In case you missed it, two weeks ago Rachel Held Evans (RHE) hosted a synchroblog, a mass submission of posts (articles) on the question of how marriages and churches should be ruled. Does the Bible hold that males should always have the final say, regardless of their specific giftedness and expertise or should men and women work together in various ways? The two sides in the overall discussion referred to themselves using a couple of different terms. On the males in charge side were those who called their view “complementarian” and those few who were still comfortable with the older “patriarchal.” On the other side were those who favored “mutuality” and were sometimes called “egalitarian.” At least one blogger on the mutuality side referred to herself specifically as a “Christian Feminist” while others seem to avoid the term feminist.
As anyone who reads here with any regularity knows, I wrote three posts in the spring on St. Paul and misogyny. I reworked those pieces to contribute to the mass posting. I also have read extensively among the various submissions and I commented here and there. What follows are a comment I tried to leave on a closed comment string, some other thoughts about the topic and the experience. Enjoy!
The Comment I Could Not Post
I am mutual in my view of gender roles and I wrote three synchroposts on how we have misread Paul in I Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5 and I Timothy 2. I have been delighted with this on-line learning experience. I also agree with those who balk a bit at associating with the phenomena which is modern secular feminism. Even with all the healthy conscious-raising which feminism accomplished in the last quarter of the 20th century, in some quarters, secular feminism seems to have sometimes advocated that women adopt the dark side of maleness.
The late and lamented Molly Ivins wrote several newspaper columns on this subject. She also spoke widely on the problem of women competing with men at men’s worst games. She observed that in her experience, this happened when women were isolated, when just one or two women found themselves in positions of authority. She said in her experience that when the number of women in any area of influence reached a certain critical mass they began to relax and stop acting like “the boys.” She found it was when women held a certain level of power together that their distinctively female perspectives emerged.
The growing number of women in the U.S. House of Representatives seems to bear this out; the experience of the elder women in the councils of the Iroquois Confederation certainly does. The Five (then Six) Nations which formed the Native American tribal league for several centuries before the Europeans arrived had councils made up of older women.
Although the warlike Iroquois tribes continually expanded their territory and influence throughout the northern and eastern regions of North America, the Six Nations frequently resorted to diplomacy rather than battle with other tribes because the Women’s Council had veto power over war. The mothers of the people were reluctant to sacrifice their sons, husbands and brothers for anything less than a very good cause. The point is, women behaved as the preservers of peace and prosperity when they came together in a testosterone-free setting. The women were also the electors of the senior (male) chiefs and were the co-council in all major decisions. It appears it hurts to not have women’s collective view of things when the big decisions are made.
A woman alone might feel forced to beat men at being male – Maggie Thatcher’s famous remark to her all-male Cabinet, “Well, shall we go join the ladies?” – but when in solidarity with other women, women tend to relax into their own power, to the benefit of everyone. As I have asked elsewhere in these comments, how many fewer wars we might have had in western Christian nations had Christian women exercised the power of the Iroquois Women’s Councils?
Of course, there could be no women’s councils nor even female participation in governmental offices in societies where everyone was taught to read St. Paul as saying women should not exercise offices nor ever hold authority over men. Our misreading of the apostle (intentional or not) on the part of Bible translators, expositors and teachers has truly contributed to a serious malformation of marriages, homes, businesses, schools and governments in our western societies for more than a thousand years.
This is a big issue. It is at the very core of most everything else. What does it mean to be a society where men and women are valued co-equally? In what kind of society are women instructed to be subservient to men? In my posts and comments, I regularly maintained that patriarchy was the way of the broken world after the rebellion and fall of humankind. It resulted from a curse. From God. I further maintained that the curse, somewhat lifted in Torah, was satisfied and brought to an end in the crucifixion of King Jesus, which is why women can be seen in New Testament times, assuming offices and praying and prophesying (preaching) in the assemblies of the early church. It is why when Saul went off to arrest the leadership of the new way of Jesus, he arrested men and women (Acts 9).
At some point, however, the forces of what I would call old order, old covenant, old creation patriarchy, turned the church toward the male dominance and away from the express statement of Jesus, that from those women who are called by God’s spirit to be rabbis, this calling and office, “will not be taken away” (Luke 10:42). It is therefore my conviction that the advance of the kingdom will come primarily through communities of faith which are obedient to the desire of King Jesus that he be the spiritual leader of every church and of every marriage and that his people all submit themselves to each other out of gratitude for all he has accomplished for them.
I have much more in my mind, much more to write. Later.
Anyone want to comment of this bit or on the synchroblog, if you dipped into it?