Monday, May 30, 2011

A Woman’s Place: An Introduction (Part One)

I should start by saying that I hate the phrase ‘a woman’s place’. I’m not sure what it is that I find so grating about those three words, but hearing them always gets me ready to be offended. It may not be the best way to start this topic, but I’m really bad at thinking of titles and this one kept coming back to me.

If there are people out there who can say, “My grandparents are Catholic, my parents and their siblings are Catholic, therefore I’m Catholic”, I say: my grandparents are Brethren, my aunty’s Pentecostal and my mum’s Anglican, therefore I’m confused. Looking at the way people in my family ‘do’ church and the things they believe raises questions for me. Looking at the way people around the world ‘do’ church and the things they believe raises questions for me. Reading the Bible raises questions for me.

Some questions I’m happy to let lie because I don’t feel like the answers will have too much impact on my life or faith (Was the world literally created in 6 days? Were Adam and Eve actual people?). Some I care enough about to argue over, but not enough to ruin my day (I don’t think the Bible tells me to baptise my baby, but if you feel led to baptise yours, fine [but seriously?]). And then there are the huge questions that I’ll fight over with everything I am until either you agree with me or I start crying, whichever comes first.

My questions about what the Bible says about women in the church and home, and how people interpret what the Bible says about women in the church and home, fall into the latter category.

Why is it that my grandmother has to wear a hat and remain silent in her church while my aunt could preach at hers if she felt led to? Why is it that in some churches women are allowed to write a Bible study but not to lead it, and in other churches women are allowed to lead Bible studies but not to preach? Why is it that in most (all?) churches singing songs written by women is ok? Couldn’t that be counted as teaching? What’s submission in marriage supposed to look like, and why is it always taught as a one-sided thing when Ephesians 5:21 clearly applies it to everyone?

At what age does a boy become a man, and should therefore not be taught by a woman according to 1 Timothy 2:12? Why is it that in some churches and youth groups the age is 16, and in others it’s 18? Who draws the lines? As the mother of a boy, does this mean there’ll be a day when my son is no longer allowed, according to the Bible, to be taught by me? Or does my role as his mother trump Paul’s prohibition?

Aren’t we all worshiping the same God? Aren’t we all referring to the same Book and the same Spirit for guidance?

Does this freak anyone else out?!

And then there are the scarier, more difficult questions: Who am I? For what purpose did God create me? What does Paul mean when he says that I was created “for man” (1 Corinthians 11:9)? Am I here just to serve my husband and to have his babies? Does God really love me for me? Despite or because of my female-ness? Why did He allow the Bible to be so lacking in female voices? And if He knows all things, does that mean He just didn’t care that these questions would be so big and painful for so many women today?

It’s my prayer that, with God’s help, I find satisfying answers to at least some of these questions. Or... (argh, I can hardly write it) that I'll be satisfied with not knowing, or with answers I don't really like. But please, God, let it be the first one!

The photo is from here.


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