Category Archives: women

The problem is not that I see sexism everywhere, the problem is that you don’t.

This post is part of the March Synchroblog, “All About Eve”. This month’s theme was chosen because March is Women’s History month, International Women’s Day is March 8. and women’s rights have been all over the news recently. The links to the participating blogs and their posts will be listed at the end of this post as they become available.

One of the first things that popped into my head when I thought about this month’s sychroblog theme is the way the word “feminism” has been twisted to represent something bad. Feminism is about (1) women and men being morally, politically, socially and economically equal; and (2) changing patriarchal structures, institutions and perspectives that place women in a position below men. In order to be a feminist one only has to believe in the idea of justice for all people and activism to ensure it. In my opinion, bell hooks is right, Feminism is for EVERYBODY, and yet, feminists are often portrayed as women who are angry, hate men, hate the christian faith and want to rule over men. If you don’t believe me, just start reading articles and posts regarding feminism and/or equal rights for women and you will run across comments like this one that I read this week:

The feminist movement is the same thing it’s always been. A communist hate movement designed to destroy the family, the christian faith and transfer all the wealth and power of individual men to the state with women garnishing privileges above men for their efforts.”

It’s not even unusual to be with a bunch of women (no men in earshot) who will begin a statement with “I’m not trying to be a feminist, but…” when talking about something as basic as the dignity of women. And that really bothers me because I would go so far as to say that feminism isn’t only about the dignity of women but it is about the dignity of all people! Feminism is about men too! It’s also about men getting to be librarians, dancers, nurses and any other occupation that was traditionally thought to be for females only.

Feminism is not about bashing men or going without makeup. The movement is good! Women and men should be proud to be associated with it! If feminism reaches its goals the world will be a better place. I like how bell hooks describes a world in which feminism has achieved its goals:

Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility.”

The greatest accomplishment of those against the feminist movement is that they have turned feminism into an insult and something to be avoided while convincing many women and men that the very people who are their allies are their enemies.

Even those who are sensible enough to not believe the propaganda tend to forget we don’t live in a world where females and males are morally, socially, politically and economically equal.  Many who are sympathetic and understanding about the feminist movement don’t seem to be aware of how much work is left to do when it comes to changing patriarchal structures, systems and perspectives that place women below men.

Look into any field or industry and you will find women under represented, under paid and under valued.  Medicine, engineering, marketing, politics, sports, religion, finance etc – women are mostly absent and when they are present they are typically paid less and valued less.  Men are making most of the decisions in the world – even when it comes to issues that mainly impact women.  And most of us tend to accept this status quo without much thought or resistance!

For the most part, people in the U.S. have been brought up to believe that men and women are wholly equal.  But, no matter how equal we “feel”, women are still the lesser paid, lesser represented, and lesser valued part of the global economic, political and social juggernaut.

Take sports for instance.  Do you ever wonder why there isn’t a women’s pro baseball league? Have you ever noticed that the women’s sports leagues that do exist seem to matter to far fewer people? Have you ever been in a sports bar and noticed that most, if not all, the tvs are tuned into men playing sports?

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not a big “sports” person – the sports industry is just one obvious example.  However, I am a big “justice for all” person and yet I even tend to overlook how much work there is to do. 

Someone said: “The problem is not that I see sexism everywhere – the problem is that you don’t.”

The point is simple – we do not live in a world where women are fully equal with men.  We should, but we don’t. Patriarchy may be more overt, but it is still at work and it works to keep women down. Men and women who care about this injustice need to push back.

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I think this is an important subject that needs to be talked about so here are some questions to get some conversation started (either here or elsewhere):

Tell me if you or someone you know has had a flawed image of what it means to be a feminist. Have you avoided the label? Have you ever been misunderstood because you claimed the label?

Tell me how you think we can “push back” against patriarchal structures, systems and perspectives. Are there organizations that we can support? Are there any everyday practical things we can do? Are there things we are doing that unknowingly prop up patriarchal systems?

