Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why does it always come down to sex?

Sex as in gender, that is.

I’m talking about the way that many of my fellow Christians will profess equality for men and women, but only up to a certain point. That point usually comes when they realize that women’s equality conflicts with the old adage that men are the “spiritual head of the household,” no matter what, not to mention the whole “wives, submit to your husbands” thing.

Though these statements may be Biblically based (and many die-hard conservative sexist Christians will avow to that) I don’t see why it applies to our world today, and why we can’t see it as another way in which the Bible is a reflection of the culture in which it was written. Does it really make sense nowadays to grant men spiritual power over their wives simply because they have a penis? I don’t think so. In fact, it didn’t make sense then, either, but it seems that two thousand years ago the society was a lot more patriarchal…therefore to use such statements about women as strict mores for our current lifestyle practices ignores the fact that we’ve made any kind of progress (and by “we” I mean both humanity and women specifically). To me, that seems wrong on so many levels.

The reason I bring this up is that, as a (liberal) Christian, I've had a string of conversations with several other Christians about their views on equality, and each conversation has been initially hopeful and yet ultimately disappointing. (I won't even get into the discussions on abortion and homosexuality.) The latest of these instances was with my cousin, who’s in seminary right now on his way to becoming a minister. He had recently started working with a Baptist church, and, knowing the traditional stance the Baptist denomination takes against women in leadership roles, I asked him what his views were.

The conversation started off well. He was appalled that women were kept out of ministry and started listing off strong women from the Bible (admitting that it’s unfortunate more women weren’t recorded). He also said that he felt that the “wives, submit to your husbands” point was more about living in the circumstances you’re faced with, much like the highly-contested “slaves, obey your masters” line (which will not be discussed here, in my paltry efforts toward brevity). However, when I, encouraged by his stance, said I didn’t think men should automatically be the spiritual heads of the household, he started back-tracking a little. Let’s just say that he leaned toward the view that men are naturally endowed as better leaders, which translates into their roles in the household…he was actually unsure of what he meant himself (which is kind of a good sign) and we ended on a polite but unresolved note.

I could go on about this for days, but my point is, why are there so few Christians who believe in total equality for women and men? Thankfully, I am continually encouraged by things such as the book, Faith and Feminism, and the blog, Churchgal. I just wish there was more encouragement out there for those who think faith can be feminist and feminists can have faith.

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