Relationships between men and women spark conversation and controversy, and if you want to get a good argument started, ask the question,
“What is the woman’s role in church?”
Not surprisingly, many men and women, especially those of the evangelical persuasion, reply along the lines of,
“She must be submissive and quiet, respectful to male leadership, and she should NEVER TEACH MEN! She may, and should, actually, teach children’s church, since this is a special area that women are really talented in.” (We also, for some reason, are exceptionally skilled at changing diapers, dealing with runny noses, and mopping up the product of upset tummies. And the donut ministry, in the back foyer with the coffee pots, simply wouldn’t exist without women.)
A plethora of Bible verses are brought into play as to why women take a secondary (but, we are assured, important) role in spiritual matters. We’ve all heard about how Eve ate the apple first, which we’re told says volumes regarding her naivete and how easily she is fooled, although one can’t help but wonder about Adam’s perspicacity, or singular lack of it. If the temptation account of Genesis 3 makes the woman look credulous, the man comes out looking hardly any better.
Whacked by Bible Verses
But the point is, although there are plenty of verses to verbally thrash any upstart back into submission — a misguided technique we easily fall into when we see the Bible as travel guide or spiritual etiquette pamphlet as opposed to a rich resource for learning about who God is, and how much He loves us — there are always verses that don’t fit, and need to be prodded and pulled and pummeled into shape:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
This is not a counter statement to the “other side’s argument” so much as it is a beautiful affirmation of the worth and value of all human beings — women are not “lesser,” employees (rapidly becoming the 21st century slaves) are not “inferior,” those of Jewish descent or perceived Jewish descent are not superior, possessors of a “Better Than the Rest of Humanity” pass regardless of how they act, believe, or treat others. We are all one in Christ, beloved children of a most merciful and loving Father, and we are all to approach our Father individually and privately, relying upon Him to build and strengthen our closeness to Him.
The Father of Daughters and Sons
As women, we do not need to secure our husband’s, or any male’s, permission to enter into conversation with our Father, nor do we need testosterone-based guidance in studying the Scriptures, in the same way that many of us are capable of contributing to the family income, managing the finances, or getting the car in for its oil change without subsiding weakly into virile arms, aflutter with the vapours.
We use telephones, drive trucks, push lawnmowers, and conduct public conversations with men, women, and children. And quite honestly, we teach men all the time — whether it’s because we are their managers at work, their mothers who don’t stop giving advice when they reach adolescence, or simply intelligent, articulate beings who find that, sometimes, we have something significant to say.
But the problem is, while we are able to walk down the street without being accompanied by the household footman, we can’t — in many churches — stand behind the pulpit and teach.
The Glass Cathedral Ceiling
But is this a problem? If the cathedral ceiling of the rapidly becoming inconsequential contemporary “church” is closed to the voice of women, does this mean that women do not speak?
Not at all, because when we recognize that there are two major definitions of church — 1) the multiple weekly event that involves, for most people, sitting and listening and 2) the body of Christ in which we are all valued children of our Father, each with unique gifts meant to be used — then we can effectively decide where we want to spend our energy (and, come to think of it, our money).
And the best place to spend it, the one in which we are not fettered by literally man-made dictums, is in the real church, the one in which we operate as a son or daughter of God. Now in this real church, we speak and give and receive and teach and learn as we we go about the process of living, and we reach, and are reached by, those who are in our sphere of influence — family, friends, the checker at the grocery store, the librarian who forgives our late fees.
There is no guarantee, however, that we will wear religious robes, or bask in the adulation of acolytes, or receive compensation for what we do, which is, indeed, what those at the top CEO status of the religious organization that we mistakenly identify as “church” receive. If that is our goal, then we probably won’t reach it, because few people, even men, make it to the top of that corporate ladder, and even in the lesser regions, where male elders and deacons and pastors spend more time studying “leadership issues” than they do books of the Bible, it would do little good for a woman to try to break in. The people who cleave to that sort of teaching aren’t ready to hear words — from a woman or a man — that don’t conform to their rule models.
So why bother? Why waste energy with a system that presents itself as a weak substitute for the real thing when we could be learning, questioning, reading, praying, loving, teaching, and doing good things for others, going about our Father’s business with all the energy and creativity that He has given to all of us?
Whether you are a woman or a man, if you know that you are God’s daughter or son, then speak. Those who have ears to hear, will listen.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. You may notice that I’m not particularly big on group-think, group-speak, or inveterate group participation, because commonsense shows us that, in all groups, only a few benefit from the energy and contribution of all.
That’s not how it is with God, who shows no favoritism. He does not bless others, at the expense of you and me, because others are more valuable. But for some reason, we act as if He does.
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