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Friday, July 20, 2007
Peace Between the Sexes pt3
A new wisdom: A return to the beginning

People in Jesus' day could recognize the language of biology just as those living before them. They would have known that the silencing of the woman was about their own submission to God himself.

Paul would make clarifications just for good measure in saying things like who exactly the husband was:

2 Cor 11:2
"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."

or after instructing them on how husbands and wives were expected to behave, he would cap it with:

Ephesians 5:32
"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

The actions of the early church would reflect their understanding the symbolic language in that they did not literally silence biological women. The women participated actively in the first century church, alongside the men. The early church, or bride, refrained from using their own wisdom to teach the Gospel, and submitted to Christ, their groom.

Humanity would react to Christs' and the churches' unusual treatment of women by diving headlong into denial. Society then just did not view women as equals. Again, I am not suggesting that men only reacted that way - the women did as well. Even now, I am often reminded of my place from time to time by other women.

Mary Magdalene would eventually loose her historical position as a disciple of Christ in the Gospel story, eventually tagged as a prostitute until only recently; and Junia would be denied the title "Apostle", given her by Paul, in translation. Most translaters chose to translate her name as male like "Julius" or "Junias" because of the title.

One book considered for canonization was turned away largely because of the depiction of a strong willed woman named Thecla (http://www.balamand.edu.lb/theology/iconTheckla.jpg). She took Paul's words encouraging purity and chastity very literally, and very seriously - and refused to be taken in marraige according to the laws and rites of the society that she lived in. Her family and the man who had wanted to take her as his own believed that she had lost her mind. Paul, they dismissed as a magician. In the story, her mother eventually declares, "Burn the wicked wretch; burn in the midst of the theatre her that will not marry, in order that all the women that have been taught by this man may be afraid."

The governor would be moved to have Paul whipped and sent away - and to condemn Thecla to be burned. (http://www.aug.edu/augusta/iconography/spain2005/teclaBurgos.jpg) The blazing fire would not touch her though, God would send rain and hail to put it out. She will have returned to find Paul in prayer as I assume that he had done daily since the sentence. Probably surprised that she was already there, he thanked God for answering him quickly, and a celebration would follow.

Thecla would go through a number of trials and would eventually claim her right to baptize, throwing herself into a pool of water (http://www.bryansfolkart.com/images/art/Thecla%20Baptizes%20Herself.jpg); the story again showing her actions as approved by God.

Probably overstated, accepting such a story would have still served to legitimize women's roles of teaching and baptizing in the modern church. As well, it will have been the endorsement of women practicing choice; participating in their new found freedom from marital laws.

It was ahead of the times as were the statements and actions of Christ and the early church. Consider the gravity of the words "there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" or "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage". Not only would this have suggested the equality of biological women with biological men, but symbolically it would have a great impact.
Using biology to decode this, like they will have, would tell us that this would be the final marriage of God and humanity and that the two would become eternally one (http://www.marriageencounter.freeserve.co.uk/images/Rings.jpg). From that point on, there being no further marriage and only oneness.

On every level those statements will have been staggering.

Addressing only the literal and biological one, such words will have required a new kind of wisdom to carry them out. Physical ability will have meant nothing, because the gain from it also will have meant nothing. Jesus himself will have been recorded as making another radical statement in saying:

Matthew 19:23, 24
"Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." "..again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

That must have been mind blowing for them. In the very next verse the seemingly confused disciples even ask, "Who then can be saved?" to which Jesus would assure them that with God all things are possible - though they may not be with people.

Prosperity was not riches and power gained by people he would clarify, those things would rust and fade away. True prosperity, or that which is "good", had always been things like joy, patience, and peace. We can know that the ability to aquire monetary riches therefore, doesn't make one person of more value than the other.
We are not always quick to see one another as God sees us - back before gender even existed. Through the eyes of God, we're all the same - just as we were at the very beginning, we are both 100% in God's image and 100% in his likeness. Though how we've grown as a society will never be undone, it is possible to use the wisdom haven been given us by Christ, to determine whether we are going in a "good" or "bad" direction. We are able then to see through gender, and return to the beginning where we were just human beings.

Holding on to gender: Is it true?

Some of the conclusions that we've drawn in the passage of time are:

* We are born as incomplete beings, each 1/2 of the image of God; we complete one another.

Many folks buy this because of how either they see the other sex, or themselves. Someone is always lacking. The idea that we are able to complete one another, hasn't proven true. It would mean entering a relationship expecting the other person to fill our needs. If we constantly expect it from someone else, or demand it somehow, how fun a person are we going to be to live with? Already we've learned that nothing "good" comes of a relationship based on the belief that anyone other than ourselves can make us feel whole. I would say that an important step toward building a healthy relationship would be to toss the story that we are unable to make ourselves whole, because we were made that way.

* Women and men think differently.

Now I'm sure that this could be broken down into a number of subcategories because there are many theories about how men or women think. Find a single woman or man that doesn't think as the theory states, and you've disproven the theory. The reason that none have proven true is that as a whole, women do not think alike and men do not think alike - this is because "I", "Amie May" am not "woman", I am "Amie May". I think like "Amie May" and no one on this planet thinks like me.

* Women are more emotional than men.

No doubt that gender has been created from this one in that it is commonly accepted that it is not masculine to cry. This is a gender identity that is actually passing away. Firstly, the new wisdom that we practice tells us that it is not "good". Repressing feelings does not bring those prosperous things like peace and joy.
Another gender identity that grew from this view is the belief that women are therefore more emotionally driven than men. I have yet to have an emotion that has been completely foreign to a man. Many men are moved by emotion, to help the oppressed, to get into yelling matches, or to declare the Gospel. To believe that women are more emotionally driven is to minimize the choices that women make, and to dismiss emotion from the human male. This isn't prosperous for either of us.

* Men have a "feminine side"

This one can also be connected to the last, because often has to do again with emotion. For a man to be in touch with his emotions, is to be in touch with his "feminine side". This reduces the man to half yet again, in that without a feminine part, he is unable to be in touch with emotion. I think that time will tell that it will be a great deal more prosperous for men to embrace that part of themselves. One is able to be a man and want to be clean, to be a man and in touch with feelings, to be a man and like to sew, etc. Truly, a man isn't able to be anything but a man. However, like many of the things which comprise gender, the way this is being seen is already changing. After all, this side of a man is not often called "sissy" anymore.

* God is male.

That may fill another presentation. I'll just point out today, that the spirit of God which hovered over the waters in Genesis 1, is "rauch" in hebrew, and feminine. If male and female were both made 100% in his likeness, then God cannot contain anything other than both, just like mankind. Mankind as a whole then, is reflective of God.

I remember when I was little, and climbed trees, and collected bugs, and played with snakes, and played football... that I was called a "tomboy". Society had determined that what I was doing was outside of my gender role. Such behavior was boy behavior, and for a while, I decided that I was going to be the best boy then. I would be a better boy than the boys, and denied that part of me as a girl by doing it. Now, I will define feminine, rather that feminine defining me.

I sure don't want to raise my daughter to believe that she has to somehow be a better boy in order to climb the highest tree.

As well, I don't want to compete with the likes of my son - and hope that he along with all of the other men loose. I want him to win. I hope to nourish his feeling comfortable with his manhood, so that he more unfearfully may cross the culturally defined gender lines that are no good for him to hold on to. Let's face it, those gender lines can often be used as laws, and crossing them can mean certain condemnation.

I really didn't grasp what Jesus was saying in communicating that he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Not until I started thinking so much about gender. I love many things that we've come to define as masculine. I prefer that my man not wear a tutu and heels. I'm not standing up here with the intention to destroy that any more than Jesus was interested in destroying the traditions that were important to the people of that day. I think that it might be interesting though, to view gender in terms of fulfillment - of how love might fulfill even the laws set in place by society. Love can truly sum up all which is biblically taught as properous, or "good". It is the knowledge and wisdom which can tell us whether or not we're headed in the right direction.

At times, gender roles often trump love in our society. Belief in gender, the denial of our unity in Christ, can foster suffering at different levels. Unity in Christ after all, is not the loss of differences but allowing love to take priority - to look at one another as God sees us, which again, is as human beings.

Just a couple of months ago, I watched a documentary on a boy who became transgendered in kindergarten. Society told him that he could not do 'this' and he could not do 'that', because he is a boy. Because those were things that he wanted to do, that he enjoyed doing, and maybe even were a part of who he was, he decided not to be a boy any more. Because of the societal gender law, he has turned on his own gender. Consider how that situation may have differed had it been okay to be a boy and say, play with Barbies. He will not have begun so early on to wish that he was not a boy at all.

Some take such things a step further and turn on their sex. They undergo surgery, hormonal treatment, and entire life changes all for the sake of becoming what society calls "feminine" or "masculine". Had they felt able to define those things for themselves, perhaps they will not have gone to such extremes to feel like their biology and their mind, match. I'm not saying this as a blanket statement, we are all very individual human beings. I'm just making an observation that might bring peace to the lives of a few.

All the better to see you with

Truly we are all just working very hard to understand one another, and ourselves. If I could figure out the male mind, perhaps I would be enabled to better relate to the men in my life. If men could embrace their emotions, perhaps they could connect better with women. Yet, to discount emotion as a part of being male, and to categorize all men is to then create a barrier, rather than the bridge that we had hoped for.

If we were to see emotion as a mostly feminine trait, in example, then to a man, a crying woman would become more of an alien in the room rather than someone that we are able to connect with. "This is foreign to me, I don't know what to do". If we accept it as masculine as well, then he might feel more equipt to respond in a situation like that - more connected. The other sex no longer being something outside of ourselves, but a human being just like us.

If we categorize all men or all women in any way, or even using the word "most", then we aren't even interacting with an individual anymore, we're interacting with the gender. Years back, my Dad accused me of lying to him about something that was fairly big. I told him, "If you knew me, you would know that I did not lie." He said to me, "I know you, you cook, you clean, you raise the kids." It became clear that for my whole life up until that point, I had been a gender. He hadn't known me at all. I was that role, all of the things that he had already decided, and society for the most part had also decided, that I was. I wasn't Amie, I was one who cooks, cleans, and raises children, and he interacted with me in that way.

For another exercise, I'll ask you to imagine for a moment that men and women are broken into small groups and you are on the outside looking at them. What are the women talking about? What are the men talking about? Did you come up with different answers? Let's say that you imagined that the women are talking about shopping, because that is what you feel that women like to talk about. There would be a number of ways to respond to this. A couple are: One, that wouldn't be a topic that interests you so you wouldn't approach the group at all. Two, you approach the group and bring up a sale sign that you saw down the road.

The first response wouldn't build relationship at all. No one ever talks. This is because the gender has already been interacted with. The second response, might make for good conversation, and it might generate polite and fast small talk so everyone can get back to talking about interesting things. Either way, no one as a person has been regarded at all. Gender came before relationship, relationship being damaged for it.

I was at a hardware store with my husband and we ran into an old friend of ours - who was a guy. He said that he recently bought a house and was there buying tools and supplies to fix it up, and he and my husband continued in conversation - my receiving polite smiles from the friend from time to time. After he was done talking with my husband, he let me know that the Dollar Store next door had a great sale on fruits and vegetables. They had avocados ten for a dollar. I knew in my heart that he was trying to be personable and friendly. I'm not talking about the boogie man, he's a decent fella. What happened though, was that he interacted with my gender and not me at all.

My husband doesn't really like beer. More than once he has been offered a beer, declined, and then the offerer walks away, not asking me at all whether I would like one. What if I had wanted a beer? Media definately plays up that gender role - beer, in America at least, is a man thing. It has even come with honorary "man laws".

Question: Is it acceptable to leave a game before it ends to beat traffic?

Man Law: No. In a rare double man law it is also deemed unacceptable for a man to bake on game day.

They stopped that ad campaign by the way, sales didn't go up. Maybe they needed to look outside of their market.

For reflection:
- Allow relationship to come before gender. Interact with the individual.
- Allow personal wholeness to come before gender. Who you are defines gender, not the other way around.
- Allow the individuality of others to come before gender. Leave no room for condemnation which fosters self hatred.

It is my hopes that this will make for even better conversation between the men and women in our lives. Truly, peace begins there.

Well that's finally it per the conference presentation. God Bless :-)
posted by Anonymous at 8:26 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 7/20/2007 09:57:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    Had they felt able to define those things for themselves, perhaps they will not have gone to such extremes to feel like their biology and their mind, match.

    I agree 100%.

    I think that it will also be of great use to the rest of us (that is, those of us who are comfortable with our gender identities.) Freedom in this case is a very good thing.

    This is not quite on-topic, but I also think that Satan gets a lot of mileage out of making many of those who exist of what is often a very narrowly defined social "norm" feel terminally unlovable...especially when it comes to their relationship with God or with other Christians.


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