Tuesday, December 07, 2004

215 The Taliban--It was about Gender

“But everything in Afghanistan was about gender. While men were punished for what they did, for defying the authorities, the Taliban’s relentless war against Kabul’s middle-class women wasn’t a simple equation of crime and punishment. There was a desperation to the floggings and the stonings meted out to these women, a hysteria behind the ruthless and uncompromising humiliation that spoke to just how powerless the fundamentalist leadership felt in the new world that had taken root in Kabul, the world inching toward modern values like diversity, tolerance and equality. The sight of an unveiled rosy cheek or a lock of hair tousled by the wind was the most intimate, thus the most potent, symbol of a world they could no longer control, despite Allah’s command that they control it. Only by concealing that swath of flesh, by reining in those unruly tresses, could the men in power regain the sense that they were masters of their perversion of a Koranic domain.” pp. 104-105 So many enemies, so little time by Elinor Burkett.

George W. Bush has freed those women. He has done more for women than any American president in history. He freed more people than Lincoln. Millions of women in Afghanistan can again have jobs, education and civil rights because of him. And the Left (who would all claim to be feminists) in this country and Europe won’t even mention it except to castigate him.

That said, what about gender in Christian circles, churches, and countries? It’s certainly not the reign of the Taliban, but there are men deathly afraid of women usurping their power. They push women to the background and keep them covered (some literally, like anabaptists and conservative Catholics).

In my church, a daughter of the congregation who was lovingly and patiently (and at great expense) brought up through the Sunday School and Youth groups, cannot be ordained in her home church if she hears God‘s call to be a pastor, a church supported for maybe 20 years by her parents’ tithes.

In my church, no woman preaches from the pulpit (although for some odd reason she is allowed to read Scripture, sing hymns and pray in front of the males of the congregation).

In my church, no woman teaches an adult Sunday School class or a week-night class where men might be in the audience, unless she has a male co-teacher as her “covering.”

In my church, which has a huge staff (about 60), there are no women administrators, and most of the women on staff are part-timers in clerical positions.

In my church, the board president is almost always a man (I can recall 2 women presidents in the past 35 years, but there may have been one or two I don't remember).

In my church, the hands down, most successful programming is run by women for women, completely independent of the male pastoral hierarchy; they select their own material, manage their own expenses, schedule their own meetings and have an outreach far beyond our local church and denomination. Historically, this is true in most conservative Christian churches.

In my church, the largest and most successful Vacation Bible School in the city, and perhaps all of Ohio, is run primarily by women, with only modest pastoral oversight.

In my church, the exercise/aerobics program (if you click, don't be fooled by the guy--as far as I know my husband is the only long-time regular male in this program) was developed well over a decade ago and staffed by women who sweated and shouted and stayed healthy for the Lord, 7-9 times a week in two locations. They enrolled many hundreds of women (and 2 or 3 men) from all over the community who in turn began attending and brought in their spouse and children to become members.

In my church, a very promising urban/suburban ministry has come about primarily through the efforts of one woman who was able to rally the pastors, staff, volunteers and congregation to see the possibilities in linking a suburban church to a city school.

In my church, the women are not stupid or submissive. They are lawyers, accountants, teachers, professors, homemakers, business owners, homeschoolers, computer programmers, entertainers, nannies, musicians, secretaries, retirees and janitors. We know what is going on, but accept it, because we don’t want a church without men. And that’s what happens to a congregation that tries to be gender inclusive in power--the men will leave or sit back and let the women run everything. Look around you. Name a large evangelical church with female pastoral or board leadership.

And what does the Bible really say about gender? I’ve heard all the tired arguments men in the church have for keeping women submerged below "see level" and busy working in the trenches for Jesus (the kitchen, the nursing home and the nursery). I’ve heard men of every Christian persuasion, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, and every conservative denomination twist Scripture to predict the Second Coming, to define what is a Sacrament, to justify speaking in tongues, to sprinkle or dunk or dip, to serve grape juice or wine, to go to war or outlaw war; but when it comes to gender, they are married very literally to a few favorite verses, be it from the Genesis’ creation story, or Paul’s comments on the reason to keep your head covered. All the rest of their stubbornness and myopia is pure tradition and mythology--cultural and secular to the core. The same level of veracity as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. These same men will send women as missionaries to evangelize in non-western countries, assuming I suppose that the men in those cultures are “like children?”

But no man who reads the Bible seriously can hide or misinterpret Jesus’ own example in the Gospels, where he not only included women in his closest circle of friends, but he announced his purpose and mission first to women. The first century of Christian followers after Jesus returned to the Father began writing women out within 50 years or so after Jesus first revealed himself to women at the tomb and commanded them to go tell the others. And for the next 20 centuries, the rest of Christian manhood has for the most part, been following their example rather than Christ’s.

Where is George Bush when we need him? Certainly not liberating Christian women for full ministry.


marti said...

I read you article on the activity of women in your church which is great.
But what are the men doing. Are they lost and inactive. If so why? Do men carry their fair share in the church?
In my church the men are indeed invisible. I don't know why. I will be leaving for a place where men care.

Norma said...

I think the article answered what the men do--they have all the visible positions of power. The pulpit. The board. The staff. And they are providing leadership for their families.

If you are looking for a church where men are active and leaders, then be prepared for the women to be behind the scenes. Both the sexes will be working hard, but the roles will be very different.