More than Two Paths to Egalitarianism?

Gail Wallace

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Last week Tim presented some thoughts about two different paths people sometimes take to get to an egalitarian perspective: the path of “rights” and the path of “biblical authority”. The article prompted discussion about the role of justice and other factors that come into play as we move along these pathways. While most readers identified one path or the other as the starting point for their convictions, many shared how the paths have also overlapped. Some of the comments were just too good not to share:

CONNECTIONS TO RACIAL JUSTICE

“Interestingly, my path for racial justice in South Africa started with social justice before I became a committed Christian (the path of rights); and my egalitarian path started with biblical authority, when I was in the church. I find that the two go hand-in-hand and I cannot say today that I am able to separate the two – they seem to balance. I’m reminded of and convicted by Micah 6:8: ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ ” Xana

THE PATH OF RIGHTS WRONGLY CRITICIZED?

“While I do believe in the biblical authority path, the path of rights is wrongly criticized. Paul demanded not to be flogged as his right as a Roman citizen. However, 1 Peter is quite clear that the abused slave and the abused wife have no rights. I could never find a verse in the Bible about beaten wives and the biblical path to safety. At some point women have to say to themselves, “I have the right to physical and emotional safety. I have the right to go to the bathroom, to speak out, to exit and enter the house, to earn money, to save money, to vote, to use birth control, etc. Each of these is a human right that has been denied women by their husbands at some time, and the Bible is silent on these issues. To not stand up for one’s own human rights is the path to body-broken insanity. Christians should never teach anyone that they should not seek the path of human rights.” Suzanne

THE ROLE OF TRADITION AND CULTURE

“Having grown up in a very conservative household, I can testify to this firsthand. When I was an adult, I stumbled upon some egalitarian literature. The arguments concerning those troublesome verses sounded valid. However, it still took me quite a while before I had the courage to change sides. Why? Because it just didn’t feel right to have a woman taking a man’s position. After all, didn’t God create women as nurturers? Isn’t it their natural desire to focus on the home? And man’s natural desire is to be out there, exploring and dominating. So of course, it’s natural that men should run the church while women do the nurturing functions, such as teach the children, organize potlucks, etc.

I recently read an editorial in a Christian publication that disagreed with the Church of England’s position. The author didn’t even attempt to argue bible verses, but confined himself to the cultural argument. “The Church has always done it that way. How can we just throw our history out?” Most telling, however, he specifically talked about women acting like men, that is, becoming prey to the temptation of wanting to dominate people and impose their views upon others….I do not write the above to shame the author. Indeed, I feel very sorry for him. I simply include it because that editorial exemplifies the world I grew up in. It was never about the Bible….Instead, the adults around me appealed to culture and the nature of things. Men are created one way. Women are created another. Look how feminists have destroyed the country, what with all the divorces, single mothers, and children growing up to become bad adults. What more evidence did they need?

I just want egalitarians to understand – you can talk all day long about dueling bible interpretations, but it’s just that: a duel that the other side can walk away from. The only thing that really changes minds is personal experience. In my case, the egalitarian interpretation sounded true, but it wasn’t until I came to know some women ministers that I came to think maybe, just maybe, I could be wrong.” Lori

THE LIMITS OF REASON

“This is a visceral issue that cannot be resolved by reasoning alone…Let us pray that the church will be able to discern the difference between revealed truths and patriarchal ideology.”  Luis

And from Tim – “Obviously I write this from the perspective of a man who has the privilege of being convictional about this issue but that does not have to live in the day to day injustice of having his calling questioned by others. I agree that justice is a major theme in scripture, and thus the rights path does become relevant. My intention with the blog was more strategic for communication between egalitarians and complementarians. Being in the Anglican communion myself, this is still an issue of much contention, among different provinces and diocese.”

YOUR TURN: It was hard to select just a few comments to share! If you found this interesting, head over to the Two Paths post and join the conversation.

Gail Wallace

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