Friday, August 24, 2012

God looks like a lady?


I've been thinking a lot about God and gender lately.

I post daily devotionals to my church's Facebook page from Forward Day by Day, and a couple of weeks ago, one of them really, really, REALLY caught me off guard.

The essay was about dealing with loss and grief and the best way to convey God's love to those grieving. My family has been going through a particularly trying period lately, so I was especially eager to read it. I found myself nodding my head in agreement (well, not really, actually just mentally agreeing) until I came upon this line:  "But like God herself, scripture is not around for anyone’s protection, just for everyone’s unending support.”

Yup, God herself.




Okay, let me get a few things out of the way. We know from Holy Scripture that God is neither male or female, but is spirit. We know that male and female were created in God's image.

I'm also aware that there are major translational differences between Hebrew, Greek and English. Namely, in English our nouns can only fall into masculine, feminine and things/its categories.

Even knowing all that backstory didn't stop me from re-reading that line like ten times. I thought at first I misread it. Then I thought it was a typo. Finally, I realized it wasn't a mistake and maybe some of what more conservative Christians have been saying about Episcopalians is true.

A few days later, while at my dad's house, I got into a conversation about women in ministry with my stepmom. She and my dad are co-pastors of a small church. They had recently returned from their denomination's international convention in New Orleans. She showed me pics of her and friends, all women, dressed in their ministerial garb.

My stepmom is third from the right.

We talked about a Christian Post story about how their denomination has voted to allow women to be bishops. And a comment below it totally ripping female ordinations to shreds. An excerpt from the combox warrior's screed: 
The Biblical reason given why God would rather have men rule is based upon Eve's sin of being deceived spiritually, which is a DESIGNED aspect of women. Adam was not deceived, men should NOT be deceived! (1Tim 2:14; Ga 6:7) Because of the brain's "wiring" women tend to emotionalize and talk more statistically rather then being logical. This statistical blood flow reduction to the brain under fear and stress is also why women should not be placed in "front line" war combat roles as the USA military is now training women to do today!
Uh huh. My stepmom just shook her head at that and laughed. Interestingly, since she is a district elder, she actually outranks my dad, who is an elder.

Talk about ruling over your husband.

A few days after that, I came across an article on Rachel Held Evan's blog about complementarian and egalitarian marriages. Using John Piper and Wayne Grudem's "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" as a guide, Rachel charted her career as a writer and speaker and found that her work could be problematic for her husband AND for other men. She writes:

"... in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—the manual of sorts for the complementarian movement— John Piper provides a continuum along which Christian women (and the Christian men who might employ them) can plot the appropriateness of various occupations along two scales: 1) how much authority the woman has over men, and 2) the degree to which the relationship is personal between the woman and the men with whom she works. 

The chart in the book looks like this:

Personal                Non-personal
Directive                Non-directive 

“There are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive, and healthy for the overall structure of home and society,” Piper  states. “Some roles would involve kinds of leadership and expectations of authority and forms of strength as to make it unfitting for a woman to fill that role.”  

... I decided to plot my own career along Piper’s continuum to see if he would consider my line of work appropriate to "biblical womanhood." My writing career mostly checked out because my influence over men is largely non-personal. However, my speaking career pushed things a bit, for lecturing brings me out of the home and often places me in a position of authority over men. Furthermore, when my speaking calendar is full, I tend to make more money per hour than Dan, which complementarians warn against. I gave myself an A for writing and a C for speaking. "
 ...  But things got really interesting when I used Piper’s scale to plot the occupations of women from the Bible. Lydia, a wealthy silk dealer and member of the early church, fared okay, even though her job likely took her out of the home and involved personal interaction with men. Priscilla, a theology teacher to the apostle Apollos, scored much worse because she exhibited leadership that was both personal and authoritative. And poor Deborah! As a military leader, political appointee, prophetess, and judge, she shot right off the charts in both personal and authoritative leadership to become what Piper would call a clear “offense against God’s order”….which is kinda odd seeing as how the writer of Judges says Deborah was appointed by God for her task."

Clearly, there is a huge range within Christianity in regards to females. From women being silent in church (and maybe pretty much everywhere) to viewing God as mother. Where do you stand? What do you think the proper role of women is? In marriage? In the workforce? In church? In life?


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