We need feminism…

Because feminism is the radical notion that women are human. 

Because, worldwide, more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. (source

Because nearly 1 in 4 American women between the ages of 18 and 65 has experienced domestic violence. (source

Because the U.S. State Department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, and eighty percent of them are women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. (source

Because girls like Malala Yousafzai deserve an education and should not be threatened with violence for pursuing one. 

***

Because women make up 51% of the US population, but comprise only 20% of congress. (source)

Because Hardee’s can’t seem to sell a hamburger without objectifying a woman’s body in the process. 

Because eighty percent of 10-year-old American girls say they have been on a diet, and the number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner (source

Because pornography is a $57 billion industry worldwide. (source

Because in the time it took you to take a selfie with a sign declaring that the world doesn’t need feminism (about four minutes) two more American women were sexually assaulted, nearly 100 American women were abused, four women worldwide died giving birth, eight little girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 6,781,920 people looked at naked women online. 

***

Because women need look no further than the billboards on the highways, the magazine racks in the check-out aisle, or the advertisements on TV to know that our worth in this culture is measured primarily by our appearance. 

Because 20-25% of women in college in the U.S. reported experiencing an attempted or a completed rape in college. (source

Because 70% of women in the U.S. workforce are mothers; yet we have no national paid leave child care or flex time policy. The U.S is the only major industrialized nation without paid family leave. 

Because in 2011, only 11 percent of protagonists in films were female. (source)

Because fewer investors are willing to put their money behind a woman entrepreneur than a man, even when they share the very same idea, concept, business and sales pitch. (source)

Because feminism celebrates the freedom of women to choose to enter the workforce or pursue homemaking and to make decisions that best suit the needs of themselves, their communities, and their families. Feminism does not oppose homemaking, marriage, and motherhood, but acknowledges them as among the many vocations of which women are capable. 

***

Because every year, complications from pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of nearly 300,000 women worldwide and permanently disable many more. (source

Because access to contraception would dramatically improve those maternal and infant mortality rates.  (source)

Because one third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18, and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.   Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. (source)

Because over 135 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation and 2 million more girls are at risk each year. (source)

Because legalistic gender roles, and the objectification and marginalization of women, harm both women and men. Feminism isn’t about hating men. Feminism is about restoring the dignity of women for the betterment of society. And so both men and women, both parents of little boys and parents of little girls, can and should be feminists. 

***


Because women who were raped are still asked, “What were you wearing?” 

Because I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a whore, bitch, cunt, slut, or feminazi because of my theological or political views. 

Because feminism has given women in the U.S. access to higher education, the voting booth, contraception, and property rights, and is still so misunderstood that women themselves say they have no use for it. 

***

Because the message that women who are not virgins are “damaged goods” persists. 

Because the message that women are not capable or called to preach the gospel persists. 

Because the message that women must dress to please men persists. 

Because the message that women should endure abuse persists. 

Because the message that women’s bodies are inherently problematic persists.

Because the message that women are to be "conquered and colonized" during sex persists.

Because the message that men who do housework are failures persists. 

Because the message that men must out-earn their wives to be "real men" persists. 

***

Because patriarchy is not God’s dream for the world

Because we are no longer bound by the Curse, but are compelled by the resurrection of Jesus Christ to build a kingdom in which the old power structures dividing Jew from Greek, male from female, and slave from free are dismantled and replaced by mutual love, submission, and grace. 

Because feminism is the radical notion that women are human - equal in value and dignity to men - and that vision has yet to be fully realized. 

***

This post is a response to #WomenAgainstFeminism and a contribution to the #FaithFeminisms series, which you can learn more about here. 

For more, check out my womanhood tag. 

So, what are some other reasons why we need feminism? 

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3 Things You Might Not Know About Proverbs 31

'weaving' photo (c) 2011, Hans Splinter - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

It never fails. Every year, on the Monday after Mother’s Day I receive a flood of messages from women who spent yesterday morning grimacing through yet another Proverbs 31 sermon.

The pastors usually mean well. They want to honor women on Mother’s Day, so they turn to the biblical passage most associated with femininity, the one that culminates with what may be the most cross-stitched Bible verse of all time: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” 

But for women like me who grew up thinking of the domestic super-heronie of Proverbs 31 as just another impossible standard by which to mark my shortcomings as a woman, the passage can come with some…baggage. 

