Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keeping Women in Their Place

Women. Are they equal with different roles, or are they equal with a variety of callings as men are equal with a variety of callings? How does God see men and women?

We know Jesus chose a woman to be the first missionary to Samaria. And the first people she brought to Jesus were men. Was she outside her role to bring men to Jesus? If Jesus chided her for it, no one recorded that.

We know the risen Jesus showed himself first to a woman, waiting until John and Peter went away. And he commissioned her, too.

And Jesus did not rush to Martha's defense and tell Mary to hurry to the kitchen and do women's work instead of listening to the teacher like the men were doing. Instead, Jesus said what Mary had chosen would not be taken from her.

Looking at the life of Jesus, this idea of women's roles being limited by God to being servants to their husbands doesn't fit.

Perhaps the words of Paul in I Corinthians 12 will help solve the disagreement. Does the role that some say is for women only, make them of less value? How did Paul see the church?

I Cor 12:21-26: “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need, but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

Reading that in “God's Word” translation: “An eye can't say to a hand, “I don't need you!” or again the head can't say to the feet, “I don't need you! The opposite is true. The parts of the body that we think are weaker are the ones we really need. The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we give special honor. So our unpresentable parts are made more presentable. However, our presentable parts don't need this kind of treatment. God has put the body together and given special honor to the part that doesn't have it. God's purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body sufferes, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.”

What does this mean? Who are the more feeble or weak and who are the less presentable? Haven't complementarians indicated women are the weak and unpresentable? Women are NOT to be where they are seen, in front of the congregation. Instead, they are to take their places behind the scenes. And in spite of their behind-the-scenes positions, they are still equal to men in the eyes of God. Where they serve has no impact upon their value.

To make this better understood, consider which parts of the body are considered unpresentable or weaker, and which are “comely” or presentable, so they do not need special honor given to them? Aren't faces and hands the parts that are seen in public? So eyes, ears, noses, mouths, cheeks, etc are those that get behind the pulpits. And armpits and anuses are the parts that remain hidden, along with digestive systems, thyroids, adrenals, the endocrine system, livers, etc. So complementarians have said God decrees that males can be faces and hands, while females are the more disgusting and dishonorable parts. Ok, that is well and good. All parts of the body are equally needed.

So why are the anuses, armpits, endocrine systems, digestive tracts and livers complaining? Could verses 24a to 26a have the answer? “God has put the body together and given special honor to the part that doesn't have it. God's purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same CONCERN for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering...” 

Could the whole problem with complementarian rules be that one part of the body is suffering and the other part is “rubbing their nose in it?” In body-speak, the anuses are in pain over the sandpaper that is being used as toilet paper, and the hands and faces are replying, “That is how God ordained it to be. It is your role.” The armpits are in agony over the antiperspirant that is being used, and the hands and faces are replying, “Submit to us! Stop rebelling, you Jezebel! That is the way God ordained it. Stop trying to take the role of the hands and faces.”

Complementarians are saying if a person does not have penis and testicles, they cannot be part of the hands or face; the Spirit only gifts those with breasts and vaginas to do anus and armpit type work for the kingdom. Many women are saying they have NOT been gifted to be an anus. They have been gifted to be a mouth; God made that very clear to them. But those who claim they are the comely ones, whether they are or not, insist the Spirit does NOT gift females with mouth-gifts.

So who does one believe? Those who say women can only be anuses, armpits and guts, or those who say God has called them to be feet or hands or mouths? Does anyone have the right to tell another what God did and didn't say to them? What if the men in Samaria had told the Woman at the Well, that of course Jesus would not have said those things to HER, a mere WOMAN, and ignored all she told them? Samaria would never have had a sweeping turn to the real God.

How many people have not come to God, have not been able to connect the dots to be able to come to salvation through Jesus because men have forced women to be anuses, armpits and guts? And on top of that, those same men used sandpaper, harsh chemicals, and poison to keep the anuses, armpits and guts “in their place,” resulting in hampering the message of the vessels God had chosen to proclaim His message, His way, a way that the hearers could understand and to which they could relate.

Is the church today--the people who have accepted Jesus as Savior--half the size it would have been if women had been respected, if their cry of pain had been heard, and if women had not had their wings clipped so they could not proclaim the gospel as God had called them to proclaim it?

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.