I hate pontificating.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Often, we can only hate most deeply that which we know most truly. Going through the annals of this very blog and my own conversations (especially during college), pontification makes frequent guest appearances.
By “pontification” I mean saying something authoritatively more for the sake of emphasizing the authority with which you say it than the point for which you did. It’s speaking to your base and those who agree with you, and it often says more about you than it does for the topic at hand. And generally, especially for issues where there is deep disagreement, it accomplishes absolutely nothing more than entrenching each side.
Continuing this series on gender relationships in the church, I don’t want to do that. I really don’t. But too often, this is the case.
Women, and their role in shaping society’s power structures, are at the fore-front of our nation’s consciousness and cultural discussion right now–Evangelical and otherwise.
Socio-politically: Maureen Dowd wrote about it this past week. Hanna Rosin wrote a book about this happening. Sandra Fluke got Rush Limbaugh into a tizzy and then spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Republican leaders, for some reason, could simply not stop talking about rape. Mitt Romney bragged about his binders full of them. Last week, Americans elected the largest number of females to Congress than it ever has.
In Evangelicalism: Rachel Held Evans brought attention to misogyny and patriarchalism at one of the bastions of the Neo-Reformed. Her new book, which already carried some controversy, has been criticized and patronized by conservative evangelicals, including one of the top female thinkers of that flock (Evans’ response, a scholar’s rebuttal). Concerning said bastion, after a rough search and count for the phrase “Complementarianism”, it seems that over half of the results appeared this year alone. At the time of this writing, a different bastion of the Neo-Reformed, upon visit to their site has as the featured video: “Complementarianism: Essential or Expendable?”. The Church of England just announced their new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and one of the main issues being talked about is his views on women’s ordination.
And so, I’m starting a series of posts (as I usually do) to offer up some of my thoughts on the Christianity side of this discussion–thoughts which I hope are helpful to us all. But first, I find it only fair to tell you all my journey into this and where I stand. I’ve hinted at it before, but a fuller treatment might be in order.
Just look at that smile. Doesn’t seem like the face of someone that wants to destroy Christianity, does it? Well, some would disagree, and one Christian bookstore wants to protect us from her.
One of the best voices in contemporary Evangelicalism today is Rachel Held Evans. She writes about many things, but a major part of her writing–and the topic of her most recent book A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”–is the place of woman in Christian homes and churches.
Update: Part 2 is up, engaging with the issue itself and The Gospel Coalition.
Fine… I’ll throw my two cents in.
A few days ago, Jared Wilson, trying to speak to the appeal of the S&M-tinged book 50 Shades of Grey, posted an excerpt from the book Fidelity (which I have read, so I feel I can speak to this) by the always-good-for-a-sound bite Douglas Wilson. Here’s how I’d summarize his ultimate point:
Modern humans have rebelled against God’s good and correct design of male authority and female submission to that authority. But, as people made in the Image of God, we have deep longings for the way God has structured reality to work best. And so, even when we reject God’s gracious version of gender relations, that desire is still there and will thus be corrupted and express itself in things like rape, pornography, and thinking things like 50 Shades of Grey is appealing.
I really don’t think either of them would think I am mischaracterizing them here. Both Wilsons involved in this equation clearly intended in their writing to promote what they believe is a beautiful synchronicity between male and female in which both fluorish.
And yet the blogosphere blew up over this.
Andrew Wilson, over at The Theology Forum has done us a great service my creating this “Brief A–Z of Theological Jargon”, and it is great. Everyone gets some elbows in the ribs. Check it out. You don’t want to miss it. Here are some of my favorites:
1. The belief that men and women are complementary.
2. The antiquated and repressive notion that wives should submit to their husbands, and women should not teach or have authority over men.
3. The attempt to disguise (2) by referring to (1).
1. The belief that men and women are equal.
2. The modern and liberating notion that women can do everything a man can, sister, including wearing trousers, leading the home, leading churches and teaching and having authority over men.
3. The assumption that (1) necessitates (2).
The belief that the church is universal, apart from Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and pretty much everyone except Roman Catholics.