Can you learn from someone you disagree with?

I cannot learn anything from Martin Luther.  He was an anti-semite -- how could we benefit from what he said about grace?

Solomon had a thousand wives -- and you want me to be able to listen to him talk about wisdom?

St. Francis was Catholic, so obviously he believed in salvation by works, not faith.  I don’t think we can learn from him.

She believes that the miraculous gifts are still for today, so I have trouble taking anything she says seriously.

He’s a five point Calvinist, so you should steer clear of his books - they might lead you astray.

I’m not going to read Torn  by Justin Lee.  I read the Side B gay Christians, but I already know I don’t agree with the Side A people, so why would I listen to them?

I know he’s doing good work to fight trafficking, but he doesn’t believe women can be the head pastors of churches -- why should I listen to him?

They have a woman pastor, so they obviously don’t take the Bible seriously.

I have already read the complementarian arguments against egalitarianism, so I don’t need to read Finally Feminist.

The Pope doesn’t believe in female ordination, so I refuse to listen to him.

Grandma is sort of racist, so there’s probably nothing you can learn from her.


I understand the frustration Kate Wallace felt at The Justice Conference, listening to a complementarian speaker talk about the fight to end trafficking.  I understand the cognitive dissonance she experienced in that moment, and I empathize with her passion for the church to embrace the full equality of men and women.

But when she writes (bolded and italicized phrases her own):
My struggle to listen to complementarians speak about justice doesn’t really have to do with the fact that I disagree with them. It’s something different from that.

It’s that I wonder if they can really believe the worldview they ascribe to.
It’s that I wonder if they have really thought it all through.
It’s that I wonder if they really think that the God of justice would create one group of people to be subservient to another.
It’s that I wonder if they notice that most of their examples, and all of their pronouns, are about men, for men, to men.

So I stopped listening. Because I’m done hearing talks about “justice” that continue to favor men above women.

That’s when I stopped listening to Kate (well, for a day.  Then I went back and finished the article).  I stopped listening because I got sad: it sounded too much like the things I heard growing up in a complementarian church, when they said things like, 

"I wonder if egalitarians have really thought this through.  
I just wonder if they’re not caving to cultural pressure.   
I just wonder if they don’t value the Bible.  

So, we are done listening to them.”


We can wonder about each other all we want.  But sisters and brothers, we cannot stop listening to each other.  And when we listen, we need to listen to each other as subjective, individual humans, not as objectified groups of people who believe this or that.

Because a complementarian can learn from an egalitarian, and an egalitarian can learn from a complementarian.  My complementarian parents taught me The Apostle’s Creed, the words to “Amazing Grace,” the story of redemption.  When I had to write a paper on a philosopher at the age of sixteen, my dad studied up on the Kantian Watershed to help me understand it.  My parents are still among the first people I go to for advice.  And sometimes they ask me for my sorta-progressive feedback on the stuff they’re teaching.  Sometimes I give it to them unsolicited.  Either way, they listen. They have to. We're in a relationship.

Maybe my ecumenicalism is showing, but I truly believe that in the Church, we have to listen to each other.  As a wise man once said in my kitchen last night, we all have blind spots. It takes the strength of humility to listen to those with whom we disagree.  

And, yes, of course there’s a point where you have to agree to disagree, but I believe that point needs to come after you’ve engaged a person as a person, not as a member of a set. It's harder to dismiss people you're in relationship with, people whose kids have played with your kids, people whose favorite place for queso you can name.   We are all supposed to be brothers and sisters here, members of the same body.

I learned a lot from Grandma, even if the racism she grew up around sometimes showed in her speech.  I learn from people I don’t agree with all the time.  Please, let’s not stop listening.

for my son

I am a feminist for the sake of my son.

Owen is not yet two years old, but so much of his personality is already clear.  He has a great sense of humor, and he loves music. Before I even start the car, he's asking for the music to be turned on, and he already has preferred CDs and preferred tracks on those CDs.  He'll cry if I don't skip past the songs he dislikes, and he sings along with his favorites.  

