Archives for category: Gender

The conversation is: purity in [a specific] Christian culture, a culture that was home to me for many years [North American, Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc.,].

Do any of these voices echo your experience? What insights would you add? How could you change the conversation?

1) The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust? “Heteronormative modesty codes not only objectify women by making them responsible for the thought life of every man they encounter, but make men feel weak, guilty, and vulnerable for experiencing basic sexual attraction.”

2) Virginity: New & Improved!

“Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization.”

3) I am damaged goods

“Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

4) Beauty vs. Sexuality

A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation.

5) Modesty and Hating Oneself: The Darker Side

“Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control… We, as a church, need to change the conversation. We need to first teach men that blaming women for boners is not a healthy way to go through life, and that sexual attraction and not feeling sexual attraction are natural and acceptable identities. We need to broaden the conversation to talk about control and objectification rather than how one person is sinful for having a perfectly normal sexual reaction to attractiveness. We need to talk about how this thinking fuels a culture of rape.”

6) How the Modesty Doctrine Fuels Rape Culture

“It is this idea that women need to cover up because men can’t help themselves, quite simply, that fuels rape culture in our society today. The conservative evangelicals I grew up amongst might not know it, but their ideas about gender and sexuality really do promote rape culture.”

Matthew 5:8… “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

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We walk in the company of the women who have gone before, mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.

They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, the poets, lovers, and saints who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,

who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced,

who kept and cradled wisdom with the ages.

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood,

who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,

who wed imagination and theology, proclaiming “All shall be well.”

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,

who stood against oppression, righteously declaring “Ain’t I a woman!’

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,

who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.

Amen.

{Excerpted from A Litany to Honor Women in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals}

          I’ve been reflecting on some of the books that I read in high school on women’s roles. I feel like a volcano… there are so many thoughts swirling in my head that I think I must explode onto paper…

Fascinating Womanhood. It was recommended by a dear friend and we fell in love with it and the principles presented therein together. The basic premise: men live in constant insecurity and need for affirmation. Women exist to bolster male self-esteem and encourage male petulance despite ourselves. Through our endless exhortation and overlooking of faults, women might help their men to develop into the persons of character that they were intended by God to be.

The profound and glaring problem with this equation is the disgusting dishonesty of it. Relationships are intended for our sanctification. Women and men to do not exist or function to soothe one another and make each other feel superior than we truly are. We are the iron sharpening each other.

We have the world, the flesh and the devil to lie to us. We don’t need our spouses to do that.

But the rub is that if we embrace being honest with our coheirs, we must likewise embrace their ability to be honest and confrontational with us. Why is that part of the bargain? Why can’t I just spew my perspective on you without hearing your sanctifying reproach for me?

Are women really supposed to be “free of the burden” of providing loving accountability and chastisement in the lives of their husbands? We discuss secondary issues like “exercising authority” more than we exhort each other to SERVICE and edification.

Why? There are a plethora of reasons why we avoid big, tough, ugly issues and stick to secondary ones instead. It occurred to me that one of these reasons is good old-fashioned slothfulness.

Sloth is a dark sin. It is idly living for yourself and precludes passivity, lethargy, and profound laziness.

The truth is that not many of desire to be teachers, knowing that we will incur a greater condemnation. Responsibility is tough and it is so much easier to siphon it off onto someone else. In the example of Fascinating Womanhood, gender is just an excuse that allows women off the hook of marital accountability. Women, do not settle for the role of mothering your man. Do not settle for becoming his plaything either. Do not serve him so unwell as to leave him at his present place of growth and challenge him no further. Do not resign yourself to sloth.

I write this to myself, as I continue to press toward a theology of marital relationship. You cannot keep growing in love for each other when you are lost in triviality. You will reach a point where you plateau. We are nobler people than that. Together, in union with each other and Christ, we must live up to our nobility.

Nor can you sustain a relationship at an existential level of such heights that you lose touch with reality. You reach a point where you peak and cannot get down again. We are more human people than that. Together, in union with each other and Christ, we must live into our humanity.

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset mentioned incidentally in class that the greatest eros springs from intellectual admiration. Eros is desire… the sacred devotion that seek out the noble and gives itself for the benefit of the other. True women will pursue men of intellect, strength, devotion, and complex sexuality. True men will pursue women of the same guild. And from the “marriage of true minds” a love will spring that “bears it out even to the edge of doom” (William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXVI).

          Thank you, Meghan Bolger and Krista Ziebarth, for allowing me to spew these disjointed thoughts to you for three successive hours today. You spared me from tragic, spontaneous, internal combustion.

