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Social Sciences

Not long after I began studying egalitarian theology in a serious way, I was confronted by one of the more perplexing questions associated with it: what are the true "differences" between men and women? The complementarian theology I was fast rejecting hinged on a tidy framework for defining gender. Maleness meant characteristics and actions that encompass leadership roles, while femaleness meant characteristics and actions that encompass supportive, submissive roles. I knew that answer felt stilted and restrictive, but deconstructing it only left me with more questions. If everyone is equal and roles interchangeable, I thought, then what is "male" and what is "female?" Not everyone in the egalitarian camp answers this question the same wa... Read more
It seems harmless, really. We see someone we don’t know very well and we want to connect, start a conversation, or just fill the silence. We don’t know them well enough to comment on national politics or our struggle with the latest social issue. Or maybe we know them well enough that mentioning politics or social issues seems ill-advised. Either way, we blurt out the easiest and seemingly most harmless comment we can come up with at the moment: “You look nice today.” “I love your hair!” “Great outfit!” I have done this more times than I can count and, until recently, thought nothing of it. But lately, social media has brought this issue to my attention. Making comments like these consistently can send the implicit message that ou... Read more
“You are nothing but a product of your biology.” I’ve heard this statement in different forms over the years, from popular media to large volumes of scholarly work, from the progressive left and the traditionalist right, from scientist and non-scientist alike. The specific mode of thinking—that your genes ultimately determine your identity, and your future, is known as biological determinism. It is a popular idea that has been around for quite a long time. The advent of molecular biology in the latter part of the twentieth century has only given it impetus. Importantly, I have also heard modifications of this statement in the church—percolating from the pulpit to the pew, supported through sermon and song, and legitimized through liturgy and “leadersh... Read more
In my last article, "4 Sexist Myths That The Church Should Reject," I did my best to dismantle four sexist myths that have caused significant pain and division in the church. I wasn’t going to add to my list, but after many of you responded with sexist cultural myths of your own, I could see that another list was in the works. So, here goes, people. 1. Men Don’t Need to Express Emotion I touched on this one in my last list, but it deserves more attention. Men are not incapable of emotional expression. I will say it again and pray it will be a balm on the wounded hearts of men who long to express emotion, to be vulnerable in a safe space, but have found none. Men are not emotionally unavailable. But, they live in a world that tells them that their greatest w... Read more
So often, when we meet people for the first time and immediately connect with them, we ask them, "Tell me your story." But sometimes, we only ask people who are like us to tell their stories, preventing minority voices from speaking on their experiences in a safe space. As Christians, we believe in the centrality of the greatest story ever told, and how that story—and our place in it—can and does transform the world. I've long been interested in the stories people tell about their lives and the real impact these stories should—and can—have. I especially thought about the power and need for stories on July 17, the one-year anniversary of the police murder of African American Eric Garner in NYC that fell on the same week that Sandra Bland, an African... Read more
It is hard to understate the influence of childhood experience. In a very real sense, the past makes us who we are. Some of the most vivid recollections human beings have are from childhood. Psychologists, counselors, and other social researchers tell us that the first phases of a person’s life—whether from birth to toddler or birth to puberty—are the most formative. Few would disagree. While the brain remains somewhat elastic throughout life, the basic biological structures, neural and otherwise, are carved, shaped, and erected until a tipping point of around 18-25 years of age, where the brain begins to stop developing and the body physically begins processes of long-term decay, finally terminating at the last phase of life. Interestingly enough, I have not met a... Read more
Recently I was told the story of a 55-year-old woman currently attending an evangelical seminary. This story, and others like it, drive my upcoming research at the Evangelical Theological Society conference: A 6-year-old girl spends Saturday mornings with her mother and grandmother in their local, rural Texas Baptist church. Her mom is the church pianist and her grandmother the organist, so she plays quietly while they practice for the Sunday service. She has been fascinated by the preacher’s role for some time. One day she stands behind the pulpit and pretends quietly to be the preacher. Yet, even at the age of 6, she knows she can never be the preacher because she is a girl. No one told her this. No one had to. At the age of 55, she’s finally going to seminary, but i... Read more