The God-Hearted Sexist (by Pam Hogeweide)
What if women stopped being polite about the inequity deal found in many Christian settings and took aim and threw great big rocks at that pretty stained-glass ceiling also known as complementarianism? This is a fancy theological word that simple means Women remain relegated to certain roles. Period.
Many Christians feel safe and comfy with this position because it seems so nice and moderate. “Women and men are equal,” they insist, “it’s just that women have certain roles and so do men. As women can’t be fathers and men can’t be mothers, so women have limitations on certain roles within the body of Christ. Like leadership over men…. ”
There are entire denominations and hundreds of modern day congregations that espouse this point of view in the defense of what they are convinced is a biblical mandate. Yet there remains incredible scholarship that says otherwise – even a shallow glance at certain narratives in the Bible indicate that God didn’t seem to have a problem with women having spiritual authority over men. If you are a Bible type, consider Deborah, a judge in Israel who oversaw civic and religious issues. A military leader came to her, respecting her authority, when political tensions were mounting. God apparently had no problem appointing her (didn’t he know about her “role?”).
And then there was Huldah, a prophetess recognized in the Old Testament for her prophetic prowess in the royal court. (2 Kings 22) She was respected for her spiritual authority by those with power…how could the Holy Spirit have made such an error?
The New Testament had its share of women as well in leadership roles, but it’s shadowy, as if the writers of the New Testament (or translators) had to keep it on the down low.
When your theology doesn’t match with your worldview or experience, one of them has to adjust. For many, it is inconceivable to consider women having unlimited access to all corners of Christendom.
A couple of years ago I was interviewing a pastor. A really nice guy, compassionate, good-hearted, respected by all who know him. He was on the cusp of changing his mind about women and the leadership question, he told me. He and his wife, he further revealed, had been in discussion about the possibility that perhaps women are meant to freely roam the entirety of the construct of church rather than only certain parts. Maybe they had it wrong and women are equal on all counts and that mutuality is the biblical model rather than the hierarchal view they had accepted their entire lives. But they needed to be certain before they were willing to take that leap of faith. I listened and held my tongue. It was tempting to scold him for being so cautious about something that I feel deeply is a matter of fairness and justice.
But I get it. It’s not just about women. If one has been taught and trained their entire life that the Bible teaches that God has pre-ordained roles for men and women, then to change one’s mind about women is to bring a certain amount of tension upon how one has interpreted the Bible. I can understand that. I don’t like it, but I can understand it and sympathize with it.
There’s a new wind blowing across Christendom these days. A huge flux of women and men, young and old are unable to unflinchingly accept old rank and file forms of church as usual. There is indeed a holy discontentment brewing up a storm. I’m hoping it will mean a storm of women who are no longer willing to wait for their men to give them permission to freely move about the body of Christ, but will instead free themselves. I was listening to a Civil War historian on the radio who said that many slaves did just that long before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. They didn’t wait to be told they could be free. They abandoned the system of slavery and liberated themselves.
So what would happen if women finally stopped being demure and polite and patient and quiet about it?
A lot of rock throwing is what would happen…and a revolution of shattered stained-glass would fragment around our feet as an army of women would find their way to the partnering places with their brothers. And the powers of darkness would tremble for this kind of unity is what the devil feared when he devised the diabolical plan to keep women lowered than men and blocked from their place on point.
Pam Hogeweide is a writer and blogger from Portland, Oregon. She has written extensively on the issue of gender inequity in modern day Christianity. Her first book, Unladylike, which uncovers the polite oppression of women in church, is being released by Civitas Press in November 2011. You can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. She blogs at http://godmessedmeup.blogspot.com/
(photo by Pam Hogeweide)