In her blog “Evolving in Monkey Town“, Rachel Evans talks about “women’s roles in the church, home, and society”. She covers the whole subject much better than I ever could, but it ties in with something I’ve been dealing with lately. A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog entry that was mostly flipping God the bird over some things that were happening in my life. One of the things I was ranting about was the fact that my oldest daughter had decided to change churches, leaving the one I attend and moving to one that I feel is diametrically opposed to the message of Jesus. And, I just don’t get it.
Right now, I guess you’re wondering how I could feel that an established church could be so at odds with what Jesus preached. What could they possibly be doing that’s the exact opposite of the essential Christian message? Just this: exclusion. If you’re not a straight, you’re not in. And, even if you are straight, if you happen to be a woman, you’ll never be a leader in the church. Those positions are reserved for men because a woman should never have authority over a man. They’re not the only ones to believe this and, like the others, they cite the Paul’s teaching for this idea. There are two passages people like to use to back up this belief. The first comes from I Timothy 2:12-13, where the writer (possibly not Paul, the authorship is hotly debated) says that women should learn in submission and that he doesn’t allow women to have authority over men. His reasons are not very enlightened. Like others of his time and culture, he held women responsible for Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. The other scripture that gets used to keep women in “their place” is Ephesians 5:22. This is another controversial passage, one that leads many to think Paul a misogynist. There’s a problem with that assessment: it’s based on a faulty interpretation. The part of that particular bit of scripture that gets quoted and thrown about by the fundamentalists is the part about wives submitting to their husbands. What almost always gets glossed over is the part just two sentences on where he tells husbands to do the same. Here’s the whole passage, ” Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30because we are members of his body” Isn’t funny what gets left out? There’s another problem with both sections of scripture mentioned here. They’re from letters written to a specific group of people about a specific situation going on there. They are not, nor where they ever meant to be, universal truth. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Pauline or the Pastoral letters can’t be mined for truth that we apply to our current situation. Quite the contrary; in Galatians, Paul lays out the case for grace. In Romans, he talks about sin. And, before you accuse me of picking an choosing, the folks I’m talking about do the same. How many woman do you see in a Christian church wearing a full burka? Because, when Paul talks about women dressing “modestly and decently in suitable clothing”, that’s what he meant. There are other instances of this, I’m just too lazy to look them up right now. I firmly believe it that the type of plumbing you’re born with has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to share the Gospel.
What I don’t understand is a sane, educated, rational woman choosing to attend a church that constantly tells her that she isn’t as worthy as a man. Because that’s the heart of that message. And, that’s not the only place these folks exclude others. The former minister of the church my daughter is now attending pushed through the amendment to the N.C. Southern Baptist Convention that says any church that allows openly homosexual members wouldn’t be allowed in the Convention. Now, I have a rather different view on homosexuality than many of my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m not going into here; if you’re interested, read this. But, whatever you think about homosexuals, telling them they can’t be members of your church is hardly the way to minister to them. Think about it for a minute, even if you believe that being gay is the most heinous sin possible, aren’t those the very people you need to be reaching out too? And, if your doors aren’t open to them, you aren’t reaching out.
So, I’ve pointed ways I feel this particular church (and others, by extension) is being exclusionary. And, I said that went against what Jesus taught while he was here. I say that because everything the man did was about inclusion. He invited everyone under the tent. Not just the religious ones. In fact, he spent much more time with the dregs of society than he did with religious elites. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners according to the Bible. And, we’re supposed to follow him, our rabbi, closely. So closely, in fact, that we get covered in the dust kicked up by his shoes. Which means you’ve got to get outside your comfort zone and get down in the trenches with folks that might just give you the heebie-jeebies. Because that’s what he did.
P.S. Yes, this entry is rather link-heavy. But, I’m lazy and if I explained all those things in the post it would so long you’d never read the whole thing.