Outside of the sphere of literary studies (and heavy metal), I read quite a few blogs geared towards Christianity. Most of them could be classified under the “emergent” or “progressive” banner, which to some is a huge problem. But it’s the space where I find myself most able to engage with theology and my personal faith on an intellectual level. I’m not opposed to other expressions of Christianity, they just always seem “lacking” in something for me. I say this simply as context for the rest of the post, because about a month ago this realm of the Christian blogosphere (and others) was on fire with talk of gender.
It all started with Evangelical pastor John Piper claiming that Christianity has a “masculine” feel. Blogger and author Rachel Held Evans asked men to respond to Piper, and there were many, many responses given. I had wanted to write something for awhile, but I wasn’t sure what. However, with a recent post on Relevant Magazine’s website (a popular destination for the “emergent/progressive” crowd), confirmed what it was I wanted to add that I hadn’t seen yet. Dr. Russel Moore claims that women should stop submitting to men on a cultural level. The patriarchal system is not one that should be held as the ideal for women to follow. I agree with this wholeheartedly. He then makes a move to talk about how women need not do this because it takes attention off their own husbands. Initially, in trying to defend the well written article to a friend, I said that he was simply referring to the “focus” one has and how this focus should be on the one someone is married too. Male or female. I think what’s buried underneath this article though, and the whole conversation in general, is one of performance.
What I think the more conservative branches fear is that if women stop “submitting” and start taking an active role in the church, then the great giant of traditional gender norms will fall and the men who are in their position of power will no longer have the same control they did. I don’t think this has much to do with Scripture. I think it has everything to with who holds the power. I think this frightens people like Piper and if women start doing things like pastoring, that are outside of their traditional roles, then the men will have no place to go. However, just because one gender starts acting differently than it was “supposed to” is no reason that the opposite gender can’t change too. Having women in prominent places in the church will not kill the church. Having men take a back seat will not kill the church. In fact, I think this will be good and healthy, because if the Christian church is to believe that both men and women are inhabited by the image of God, then there has been one entire aspect of God that has been silenced for a very long time. And as the book of Galatians says, “there is neither jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28 TNIV)
Unity is what is at stake. Talk of Christianity having a gendered “feel” that promotes one over the other is divisive. It holds back gifts and talents that could benefit a vast majority. And it’s not about complimenting one gender towards the other, it’s about the value both have, equally, in the Christian message. That is a message I want to hear more often.