Tell me where you’ve seen sexism. Was it something that had gone unnoticed and then became evident?  Do others ever think you are paranoid or too sensitive when you complain about sexism?  Have you ever confronted sexism head on? What impact has sexism had on you?

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Check out these other synchroblog posts:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman

Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women

Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve

Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church

Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso

Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly

Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World

Jeanette Altes – On Being Female

kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)

Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too

Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar

Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi

Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve

Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…

Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day

K W Leslie – Undoing the subordination of women

Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women

Christine Sine – It All Begins with Love

Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal

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All About Eve – Invitation to March Synchroblog

synchroblog

UPDATE! Due date for posts has changed to 6 p.m. EST on March 20, 2012

It’s Women’s History month and International Women’s Day is March 8. Women’s rights have been all over the news recently, from bills in Congress and state representative bodies to crass “jokes” by national broadcasters. The idea that women are or should be equal to men has become a polarizing topic of discussion on the national stage. So we thought Synchroblog might jump right in. Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women’s rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts.

There is one caveat, we are asking that the Synchroblog be a voice of moderation and temperance. You may have strong beliefs on this subject and that is good. Giving voice those beliefs in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building is…

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Three Things Tuesday – Emergents Retreating?, Christian Women Oppressed and the PCUSA 219th GA

#1 – Has What Emerged Retreated?


I ran across an interesting series that Kester Brewin wrote about participants of the Emergent Movement in the UK returning to the institutional church and organizations.  He addresses this topic to some degree in his book  Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of Fractures (which I have now ordered and am looking forward to reading).  The series (and the comments) covered a lot of interesting topics including how spiritual maturation takes place (part 2), how institutions can become damaging and what can be done to counteract that (part 3), some  info about Vaux (a community of artists and city-lovers who sought to explore the Christian faith through the media that came naturally to their hands) and Temporary Autonomous Zones (part 4).  Jonny Baker and Andrew Jones both post responses to the series.  Of course the authors are all from Europe which is some years ahead of the US regarding emerging/emergent Christianity, but there are still many similarities.  What do you think?  Is a retreat taking place?  Is it maturation?  Has the institutional church changed?

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#2 – Happy Christian Women…Really??? and Drinking The Company Kool-Aid

Pam Hogeweide and Kathy Escobar have written posts in response to a recent Barna survey of Christian women requested by Jim Henderson of Off The Map for his latest writing project about how the modern American church treats women.  I believe that this is a very important issue and am disappointed that no woman is authoring the book with Jim on this project (Pam addresses this in her post) but do appreciate that Jim is at least asking women (here) to let him know if their experience matches the survey results from Barna (mine don’t and I let him know).  Check it out and let your voice be heard.

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#3 – Good News and Bad News

The good news is that the PCUSA General Assembly voted in favor of lifting the ban of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy.  The bad news is that they voted to not even hear or discuss the issue of same sex marriage and so it is tabled for two more years.

Soul Force held a demonstration at the proceedings and some were arrested because they refused to leave.  There seemed to be some differing opinions (check out Shuck and Jive post and comments) about Soul Force being there but I appreciated them being there to represent the voice of the oppressed and excluded.

Why Not. Bart?

Mary and Martha: A Story About God’s Radical Hospitality

In honor of International Women’s Day, uber-blogger Julie Clawson has invited faith bloggers to post something about the impact women in the Bible have had on the kingdom…on each one of us.
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The story of Mary and Martha that is told in Luke 10:38-42 has often been a problem for me.

The story begins with Jesus and 72 of his male disciples entering a village where a woman named Martha lives and has a home. Luke tells us that Martha opens up her home to Jesus and his companions; and then at some point becomes irritated with her sister, Mary, for sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to what he is saying instead of helping with all of the preparations that need to be made for this large group of men. Martha is so put out by the situation that she goes to Jesus and says to him “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (which, btw, seems like a perfectly reasonable request to me) And Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Do what?? What in the heck was Jesus thinking? Why didn’t he tell Mary to get up off her lazy you know what and get in there and help Martha? Is Jesus exalting Mary over Martha? Does he mean it is better to be contemplative than to be actively serving? That doesn’t exactly jive with some of the other stuff that he has said about being a servant!