Owen is sensitive, much more emotional than my firstborn is, more likely to dissolve into tears at a disappointment or a perceived slight.  He's cuddly.  He likes to play in our toy kitchen, pretending to cook and clean. He has a little bear he calls "baby," and he sometimes pretends that baby is hurt and needs kisses and cuddles. Like my husband, my son is deeply compassionate, quick to notice others' pain and to bring comfort to them.

Our culture is harsh toward sensitive boys.  In her national bestseller Stiffed, feminist Susan Faludi reports on what happened to men and "manhood" in post WWII America, and it isn't pretty.  Betty Friedan in the sixties wrote about how media had pushed a "commericalized, ornamentalized" femininity that objectified women, boxing us into narrowly prescribed gender roles.  Faludi finds that the same thing has happened to men, arguing that now "men and women both feel pushed into roles that are about little more than displaying prettiness or prowess in the marketplace."  The end goal for men, in a world of "superathletes, action heroes, and Viagra studs -- is seen as a new horizon of amped-up virility, a technologically enhanced supermanhood."  I worry about these kinds of pressures dampening the sweet, strong compassion I see in my son.

I'd like to say that the church rejects such damaging culturally-constructed definitions of manhood, but that is often not the case.  In fact, sometimes church culture seems more attached to cultural constructions of manhood than pop culture is!  In the church we see Mark Driscoll mocking "effeminate" male worship leaders and praising cage fighters. In the church (indeed, from Owen Strachan, the head of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), we hear that to tell a little boy that it's ok to play with a doll is an "unbiblical and socially disastrous teaching on sexuality and gender." Strachan goes on to say that "boys playing with dolls is foolish" and a sign of Satan's influence in our world.  Strachan can take my son's baby when he pries it from my cold, dead, mama-bear claws.

Feminism is about interrogating and dismantling the oppressive power structures that rule our world, structures that hurt men as well as women. It's about honoring and protecting the essential humanity of each individual, rather than ceding to media-driven role expectations -- roles created in large part by companies hoping to turn us into greater consumers.

I'm a feminist because I want my son to see all people as valuable human beings, created in God's image. I want him to reject culturally constructed ideas about what it means to be "masculine" or "feminine" and to embrace biblical truth about what it means to be human, male and female, created in the image of a loving God. So I'll teach him to love, respect, nurture, and protect; to danceweepsubvert, and sing.  I'll teach him how to turn swords into plowshares, and I'll warn him that power and domination are not the ultimate ends of manhood.  I'll tell him that the Bible does have a few things to say about what it means to be a man; and that it has a lot more to say about what it means to be loved, transformed, and made holy. I'll tell him the Kingdom is coming, and that it's here.

I want the church to be about these same tasks, dismantling evil power structures and critiquing the consumer-image our culture tries to bind us into, and I pray we as a church learn to do that better.  

In the meantime, I'm a feminist for the sake of my son.

F is for Feminism

The meanings we ascribe to words change, sometimes drastically, from one generation to the next.  I think the popular definition of "feminism" has undergone just such a substantial shift in meaning and connotation.  Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that my husband and I absolutely identify as feminists, while my parents never would? Yet all of us believe in equal political, economic, and social rights for men and women.  All of us believe that men and women are both made in the image of God, with equal dignity and worth.

For my parents, and many people from older generations, feminism has a radical connotation; its strongest association is with Roe v. Wade.  But for the majority of people my age, feminism means something different. In popular American culture, feminist no longer equals feminazi or bra-burner; instead, a feminist is a person who believes in the full humanity and personhood of women. In popular American culture, feminism wears the strong and gentle faces of Leslie Knope, Liz Lemon, and Mindy Lahiri, the awkward and confused  face of Hannah Horvath, and (debatably) the ditzy sweetness of Jessica Day. It's got the powerful mantle of Oprah.  It's sometimes wearing a hijab.  It's getting a microloan and starting a business to feed her family.  It's adopting the special-needs baby girls from China. It's teaching Sunday School. It's men who choose to mentor women at work (appropriately), and men (like my dad) who teach their daughters to glorify God with all their hearts, minds, and strength, according to the gifts they've been given rather than by filling a prescriptive, cookie-cutter role.

