I’m a Father of Boys
I’ll never forget finding out I was becoming a parent. In one moment, I felt overwhelming fear and elation. The joy of parenthood, a long hoped for reality, was met with the sense of responsibility in raising children. Children are opportunities to model and shape the future; an opportunity to pass along values while also seeking to break cycles and chart new paths.
I grew up with a strong sense of male leadership as the norm. While not a theological rationale, the role of men as leaders was explicitly and implicitly taught throughout my childhood. As time went on, I was confronted with new theological models, the need for women in leadership, and the reality of my male privilege.
So as I thought about becoming a parent, I had hoped for daughters. I loved the idea of my wife and I raising up a woman who would be fierce and strong, fully understanding her ability to lead in every area of the home, church, and world. Yet, we have two sons.
It is one thing to join with my wife in empowering and encouraging a new generation of women. It is an altogether different kind of challenge, one requiring more repentance, reflection, and introspection, to raise young boys to be strong, sensitive egalitarians. Raising sons causes me to confront my male privilege in a whole new way.
Breaking from my inherited model was a journey. Kind and generous people helped me see that egalitarian theology is not just about begrudgingly making room for women. Rather, the hope is to celebrate the influence and importance of the female experience. It is an undoing of gendered hostility and separation, seeing the need for a variety of perspectives. These acts of inclusion not only provide a holistic understanding of reality but make sure everyone can see themselves being represented.
Why does representation matter? Numerous studies and others’ personal experiences have shown the power of representation in media, film, and politics. When you see someone of the same gender, race, or experience as you, your imagination is stirred. You begin to believe you too can lead, make a difference, or impact the world.
This is no different for women leading in the church. To see women preaching, leading, and pastoring is a form of representation and has ripple effects for generations. Too many women have never considered their ability to be a pastor or leader because they have never seen women be pastors or leaders in the church. Egalitarian theology stirs the imaginations of young women.
Liberation of the Oppressor
But egalitarian theology and women represented in leadership is not just good for young women, it is also good for my sons and other boys like them. The cultural waters of male privilege will pull at them to view women as lesser than or not as qualified as men. Patriarchal narratives will try to teach them to objectify women. My sons will continue to need to develop new imaginations for a more equitable and just world. They need to know that women can be leaders and innovators, not just helpers or supporters.
The good news of Christianity is the reality of God’s care and love for the oppressed and marginalized. God is a god of justice and restoration. The voiceless have been given a voice. The forgotten have been seen and remembered by the God of love. But Christianity is also good news for the oppressor and the privileged. It is not beneficial for us to believe ourselves to be superior to another. It is not healthy and good for our hearts and souls to leave our privilege unchallenged. The oppressor is in need of freedom from the bondage created by unchecked power. It is not good for me and my sons to maintain male dominance. Our souls and lives are only truly free if everyone is free. The liberation of the oppressor is bound up in the liberation of the oppressed.
We Are Making a New World, One Generation at a Time
This is the task set before me in raising two rambunctious little boys. I don’t want them to be threatened by women or so fragile that they cannot celebrate the successes of women and empower the strength of women’s voices. I want them to not just passively accept egalitarian theology but see themselves as active participators in creating a more equitable and beautiful church.
I can rejoice that my sons will have a different trajectory, that hopefully they will not require as much deconstruction of their privilege but can be champions of women from a young age. They can grow up not automatically placing themselves at the center of every conversation or decision. They can be allies of women from a young age because egalitarianism is not just good for the next generation of women, it is liberating and empowering to the next generation of men as well.
Men who are allies to women are not just doing the bare minimum. We are not begrudgingly creating space or listening to fresh perspective. Rather as we all work together toward equality, we are ushering in the new world order. We are participating in bringing heaven to earth.
Men, let’s join in doing the hard work of raising the next generation to be champions of egalitarian theology and allies to the women in their lives.
(Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash)
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