Thursday, July 29, 2004

Q's Questions

"Q" , a young woman, studies theology at Harding Graduate School of Religion. She blogs earnestly, asking heartfelt questions. She recently explored that ever sensitive territory of the Bible, God, and women. Sometimes, it is hard to describe how it feels to be a woman reading the Bible. There are moments that one wonders why God bothered to make women with minds and voices and then let them get educations. Q ventures some of these concerns on July 23 in a discussion about what she refers to as an invisible male bias in society. Here's my response:

There is more than one thing at work here. You identified what you consider invisible. My perception varies. What remains visible really is the power of the masculine. It screams at us from the images from Arab-Muslim nations and whispers to us in the contemporary church. As to the latter, lean in close and sense this simple representation of male privilege—presented with no malice, but because “it’s just the way things are” from James Wiser, a blogger you may appreciate. The blog brings to the table an announcement of a special day of encouragement designed for ministers and their wives sponsored by a Christian university.

Visible and disturbing in a visceral way is the crushing domination of women in many Arab Muslim communities. Veiled, silent, and subject even to point of socially sanctioned honor killings, these women live in a world I have to see as much like the world Jesus came into.

Now to the invisible. Imagine Jesus today in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran with an entourage of women talking theology. Think of Mary, with her spirit and mind as well the uniqueness of her female anatomic capacity, encountering Gabriel, trysting with the Holy Spirit, and experiencing the inner affirmation in her meeting with the expecting Elizabeth. Relish these encounters with the divine. Between us girls, the friendship of Jesus with Mary and Martha and the other women and baptism into Christ thrills me more than the circumcision deal the guys got before the new covenant. From my eye of faith, the appearance of Jesus to his followers, both male and female, and the partnership of Paul with women in the gospel supercede the problems, large as they loom, with roles in the burgeoning movement.

Cable televsion beams the ancient order of male authority so starkly that I am now thoroughly convinced of the fallacy of putting a literal contemporary application on some of Paul’s teachings. What is visible, Q, is this: we, women in the milieu of Churches of Christ, attend and work in groups of Christians who have utterly inconsistent, even schizophrenic applications of some scripture. This is not true for all folks who take God’s word for God’s word, but it is true for many. You live with this don’t you? As hard as it is in the meetinghouse, don’t miss the invisible reality of Christ and his vibrant, radical relationship with women for visibly weak attempts to appropriate the treasures of his will. And don’t quit asking questions, Q.


B. S. Denton said...

Outstanding post, Mrs. Bev. Absolutely outstanding. Thank you for writing it.

Quiara said...

This is something I wonder a lot, particularly the bit about the creation of woman at all, much less complete with brains and autonomous thoughts.

I do appreciate the example of Jesus' interaction with women. And I love the Mary/Martha encounter. And the women who "contend" with Paul for the sake of the gospel. But the schizophrenic hermeneutic, as you've so niftily dubbed it, does drive me batty. And that's on a good day. On a bad day, it's downright demoralizing.

But you're right. It's not all about what happens in the building.

JAW said...

Bev- I don't think I answered your question...but thanks for asking. I just posted something to my blog I'm sure I'll regret...:)

Travis said...

I have been challenged and blessed by the women, CoC bloggers out there who have given their voice to the male-dominant discussion on the "Roles of Women". This has become an issue very dear to my heart lately. I'm getting tired of the schizophrenic hermenutics. The question I'm dealing with now is, "What can we do? Where do we start?" I'm torn between my desire to write a wrong and my desire to not enforce change so quickly. The injustice of the whole situation causes me to desire a fight for righteousness, yet my passivity causes me to fear infringing on people's comfort zones. I'm seeming a bit schizophrenic here.

I long to hear my wife's voice publically in the Church of Christ. If/when I have a daughter, I long to know that if she pursues a degree in ministry she will have an equal chance at getting hired as a man applying for the same job. I long for the day when men step down from their self-apointed authority roles and allow Jesus to be the head of the Church once again, while the rest of us, regardless of gender, do our best to follow his self-sacrificing leadership style and be a servant to all we encounter.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

Philips translates James to say "The anger of man never works the righteousness of God." This issue gives rise to a garden variety of emotions of which hues of anger and sadness often dominate. The complexity of this situation lies in the fact that most men in leadership in our movement see their appointment to their positions as God appointed, not self-appointed. A reading of the text from their point of view seems reasonable. Most women I know concur. It is the application of it, that the weakness of interpretation shows itself. However, challenging the status quo frightens folks who remain rightly concerned about following God's will. So what counsel gives the Holy Spirit in this? For certain, the fruition of the function of women and men in assembly and in ministry exudes love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control

So what if my study leads me to conclusion significantly different from others?
Personally, fighting for righteousness and pleading for a more reasonable interpretation of these passages doesn't always fall in the same category, thus my ability to be passive about it for so many years in the various groups of which of I have been a member.

Unless the men in a given congregation, echoing the views of most members, take the lead in examining the possibilities for a more inclusive public role for women, I see little peace in the process. Moreover, that particular leadership has to have the conviction, confidence, and love to move forward despite the discomfort of some members. Not many currently existing groups are willing to do so.

A full response to this demands volumes, but I got my working position from Mrs. Collins who spoke at the Jubilee conference years ago. She said if we are going to straighten out the gender problems in the church, perhaps the main thing we need to do is have the men start doing what the women do.

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Travis said...

I appreciate the response. I do hate it that it seems the power to change our current treatment of women in our churches lies in the hands of the men. I know it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for a man like myself who has all the opportunities to do ministry in the church to realize what it is like to be a women who is not given those opportunies. And why would men who are comfortable in their positions of power want to risk those positions for the sake of full inclusion of women? It is a difficult situation and I praise you for being able to live in an enviornment that does not share your views.

Personally, I have become more sensitive to the topic when preparing sermons and Bible classes. I try to preach from texts about women, include women in my examples, and always use a gender-neutral translation of the Bible (preferribly the NRSV). While these are small moves, in my current volunteer situation it is all that I can do. Hopefully one day I will be in a position to do more. Until then, I'll keep doing what I can do and keep spreading the message in our small little blog-dom.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

I appreciate your response, Travis. Keep on blogging.

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