Tag Archives: gender

PS to the last one!

16 May

This whole concept of Biblical femininity and Biblical masculinity is kinda rubbing me the wrong way.

A woman is not any less a woman if she doesn’t sew, stay at home, bake cakes and dance (okay, okay, some sarcasm there…). A woman, in fact, in Proverbs 31 did quite a bit of marketing and business. She provides, she goes out and supplies the merchants with sashes, she goes out and markets her wares (!) and and and – she speaks. She gives “faithful instruction”. She – get this – “she watches over the affairs of her household”. She sounds like she’s pretty in charge.

And a man is not any less a man if he doesn’t bring home the bigger income, or doesn’t equate to his ‘machismo’. It worries me when evangelical preachers say things like ‘man up’ and ‘be a man’ in some situation, and make it a Biblical mandate. There is not a specific set of ‘male’ traits and ‘female’ traits that the Bible asks us to have and to follow. We’re denying creation – he made us male and female. We don’t make ourselves male and female in different ways. We emulate the character of God, we are the whole woman God called us to be or the whole man God called us to be.

This feeds in a little bit to the fact that much of the question of gender and sexuality is culturally fed. And we make it ‘Christian’ in a way that seems so harmless but is still dangerous, because it allows to subscribe to gender in way God did not ordain by the way we asses ‘how’ male and female we are.

‘Biblical masculinity’ and ‘Biblical femininity’ seem to engender proponents and telly evangelists and a plethora of bloggers who become overnight experts. For the record though, I’m not indiscriminately against people in these forums. 🙂 I know there are several husband-wife duos out there who do offer an honest account of their every day learning if they’re bloggers with humility and humour and authenticity (like her and him 🙂 ), or a well-thought out argument and often a sermon and teaching on the subject, like this wonderful couple whose teaching I used to love (although it’s been a while).

I have stereotypes. You could call them dreams even – going to a dance ;), being chauffeured around a bit, being given flowers and chocolate and having someone eventually think I’m perfect. You do too – don’t you? But the thing is I know they’re my wishes, I know they’re my desires, I know some of them are fed by Disney.

I do not make some of these things a Biblical mandate. But I know and I see how easy it can be to make them mandates, and how hard it is to pull out the tangled hairs and threads of culture and context from the nature of who God is. Yet it is our call to constantly engage in this activity, constantly probe and do a winnowing of our minds and understanding to see him ever more clearly. And even as I say this to you, I know we will never be truly perfect – until then.

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Gender and all that – my half-formed thoughts on a page

14 May

I’ve been struggling for some days with the expression of this. This place of frustration because you so want to do some research and you have to wait for bureaucracy, this place of frustration because you wish Christians – and not just inter-church murals! – would relate to each other outside of theological niceties and interact as people and understand the image of God that is naturally and fluidly in each of us, this place of frustration because you want to say something and let your intellectual thought process go on but you’re afraid of stepping on toes.

Anyone’s toes really. I’ve had these thoughts on gender and sexuality and what is permissive and what is profitable and leadership in the church and relationships – can you see how I might step on anyone’s toes? And I don’t have a side to which I belong – I cannot say to you ‘Ok, I’m a liberal and if you’re going to be offended – stay clear’. I think I’m pretty conservative – but then conservatives are a weird breed and who knows how they (we?) might judge me?

There has been a lot of debate in Biola – a campus I am fairly familiar with through students – on sexual orientation. In my research on social science research projects and ethics, I came across a rather disturbing forum and a train of thought which I am itching to write about and parallel to current arguments. I like predicting people’s reactions and I am usually a fairly accurate guess. And I think they would react with horror that I could ever posit two things such as what I hope to and say that they were similar with good humanitarian ground. However, I think I will. And I’ll make my disclaimers known in good thesis statement fashion 🙂

Today however, I think I’ll stick to A TINY smattering of the oh-how-I-hate-calling-it-that egalitarian-complementarian debate. Actually, quite a few of the debaters are ranting against the terms. It doesn’t really have to be one or the other and a couple can well be equal as well as complementing to each other.

But for what it’s worth, before I even go into some of my ideas, I think that two people are purposed to come together and interact in the special, unique way that God made them. That’s why he only ever called you to one wife or husband – e designed us pretty neatly and uniquely, and he purposed us too. And some of us intellectual or regimented or well, seriously, more anal types need to realise that that is how God’s going to make it work. You go into it with no guarantees except that God called you both to be together, and there’s no changing that.

