As I have been reading through my Twitter feed and some blogs and an FB timeline or two there were a few posts that disturbed me not because they were horrendous stories of death and destruction but because of what they were saying about women and ministry. For some reason I had thought that even though there was not as much full participation by women in ministry as there should be that here in the 21st century things had gotten a little better for women within the church. Politically I know what is going on and the absolutely evil policies that the Republicans are pushing to rein in women’s rights and keep them “in their places” but surely the church had moved beyond that archaic view of women’s roles in society and the church. Apparently not. The threads that disturbed me in the social media posts had to do with who was in charge of the blogosphere as it relates to women who post on religious topics on their personal or author blog pages. I was taken aback that such a subject even needed to be discussed as I thought to myself that no one is “in charge” of what I write on the web or what I post to a blog page. And in that “I” is the understanding that it applies not only to my writings but everyone’s writings including women. I’m not a woman but found the whole concept to be demeaning to women and a continuation of the oppressive beliefs that women were somehow not as equal in ministry as men are.
We are living in the 21st century and not in some backwards time in our past that allowed women to be treated as second class citizens controlled and ruled over by their husbands or the other men in their lives. I am embarrassed to read on social media that there are discussions of whether these women bloggers should be under some kind of pastoral authority so that their writings don’t stray too far from the party line. This excerpt from a blog called Ain’t I A Woman blog highlights what is being discussed.
“Maybe you didn’t see the article in Christianity Today? The one wondering about the rise of women’s blogging in evangelicalism, and whether that has created a “crisis of authority”? The one suggesting that maybe women bloggers (okay, maybe all bloggers, but this isn’t clear) should have more accountability? The one that called out Jen Hatmaker especially, because she’s recently come out as supportive of LGBT folks, and therefore her theology is somehow suspect and needs to be kept in check?
Perhaps you missed the vivid discussion that broke out on Twitter, with even heavy-hitters like Rachel Held Evans responding, pointing out the deep flaws in the article, especially because the “crisis of authority” has never really been an issue until women also found their voices in cyberspace” http://aintiawomanblog.net/
Jen Hatmaker was the first reference that I ran across in my Twitter feed last week and that led me to read further and as I did I was taken aback by the very concept of “control” that was being discussed in thinly veiled comments where it was referred to as being under the authority of a pastor. Having been on the internet since somewhere back in 1991 the idea that I would answer to someone about what I thought about a spiritual or religious topic and what I posted on the internet would be very offensive to me. If I was an official emissary of some organization posting on their blog and expressing their views I would naturally be under their authority by choice but what I say and write for myself about my beliefs is under no authority but God. I do not reserve that just for myself as a man either. As far as I am concerned women have the same autonomy as I do in the eyes of God and under God’s authority.
Patriarchy may have been acceptable to previous generations but here in the 21st century it has reached the limits of a functional structure within Christianity. Jesus was much more a feminist than most of the men who hold authority over the women who are productive and valuable members of the body of Christ in this day and age in which we live. It is time that the church see the changes that are blowing in the wind before the wind turns into a hurricane and wipes the archaic thinking that comprises the modern church out of existence. Political power won’t stop what is coming and the more the evangelicals and the Republicans try to legislate women into submission the more that they will rise up and become what they were meant to be in God’s kingdom.
We need more bridges and a lot less walls between us
I don’t know when it started or how it became so prevalent in our culture but large chunks of our society are very intolerant of things and people that they don’t understand and this has translated into individuals that are very quick to condemn that which is different. Regardless of whether those differences are spiritual, sexual, political or moral doesn’t much matter anymore as it seems to enrage those who see the world differently all the same. The concept of “live and let live” seems to have been lost along the way as people clamor to make sure that everyone knows what is acceptable to believe and that they follow the straight and narrow.
The other thing that goes hand in hand with this new trend is that lots of people seem to have a temper that is barely contained and things like road rage that never went any further than yelling or making rude hand gestures at the car that cut you off now has escalated to the point where some people actually take physical action against the offender usually in a violent way. So in general people are less tolerant than they used to be and they have hair triggers on their anger towards those who in their judgment have dissed them in some way or another. In other words civility seems to have gone the way of other extinct species and we as a society seem to have no problem with opening up with both barrels at people who dare to violate what we consider the norms we should all live by.
Maybe this started with the concept that we all deserve the best that life can offer and to accept anything less is not to live up to your potential. Maybe the corporate mantra that Gordon Gekko espoused, who was played by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street, has finally sunk in at the main street level which was “Greed is good.” Maybe the politicizing of religion has made us all think that compromise between the left and the right is akin to making a deal with the devil and must be avoided at all costs. I don’t know. It seems that there is no more room for compromise within our society and especially within politics where the drama plays out every time an issue comes up that needs a bi-partisan solution. Each time it fails miserably because there is no longer any room for compromise regardless of whether it is for the greater good or not.
