gender roles

He Said — Egalitarianism: Who Needs Repentance Anyway?

Bride and groom on beach, szefei /

Bride and groom on beach, szefei /

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's wife's take, go HERE.

My wife and I have been embroiled in a deep debate lately. It involves gender roles, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and often threats of a kick landing somewhere on my body. It’s not that we haven’t worked this sort of thing out within our marriage — I take out the trash, she does the laundry — but somehow despite both being raised in Christian households we do not see theologically quite eye to eye on this issue.

I happen to fall on the side of complementarianism. For me this does not threaten the basic equality or God-given image and sense of worth that belongs to all humankind. But I do happen to think men and women were designed differently biologically and otherwise. Yesterday morning in yoga, I did my downward dog alongside 15 women and one other guy. I work in the same building as a special needs school with 22 female teachers and only one dude. I am happy to say that there are some areas women seem to be drawn toward, and in my opinion, excel in.

My wife on the other hand would like to argue (and does) that to pointing out any differences whatsoever leads necessarily to thinking in terms of an inequality. She believes that many of the Biblical mandates on gender roles have more to do with timing and culture than God-given norms.

The Sound of Learning

Cabbage plant, Richard Griffin /

Cabbage plant, Richard Griffin /

Imani walked down the hall with a paper cup in her hands.

She stopped and held up the cup to me. Inside of its paper walls were soil, water, and seeds — all those humble and elemental things that build a third-grader's scientific knowledge.

Imani was growing cabbage.

She was my student last year. She loved science and writing. I remember the look of wonder in her eyes when we studied weather. We learned about tornadoes. In my classroom, I had two 2-liter bottles connected by a tornado tube, a plastic piece that allows you to make a tornado by swirling the water around and around in one of the bottles. Imani held the bottles in her hands and marveled as her water formed into a giant, powerful funnel cloud. 

"Wow," she whispered.

I love the sound of learning.

Mormon Women Seeking Middle Ground to Greater Equality

For some Mormon feminists, there can be only one goal on the road to gender equality: ordination to the all-male priesthood.

After all, every worthy male in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — starting at age 12 — is ordained in this priesthood. It is seen as a holy power, described as the authority to act in God’s name, yet given exclusively to men.

At the same time, lots of Mormon women are perfectly comfortable with the roles they believe God assigned to them, including motherhood and nurturing. They would not want, they say, to “hold the priesthood.”

Now comes a third and, some suggest, growing group of Mormon women somewhere between these two poles.

They are not pushing for ordination, but they crave a more engaged and visible role for women in the Mormon church. It is a role, they believe, that their Mormon foremothers played — and one that could fit easily into the institutional structure without distorting or dismantling doctrine.

Let's Talk About (Complementary) Sex

On the one hand, I’m encouraged when Christians can have more honest, open dialogue about sex and sexuality in the public forum.

On the other, I’m more than a little distressed when the matter at hand is about “Biblically-based” sexual submission.

For those unfamiliar, there are (at least) two camps in the Christian conversation about gender roles, one of which we can call “egalitarian,” and the other calls itself “complementarian.” The implication of the latter is that, though we are not the same, we males and females fit together in many ways like pieces of a puzzle, one complementing something the other lacks, and  vice-versa.

And if the definition of complementarianism stopped there, I would be on board; but in truth it’s a thinly veiled case for women submitting to men. Sorry, but this isn’t complementary; it’s authoritarian.

In a recent post, Rachel Held Evans explained the troublesome issues with complementarianism well:

…For modern-day Christian patriarchalists (sometimes called complementarians), hierarchal gender relationships are God-ordained, so the essence of masculinity is authority, and essence of femininity is submission. Men always lead and women always follow. There is no sphere unaffected by this hierarchy—not even, it seems, sex.

Femsculine Christianity

"God Dancing." Pastel drawing by Lisa Daughtry-Weiss for Sojourners.

"God Dancing." Pastel drawing by Lisa Daughtry-Weiss for Sojourners.

There are many differences that exist between women and men. Just start with basic biology and it’s apparent. However, if we start at the beginning we discover something foundational that speaks to who we are at our deepest level of identity.

In the creation narrative the writer tell us that God created humankind “in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1.27). Men and women are first identified as image bearers. While we have differences we also have sameness, and both are rooted in God.

We must keep this in mind in any conversation about the differences between men and women. For whenever we speak about our differences we must do so with caution. As Ken Wilber rightly points out, “… as soon as any sort of differences between people are announced, the privileged will use those differences to further their advantage.”

In the history of our world men have typically occupied places of privilege. As a result, men have used the differences between themselves and women to gain advantage and establish dominance over women. This is still prevalent in our world today — even in the Church.

Examining John Piper's "Masculine Christianity"

John Piper at his church in 2008. Image via Wiki Commons,

John Piper at his church in 2008. Image via Wiki Commons,

I really want to give people like John Piper the benefit of the doubt. Given that he’s a minister in the Baptist tradition, it doesn’t surprise me when he only refers to God as “he” or when he talks about the man’s role as spiritual head of the household. I grew up Baptist, so I’ve heard it all before.

But he goes too far with it. Way too far. And given the breadth of his influence, his message serves to normalize the marginalization of half (slightly more than, in fact) the world’s population. While I expect he believes he is fulfilling a divine call in sharing his message, I believe I’m serving a similar call in holding him to account.

Piper, recently keynoted a conference called “God, Manhood and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” On first blush, this sound both exciting and very necessary. Men are leaving organized religion in droves, and in many cases, they are walking away from their families as well. I agree wholeheartedly that today’s man needs some clarity, support and guidance in how to exhibit Christ-like traits of strength, conviction, love and dedication both in the home and in communities of faith.

None of this, however, requires the relegation of women to a second-tier role, which is precisely what Piper seems to be doing.

He Said, She Said: Driscoll's "Real Marriage" is Really Not

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

HE SAID: David Vanderveen

Real marriages develop from two people who are committed to making them work. The specifics of how two real people make one real marriage work is largely irrelevant given the freedom we have in Christ. Marriage is supposed to be a symbol of our relationship with God on earth.

We don’t need more multiple choice tests and true-and-false quizzes with black-and-white answers to bring heaven to earth; we need to put the love of the other first — with God at the core — to make our marriages work.

SHE SAID: Sarah Vanderveen

Real Marriage is a poorly written, poorly researched book by a well-meaning pastor who I believe is struggling with his own sexuality and sense of self-worth. I don’t know how else to explain his weirdly inappropriate fixation on masculinity and specific sexual practices, and his failure to address the complexity of human sexuality and relationships.

It feels to me like he doesn’t really want to understand the whole person, rather he just wants to cut straight to the salacious tidbits. I realize that’s how you sell a lot of books, but still. I get the distinct impression that Driscoll is not a man at peace.

The Top 10 Worst Toys to Give Your Daughter This Christmas

My Cleaning Trolley. Labeled "Girls Only" on the box.

My Cleaning Trolley. Labeled "Girls Only" on the box.

Everyone out there, let’s try giving our girls something positive this Christmas.

One gift at a time, we can foster their intellect.

One gift at a time, we can affirm their worth as contributors and not just bystanders.

We can give them value beyond their curls and big brown eyes, which are beautiful, yes, but what about giving them a book that doesn’t have a princess as the main character?

What about that science kit that you were looking at for your nephew? Would your niece like it too?