Recently I commented on a Facebook post that I disliked the word “feminist/feminism” when used to describe what I would brand an evangelical egalitarian position (that men and women may serve equally in the home, the church, and the world as God has so apportioned and enabled them).
The last half of Philip B. Payne’s book Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters begins an exegesis of Paul’s later writings in Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy and deals with some of the most contentious passages dividing the Church over the role of women.
It was the week of my final interview for ordination. I had turned in my paper on pastoral theology, passed one round of interviews at the conference level, and was headed into my interviews on the national level. I was taking a class that same week with fellow ministers, male and female, in various stages of the ordination process. It just so happened that those of us in the final stage in the class were women.
The oppression of women spans centuries and borders. In virtually every country and culture in the world, women have less-than-equal status to men and they are often relegated to subservient and submissive roles. Women suffer from domestic violence, job barriers, lack of control over their bodies, and fewer options for healthcare. They often do not have a voice in matters as broad as politics or as narrow as what happens within their own families.
Our kingdom vision reminds us that we need to hold tightly to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. No longer are we bound by the Fall or called to perpetuate the effects of it! We are called to live in a redemptive reality, which is counter to worldly division.
It’s not fair, we might think! If only they had not eaten of the fruit, men and women would be serving side-by-side without the scourge of dominance to distort their view of one another. Work would be fulfilling for all of us and we would not be struggling with the never-ending, unattainable quest for balance.
The women’s Bible study I was attending was going through A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George, one of those guides to “biblical womanhood” that offered a few good insights, but mostly just made me feel guilty and inadequate about my fledgling homemaking skills. Something about the theology seemed off, but as a young mom, I took the older, more experienced women’s words to heart.
Naturally, social hierarchies are safe for those at the top. They’re designed to preserve the existing social structure, which already prioritizes the needs and perspectives of the group with power. Social hierarchies don’t make less powerful people and groups safer. Rather, they exacerbate any vulnerabilities and pose danger and harm to marginalized people.