I have been doing lots of reading about gender -- the biological and spiritual basis for masculine and feminine according to the old Evangelical world-view, the modern and post-modern sociological and psychological understandings of gender formation, historical looks at gender and sex roles in different times and places, and also studies of what Scripture really teaches and studies of how the Church has functioned and should function in terms of gender and sex roles. The amount "out there" to read is amazing.
The two things that were most profound to me were these: 1) women have been even more invested than men in supporting something twisted and demeaning -- whether in the Church or in the wider culture; and 2) I can't change culture, and I can't change any other individual, but I can learn what I can about what is true, and then speak truth as I see it, despite the consequences -- and in so doing, I will be a drop in the bucket of real change over time and distance.
I was one of those women invested in supporting the culture in which I was born, which became the culture that I choose to remain in. This was due to many reasons: 1) ignorance of any other workable alternative; 2) belief that our culture's take on gender was embedded in the TRUTH of many closely held values and cherished relationships; 3) my choice to identify with those in power rather than to challenge them fruitlessly; 4) my need to function and find meaning in the choices I had made and kept making; 5) all the other myriad of reasons that must be entwined in this life and that I cannot yet identify individually.
Now the full picture of truth is morphing and changing for me . . . as I put all the pieces back together, in light of Scripture, relationships, books, intuition, experience . . .
And the heart of my humanity is exposed in the grief the new truths is stirring:
All our relationships have been sacrificed on the altar of a 20th-century polarization of "masculine" and "feminine" that has been made into the central value of American Evangelicalism. We think we are supporting a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, but instead we have slaughtered the heart of the Gospel in order to protect our "family values", and we are paying the price. Jesus opens the door to a new culture, which holds values in proper proportion in the new covenant community.
We are persons. As persons created in His image, we are gifted in many ways, and are led into increasing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our genes and our hormones do result in patterns that show up as "masculine" or "feminine" -- it is not all just imposed by cultural conditioning, not by a long-shot! But those traits and drives are just part of what we balance for each individual and for the community as we practice stewardship of what God has given us and of what He calls us to do and be.
Our central value must be "abiding in Jesus" (obedience and connection), and out of that "agape", and part and parcel of both of those values is a loyalty to TRUTH and a seeking after it. My view of "who I should be as a woman" and of "who you should be as a man" and of "how families should function" are all important in light of my values of abiding, agape, and TRUTH -- but are subservient, both in priority and in source. I can only understand them effectively if they flow from my devotion to the TRUTH in all the ways He reveals Himself, and I can only value them properly if they are secondary and my "following after Jesus in Truth and Agape" are primary.
We must examine the ways we fail as a community in light of our cultural assumptions about family and gender and sex-roles. Many of our personal sins and dysfunctions can be traced to bad assumptions here, and the same is true of the failures and sins of our marriages, families, and Christian communities. God does work in His grace through us in the midst of our error and imperfection, but He also brings new insight and new healing to our distortions and dysfunctions.
Start with me, Lord!