Gender equality in the church (and home) has been on my mind lately. Why does it matter to me?
Have you ever had a knowing? A thing that you know that you know that you know in the depths of your being? Something that, regardless of what anyone else says or does will remain steady and true to you? Something that can be put through the fire and will just come out brighter and more settled in your core?
I have some knowings. Some of them, I remember precisely the moment I knew. Some of them them though, I can not remember the beginning of the knowing. I just always knew. So there are things that have always been to me.
Two things I will tell you I have always known: I have always known of God as light. I have always known of all people as equals. I have to start here to talk about this because this is where it all started for me, as a knowing. I have to let you know this because you need to know that no one told me this, no one taught me this, I didn’t learn it, I didn’t decide it. I know it. I knew it all along. So when you, or when anyone, denies this truth that I know to be true, debates it, belittles it, tries to snake their way around it with rules and laws and bible verses, I can not do anything but refute it, refuse it, and fight against it. It is part of who I am and I am part of the light and the light is part of me and it just is.
I wonder why other people didn’t get this knowing. Or did they? Why do I have it? What am I supposed to do with it? Everyone wants proof of everything. Everyone wants a dissertation proving that something is or isn’t “biblical”. Books aren’t the only tools we have been given. The Spirit of God is ours to call upon. We are able to let our soul rest with God’s. We are able to ask the Spirit to move us. We are able to receive knowings. We are able to experience the Light outside of a study or a computer screen. We are able to walk in it, bathe in it, hold it inside and spill it out into the darkness. We can hear the voice of God within us, a little voice often more than a booming, but sometimes, a booming.
I know that women and men are equal in the eyes of God and in the receiving of gifts, in the ability to preach and teach and lead and nurture and prophecy and sin. Equality is not sameness, it’s silly to say it is. It’s obvious none of us are actually the same, whether we are the same gender or race or religion or nationality. We have similarities, but we have differences too. All created in God’s image, all with equal access to God should we seek it.
I know this, I don’t know why I should have to prove this. Why does it need to be proved? Can’t you see it? Don’t you know it too?
Patriarchy has done us no favors. Not even men. Though men have gained the most in this oppression, they have lost much too.
Complementarian is a deceiving word at first. At first, it sounds like complementary colors – colors that create a strong contrast side by side but cancel one another out. Complementarians would never let the man be cancelled out by the woman. They try to say, like the makers of the Jim Crow laws, that women are separate but equal to men. Do you remember how the Jim Crow laws ended? Did they end? Legal justification for discrimination. It sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Yes, some people have black skin and some people have white skin. We are different, but our skin color doesn’t indicate our intelligence, ability, or relationship with God. In the same way, some of us have a uterus and some of us don’t, but that doesn’t indicate our intelligence, ability, or relationship with God. It is a biological difference. It is not a spiritual difference.
Perhaps we were all made to complement one another like the colors on the color wheel, but that doesn’t create a pyramid, it creates a circle.
Gender roles are a social construct (we make them up), they aren’t inherent at birth. We teach them, directly and indirectly. All cultures have different social constructs. Patriarchy has shaped most of our social constructs. Patriarchy is not God’s plan for the world, it only began after sin entered the story and it has led to so much damage, and yet, it continues with raging support from some. We have all been redeemed from the weight of its grasp, the kingdom has been turned on its head in this redemption, and yet we still battle this destructive idea not only in our culture, but in our churches.
I wonder, why do people feel the need to believe and justify that women and men should hold gender specific roles? What are they so afraid of happening if people don’t stick to the script? What do they gain if people do? Why must they make it part of religion, part of church? Why can’t people decide between themselves and their spouse who does what and how based on what works for them? Why can’t churches be led and run in a way to utilizes everyone’s God given gifts, not their gender? What is really at risk here? Pride? Power? Control?
