Boys clubs. I've been in them all my life, but never as an accepted member. And I always felt in the pit of my stomach, that there was something wrong with that, though I could never articulate exactly what. I remember as a little girl, sitting in a pew of our Baptist church, seething....I mean seething whenever the pastor preached his annual Ephesians 5:22 sermon (he always started in verse 22, not 21), "Wives submit." And he always made the same jokes, "Uh oh. I'm gonna get in trouble with this one, but ladies, this is what Scripture says." And so I could never argue. I've since learned that what the Bible says and what the Bible reads can be 2 different things, "It is the struggle to understand context and language and culture
and custom that helps us to understand the meaning or what [the Bible] is saying." -Rev Dr Laurence C Keene.
I wondered, why on earth can women teach Sunday School to the kindergartners, but not oversee the youth group ministry? Or why doesn't the pastor ever ask a woman to pray out loud at the end of each service? Why must it always be a man? Why are women only allowed to serve in the kitchen or in the choir? Would Jesus honestly care if a woman helped pass around the offering plate?
This desperate quest for equality and to prove myself, was probably in part what led me to the Army. In the Army, we did weekly Combative drills. We all had to roll around in the dirt with a partner for 2 minutes at a time and try to pin each other or choke the other out. We were told to work at about 60% strength, and to "tap out" if things got too rough. I once rolled with a 6 foot 4 Captain, weighing probably 230 pounds. He got a choke hold on me pretty quick (what a shock), and I tapped out, but he didn't stop right away. Finally, just as I began to see tunnel vision and spots floating in the air, he let up. An hour later, after I showered, I looked in the mirror to see the imprint of his shirt sleeve seam, still marked across my neck. I never confronted him. Congratulations, you choked out a 5'8 woman who weights 100 pounds less than you.
I once took my car to an auto shop and the man gave me a $450 estimate for a tune-up. I said no thanks and asked my neighbor, a mechanic himself, to look at my car. He discovered that my alternator had been un-plugged by the previous mechanic. Manually unplugged, so he could charge me to fix it and I would never be the wiser. After all, I'm a woman who knows nothing about cars and he saw an opportunity to take advantage of that.
My husband, Eddie and I, looked for a new church when we moved to our new home. We visited a Baptist church that had no music leader at the time. A young man was doing his best to bring the congregation in on time to the piano accompaniment, and trying desperately to sing on key himself. Eddie leaned over and whispered to me, "If we join here, you could be in charge of the music ministry."
"No," I replied. "Because I'm a woman." And we both knew that that wouldn't be allowed here.
For years, I've been searching the Bible desperately to find something I always knew in my heart to be true. God doesn't want women to be oppressed. That couldn't have been His purpose. When I realized that the Proverbs 31 woman buys fields, and plants a vineyard out of her "earnings," and "sees that her trading is profitable," I was shocked. Why don't I ever hear a sermon on that? Why do I just hear that she's not gaudy and her husband is an elder? It was my husband who told me when we got out of the Army, "I'll move wherever you feel you need to go to fill your complete potential."
And when I said, "New York City to be a musician,"
This Texas, farm boy without hesitation said, "Big Apple, here we come."
That felt right to me. Eddie's response was so freeing, yet it was a foreign concept to so many and I still didn't have the words to articulate to them, why this was right for us.
A friend gave me a recording of a sermon by Kris Vallotton called, "God's Most Beautiful Creation." And here, I found words to describe so much of what I already knew to be true, despite being made to feel wrong and guilty about it by society. I'd like to share some of the highlights that spoke to me.
The first thing that struck me, was the phrase "Suitable helper" in Genesis when God is creating the universe, animals, and mankind. "Yes, yes, yes..." I would begrudgingly roll my eyes growing up. "My destiny in life is just to be some dude's helper. Lucky me." Because from what I saw in church, and in life (not with my parents by the way), was that to most people, "helper" meant "slave," and to blindly follow whatever the man says. But Vallotton explains that "suitable helper," is used 19 times in the creation process. Only 3 times when referring to woman, and 19 times when referring to God. And the Hebrew definition means "opposite" or "corresponding." God wanted Adam to have the opposite of himself. Adam needed God. And God wanted Adam to need woman, just like he needed God. Eve wasn't created to carry out Adam's every whim, she was created to fill a need in Adam, in the same way that he needed God.