At this point, someone usually teaches a lesson about how important it is not to get so busy that we forget to spend quiet, contemplative time with Jesus. And while I think that is a good lesson I have a feeling we may be missing the point of what Jesus is talking about.

You see, I think what has to be addressed is that both Jesus and Mary were committing a social taboo. Women could serve men, but it was inappropriate for them to join in with the guys the way that Mary was doing. Women weren’t supposed to be taught by Rabbis or sit in the room with a bunch of men discussing the Torah. So I think it would be a logical assumption to think the people hearing this story would have been much more shocked about Mary assuming the role of a religious disciple than her not helping in the kitchen…and that is what I think Jesus was referring to.

I believe, as usual, Jesus was turning things upside down and inside out. Just like that, Jesus liberates Mary from her socially defined status of inferiority and marginalization. And by following Jesus, not only was Mary transformed, but the world she inhabited was transformed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this was just about women’s rights. I believe it was bigger than that. It seems that through Mary, Jesus is denouncing social, political and religious structures that do not practice God’s radical hospitality – the sort of hospitality that overcomes injustice and is grounded in love and mercy and compassion. I think Jesus was saying Mary had boldly chosen to take hold of this justice he had offered to her by allowing her to join him and his disciples, the justice was hers now and he would not take it away from her. I would even go so far as to say Martha saw what was going on and wasn’t being honest with Jesus about what was so upsetting to her – perhaps she wasn’t even aware of what was causing all the anxiety she was feeling. Of course Jesus obviously knew what was upsetting Martha and that explains why he answered her the way he did. He knew Martha was being the voice of the status quo that resists change, even “just” change.

The lesson in Luke 10:38-42 is not that reading the bible or praying is superior to cooking a meal or cleaning house. The lesson is that as followers of Jesus we are not only invited to partake of God’s radical hospitality but we are called to practice it by seeking justice for those in the margins, challenging discrimination wherever we see it and transforming our relationships so that they reflect the love of Christ.

PLEASE NOTE:  After I wrote this someone made me aware that there were probably some women among the 72 disciples mentioned at the beginning of the story.  That is certainly possible as Jesus was known for going against the norm.  Although that piece of info is important it does not mean that it was common or socially acceptable for women to do such things.

Check out the other participants in this synchroblog:

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on women who walked with God
Heather on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s work</a?
Pam Hogeweide on
teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Peterson on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Kate on Esther
Doreen Mannion on Deborah
Patrick Oden on Rahab
Scot McKnight on Junia
Beth Patterson on Esther

True Woman Manifesto – Reading The Fine Print

 

 

The True Woman Manifesto is a document that was first presented at the True Woman conference in Chicago in October 2008.

 

The organizers of the conference describe True Woman as a movement.  In addition to the conference, the movement includes books, articles, a 30 day True Woman Make-Over, other resource material and the manifesto.

 

There is a three part process that women are invited to participate in when they join the movement.  1) Sign the True Woman Manifesto; 2) Start the 30 Day True Woman Make-over; and 3) Share the message.

 

I think you will be hearing a lot about this movement soon.  Women’s roles is a very hot topic in the church right now and I think we will be seeing a lot of activity on both sides of the issue in the near future.

 

Whatever side you find yourself on I encourage you to study both sides of the issue. This is an important issue that deserves a lot of discernment and wisdom.  My fear is that women will sign the document or join the movement blindly.

 

There is a good discussion about the True Woman Manifesto at the blog Evolving In Monkeytown  and a thorough three part response to the manifesto at Hevencense.

 

Let me know what you think.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

This post is a part of the November Synchroblog on “leadership.”
Check out the list of participants with links at the end of this post.
                               
This election year has brought up a lot of divisive issues…race, sex and age to name a few…but the one that I was most surprised to see come up was the issue of women in church leadership.