Because of this generational shift in definition, I believe the church isn't doing itself any favors when it sets up feminism as an enemy of faith and family.  When we call feminism a threat without carefully defining our terms, we may actually be misrepresenting the gospel to those who listen.

Over at Christ and Pop Culture today, I'm sharing my first feature piece.  It's about feminism, what it means today, and how it relates to our faith.  Would you read it and let me know what you think?  Am I right that the popular definition of feminism has undergone a significant change?  Or do we define feminism differently not because of generational divides, but because of cultural divides?  Subcultures?  Families of origin?

image credit

I'm also excited to announce that some of my internet friends want to talk more about this, and so next week they're hosting a synchroblog. Follow the hashtag #femfest on twitter to find a variety of perspectives on feminism, including personal stories, definitions, connotations, and questions, as well as discussion of why feminism is/isn't important.  The link up begins (and you can and should join in!) at Love Is What You Do on Tuesday, February 26.

a twitter conversation

Yesterday morning I had a twitter conversation with a girl I don't know.  I'm still thinking about it because the question we ended with is an important one.  Here's how it went: 

(spoiler, yes, we're all still talking about the Year of Biblical Womanhood, but c'mon, stay with me, this is important - if you're a woman or a Christian, you have a stake in how this plays out)

I've put Hannah in plain text, and my replies in italics.

Hannah: How would your view of YBW and the ongoing conversation change if what says is true?  

Me: I think she makes some strong points (I noted the straw woman complaint in my review, too). But today I've been thinking: Doesn't Mary do the same thing to feminists that Rachel does to complementarians? In this video, she says "When Betty Friedan started the feminist movement in America in the 1960s..." selectively defining feminism as 2nd wave feminism to make it easier to condemn?  

Here's to reductionism all round! So how do we elevate the conversation? How do we move past simplistic egal and comp answers? Looking for a way forward. 

Amen to that. reading w/ hermeneutic of love is a good start, & cultivating humility...But we need more to find the way forward, I think. 

Biggest concern: YBW is just as easy, just as provincial as the problem. We need better, more robust answers.Need expression of Xian womanhood that transcends 1950s AND the post-feminist West. 

So you and I had better start writing :-) 

Absolutely. I'm on it. 

 I actually think that most of the time, the True Woman ladies do a lovely job at keeping Christ the center. 

Agreed. Disconnect is often in what is taught and what is practiced. Great perspective here:  

And this is the other major flaw in argument- what critiques may not be party line comp.-  but it is real and it is widespread and it is usually called complementarianism. 

Agree. And comps need to speak against it as strongly as they speak against any other abuses.

Today @ShaneyIrene made a similar point to Mary Kassian:
...There seems to be a disconnect between the "leaders" of complementarianism and what actually gets taught in churches. For example, you can call yourself "core" and Ms Pearl "fringe," but that doesn't take into account how much her teachings get recommended at a lay level. 

What do you think?  Do we need a whole new vocabulary? (I know neither the egalitarian nor the complementarian expression seems exactly right to me.) Why is it so important to us to be right?  Why is this conversation so emotional and tense and fiercely fought? Is there a way to talk about important theological points without just denying each other?

me, feminazi

I have always been a feminist.

For me, it’s never really been a question.  When I was 14 and the boys in my tiny Christian junior high called me a feminazi - the boys whose parents apparently listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car on the way to school - I don’t remember even being offended.  If what they meant by “feminazi” was that I was fiercely militant about the full equality and humanity of men and women, then it was a title I would embrace with pride.

