Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What I've been thinkin' about...

It's been a bit since I posted anything 'creative.' So, I thought I'd just say something about what I've been thinking about.

I'm in the process of joining a church, something I don't think I'd ever thought I'd do, but I'm excited about. I'm eager to covenant with other Believers and live a life of gratitude with them. There's just one thing I've been struggling with, and that is their position about women in the church. Now, I wouldn't call myself this die hard feminist, but I do believe that being a woman has made me more aware of those who are marginalized in the world, and therefore has shaped my calling. I'm also aware that I'm theologically conservative, for the most part, that is. That is why I feel comfortable becoming a member at my church, because it, too, is theologically conservative. I have also almost completely dedicated my life to social justice, which conservative groups are only just now beginning to awaken to. The church I've been going to, however, feels strongly about social justice and serving the poor, which is another reason I feel comfortable becoming a member.

But. The age old debate, the role of women in the church and, I guess, therefore in life, comes up and I'm faced with old ghosts. I haven't studied this issue extensively, but from what I can tell some of the hard and fast scriptures which support a male only clergy, are mostly cultural. Like headcoverings and holy kisses. Or slaves and scrubbing mildew off of walls. Additionally, I know Adam was made first and as a result of the Fall he would rule over Eve. But, it also seems that Eve was the crown of God's creation, created last as the final touch. Created to 'be as one who saves,' as that passage should most closely be translated (instead of helpmeet. The Hebrew word used here is used about 20 other times in the OT and each time it is in reference to God when we really need Him. And so it would seem, Eve appeared when Adam really needed her.) These thoughts are not my own, I read them in Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. Finally, because of Jesus we are living in a redemptive Kingdom, one that should try to see outside of the curse of the fall, and therefore past Adam's rule over Eve.

And. We are both created in the image of God. Male and Female, He made them. To silence one is to hide, even betray, part of that image and therefore keep us all from knowing more fully who God is and what He has to say to us.

So. Because of the area in which I work, I'm often thinking about the exploitation of women. My dad sent me this article the other day that mentioned some of the atrocities that are occuring to women all over the world. One of them is breast ironing where a young girls breast are ironed and beaten down when she begins to develop so that she is not atractive to any marauding men. This practice can so harm a woman that she is unable to breastfeed after she gives birth and her child may starve to death. There is also female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, which is supposed to keep a woman from enjoying sex and therefore keep her faithful to her husband. It can also cause her or her child to die during childbirth. As a result of childbirth, she may not heal correctly, leaking urine and feces, being shunned by her community and left to die. (I'm just trying to remember what I read, the article isn't in front of me...)

These practices don't occur here in the United States....mostly in Africa and Middle-Eastern countries. What do they have to do with the role of women in the church?

I think they may have everything to do with it. Since the beginning of time, women and children have been the most vulnerable creatures in creation. When devastation, war, or poverty hits, it is the women and children who suffer. As long as the majority of the church views women's roles as being different and in many ways less important, not equal to that of men's, then we are unable to truly fight any battle against the exploitation and marginalization of women elsewhere in the world. I know men, fathers and brothers, who after watching a special on Dateline about brothels in Thailand selling little girls for sex, were ready to jump on a plane and do their own raid Rambo style in order to liberate these little ones. Why is the same not true here in the United States? When many women who are hugely talented, immensely intelligent, and marvelously gifted are relegated to secretarial jobs and children's ministries, is the atrocity any less horrifying?

I believe the conservative, Evangelical American church will have little voice in the world of social justice if these matters regarding women are not settled. How can we tell a little girl in Cambodia she has worth, was created in the image of God, and therefore should not have to be a sex slave, when we also define that worth as something less than a man's. Does it not appall you to think that a mother irons away a young girl's breasts so she is not appealing to a man? It should also appall us when a young American woman irons away who she is in order to remain appealing to a man, in order to save her place in the conservative Evangelical church. This has happened, hundreds of thousands of times. And in so doing, we are missing part of the image of God.

These are my ramblings....but I think they are becoming convictions. I think I believe that the church has to change if we want to see change, if we believe in justice, if we believe in the redemptive Kingdom of God, if we believe in the gospel.

My dad had 4 daughters and no sons. He has 3 granddaughters with a fourth on the way. (Acutally there's 2 on the way, but one we're certain about and the other we won't know forsure until she's born.) We have all been born into privilege, and we were all born women. Once, years ago, the statistic for a woman being raped was 1 in 4...my dad told me that. It meant that statisically speaking, one of his daughters could be raped. The same could be true for his granddaughters. This kills me. The thought of one of my neices being mutilated or violated in any way, brings out the warrior in me...as it would for my dad also.

As a woman, I want to stand in my church, I want to stand in my community, I want to stand for my sisters, my neices, my girlfriends, and for ones far off who cannot stand. I also want to stand for my four nephews, who have yet to grow into men. And while I may stand rather quietly, I will stand all the same, as an equal, both in value and in role. I will stand as a woman of prayer, who believes that as the men who lead the church truly seek God, they will come to see that that which was far off has come close, and women are their equals as much as they are their partners. This will be social justice, this will be the voice of the church saying loudly and clearly, "We will not stand for the marginalization or exploitation of any human being."

Hopefully this sparks some conversation...

4 comments:

angela said...

indeed. there's a little too much for a blog comment. we should have another phone date. hope your weekend was good.

Daphne said...

preach it sister!! so many thought provoking statements here. especially this: "It should also appall us when a young American woman irons away who she is in order to remain appealing to a man, in order to save her place in the conservative Evangelical church." thanks for sharing.

dad said...

I love your thoughts. Yes, one out of four was a rape statistic back then. I mentioned it to my daughers because the odds could be changed by where they went, when they went, and who they were with.

Paul says in 1Timothy 2:13-14 that there are two reasons woman was placed under man. #1 was the order of creation. So even if the fall had not taken place man would have headship. (I'm not going into headship here but think it is misunderstood.)

The common ground of liberal churches is that they have opened the door to women ministers. I was at a funeral the other day where a woman minister referred to God as "She." Much of conservative Christianity is apprehensive of women in all but non threatening service for that reason: They don't want to move toward liberalism. For conservative Christian women to obtain more place somehow they must divorce themselves from the appearance that women exercising their gifts is a step toward liberalism. I note that Paul allowed young unmarried women certain opportunities in church if their fathers stood with them, and the same was probably true for husbands standing with wives. I believe that system works. Now does one overcome fears of liberalism?

It might be easy to become an Amy Carmichael, or a Henrietta Mears. You have a gift, especially with words. God has an unironed place for you.
Dad

Emily Wierenga said...

oh friend. i love your heart so much. i am devastated thinking about all of the injustice... i plan to write a post early next year about why i am not a feminist, but still care about women and their hearts, deeply... it's going to be a controversial and hard post, but i resonate with everything you say here. love you, e.

Search This Blog

 

Learning | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates