that Jesus did in his day.


¹Wikipedia: “Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere…For some Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the Church.  Complementarianism assigns primary leadership roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages from a Complementarian perspective. One of its precepts is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.”

²Wikipedia: “Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God’s sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This view does not just apply to gender, but to religion, skin colour and any other differences between individuals. It does not imply that all have equal skills, abilities, interests, or physiological or genetic traits. Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ; have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.”


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January Link-Up

Here are the best of the best articles dealing with gender issues within Christianity that we have shared on our Facebook page this month.  I had to narrow it down to the posts that we marked with either “Fantastic!” or “Excellent!”.  If you want more, check our FB feed.  Happy reading!  🙂

The Junia Project – “No Representation and No Invitation: To Be Asked the Question”

At the end of the day, we simply want this: to be asked the question.

Rather than ushering us off to the nursery before learning that we have absolutely zero knack with or passion for children, or assuming our appropriate role is on the coffee or hospitality team before realizing that we can’t even boil water; ask us the appropriate questions before stuffing us into a mold that quite frankly doesn’t fit.

The questions are simple:

“What are your God-given, Spirit-breathed gifts?”
“What makes you come alive?”
“How can your great gifts meet a great need within the body and broader community?”

And then, perhaps even more importantly:

“What can we do to equip you, as an image bearer, to fulfill your calling; to optimize your gifts for the sake of the Kingdom? “

You can join The Junia Project on Saturday, February 14th for a half-day conference to celebrate women in leadership!  Check it out here.

Christianity Today – “My First Sexuality Sermon”

So maybe it’s time for a woman’s take on sexuality from the pulpit. But what should that be? Is it my place to talk about pornography to the men in my congregation? I’m not sure I feel comfortable with that. Or maybe it’s time to add a woman’s perspective? There have been voices lately that have introduced the possibility that lust is not unique to men. And pornography is not only viewed by men. So is it my task to admit to my own desires in this Sex Sermon? Male preachers have received a lot of flak lately for calling their wives “hot.” The complaint was over the sexualization of their wives and the way it made other women in the congregation feel. If I stood before my congregation and called my husband “hot,” the problem might be a little different. Regardless of how a woman looks, for a woman to be sexually interested is for a woman to be sexually interesting. As a pastor, I work very hard to be publicly sexually uninteresting.

CBE International – “A Partner, Not a Patriarch:  10 Types of Men to Marry”

Seems like every few days, the Christian blogosphere produces a new article on the 5, 7, or 10 people Christians should avoid marrying. Some lists are great, but others are patriarchal beyond the point of absurdity. So my husband, Tim, and I made our own list.

If you’re a woman looking for a partner, not a patriarch, here are some men to look for…

1.       Nobody

Jesus wasn’t married. Why should you be? Single Christian women have been changing the world for millennia!  ….

Rachel Heston Davis – “Strachan’s views on male leadership: It’s all about the women!  No, really!”

So women flourish in this system because their husbands engage in self-sacrifice, bless them, treat them gently, and die to their own wishes to benefit them.

You know what? None of that sounds particularly bad. And it seems accurate when held up against Ephesians 5:28, which tells husbands to “love their wives just as they love their own bodies.” Sounds like a prioritization of women’s needs to me.

But if you could pick a word to sum all that up, what would it be? Servanthood? Caring? Sacrifice?

Yet the word complementarians always, always, always return to, is “leadership.” Strachan says that men who don’t understand this system aren’t “virtuous leader[s].” The blog and Twitter posts he referenced from Gavin Peacock define complementarianism as husband “leader”ship in no uncertain terms.

Behance – “7 Ways to Combat Manterrupting”

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Fast Company – “How We Can Help Young Girls Stay Assertive”

Girls lose their voice for a variety of reasons—it’s mostly because of their self-esteem and is culture-based, says Martha Mendez-Baldwin, a psychologist who specializes in child and adolescent behavior, and an assistant professor of psychology at Manhattan College. Navigating the world between being children and women leave them unsure of how to act. When that uncertainty is met, combined with the pressure to fit in with peers and high expectations of parents, girls are often reluctant to assert themselves, she says.

In addition, girls receive tremendous pressure from society and media to adhere to a feminine role, says Linda Hoke-Sinex, a senior lecturer in the department of psychology and brain sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The message is to be passive and nice—that it’s preferable to keep the peace than to speak up with an opinion that might be unpopular.

Nate Pyle – “Seeing a Woman: A conversation between a father and son”

There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into. One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men. The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves. Son, you are better than both of these. A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention. You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being. On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you. You need to be in control of you.

The Junia Project – “They Say the Church is Too Feminine”

Yes, this statement bothers me, because it shows how little we are actually evaluating the situation and because it is offensive, but most importantly it bothers me because  it is completely false.

The Barna Group has been studying Church trends over the last 20 years and they have found that women actually represent the biggest shift away from the Church. They also found that the gap between unchurched men and women is no longer a significant one. “It remains true that churchless people are somewhat more likely to be men than women, but the gap is not huge and has been steadily closing…the gap between men and women has plummeted from 20 points in 2003 to just 8 points currently.” And this is not just in protestant churches. Findings coming out of the Catholic Church do not look much different,according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.

All of this makes me want to ask those who claim that the Church is “too feminine” what churches they are going to. Are men really walking into churches and becoming overwhelmed with female presence? The idea that the church is “too feminine” goes against the majority of my experiences in church. In fact, as I visited churches on three continents over the last 6 years of my life, I have noticed that the majority of those churches presented the same experience to me, and it doesn’t come close to being feminine.

The Junia Project – “5 Reasons Not to Use Gender-Based Jokes in the Pulpit”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention.

Humor is good. So is connecting with your audience by relating to real life experiences.

But there are ways to do that without using gender-based humor.

There are ways to do that that don’t deepen the gender brokenness, further entrench the stereotypes and, possibly, alienate people from the church and from a deeper walk with God.

In the end, we need to be creating meaningful venues where congregations can talk constructively about male/female relationships and partnerships. Maybe a place to start would be the content of this post. Agree? Disagree? Either way, it would be great to host a conversation in your church about it.

The bottom line is that until we figure out ways to take gender seriously in the church, the joke will be on us.

Christianity Today – “What Happens When We See Women Teach the Bible”

Sometimes I wonder how many women in the church have the gift of teaching, but will never use it, or even entertain the possibility of possessing it. When roughly 90 percent of evangelical pastors and 80 percent of evangelical seminarians are men, it can be hard for gifted women to find role models in the church. With such a void, do some women even consider the thought?

As a college student, I was confused about the direction of my call and the place of my gifts. At my church, women mostly occupied administrative positions. Even in my college parachurch organization, we rarely had a woman speak. Given the scarcity of female role models, I wasn’t sure where to turn.

However my life was forever changed when, in my early 20s, I attended the annual Passion conference, a popular worship and teaching gathering founded by pastor Louie Giglio. Beth Mooretook the stage, and though I was only vaguely familiar with her at the time, I won’t ever forget that moment. When she opened up her Bible, she taught the Word like I had never heard a woman teach it before. She spoke with power, competency, conviction, and most of all, anointing. I would never be the same again.

Jesus Was a Feminist – a poem by Robin Merrill

Jesus Was a Feminist
by Robin Merrill
I’m going to tell you a secret:

Jesus was a feminist.

And yes, I know I just ticked somebody off.

I ticked this guy off just by bringing up Jesus (sorry)
and I ticked this guy off by suggesting that Jesus liked girls
(not sorry)

But I don’t believe in beating around the burning bush
and I’m tired of being bossed around by a church
that bears no resemblance to the one of holy design.

You see, I have a daughter now.  And that girl,
she’s a feminist, because nobody’s told her yet that she’s not
supposed to be.

So I bite my thumb at the preacher who told my
twelve-year-old-self
that I was going to hell for playing basketball
in short pants and short hair
with boys.

Because you know what, mister preacher man?
Nowadays we womenfolk can read
and if you open that Bible you’ve been pounding on,
you’ll find a verse that reads
There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free,
neither male nor female,
for we are all one in Christ.

I know, right?  The heresy!
And did you know that the longest conversation
Jesus has in the whole Bible is with a woman?

No sir, I’m guessing you did not know that.

Because you’re too busy telling entire congregations
not to vote for a woman because she can’t be trusted
even though God entrusted a woman to have your
precious baby Jesus
without a single drop of manhood in sight.

And I know I can’t change your mind.
You will keep telling women to obey their abusive husbands
and every time you do, you will push a woman
further away from her higher power.

But as for this woman?  I know that:
It was women who followed Jesus around, sleeping in caves.
It was women who stayed at the cross when the men grew faint.
And it was a woman who returned to find an empty grave.

So this woman is okay with it
if you don’t find me fit
to touch your pulpit
to teach your Sunday school
to lead your choir

’cause this woman
has found her own sanctuary

right here

in the quiet corners
you don’t even know about
where people read and paint and think …

There is more than one way to worship.
There is more than one way to glorify.
And tradition is never as great
as the woman who breaks it.

