This past year has been a big one as it relates to my changing beliefs on the idea of women’s role in the church. I’ve read a lot, prayed a lot, asked a lot of questions, observed a lot of women. I have incredibly good friends who are “feminists” (there must be a new word to use, what is it?) and those who would ascribe to a more traditional view on women’s roles in the home, church and society. But I’m discovering that perhaps neither camp would want me as their spokesperson. Here’s why:
1. I love them all deeply, and surprisingly find myself wrestling with the idea that maybe both views are okay. I’ve been thinking about Paul telling the Corinthians that they are free to eat meat, but that for some, eating meat is sin (because it violates their conscious). If a woman is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is restricted from a certain role, perhaps to go against her belief in this is sin for her. Eek, I know, I’m walking in some muddy waters, but I think it’s a fair idea to toss around. I think most of us would be lieing if we said this argument is cut and dry (because why would there be so much fighting about if it was?).
2. I stay at home with my kids, and I’ve dived headlong into learning about and creating toys, activities, and environments that help them develop well. I work hard at it, and I think that it’s a totally worthy pursuit (most days :)). Some of my non-traditional friends say it’s all fine and dandy– until the kids go back to school, and in the meantime, I better be doing something else too, so I’m ready to jump back into having a career.
4. I find myself defending either side, depending on who I’m talking to. I want to stand up for women who are leaders but are restricted from using their gifts in a meaningful way. I think it’s unfair and I see evidence from Scripture that supports women in any role that the Lord has gifted them in. It’s disheartening to see women called by God to do one thing but the church saying no to them in carrying that out. It makes some women feel like God doesn’t want to use them, or they feel like they were born the wrong gender. It can cause discontentment, disillusionment, and ultimately rejection of the church for some women. I will stand up for a woman any day to make sure she can use the giftings God has given her, even if that means a teaching or pastorly role.
5. On the other hand, I get fired up when feminists talk down to women who hold more a more traditional view, claiming they are brainwashed and ignorant of how to read Scripture. I know intelligent, gifted women who are completely secure in the (limited) roles they believe they can engage in and they creatively use their gifts to bless everyone in the church body. Many of these women who choose to stay at home pour so much energy into their husbands, homes, children, and communities. They seriously make this world a better, humbler place. I will stand up to protect their dignity, their conscious on this issue, their dedication to family (biological and spiritual), their intelligence, and their deep commitment to walk in the ways of the Lord. Most days I would rather hang out with these kind of women because of their kindness, humility, generosity, and support for one another. They make me want to know the Lord more.
6. I check out books from the library about cleaning, home organization, cooking, and raising kids.
7. I do most of the cleaning at our house.
8. Except laundry. I have not done a load of laundry or diapers in over 6 months, thank you very much.
8. I clean while Jake changes diapers, reads books, gives the kids a bath, and play any game they want.
9. Jake was a stay-at-home dad while I was getting my masters degree in Christan Leadership from a methodist seminary. And we were both incredibly content with the arrangement.
10. We’ve been a part of a church that has held women elders (and have been fine with it).
11. We’ve been a part of a church that doesn’t allow women to lead as an elder or a pastor or teach men.
12. I appreciate and read books on women’s issues.
13. I love pink tools.
14. I’ve tried to raise my kids to be less gendered in their playing. I bought Asante a baby doll and a kitchen set. He doesn’t own a truck. Aly plays with Super Mario figurines, toy trains and we refuse to dress in her big bows and poofy dresses.
15. Aly and Ada also adore baby dolls, pretend-cooking, and throwing huge “parties” for us. They love pink, purple, Strawberry Shortcake, and doll houses. Asante never got into the baby doll or the kitchen set. Is there such a thing as children “gendering” themselves? Maybe.
So perhaps my job is to sit between the camps, both raising a ruckus to get people to think differently than they do, but also there to defend the dignity and humanity of women on both sides of the divide. It’s painfully obvious that this issue deeply hurts women on both sides by the way they are spoken about and spoken to (especially in the virtual world).
Perhaps we can work together to create a unity that bonds our hearts together instead of tears one another apart. Another world is possible, right?