That’s because, too often, we focus on the Proverbs 31 Woman’s  roles as a way of reducing womanhood to marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, when really, this passage is about character that transcends both gender and circumstance. 

 

3 Things You Might Not Know About Proverbs 31 

Our confusion around Proverbs 31, like most misinterpreted Bible passages, centers around issues related to genre, audience, and language. With that in mind, here are three things you might not know: 

1. Proverbs 31 is a poem. 

The subject of a twenty-two-line poem found in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, the “woman of noble character” is meant to be a tangible expression of the book’s celebrated virtue of wisdom. The author is essentially showing us what wisdom looks like in action. (The astute reader will immediately make a connection between the Proverbs 31 Woman and "Woman Wisdom," found in earlier chapters of Proverbs.) 

Packed with hyperbolic, militaristic imagery, the poem is an acrostic, so the first word of each verse begins with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet in succession. This communicates a sense of totality as the poet praises the everyday achievements of an upper-class Jewish wife, a woman who keeps her household functioning day and night by buying, trading, investing, planting, sewing, spindling, managing servants, extending charity, providing food for the family, and preparing for each season.  Like any good poem, the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often-overlooked glory of the everyday.

As a poem, Proverbs 31 should not be interpreted prescriptively as a job description for all women. Its purpose is to celebrate wisdom-in-action, not to instruct women everywhere to get married, have children, and take up the loom. 

Good News: You don't have to know how this works to be a Proverbs 31 Woman. 

Good News: You don't have to know how this works to be a Proverbs 31 Woman. 

2. The “Target Audience” of Proverbs 31 is Men 

If you’ve read A Year of Biblical Womanhood, you’ll know I first learned this from my Jewish friend Ahava who told me that in her culture, it’s not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. (What I wouldn’t pay to see a Christian MEN’S conference in which the central text is Proverbs 31!)  They memorize it, Ahava said, to sing it as a song of praise to the women in their lives—their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends. Ahava’s husband sings Proverbs 31 to her at every Sabbath meal.  

As I did more research, I learned that indeed the only instructive language in the poem is directed at the poem’s intended male audience: “Praise her for all her hands have done.”  And yet many Christians interpret this passage prescriptively, as a command to women rather than an ode to women, with the home-based endeavors of the Proverbs 31 woman cast as the ideal lifestyle for all women of faith. An empire of books, conferences, products, and media has evolved from a subtle repositioning the poem’s intended audience from that of men to that of women. One of the more popular books is titled Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90 Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life.

No longer presented as a song through which a man offers a woman praise, Proverbs 31 is presented as a task list through which a woman earns it.  This, I believe, misses the point of the text entirely. 

3. Proverbs 31 Celebrates Valor 

Ahava repeated a finding I’d discovered in my research, that the first line of the Proverbs 31 poem—“a virtuous woman who can find?”—is best translated, “a woman of valor who can find?” (The Hebrew is eshet chayil, “woman of valor”; the male equivalent is gibor chayil, “man of valor.”)  To make this fact even more fun, Ahava explained to me that she and her friends cheer one another on with the blessing, celebrating everything from promotions, to pregnancies, to acts of mercy and justice, to battles with cancer with a hearty “eshet chayil”! (Think of it as something like the Jewish “you go girl.”)

This discovery led me to declare “woman of valor!” when a good friend finished seminary, when my mom beat breast cancer, when my sister ran a half marathon. It also led us to launch our Women of Valor series here on the blog.  According to Ahava, valor isn’t about what you do, but how you do it. If you are a stay-at-home mom, be a stay-at-home mom of valor. If you are a nurse, be a nurse of valor. If you are a CEO, a pastor, or a barista at Starbucks, if you are rich or poor, single or married—do it all with valor. That’s what makes you a Proverbs 31 Woman, not creating a life worthy of a Pinterest board. 

It’s been a joy to hear from women who read A Year of Biblical Womanhood and report that where they once hated Proverbs 31, it’s now one of their favorite passages because it provides a fun way to celebrate all those daily acts of faithfulness exhibited by the women in their lives.  This, I believe, better reflects the original intent of Proverbs 31, and therefore honors Scripture well. 