Yours devotedly,

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,

and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless

until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Frank Viola: “God’s View of a Woman”

Consider this. When God decided to make His entrance upon this planet, He visited a woman. He chose a woman to bring forth the Eternal Son, the Messiah—the Anointed One for whom Israel had waited thousands of years. The life of God was first placed in the womb of a woman before it got to you and to me. And God was not ashamed.

Sisters in Christ, this is your Lord’s view of a woman. Take your high place.

But that’s not all. As Jesus ministered, He ripped down all social conventions that were pitted against women. On one occasion, He rose to the defense of a woman caught in adultery. He became her attorney and saved her life. And God was not ashamed.

Jesus was noted for palling around with sinners. He supped with prostitutes and tax collectors. We are told in John Chapter 4 that He met a woman, and He did something that shocked the disciples. He talked to her in public. And He was not ashamed…

But that’s not all. Jesus Christ had a custom of using women in His parables and making them heroes. He talked about the woman who searched and found her lost coin. He spoke of the woman who was unrelenting in the presence of the unjust judge who honored her for her persistence. He spoke of the widow who dropped all the money she had into the temple treasury and praised her for doing so. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Once Jesus was dining with a self-righteous Pharisee. And in walked a woman. But this was not just any woman. She was a woman of the streets—a prostitute. Upon seeing the Lord, she dropped down to her knees and did something unsettling.
In the presence of Pharisees, this woman unbound her hair and poured costly perfume upon the feet of our Lord. This unclean woman touched Jesus Christ in public. She wept, washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. This scandalous and improper act mortified the self-righteous Pharisees. At that moment, these religious leaders lost all respect for Jesus and doubted that He was a true prophet. But your Lord was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But that’s not all. Your Lord allowed an unclean woman to touch the hem of His garment, and He was not ashamed. In fact, He praised her for it. He also gave a Canaanite woman who was viewed as a dog in the eyes of Israel one of the highest compliments He ever gave anyone. He also healed her daughter, and He was not ashamed.

In the Lord’s last hours on this earth, He stayed in a small village called Bethany. It was there that He would spend His last days before He gave His life on Calvary. In Bethany, two women whom Jesus loved had their home: Mary and Martha. They were His friends, and they received Him. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

When Luke writes his Gospel, he refers to the twelve disciples with the shorthand phrase the Twelve. The Twelve lived with the Lord for three-and-a-half years. And they followed Him everywhere. But Jesus also had a group of female disciples. Luke also used a shorthand phrase to refer to them. He simply called them the Women (Luke 23:55; Acts 1:14). Interestingly, Luke used this phrase the same way that he used the Twelve.  They were the Lord’s disciples also—the female counterpart to the Twelve. The Women followed the Lord wherever He went, and they tended to His needs. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But there’s more. The greatest disciples of Jesus Christ were not the Twelve. They were the Women. The reason? Because they were more faithful. When Jesus Christ was taken to die, the Twelve fled. They checked out. They said, “See ya!” But the Women stayed with Him. They didn’t leave. They followed Him up to Calvary to do what they had been doing all along—comforting Him, taking care of Him, tending to His needs. And they watched Him undergo a bloody, gory crucifixion that lasted six long hours. To watch a man die a hideous and horrible death is something that goes against every fiber that lives inside of a woman. Yet they would not leave Him. They stayed the entire time. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Following His death, it was the Women who first visited His burial. Even after His death, they were still following Him. They were still taking care of Him. And when He rose again from the dead, the first faces He met—the first eyes that were laid upon Him—were the eyes of women. And it was to them that He gave the privilege of announcing His resurrection, even though their testimony wouldn’t hold up in court. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

On the day of Pentecost, the Women were present in the upper room, waiting for Him to return, along with the Twelve.
Unlike His male disciples, the Women never left Him. They followed Him to the end. Their passion for and dedication to Jesus outshined that of the men. And God was not ashamed.

Throughout the Lord’s life, it was the Women who tended to His physical needs. It was the Women who looked after Him. It was the Women who supported Him financially during His earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3). It was the Women who cared for Him up until the bitter end as well as the glorious climax. Not the men. The Women were simply indispensable to Him. And He was not ashamed.

But beyond all these wonderful things that the Lord did in showing us how beautiful women are in His eyes, He did something else. He chose you—a woman to depict that which He came to earth to die for—His very Bride. And He is not ashamed.

Sisters, rise to your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Brothers, honor your sisters in the Kingdom of God. For God honors them. When our Lord pulled Eve out of Adam, He didn’t take her out of his feet below him. Nor did He take her out from his head above him. He took her out of his side.

Sisters, you are fellow heirs in the Kingdom of God. You are fellow priests in the church of God. You are honored. You are cherished. You are valuable. You are needed.

You are His friends, His followers, His daughters, yea, His own kin.

