Last week was #InternationalWomensDay where we recognize all the achievements by women worldwide to our world and also recognize that we still have much work to do when it comes to dismantling patriarchy and male privilege (especially in the church).
Privilege is a loaded and hard word in today's American society. A lot of us don't like it or even believe it exists. That is why this work is so crucial. As a male, I know that if I don't look super sharp or have my house in perfect order, that's understandable because, "Why should a male have to know these things anyway?" I also know that if I speak loudly and sharply, I don't have to fear being called a derogatory term related to my gender. I can be loud, perhaps even on the verge of being obnoxious, and people will just look at me as "brash" or "cocky" or hear the old mantra of "boys will be boys."
I'm not going to get into the legitimacy of egalitarian theology in this post. However, I do suggest works by scholars Craig Keener (see here) and multiple writings of Ben Witherington (see here) to be among the best in the subject. What I am going to get into is that it is still an empirical fact that women are less valued in the world than men, and that is wrong in God's eyes and God is calling the church (and especially males) to do something about it. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like we're doing a very good job of this either even though many of our denominations and theological traditions have ordained women for generations. According to a recent Barna study, while 79 percent of all Americans are comfortable with women leading in ministry, only 39 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians are "comfortable" with female serving as clergy. Granted, the numbers for Protestants, Catholics and "practicing Christians" are much higher, they aren't where we should be. The church is missing out when we don't hear the witness of our sisters. The Body of Christ suffers when we aren't willing to listen what it is like for a female to explain how Jesus first appeared to a female and told them to go and share the Gospel message, therefore becoming the first ever evangelists. If we really want the Gospel to reach new people, we have to offer them Good News. When properly understood, the life of Jesus points us toward radical equality of genders. Jesus empowers women, and so should we. But getting there takes work. It takes us being intentional about lifting up women and recognizing their contributions. Be vocal. Support organizations like Christians for Biblical Equality. When a woman speaks, listen. Gifts are not limited by gender. Personally on my church board, everybody on there is either a woman or a member of the LGBTQI community. I think that will help our church moving forward, and I'm grateful for that.
Egalitarianism is good news for all. We no longer have to look toward culture for how we should be acting based on our gender, but we look to God and the person God has created. In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul doesn't write that gifts are given out by gender, but by what the Spirit gives to each. This means I get to use the gifts of sensitivity and empathy that the Spirit has given me without fear of being too "feminine." It means women get to use their gifts of strong leadership and high intellect without fear of not being called "bossy." It means we can be who God created us to be. That's good news I want to share with the world, and it's good news that we all need to hear. But in order to share that news, we have to start listening more. So, my male friends, when a woman tells you about an experience she had, stop invalidating it. We do not know more about what a woman experiences than she does. It sounds ridiculous even typing that, but I also see it from men on social media and elsewhere quite regularly. Take time to read blogs by women. Personally, Rachel Held Evans, Jory Micah and Sarah Bessy (even if you don't agree with them on everything), have made some great contributions to theological feminism. Also, when you read, don't come at them with the basic clobbering of Scriptures i.e. "But what about 1 Corinthians 14:34?" That's like asking a PhD student for their elementary school diploma. They have been past that and dealt with it for most of their vocational lives. Do some of your own research before you think to criticism them for theirs at the most basic level. By the way, that is also a privilege when we think we can bring up the most simplistic of point and actually believe that a woman has never dealt with that.
So, let's join the Spirit in the liberation for all people, and that means we should learn more about feminism. Listen to our sisters. Talk to our brothers and other males about how feminism is good news for them as well. Then we can make our world reflect more of what God is hoping for it to become.
P.S. Also, go see Wonder Woman in a few months. It looks amazing.