(Besides, they were trying to flirt, not fight.)

Maybe - on the one hand -I don’t deserve to call myself a feminist, because I haven’t had to fight for the title, like so many women throughout history have.  I can vote, own property, get as much education as I want, and receive equal pay for my work. Any misogyny I’ve faced in my life has been implicit and mild.

Maybe - on the other hand - I shouldn’t call myself a feminist, because it has so many different connotations for different people.  I don’t hate men; I would rather tear down male-dominated power structures which prize selfishness than fight for a place within them; I am in favor of reducing the number of abortions; and I don’t embrace “sexual freedom” as a prize in the same way many feminists do.

But, as Julie Clawson noted in her excellent series on feminism this summer, there are some titles we choose to embrace regardless of the negative stereotypes they carry.  I call myself a Christian, though lord knows there is a lot that’s called “christian” that I hate, because I believe it’s an important term to claim.  And I call myself a feminist for the same reason.

Suffrage Parade in New York, 1912 (wikipedia)

Last summer an older male pastor whom I greatly respect referred to something as “classic man-hating feminism” and I was shocked speechless.  Was that really what he understood feminism to mean?

Now, I know that there has been some man-hating in the expansive, varied, historical feminist movement, but that’s not what I believe the core of feminism to be.

And so, for those pastors and teachers and parents and mentors and friends who are as disturbed to hear me call myself a feminist as I was to hear feminism reduced to “man-hating,” let me be clear:

When I call myself a feminist, I’m saying that I believe in and will fight for the equality and full humanity of women. 

 And if you think that’s not something that needs to be said, not something that needs to be fought for, then let me remind you that without the feminist movement over the last 150 years in America, most women would be unable to vote, to own property, to have rights over their children, to earn income, to go to college, to refuse to have sex with their husbands (marital rape was legal, in other words). 

 Let me remind you that even today, across the world, men are routinely valued more than women are. Girl babies are aborted, killed after birth for being girls, unvaccinated though their brothers get all the shots, sold into brothels, expected to jump into the fire when their husbands die. 

I’m a feminist because Jesus was (and if you don't agree that he was, then that's another post I should write).

Pastors, fathers, teachers, junior high boys: for the kingdom to come, we need you to be peacefully, militantly feminist, too.

Do you trust your feelings?

Do you trust your feelings?

I usually don't. The voice in my head says things like

Feelings change, but the word of God endures and

Guard your heart (which I always took to mean reveal nothing and let no one in) and

How you feel about it doesn't matter, what matters is what's true and even

Girls are emotional, flighty and fickle - don't be a girl.

I first began to wonder if I should trust my feelings more when I was in college. In a unit on feminism, I read about Women's Ways of Knowing.  Could there be legitimate other ways of knowing, I asked myself?  As legitimate as Reason, the way of the Enlightenment?

Lately I've been wondering again about the interplay between reason and emotion and Holy Spirit in decision-making.  I tend to write off my emotions as just hormonal, but Jack never lets me get away with that.   So how do I listen to them?

This week my feeling about one of our big decisions underwent a 180 degree change overnight, for no clear reason, and I'm wondering why.  I'm wondering if I need to trust my feelings, and how to do that.  I'm wondering if I need to talk back to the voice in my head:

Yes, feelings change, but the word of God can speak truth to us in our changing feelings.  You don't need to be afraid of expressing feelings because they might someday change.

Yes, guard your heart, by not embracing filth, by not betraying your own soul, but by embracing all the good people God has put in your life.

Yes, truth matters, but how you feel is a truth, and it matters too.

And who are you to define femininity, and to define it so negatively?

Lately I've been thinking that my refusal to trust my feelings is also a refusal to listen to God.  That maybe God speaks to us through feelings, too, and that maybe there is no such thing as pure reason. That maybe one reason I've been so afraid of feelings is that the churches I've gone to have been so male-dominated.

