Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Faith & Gender: Gossip, Sex, and the DTR

It has been an interesting three months of preparation, research, and teaching for this Faith & Gender class and Lauren Winner Conference. The possibility of having Lauren Winner come out for a learning conference has been tossed around for a couple of years now, and from the very beginning I spoke up to say I wanted to be part of it. Admittedly, this was because I was a major fan of Lauren Winner's writing. Her book, Girl Meets God, was one of the more impactful books on my spiritual development over the past few years.

When we started to put together the depth class, however, I felt completely in over my head. How was I supposed to teach on the theology of Faith & Gender? I certainly didn't have a good story to tell or any answers to give. I was still confused on what it meant to be a woman, a leader, and a Christian all at the same time. Every week at our planning meeting I felt like I had more questions than ideas, more uncertainties than conclusions. Everyone else seemed so well versed on the subject, and I felt like the farthest thing from an expert as you could get.

At the beginning of our work, I still wasn't sure what I believed about women in leadership and marriage roles and sexuality, all these things that I was supposed to teach on. These are issues that I will probably never stop turning over in my mind and heart and searching the Scriptures on. But somehow in the process of trying to find answers that I could share with my fellow Questers, I found myself coming to a few conclusions that have given me a clearer sense of self, a confidence in the validity of my place as a leader in the church, and a renewed passion for God's justice.

A few things I have discovered or concluded:

  1. Being a good Christian woman does not mean you can't be a leader: I was told for so long, directly and indirectly, that in order to be a good Christian woman, I needed to learn how to not be a leader. This went against everything I felt in my spirit about who God made me to be. Now I feel confident that I can honor God and my fellow believers, both male and female, while embracing the gifts and callings that I feel God has given me.
  2. Submission in marriage is a good thing, a Biblical thing, but that doesn't mean you have to be a dominated pushover: Submission comes from a place of strength; it is a choice of the woman, not a forced subjection by the man. And submission doesn't mean you lose your voice. The Bible never says "Husbands, lead your wives."
  3. Furthermore, the prescription for marital submission does not mean that I should be forced to be submissive in my dating relationships or any other relationship with a man, other than the call to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". The call to submission for the woman (and the corresponding call for the man to sacrifice and love as Christ loved the church) comes from marriage vows.
  4. There is no one definition of masculine or feminine: God has made us each unique, and accordingly, we all have strengths and weaknesses. In a relationship, each person will take on different duties and roles based on their talents and how they work together as two becoming one.
  5. Despite all this talk about marriage, it is not the end-all be-all of human existence and I should not be looked at as half a person because I am a single female over (just barely) the age of twenty-five. While I may feel called to marriage, it should not be the only thing about me that people ask about, or the only thing I base my worth and identity on.
  6. You can be a committed evangelical with a high view of Scripture, who believes in submission in marriage, and also wholeheartedly support women at every level of church leadership, including pastors and elders.
  7. The more honest and open and-dare we say it-vulnerable we are with each other as men and women, the more we can work towards healthy relationships and good ministry as the body of Christ.
  8. Sexuality is more than sex: it is the call to be present to each other in our embodied selves, in non-erotic as well as erotic ways, and seek healthy intimacy in all its forms.
  9. Yes, men and women can be friends: but the biggest pitfalls of those friendships are gossip (other people speaking untruth into the relationship) sex (an unwillingness to be honest about sexual tension or attraction and deal with it in a healthy way) and fear of the "DTR" (an unwillingness to openly "discuss the relationship" on a regular basis to guard each other's heart and soul).

Whew. That was a lot of stuff. But I think I did more reading and researching and discussing in the past three months than I have in the past three years. I had huge checkout lists from the library, borrowed books and ideas from fabulous friends, talked over coffee and the phone with wise, opinionated men and women, and thought and prayed long and hard about all of this. There are still many more questions unanswered, and ways these conclusions will need to be lived out on a daily basis, but I am grateful for the opportunity to challenge my confused preconceptions and reexamine what Scripture says about gender and our roles as men and women in the body of Christ.

Next up: Reflections on the Lauren Winner Conference!

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