I must admit that if someone told me about Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) when I first came to know Christ, I would not have understood the need for such an organization. Being raised in the military, my world was already racially and ethnically integrated and diverse. The church where I came to know Christ as a teenager consisted mostly of military families and was gender-inclusive. Over the next two decades, I assumed if someone had a problem with me it was because of my personality, rather than my gender.
In my second year of graduate school, I completed a practicum at a Christian college counseling center. One of my young female clients made this statement: “Patty, if I could see God as less male, I could believe he cares about me.” She had been raised to believe that only men have voices within the church and only their voices count.
“What does that mean?” I asked, incredulous.This wasn’t the Christianity I knew. I took a piece of paper and divided it into quadrants. On the top of the left side of the page I wrote “Male” and on the top of the right I wrote “Female.” On the top half she listed positive traits of each and on the bottom half she listed negative traits of each.
We then went down her lists. She could see God as having the positive male traits and no others. “Oh, crud,” I thought, “I blew this one.” Then I asked, “What about Jesus?” Again we went down the lists. She agreed Jesus has positive male traits and no negative traits. I drew a deep breath as I moved the pen to the top of the female positive traits, not knowing what she would do. Slowly, one by one, I put a cross by each positive female trait that she acknowledged Jesus having. She began to weep as she saw Jesus as being less stereotypically “male” than her history had led her to believe. “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?” she asked through tears.
A couple years later I had the privilege of meeting Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, a psychology and philosophy professor and member of CBE’s board of reference. She asked me if I had ever heard of CBE. I followed CBE for a couple of years, but we were entering the twenty-first century; surely gender was now a non-issue for the church. Then came a new series of clients. Many of them had been told by their church that their voices did not matter. Most of them had been treated by their “Christian” husbands in despicable ways. The clincher for me was a client of mine, a seventy year old woman. Appearing much younger than her age with a kind and gentle manner, she said, “You know, Patty, only men matter to God. For example, the feeding of the 5000 only counted the men because only the men counted.” That moment crystallized for me that CBE deeply matters.