Friday, July 3, 2020

A House Divided

Perhaps the greatest barrier that we have to engaging men and women in theology together isn't the stereotypes that we've formed about what men's or women's ministry is, but the barriers that we've erected between males and females in the church...and in Christian culture more broadly.

I have written about this subject before, from the perspective of a female (of course). I need Christian men who are willing to speak into my life, who are willing to come alongside me, who will lend their voices to show me a grace of God that I cannot see with my own eyes. This is essential. And men need women in the very same ways.

But as I considered this question anew for this week's discussion, I recognized more deeply the battle that men are fighting in this arena. A man who throws himself into "women's ministry" arenas - reading the books, listening to the female theologians, letting himself be drawn in by the unique perspectives of his a man who risks being misjudged. Perhaps even condemned.

Because he is a man who may, to some, look like a predator. When he breaks those cultural stereotypes and tries to stand on the other side of the walls that we've built, those looking on may question his motives. They may look at him as someone who is just a little too close to the ladies. They may see him as someone who is playing some sort of game to try to prey on wounded and innocent hearts. No matter his intentions, they may see him as a threat to the women and not as a student of them. He's...creepy.

This is exactly the kind of perception we have to battle against. This is exactly what we, as the church, ought to be fighting. We ought to be pushing to demonstrate that the culture's narratives aren't the only ones and that we can, in fact, have healthy and meaningful relationships across sexes - relationships that are neither sensual nor sexual but sacredly mutual. We ought to be the ones demonstrating what it means that it is men and women together that is 'very good.'

Instead, we have built fences that our culture tells us we need. We have erected walls between us so that nobody gets the wrong idea about what we're doing here. We have made rules in our churches that men and women cannot be alone together. That they cannot sit in the same classes. That they cannot share the same vehicle on the way to a service project. We have open-door policies, and we've put windows in all our doors so that if a private conversation must be held, it can be witnessed at all times.

We are so busy protecting ourselves from what it 'looks like' that we have neglected to show what it ought to look like. We are so afraid of being accused of being 'in love' with one another that we no longer simply 'love' one another, less it be misconstrued.

And no man wants to be thought a predator or a threat. No wonder they're keeping their distance from sitting at the feet of women who have much, by God's design, to teach them about grace and goodness and glory.

As I said before when I wrote on this subject, I will say again now: the church desperately needs to restore the mutuality of male-female relationships. We need to go back to 'very good,' where we are made better by one another. We need to cast off the suspicious eyes of the world and live so above-the-bar together that the world sees we don't even need a bar at all. There is much, much more to who we are as men and women, together, than mere sexual tension that the world tells us must exist because of our most basic physical parts.

Confession: our truly most basic parts are not physical. They are spiritual. And they are meant to work in tandem with one another.

So perhaps the place to start with getting more men listening to women in theology, learning from their helpmeets, engaging in mutual instruction and study is to remove the stigma of what it means to be a man unafraid of women's circles. Of what it means to be a man in the presence of women. We have to stop thinking of men as predators and start thinking of them as partners; stop thinking this world is only about one thing and realize it is about just One thing. We have to take our eyes off of what is broken and be helpmeets again. We have to set our sights on 'very good' and go after it with all we've got.


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