The “Other” Proverbs 31 Woman

'Wheat' photo (c) 2010, jayneandd - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The poetic figure found in Proverbs 31 is not the only woman in the Bible to receive the high praise of, “eshet chayil!” or “woman of valor!” 

So did Ruth. 

Ruth was a destitute foreigner whose daily work involved gathering, threshing, and winnowing wheat. For most of her story, she is neither a wife nor a mother. Circumstantially, her life looked nothing like the life of the woman depicted in Proverbs 31. 

Ruth didn’t spend her days making clothes for her husband. She had no husband; she was widowed. 

Ruth's children didn’t rise up and call her blessed. She was childless. 

Ruth didn’t spend her days  exchanging fine linens with the merchants and keeping an immaculate home.  She worked all day in the sun, gleaning leftovers from other people's fields, which was a provision made for the poorest of the poor in Israel.  

And yet guess what Boaz says of Ruth before she gets married, before she has a child, before she becomes a wealthy and influential woman:  

“All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11). 

The Hebrew that's used there is “eshet chayil" - woman of valor. 

Ruth is identified as a woman of valor, not because checked off some Proverbs 31 to-do list by getting married, keeping a clean house and producing children, but because she lived her life with incredible bravery, wisdom, and strength.  She lived her life with valor. 

So pastors, don’t be afraid of looking to Scripture for examples of strong and capable women. But be careful of focusing on marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, when it is not our roles that define us, but the integrity and bravery we bring to those roles. 

You don’t have to turn to Proverbs 31 to find women of valor. You can turn to Sarah, Deborah, Esther, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, Martha, the Apostle Junia, Priscilla, Phoebe, and Tabitha too. And you can turn to the women of valor in your life and around the world who are bringing their unique gifts, insights, passions, and callings to bring hope and healing to the world. 

That’s what it really means to honor Proverbs 31. 

***

See also: Women of Valor: It's About Character, Not Roles,  / Enough: Or, Why We Should Be Laughing Hysterically in the Magazine Aisle 

For a much more in-depth look at this passage and others in Wisdom literature, see Bruce Waltke's The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 and Ellen F. Davis' Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. 

You can also read more in my book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. 

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101 Christian Women Speakers

How NOT to use this list: 

1. Please do not wait to consult this list when you begin planning your next conference! This is not intended to help you find your “token” woman.  This list is intended to introduce just a small portion of the talent, wisdom, expertise, passion, and faith present among women in the church. For better or worse, Christian conferences are a reflection of the Christian culture and so ultimately, the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough women in the typical conference lineup; the problem is that people planning the conferences aren’t reading, listening to, and following women to begin with.  So read these women’s books.  Add their blogs to your reader. Watch the videos in the links provided. Learn about their ministries and organizations. Subscribe to their podcasts. These are scholars, activists, writers, preachers, church leaders, artists, healers, and world changers. They are already speaking; it’s time to start listening. 

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The Dark Stories (A Tribute to Victims of Violence)

'Hejaab' photo (c) 2006, Khashayar Elyassi - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I'm reposting this excerpt from A Year of Biblical Womanhood. 

 

"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you."
—Maya Angelou

I’m glad I have a biblical name.

It’s a name as old as the storied shepherdess of Paddan Aram—a woman so captivating her husband pledged seven years of service in exchange for her hand, a woman whose determination to bear children sent her digging for mandrakes and bargaining with God, a woman brazen enough to steal her father’s idols and hide them in a camel saddle, a woman who took her last breath on the side of the road, giving birth, a woman whose tomb survived obscurity, conquest, earthquakes, and riots to become one of the most venerated and contested sites of the Holy Land.

Beautiful, impetuous, jealous Rachel. Rachel who fought to legitimize her existence the only way she knew how. Rachel who, though it killed her, won.

With Rachel, I notice the details. I absorb her stories as a child does, wide-eyed and attentive, the distance between long ago and yesterday as close as a memory. And like a child, I long for more, wishing at times that I could sit beneath Anita Diamant’s fictionalized Red Tent, where Dinah learned the history of her family from four mothers—Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah—who Dinah says “held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember.”

We recall with ease the narratives of Scripture that include a triumphant climax—a battle won, a giant slain, chariots swallowed by the sea. But for all of its glory and grandeur, the Bible contains a darkness you will only notice if you pay attention, for it is hidden in the details, whispered in the stories of women.

My quest for biblical womanhood led me to these stories late at night, long after Dan had gone to sleep, and I conducted my nightly research by his side in bed, stacks of Bibles and commentaries and legal pads threatening to swallow him should he roll over. The darkest of these stories mingled with my dreams, and I awoke the next morning startled as if I’d been told a terrible secret.

Perhaps the most troubling of the dark stories comes from the lawless period of Judges.

Jephthah was a mighty warrior of Gilead and the son of a prostitute. Banished from the city by Gilead’s legitimate sons, he took up with a gang of outlaws in the land of Tob. Jephthah must have earned a reputation as a valiant fighter because, years later, when the Gileadites faced war with the Ammonites, the elders summoned Jephthah and asked him to command their forces.

When Jephthah reminded them that they had expelled him from the city, they promised to make him their leader if he agreed. The opportunity to rule over those who once despised him proved too much for Jephthah to resist. As Jephthah charged into battle with his countrymen behind him, filled with “the Spirit of the Lord” (Judges 11:29), he made a promise to God: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (v. 30).

The text reports that God indeed gave victory to Jephthah. He and his troops devastated twenty Ammonite towns, thus deterring the Ammonite king from further attacks. When Jephthah returned home, glowing with sweat and triumph, “who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines” (v. 34). She was his only child. The Bible never reveals her name.

When he saw her, Jephthah tore his clothes and wept. Surely he had expected an animal to come wandering out of the first floor of his home where they would have been stabled, not his daughter. He told his daughter of his vow and said he could not break it. The young girl resolutely accepted her fate. She asked only that she be granted two months to roam the hills and weep with her friends over a life cut short.

Unlike the familiar story of Isaac, this one ends without divine intervention. Jephthah fulfilled his promise and killed his daughter in God’s name. No ram was heard bleating from the thicket. No protest was issued from the clouds. No tomb was erected to mark the place where she lay.

But the women of Israel remembered.

Wrote the narrator, “From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah” (vv. 39–40).

They could not protect her life, but they could protect her dignity by retelling her story—year after year, for four days, in a mysterious and subversive ceremony that perhaps led the women of Israel back to thesame hills in which Jephthah’s daughter wandered before her death. It was a tradition that appears to have continued through the writing of the book of Judges. But it is a tradition lost to the waxing and waning of time, no longer marked by the daughters of the Abrahamic faiths.

I wanted to do something to bring this ceremony back, so I invited my friend Kristine over to help me honor the victims of the Bible’s “texts of terror.”

…We prepared for the ceremony for weeks—Kristine with wood and paint, I with poetry and prose. Finally, just before Christmas, while the tree was lit and paper snowflakes hung from the windows, Kristine came over with a heavy paper bag in her arms. We sat on the living room floor with the coffee table between us and began the ceremony.

We started with the daughter of Jephthah, whose legacy inspired me to honor her the way Israel’s daughters once did. I read her story from Judges 11, followed by a short poem by Phyllis Trible recounting the young girl’s tragic end. Kristine lit a tall, white taper candle on the coffee table, and together we said, “We remember the daughter of Jephthah.”

Then Kristine read the story of the concubine from Judges 19 who was thrown to a mob by her husband, gang-raped, killed, and dismembered. I lit a tiny tea candle, and together we said, “We remember the unnamed concubine.”

Next we honored Hagar, whose banishment from the house of Abraham nearly cost her life. I read her story from Genesis 21 and a poem by Tamam Kahn titled “No Less Than the Prophets, Hagar Speaks.” For Hagar, we set aside a damask votive, which we lit before saying together, “We remember Hagar.”

Finally, we remembered the Tamar of the Davidic narrative, whose rape in the king’s house left her desolate and without a future. A heartbreaking poem from Nicola Slee pulled each of the stories together and connected them to the silent victims of misogyny from around the world. We resolved as Slee had to “listen, however painful the hearing . . . until there is not one last woman remaining who is a victim of violence.” We lit a white pillar candle and said together, “We remember Tamar.”

Then Kristine unveiled her diorama. Constructed of a small pinewood box turned on its side, the diorama featured five faceless wooden figures, huddled together beneath a ring of barbed wire. Nails jutted out from all sides, with bloodred paint splattered across the scene. Glued to the backboard was a perfect reflection of the five feminine silhouettes cut from the pages of a book. Around this Kristine had painted a red crown of thorns to correspond with the circle of barbed wire. Across the top were printed the words of Christ—“As you have done unto the least of these, so you have done to me.”

ceremony2.jpeg

 

Kristine and I talked for a while after the ceremony was over—about our doubts, about our fears, and about how sometimes taking the Bible seriously means confronting the parts we don’t like or understand and sitting with them for a while, perhaps even a lifetime. Ours was a simple ceremony, but I think it honored these women well.

Those who seek to glorify biblical womanhood have forgotten the dark stories. They have forgotten that the concubine of Bethlehem, the raped princess of David’s house, the daughter of Jephthah, and the countless unnamed women who lived and died between the lines of Scripture exploited, neglected, ravaged, and crushed at the hand of patriarchy are as much a part of our shared narrative as Deborah, Esther, Rebekah, and Ruth.

We may not have a ceremony through which to grieve them, but it is our responsibility as women of faith to guard the dark stories for our own daughters, and when they are old enough, to hold their faces between our hands and make them promise to remember.

***

From A Year of Biblical Womanhood. 

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On being ‘divisive’….

'Splintered' photo (c) 2009, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For writers, tone is a tricky thing to get right.   

It’s also one of the most important things to get right.

And like most writers, sometimes I get tone right and sometimes I get tone wrong. As a Christian, I work especially hard to make my writing as irenic and winsome as possible, while remaining faithful to my authentic voice. Which is hard. Because my authentic voice is kinda snarky. 

But when I began writing about gender equality in evangelicalism, it became apparent to me that no matter how careful my tone, no matter how reasoned my arguments, no matter how gentle my critique, my work would inevitably be characterized as “divisive.” 

“How dare you challenge a man of God?”

“The world can’t see us disagreeing like this; it hurts our witness.”

“We should be talking about more important matters.”

“Let’s just focus on what we agree on and let these minor issues go.”

“Can’t this be settled privately and not publicly?”

"You need to calm down and stop being so emotional."

“Stop being so divisive. Jesus wants us to be unified.”

Just yesterday, when I raised some challenges about an evangelical leadership conference in which just 4 out 112 speakers were women, another writer characterized the situation as a “meltdown…from which no one has seemed to emerge more Christlike” and then issued a call for unity, complete with a prayer.

Similarly, when a group of Christians in the Asian American community recently released a letter detailing some of their concerns about common stereotypes and prejudices within the evangelical community, I saw many on social media critique this action as “divisive” and “harmful to Christian unity.” One person asked why this group had to “air the church’s dirty laundry” before a watching world?

This is a common response to those of us who speak from the margins of evangelical Christianity about issues around gender, race, and sexuality, and it’s an effective one because it appeals to something most of us value deeply: Christian unity.

Like most Christians, when I read the prayer of Jesus from John 17, my heart aches for the day when the Church will be unified, when our love for one another and for the world will be our greatest witness to the truth of the gospel message. And any time another Christian suggests I’m not doing my part to help make this happen, I feel a sharp stab of guilt.

Maybe I shouldn’t say anything.

Maybe I should just let it go.

Maybe I was wrong to bring it up.

At times, these are good instincts to follow and it’s best just to let something go. But far too often, the “stop-being-so-divisive” line is used by those in power to diffuse, or even silence, difficult conversations about why things might need to change. 

In fact, I know from speaking with several survivors that in some extreme cases, this same rationale—“You don’t want to cause division in our church, do you?”—has been used to discourage victims of abuse from reporting their abuse to the authorities.

One of the easiest ways to discredit another Christian is to label their questions,  concerns, or calls for justice as too "divisive."  

