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While it is not addressed nearly enough from the pulpit, Scripture has important information about power, patriarchy, and sexual rhetoric. When we miss these elements in reading the Bible, we are more likely to misinterpret what we see in the world around us.

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Do men want to date smart women? This was the question behind a 2015 study published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.1 What the study learned is that men like the idea of dating women who are smarter than them, but when they meet an actual woman who fits the profile, they suddenly become much less interested.

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Training for a marathon, becoming in tune to the world around him and his body, made Tim "[think] often of Paul’s metaphor of the church as a body. We, too, are interconnected in ways we rarely see or understand. Weak theology or a bad habit by one body part can cause crippling pain for another—so much that the entire body is hobbled. Our treatment of women (often reinforced by the church) is one example."

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I was thirteen the first time I heard the words, “women cannot be preachers” spoken into thin air and inside the walls of that place where I had always been loved, had always felt safe. The words felt like a stone thrown into the rudder of a ship, they caught me, caused me to heave forward and halt.

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“Heather has no business being in the pulpit.” The words leaped out at me from the computer screen, screaming at me from an email not written to me, but about me, to two of my male colleagues.

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What good, I feared, would it do my daughter to know that she was equal, but only in theory? How could she envision herself preaching if there were no women to spark her imagination? How could she be what she could not see?

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As I watch my daughter mature and develop a rather alarming perceptiveness, I wonder when she will start to notice the vocational gender disparity around her, particularly in the church. Her wide-eyed five-year-old self knows nothing of a world in which her gender has something to say about how she can embody the gifts and graces given to her by God. Even as she watches her mom ascend the platform each week to preach, when will she notice that most of the other preachers in our tradition are men? Will that precious gift of presumption be stripped from her hands by the incongruence between her hopes and the reality she encounters? And will she even notice when it’s gone?

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Evangelical tradition places a high value on the biblical text, which is a good thing. But too often, we buy into a myth that our favorite translation is God’s true Word, pure and untainted by bias. Changes are seen as a threat to God’s truth, motivated by a social or political agenda.

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Soft patriarchy makes men kings who play at being one with their subjects, but requires them to keep their crowns. It retains the kind of power-over structure that Jesus gave up when he became human. 

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Jesus submitted to His Father by actively and freely choosing to yield to weak politicians and wicked soldiers. And now Peter says likewise? Is a woman to submit to God by yielding to ungodly husbands the way Jesus willingly yielded to ungodly men? Yes.

After reading these words from an assigned reading as a master’s student, I began to question much of what I’d learned in the church about the Bible’s teachings on gender. Did the verse this quote refers to (1 Peter 3:1) really mean women should passively submit to abuse? If not, what is it about?

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