Friday, 17 December 2010
Take me to your leader
Do I think men and women are created equal, and if so what do I mean by that?
Yes and no.
I don’t believe that all women are the same as each other, or that all men are the same as each other. So, for example, when it comes to caring for little children, I think in general women are better at it than men, but I also think that some men are much better at it than some women.
And I think things go better when people do what they’re good at. In an earlier blog where I mentioned that England has a queen, and she does a great job, a sister who commented on the post reminded me that however good a job she is doing, the queen is biblically out of order. I remember the scriptural texts that led my sister to that belief, but I am baffled by the concept of a God who would prefer a man doing something badly over a woman doing it well just because the man is a man and the woman is a woman. I have no clear opinion about this; it just doesn’t make sense to me. Where this is an issue, I prefer the route of simply deleting the hierarchical status. Let's not have monarchs, then. Same I feel about bishops, and indeed any ordained clergy. If there's going to be a row about whether women are allowed to be bishops or priests, let's not have them. Jesus wasn't a bishop or a priest, and He had no kingdom of this world.
Other kinds of equality? Are women and men equal in the sense of being basically the same - interchangeable? Despite the neurologists' findings that there is very little difference between the male and femael brains, I personally believe that, even factoring in the great variety among human beings in either gender, men and women are so startlingly different from each other they sometimes seem to come from different species if not actually different planets. I know marriage must be God’s idea because I can’t imagine that any other than a transcendent and all-wise being could possibly have come up with so laughably crazy an idea as a woman and a man trying to set up house together, and still have it work OK.
Are men and women equal in importance then – that is, do they have equal eminence, equal status, equal prestige? Yes, they do. They are both infinitely valuable to God – and there is no relative quantification of ‘infinite’ – and apart from that, neither man nor woman has any importance at all; no eminence, status or prestige whatsoever, outside of their own imagination. Neither man nor woman is more valuable than the other to God, and neither has any other value at all.
So should men rule over women? This is an unnecessary question, for God has already told us they always will (here), and that He regards it as a curse. She was looking for a connection, a linking of soul-to-soul (her desire is for her husband); instead she found herself a link in a chain of command (he shall lord it over you).
But it seems to me that there is a way round this whole equality question that makes it completely irrelevant. Because this whole thing is about who's the boss, who's in charge, isn't it?
Here are some things Jesus said that blow it right out of the water:
Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 KJV)
And he said here (Luke 22:24-27 KJV) that the greater person should be like the junior person, and the boss should be like the go-fer.
And Jesus said: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29 KJV)
And here is something from one of the New Testament epistles (Ephesians 5:18-33 KJV) saying that a wife should reverence and respect her husband as deeply as the church reverences Jesus, and that the husband should love his wife with as tender and self-sacrificial love as Jesus loves his people in the church. "They two shall be one flesh." One flesh. How can you have a hierarchical relationship in one flesh? Hierarchy requires different ranks, different strata of status; one flesh is indivisible.
I have read Christian writers saying that in any relationship there is a conflict of interests, and when that occurs there has to be a hierarchical relationship, or there will be a stalemate. So one partner must have the casting vote and that should be the husband, because he's the head. That's logic, but it still isn't what Jesus said. When Jesus came upon his disciples arguing about which of them was the greatest, He said "except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." So you can set up an arrangement where the husband is in charge and the wife has to do as he says, but that still leaves them both outside the kingdom of heaven, because Jesus said that's not the way they do it there. To even enter it, you have to go the way of simplicity - stoop down, and be humble enough to get in. You don't stride into heaven, the lintel is low. You crawl in on your hands and knees.
It seems to me that all we have to do is put these teachings into practice and the whole problem just goes away. All you get left with is faithfulness, humility and love.