So sisters, take your high place . . . this is God’s view of you.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is an article by Jim Henderson in RelevantMagazine.com

Jesus often gave women a platform. Why doesn’t the rest of the Church?

Jesus didn’t have favorites, but … He did play favorites.

At least that’s the impression an uninitiated reader of the Bible could get. In general, Jesus seemed tough on Jewish insiders and soft on heathen outsiders. However, when it came to women—He basically liked them all.

Just think of the Samaritan woman; the foreign woman who begged for the crumbs off the table; the woman caught in the act of adultery; the woman who prostrated herself at His feet, kissing them and washing them with her tears before letting down her hair to dry them; Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary; the women who stood by Him when He was crucified while the men hid; Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus first appeared after the Resurrection. He seemed to be drawn to women’s authenticity, loyalty and openness to God, regardless of their beliefs or nonbeliefs.

What’s interesting is that Jesus not only honored and protected women (a traditional role), He also provided them with a platform from which they could expand their influence (a countercultural role). As scriptural screenwriter-in-chief, the Holy Spirit chose to cast many women in the lead supporting actor role of the Gospel stories. This was because the star of the show (aka, Jesus) was quite comfortable working with and alongside women.

It’s a fact that Jesus did not choose a woman to be one of the Twelve, but it’s just as true that He did not choose a man to be the first person to witness and announce His Resurrection. It’s also a fact that no women were included in the inner circle of three who were present with Him at Gethsemane and the Transfiguration, but it’s just as true that no women followers bear the shame of having denied Jesus publicly.

The Spiritual Exodus of Women

How would you feel if you were capable of leading, thinking, guiding, shaping and forming a spiritual community but were denied the opportunity to do so? This experience leads some women to walk away from the Church, Christianity and in some cases God.

Many women are discouraged. And while some of them, particularly young women, leave the organized church only, others walk away from the faith altogether. In fact, in 2010 the Barna Group found that 26 percent of Americans have changed faiths or adopted a significantly different faith view during their lifetimes. Barna released its study just after the author Anne Rice famously renounced Christianity on her Facebook page. According to Barna, Rice “shares a spiritual profile with nearly 60 million other adults nationwide,” most of whom, the research found, are women. Since breaking with the Catholic church, Rice has publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Christ several times; however, Barna’s report notes, “The most common type of spiritual shift was from those who were Christian, Protestant or Catholic in childhood to those who currently report being atheist, agnostic or some other faith. In total, this group represents about one out of every eight adults (12%), a category that might be described as ex-Christians.” Disillusionment with their church and religion was cited as one of the top reasons people gave for leaving their faith.

But for many women (particularly wives and mothers), leaving doesn’t mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present. Women often do this because they want their husbands and children to grow spiritually. They participate at the minimal levels and give just enough to ensure their families are included, even if the women are not growing themselves. They seem to be masters at finding ways to feed themselves without requiring as much from the place they call church.

Doctrinal Division

There’s a lot of confusion among both men and women about what the Bible does or does not say about the role of women in the Church. Women struggle (often in private) trying to determine whether their churches’ positions on women’s roles are genuinely God’s ideal or simply a reflection of dogmatic conditioning and cultural bias. The most ardent students of the Bible on both sides tend to be the ones who are most certain their view of the biblical role of women is the correct one.

Given the polarization, it’s dismaying how uninterested Christians seem to be in trying to understand why their brothers and sisters can read the same biblical passages and come to opposite conclusions. We need to learn how to stay in the room with differences and not “break up” over every biblical disagreement.

We need to start a new conversation about women and Church. At the very least, Christians need to think more honestly about these issues. There is room to grow and new things to discover about how God wants to use women to move His Kingdom forward. That’s why it’s important to to read, ponder and think most deeply about the things that cause disagreement. Not to win but to learn. We need to stop comparing our best with others’ worst. We need to stop criticizing each other and open our own ideas to critique.

My bias is that, just like men, women should have as much influence as they’re capable of exercising in the Church. But my opinion, regardless of how deeply held it may be, doesn’t give me permission to ignore, dismiss or demean those who disagree with me. And it especially doesn’t give me an excuse to be mean. Jesus told us to love one another—not to agree with one another.

Celebrating Women

Evangelicals are passionate about personal sin—swearing, adultery, gossip, drunkenness, lust, anger and so on. They have significantly less interest in systemic sin—racism, greed, selfishness and repression of women. This low view of systemic sin, this privileged paradigm of power, makes it easy to ignore the way women are treated in Church.

I recall once hearing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman put it this way: “Those with power never think about it, but those without power think about it all the time.”

But the worst thing is millions of women have given up protesting, given up trying to move forward, and allowed themselves to be convinced that they aren’t and shouldn’t want to be men’s equals in the Church that dares to name itself after one of history’s most radical advocates for women—Jesus of Nazareth.