Those questions are more for you to think about than they are for you to answer. I’ve seen the lengthy comments and blogs. For every 3 verses you post in defense of complementarianism, someone else will post 3 defending egalitarianism. For every expert you have, we have a match. I’m grateful for the work of others that I’m not suited to do. I didn’t come here because I studied this. I didn’t come here because I was taught. I didn’t come here because I decided. I came here because I know.
I’m grateful for the church I was raised in, that no one was caught up heavily in this. I’m grateful for my parents, who weren’t either. Patriarchy has made its marks on my world and my upbringing, yes, but no one ever told me to quiet down, to step down, to step back, or to defer to a man because I’m not one. I’m grateful I was never told to be more modest in my clothing or attitude, but was instead encouraged and empowered to learn and grow as a leader in my church and community. I’m weary and exhausted seeing that this is a “thing” in the world around me. I’m tired of seeing people try to sugar coat it, put it nicely, make it pretty with flowers, make it palatable and digestible. No.
No, no, no. You can’t soften this blow.
I’m tired of the assumption that not believing this gender-role nonsense means someone thinks that taking care of a family and making a home is an unworthy task. That’s a lie, that’s not what feminists or egalitarians believe. We know that taking care of a family and making a home is difficult, important work that men and women can do. We know that being nurturing, quiet, sensitive, and supportive are admirable characteristics that men and women can have. We know that women want respect too. We know that men want affection too. Our love languages develop based on who we are as human beings, they aren’t gender-specific. We know that men and women are limited by gender roles. We know that we can all be better and do more of what we were designed to do without those needless socially constructed restrictions.
There’s nothing wrong with being someone that fits into traditional gender roles and enjoys those roles because they fit and work. There’s also nothing wrong with not fitting into traditional gender roles because they don’t fit or work. This shouldn’t be so hard.
I’m tired of watching church people waste their time and energy debating things like this, and things like homosexuality. Why don’t you stop studying and arguing and get out into the world and get to know people outside of your bubble and do something? What difference could we make if we formed a blessed alliance with one another as believers and did the work of being Christians together, dispersing tasks to those fit to handle the tasks instead of worrying about what’s gender appropriate (because that’s not an actual thing)?
There’s a place for digging into scripture, There’s a time for discussing different interpretations and ideas. It’s not all the time. If the sole purpose though is to maintain the status quo, or to oppress someone else, or to add rules and regulations, then what good is that study doing for the kingdom? How does that spread the Good News? What are you trying to prove? Why? Then you force others to combat you with their study and their words to try to earn their rightful place. What a waste of time and energy. Why are we doing this? We should be getting our hands dirty out in the world, we should be working to make a difference to those in need, we should be more concerned with what we can do to effect positive change in the lives of those around us. We should be spending our time and energy being the light.
When we study scripture, when we dive into topics, we should be doing so to grow closer to God, to find strength and peace and love and joy and redemption and grace and mercy and hope and strength to fill us up in our brokenness, so that we may pour it out into one another, into our families, into our communities, and into the world.
I’ve spent too much time in the trenches with people who need more from the church than this for me to be satisfied with this use of our time and energy. We’ve got to get out and do the work, we’ve got to stop spending so much time on apologetics with one another and start being the kind of people that bear enough fruit that we don’t need to prove anything to the world, that they will see God’s love and redemption and freedom in us and be drawn to the Light because we’re letting it shine. We can’t share the freedom of living a life of faith if we are bogged down in chains of our own making and working on chaining others to us because we’re more worried about being “biblical” than we are about being the light of the world. There is a wildness in the Spirit: let it move, let it through, let it do what it will do.
Stop fighting people about their rights, about their truths, about their knowings.
We don’t need to prove our place. We don’t need to earn it. One day, the darkness of patriarchy (and racism and homophobia and prejudice and all other systems of oppression and injustice) will be no more. Until then, I know that I know that I know that there is no separate but equal for any of us. We are equal. We are beloved. We are redeemed. We are free.