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Before I met my husband, I was adamantly opposed to marriage. Much of my aversion to marriage stemmed from the lack of positive earthly examples of it. Because of the brokenness around me, marriage simply did not appeal to me. As a college student, I was indoctrinated with complementarian theology and surrounded by relationships that reflected it. In my Christian community, men were eager to enforce their so-called God-ordained leadership, and women filled their patriarchal (but ambiguously defined) “biblical role.” I saw power struggles, manipulation, passive-aggressiveness, gender jokes, and abuse in the relationships around me and that skewed my perception of marriage. I thought to myself—if what I have been taught is true, and if this is what marriage is suppose... Read more
Deborah, the prophet, was a judge of Israel. That sentence needs to stand alone, because it seems we’re unable to take the Bible at its word on Deborah’s position as judge. Christians who struggle to believe that God would intentionally appoint a woman to lead often argue that Deborah was chosen because no man stepped up to fill the role of judge. But the text does not support this. Some suggest that God appointed Deborah to shame the men of Israel. The text does not support this claim either. Deborah, the prophet, was a judge of Israel. Let’s allow that to sink in. She held court under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramal and Bethel in Mount Ephraim. Israelites came from all over the country so she could rule on their cases. Deborah was also given the title... Read more
As many of you are aware, a particular debate involving the doctrine of the Trinity is causing no little stir in American evangelicalism. This past Thursday (June 16, 2016) Christianity Today even felt it necessary to write a primer on the discussion. Since my area and career focus is on systematic theology (and gender), I have watched with particular interest but have let others (more seasoned) do the “heavy-lifting.” I also happen to be the moderator for the Evangelicals and Gender Study Group at the annual ETS meeting this October, which is themed “the Trinity.” I did not think this topic would publicly escalate so fast in the months prior to this event, but it apparently has. (So, although I won’t be speaking there, I may be wearing a flak jacket... Read more
I recently spoke with a mental health case manager about the importance of male vulnerability. He shared with me that most of the men who use his services do so because they never learned how to process and express emotion beyond two extremes: happiness and anger. I was unsurprised by his admission, because I have long observed and grieved the intense cultural pressure on men to suppress their emotions and by extension, their humanity. It’s a problem I’ve seen in both male-female and male-male friendships. Men are usually socialized to believe that emotion itself is indicative of weakness. In the gender dichotomy, emotional vulnerability is associated with femininity. Men often reject what they perceive as feminine, because their masculine identity exists and thrives in star... Read more
Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai—international women's education activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner—was invited by TED to share his experience as a mentor and father to his influential daughter. His words were both wise and simple. What had he done to make Malala "so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised?" "Don't ask me what I did," he instructed, "ask me what I did not do." Ziauddin concluded his TED Talk with the now famous phase, "I did not clip her wings, and that's all." Malala Yousafzai challenged the ugly face of patriarchy and endured threats, injury, and harsh criticism in the name of justice for women. Significantly, her father takes no credit for her strength or her accomplishments.... Read more
There we were. My friend and I were drinking coffee, talking about our days, enjoying each other’s company—and then she used a phrase that makes me cringe. My friend, a bright, assertive, and strong leader in our church, referred to her husband as the "priest of the home." In the Old Testament, the Levites served as priests, and their job was threefold—to carry the presence of God with them, to worship God, and to pronounce blessing on their people. They were the spiritual elite. They went into the presence of God on behalf of those deemed unworthy. But Jesus turned the system upside down with his death on the cross. When he breathed his last, the veil separating common man and God’s presence tore from top to bottom, giving everyone equal access and... Read more
Complementarians confidently assert that husbands are the God-ordained leaders of their families. As leaders, they have the right and responsibility to make final decisions in the home. I will refer to this husbandly right as the "last word clause." The "last word clause" is usually derived from verses naming the husband as the head of the wife or verses that command the wife to submit to her husband. But interpreting these passages as granting husbands greater authority in marriage than wives undermines the basic equality of all believers found in Scripture. In the New Testament, husbands are clearly told to love their wives. By contrast, they are never told to lead their wives. With this in mind, let’s consider what 1 Corinthians 13, perhaps the most speci... Read more
I saw a movie this week that made me think about motherhood and the transition it requires when done well. The Meddler[1] depicts the struggle to establish appropriate boundaries between a mother, played by Susan Sarandon, and her young adult daughter, played by Rose Byrne.  As a young woman who is building a career while establishing adult relationships, Lori wants her mother, Marnie, to give her space. Marnie, however, has just relocated across the country to be near Lori and wants to be involved in her daughter's life. The continuous phone calls, text messages, and surprise drop-ins eventually push Lori to demand her space and force Marnie to build a life for herself beyond that of being Lori's mom. I felt compassion for the characters and enjoyed the storyline.... Read more
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” –Jesus I can almost hear the irritation in Jesus’ voice and see it in his face when I read this passage. In today’s language, we might say that he “face palmed” when the disciples shooed away the little children who wanted to play with him, kids who wanted a kind word or funny story from the famous rabbi.  How would it look for the rabbi, the prophet, the up-and-coming teacher from Nazareth, to have a bunch of dirty kids running around him, hanging on his legs, and making silly faces? Simply improper. Unprofessional. Undignified. The disciples cared about appearances. They couldn’t have this image of Jesus’ min... Read more
I’ve avoided writing on rape culture for a while, because it’s a difficult issue to tackle from a Christian perspective. In my experience, Christian churches don’t often talk about power and consent, and even more rarely do they truly acknowledge the reach and implications of rape culture for the body of Christ.   But recent events have pushed me over the edge. A woman I know posted a Facebook status about the first time she was raped eight years ago. She’s twenty-five. The first time, friends. Not the one time she was raped, but the first time. I have countless other friends who have been sexually assaulted, Christian and non-Christian women alike. By men at Christian colleges, by male colleagues, by male friends, and even by male authority figures. This... Read more