(Actually, this cartoon or t-shirt idea is not perfect because Paul said there is neither male nor female in Christ. But this will do for now.)
I claim that the more dissenting an opposing group becomes, the more fundamentalist the group in power becomes. This is why we are witnessing the simultaneous growth of radical dissent and radical fundamentalism. If you’re keeping up with the rapid daily reports, you must agree this is happening with women in the church. I think it comes down to three basic issues.
- BANALITY of EVIL: If you’ve never read Hannah Arendt’s report on the Nuremberg Trials, The Banality of Evil, you should. Much to the world’s surprise, the trials revealed that these men weren’t insane, sadistic or perverted. Rather, they were only following orders, didn’t intend to do evil and didn’t consider themselves directly responsible. In fact, they were “terrifyingly normal”. The same applies to the men in power in the church. They are terrifyingly normal. They are just following orders. They do not intend to do evil and do not feel directly responsible. They believe they are doing what they are required to do by their god, their bible, and their organization. Their hands are tied. When I read blogs and reports online, I am often shocked at the cool, smug, robotic comments of genderist men and their attitudes towards women. They do not feel responsible. Men are protected, hiding deep within the fortress they’ve created for themselves. Women will continue to suffer at the hands of genderist leaders and institutions and no one will claim responsibility because things are as they must be and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nazism’s roots are in biological racism. Similarly, many men believe there’s nothing that can be done to change the biology or the theology that determine the status and role of women. The hopelessness many women feel under the enormous weight of the cocktail of power that rules over them– a genderist church, a genderist holy book, and a genderist leadership– is overwhelming.
- FUNDAMENTALISM: The bible was written by men of their time and reflected the values of their time. However, I do believe some of the writing is cutting edge for it’s time and some was even slightly ahead of its time. Like C.S. Lewis admitted that there was no way he could predict what meanings would be gleaned from his fiction, so the bible writers had no way to predict the meanings and impacts their writing would have on future generations. I believe the bible is not static but leans into a greater revelation of what is true. M.L. King Jr. saw in scripture powerful motivation for freedom and equality for all. In the same way I believe we could find powerful inspiration for gender equality. For example, when Paul wrote that there is neither male and female for you are all one in Christ, it must be emphasized that he didn’t say there is “both” male and female, for that would only fortify the world’s political order as it is with slave and free, with men determining the status and roles of women. Instead, Paul wrote “neither”, emphasizing that gender and the power or lack of power associated with it have no place in our oneness in Christ. So, rather than considering the scriptures as a static rule book, we must consider the scriptures as a sign pointing us in the direction of truth which we must seek, find, articulate and practice.
- REVOLUTION: I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution. It is obvious that the church generally is not going to change. As impressed as most of us are with the new pope, we are painfully aware that he serves a gigantic ancient machine that so far as resisted major change in such areas as women’s rights, gay rights, reproductive rights and abuse victims rights. Again, as Hannah Arendt has said, “Revolutionaries do not make revolutions! The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and when they can pick it up.” I can see that this will be the only way for women to enjoy their inherent equality and practice their rights. Something new will be birthed. Many women in the church as well as many advocating men have given up on trying to reform the old order. People are less willing to wait. We are looking for something new now. I predict this is going to unveil itself to us in refreshing and surprising ways. I want to be there when it happens, and I want to be able to say I somehow helped!
Fight the good fight!
(Update: Thanks to “Sabio” for the updated image. Better!)