God could then overhaul your lives entirely. Speak to one or both of you, redefine your calling, or ask you to act on that instruction h gave you when you were 10 and you forgot all about. God could change your physical circumstances, or your mental even! And it is silly – and I often make this mistake, as a single – to think that it’s possible to get all your shots in order before the big day so that your life is sorted for the rest of eternity. I, of all people, should know the answer is ‘Never’ to the question: Since when has the Lord ever made things that easy?! Provision, yes. Love, yes. But trivial and easy lack of challenge – no.

Neither husband nor wife can take a decision FOR each other – unless that couple decides to do that equally and unequivocally for each other, and they take no decisions for themselves. It can’t be one partner taking every decision for the other, unless that is mutual. That undermines the value of each person that God has placed within them. If it were mutual – wow, what a testimony; but also man, that’s going to be hard! Hierarchy goes against the verses that speak of mutual submission and considering others better than yourself. You lay a claim to that authority OVER someone else (Mark 10:42), you immediately destroy the model of servanthood and leadership that God provides.

Paul’s use of the term ‘head’ is a rather complicated thing – no? It strikes me that over and over again, he overturns the image we have of a ‘leader’ in our heads. He makes it instead evident that the leaders are called to lay it down – him saying that to a culture of patriarchy would have been a pretty radical thing. Perhaps he was asking those husbands who had, as their culture dictated, held all authority until then to lay it down? He’s doing a pretty radical thing in the Corinthian church too when he asks women to be silent – women who’d never learned the language the Scriptures were taught in and sat to another side to gossip… Well, suddenly, they needed to shut up and listen. Women who came from a temple culture of matriarchy and female worship – Corinth. And then he kinda turns it upside down for the men in the political and male-dominated city which then became a pretty central spot for Christianity – Ephesus.

He compares the men to Christ, he uses the term ‘head’ in the same way he used it for Christ – and then he says, go do that. I think there is something to that model of headship. And I – personally – don’t think it defines bottom-line decisions but giving, and nurturing and making sure the other is benefited, can grow and can reach their full potential and glorify God best. I’ve been reading a few articles by NT Wright (<3) and Gordon Fee, Tim Keller (who is complementarian but one of the most egalitarian ones, apparently) and also Piper and Grudem, who are on the other side. Piper, however, is very nearly egalitarian too or seems to have become, in his later writings. And almost all of these people have constructions for how the verb ‘submit’ is not repeated with the word for women, but rather remains in the first injunction to both and then is extended to the next clause. Quite a few details like that.

*On a side note – I picked all men for my list of exegetes, intentionally, to avoid any accusation of bias :). It would be kinda cool, incidentally, to see an argument by all-women exegetes to explain this position (or even another topic) and even cooler to see a guy do it 😀 Okay, aside over.*

Bottom-line – there are two theological positions on this – both very clear, and both with a measure of persuasiveness. And I think that in reality, in the practical outworking of life, it will be up to the couple to choose to work their family in the way that serves and produces fruit for God best. In a way that makes use of the giftings of the husband, wife, and children not in any way that reduces the wife’s or the husband’s gift at all. I think I personally might need to remember that in pursuing my calling and my giftings to the exclusion of my husband’s – if that ever happens 🙂 – I have a very high degree of answerability and even blame before God for those things that my husband might miss out on. And I pray I have a husband who thinks likewise!

However, it could be hard if the man or the woman wants to be the authority and grasp for it consciously – it could be hard in that there will be pride on both sides and hurt and ineffectiveness.

TBC…

What is wrong with this picture? – Thoughts on Christ, Context and Identity

5 Jan

I am always here because something has blown me away. Always it’s God. Often it’s for world missions. Today, anyway, he’s done it with a Chinese guy singing in Tamil. Kinda related, right? 😀 In my limited experience, I’ve never seen the two ethnicities (yeah, yeah, social scientist) have much to do with each other in homelands. So this was special but also sad – that it was special, I mean. Tamil is a language spoken by … well, the Tamils in India but also in Sri Lanka (yes, that Tamil), Malaysia and some parts of Singapore. I think this video was from Malaysia. For some time recently, our perceptions and prejudices of differences has spoken to me often and unerringly.