Do you trust your emotions?  What do you think? (Or maybe I should say how do you feel?)

culture and context in corinthians

I am a student of cultures.

Or, to put it bluntly, I have a Master's Degree in Intercultural Studies, y'all. I've lived in four countries, Asian, European, American; I've visited nine others. I've been working cross-culturally in one way or another for eight years. Cultures require a lifetime of study, but I'm on my way. One thing I've learned is that what seems obviously good in one cultural context can be obviously bad in another.

Here's an example: in an American classroom, if one student lets another copy her homework, this is bad. We are individualists, and we believe work must be done independently for it to be honest. In Vietnam, though, if a student allows her friend to copy her homework, she has done a good thing. Vietnamese are community-oriented, and the "class" of students is a tightly-knit group of people who take every class together for four years. Their success or failure is as a class, and to deny help to a member of your in-group is not only offensive, but selfish and wrong.

Or take saying thank you. When a friend invites me over for dinner, after eating, I thank her and compliment the food. In Vietnam, if a friend cooks for you, and you say thank you, you have insulted her! Saying thank you is like saying, "We are not really intimate friends; I will formally thank you because it is my duty to do so."

I could go on and on about how right and wrong are contextual (if you want more, try Adeney's Strange Virtues). Cultural context is vital to understanding our relationships with people; but it's also vital in understanding the Bible.

One of my favorite guides in understanding the cultural context of the Bible is Ken Bailey, who has a PhD in New Testament and has spent forty years living and teaching in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Cyprus. He writes in both English and Arabic, and has a strong understanding of Middle-Eastern historical context, contemporary context, and literary style. (I've written about his insight into the nativity story here.) Today I want to share what he says about 1 Corinthians 11-14, especially the passages that are sometimes used to argue that women should not teach in church.

The Literary Structure of 1 Corinthians

Understanding the literary structure of 1 Corinthians is a must. Bailey argues that the book is carefully composed in the structure of Hebrew parallelism:

I. The Cross and Christian Unity (1:5-4:16)
  II. Men and Women in the Human Family (4:17-7:40)
    III. Food Offered to Idols (Christian and pagan) (8:1-11:1)
  IV. Men and Women in Worship (11:2-14:40)
V. The Resurrection (15)

The section we're looking at is section IV, which is structured thus:

1. Men and Women Leading in Worship: Prophets and How They Dress (11:2-16)
  2. Order in Worship : Sacrament - The Lord's Supper (11:17-34)
    3. Gifts and the Nature of the Body (12:1-30)
      4.The Hymn to Love (12:31-14:1)
    5.Spiritual Gifts and the Upbuilding of the Body (14:1-25)
  6. Order in worship: Word - Prophets and Speakers in Tongues (14:26-33)
7. Men and Women Worshipping: No chatting in church (14:3b-40)

See how carefully constructed that is, with 1 and 7 paralleling each other in topic, as 2&6 and 3&5 do?

Chapter 11 - Women Can Pray and Prophesy (but should dress appropriately)

In chapter 11, Paul has already noted that both men and women were leading in the church services in public prayer and prophecy. And apparently women in the church had understood "all things are lawful to me" to give them to freedom to lead the services without covering their heads. When they exercised this right, problems emerged.

Christian women from a Jewish background came from a culture that affirmed that self-respecting women would cover their heads in public. Prostitutes, however, did not cover their heads in public. For a woman to be in front of the church without her head covered was distracting in the same way that to have a scantily-clad church leader on stage would be distracting today. Paul's response - and this is important! - is not to say, "Women, get off the stage and stop prophesying!" It is to say, "Women, cover your head so you don't distract others from God's word!"

If, then, Paul has already affirmed women in church leadership in chapter 11, why does he in chapter 14 tell women to be silent in church? This too, requires understanding the context.

