I have a friend who teaches at a Christian college who recently told me a story about a male student who took it on himself to correct the way a few students dressed. Not, of course, male students. He targeted some female students who dressed in ways which caused him lustful difficulty. By direct confrontation and by subsequent texting he “corrected” the error of their ways when he saw what he didn’t like. My friend assures me the young women were dressed appropriately, but this young man felt empowered, presumably by his gender identity, to confront the “girls” on their wanton ways.
In case the evil and ridiculous nature of this isn’t immediately clear, try reversing the roles. It’s silly to think about – possibly because women aren’t so quick to blame others for their issues (remember the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden? It was Adam who at once blamed both Eve AND God who gave him Eve), and because it’s hard to imagine a woman presuming the authority to tell a male collogue how to dress (except, of course in the area of bad taste, there in fact men often need help!). The quixotic assumption that you have the right to do so is built on two things which are both wrong: 1) is that men and women are not in all ways equal, and 2) that women have a special responsibility helping men behave themselves.
We are in the middle of a study of President Jimmy Carter’s new book about women and religion (“A Call to Action”). His primary thesis seems potentially exaggerated: “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls…,” until you remember that he is talking about half the world’s population. His secondary thesis is relevant to us: [this deprivation and abuse of women and girls is] largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare…”
KBC has a long history of seeking to address these false interpretations. We ordained women deacons in the 70s. We have had ordained women ministers on staff for years and years. We’ve been saying in word and deed, to women and girls, if God calls you, we’ll not try to tell God what not to do. We’ll support and love and pray and work for and with you. We’ll stand in line with the great women in the Bible (Rehab, Ruth, Esther, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophet, etc.) in rejecting the theme of inherent male superiority. Gender identity is but one aspect of our person, and is no determiner of what God might call us to do.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this. The abuse of women and girls is under-girded by a hierarchical mentality which is religiously supported. Our witness of equality and affirmation is not simply an essential part of growing up “our girls” into faith in their full humanity, but it is also a counter against the atrocious way in which churches have supported the subjugation of half the world’s population.
How do you explain that until very recently the fine in Georgia for being convicted of selling another human being was $50? Maybe part of that is racism. But my inclination is to think such injustice rests on deep-seated sexism, because today the vast majority of “slaves” sold in the United States are female sex slaves. This is, just now, getting some overdue attention in Congress, but it’s unconscionable that for years girls have been traded and sold like plastic dolls and the men who buy them have for the most part never been prosecuted.
Occasionally it is mentioned that the first evangelists sent from the tomb of the resurrected Jesus were women. This is true and significant. However, I find it just as compelling that in John 4 we find Jesus having a long theological conversation with a woman who was both a “foreigner” and a person of “ill repute.” He talked to her at length about how the worship of God was not geographic but spiritual (God desires those who come “in spirit and truth”). He did not once mention the way she was dressed.
That we embrace this, is yet another reason I love my church.