Furthermore, God created man and woman equal. Adam was given rule over the beasts and fish (Gen 1:28), not over woman. They had the same dominion over the garden. Why else would the serpent approach Eve, unless she had equal authority to make the decisions as Adam? If Adam was the dude in charge, Satan would have needed to get him to eat the fruit first. When they both ate the forbidden fruit, Adam, Eve, and the serpent were cursed by God. He said that there would be enmity between woman and the serpent. And it was here, that God told Eve, "Your husband will rule over you." She wasn't created this way. She was cursed later, as a punishment for her sin.
And so Kris Vallotton asks the provocative question (I'm paraphrasing), "Why is that when Jesus died on the cross to free his children, only half of his children were released from the curse?" After all, when Jesus died on the cross, He freed His children from the old rules and laws. And while we were all released from the curse of sin, women remained under legalistic oppression by religious men who have used a few verses in the Bible to keep themselves just where they want to be. In charge.
He goes on to point out that nearly every religion and society on the planet oppresses women in some way. Why is that? Because there is enmity between Satan and women. Well Satan got lucky there. He has kept countless women from fulfilling their potential. How many Mozarts, Shakespeares, and Picassos has the world lost because they were women, and not worthy of being documented, heard, or remembered?
Yet I hear over and over, "Men have authority, they're the leaders, they're in charge." Got it, guys. Talk about beating a dead horse. Vallotton says, "The question isn't, 'Does man have authority over women?' The question is, 'What will man do with that authority?'"
Doesn't Jesus have authority over us? Heck ya. What does He choose to do with that authority? Well...
"And God raised us up WITH Christ and seated us WITH Him in the Heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Eph 2:6
Christ didn't use his authority to dominate, or oppress us. He used it to free us and He put US on the same level with HIM! He makes us "FELLOW heirs with Christ." And if men are to love their wives in the same way Christ loves His church, shouldn't they do the same thing? Raise them up? Co-reign?
Remember how crazy it was when Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton ran for President? That was a BIG deal! They actually stood a chance. Mind blowing. Women weren't allowed to be in the military until last century (and some parts of the military are still off limits). We couldn't even vote until the early 1900s. That wasn't very long ago. The Bible was written thousands of years before that, in a far more oppressive society where women were considered possessions and had absolutely no voice or worth. And yet, Jesus talked with them, ministered to them, gave them a purpose. This was shocking, even to His disciples who were Believers. Valloton points out that Mary was the first Evangelist after Jesus rose from the dead, "Go tell everyone I'm alive!" In the Old Testament, Deborah was the leader of the entire military. Eddie once confided to me that he wished the Bible would talk more about women's rights so that men couldn't use Scripture to oppress them. But when you consider the culture and it's time period, the Bible was the most out-there, liberal, crazy-talkin thing ever written!
One of the hardest things for me to concede in my entire life, was that, I as a woman, would have to do whatever my husband says. What a grim outlook for my future. Sometimes I imagine if I had a daughter who had a God-given passion and talent for medicine or something. But she was taught that her duty was only to get married, have kids, and obey her husband (what if he wasn't a Godly man, or simply made mistakes like all humans? She still has to obey him.). It breaks my heart that some women miss their calling because of this misconception. "He has the authority." I hated the idea of it. I mean HATED it. He says something, I'll have to do it (which Vallotton points out, is actually the definition of slavery...hmmm.) But what God really wants, is for men to use their authority to exalt women, raise them up, co-reign. In fact, I Peter 3:7, is often quoted and then used by some men as a "So there!" verse. "You're weaker! It says so right here!" But read it,
"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
What I say is, "Heirs WITH you! So there!" And if you don't make us heirs with you (not under you) and respect us, God won't take your prayers seriously.
Vallotton ends his sermon with saying that transition is hard. Any change in history will tell you that. But if we want to see a change in the world, and in religion, why not free half of the Christian Army?! Women were originally created to rule. Let women rise to their full potential, whatever that may be. Whether a woman's calling is to be a stay home wife and mother, or whether her calling is to become a doctor, or the President. Let God decide what He wants that woman to become, and let the men use their authority to help her become that. That is what God did with mankind, and I believe that is what He expects from us.
Here is the link to Kris and Kathy Vallotton's ministry (What?! He includes his wife's name in his ministry? Unheard of!)
And if you're interested in hearing this sermon, I can e-mail you an mp.3 of it.
I have other soap box posts...
Where Has the Compassion Gone? (How we judge others, including homosexuality, and other tabboos)
Jesus is a Feminist (Feminism and abortion)