I’m not sure if I ever totally believed that the Bible mandated inequality between the sexes, but that’s just the way it was. I grew up in a church that didn’t necessarily preach such inequalities, but practiced them none the less. By their example I understood that there was a “man’s place” and a “woman’s place.” The men held positions of leadership and the women were in charge of the nursery and potluck dinners.
I was the typical young Christian male who believed feminism was an enemy of the family, Promise Keepers was the most wonderful thing that could happen to a household, and women who pursued careers outside of the home were selfish and loved their families less than those that stayed home with the kids. I believed these things not because it made sense to do so, but because that is what the church taught by example.
Although it wasn’t until I went to college that I consciously started thinking about biblical equality, I believe that my high school Sunday school teacher unknowingly prepared me for the message. She taught with conversation and mutual respect, not with planned lessons and lectures. I was impressed with how much she taught like Christ.
While enrolled at Bethel College as a freshman, I took a biblical theology class from Dr. Greg Boyd. During one of his lectures, he said that to believe in one God who is of one mind, his Scripture must be consistent and of one message. It seemed so obvious, but I had never thought of it that way. For example, I couldn’t believe Galatians 3:28 (“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”) and at the same time believe that 1 Timothy 2:12 was a universal command (“I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”)
If 1 Timothy 2:12 is a universal command, then Galatians 3:28 is a lie, and all are not one in Christ. If all are not one in Christ, then that makes God a liar and ultimately not God. But if 1 Timothy 2:12 is a command to a certain group of believers based on circumstances that we don’t fully understand, then Scripture can be reconciled.
All of a sudden biblical equality became important to me, not only because of the heavy theological implications of believing in inequality, but also because I finally saw the relational consequences of inequality — the harm we do to each other based on such beliefs.
Around the time I became concerned with equality, I started to become really good friends with two women. I started realizing what fascinating people they were, perhaps because I finally understood that women weren’t just for marrying; it was OK to have them as close friends. Too often Christian women adopt their husband’s identity as their own, losing themselves in the process. I would hate to someday wake and find that my close friends had put their dreams, talents and perspectives on the back burner to become “good Christian wives.” That is exactly what many churches ask and expect of women.
Romans 14:13 says, “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or a hindrance in the way of another.” I believe hierarchical teachings about men and women may have served as a stumbling block for many Christians. All I know is that if I were a woman, I would have a hard time standing.