It is useless to deny that women can be victims. Increasingly, the secular press documents it. The Christian press has long acknowledged it in society at large and is now beginning to acknowledge it even within the sacred walls of the church of Jesus Christ. People are also beginning to acknowledge that sexual harassment and violence exist on the job, even in strongly Christian organizations.
Recently my neighbor told me about a widower living in double jeopardy. With no homemaking training in his past and no wife to clean up after him, his house was piled high with junk, dirty dishes, and soiled clothes. In addition, he had to share that house with a virtual stranger: his child.
This is not an article about the role of women in the church or in the workplace. It is about managerial responsibility to safeguard women on the job. Our laws today say that employers have that responsibility. They must ensure that women are not unfairly treated as sex objects, and that sexuality not interfere with normal work patterns and practices.
Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles.
Change begins with our language, because what we say and what we write reveals our unchallenged assumptions about women. Beyond that, however, we must change our missions commitment to include evangelizing and training the world’s women.
I have been told on a number of occasions that men who adhere to an egalitarian view of the marital relationship and who see no ministry restrictions for women in the church approach the Bible from some personal bias that keeps them from seeing the truth. What usually follows in the conversation (lecture) is armchair psychologizing as to why such men want or need to hold an egalitarian view. I find armchair psychologizing somewhat specious and boring when it occurs among my professional colleagues, so I am quite intolerant when laypersons enter into such endeavors, particularly when I know they are applying their theories to me! Nevertheless, in violation of my own rules in this regard, I offer some of my ideas as to why men have a psychological investment in holding to a hierarchical view and thus may show little willingness even to entertain the possibility that an egalitarian view could be scriptural.
Egalitarians essentially face the same challenge encountered by the abolitionists and suffragists. Not only did they have to argue that the existing social structure was inferior and unbiblical, but they had to actually show that the new idea was superior and more closely aligned with Scripture.
Karen teaches adult education in her church. Her classes are exciting. Despite her denomination’s support of gift-based roles for men and women, she is frequently questioned and criticized by a few who challenge — not the fruits of her labor, but whether women should even be fruitful. The more she tries to persuade her critics, the more weighed down she feels.
When I was five, my grandfather gave me a fishing rod. I practiced casting my line for hours in our long, skinny back yard using a rubber practice sinker. When a friend offered to take me fishing, I caught my first fish: a round, orange and yellow sunfish called a pumpkinseed. I admired its beautiful colors, then carefully smoothed down the spiny dorsal fin and removed the hook. As the pumpkinseed swam away, I wondered if it knew a few moments earlier I’d held its life in my hands.
As I walked out the church door that late summer Sunday morning, my heart was crushed and the tears flowed. This had been a special place where I had grown in my relationship to Christ, developed valued friendships and committed myself to serve. How did it come to this?