And I will break it gently.
Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free …
I will break it gently.
With a feminine touch.
I will break it gently.
With faith, hope, and love.


Robin Merrill’s poetry has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor and hundres have appeared in places like Flint Hills Review, Oklahoma Review, Margie, The Café Review, and Stolen Island Review, and she was the 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston.  Visit her website at robinmerrill.com. “Jesus Was a Feminist” was posted here with permission.

Listen to Robin read her poem here.


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Around the Web – Posts on Spanking, Domestic Violence, Patriarchy and More

With the departure of summer, “people from away” are slowly filtering out of Maine and life is balancing out once again for those of us whose livelihood is impacted by the tourism industry.  The last four months have been insanely busy for me and Becky.  There hasn’t been the space in our lives to write, but that will change over this fall and winter.  We look forward to getting back in the swing of blogging and vlogging for you!

I promised to share my Imago Dei presentation from our women’s retreat earlier this month, and I will get to that later this week hopefully.  I am always checking in with my favorite blogs and keeping track of important conversations that are happening, so today I want to share some links with you to posts that have had me thinking.  I’m whetting your appetite with a quote from each post, and I hope you are able to read some of these in their entirety.

ON SPANKING

Why Jesus Wants You to Stop Spanking Your Kids – Benjamin Corey (also, you can listen to Ben talk about spanking, domestic violence and ISIS on That God Show: Episode 7)

When one considers the fact that studies overwhelmingly show that spanking is seriously harmful to children, that it damages their brains, lowers their IQ’s, reduces their ability to make good choices, increases their aggression/violence, and leads to a pattern of negative behaviors that simply require more violence on the part of the parent, the scientific evidence against spanking should be clear. When a Christian couples that scientific evidence with the nonviolent teachings of Jesus from the New Testament, along with a warning from Jesus himself that it would be better to be thrown into the sea than to harm a child, there aren’t many arguments left to support the old way of doing things.

I love you, therefore I hit you…er, SPANK you. {How Christians conflate love with violence} – Elizabeth Esther

Now, let’s talk about “hostile attribution bias.” This means you live your life expecting people to be mean to you. UM. WHOA. Hi, self. My ingrained response to the world is that people are mean and scary and out to get me. I am constantly surprised when people love me–and I have to repress the urge to be suspicious when they are kind.

Here’s my default thought process: What do they want from me? Why are they being nice? They must have an ulterior motive! Don’t they know I’m a bad person? I can’t trust them! BLOCK THEM OUT.

The hardest thing for me to do is receive love. There, I said it. I have a huge fear of intimacy because I just don’t trust people. This is my trauma wound.

I can’t go back and change my past. But I can change my future. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle of violence. I can do something different. You can, too. Our children deserve it.

In which I talk about spanking – Sarah Bessey (she lists great resources for further reading)

The short list of why I don’t spank

  1. Personally, I believe it’s morally wrong to strike a child. Also, it isn’t Biblical.
  2. Hitting teaches hitting as a solution.
  3. It creates an adversarial relationship between parents and children – Us vs. Them.
  4. It can easily lead to abuse.
  5. It doesn’t work over the long term.
  6. It promotes anger or gives place to anger in both the parent and the child.
  7. It doesn’t teach inner discipline.
  8. It creates a behavioural response out of fear instead of love.

ON GENDER EQUALITY IN THE CHURCH

women, men & church: what hurts, what helps – Kathy Escobar (here are her “what helps,” but you should really read the whole post and consider “what hurts.”)

Here are some tangible and practical “best practices” that can help us move toward greater equality in the church:

  • Friendship. This is a core practice that opens doors to equality. We’ve got to find ways to practice being true friends together.
  • Be intentional about inviting, including, empowering, and releasing women into all levels of leadership. It won’t drop out of the sky so needs to be clear and strong message–“we need you, we want you, and here’s how we can make this happen.
  • Pay properly and equally. Period. Figure it out.
  • Avoid gender-biased comments (on both sides) about looks, athleticism, feelings, and other stereotypical ways of viewing both sexes.
  • Create intentional and brave conversations about gender in our communities–places to share, evaluate, process, adopt new practices together.
  • Ask at every table of leadership: how can we make room, make this table more balanced, who’s missing?
  • Recognize the realities of childbearing and honor it completely. That means keeping positions open, building flexible schedules, re-thinking the plans for advancement in churches & ministries.
  • The older generation of both men and women mentoring, supporting, encouraging, calling-out the younger generation of female leaders. Not just women supporting women but men and women supporting men and women.
  • Consider how to support women practically and tangibly through seminary and then ministry related to childcare help, books, mentorship, and financial support.
  • Start naming the elephant in the room before certain meetings and planning sessions get started–“We know women haven’t had an equal voice in this before. How can we shift that dynamic in here right now so everyone is heard?
  • Conference organizers and local have a solid and clear list of female speakers to draw from and use them; intentionally work toward balance.
  • Men showing up for gender equality conversations as much as women do (I added this one).

