Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bev's blog

from Bev's blog:

Does religion cause the violation of women's rights?

As I read through the Bible this year I am taking note of the story of men, women, and God as it unfolds. I have already noted that though men are definitely the power brokers, at least the women were not circumcised in Genesis. Okay, so a virgin daughter or two are offered to crowds of men in lieu of offering male house guests—virtual strangers for—sex. Okay, so Abraham gives his wife with benefits to several men to avoid being killed.

Observe, I still, even after reading more than twenty chapters in Genesis, hold out hope for a good story to unfold for women.

Also note, I made a decision when I was about 24 years old to keep my mouth shut about woman’s role in the church. I convinced myself that I would not have any credibility in the Church of Christ unless I could prove that I could be a good wife and mother. I would have to hold my tongue on my the view that women are marginalized in church practice due to a misappropriation of a few select verses written by the good bachelor Apostle Paul—until I was 50.

Well, I would not approach the issue with such reasoning today—now that I am well over 50. Certainly titles, offices, and power are not what Jesus sought. He did, however, come to “preach good tidings to the poor...proclaim the release of the set at liberty them that are bruised.” Throughout the world, women fall into these categories day in and day out.

Juxtapose the above proclamation of Jesus with a comment I heard many times through the years in women’s Bible studies in Churches of Christ, "Remember, in Christ, we have no rights.”

Did you ever hear this? How would you have responded? Sometimes people would say it in response to the hymn in Phillipians 2 in which Jesus did not claim his equality with God, but made himself a servant. However, how damaging is it to re-write this and tell women they should not claim rights?

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, in his January 9 piece entitled, "Religion and Women" challenges leaders in world religions, those who devote their lives to their faith, to take steps to stop the oppression of women. He says, “Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior.”

I have a thought, and I wonder if you agree. Many leaders in Churches of Christ agree that women can speak in the regular assembly—as they do in Sunday school classes, small groups, and after the “closing prayer,” but they do not make it a practice in their churches for fear of offending some—in particular, the more conservative women. When will those male leaders in our churches stand up for the women of the church whose gifts are stymied and marginalized while they enjoy using their talents in full employ?

I think most of the church leader fellows I know are nice guys thinking they do not want to rock the boat for the more conservative members of their congregation. I wonder if they ever consider that they may be part of a very big global problem?

What do you think?


stan said...

I think it's time, past time, for the life changing, transforming, prophetic word of God to bring down the walls of gender inequality and injustice in the CoC. I pray the Spirit is calling women and men to this important mission. It's crucial!

God send us preachers brash and true...
make them serve your holy word...

Your living word made prophets bold,
The Spirit-giv’n Good News to preach.
None could out run your Spirit’s reach;
Brave preachers spoke as they were told.

Give preachers courage to obey,
In some dead place or silent hell,
The angels’ Easter charge, “Go! Tell!”
To call more foll’wers to the Way.

These preachers shield from love of praise;
Ignite their sermons with your fire.
May they not fear their people’s ire,
But serve your Word, throughout their days.

May they know now your pow’r to say
That same strong Word your Saints obeyed.

Lord speak to us, our fears relieve;
Just say the word and we are healed.
Hearing your word is faith revealed,
Though we’ve not seen, yet we believe!

JJT said...

I think Bev's post highlights something problematic about the language of our discussion, the ill fit between rhetoric of "rights," which we're all comfortable with in a secular/political context, but which does not seem to communicate well when transported into our church context. Whether or not this should be the case--as Beverly queries--is an important question. Surely the notion of basic "human rights" is one that accords with the gospel's message of liberation for all.

But it may also be that this ill-fit means perhaps we should use a different language, a specifically theological language, for articulating our notions of justice for women, and others, within our churches. If claiming a "right" to speak seems somehow suspiciously self-serving, what about claiming a "duty," an "obligation," a "calling?" These words shift the focus from an individually-centered perspective to a theologically, Christologically, and ecclesiologically centered one. And this shifts the focus of the opposition: it may be easy to oppose some uppity woman on the basis of she's being uppity, but if she's claiming to speak for the benefit of the whole community, because she is a full member and because she perceives an obligation to serve and a call from God to do so--opposing that means not simply opposing an individual's self-assertion but arguing that 1) she can't benefit the community, 2) she's not a full member and 3) God is not calling her. Those are very large and difficult arguments to make.

Emily Webb said...

Great post. To anyone who has never read "What Paul Really Said About Women", I highly recommend it.