“Church is not the place for me.” This is what many non-churched persons think after listening to Christians!
For the last 3 months I have been posting about gender and justice (see my first post here). There are several things I hope to have accomplished in these posts.
#1 You can be a conservative-evangelical with a high view of Scripture and believe that God has ordained equality between the genders.
That’s right. I am not a liberal.
BTW can we move beyond the name-calling and the labeling of people whom we don’t agree with? After all, it is not Christian to dismiss someone by labeling them.
“Oh, well he’s a liberal therefore he must be wrong!” Really?
Did you know that this is not a logical deduction?
And did you know that such labeling often makes a mockery of the church? After all, it says to others that Christians are narrow-minded and arrogant—which, if I am not mistaken, is not quite what Jesus was talking about when He said that we should love our enemies.
Such labels also say to those outside the church that they are not welcome here. Think about it: if someone were to self-identify as a “liberal” and they were to hear the label banded about the way evangelicals often use it, they would conclude that church is not the place for me. (I have been in churches where politics and other such issues are thrown around in such a way that anyone who does not subscribe to the views being espoused is made to feel as though this church is not a safe place for them).
The reason why the label “liberal” is bandied about so quickly when it comes to the issue of the equality of the genders is that it is supposed that the Bible “so clearly” teaches that women are subordinate to men.
Now, I could have just responded by citing Gal 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”) and have been done with it. But the fact is that those who argue for male headship (complementarians) have dug their heels in deeply behind the text of passages like 1 Cor 11:2-16. Thus, my prolonged response!
This is not the only reason I have written these posts.
#2 I want to call attention to the need for gender equality in light of the global proliferation of injustice against women!
The fact that most men, if not most evangelical Christians regardless of their gender, are grossly unaware of the global inequities that women encounter, is quite grieving. In fact, it is beyond grieving!
As I researched and prepared to write these posts I was struck by how little I knew about the injustices that women face: both the amount and the severity of injustices. As a result, I have assumed that most men are equally ignorant.
My research led me to conclude: “When we start to recognize that injustices towards women directly affect over half of the world’s population, only then may we begin to realize that gender injustice may well be considered one of the greatest humanitarian issues in the world today.”[1
My ignorance is one of the reasons why I began this series on justice with the post: “Injustice, maybe I’m the problem.”
During my research, I also concluded that the theological conviction that women are subordinate to men both causes us to look past the tremendous suffering that women face and, indirectly, if not directly, contributes to such injustices.
Now, this would be a significant problem even if it only meant that women suffer discrimination in the workplace: e.g., unfair pay, harassment, etc.
The fact is that women are dying because they are considered less than men.
In one of the posts, I cited Mimi Haddad who noted: “In study after study, research suggests that when a culture values females as much as males, girls are more likely to survive to adulthood. For this reason, gender justice begins with an idea—that males and females are of equal worth.” In other words, when we do not value females as much as males they do not survive at the same rate as males.
NB I will host a conversation with Mimi on the determinetruth podcast. The show will go live on July 20, 2021. (be sure to “follow” the podcast to be regularly connected to such episodes.)
Gender and injustice, then, is not simply an issue of unfortunate and inconvenient effects. Gender and justice is just as much a matter of life and death as the abortion issue is.
Evangelicals who are so steeped in “pro-life” rhetoric must stand up and be pro-life when it comes to injustices against women! (see my post: “Pro-life” means “pro-all-life”)
This is why I have spent so much time on this issue. Over the last four posts, I examined the claims that I Cor 11:2-16 and 14:34-35 support the view that women are subordinate to men.
I argued that the problem in Corinth was with the men (and perhaps the wealthy ones; 1 Cor 11:22) and not the women.
As I noted, Paul was not advocating for the subordination of women. He was elevating women in the church and some of the leading men had a problem with it! Those today who use 1 Cor 11:2-16 to argue that “men are the head of women” are actually citing Paul’s opponents and are failing to realize that Paul was responding to this assertion! In other words, Paul rebuts this claim. He does not assert it!
This reading not only alleviates many of the difficulties inherent in the complementarian (male headship view) reading of these passages it accords with the whole tenor of the NT. Nowhere else in the NT do we see a group that is culturally marginalized being the oppressors or the source of disorder.
What can we do next?
First, we must learn to listen! (Only speak to ask questions or gain clarity). Talk to women and hear there stories.
- Connect with the Center for Biblical Equality and learn more.
- Find women in your circle and listen to them.
- Search the web and learn about global injustices against women.
We cannot advocate until we first learn their stories.
Secondly, we must empower women.
This might mean that we change the way we do things around the home. It most certainly means that many churches must change the way they do things.
I am sure you already know this, but I will say it anyway: doing so will come at a great cost!
People will leave your churches, families may fracture, and you may be labeled a “liberal.”
But we cannot compromise here. Our moms, our wives, our daughters, our sisters are already suffering. Standing up for the marginalized and the oppressed is what “cross-bearing” looks like.
I recognize and respect the fact that most “complementarians” (male-headship) do not intend to affirm a worldview that supports the abuse of women. I do believe, however, that the conviction that men are greater in authority than women contributes to the global abuse of women. Complementarians may not intend it. Nonetheless, the belief that men are superior to women is a leading cause of injustice against women.
Finally, I want to implore you that even if you do not agree with my interpretations of Scripture, or if you are not sure that you do, stand up and advocate for women!
Doing so does not make you a “feminist” (see my note above about labeling people), nor a “liberal.” It simply shows that you are a Christian who takes seriously the call to love one another.
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 See the article posted on the Gospel Coalition’s website: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/complementarianism-for-dummies/