Women Like Me Are Abused Worldwide.  Here’s Why. – Anne Graham Lotz

If you doubt that sin is the root of the discrimination of women, look at Jesus. He was raised in a religious culture where people were taught that women, at the very least, were much less then men. As a rabbi (as his disciples called him), he should have discriminated against women as every other man did. But there was a significant difference between Jesus and everyone else. He had no sin in his heart.

As a result, we see him. . .

honoring women as he did when Mary anointed him with oil during a dinner in Simon’s home,

singling women out for praise as he did the widow who placed her “mite” in the temple treasury,

caring for women as he did the desperately ill woman who reached out to touch the hem of his garment,

protecting women as he did the one caught in adultery who was in danger of being stoned to death,

giving women new purpose and elevated status as he did the ones who were the first to encounter him after his resurrection and were commissioned by him to go tell the men what they had seen and experienced.

The New Wine of the Kingdom: Equality in the Church – Brian Wiele

You drink what the host is pouring… but unfortunately, within a short period of time after the New Testament era, church leadership rudely refused to drink what the host had poured, and declared, just as Jesus had predicted, that the old wine of patriarchal dominance would serve the church just fine.

Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical Protestant – the majority of the distinctive church families have continued to trot out their preferred vintage – sometimes with new labels on it like complementarian – and then audaciously decreed it to be the blend that Jesus preferred and recommended. They control the cellar, and their hierarchical vintage is thus the only one poured. As a result, anyone advocating that the church drink of the new spirit of equality is at best considered suspicious and liberal, and at worst divisive and heretical.

I’m convinced that Jesus poured a new wine – men and women, both created in his image – into new wineskins, a Trinitarian model of shared leadership.  Throw whatever labels you like at me, the refreshing blend of gender equality will continue to be served in my congregation. I’m drinking what was poured for me in order to honor the one who poured it, Jesus Christ.

ON MISOGYNY, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND PATRIARCHY

Changing the Culture that Enabled Mark Driscoll: 6 Ways Forward – Rachel Held Evans (read Rachel’s fantastic elaboration on these 6 ways forward:)

1.  We must educate Christians about abuse, bullying, and misuse of power in church settings.
2. We must value and preserve accountability.
3.   We must take misogyny and homophobia seriously.
4.  We must measure “success” by fruit of the Spirit, not numbers.
5.   We must protect people over reputations.
6.  We must treat our pastors and church leaders as human beings–flawed, complex, and beloved by God.

The Spin of Patriarchy – a podcast with Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller (with links to related posts).  They discuss these questions:

On the surface, Patriarchy families may look very harmless and even attractive. Everyone wears a smile, they tend to have a quiverfull of obedient children that they homeschool, and they present to you a formula for success. But what exactly does the husband and father’s “authority” entail? Should a husband be a mediator for the family, acting as a priest between them and the Lord? Is a college education wasted on daughters, because they are being raised to be homemakers? What’s the deal with stay-at-home daughters? Can women work outside of the home, alongside other men? What happens if you don’t have a happy disposition that reflects positively on your father or husband? Is a woman’s worth tied to the number of children she has? Do you believe that women are always prone to rebellion and satanic deceit and therefore need to be directed into submission? Is it a sin to educate your child through a different avenue than homeschool? And how does this all play out politically?

Why I Won’t Watch #RayRice – Angela Denker

Biblical traditionalists often forget to mention that the language of submission in the Bible is grounded in mutuality. For each instruction to women, Paul has an instruction to men as well. Relationship—love–is meant to be sacrificing, loving, and kind. Violence, vengeance, of any kind is condemned from the Old Testament to the New. Vengeance is mine, says the LORD.

Jesus himself says this, in his first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me … to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set the oppressed free,” (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah).

Jesus died so that no person might lose her personhood. So that no one would be controlled, manipulated, and abused. The love Jesus practiced and preached was a love that lifted up those who were brought low; a love that set people free from the roles society gave them and left them identified by an eternal life, an eternal light that could never be extinguished.

Domestic violence puts out that light. As Janay Rice-Palmer crumples to the ground in that video, she is reduced to something less than human.


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