I hit a moment today when I realized that I’ve been pulling punches for a long time. I’ve been holding myself back from saying things that might possibly offend people and disagreeing strongly because…well…I like being liked and I don’t like estranging myself from other people.
At some level I think it has allowed for me to take it easy and recover from my last year because believe me, when you’re getting thrashed emotionally, spiritually, and mentally the last thing you need is a good ‘ol fashioned theological/philosophical discussion. Things have changed since then.
I am moving from a place of post-college exhaustion to a place where I’m realizing that many of the tools and things that I once enjoyed (and still do) have lain unused in the back of my mind. I have not been applying my ability as a human to make arguments. Essentially I’ve desired to not make waves.
I used to thrive in waves. I used to live in a torrential adventure of exploration and questions facilitated by professors, friends, and heated discussions. At least I think I did. Some of that was childish disagreements with guys on my freshman year floor as we learned what it meant to live in community. I think that most of it though was founded in refining my perspective and challenging others and being challenged myself. I wanted to learn, to grow, and develop.
Lately in discussions with my lovely (and brilliant) girlfriend I’ve been noticing a bit of stagnation in my thinking. It would seem that not saying challenging things to people has seeped into the deeper parts of me and has started to cause me not wrestling with challenging things. I have been so focused on trying to love the Lord with my heart, soul, and strength that my mind has been a bit left out.
Well, I’ve decided to not go down that road anymore. There was a time when my blog was more than a place to talk about how I felt, it was also a place where I thought about things and asked questions. The Lenten season really feels like a good time to start that back up. I plan on saying things. I’m sure I won’t always have things to say, but when I do…get ready. I’ll probably still be relatively diplomatic, but I will tell you what I think. Even if it means that there are things I haven’t processed all the way through.
So, today’s blog is talking about gender roles in relationships. In which I think it’s important to call things what they are. Healthy when things are healthy, oppressive when things are oppressive, and absurd when things are absurd. Probably all of life is this way.
For me the issue of relationships as a Christian is one where I focus on equality. In the various traditions that make up Christianity there are a variety of them in which women are given lesser roles within relationships. The man is the decider, the head of the house, and the king of his castle. Whereas the woman’s task is to submit, listen, take care of children, and generally not play a fully participatory role in the relationship. She must have things decided for her and this is the will of the Lord for her.
I’ve gotta be honest here. This is bunk. I’m sorry. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make any sense.
I know this comes from a perspective of reading scripture that generally follows this line of thinking (quoting mostly the apostle Paul) ” God says man is the head of the house, that women are to submit, and to not to teach men…so yes Chauncey, that aforementioned paragraph is accurate and what’s more it’s God’s will.” There are verses that accompany all these statements as well.
HOWEVER. When I look at the bible in a bit of a broader context I read about female apostles (Junia at the end of Roman’s, if your translation reads Junias you should ask yourself what translation you’re using and investigate on your own), women sitting at Jesus’ feet as disciples would, and women being the very first people to tell of the Resurrection. The role of women throughout the text seems to at the very least strongly challenge if not overturn entirely the common Evangelical thought process on relationships and women’s roles within them. The OT is fraught with examples of women playing dramatic roles within the context of their strongly Patriarchal societies. Dare I say scandalous examples? Yes. I will.
A sweeping look at the biblical meta narrative ought to give pause to the certainty with which certain individuals tend to look at women’s roles. We ought to start to ask if we have it right.
If we are left with Paul (as quoted above) disagreeing -strangely enough-with himself and then Jesus in the gospels, then we really need to ask ourselves what we are to do with this conundrum.
I think our first step is to acknowledge that there is FAR MORE happening in the text than what a cursory read will tell us. The depth of a 2000 year-old document is significant and the layers of meaning need to be honestly and thoroughly evaluated. It is not always as simple as saying “God says…” You need context. You need to actually think about it, pray about it, talk about it in community, and then perhaps God will reveal what He meant through the author’s words. He might or He might not…and your interpretation could still be wrong. You are a human being. The ivory tower of whoever you decide to listen to is also human. Some are better than others, all are flawed.
I think the second step is one where we acknowledge that we might not understand at all. There might be a constant tension within the text that we have to live, sit, and be uncomfortable in. You don’t like it? Sorry, I guess I don’t either, but that doesn’t make it go away.
And third, it would seem that if Paul’s letter to the Romans agrees with Jesus’ treatment of women and God’s use of them as a whole then we are led to a place where the other verses about women (no matter how strongly worded the patriarchy may be) must be taken at not-face-value. The contrast implies contextual complications that cannot be resolved by simply stacking certain verses against others in some kind of exegetical game of Jenga . Eventually we all lose at Jenga.
With that said, it would seem to me that a relationship that fails to have an egalitarian standpoint misses the broader context of what the biblical witness indicates to us about women. That they are equal to men. That their opinions, actions, thoughts, and roles carry just as much weight in the eyes of the Lord. These things cannot be boxed, ignored, or set aside.
In short to do anything other than support gender equality from a biblical standpoint is to participate in the oppression of women. It’s time to call things what they are.
Blogosphere, I have thrown my thoughts into the wind. Let them drift where they may. Be irritated if you are, be pleased, be angry, be sad. I will still respect you still.