Gender-Balancing Our Institutions

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12 Responses

  1. John says:

    One is forced to ask at least a couple questions –

    – are you willing to “go to the mat” in pointing to the issue, the problem, one might say injustice, of male only boards of elders and pastors in churches? I at least do not see how the gender balance issue will ever be “solved” among religious people, even a little, if ministries, churches, mosques, synagogues, et al. continue to say by their doing that only men can lead. Of course, they say, male leadership applies only to their special work, but by their doing, they are in fact saying that male leadership can apply many other places as well.

    – are you willing to “go to the mat” in recommending laws, welfare programs, leave requirements of business and industry, et al. for mothers and fathers to care for newborns and young children? Especially, when we so frequently do not live in “extended family” settings, since young people/ couples work so often in places distant from their families. Denmark, the Netherlands, and a number of other countries have long established systems that enable greater gender equality – are these countries being studied as well?

    In short, is this just another “study”?

  2. JoMae says:

    Thank you Emily Nielsen Jones for calling attention to this area of gender inequality.
    I wonder if you have considered the connection between gender inequity re men and women on Christian Boards and the gender imbalance embedded in our view of God?

    As long as God is perceived to be exclusively male, Christian organizations,
    their workers and the women they are trying to help will struggle in a reality that says men are more like God than women are. When both helpers and victims come from a place that believes women are lesser, victimizing females will continue to be a pattern almost impossible to break.

    How can humans, co-image bearers of God, hope for equality when the feminine face of their Creator is rendered invisible? Sunday after Sunday well meaning Christians teach that God is He. God is male. God is Father. By omission, children are taught that it is natural for God’s family not to have a Mother. Their fathers are celebrated and linked to their Heavenly Father, while their mother’s reflection of God is unrecognized.

    Seventy five years ago I too learned to love my Heavenly Father. Today I still do. Yet I cringe to realize that I never noticed there was no Heavenly Mother. Not until my own children were grown did I begin to realize the significance of that loss. Today I grieve to watch as little ones continue to be taught this way.

    While God instructs that we make no graven images, we draw word pictures in the heads of our children that engrave a male God deep in their psyche. And as we weave these portraits over and over, our boys and girls learn that mothers are lesser. That it is normal for girls and women to be considered less important. I bought it. Kids in 2013 still buy it. Today I know God as my complete Parent, but it took years to make the image whole.

    As children we are taught about being born of the Holy Spirit. We know that one who gives birth is called Mother. Yet we are not allowed to call God Mother. And the disconnect is so complete that many do not even notice what is missing.

    It is time to break the cycle and stop hiding the Motherly side of God. Because even if our leaders are successful in balancing their boards, women will not be really equal as long as they are blinded to the essence of the One whose very image they bear; the One through whom we have new birth.

    I suggest that until our understanding of our God is gender balanced, the gender balance of our organizations will continue to be askew.

  3. Sarah Hachmeister says:

    As a feminist Christian (a title some would consider offensive or oxymoronic), I want to thank you for articulating so beautifully what I have been trying desperately to put into words myself. I am appalled by the atrocities women suffer around the world. On a recent trip to Kenya, however, I realized that we are sending a mixed message regarding gender equality. I finally understood that what is truly important is not that Americans swoop in and admonish a culture for how they treat women, but rather that we set an example ourselves of a society that provides equal opportunities, equal pay and equal respect. The same can be said of the church. Before we can truly engage in the battle for social justice for others, we must examine our own practices and eradicate those which are oppressive. Awareness is the first step in that process.

  4. Mike Nacrelli says:

    Those who uphold biblical revelation of God the Father and male servant-headship in marriage and the Church are responsible for sex trafficking of girls around the world? How profoundly absurd. This nonsense aptly demonstrates how far off the deep end so-called “Christian” feminism has gone. The next shoe to drop will be the rejection of heterosexual marriage as an “oppressive” institution, which many ostensibly Christian lefties are already advocating. I fear that ESA is losing connection with the Head, as Sojourners did years ago.

