Posted by: minnow | May 15, 2008


I am a whole person. I am not just my strengths. I am not just my abilities. I am not just those things I am best at doing. The same is true for everyone else. Also true is the fact that the things my sister is best at doing I am not, merely by association, good at doing. Even something unique to women–childbirth–women do quite differently one from another. Some quite easily and others with much more difficulty. The fact that men or women as an entire group could be said to have a “natural bent” toward a certain characteristic does not prohibit some within the group from not having the group bent nor others outside the group from having the given bent. In other words, the majority does not eliminate the exception nor should it establish an “only rule”.

Why is the “not an only rule” an important concept to understand? Well, if we use “only rules” as a way to compartmentalize people we face the danger of stereotyping them. We take away the parts that make individuals unique and interesting, leaving only the parts we think we can predict and end up using to describe them. From stereotypes we easily form prejudices and our prejudices often lead to our treating others unfairly and unkindly. In addition, some of these prejudices are used to establish positions of power. For Christians our biases become quite complicated when we attribute the traits we have used to stereotype people to the creative work or intended purposes of God.

I am grieved that in many circles within the (Christian) Church, perhaps even in most, women are still seen as unequal to men. From its most mild form–women may not hold the office of senior pastor–to its strictest expression–women must remain silent in Church–a complementarian reading of scripture justifies a prejudice against women from a Biblical point of view. Despite verses like Galatians3:28 that directly contradict the idea of gender inequality and examples from scripture of women ministering to and leading men, the complementarian reading of scripture clings to its bias and uses dismissive platitudes like “the exception does not establish the rule” to ignore the fact that their “rule” can not be proved.

Complementarians may be careful to put irenic smiles on their faces nevertheless their biases are communicated loudly to and through the Church. Minds are weighed heavier than hearts by emphasizing reasoning and intellect while down playing emotion and feelings. Minds are then assigned to men and hearts to women justifying the prejudices against both women and the things of the heart. Complementarians also argue that because man was created first God intended him to rule over the woman (ie: lead while the woman submits), forgetting that after God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone.” God created “a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18). The only other time the Bible uses the word ezra, Hebrew for helper, is when it refers to God. And, the Hebrew word which the NIV translates suitable implies a sameness, or a person who is the same as or equal to.  In otherwords, God created a partner for Adam not a slave, servant, or employee.  And, while men and women may, in a general sense, bring different characteristics to the table those traits complement  one another in all  the various roles men and women share, including leadership. 

The idea I began this post with–that we are not just  our strengths, but a combination of all our strengths and  weaknesses should inform our understanding both of ourselves and our need for one another.  Just because I am not a good organizer does not mean I never need to be organized or that organization is unimportant.  The roles I take on may require me to be organized and so I need the help of others to keep me organized as I work on developing better organizational skills myself.  Thus, my lack does not negate the value of a given trait; it simply proves my need for the other. 



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