Another byproduct of the intolerance of other ideas and beliefs is that it seems that we have come to the conclusion that anything goes as we battle against the viewpoints that we find offensive. In the political arena lies and exaggerations are apparently an acceptable form of winning against your opponent. I can only assume that those who support candidates that lie and exaggerate also condone those statements as a legitimate way to wage war against your political opponent. Maybe they think that the ends (getting elected) justifies whatever means are necessary to achieve those goals. Perhaps the imagery of Ephesians 6:12 has permeated the followers of the Republican party as it says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
This means that the struggle is not just against the politicians who are running for election but against the forces of darkness that are what is really behind them. If that is the case then any dirty trick and any tactic would be acceptable when battling the forces of darkness. Politicians themselves don’t care one way or the other and just want to win and if they can do so by wooing the fundamentalist vote then so much the better. So is this what we have to look forward to in the coming years? Are people becoming ever more polarized until we reach a point that they move from rude behavior to riots and then on to revolution? Whatever happened to the injunction that you should love your neighbor as yourself? Or is that prefaced with “as long as they are not different from you.”
Perhaps politicians, spiritual leaders and even regular everyday people might want to take a breath as the world teeters on some major changes and think about how they treat one another. Perhaps they might want to think about the respect that is due another human being regardless of whether they believe the same things as you do. The world economy is precariously balanced on a precipice which will only take a few well-placed pushes to shove it off the edge and the environment is heading towards a point of no return in regards to the damage that we have done to it. The rich are getting very rich and the poor are finding it hard to get a job or feed their families. The American dream of owning a home has become a nightmare of foreclosures and homelessness. Is this really the world that you want to leave your children and your grandchildren? I really hope not because they don’t deserve to be left to clean up the mess we have made of this world. We are so concerned about leaving a huge national debt to our children but that is only a small part of the damage that mankind has done to this country and the world. Change starts with the individual. Change starts with me and it starts with you.
I decided to finally compartmentalize my sharings and my writings here on Facebook about progressive Christianity onto a new community page that will become my home-base for these aspects of my life. First off my writings are my opinion and my take on what I see happening around me in the progressive community and what I can find interesting from other progressive blogs and writers. As a way of introduction I do not lay claim to any advanced theological training nor an extensive lay ministry from which my insights will be drawn but rather an open spirit to which God whispers when I manage to quiet myself long enough to listen. Having said that I do not believe not having a seminary degree or background in ministry is a handicap for me if I am true to my own heart and the heart of God in what I think about, feel and write on these and other pages. Whether you have a degree or not is not the main point of being a Christian. Following the way that Jesus showed in the bible is the main point of being a Christian. No degree necessary to do that. Don’t get me wrong. I think advanced education in matters of the church is a very important pursuit and for some that is the path that God has laid before them and to them I say Godspeed. For those of us who did not get that nudge but do like to think and write about what they consider their spiritual path in life I feel like we are just as important a voice in the community as those with M Div after their names.
My background is varied and I have spent time in many traditional churches over the years starting out right after conversion attending a Salvation Army church that was nearby and had people that I knew in attendance. Though their structure is more inclined towards social activity they do indeed have regular church services on Sunday mornings and evenings. That was way back in 1976 so the path has been long and filled with many different flavors of what it means to be a Christian in the intervening years. Freewill Baptists, Church of God, a non denominational church and lastly the Fourquare church which was a charismatic church. There were many visits that I made as one off appearances just to see what other churches “felt” like but those just mentioned formed the bulk of my spiritual experiences. But what I didn’t do for many of those years was to think about what I believed and question why I believed it. I accepted that there was really only one way of thinking about doctrine, I read books by conservative authors who believed as I did, I heard sermons that reinforced what I believed every week and friends also were of the same mind so no winds of change ever disturbed the placid surface of my spiritual lake. All was well.
Somewhere around 1991 my waters were disturbed. I discovered that there were “other” ways of understanding Christianity and they weren’t what I had read and been taught to this point. Needless to say these new ideas put a small hole in my dam that started leaking and sending cracks throughout the structure. As a fundamentalist I did not allow anything into my mind or heart that contradicted what I knew was the absolute truth of my Christian path. For whatever reason these ideas made it through my defenses and the journey toward enlightenment had begun. I say enlightenment from my perspective but I don’t think that I am now special and understand more than those who don’t ever move beyond where they are now. My journey with God is not your journey with God. I’m sure there will be many similarities but I’m also just as sure that we will not line up on many points and will wildly diverge at a few places as well. That’s just the nature of the beast. It is not easy to maintain the absolute truth you thought was real after you allow even a slight shadow of a doubt into your thinking. Could be why the church clamps down so hard on doctrine and quickly takes care of heretics.
Fast forward to 2017 and the dam that had been in my mind to keep out contrary thinking is gone and my heart has expanded in my ways to make room for what God has taught me in the years since that time when I let a small doubt enter my heart. Of course I’m sure that those still on that conservative path will look at my experiences and pronounce that I have backslidden from the pinacle of understanding back into the brackish waters of relativism and humanism leaving God and Jesus behind in the process. That is their right to think of me in any way they wish. I don’t want to shape their vision of who Jesus is and I don’t want them to be able to shape what he means to me in the 21st century. My thoughts on God’s ways these days is that they are far beyond my understanding and not bound to what the church says they should be or what they must be. God will do what God will do. I just think that love is the guiding principle of the God that I follow and with that I feel that no matter what may come it will all end up with God expressing that eternal love to each of us in ways that will be meaningful to where we are in this life and in the life to come. Perhaps this will help you to understand me more, perhaps not. Either way welcome to Progressive Seeker and feel free to join the conversation. If not I’ll do my best to speak what’s on my heart and I’m sure that will be enough.