Thanks to hoveactually for linking to this…
An interesting and timely addition to my thoughts and blog-musings…
Its been a while since I’ve posted anything particularly controversial. And, if I’m honest – I’m not really all that fond of controversy – its a bit scary. Particularly when people can take it and use one thing to mean a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t… But I wrote the following post a while ago and saved it until such time as I felt like posting it. Its not a definitive statement so much as a series of questions and ponderings around an issue often perused in my small corner…
Now, I’m not claiming to have this all right, nor am I claiming to have thought it all through perfectly… But…
Teaching young men that they are to bulk up and become strong leaders of family, of church, of the world does not, in my humble opinion, teach grace. Affirming the male stereotype of being in control, having the last word, not stopping to ask for directions is insidious and unhelpful. “Come on boys, just try harder…”
It just doesn’t sound like Jesus.
It seems to me that even if the ‘complementarian different-but-equals’ are right, their view of equality is somewhat skewed. If their view of equality is in any way close to actually being equality, it is often undermined by how it all plays out. I had dinner with a family from this theological standpoint – my opinion on a certain matter was not so much shot down as flatly ignored whilst the wife was ‘jokingly’ told to get back to the kitchen. If the role of a woman in the home is really truly considered so important, I don’t understand how making disparaging remarks about tying her to the sink is respectful of this ‘god-given’ role? Humour does nothing to build up, but belittles and trivialises tasks that countless women have devoted their lives to for years. On top of that, most women just roll their eyes and take it, laughing along – many for fear of being ridiculed for expressing any concern at the injustice of it, many not even recognising the disrespect of it.
In a country where many struggle against the flow of culture to create a right sense of identity as a child of God, many young men are drawn to the most confident voice proclaiming the most comfortable suit of armour to don.
“A real man takes responsibility, a real man leads, a real man pees standing up…”
I’m not saying that a man shouldn’t be responsible, nor that women should be the ultimate authority, I’m saying there’s very little room for true community, true body-of-Christ community. “Me Hand. Me make fire. Me Big Boss. You be like Me.”
It just doesn’t sound like Jesus.
It sounds like conveyor-belt Christianity – “No, no – don’t be like you, be like me.” It happens all over the Church in all sorts of areas with all sorts of implications. I suppose its easier to rubber stamp ourselves with the image of others than to wait on the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.
There’s been a bit of chat of late about discipleship, in a ‘following Jesus’ kind of way. The definition of what it is has been in discussion over at Transfarmer‘s corner and by extension, how it is done. MY questions follow on from that…
A significant temptation as a ‘professional’ Christian (along with flashing your vast wads of cash…) is to allow the desire to see people change as they grasp the truth about God to become confused with the desire to see people change as they grasp the truth about God from what we teach them.
In fact, its maybe not so much a temptation as an everyday hazard of the job.
The thing is… it is God who changes us, isn’t it? Its a bit like leading worship in a way – you can prepare are the beautiful songs and music and readings and prayers you want, but unless God shows people’s hearts something of himself, then a worship leader is just singing a nice wee song and sometimes not even that! But when your heart longs to see people impacted by Jesus, plus the added pressure of it kinda sorta being a big part of your full-time job you it feels extra specially important that you do it well.
I want to be assured that my ‘methods’ of relating to people, discipling people, teaching people are the best and most effective for spurring change and growth. I want to know that I’m saying the right things, doing the right things to show people the absolute beauty of the gospel of Jesus. I want them to see it, taste it, live it, breathe it…
The Spirit of God is at work in me and therefore there is goodness and truth and purity in my motives, but I’m still in a world affected by sin, so there are selfish reasons as to why I want to get it right. I want to be able to compare myself with those who’ve gone before and those who will come behind and feel that I measure up just as well as (or better than) them. Oh! for the day we can look at each other in contentment and joy in the display of the multi-coloured, much-varied, manifold wisdom of God in the tapestry of His church!
So anyway… let’s assume for a minute that my motives are spotless and think about this. Discipleship. Are there methods to the madness? What are those ‘difficult questions’ that so many claim they need to be asked? What does ‘being intentional’ really look like? Okay, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, but surely there must be some principles somewhere to work from?
Really my question is this: If true change is brought about by the Holy Spirit, how do I BEST play my part in facilitating that work? Any suggestions?
This is all a little overwhelming for me, all this discussion. Never in a million years did I expect such traffic through my small corner! I’m glad it has come up (kind of) and I’m glad its given others a chance to ruminate, illuminate and elucidate! Most of all I’m glad that this is bigger than me. Permit me, however, to share where I’m at in it all since it all began…
I think there are two reasons to proceed with caution here…
Firstly, its so helpful to have input from people who have had time to think through this stuff and are further down that road in general. I’m aware that I’m not quite ready to do all the reading myself. Not because I enjoy the torment of not really knowing, but rather that I’m still relatively new to this whole issue, as are – and no doubt will be – a lot of women out there. To have spent my life so far eking out what it really means to be feminine from all the messages bombarding me only to come face to face with people who believe that my worst fears of not being what I should be are confirmed ‘clearly’ by God in the Bible – that is pretty damn difficult.
I’m in mourning. I don’t mean that I spend every waking moment thinking about this stuff, so sorry if that sounds pretentious, but it’s the best way I can describe it – mourning. I could discover a whole list of convincing arguments, but the fact remains that there are people (not just men!) within the church of Christ who exclude and judge not only me but everyone of my gender: they have done so and will continue to do so for years.
It is good to know, though, that I’m not alone on the road much less travelled.
Secondly, the problem with having lots of convincing reasons as to why my instincts are right, is that the temptation to clamber up on a high horse is immense. For whilst clever reasoning shows that Jesus’ ministry displays much counter-cultural grace and acceptance of women, doesn’t it also model the rejection of judgementalism and self-righteousness…?
I wrote about a friend who told me I was thinking too deeply; but in his defence, I hadn’t thought it worth much consideration either. I don’t think I realised that it would ever really affect me until very recently. Naïve, I know – especially for a woman. But if I have been ignorant, then can I really condemn men for not considering the issue at length when they’re even further from the equation?
I nearly walked away from a conversation in church this morning about this ‘kerfuffle’, because my feelings around the debate are still red raw and more often than not, tears spring unbidden (as in, more so than usual!) – not so much because I know what ‘side’ the person in front of me is on, but more because I don’t know how I’ll handle it if they disagree with my gut instincts.
The hijacking of ‘feminism’ which gives the term a very negative, militant connotation is deeply regrettable and is not something I want to be associated with. Especially not in the name of the gospel. I don’t want to react in a way that makes men everywhere to feel guilty over the way this has all panned out. Okay, let’s be honest here – part of me wants them to feel the crapness of it all and to wallow at length in the mire that has been perpetuated ever since the Fall. But is that the gospel? Nope. Not as I understand it.
How then…? What do I do with all this? Where do I go from here? Am I ready to move on?
I’m still not sure.
In the end, I had that conversation over coffee in church. It was good – it was just a young man and a young woman discussing the fact that their thoughts on the matter are inconclusive. And you know what? If a conversation like that helps just one person to open up to thinking about the role of women in church, then I’m going to try not to walk away from that. Even if it means being in a public place, a snivelling wreck covered in snot.