As our country is about to celebrate its 238th birthday, it is hard to believe that it’s been less than 100 years since half of its citizens were “given” the right to vote by the other half, men who either came to their senses or finally realized history would judge them harshly for withholding it. With the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women took a giant step toward vacating the second class status they have held since the beginning of time.
In the church, however, women are still second class citizens. This is not because the current generation of believers decided it should be that way, but rather because they have been following in the misguided footsteps of their ancestors, incapable of escaping the theological tractor beam holding them to such outdated teachings. Centuries ago in the church, when few people were educated and in times of ignorance and superstition, church leaders maintained control of their flock with rules, rituals and threats of doom to scare them into submission. The currency of knowledge created power for those who possess it in the presence of those who do not, and in the nearly two millennia since the last apostle died, supposedly godly men have shoved God’s Word down the throats of those who could not read it for themselves to maintain the power their ancestors passed down to them.
In the last century, women have become as educated as men, so knowledge can now flow in both directions. That should mean that men can no longer play the guilt card on women to get them to be submissive, since they can now read and understand for themselves, especially in this Internet age, that Paul and Peter were addressing a completely different time and culture. Unfortunately, that still happens, simply because women have been so brow-beaten and indoctrinated into this antiquated vision of teamwork all of their lives, that some of them may not want to rock the boat. With that in mind, the men leading these churches seem to be counting on this type of blind submission from women, manipulated and indoctrinated in the church of their youth to keep peace in the family. That doesn’t mean that women raised in the church aren’t leaving in droves as soon as they are allowed to make that choice on their own.
It’s not that preachers, expertly trained in Scripture, can’t see the contextural differences between the first century and now. In fact, there is very little disagreement among scholars about the circumstances and characteristics of first century life in most of the relevant cities mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, all that any teacher or preacher would have to do to release women from the chains assigned to them is to present God’s Word in its full context. Unfortunately, to keep peace in the pews, that doesn’t happen. That is why preachers of each brand of Christianity tend to pick and choose whatever context keeps their particular group happy, like shoppers at a BOGO shoe sale. It doesn’t matter if it’s right; just make sure it fits and keeps people in their seats.
I’ve often wondered what a church made up solely of women would be like. If there were no men in it, then there wouldn’t be an issue of women usurping men’s authority, right?. Let’s see how a women’s church might be different than the current male-dominated structure is. First of all, men in the Dark Ages decided the church must engage in Holy Wars; women probably wouldn’t have done that. When men in the 16th century decided certain women should be burned as witches, women probably wouldn’t have done that, either. And when men, even leaders in the church, a half-century ago couldn’t tell their children they loved them, there’s a pretty good chance that a church led by women wouldn’t have had that problem. Now that young people are leaving the church in staggering numbers while the men in charge tend to do nothing to resolve the problem, if women were in charge they would probably jump out of the car and ask directions of how to bring their children back. Doing their ostrich imitation, church leaders seem to have stuck their heads in the sand, hoping the exodus of youth from the church will fix itself. If women did actually leave their current churches, in addition to the song service having a deeper pitch, men would also have to start doing the work themselves instead of assigning it to their wives.
This doesn’t mean that women are now supposed to be leaders, or not to be leaders. It just means that we are all supposed to serve and submit to each other, as equals, like any good team would do. We should all be free to utilize our gifts and talents to the fullest, regardless of how our chromosomes are arranged. It might make some of our ancestors turn over in their graves, but there is a lot of starving children, domestic violence and child abuse that needs to be flushed from the earth and two billion Christians can’t make that happen if one billion of them are chained to the starting gate.