Take a closer look at the women who will be and are currently part of your community. Listen—really listen—to them. And more important, consider the radical way Jesus related to women in a culture that sought to shut them down, curtail them and control them.

Taken from Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

         Gender. Is it a category which applies to divinity? Is God gender-less? Is God gender-ful? Controversy is hot over the 2011 edition of the New International Version of the Bible and its use of gender-neutral terms to refer to God. From the midst of the conservative camp, I am sensing an emerging theological undertone that dares to argue that God is predominantly of one gender. Blogging on the topic has kept the debate fresh in my mind, and while this post is winding and slightly disjointed, it serves well to help me think through the issue.

We must talk about God, but God is beyond language. The best we can do is image God through our language, and the ancient way to speak about God is metaphorically. The parables of Christ are crucial because they demonstrate that metaphor is an indigenous Christian language. One advantage to metaphorical theology is that no one metaphor has to illustrate everything. Deficiencies can be covered by other models.

There are many examples of metaphoric language describing God. In Deuteronomy 32:18, God is both the father and the mother who gives birth: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” In Job, the writer talks about God both mothering and fathering: “Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens (Job 38:28-­29)? God is also described as a woman in labor and giving birth. He is seen as being in pain and crying out, gasping for breath. “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Isa. 42:14). Again the feminine imagery is found in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.” God is a comforting mother, “For thus says the Lord: ‘As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you'” (Isa. 66:12‐13). Isaiah describes God as both mother and father in this hymn of praise: “Look down fromheaven and see, from your holy and glorious habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The trembling of your womb and your womb-­‐tenderness? They are withheld from me. For you are our father” (Isa. 3:15‐16, literal translation).

With such strongly feminine imagery used in Scripture as God-descriptive, why does the tendency lean so strongly toward the use of masculine terms for the Divine in liturgy, prayer, and worship? The forms of scripture, creed, and historical theology in which Christian tradition is carried are encased in and formed by male-dominance. Theology is a matter of language, and of finding the best language available to speak of the concerns of faith. Theologians are very aware of the nuances and sway of language. It is not just the naming that is at stake, but that the naming establishes the relationships, the gridwork through which faith is mediated to women and men.

Roger E. Olson writes in his blog “Some Thoughts About ‘Christian Feminism’” that “insofar as we use the Bible’s predominantly male imagery of God we teach people that maleness is closer to God than femaleness. Without doubt that has been the case throughout much of Christian history.”

Sexism, like racism, is an insidious disease that affects everyone in a world saturated in it. Christians should be at the forefront of the battle against sexism, resisting the blight that it spreads throughout God’s created relational ecosystem. Supplementing predominantly male biblical imagery of God with female imagery, especially drawn from the Bible itself, seems to me to be a critical step in the movement toward biblical equality and restored personhood.

In the introduction to Dorothy Sayer’s article titled “Are Women Human?” Mary McDermott Shideler raises an equally viable concern, “Male and female are biological categories. Masculine and feminine are cultural categories. Both are impersonal classifications with real but limited usefulness. We cannot live or think effectively without classifying our experiences, but always we must ask whether the categories we are using are adequate for the problem we are considering.”

Are the categories male and female, masculine and feminine, “adequate” terms to describe the referent we are considering [God]? Is the God revealed in Scripture through both male and female, masculine and feminine terms classifying himself as one or the other? (Notice my use of the masculine reflective pronoun “himself”. It is unnatural, coming from my tradition, to use any other English pronoun. Perhaps other languages serve this purpose better.)

Olson’s critical follow-up questions to the case for equality are my food for thought these days: “But does throwing out male imagery of God in favor of predominantly female imagery solve anything? Or does it simply reverse patriarchy?” That is the danger that I find in modern feminist theology. The point is not to undo the harm that has been done by centuries of patriarchy via reversing the crime committed, the point is to redeem biblical images of God and the biblical purpose of personhood.

How is that to be accomplished? How do I move forward? I find that my tradition inhibits me from speaking of God in any terms but masculine ones. That is the great, almost imperceptible power of breakthroughs such as the new NIV translation. Slowly but surely, I will learn to speak of God as he speaks of himself. I will learn to see him as more than one gender or another.

In conclusion, I can echo the words of Olson once more: “God has no gender, in spite of the predominantly male imagery of God in scripture. I promote teaching that both male and female characteristics are valuable but prone to distortion and that both genders need redemption without in any way destroying or even undermining their uniqueness as created by God. I promote Christian leadership without hierarchy. I promote liturgical renewal that is not ideologically driven. I promote teaching boys and men to be suspicious of our socially-driven tendencies toward patriarchy without demeaning maleness itself.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor