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Christian Relationships

This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! It was a typical summer weekend service at our local church. I was perusing the bulletin announcements about our son’s upcoming youth group trip that included a water park excursion. Amidst the details for the trip was the following blurb instructing students what to bring: “Bring: Sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, change of clothes (dress for the weather), swimsuit (girls one-piece or tankini please), towel and $$ for two fast food dinners.” I was immediately uncomfortable with the assumptions behind the swimming suit instructions; the question became what was I going to do about it? A a busy mom of four boys ages 7-12, it took me a couple weeks to carve out time to sit down, pray through i... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! When I was six I asked my father, “Daddy, why can’t Mommy be a deacon?” I don’t remember my father’s response, but I remember puzzling over gender roles in my Southern church from an early age. My dad was a member of the all-male deacon board at our church. Complementarianism was like the carbon dioxide in the air I breathed. It was there in my church and my congregation—flowing in and out of my lungs moment by moment though I was rarely conscious of it. Keeping women out of leadership in my church didn’t give spiritual life to me or my loved ones, but we accepted it as part of the atmosphere Despite being raised in such a conservative, complementarian church, my family wa... Read more
"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed" (Isaiah 1:17). "Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right" (Psalm 106:3). "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never ending stream" (Amos 5:24). "Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). "For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate wrongdoing" (Isaiah 61:8). Clearly, justice matters to God and was important to biblical authors. The gospel indicates that justice-doing is a central tenet of Christian theology and practice. Oft-quoted Galatians 3:28 and other like Bible verses make clear that the gospel undermines hierarchy. It follows that to “do justly,” Christians must dismantle hierarchies of any kind. D... Read more
When I critique oppressive systems and ideologies, I generally ask two simple questions: Does the system or ideology give one group unearned power over other groups, and especially over others who already have less social power? If the answer is “yes,” then I ask a question I already know the answer to: Is the system safe for the less powerful? 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. If a system relies on the powerful group behaving rightly and n... Read more
The Western sexual revolution brought renewed emphasis on consent, body affirmation/confidence, female pleasure, and women’s equal (and enthusiastic!) sexual participation in marriage. We should celebrate those gains. But it also brought a slew of toxic, oppressive ideas about female sexuality. When we consider God’s holistic vision for human sexuality, we see that some of the things women are told will be “liberating” are actually exploitative. God calls women (and men) to see through the bluster to a corrupt system that only wants to use us. Ironically, the world tells women that we will find our power in men’s desire for and sexual use of us. Some people even claim that women are empowered by the Fifty Shades phenomenon, hook-up culture, and porn. And the... Read more
The Co-Inheritance of Women John 15:9 affirms that God’s love for human beings is identical to God’s love for Jesus. Every child of God inherits the throne of God, the Spirit of God, holiness, and eternal life. Anyone who believes, including women, will receive equal authority with Christ. Jesus said, “As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne” (Revelation 3:21 CEB). Some complementarians agree that women will receive the same inheritance in heaven as men, but argue that on earth, men are to have greater authority. And yet, does not the Lord’s Prayer instruct us to pray for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven now? So, whatever will be true in heaven is what we should strive for on ear... Read more
When I was a senior in high school, I engaged in a one-woman feud with the football team and school administrators after the opening night of our musical was cancelled to accommodate a conference championship football game. My brother, a sophomore on the football team, told me that the seniors were complaining about me in the locker room. He said they were insulting me and saying all kinds of awful things. To this day, almost 11 years later, he still refuses to tell me what they said—it was that bad. So when a candidate for the President of the United States dismisses the seriousness of bragging about sexually assaulting women as mere “locker room talk,” I can’t help but think back to high school. The locker room is this male-only space where (apparently) men can... Read more
I am a woman called to minister as a pastor in the body of Christ. My ministry journey is layered with men who called out my pastoral gifting and stoked the fire of my ministry. I find it especially sweet that the loudest voices of affirmation for my work are brothers who regularly cheer me on. They speak life to me. Their words breathe the oxygen of perseverance into my lungs when the journey seems impossible. They are my band of brothers. Here are just a few of their contributions to my ministry I think of one dear brother that I served with in my first ministry job as an intern. Pastoral ministry was not in my purview. It was a new idea to me since I had grown up in conservative churches where men did all of the leading. This brother said something to me that I never forgot. He... Read more
The temptation is always there. When discussing gender equality, it’s easy to let righteous anger in the face of injustice eclipse the call to represent Christ well, even in painful disagreement. On the other hand, we can become so concerned with unity in the body of Christ that we are silent in the face of injustice. I spoke with a brother about this struggle. He turned me to the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer enjoins us to cultivate a certain mindset and heart position, one that aligns us with the heart of God when we pray: “Hallowed be thy name.” I’ve found that the desire for God’s name to be hallowed is the most important factor in praying for and discussing biblical gender equality. Practically speaking, if I go into a discussion want... Read more
I recently spoke with a mental health case manager about the importance of male vulnerability. He shared with me that most of the men who use his services do so because they never learned how to process and express emotion beyond two extremes: happiness and anger. I was unsurprised by his admission, because I have long observed and grieved the intense cultural pressure on men to suppress their emotions and by extension, their humanity. It’s a problem I’ve seen in both male-female and male-male friendships. Men are usually socialized to believe that emotion itself is indicative of weakness. In the gender dichotomy, emotional vulnerability is associated with femininity. Men often reject what they perceive as feminine, because their masculine identity exists and thrives in stark... Read more

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