Obviously, there are issues of privilege at play here. Because the reality is, some folks benefit from the status quo, and it is in their best interest to characterize every challenge to the status quo as wholly negative and a threat to Christian unity. This makes it difficult for those who perceive inequity within the status quo to challenge it without being labeled as troublemakers out to make Jesus look bad.  

In other words, the advantage goes to the powerful because things rarely change without friction. And if friction is equated with divisiveness, then the powerful can appeal to Christ’s call for unity as a way of silencing critics. This was an effective strategy for white clergy who opposed Civil Rights. 

Meanwhile, those on the margins are typically working with less power, smaller platforms, thinner finances, and fewer numbers and in the face of subtle but pervasive stereotypes, prejudices, and disadvantages that make it nearly impossible to advocate for change without causing friction.

For example, it always makes me laugh when I’m told that women shouldn’t use social media to advocate for gender equality in the church, but should instead do so quietly within their own congregations. These people seem to have forgotten that social media is often the ONLY platform women have for speaking to the church! That’s kinda what we’re trying to change! And when it comes to discussing gender issues in particular, things get extra challenging because where outspoken men are often described as “passionate,” “convicted,” and “strong,” outspoken women are often perceived as “shrill,” “emotional,” “whiney,” and “bitchy.”  So women speaking about gender issues in the church have a lot working against them when public questions or critiques are automatically dismissed as divisive and whiney. 

I don’t like being divisive. Believe me. 

But I don’t like being silenced either.

There has to be a way to discuss controversial, difficult topics—even on social media—without resorting to outright hostility on the one hand or sanctimonious silencing on the other.

And I wonder if it begins with acknowledging that friction doesn't mean division.  

We Christians suffer under this rather fanciful notion that no one in the early church ever argued about anything, that the first disciples of Jesus sat around singing hymns and munching on communion bread, nodding along in perfect agreement about how to apply the teachings of Jesus to their lives.

But the epistles would suggest otherwise. The epistles would suggest that when you throw together a group of people from vastly different ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds there is going to be some serious friction. Within the early church raged debates over everything from the application of the Mosaic law, to whether Christians should eat food offered to idols, to how to handle the influx of widows in the church, to disagreements around circumcision, religious festivals, finances, missions, and theology.

So when Paul urged the Ephesian church to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” he followed this with an acknowledgement of the Church’s diversity, in which there are “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers…so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

This Body is still growing, so there will be growing pains. 

But if we love one another through these growing pains, “then we will no longer be infants…instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

I suspect Paul combined this call for the Body’s unity with an acknowledgement of the Body’s diversity because he knew that unity isn’t the same as uniformity.

We’re not called to be alike; we’re called to love.

We’re not called to agree; we’re called to love.

We’re not even called to get along all the time; we’re called to love each other as brothers and sisters, as people united in one baptism, one communion, one adoption.

Maybe we need these differences to be animated, to be alive, to mature. Maybe friction isn’t a sign of decay, but of growth.

The world is certainly watching. But this doesn't mean we hide our dirty laundry, slap on mechanical smiles, and gloss over all the injustices and abuses, conflicts and disagreements, diversity and denominationalism present within the Church;  it means we expose them. It means we talk about them boldly and with integrity, with passion and with love. I suspect that talking about our differences is better for our witness than supressing them, and I'm sure that exposing corruption and abuse is better for our witness than hiding them.

And when it comes to injustice, a far more important question to me than "What will the world think if they see us disagreeing?" is "What will the world think if they don't?"

So when we find ourselves in a position of privilege in the Church, this means listening with patience to the concerns of our brothers and sisters from the margins, even when their calls for change strike us, at first, as bitter or unwelcome.  

When we find ourselves speaking from the margins, this means putting in extra effort to ensure that our challenges are issued respectfully and kindly, even when it seems exhausting and unfair to do so. And it means responding to shaming tactings (deliberate or inadvertent) by pressing on and continuing to speak the truth, even when it makes people uncomfortable.  

For all of us, I think it means abandoning the notion that unity requires uniformity and that arguments, even heated ones, mean we don’t love one another.

We are, after all, brothers and sisters. 

Let's fight like them. 

***

[P.S.: I think Jonathan Merritt responded in a helpful way to the situation by taking a few steps back and examining the overall Christian conference culture here.]

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