What women who want equality in the church must face.

What women who want equality in the church must face. November 15, 2013
god male female nakedpastor david hayward
“God: Male and Female” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

(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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!)

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  • A. Humblist

    To deny a woman (or anyone) experience of life is to deny them the gifts that God has provided us, thus denying them a full relationship with God. It is not for any man to stand in the way of that. (http://www.amazon.com/Humblist-journey-discovering-message-everyday-ebook/dp/B00BVMAUCE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384525476&sr=8-1&keywords=humblist)

  • >>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….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. ”<<

    Great quote. While I don't think that all churches are going to disappear, I do believe that the form that Christianity takes is about to change drastically. Exciting times.

  • Al Cruise

    Good post.

  • klhayes

    Preach on!

  • I had fun thinking about your image and combining a few thoughts to it to create a new image:

    (1) Ever see the stuffy way folks sometimes write G-D? Trying to be Hebraic or be pseudo-holy or …

    (2) Well, I am recently dabbling in a language called Tamil. In Tamil, consonants are called “body” letters, while vowels are called, “soul” letters. So I made an image where I refined “God” to vowels — the soul of the word:
    “0” or _O_ !

    (3) Then, adding your note that Paul said that in Christ there is not man or woman to your symbol I got this one:

    Hope that works.

  • ah yes

  • can i use your improvement Sabio?

  • Cecilia Davidson

    As noted by Harvey Cox, the author of The Secular City, in an interview with Krista Tippett, secularist and religious sentiments will ultimately seesaw between one and the other – Yes, this is off topic, but to say that the Church will change drastically will ultimately mean that it’ll take two steps back, then two steps forward, and so on.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    You would not be alone in that claim, David. Pete Rollins also pointed this out a few days back about how the “new” atheism is, in its own behavior, the shadow of fundamentalist Christianity (or religion). Honestly, it’s time for a new order in religion to start, but the fright and misoneism that comes with new ideas can keep people from acting on them.

  • LOL — of course.
    What is mine is yours my friend!!

  • Jonathan

    The times they are a-changin’!

  • Greg

    You said ‘something new will be birthed”, which is a statement pregnant with an implicit corollary. Death of the old must precede birth of the new, and in that vein, we are witness to the end of church as (predominantly) men have modified it.
    Jesus preached the kingdom, and we reduced it to mean and be understood thru the lens of church in the same way the once mighty British empire was reduced to England. Her history is more interesting than the present reality and any allegiance to her is not awe and worship but self serving nepotism.
    A king rules His kingdom, not sharing the throne with any other, while multitudes of men rule the church, and any room women now enjoy is likely because men have some selfish reason to let them.
    The fast emerging kingdom that is filing the vacuous space between mens minds and spirits is yet coming without observation, as Jesus said it would.
    And because nature hates a vacuum, the church, who loves her visibility and place as the usurper of the kingdom, is fading in her temporal glory, influence and testimony, as is fitting for usurpers.
    Finally, when men of God will have been reduced to nothing but the love of and for God, women, who are the image of Christs bride/wife, will be appreciated by us as the Christ like servants they have always been.
    Ive taught our two sons to see their mother and two older sisters, and all women, as weaker vessels (vases) that need protection, but in whom the treasure of Christ dwells as wonderfully as He does in us men.
    That, according to Jesus, is the ONLY difference between the sexes from a kingdom perspective.
    Not a popular view in the churches though, which is why I have never attended and definitely kept my daughters from being lured into.

  • Surely _O_ is asexual and reproduces by budding!

  • Mark

    Two thoughts:

    1) “If you’re keeping up with the rapid daily reports, you must agree this is happening with women in the church.” I don’t know if this is happening more now, or if the instances of it are just being mined and reported better, especially here. I haven’t done too much digging on my own, so I don’t really have a firm opinion.

    2) How does this view of increasing fundamentalism and the church’s resistance to change square with the decrease in church attendance and growing irrelevancy of Christianity in the developed world? It would seem that the former would only increase the latter.

  • Jayne Otterson

    God’s Church isn’t even in that building….she/he is where Jesus was…out on the streets and she/he is NOT silent. 🙂 The building has quenched the spirit in both male and female long enough!!!!

  • Anne Vyn

    “I predict this is going to unveil itself to us in refreshing and surprising ways.” Amen and Amen!!! Let the revolution and the revival begin!!!!