A few weeks ago, I was in Sofia, Bulgaria, for a day. I stopped for about twelve hours between night buses to see the sights, including a beautiful, vibrant mosque near the center of town. I did some online research on dress protocol beforehand: cover your skin, wear something on your head, take your shoes off. Nothing unexpected. I had a scarf and a maxi skirt in my backpack for this purpose. I was happy to be respectful, and excited for a new experience. I arrived at the mosque, circled around to the front, and . . . walked away. I felt nervous, suddenly, and upset.
Consent: a word so bland I once found it almost ugly. Why would I base my framework for romantic relationships on a word as flippant and perfunctory as a waiver to have my photo taken? Bodies and relationships are deeply important to me as a Christian. Naturally, sex is also deeply important to me. Even after I left purity culture behind, I still searched for a rich, God-honoring sexual ethic. Consent seemed like a pretty bare standard for behavior.
Egalitarians believe the Bible promotes two senses of equality: equality of nature and equality of opportunity. Neither requires or even hints that women and men are or should be identical. Egalitarians don’t deny difference, we deny that difference is destiny.
In recovering from anorexia, I had to relearn how to read Scripture, not as separate, disjointed messages colored by the voices of male “authority” around me, but as a whole, creative, redemptive narrative of God’s journey of trust with God’s people.
We are shaped by our stories. In fact, our stories, once in place, determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness. Once these stories are stored in our minds, they stay there largely unchallenged until we die. And here is the main point: these narratives are running (and often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get the right narratives.
For me, one of the most compelling arguments for egalitarianism is in the creation and fall passages of Genesis 1 and 3. God’s command that they, male and female alike, are to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. . . rule over. . . every living creature” (Gen 1:28) provides a charge for men and women alike to contribute to the continuation of family and to exert authority over God’s creation
Within evangelical circles, we are seeing increasing discussions about the need to address racism. Meanwhile, organizations such as Christians for Biblical Equality stress the importance of addressing sexism. What tends to be missing is analysis of how racism and sexism intersect with each other, which contributes to the marginalization of women of color. The experience of Native American women illustrates this intersection and provides a powerful vision of justice for all people.