Monday, May 30, 2016

Men and Women and Jesus

I'm a Christian Egalitarian. I would also claim the name of Feminist. Men and women are equal in God's eyes. We were created equal from the very beginning. Patriarchal and hierarchical social structures were created by human societies early on. In the Bible, we see that hierarchy of men over women occurred after the Fall (Eve and then Adam eating the fruit in Eden).

The good news is that Jesus came to rescue us from sin, even the sinful social structures of hierarchy (and poverty and other kinds of injustice). You'll notice that Jesus never mentions that men and women are to follow him differently. He never says that women should do this or that while men do the other. Yes, his Twelve closest disciples were men, which isn't surprising in that day and time. However, he had a number of close women who supported him financially. Women were present with him at the very end, when he died on the cross. And, it was a woman who saw that the tomb was empty after his Resurrection, and "preached" that good news to the disciples.

Because of our tendency toward hierarchical societies, we've tried to impose them on Christian societies, despite Jesus' wiping away of sin. When Paul uses the Roman household codes to show how much further we are to show each other love, biblical interpreters have decided that they mean that men are to be rulers over women. When Junia was listed as an apostle, translators a number of years later couldn't believe that a woman could have been an apostle, so they changed her name to Junio, a man's name.

And, now, many Christians want us to believe that to be Christians, we must live in a hierarchical prison. I came across an article that I believe warrants a response. This article purports to help people disciple other Christians and show them the differences between male and female spiritual maturity.

I could get down into the nit-picking details, but I don't think that's the real problem. The issue that I have is overarching: the author has to make everything complicated. There are not just the questions of how wifely submission looks at home (it's more convoluted than you think), but how does a single woman relate to the men in her world? How does a woman relate to the older teenage boys? Are they men? Should she submit to them as she would to her husband? But does hierarchy require that she submit to men other than her husband?

None of this trying to nail down every detail is even necessary. Paul tells us that there is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Jesus died to set us free from sin, and that includes the sin of spiritual and social hierarchy. Ephesians 5:21 tells us to "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ." 

This business of who is in charge of whom sounds suspiciously like when the disciples asked who would get to sit at his right hand in glory (Mark 11). Jesus first told them they didn't know what they were asking, but then made the point that anyone who wants to be first is to be a servant to everyone. This is the crux of the whole Christianity thing: love, service, sacrifice. It's the opposite of hierarchy and patriarchy.

That's why discipleship and complementarianism don't go together. Complementarianism is the height of legalism. It's human-made rules that make us feel better and more spiritual. And there are entirely too many rules. The author of the blog post even admitted that he was only getting the ball rolling on the topic. (Consider that Wayne Grudem made a list of 83 jobs that women could perform in a church. Talk about overkill!)

I'm not an egalitarian because I don't want to be oppressed by the patriarchy. I'm an egalitarian because it's what Jesus taught. It's not my job to be spiritually in charge of anyone (OK, my kids before they became adults). (Obviously, when I was working, I had people who were working under me, and I was working for my employer. But, that was clearly only a business relationship.) I'm to submit to everyone and not just my husband. Our faith is all about mutually submissive relationships.


mercygraceword said...

Catherine, I've been reading your blog for a long time, and though we would hold different views on many things I respect you and enjoy both your writing and the opportunity to have a window into the lives of you and your wonderful family.
represents an example of the complementarianism that I know and love, and see as being what the bible portrays. I know I won't change your mind and I'm sure you've read all the arguments - I see this design pre-fall in the creaton order and I know you don't.
I also agree with the concept of mutual submission - but please know that not all complementarian marriages are the legalistic nightmare you portray.
Hope you're enjoying a headache free Saturday with those you love.
Deborah in Canada

Catherine said...

Deborah, I love it when you comment. Thanks for reading!!