Chapter 14: A Chatty Congregation (language, accent, attention span, oral learners)

Corinth was the largest city in Greece and undoubtedly the most diverse. Greek was the only common language, and while most men had at least enough Greek to function on the job, women who worked mostly at home were less fluent. The languages spoken at home would have been numerous.

"Added to this," Bailey writes, "was the problem of accent. Often when a public speaker is functioning in a second language, even when the speaker is fluent, there can be great difficulty in communication due to the accent. When a speaker's words and phrases are not understood, a low buzz can break out as listeners ask each other, "what did she say? What was that word?"

The short attention span for simple people (like modern television addicts) was most certainly another problem...

I have preached in village churches in Egypt where the women were seated on one side of the church and the men on the other. There was a wooden partition about six feet high separating the two sections. I preached in simple colloquial Arabic, but the women were often illiterate and the preacher was expected to preach for at least an hour -- and we had problems. The women quickly passed the limit of their attention span. The children were seated with them and chatting inevitably broke out among the women. The chatting would at times become so loud that no one could hear the preacher. (These villages had no electricity and no sound amplification.) One of the senior elders would stand up and in a desperate voice shout, "Let the women be silent in the church!" and we would proceed."

Can you imagine, then, what the church in Corinth must have been like?

"Paul had just affirmed that the Corinthians were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper and that the prophets and tongues speakers were all talking at once! It seems that some of the women gave up and started chatting. Who could blame them? Yet all needed to work together to create the required decency and order necessary for meaningful worship."

Let me share one last cultural insight Bailey offers.

"Middle Eastern society is predominantly an oral culture...People process information by talking more than by sitting quietly and reflecting. This can be observed at many levels of society. A university professor will have the attention of the class and turn to write something on the blackboard. The moment he or she pauses to write, the entire class breaks out talking. They are not inattentive or rude, they are simply turning to a fellow student and chatting about the subject...They are simply verbalizing the information they have heard in order to better absorb and retain it."


Paul is concerned with order in worship. The prophets are told to speak one at a time, or to be silent. The speakers in tongues are told to be silent unless there is an interpreter. And the women are told not to chat in church, but to save their questions for later.

Paul, whose friendship with and respect for women like Junia, Phoebe, and Priscilla is well-documented, is not teaching that women must always be silent in the church. Instead, women leaders are to lead appropriately, and women in the congregation are to participate appropriately, all for the building up of the Body.

Understanding the cultural context is vital. You can tell those teenagers in the balcony to put away their cellphones and stop giggling - to be silent in church! - but that woman on the mic? Let her speak. Today I'm linking up with Rachel Held Evans in her Week of Mutuality, dedicated to discussing an egalitarian view of gender. The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society.

my journey towards mutuality

Today I'm linking up with Rachel Held Evans in her Week of Mutuality, dedicated to discussing an egalitarian view of gender. The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society. Rather than digging into debate, I simply want to share the story of my journey towards egalitarianism. Later this week, I hope to post on 1 Corinthians 11 and on how I define feminism.

My parents have a beautiful, loving marriage of thirty-three years. Despite fairly significant differences in the way they approach life (Mom’s a vegetarian, for example, while Dad’s as red-blooded a carnivore as they come), they are loyal to each other in every way. They love and serve God. They make decisions together, and they treat each other with kindness and respect.

They are also pretty fierce complementarians. They believe that God designed different, but equally valuable, roles for men and women in the home and at church, that these roles are hierarchical, and that the truth about God and his church is best displayed in a marriage where the husband is a servant-leader and the wife submits to him as his helpmate. They taught me how to defend this position, and they taught me that it was the only legitimate interpretation of Scripture.


Buckled in the eighties minivan, we pass a church marquee. The pastor’s name, printed right there on the sign, in front of God and everybody, is a woman’s name. I mock it, the same way I mock Michael Dukakis with the neighbor kids in the backyard – that is to say, I mock it out of total ignorance. A female pastor?! Well, they clearly don’t believe that Scripture is God-breathed! Hope somebody leads them to Christ!