  5. Emily Nielsen Jones says:

    Thank you for all these thoughtful comments!
    @Mike – I would respectfully say that you are misreading my point. I am not saying that hierarchical religious ideas around gender roles is the cause of sex trafficking and gender-based violence but rather that both are part of the same cultural ball of wax. Beneath the surface of all forms of gender-based power imbalances which diminish the full humanity/agency of women are various rationales or justifications, often rooted in religion or traditional cultural codes, for a lower status of women and a restricted sphere of movement in society which keeps her in a certain auhtorized “place.”
    @Jomae – Amen! I totally agree. To the extent that we deify masculinity we are warping our theology and our anthropology and reducing the largeness and mystery of God (who is beyond any one image or name) to a male idol. It saddens me greatly that Christians overuse masculine imagery and names and create an environment that for many of us is not worshipful. I am not saying we need to scrap all of our creeds and male imagery, rather make an honest and intentional effort to vary our imagery (make use of the vast array of names and images right in the Bible which also portray God as Mother and non-anthropomorphic imagery) to convey a more gender-balanced and beyond-gender view of our Creator.
    @Sarah – Amen to starting with our selves and offering our highest and best to the world.
    @John – I hope this is not just one more study that sits in a pile collecting dust in people’s inboxes! I can go to the mat in saying that study after study says the same thing: gender-balance is good for organizational health, is good for relationships, is good for development, and all around is a good investment.

  6. Mike Nacrelli says:

    I know exactly what you’re saying, Emily, and it’s pure BS. Equality is not androgyny. The Father doesn’t oppress the Son, nor does Christ oppress the Church. These relationships are foundational to Paul’s teachings on male headship. If they offend you, I suggest you find another holy book.

    • swking says:

      Mike, this comment is veering perilously close to a personal attack, which we do not tolerate on our site. The tone is also devoid of civility, which we require. If you’d like to continue to engage, you’ll need to do so in a civil and loving way or you will be blocked.

  7. Emily Jones says:

    I agree, equality is not androgeny but rather mutuality and complementarity, honoring the full humanity of both genders as equally yet distinctively mirroring the image of God in the world.

  8. Mike Nacrelli says:

    I’m happy to have a thoughtful dialogue about how best to interpret the pertinent biblical texts. However, framing a theological debate as a justice issue and tarring all who hold a complementarian view as oppressors is hardly conducive to reasoned discourse.

  9. Michele says:

    First, ditto what Mike said, above.

    The author asks, “How can you work to combat the plight of girls and women around the world while holding onto religious ideas or practices that don’t empower women within your own organizations, or bar them from serving on your leadership board or assuming leadership roles at all levels?”

    We can look to the history of women’s rights here in the US, and observe that these rights were advanced by women (and men) who DID retain their (traditional) religious ideas and practices. Of course it can be done! So much of “Christian Feminism” in the US today is akin to naval-gazing, which serves only to foster a viewpoint of women as perpetual victims of “tradition” and patriarchy. Yet without question, women here in the west have more choices, freedoms and equality than women nearly anywhere in the world…. privilege, you might say…. the privilege to make decisions about where and how with whom we will worship and serve, and the freedom to choose amongst a smorgasbord of churches with varying doctrinal platforms and leadership models. Women here in the west have achieved success in virtually every sector of industry, and that includes leadership in churches, according to their theology.

    Let’s stop pitying ourselves as the “ever-oppressed,” trying to obsessively “fix” every little jot and tittle of perceived “inequality,” as though that were a necessary precursor to attacking gender injustice around the world. Meanwhile, millions of women are ACTUALLY SUFFERING from culturally-ingrained injustice, oppression, and violence… women who barely can dream of experiencing even a fraction of the privileges we take for granted as women here in the west… women who barely can dream of having a ladder and strength to climb it, much less complain that they might be “confined” to the second-highest rung.

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