Today I begin the first of a series of posts about gender roles for us as Christians--to examine the distortions of these roles that have been perpetrated both by those who do and do not claim Christianity.
In modern Christianity, the debate has mostly centered around the rights and the dignity of women: the role of women in marriage, in service of God, as participants in the affairs of society, and the Christian response to violence and injustice done to women. There have been many and severe problems in this regard, of course--and I will address these, but what we as a society and as a faith have ignored of late is that there have also been very real and painful assaults against the rights and dignity of men, and we as Christians are called to take it seriously, to respond with support wherever there is injustice.
Looking all the way back to our brief glimpse of humanity before we betrayed God, we see Adam created and taught how to use his power of speech to name the creatures he encounters. As he does so, he is also learning how to think about the world around him; he recognizes the natural order of male and female, and he comes to realize that there is no being with a physical form, a mind, and a soul compatible to his. He feels the need in himself for this--he feels loneliness, but it's a very different experience than what we know in a world where our relationships with God and those around us are so badly disrupted: this feeling teaches him, and shows him that he has been made to be compatible with another, to be part of the exchange of love. He knew this feeling and understood with a depth we rarely do these days that he would be answered. And he was. God created Eve, and together they began to experience what humanity was meant to be.
As to the love they experienced during that time--love is a dynamic thing, not a static one: it must flow from heart to heart in order to truly live. This dynamic is inherent in the trinitarian nature of our God; one need only observe the relationship between Jesus and His Father during His time on Earth to see just how dynamic and alive such a relationship is, in the truest sense. We were made for a relationship with God far greater than that which we have in this world, and Jesus died for our sins to mend what we could not mend on our own.
We were created as reflections in miniature of God's own nature, and our natural relationship--male and female united to each other--was intended to point the way towards that far greater nature. We were never intended to be set at each other's throats and to be caught up in a cycle of mutual blame and shame, any more than we were meant to suffer physical pain and die. And if we are Christians--if we accept Jesus' help to set our relationship right with God, then surely the love and comprehension that flows from that should compel us to set our relationships right with each other.
Of course, being finite beings, we are obviously not identical to each other as men and women. We should not be surprised that certain traits and gifts are more frequently distributed to one gender or another: this is not a popular thing to say these days, but it is readily evident in the way we were designed. Yet we do a disservice to each other--and we disarm ourselves in our battle against the evil around us--if we do not treat each man and woman as an individual creation of God and we interfere with how that person is meant to serve Him simply because it is less common.
I will leave you this time with a point to ponder: to be a Christian is not to be a misogynist or a misandrist (one who hates men). It is not to advocate the rights of one to the exclusion of or above those of the other, or to take prior victimization as an excuse to hate or dominate others. It is to be one who loves and honors all of God's creations and addresses injustice in any form where it is found. And even when the world would like to give us power that we could use to oppress others--just as Jesus refused to take up the call of the Zealots to lead an armed rebellion when His work was to pour Himself out for our sake (kenosis), we are not to take the false crowns of the world upon ourselves...we are to surrender worldly glory, to pour it out, and to serve one another rather than ourselves.
In my next two posts I will speak of the types of power we must refuse to take for ourselves as Christians. Post II will address the inequities we have done towards women out of this distorted order--Post II will address those done towards men.