MeInMySmallCorner gets depressed. LilyTodd just wants to throw it all away. Then she doesn’t. Then Espero gave us men a kick up the bum and some of us are responding. Since I have become a Christian I have met many amazing women. None more so than my wife. I met one girl who came top of her class at the best college on the island. One night I saw her start to cry as an idiot who happened to be a man and who happened to work for a church stamped all over her passions. I sat up late under the stars with another girl, a truly unique person who was so confused by the mixed signals all around her that to this day she hasn’t had the guts to follow through on what she suspects she is meant to do. I became best friends with a yet another girl who could preach like a lightning storm but who kept it to herself because that was her place. Also, she was frightened of lightning.
I’m a man who loves theology, seems pretty stable, washes regularly and doesn’t have any apparent addictions and so all the power and wealth and influence of the churches in Ireland are at my disposal. I thank God that I have some actual titans as mentors. I am grateful that I have all sorts of educational opportunities spread out in front of me. I live in the Cardboard Mansion. But the most gifted young leader I’ve come across on the whole island of Ireland lives down the road from me. On paper, she is not an amazing proposition- she isn’t a doctor or a lawyer or a mountain climber. But I have seen her up close and she has a phenomenal ability to step into a room and put every person at their ease. I have seen her up close and she has a focus on Grace that I aspire to. I have seen her up close and she is the definition of integrity. But she is a she. So she doesn’t even realise it herself. No one would ever dare to tell her and push her and affirm and encourage her. And I still get all the opportunities but if the church had its shit together, they would have found this lady by now and said, “How can we help?!”
The Church has forgotten so much of its mission. All around me people drop off, preferring newspapers in bed to pop songs in church on a Sunday morning and the Church has allowed them to think that was all there was to it. The mission of God is stale. The Gospel is boring. Its messengers are hypocrites or dullards. At least that is the way my peers seem to see it. The Church has replaced the Kingdom with Christendom. Its really hard to even imagine it being any other way.
But here is one place I know it can be another way. The Church began as the movement that broke the chains locking women in their place. It found its momentum in the writings of the Old Testament and in the forming Canon of the New. My wife-unit is genuinely better placed to preach on this, an expert in how the stories always seem to rotate around the action of a woman. But she is busy doing real things so I will have to do it.
Here is my claim: Christians believe that our gifts come from the Spirit. Whoever the Spirit gifts for leadership, is qualified to lead. (Martin Luther: “The person who wishes to preachÃ¯Â»Â¿Ã¯Â»Â¿ needs to have a good voice, good eloquence, a good memory and other natural gifts; whoever does not have these should properly keep still and let somebody else speak.”)
One of the passages in the New Testament that people point to and say “Misogyny!” is Ephesians 5. There, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands. One must remember that submitting means freely giving over authority. The woman chooses to do it. It’s an act of power. The verse about submission is always quoted but it never seems to include the passages that directly follow. Paul turns his attention to the role that men have in the marriage. Husbands are told to love their wives the way Christ loves the church, giving their lives to helping them become who they are called to be. Christ loved the Church by dying for it. Wives are called to freely offer themselves to husbands and husbands are called to freely offer their lives for the wives. The picture in Ephesians 5 is not of patriarchy. It is of a total and complete and covenental giving of yourself to the other. The problem here is not Paul nor the text. It’s patriarchal cultures re-working the Bible in its own image. Ephesians 5 is not anti-woman.
Another passage that gets people aggravated is at the end of a letter Paul writes to the churches of Corinth. He says to them that their women should keep quiet in church. Many contemporary Christians read that and silence all the women. But not three chapters before, Paul gave detailed instructions to how women should go about addressing the congregation when praying and speaking in public worship. Corinth was a strange place and so I usually try to tell people about why in that place and at that time Paul might offer that advice. People then tell me that I am just playing with the text and treating it like a “buffet”. How much more responsible it is to take a reading from the letter that is incoherent and contradictory!?
Confusing Biblical adherence with cultural adherence is a slippery slope. It doesn’t need to stop. You start out reading your culture’s gender war into the text and you can easily end up reading all your other wars into it as well. The text never challenges you. You become the authority over it and not the other way around.
There is no better way for women to overcome the church-bound prejudice against them than to do brilliant, thoughtful, imaginative and obedient exegesis of the Bible. If someone says your fallopian tubes mean you can’t teach the Bible, the appropriate response is just to ignore the stupidity and keep teaching the Bible. Doing it well will just highlight the ludicrous arguments arrayed against you.
Ultimately, in Jesus we see God. And in Jesus we saw a man who was happy to befriend and protect and teach women, especially when it was dangerous. We see a man so comfortable with women that he was happy for them to pay his way. I am a Christian because I believe Jesus was resurrected on the third day, according to the Scriptures. But according to the Scriptures, it is women alone who witnessed the event. When telling the apostles that on this day of all days, God has moved, the Kingdom really has come and Jesus is alive, were those women not teaching and preaching and proclaiming the Gospel?
Your Correspondent, Who knows but that he has come to blogging position for such a time as this