At Walnut Valley Christian Academy, we have a four-year class called Worldview. Spring semester, freshman year, we read Expository Preaching by Haddon Robinson. For final projects we prepare sermons. I am nervous, and overcome stage fright by imagining myself as Hilary Clinton (true story). I preach, to my co-ed class of ten, on Daniel, and Mrs. Fuqua gives me an A+.

Sophomore year I self-identify as a feminist. We study How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, and we write in-depth papers on small portions of Scripture. I don’t want to be bored with the project. So I choose “that passage” from 1 Timothy 2. You know the one. “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to have authority.” I read the commentaries we have at home. I conclude that while some of Paul’s principles did seem to be cultural rather than timeless, the fact that he referred to pre-fall Creation order (“for Adam was formed first, then Eve”) to make his case seemed to indicate that these were in fact guidelines for all time. However, I decide that the way he combined “teaching” and “exercising authority” meant that the only role specifically barred from women was that of head teaching pastor. I feel my conclusion is a little arbitrary.

Meanwhile, I take on about every leadership position open to me in the church. I lead small groups of junior high girls every Tuesday night. I am a counselor on retreats. I exhort the whole youth group, boys and girls, about our besetting sin of materialism. I testify in front of the church (the mega-church) about the value of community. In college I join a similar church, but almost immediately I find the college group oppressive. There is a clear ladder of spiritual superiority, a clear moral mold. I ditch, and help lead the youth group instead. The first time I lead a small group Bible study for girls, my co-teacher looks at me amazed. “I think you have the gift of teaching,” she says.

I go to southeast Asia, and I see God do miraculous things. I begin to wonder if the gift of apostleship (church-planting) is open to women, because a new church is being born around me, in the middle of a spiritual desert.

Then a church from my hometown asks if I’ll send a video message for the Father-Daughter Banquet in February. It’s not my church, and I’m not sure why they’ve asked me, but I agree, and carve out time to record. I speak about the things I appreciate in the way my dad raised me, connecting his parenting to appropriate Scriptures, and encouraging the fathers at the banquet to imitate my dad’s example. I send the video off and forget about it.

Until a few weeks later, when I hear that things didn’t go so well. In fact, some men in the audience, some male leaders in the church, think my video was wrong. Not that what I said was wrong: but that I, as woman, said it to men.

I thought that's what they had asked me to do.

A little bit heartbroken, I kind of go, “to hell with it,” and keep doing the work God has put in front of me.


Despite all this, I never really explored egalitarianism until this year. Perhaps I was hesitant to make a fuss. But I’ve grown increasingly ecumenical in my theology, and a solid half of the people who mentored me spiritually in my twenties were egalitarian. We rarely spoke of it, this belief that hierarchy was a result of the fall, and that embracing the kingdom of God included embracing the mutuality of pre-fall creation, but it was clear in the way they lived. When we joined an Episcopal church, I felt I should be conversant with the theological arguments for women in leadership. I read How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, and it was interesting. When I read Finally Feminist, though, my jaw dropped, because this was an honest, compelling way to understand Scripture, and one I had never heard.

Though I’ve always been a feminist, a part of me did not want the egalitarian case to be so convincing. I didn’t want to disagree theologically with my parents, especially on a subject that is pretty foundational for them, and for most of the Christians I grew up with. Beyond that, for me the freedom and fullness and possibility of egalitarianism is scarier, and harder, than the clearly defined roles in complementarianism.

But what interpretation is easiest for me to live with isn’t the best evaluative question. Which one is the truest to Scripture?

This is how I lean, now. I lean towards mutuality. I know, like any good student of expository preaching, that you can’t make a watertight case either way. Intellectually, though, I think Finally Feminist is the best interpretation of these scriptures that I’ve found, and it makes sense in my life experience, too. I’m wondering if it might be time to make a fuss about it.