In September Dan Kimball blogged about the dilemma of conservative Christians supporting a woman as a vice presidential candidate but at the same time being against women being ordained as pastors. A week later David Gushee wrote an opinion piece for USA Today asking conservative evangelicals some tough questions regarding this issue. That started me thinking again about how uncomfortable I am with the whole idea of women not being allowed to do certain things in the church.

First, it is difficult to find anyone that totally agrees on where the lines are to be drawn. Is it only that women cannot be ordained? Or is it that they cannot preach at all? Or teach? Or speak? Serve as deacons? Teach in seminaries? What exactly is it that they can and cannot do? Who decides and on what basis?

Then there are all the irrationalities and contradictions to process. Why is it okay to teach children and other women, but not men? Why would it be okay to stand up and deliver a message to a group of people but not stand behind a pulpit? Is it really that much difference in teaching a 17 year old male and a 19 year old male? Why would it be okay for a woman to lead a whole nation but not a church that has 50 members? Why does the bible speak favorably of a woman judge who led, taught and had authority over men and women, a woman apostle, women who led church in their homes?

For most of my life I pretty much believed what someone else told me the bible said. That isn’t to say that I didn’t read the bible or study the bible – but I interpreted within the guidelines of what someone else told me it said (a pastor, a commentary, a particular author etc.). Over time I began to realize that I could not accept some of the popular interpretations and I began to dig deeper. One of the topics that I began to look into was the issue of a woman’s role in the church. I was surprised to find out that this was an issue that not only divided Christians and non-Christians, mainliners and evangelicals, liberals and conservatives but also conservative evangelical Christians themselves. I was also surprised that there were some very big words that were being used to describe the two main sides of the issue … egalitarian and complementarian.

Egalitarianism = Belief that there are no biblically mandated timeless distinctions between men and women in the church. They stress an equality of men and women, not merely for salvation or in essential personhood, but in opportunities to hold every office and play every role that exists in church life.

Complementarianism = Belief that there are certain timeless restrictions on women’s roles in the church. They stress that persons in positions of authority can function in loving, supportive ways that do not lead to the abuse of those in subordinate positions. Certain roles are altogether prohibited for women.

As I continued to dig and search I came to the conclusion that Paul was not a sexist, that women are not clearly forbidden to teach, preach, shepherd or lead in the church and/or the home and that Jesus was a liberator of women.

Here are some of the reasons I am an egalitarian:

1. Scripture affirms that women were leaders in ministry – Phoebe was a deacon, Priscilla was a teacher, Lydia was an overseer.

2. Paul calls Junia an apostle in Romans 16:7

3. If Scripture allows for some ministry roles then we can’t disallow it. The era and culture of the day prevented widespread ministry roles, but Paul doesn’t say that women can’t serve in leadership roles.

4. In I Cor. 11:5 Paul says that women were praying and prophesying in church. In I Cor. 14:34-35 Paul is not restricting women from speaking – otherwise women would not be allowed to sing, give testimony, or say anything at all in church. I believe that Paul was actually refuting the faulty sexist tradition that was prevalent in his day. For more on this read what Cheryl Schatz wrote in her post “Who Dared To Contradict Paul?”

5. In I Tim. 2:11-14 the idea of women being forbidden to teach men is not a universal rule. If we make this universal and transcultural then we have to make all the commands of I Timothy transcultural. Cheryl Schatz also has an excellent post on this point.

6. Jesus treated women different than culture. He taught them and considered them His disciples – Mary of Mary and Martha and the woman at the well are good examples.

7 Given examples of women’s ministry in the Bible it is wrong to take one or two passages that could be situationally conditional and use them to deny or substantially restrict a group of laborers. The burden of proof lies with those that are doing the restricting and I believe they fail to provide the needed evidence. Dave at Clouds of Heaven has an excellent post on this idea here.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously-
take God seriously. Micah 6:8 (The Message)

 

Check out the other posts in the “Leadership Synchroblog”:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Glenn Hager – Election Day Ponderings On Leadership

Bill Ellis – Spiritual Leadership and the Re-humanizing of our World

Beth Patterson – Leadership – Being The River