I once walked home to my little sub-let in a friend’s home, on Coed Mawr, a council estate in Bangor. This was the slightly better off council estate. Fewer at-risk kids, and fewer kids that we worked with through the church. It was dark, in the way that late afternoons can be dark only in the UK. Dark, wet, and ever-reminiscent of the snow-capped mountains in the near distance. This evening was no different.

I liked it, you know. I think I went and fell in love with Wales. And Welsh people. And Welsh accents. And the church family there. I had only recently moved to this neighbourhood and I was enjoying the house. But always when I walked without my housemate or friends, I had the sense of being seen. I didn’t feel different – but to the kids, and probably to their less-unequivocal parents, I seemed different. I was ‘foreign’, but I didn’t look typically ‘foreign’. And by look, I mean dress or talk or eat. I lived with a definitely Welsh friend, and most of my friends weren’t necessarily like me in the way they’d expect, perhaps. They were local, or from the university. So I was so different from them that perhaps I seemed less human. We define ‘right’ and ‘humanity’ by our own measures. I was different but not in the way they thought.

As I turned the corner into our street, I saw the kids from the estate laughing secretively, a boy teasing a girl as if he wished he could do something else instead, a couple of kids on the swings. I knew they would comment on me, but they were teenagers – they would comment on everything and everyone passing by. Instead this time they decided to address me. With animal noises.

I am not all that nice, you know. Really inside of me, I wanted to put on my best upper-crust-can’t-touch-me face (yes, I can do this sometimes but y’all reading this don’t know me so my secret’s safe ;)) and I wanted to say to them: “I’m sorry? I don’t speak Welsh!” Not because I don’t love Welsh because of course, I do, and I had spent a good part of the previous week learning the national anthem in between times! But because I knew that it would hurt them. There – ugh, confession, there’s my mean streak. I thought to myself that it was a good lesson for them to learn. But I didn’t. Aaron told me later that he would have paid me to say it, if he’d been there. He’s Welsh. What I did though was talk to God.

How do we perceive difference? Those kids didn’t know better. I think I might have even had conversations with them later. They didn’t know I would recognise them. But if you are reading this, and you know the Lord Jesus and love his word, then how do you see the meaning of difference?  – Selah, and I mean it. –

Is your identity in being Welsh, or American, or European, or Indian, or Asian, or English, or African? I struggle with this because people might argue that part of our identity does come from these things. From our language, from our colour, our ethnicity, our jobs, our educations and our nationalities. Our identity is a bricolage of influences – think post-modern theory, Strauss, Derrida, even Eckert and others. But what is it built on?

In our first-grade classes, we’re making quilts. We have dozens of little squares, triangles and a few more quadrilaterals because, of course, we’re learning geometry. Every little child gets a certain number of little coloured pieces of paper. Each of them makes a pattern. And then all those little patterns of squares (so far) go on the base white sheet of construction paper. One big quilt. Different coloured little patches, all out of paper, all stuck on one paper. Even that’s not analogy enough.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (emphasis added, KJV)

Get that? Really? All of these influences, every memory, every whisper, every laurel, every pain is subsumed into this one saving identity in Christ. My parents, my education, the good and the bad – they don’t define me. Christ does. He might use these things and he will. But it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. It is not incidental that that whole chapter is talking about Jews and Gentiles.

Does it make you uncomfortable now that we marry, eat, laugh, pray within our own races? Does it make you uncomfortable counting the Christian friends on your Facebook list and realising they have comparable incomes, literacies, families and (this sickens me because after all the struggle against it, it has no excuse) ethnicities? Remember, I’m only talking about Christian friends – we haven’t even started on going out of that box and taking Christ to the world.

How many of them disturb you at all? No, they don’t have to be scandalous and no, they do not have to sin to disturb you. Can they afford pizza at home? Do you know anyone who cannot? Because the whole problem is this – if it makes us uncomfortable, we’re forced to do something about it.

Do you know anyone outside your community, your race, your ethnicity, your settlement, your clan, your club, your caste, your tribe? Are they token people or can you really relate?

Has it surprised you that someone of a different race had a similar emotion to yours? I’ve heard it often enough. Think again.

Who defines you? What defines you?

If this doesn’t make us uncomfortable, then there is something deathly wrong. And we’ve got to change it.

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