If God’s design for male-female relationships was unity and interdependence, and if hierarchy in relationships came as a result of sin, perhaps we need to reevaluate teachings on male “headship” in marriage today.
Adam calling Eve “woman” does not indicate Adam’s authority over her; rather, it is an expression of the similarities that they share, as Adam exclaims “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called woman, for out of man this one was taken” (Gen. 2:23).
This contextual reading notes that Jesus’s death on the cross, represented by Eve’s offspring crushing the head of the serpent, frees humankind from sin’s consequences and reorders concepts of male dominion for all time.
I don’t really like reading the creation story. This is partly because I skip ahead to what is often described as the “sin story.” I don’t like being told that “the man shall rule over” me (Gen 3:16). To Christians who do not ascribe to gender equality, this verse is prescriptive. It’s used to explain and justify the hierarchy of patriarchy. It is used to support male headship, and deny women their full inclusion as people of God.
Intellectually we know God is beyond gender; however, using only masculine pronouns sends image-shaping messages to our hearts and minds that are incorrect. By neglecting the feminine imagery for God, we have distorted our understanding of God.
We just saw the end of January, the month of fresh starts and new beginnings. For many Christians, it also marks the beginning of an attempt to read the Bible in its entirety, from Genesis to Revelation, in a year. In light of that, I’d like to cover a few basic egalitarian principles that can help us read and understand the Bible.
Many know the story of Queen Esther from the Bible. However, often our own culture and struggles can lead us to “discover” lessons that are not part of the text, or miss important details that are. Often in churches, Esther becomes obscured to the point where this brave woman who was mightily used by God becomes passively subject to the decisions of men. For example, a marriage book released recently by a popular pastor and his wife used the story of Esther to promote obedience to one’s husband, contrasting disobedient Queen Vashti with a “submissive” Esther. Is submission to one’s husband truly the lesson of this narrative?
The Gospel According to Eve is a valuable resource for any egalitarian to have in their library. I also recommend it as assigned reading as part of a larger treatment or course on the history of interpretation.
Gospel hospitality offers us a powerful experience of God’s welcome. Abraham and Sarah were both touched and changed. God has welcomed us, too, into new life, into life that is free from expectations based on cultural stereotypes and roles.